Green Garden Dreams

The Joy of San Diego Vegetable Gardening

I’ve had a plot at the Golden Hill Community Garden since March of this year (2011). In June I moved to a new plot to get away from the afternoon shade of a large Canary Island Palm, a chain link fence, and to better demo an anti-ground squirrel electric fence (long story – for another post).

I’ve been taking photos from the beginning. Here’s the plot when I first inherited it, May 25th, 2011. Just weeds and dry soil:

After most of the weeds had been pulled (watering it helped with that: roots are easier to pull), I started working on getting the Bermuda Grass out, whose runners had grown down under and between the gopher mesh and the wood border of the raised bed sides. Not an easy job. I worked on this as time permitted, a half hour or hour a day. This is June 4th:

On June 9th, I’d put down some compost in the soil at the south end, where I transplanted an adult tomato plant from the old plot. Divided up the plot into three sections and put some boards down so one could walk without compacting the soil. Added amendment (“Gardner & Bloome – Harvest Supreme”, and some manure) to the second (middle) section.

On June 11th I added amendments to the last section, filled up the hole at the end, watered and transplanted the rest of the onions from the old plot. The holes in the soil were to try and help the water soak in – the soil in San Diego usually has a high clay content which repels water:

Next I added a shade for the transplanted tomato plants, since it was struggling (wilting). Giving a transplant some shade is always advisable, since the lower light and heat levels help lower transpiration rates: the rate at which the plant takes up and loses water through evaporation and respiration from the leaves. You can also see where I put in the green fiberglass posts around the perimeter of the bed. This is the first step of setting up my little solar-powered electric fence: a defense against California Ground Squirrels. This is June 13th:

By June 26th, the tomato had perked up so I took the shade cloth cover off. Planted corn and squash from seed in the middle section. The corn variety is called Triple Play: “a tri-colored, multiple ears—white, yellow and blue” from Seeds of Change. Squash is Yellow Crookneck. I’d also gotten part of the wire mesh down on the ground and side of the raised beds (on the right) in order to form an electrical ground for the solar-powered electric fence. You need a artificial ground like this because the soil is so dry here in San Diego – usually one just uses the soil as the electrical ground for a electrical fence.

The next part of the adventure was to transplant the chili peppers I’d started at home under fluorescent lights (in a south window of my apartment). These were seeds a friend brought from New Mexico. Again I used shade cloth to help protect the young tranplants. The squash and corn had sprouted, so I was protecting them from ground squirrels with small wire cages, since the electric fence wasn’t ready yet. A Black Russian heirloom tomato plant – gift from fellow Golden Hill Community Gardener Richard – also came to inhabit this portion of the bed.

I completed the ground mesh all around the bed, and have the insulators on the posts. All that’s needed is the solar charge unit to electrify the fence. This is July 2nd:

On the night of July 4th, after getting back from a Independence Day celebration party, I had my own “Independence Day from Squirrels” celebration party at the garden, hooking up the charger for the first time, and testing it on myself.

After that I was able to see some fireworks downtown from the perspective of the garden:

July 5th: here’s a view from the other (south) end. You can see the squash sprouts, the corn starting to grow.

In this July 12th shot, you can see the electric fence more clearly. I’d also planted a Mexican Black Chili plant (down in front) and protected it in a wire tube. The squash and corn are getting bigger. Nothing bothered by squirrels yet! You can see wild Purslane starting to grow quickly. It sprouts in warm weather, can be eaten raw or cooked, and is the highest vegetable source of Omega-3 fatty acids known. I’ve also got a eggplant another gardener gave me, growing on the left.

By July 25th, you could really see the growth of the Black Russian heirloom Tomato plant, the squash, and everything else. Warm weather and midsummer sunshine help are a big part of that story. My efforts creating an electric fence were paying off. Without it, the sprouts would have been nibbled to the ground by now.

In the next photo you can se the luxuriant growth of the tomatoes, squash off to the right, corn to the left. Despite the thin soil (there’s a gopher mesh only about 8 inches down), a bag of manure and amendment, dug in and mixed well, helped a lot. There’s also a watermelon plant just getting started. This is August 3rd:

By August 14th, the squash and corn have flowered.

Female corn flowers. These gather pollen via the wind:

September 4th, 2011, the end of the plot (Eggplant, Mexican Black Chilis, Black Oil Sunflowers, Bush Watermelon, New Mexcio Chilis, wild Purslane…)

North end of the plot, 09/04/’11

View from the side:

North end of the plot, view from the side

9/9/’11, Harvested some corn. Fun to see all the colors in this “Triple Play” variety of sweetcorn (from Seeds of Change):

Triple Play sweet corn first ear

9/10/’11, Harvested some Black Russion heirloom tomatoes. For some reason they all grew in one bunch.

Black Russian heirloom tomatoes
Black Russian heirloom tomatoes

Eggplants are in the Solanaceae family (potato family), which includes peppers, tomatoes, Tobacco, Tomatoes, Nightshade, Jimson Weed, and others. Here’s an eggplant flower (9/14/’11):

9/17/’11: Almost time to start pulling the spent corn and tomatoes out, make room for winter veggies:

Hard Work, Pretty Sights, and Good Eats from the Garden Plot arrow-right
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  • Raquel Rudder

    September 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Reply

    Very cool.

  • Outcastren

    June 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Reply

    Nice job! SD soil is not conducive for vegetable gardens but with amendments, hard work, water & TLC you got it done. I have SD ground squirrel problems too. Can you provide more details on the solar electric fence? Make\Model\Vendor?

    • eric

      August 16, 2013 at 9:55 am | Reply

      Hi Outcastren,

      I apologize for the late reply: for some reason my blog has not been notifying me of new replies.

      Thanks for the compliment on the garden plot. I work hard at it.

      The electric fence materials I got from this outfit:
      Looks like they’ve updated their systems so now they include ones for dry areas, probably after all the work they did trying to help me set up one.
      It was quite a bit of work to get it set up for our dry soil, since the grounding rod needs damp soil (long story I should write about).
      I got the solar charging box off, since it was cheaper: “Havahart SS-740 Solar Powered Low-Impedance Intermittent 1 Mile Pet Deterrent Fence Energizer”.
      Good luck. Let me know what you do.

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