Autumn Vegetable Gardening in So Cal

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Are you ready for fall season vegetable gardening yet?

Summer is almost over and in Southern California it’s time to think about your favorite cool weather crops.

For many gardeners, autumn means cutting back on the amount of gardening you do and getting your garden ready for cold weather, but for us, that is not the case. Instead, we get ready for another growing season filled with delicious vegetables and fruits.
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The California Greenhouse

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If you plan to raise flowers, herbs, vegetables, or fruiting plants year round, I highly suggest you invest in a good greenhouse that will not only provide protection for your plants, but also protects you against the environment while you tend your plants.

Make sure the structure is safe and sturdy. There are greenhouses on the market that will do fine in calm days, or in areas where there is no heavy snow or harsh sun beating on them. Put the same structure in a decent Santa Ana wind and you will see them rattle, shake, and fall apart in a hurry. There are good DIY plans out there that will meet your needs, and your safety requirements.
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Fall is Finally Here in Southern California

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I know it doesn’t feel like it yet, but before you know it the air will cool and the time spent in the garden won’t be as exhausting as it has been over the last few months. The sun won’t be beating down on you with its full power and the smell of heated roof tops, and scorching pavements will be replaced with the aroma of dew on the grass and the freshly harvested fields nearby.
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How to Approach Plant Problems

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We all want perfectly happy and healthy plants, but there are times when we take a stroll in our garden and realize some are not doing as well as expected.

In such situations, some gardeners rush to correct the problem, spraying their plants with pesticides, fungicides, or other liquids, be it from a chemical company or made of natural ingredients, to make sure their plants look as good as the ones in the gardening books. If you are one of those gardeners, I have one word of advice for you. STOP.
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Growing From Seed

Seed Tray Collage

I currently have 3 greenhouses in my backyard: the long house, the square house and the hoop house.  Now that the long house is built and planted, it’s time for the square house to be taken down.  Unfortunately (for my flower garden), Fred has discovered a super easy way to grown from seed.  We’ve collected a few of those black basket-like flats you can get from nurseries and Big-Box stores to carry your new 6-pack annuals home in.  Fred lined these with weed barrier, filled them with coconut fiber, scattered the seed, and put the flats in the hydroponics beds. The system is set to water twice a day and the greenhouse keeps the temperature fairly stable. Five days later and the seeds have sprouted and couldn’t be happier.

It’s important to point out that the coco fiber could gunk up a hydroponix/aquaponix system, which is why Fred used the weed barrier.

Share your method for growing from seed – even if it didn’t work out, it could plant an idea that others can try.

Happy gardening!

Lisa

An Hour to Garden

2015

Landscape Design: Seven Tips for Beginners

I ran across a great article about landscape design for beginners.  It’s a quick read and has some important tips about things to consider while planning your garden:  http://bit.ly/1iDGQtw

An Hour to Garden
The completed backyard garden of An Hour to Garden – and then we removed the aviary…

Adding my 2 cents:

“Make a list of needs and wants.”

Get the whole family’s opinion. Look at your garden from the point of view of a guest. Remember to make things easily accessible, like the place you store chair cushions or gardening tools.  If you have to carry them back and forth to the garage on the other side of the house, you aren’t going to use them.

“Study the sun and wind patterns.”

This is especially important if you get the Santa Ana winds trying to blow your house down every autumn thru spring.  Also, know how much sun and shade your flower beds will receive.  It isn’t unusual for some areas to have all day sun on the edges, but deep shade in the middle – or visa versa.  Both the wind and the amount of sun/shade make a huge impact on your choice of plants.

“Live with it for a while.”

Essentially, don’t jump in and finish building and planting in a weekend or two. Think on it awhile because there will be things you missed, like making a seating area for the fire table away from the house.

“Start small.”

Instead of starting small, I would say to relax and work slow.  It goes hand-in-hand with “Live with it for a while.”  Once you start putting in hardscape and a few structural plants, you’ll start thinking of things you want to include or change, which is great.  If you finish everything right away, you’ll sit back to admire your new garden and think “Dang, I wish we would have…!”

“Work around a focal point.”

You’ll want a place for the eye to settle, or destination to walk to.  There’s a tree tucked into the corner of my yard that people tend to migrate to. It’s not far from the seating area on the patio, but it would be nice to put a bench and small table under the tree, or maybe a swing. Instead, we fenced it off and created a veggie garden – something we had no plans to do just a couple years ago.

“Focus on scale and pacing.”

Keep the size of your space in mind.  If you have a small area, you will probably want to stay with one or two colors (other than green) and repeat most of the plants you’ve chosen in order to keep the space feeling clean.  The larger your space, the larger your plants can be and the more variety you can have. An English garden on an apartment balcony will be busy and messy, not the romantic stroll through a private park it was intended to be.

“Be open to change.”

A garden is an ever changing project.  You as a person will change, your family’s needs will change, the plants will change. Expect to make changes. It might be something relatively simple, like moving a bush 8″ to the right or relocating a bird bath. Or it could be something big, like removing a 10′ aviary, which throws off the balance of the structural plants and requires a whole new planting scheme for the garden.

Relax and enjoy the process. It can take a few years to get your garden just right… and then you’ll remove the aviary.

Happy Gardening!

Lisa

An Hour to Garden

2015

It’s Spring Time in Southern California!

I bet your seedlings are beginning to peek up from the soil, your catalog orders are placed, and your gardening books have a hundred colorful tabs sticking out from between the pages.

Mine aren’t.  Well, that’s not completely true, but I have much less done that I wanted.  I swear I was so much more productive when I worked full time.

We gave the plum a good pruning this winter, removed a couple brush cherry trees the wind tore apart, and made some preliminary plans to redesign the flower beds.  Since I’m not working and my only paycheck comes from etsy, we’re extremely limited on what we’ll be doing in the garden this year.  Veggies are worth the expense, replacing roses with regular bushes is not.   I also want the flower garden to be more chicken-friendly, which means bigger bushes and stronger perennials – they can devour a flat of alyssum or pansies before you realize they’re out of their yard!

Buff orpington, light brahma, backyard chickens, urban farm chickens in the garden
The Girls

Fred and his dad remodeled the greenhouse this month.  It is now down to just three bays and two aquaponic ponds (YA!!)  We’ll start rebuilding the raised veggie beds this weekend, using CMU blocks instead of 2x4s.  The blocks are less expensive and termites won’t eat them.  I’m concerned about the extra heat the concrete will generate, but since the veggie garden is on the east side of the house, it shouldn’t be too bad. (NOTE we removed the blocks the following year and replaced with 2×4 boards)

It’s tempting to line the beds with pond liner to help conserve water and keep the gophers out (maybe!), but it’s a huge expense for an experiment.  We had originally lined the wooden raised beds with chicken wire and white plastic sheeting, but the plastic degrades pretty quickly (and who knows what kind of chemicals it leaches into the soil), and the chicken wire eventually rusts away to leave behind tetanus-laden splinters for unwary hands.

Happy Gardening!

Lisa

An Hour to Garden

2014