"How do I choose?"New this year, crops with lots of choices have tips to help you select which types might suit your needs. The descriptions highlight what is unqiue about each variety, so if cold-hardiness, drought-tolerance, yield, color, bolt-resistance or other qualities are especially important to you, watch for those things in the descriptions.
To get the most from your garden, it really patys to do the "groundwork". Throughout this website, information on timing, spacing and culture for indivivudal crops will be found in the detailed description. Besides the information for specific crops, we want to take this space to mention the steps that apply to your garden as a whole. Good garden prepartion makes the biggest difference in creating health and abundance. Here are our tips for success:
Start with a plan. Determine the sun's path in your yard. Most garden crops needs 6-8 hours of direct sun per day. Areas that get less, or that get long periods of dappled light, can grow shade-tolerant crops like peas, lettuce, spinach and Asian greens. If the leaves are the part you eat, the vegetable will not need as much sun as those raised for seeds or fruit (tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, okra). What shape/size do you want your beds to be? Get a soil test, balancing your soil's nutrients will increase the health and yield of your plants. Follow the recommendations, choosing organic options when possible. We recommend Timberleaf Soil Testing , based in Murrieta, CA (951-677-7510) (www.timberleafsoiltesting.com). As part of this service you will receive a detalied report in easy-to-understand terms, with detailed advice on how to correct your imbalances organically. Easy and much more detailed than home tests and results are fast.
Now, how long is your growing season? Calculate the number of days betwene your last spring frost date and the first fall frost date. This will help you decide when to plant, if you need to start indoors first, or if your crops may need protection at the end of the season.
What do you want to eat or grow or share or sell? Talk to other local gardeners, neighbors, farmers' market vendors, or your county agricultural extension office ot find out what does well i nyour area and when to plant it.
Plan out where each crop should go. Keep in mind the eventual height and size of the plants. Keep plant families together and rotate them each year, so that you don't have the same famil in the same place two years in a row. Some plant families are: cabbages (including kale, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, and Asian greens), nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers), curcurbits (melons, squash, cukes), legumes (peas and beans), spinach (beets, chard, amaranth, quinoa, and spinach). Leave space for a compost pile!
Double dig your beds. Use stakes and string to mark your beds and then begin digging. If you're unfamiliar with the process we have DVD's, books, workshops, internships, and a helpful staff, so you can find out. To get started all you need is a spade and a fork. Work in compost or manure to feed the soil.
Start your seeds! Use flats andf transplant after the true leaves have appeared and before the roots get too long. When the temperatures are right, plant them out into the garden beds you have prepared. Now you can sit back and watch them grow. Make sure they don't dry out, or get crowded by weeds. In midseason, spread a layer of compost around the plants to give them a boost for bountiful crops.
Compost! Be sure you're always composting and growing material to feed your compost pile. The compost will feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants that feed you!