It may not seem like the primo time to grow a garden, but this is actually the end of the fall/winter garden planting season.
Some vegetables grow better in the winter—think big leafy greens that may get scorched in the summer sun and hardy vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli that can mature but not bolt thanks to cooler temperatures.
It's too late to plant seeds, though. They just won't take off fast enough to produce before you want to plant your spring garden. Instead, stop by your local garden store to pick up what's left of their starts (onion, kale, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower). Here are more winter garden veggie ideas.
Garlic should also be planted now. Tiny, bright green shoots will pop out of the ground within a couple weeks, but the garlic will need until June to mature. Then you can harvest the entire crop, braid the garlic and dry it. It's OK to plant cloves from the kitchen, but a fresh package from a garden supply store will let you know what variety of garlic you're growing.
If all of that sounds like too much work, just plant a cover crop. Fava beans and sweet peas will sprout quickly. These crops can actually improve the quality of the soil in your garden during the off-season by fixing nitrogen into the dirt. Another bonus? A cover crop prevents topsoil runoff when those heavy rains hit. Let the beans and peas go it's time to plant a spring garden. Then just mulch the plants into the soil and plant. (Maybe pick a few fava beans first and make a tasty pasta dish with them.)
It's also the right time of year to get some fruits and flowers in the ground that need a little time to come on. Bareroot berries are a good example of this. Plant strawberries and raspberries now to get sweet fruit treats next summer.
Spring-blooming bulbs also should go in the ground before Christmas. In five or six months, these flowers will be some of the first spots of color in your yard or garden.
There are lots of flowers to choose from. Tulips and crocuses are classics. Treehugger.com has some other recommendations (and photos of the flowers) here. Daffodils, with their golden yellow flowers, are great—especially if you have a gopher problem. Gophers won't eat these bubs or the root system. Here is a quick step-by-step guide on where and now to plant daffodil bulbs.