So you want to grow a garden? Your aunt, your friend at the farmer’s market, even Oprah all grow food at home. Why not you? Join the green revolution and plant a home garden. Use our tips and ideas to help you plan and put trowel to dirt. When planning a garden, we at California Farm and Garden generally think about 4 factors: space, light, water, and what you’d like to grow.
Your new garden starts here. Food can be grown in plots of all sizes, from window-box containers to entire front yard gardens. How much room do you have to work with, and how much would you like to exclusively devote to gardening? Do you need walkways? Does your space allow for raised beds or in ground beds or a mixture? Are you okay with the space potentially sporting bare dirt or crazy vines at different times of the year? What size, shape, style containers fit your patio, keeping in mind that most plants need deep soil to grow to their full potential? Would you be interested in unconventional growing methods?
Find yourself a garden space that gets around 6-8 hours of full sun, preferably on a south-facing area. If you don’t have such a spot, choose the sunniest spot available and experiment growing shade-tolerant plants like herbs and lettuce. Edible plants need loads of direct sun, which their leaves photosynthesize into energy to grow crisp leaves and juicy fruit.
As we have noted before, lawns require more water than a home garden – and you can’t even eat it. So don’t fret about jacking up your water bill for your new garden. In the planning stage, it’s important to consider how the garden will be irrigated. Hand, drip, sprinkler? You may need a timer and tubing to passively water the garden, a factor that can also influence the location of the garden. Edible plants need to be watered frequently, depending on the weather, time of year, soil composition, and particular plant.
What do you like to eat? Consider eating habits when planting your garden- does your family eat pounds of potatoes? Do you eat a sandwich every day with tomato and lettuce? Would you like to grow kohlrabi but can’t imagine eating it regularly?
Often our clients ask for herbs but are overwhelmed with the quantity of greenery each thyme plant produces. All important things to consider when allocating space in the garden. On the other hand, sizable harvests encourage home gardeners to be creative with preservation. Think freezing herbs in ice cube trays, blanching and freezing vegetables, and canning. These traditional skills extend the lifetimes of harvest so you can enjoy the nutrition and flavor of spinach from your garden long after the plants have expired.
We chat elsewhere about recommended Southern Californian planting dates for cool season plants and warm season plants. Consider the size of plants. Artichokes are both perennial (meaning they will grow, die, and regenerate in the same spot for years) and enormous – often 3-4 ft high by 3-4 ft wide. We grow carrots in rows and often “thin” or cull about ½ of the seedlings to make space for full-sized carrots. A 4×4 bed may only have room for 3 broccoli plants at full size but fit many successions of lettuce that enjoy the broccoli’s shade.
Experimentation is the name of the game. We at California Farm and Garden are always trying and learning new things, new varieties, new methods. Don’t be shy about messing up or fearful of killing a plant- we all do it! Use the above suggestions to guide your planning but expect new variables and surprises at every turn. There’s not much more rewarding than eating food grown by your own hand. Enjoy the adventure!