How to Grow Vegetables in Southern California


Southern California is an ideal environment for growing many types of vegetables, many on a year-round basis. However, different areas have climates that range from the cooler, foggy coast to hot, dry inland areas. Some areas have sandy soil, while others have clay. But no matter where you live and garden, you'll be able to raise a good variety of vegetables in your home garden, including tomatoes, zucchini and other squash, green beans, eggplant, radishes, lettuces and other greens and many more.

Step 1

Test your soil for pH. Most vegetables favor a slightly acidic soil, one that has a pH below 7.0. If your soil is clay and the pH is above 7.0, dig 12 oz. of hydrated lime into your soil for every square yard of garden space. Also add compost or other organic materials. If your soil is sandy and the pH is below 7.0, dig in plenty of organic materials such as compost of any type, grass clippings, dried leaves, wood chips and others.

Step 2

Plant vegetables that are well-suited to your microclimate. For example, cherry tomatoes will do better in coastal areas because they ripen faster than larger tomatoes. For very hot inland and desert areas, choose tomatoes bred for high heat, such as the "Solar Set" variety. Salad greens will perform well in cooler areas but will bolt to seed quickly in high heat zones. Grow many lettuces and other greens throughout the winter in many parts of Southern California.

Step 3

Create raised garden beds in sunny areas by piling up topsoil, compost and other organic materials on top of the areas where you want to grow vegetables. Make your raised beds about 3 feet wide by about 6 to 8 feet long and build walkways around your beds so you have easy access to them. If you spread a thick layer of sawdust or wood chips on your pathways, these materials will help deter weeds.

Step 4

Plant tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, carrots, eggplant, cucumbers and other warm-season annuals in your raised beds in March. If your area receives frost, wait until after your final spring frost has passed.

Step 5

Plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, celery, lettuce, mustard and turnip greens in fall for a winter harvest.

Step 6

Spray your vegetable plants with insecticidal soap if you notice aphids or other small, sucking insects. Hand-pick tomato hornworms and snails if they attack your garden, or use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) for worms and iron phosphate granules for snails.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Hydrated lime (optional)
  • Shovel
  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (optional)
  • Iron phosphate granules (optional)
  • Drip irrigation (optional)


  • Learn2Grow: Southern California: Plant to Eat Until Spring
  • Clemson University: Soil Acidity and Liming
Keywords: vegetable gardening, California Southern, lettuce tomato

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.