Hey everyone! I hope your Thursday is amazing so far!! And the good news is it’s almost my Friday, and then after that my favorite day … Saturday. Mmmmm, Saturday. But I digress.
I have something a little different for you today. I’m taking part in a monthly guest post swap with other Southern California bloggers. The idea is to “walk a mile in another blogger’s shoes.” I wrote a guest post for my friend Erin at Horsing Around in L.A. She loves horses (natch) so I pitched an article all about the Circle D stables at Disneyland, and she loved that! It was a topic I would probably never write about here on my own blog, but I had so much fun reading and learning about Circle D for my article. It was a great opportunity to stretch my creativity and reach a new audience.
The person assigned to write a guest post for me is the lovely Megan from Sunshine Wonderland (isn’t that such a cute name?). We went back and forth a few times, throwing out topics and narrowing down ideas. Finally she wrote, “It’s almost spring, how about something about gardening?” YES! Since I am now a proud owner of a tiny vegetable garden (currently an unattractive dirt garden), not only did I think it would be not only timely and something of interest for some of my readers, but I would get a lot out of it myself. And I was right! I love it when I’m right.
So please welcome Megan to the blog. And if you enjoy her article here regarding advice on starting a garden, please visit Sunshine Wonderland and say “hello from BFT!”
This year winter in California was just a bump in the road.
For months I have stared at my empty garden space, save for some overrun mint, rosemary and the straggly grape tomato that kept producing a handful at a time. But now, finally, it is becoming the season to plant without a danger of frost still looming, and nurseries are starting to bring in new flowers and vegetables.
How do I know? Because I used to work in one!
Are you planning to start a garden this year? Here are some tips from a nurseryman’s daughter:
Make gardener friends – Don’t rely on Google. The Internet is awesome but advice is not always the best for every climate – where I live it is technically desert – much different from the coastal climate only an hour away. Ask for help from neighbors and friends who already garden. Find a plant nursery to buy from instead of a home improvement store. They know the local weather, what plants are great producers in your climate and can tell you tips and tricks to help ensure a bountiful harvest. These resources will also be best for identifying insects, diseases, and problems with plants.
Measure and make a plan – What kinds of plants do you want to have? What kind of space do you have? How much sun does that area get each day? Measure, write a plan and bring it with when you shop.
Consider drip irrigation – Drip irrigation is tubes that bring water directly to the plants and a good way to implement water conservation, necessary with our warm weather this year. It’s the best way to ensure the plants get the water they need, helps keep the water bill down and helps cut down on weeds by not watering the entire area.
Reconsider ‘heirloom’ varieties for your first garden – Everyone wants the heirloom varieties that are making a comeback – and no wonder! We grew a beautiful pineapple tomato one year. But heirlooms are also most susceptible to diseases and insects, since most common varieties have been bred to tolerate them. That pineapple tomato? I only got three fruit off of it.
Every year I plant a more common variety (my little tomato lover loves “Sweet 100’s”) along with whatever else we pick out. After you spent a year making mistakes and learning the ropes, then you can focus on the beautiful and delicious heirloom varieties with more success.
Prep the area – I recommend against anything with chemical fertilizers (like Miracle Gro) in the soil – instead use an organic planting (not potting) mix. You can pick a general one or one for your specific garden. It breaks down slower and provides lasting nutrition. Turn the planting mix into the soil before you start putting in plants. You can also compost vegetable scraps for your garden, and don’t forget to save some coffee grounds to sprinkle around acid-loving plants like tomatoes and camellias.
Consider natural pest control – Remember that you want some bugs in your garden to make a healthy climate. Green lacewings, ladybugs, bees, butterflies and earthworms are just a few of what you want in the garden. Keep pests like aphids away by planting flowers that attract them such as daisies and marigolds (which does double duty by also protecting against nematodes) and plants that repel them such as borage (which deters tomato horn worms).
Be familiar with your garden – Now that it is planted and growing, don’t just spend time watering it every morning and checking it out from a nearby window. Spend time in it. Know it.
Give it love.
Pull little weeds before they are a big problem, check for any signs of disease or infestations, and take pictures and show off your successes or lessons learned. Green thumb or not, you can have a great garden! Good luck!