Smart & Sustainable, Green Garden Design, Coaching & Seasonal Maintenance

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Summer's Coming: Time for Some Sacramento Vegetable Gardening

It's that time again, time to experience the miracle of life!!!

Renee's Garden Swiss Chard can be planted from Feb to Sept

There's something fundamentally satisfying about growing veggies (actually, anything) from seed! Like many gardeners, I have hoards of them ... and collect them, buy them, trade them, and sigh over them. They're little treasures that are an essential part of life. You may have noticed during ... (sneeze) pollen season or while watching dandelions floating on the wind, however, that Mother Nature really produces in abundance to ensure the continuation of the genus and species. Lots of seeds! Lots of pollen! A-Choo! Why so many? Mother Nature has to depend on accident and chance, and compensates with waste!  As gardeners, we can play the game to provide all the elements that little seed needs. Cool, huh?!? Sometimes, the growers give us a head start and we get to take that 6-pack of chard or 1 gallon tomato home from the nursery, dig a hole and Voila! Instant garden, no waiting! Still satisfying ...

Getting Started
My suggestion is to start small ... plant just a few things, gain some experience and confidence and keep it simple. I say this from experience. Sacramento gets really hot come July/August, and you may be happy to only have to care for 1 tomato plant and some basil. If you live in an apartment and don't have your own bit of earth, you can try balcony gardening if you have a south or western exposure (most veg need 6 hours of sunlight). EarthBoxes can help overcome the watering problem inherent in living on the 5th floor.

 Part of learning any subject is getting familiar with it’s basic concepts and it’s own special vocabulary. Much of this information is on the seed packet itself.

Lots of vital info on this artichoke seed packet!
Warm Season Crops - summer vegetables that can be planted now are warm season crops. The general rule is wait until the nights are consistently above 50 degrees, or you can sit on the ground comfortably.
  • Tomatoes, tomatilloes
  • Beans - pole beans, bush beans of every sort!
  • Squash, melons, cucumbers, zucchini
  • Peppers, hot and mild
  • Eggplant
rainbow melons from Renee's Seeds - a warm season crop

Cool Season Crops: in the fall or early spring one can grow cool season crops. 
  • Lettuce and other greens (spinach, micro greens, arugula)
  • Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, brussels sprouts
  • Onions, garlic, leeks
  • Potatoes, carrots, turnips, radishes, beets, peas
Germination Time: how long before that little seed wakes up and starts pushing out its first root, stem and leaves.
Maturation Time: how long it takes before that young plant matures and can be harvested. Some examples:
  • Cool season snap peas need about 65 days,
  • fast-growing radishes, about 3 weeks,
  • Micro greens (great on pizza with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes) can be grown indoors or outdoors, and take just 25 days!
  • In the case of that artichoke up above, it can take up to 8 months to produce a crop, but will then continue producing year after year … and be a lovely ornamental plant in the garden as well!

Average First and Last Frost: this is the historical average for a particular area, and it's frequently the growing window, because few veggies grow when the temps plummet!  In the Sacramento Valley, this gives means on average, a growing season from mid-March to mid-November, which is why California produces more than half of the country's fruits, nuts and vegetables! My husband’s Swedish ancestors, who lived in Minnesota, at best, had from May to September. No dawdling for them! Dedicated gardeners in the colder ranges are more likely to have greenhouses and start vegetables from seeds so they can jump start the season. I’d love a greenhouse, but don’t really need one…sigh. To find out what your growing window is, click here for average first and last frosts by state.

Gardening Zones, a term you’ll run into rather quickly in garden books or discussions. (There are actually two zonal systems … the U.S. Department of Agriculture system, which charts the average annual minimum temperatures across the U.S., and the AHS (American Horticultural Society) system, which classifies regions based upon the severity of summer heat. Both of these are valuable, and are used to determine what sorts of plants are most likely to thrive in an area, but most gardening books refer to the USDA zones.) I live in USDA Zone 9, which is like Italy and the Napa Valley. I can, and do, grow grapes! Garden magazines usually speak to a large audience with different zones ... enjoy the pictures, but know your zone!

Pollinator-attracting flowers add joy and color to the 6-acre organic veg garden at Rancho La Puerta

Pollinators, Beneficial Insects, Companion Plants and Planting by the Light of the Moon ... So many things to be curious about, so many places on the Internet to lurk and learn. I leave you to your own devices with a few suggestions to get you started ...

This summer, why not start your own Victory Garden? Come harvest time, don’t forget the victory cry, “I GREW IT MYSELF!”

1 comment:

  1. What a Fabulous post! Lets get started on your veggie garden! I will fire up the tiller and we will turn and burn! Miss ya!