We have long enjoyed a reputation as having one of the finest selections of herbs and vegetables (...and expertise!!) of any garden center in Southern California. Where else might you find as many as 20 different varieties of Basil? With prices rising in the local grocery stores for fresh produce we are experiencing a desire to return to our parents' time and enjoy the bounty of our own garden harvests. Besides – you haven't eaten truly fresh produce until you've plucked a plump tomato off of the vine, given it a rinse and put it atop the other vegetables on your plate. We thought it could help to provide these introductory tips on getting in on the growing trend of "growing your own":
Tips for Planning and Planting
Location, location. For bumper harvests grow vegetables in a sunny, well-drained area. Fall is the best time to break new ground and enrich soil for spring planting. Organic amendments—such as compost, manure, and peat moss—have time to blend in over winter. With a spade or tiller turn the earth to a depth of 8 to 10 inches - the loose soil will dry more quickly in spring.
If you are starting from scratch in the spring follow the same procedure. Simply wait until the soil is sufficiently dried. To test whether soil is ready to work squeeze some in your hand then poke at the clump. If the clump breaks up easily into small crumbs the soil is dry enough to till.
Plant cool-season crops (i.e., peas, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, radish, carrot, onion, and chard) as soon as the soil dries to this "crumbly" texture. For our inland friends - wait until after frost danger is past to plant warm-season tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, peppers, and eggplants.
Starting off right. You can start most vegetables from seeds sown directly in the garden or you can get a "jump start" on the growing season by purchasing transplants. If you elect to grow from seed - follow instructions on individual seed packets for specific planting recommendations. To keep your garden moist and weed-free mulch around plants with a few inches of organic material. During dry spells water deeply once each week. Eliminate insect pests as they appear using insecticidal soap or other natural controls.
Extending the harvest: With good planning and care you can reap fresh garden produce from spring through fall. If summer crops finish early replant the gaps with second sowings of lettuces and peas. Started in late August salad ingredients will flourish during the cooler days of autumn. Some uncommon chilly weather enhances the flavor, color, and crunch of many leafy vegetables (particularly kale and radicchio).
Planters and Trellises
Get a head start on crops that require a long growing season (melons, squash, and cucumbers) by raising them in a trellised planter. Soil inside the box will heat up earlier in the spring than soil in the ground so you can plant seeds sooner.
To conserve garden space "grow up – not out" space by training climbers such as beans and peas on vertical supports.