basically, you plant them in the fall early enough
so they're established a little before the first frosts.
They get some growth, maybe an inch or two, and then
go dormant (I think there is root growth going on) during
the winter. When it warms up in the spring the plants start
growing quickly and you harvest in late spring. Where I live
you can sow seed in late October to beginning of November
and harvest in May.
You could then plant something that goes in relatively late
in the spring and matures quickly on the same ground - around
here I've seen people alternate barley and sweet potatoes, for example.
Here's the site of an outfit in Northern Cal that is oriented towards
small-scale and organic growers (seed, books & etc.):
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