San Francisco Bay Area – The California Department of Water Resources reminds us that it’s time to turn off your irrigation!

The rains we have had and forecasts for more are sufficient in the short term. Remember that trees, shrubs and flowers use less water in the winter.  One inch of rain is enough moisture to eliminate the need for irrigation in your landscape for at least a few weeks.

On the other hand, we don’t know for sure what the weather gods have in store much beyond this week’s forecasted drenching. Keep an eye out for your plants and water if you notice them looking drought stressed.

Check out the Department of Water Resources for more information.



Below are five plants you can grow in containers this fall and winter.





Delicious peppery taste! Nutritious and good in salads combined with lettuce, mixed in pasta. Fast growing.

Container should be at least 8” deep and 6” in diameter per each arugula plant

Light Requirements
Likes 6 hours of sunlight

Likes to stay moist

Protect from deer with wire or netting

How to harvest
Cut the outer leaves while plant is still growing in a tight rosette. The flavor of arugula will get stronger once they bloom





Fresh grown lasts longer and it’s more flavorful. Loose leaf or romaine handle cold better. Fast growing.

Container You should have a medium sized container. 6-8″ inches between young plants

Light Requirements
Partial shade is okay

Regular water

Protect from deer They really like lettuce.  Protect with wire or netting

Lettuce is more sensitive to frost.  Buy fabric cover to protect it.

How to harvest
Cut the outer leaves





Highly nutritious and tasty sauteed lightly in garlic and olive oil. Many people love it raw. They are also a cold-hardy plant.

Container should be at least 12″ diameter

Light Requirements
Likes full sun but will tolerate part shade

Likes regular watering

Protect from deer with wire or netting

How to harvest
Pick the oldest leaves from the lowest section of the plants





Plant garlic from bulbs in your nursery.  Garlic makes everything taste better and some swear by it as a health remedy.  A few days before planting, break apart cloves from bulb and keep the papery husk on each individual clove.

Bulbs should be planted 2-3″ deep and have room for roots to grow.  So, container must be at least 12″ wide and 18″ deep and allow 6″ between cloves.

Light Requirements
Likes full sun

Likes moisture. But, make sure soil drains well because bulbs can rot

Protect from deer with wire or netting

How to harvest
Pick the oldest leaves from the lowest section of the plants


Mustard Greens



Great sauteed are in soups or stews. Spicy leaves cook well with strong ingredients like onion and garlic. Smaller, milder ones are good in salads and stir fries.  They are also a cold-hardy plant.  Not as cold hearty as kale but they can tolerate a light frost.

Container should be at least 12″ diameter. Plant 3-5″ apart (seedlings). Thin seedlings once they reach 3-4″ high

Light Requirements
Likes full sun

Whenever the top 2″ of soil feels dry

Protect from deer with wire or netting

How to harvest
The larger the leaf, the stronger the flavor will be



Do you live in a San Francisco Bay Area city with no yard?

Do you like to eat healthy and buy the same vegetables each week, bemoaning their rising costs?

If you have a porch, deck, balcony, small patio, stair landing, or windowsill, consider growing container vegetables this fall. You will save money, find they taste better, last longer than store-bought and have the satisfaction of growing them yourself!

It is easier than you think. The fastest way to do it is to purchase young plants from your local nursery and transplant into larger containers.  This will alleviate the issues you might encounter when starting from seed.  You will find young starter plants in a six-pack or 2 or 4” plastic pots.

There are several vegetables that grow well in the fall to winter. Most can take light to moderate frosts.

You will need to purchase these items.


Size and shape depend on –

How many plants of each type and their requirements for root growth and the space between each one.  Each plant on the list below has recommendations.  Most often your planters will need to be wider than tall.  Its overall size will depend on how much space you have and how many plants you want to grow.  We recommend that you start small.  You can always add later.  I have been to most of the bay area nurseries and there is a wide selection and sizes of clay pots reasonably priced.  Make sure they have drain holes.  I have also read that adding a thin layer of coarse gravel at the bottom of the container will enhance drainage.

Good Soil

High quality potting mix.  This is lighter than the typical bay area soil which is tends to be clay which lacks air pores to drain adequately.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money for this either.  Add compost if it is readily accessible.


They will come in either time-release granules or water soluble form.  Since you are starting small don’t buy a large quantity and follow the directions.  Using compost will also make your soil healthier. Note – container plants require more frequent watering which washes away fertilizer nutrients so they will need to be fertilized more frequently than plants in the ground.


Check with your local nursery first to find out if they carry young plants (seedlings) and if they don’t try to get a referral to one that does.  Check each plant that they appear to be well taken care of, have no flowers or fruits.  Discard plant with roots that are knotted and circled at the bottom of the pot or stems that look spindly.  See the right for some options.


Berkeley Horticultural Nursery
Pollinate Farm and Garden, Oakland
Armstrong Gardens (throughout Bay Area)
Sloat Garden Center (throughout Bay Area)
Annie’s Annuals, Richmond
Home Depot and Lowes may also have seedlings

Now you know the first steps of what to purchase.  See Part 2 for specific plants!