my first garden - Los Angeles

destijl_atmospheresFebruary 29, 2012

I just got a 12x9 plot at my local community garden. Now what?!?!?!?!

My only gardening experience is growing a few herbs and an upside down tomato plant on my apartment's balcony.

Any advice for a near-complete beginner?

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Do you have any ideas for what you would like to grow? I think it would be helpful to know what types of vegetables you are thinking about.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 8:46PM
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tomatoes, beets, zucchini, radishes, all kinds of salad greens, beans, cucumbers... maybe a few herbs...

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:11PM
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All these plants are easy to germinate.

Radishes: Plop them in the ground, and they grow. In the summer, it took about 3-4 weeks until I was pulling them.

Lettuce: Just let it grow. They need even moisture, especially romaine lettuces as a good chunk of lettuce is water.

Beets: I didn't have success with this one because I planted in mid September when the conditions of growing were only good for a couple weeks after that.

Cucumbers: Trellising works well. You'll get the plant climbing and producing more than if you let it tumble about.

Zucchini should be relatively the same as Cucumbers.

Beans need lots of heat. I was able to get them growing, and only got them flowering at the end of summer. They didn't set beans for me because of my cold summer.

Here are some pictures:

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 10:13PM
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I would suggest getting a good gardening book, which you can use as a reference when you are starting. A few years ago someone from this site recommended this book and I've found it to be great. You might be able to get it from your local library, that's what I first did and then eventually bought it from amazon:
Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham

Also, use the search page down at the bottom of the forum to search specifically on the vegetable forum when you are looking for info about a specific vegetables. You'll find tons of info.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 8:51AM
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Why are you growing vegetables? That will help to determine how to do it. If you are trying to save money, you have different concerns from those who are trying for better flavor, or unusual varieties, or recreation. Also, how many people are you growing for? You can grow a lot of zucchini in 100 square feet, but how much zucchini will you eat or freeze during it's productive cycle? Salad greens can be grown year-round, but have to be regularly replanted, whereas tomatoes are planted once a year, so scheduling is a factor.

Your first stop should be the extension service. They will have advice pertinent to your conditions and climate. A good entry-level book is always helpful, The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch might be a good place to start, and will be a good reference for many years.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 3:05PM
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Good luck, just starting your first real garden is fun and challenging (and often humbling). I respectfully disagree with the book reading recommendations, it's Spring and it's time to get dirty and make mistakes and post your specific problems online to get advice now. Then after you know more about your interests and your problems, then it's time to read about propagating plants and the Soil Food Web and integrated pest management and all the other in-depth or broad topics.

A couple of questions ans suggestions:
Is your plot in the coastal fog zone or more inland? Cukes and melons are challenging along the coast and will always get powdery mildew, in my experience.

Does your plot have access to composted manures or green waste? Digging in fully-finished compost in your beds before planting will add tilth and nutrients to the garden bed.

Will you germinate in place or in containers, which are then transplanted? If you won't be able to get to your plot frequently, it could be easier to start seeds at home. But growing seeds in containers and transplanting is a slightly different skill set than caring for seeds germinated in place. Root crops like radishes and beets seldom transplant well, so those should always be germinated where you want them. Attached is a link to a good LA seed planting calendar.

Everything you've listed, except cukes, can be started now and grown through what I expect to be a cool, foggy spring. Also, the Seed Exchange forum here at GW is worth browsing, many experienced gardeners have veggie seeds they are willing to give to gardeners just getting started.

Here is a link that might be useful: SoCal seed calendar

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 4:01PM
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It would be worth your time to do a little reading. Planning will help you be more successful. Basics are - plant tall plants to the north of shorter plants, chose the right plants for the season and your climate, pay attention to spacing, and provide good soil and water. You local Master Gardeners, which is part of agricultural extension will be a good source.

I'm in Orange County, so I have similar climate. What you plant also depends on what you like to eat. Include a few flowers for fun and to attract pollinators. Our weather has been goofy this year, but summer veggies could be planted now.

Here is a link that might be useful: What's Growing On?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:51PM
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Thanks Dicot for the SoCal Seed Calendar! I am also new.. and things like "when to try to plant things" are vital pieces of information! :)

I actually already planted peppers (not from seeds, they were very small plants from the store, maybe a few inches high) that already have little balls growing.. I'm worried maybe they are too 'early' but so far they seem happy.

Also, strawberries were not on the list? I just planted three types.

Don't know what the heck I'm doing, but... so far things seems ok and I've already resigned myself to the fact that I'll probably screw something up! :)

I water them a lot, they seem to like that.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:23PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I'm sure you can get a list of what to plant when from your extention office.
Look around. You said it's a community garden. Talk to people there and see what grows well and how much space the plants may take up. Gardeners are usually very friendly people who love to share! Nancy

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 8:22PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I think you have a mild winter,stereotypeq, strawberries should be planted in October around here and they produce until about May. They are treated like annuals, by some. They produce less the following year(s). I will just grow mine for the runners, which can be cut off and grown into plants.
Destijl, Gardening is so rewarding and relaxing, most of the time. Until you start getting bugs and diseases. NOt of which I hope you get! Tomatoes are easy for me, but they require alot of water. Plant according what you are able to keep watered right. The agricultural center has lots of free advise and pamphlets to help you. Cucumbers and beans you can start from seeds inserted into the soil. Just be sure and follow the directions on the seed pack for the correct depth to plant them. Water them in well and fertilize them a few weeks after planting. Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:09PM
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This my second year of gardening and probably started out way to big. But it did pretty good at least in my opinion. This year against my better judgement it seems to have grown even bigger. I don't see it growing much if any as it has just about taken over the entire backyard now.

Think about what you like to eat and how much time you will have to tend your new garden. If your tomatoes did good the way you grew them upside down on your balcony I might think about still doing it that way. As they will be right there for you to watch over them everyday. Plus it will save some space in your plot.

You might want to spend some time in the square foot gardening section as that might help you in the planning of your garden. Also look into what plants can be trellised to help save as much space as you can (such as cucumbers).

I Would also hang out at the community garden and seek advice from some of the more experienced gardeners there.

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:12AM
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