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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In the Garden - Week of April 21, 2013

Right now we are kind of between garden seasons - just planted the summer garden, fall/winter garden is winding down.  We had some strawberries this week, and a couple of carrots and some peas.  So I've had some time to think about planning a garden.

When it comes to garden planning, you've got three important factors to take into consideration.   Sun, water and heat.  These three important factors and a bunch of others.


Cats aren't the only things that like sun.  Garden plants like sun too – and in varying amounts.  I live in San Diego, San Diego has on average 146 sunny days and 117 partly cloudy days a year.  Lots of opportunity for sun.  But we also need to make sure that we plant things in the sun - not under a tree.  Take a look around your yard and watch how the sun changes in each spot throughout the day.  Then check what the plants you want to use need for sunlight.  If you don't get enough sun, perhaps you can try a different spot in your yard, or a different variety of the same plant, or even try a different plant.  Trimming back your hedges or trees is another way to control the light coming into your yard.


Plants also like water.  And also in varying amounts.  Maybe you get rain regularly.  San Diego’s  average annual precipitation is less than 12 inches.  We don’t get rain regularly, so we need to make sure our plants get water through our irrigation system.  The Mr wrote about how to set up a simple irrigation system here.  I like having a timed system – that way I can’t forget to water the plants.


Some plants like warm weather, some plants like cool weather, some plants like hot weather.  Probably most of you intuitively know that not many plants like to grow in snow.   Peas and lettuce like cooler weather, tomatoes and hot peppers like the heat.  Trying to grow sweet peas when the temperature is regularly in the 80s won’t yield you very many sweet peas.  But those hot peppers soak that heat right up.  Picking the right plants for the temperature profile in your area will make you a more successful gardener!
You've got a number of great resources to determine what grows in your area:

  • Find your growing zone -
  • Check out what your neighbors are growing.  Do you hear them talking about how they’ve tried about every kind of zucchini recipe out there?  Do they always offer to give you a bag of tomatoes?  These can be great clues.
  • Visit your local nursery.  They’ve got great resources – and you can get seeds or plants while you are there!


Maybe this is an obvious one, but grow what you like!  One year, we grew radishes.  They grew really well.  They were beautiful:

But we don’t really like radishes.  Didn't make much sense to grow them after we figured that out.  We do like corn and peppers and peas and tomatoes.  Lemons too.  So we do keep growing  those.


Space is another consideration.  We don’t have a lot of space – southern California backyards are notoriously small.  We make great use of vertical space, using a lot of hanging pots for our herbs and hot peppers.  We have citrus trees in oak barrels – and they share space with strawberries.  This book is a great resource for getting more out of your space - Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell.

It is important to know how much your plant will grow to make sure you've got the right space allotted.  We tried watermelon one year.  And we learned they take a lot of space.  A lot.  They filled the bed we had for them, and spilled over into the roses, and grew onto the patio.  Everywhere they could find a space, they grew.  Good heavens.  Probably we should have done some research on that one!


Finally, and perhaps most importantly in retrospect - how much time do you have and how much work do you want to do?  Gardening can take a lot of time.  Planting, weeding, spraying, fertilizing.  And then more weeding.  Protecting from the blasted squirrels and rats.  Spraying.  Weeding.  Eventually harvesting!  Best advice for a new gardener?  Start small!  It's easy to get out of hand quickly, and then you end up working for your garden.

And after all that, this is our harvest totals for the year:

ItemWeight lbs.
Cayenne Peppers
Ghost Peppers
Jalapeno Pepper
Scorpion Peppers
Serrano Chiles
Sweet Bell Peppers
Grand Total

What are you planting this year?  I know a lot of folks are still under snow (ugh - it's April already!) so dreaming about gardening is all you can do for now.... but leave a comment about this year's garden dream. In the meantime, I've linked up with Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday and An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party ... hop on over and see what else is being picked this week.

zentMRS - Love in the Kitchen
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