I am in Zone 9b and have 3 raised beds that I want to use during the winter season to produce something rather than leaving them idle (let me know if that is a good thing). Should I grow vegetables and if so which one's would be best? Would root vegetables like carrots, beet, ginger germinate and grow in this weather? How about vegetables like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage? If none of these are an option, should I just put fava beans so that I can harvest and use those to enrich my compost?
Your zone is wonderful for growing anything...except for plants that hate periods of high heat. If you are able to ventilate and/or semi shade your garden you should be able to grow anything all year. Pretty much. Plants you will have difficulty with are fast to bolt crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, mustards. Have you tried growing any crops in this zone? For your winter you should be able to grow peas, fennel, tomatoes, potatoes, the fast to bolt crops I just mentioned as long as the temperatures stay regular. Bolting is caused by drastic temperature change. Signalling the plant that it better reproduce because the environment has become unpredictable. I think this is the best time to grow kale and your brassicas. I haven't had the luxury to garden in your zone, lucky you. If you germinate your seed inside and then allow them to become starts to plant in your garden, you have to ACCLIMATE your starts before you plant. Have you had a soil test? pH is important to know to be able to group the plants you want to grow with other plants with similar needs...leafy/vegetative crops versus root crops versus fruit/reproductive crops. Potatoes need very acidic soil versus others needing a more neutral pH.
Here is a list of stuff you should get excited about; Vegetables...all of these should do just fine for your 'winter'...man, what was I thinking to move to ZONE 1B???? Asparagus needs 3 years before harvesting, but worth it. I actually have a crop surviving!!
Green onions Onions Asparagus Arugula Basil (do you have periodic frosts during winter)? Beets Bok Choy Broccoli Cabbage Carrots Cauliflower Corn Cucumbers (periodic frosts) Garlic Green Beans (periodic frosts) Leeks Onions Peppers (periodic frosts) Potatoes (don't worry about periodic frosts) Salad Mix Spinach (periodic frosts) Sweet Potatoes (periodic frosts) Tomatoes (periodic frosts) Winter Squash (periodic frosts) Zucchini (periodic frosts)
Periodic frosts could damage these plants. Periodic frosts are a microclimate thing. If your garden shows periodic frosts, do not plant these. Please make sure you plant starts if you have cold nights below 40 degrees F. Don't rely on germinating seed in the garden.
If you do have periodic frosts/freezes or temperatures that sometimes dip below 50 degrees F, go get some ROW CLOTH. This stuff IS A PLANT SAVER. Cheap, easy to cover your crops with and protects against huge temperature changes. Not only does it protect against temperature changes, it protects your brassicas from the cabbage fly/moth/larvae until they are able to be large enough to resist and/or the season for this insect is past. Also helps with flea beetle, allows rain water to get in, sun to get in, protects from wind damage and direct sun...
Hope this helps, please send more questions if necessary!!
I'm south of you so my climate is colder but the Asian greens I planted for winter all bolted.
The only thing that did well were the faba beans. The last winter was mild so they just kept growing, and I had pretty white flowers at the end of winter. I've also had a large harvest of broad beans from them though the wind took out many as I didn't have enough stakes to support them all, and they get pretty tall. I'm keeping some uneaten so I can plant again in autumn.