Green Garden Dreams

The Joy of San Diego Vegetable Gardening

Posts in the urban gardening category

Vegetables need lots of sun: at least 6 hours, but the more the better. I was looking for a way to raise a planting area high enough to not be shaded by the Valerian plants in my garden plot at the community garden. I’d also wanted to make the soil deeper, since the soil in the community garden plots is only about 8 or 9 inches deep, at most, before you hit the gopher mesh. The gopher mesh is wire mesh that stops the gopher from digging up into the garden. Roots can go below it, but don’t really like to, because it’s crappy San Diego hardpan; and you can’t dig any deeper than that to do things like mix in amendments.

In any case, most vegetables like a  deep, rich, loose soil, and this way I could really add some good soil of my choice, and do some “French Intensive” gardening. By intensive I mean growing lots of plants in a small space.

It also has the benefit of being a barrier for any critters that might get past the electric fence.

My first idea was to use a 5 gallon bucket, and cut the bottom out of it. My second idea was to use a large pot, such as a 5 gallon pot: they are easy to find  – people and nurseries throw them out or recycle them. I could cut the bottom out, and roots would go down into the soil.

I went exploring some local alleyways on my bike – a fun excursion since I’d often seen pots and many other useful things there, including backyard vegetable gardens and fruit trees with fruit hanging in the alley, ready to eat.

Well, I didn’t see any pots, but I did spot something that gave me an idea: some old wooden drawers. All I’d have to do is knock the bottom out and boom, instant raised bed! They could be stacked up for greater depth! I marked the location in my phone and came back in the car and picked them up.

Old wooden drawers in an alley. One man’s trash is another gardener’s treasure.

The first step after knocking the bottoms out with a hammer was to stack them up – seemed like two was the right height (three took them too close to the height of the electric fence wire, and a temptation for ground squirrels to jump over).

Ready to start filling with soil.

The next step was to layer soil in. I wanted to use a mixture of the local native soil plus amendments, and not just used bagged or bought soil. This way i would get the microorganisms that are beneficial, plus get more sand. Sand is good for drainage and soil texture.  using soil from the end of one of the pathways, I removed the rocks (our local San Diego soil is full of sand, clay and rocks).  Then adding compost from a bagged mix, plus some organic fertilizer, I mixed these together with a spade before adding  another layer. This was then watered of course. I also planted some earthworks from the plot in it.

Beginning to fill with soil.

It’s best to let this new soil sit for a few days before planting. That way the community of organisms – including hopefully earthworms – can start to stabilize and process the new mix. Soil is a living thing. And physically it can settle in too.

Time to plant some seeds! I take photos when planting seeds in order to help me remember where they are and what is planted.
On the left are Kentucky Wonder Pole beans; in the middle are Rams Horn beans, and on the right Blue Lake pole beans. These are all vine types, so will need a stakes or a trellis to grow on. This was May 25th:

Its important to keep seeds moist before they sprout. I used a piece of shade cloth in a discarded plant tray and laid it over the bed.

After the bean seeds were covered over, I planted a mix of radishes, beets, a little Cilantro, and some carrots. (These had accidentally been mixed together in a in a ziplock bag I’d been using for storing seed packets). The idea is to have these lower-growing veggies under the beans, which will be vertical. They also don’t need quite as much sun. They will benefit from the nitrogen-fixing activity of the beans too! Like all legumes (bean family) plants, beans accomplish the miracle of taking Nitrogen from the air, and using  a partnership of bacteria in root nodules, convert it to a form that plants can use.

Only four days later, and the beans are starting to emerge! The Kentucky Wonder Pole beans, which was fresh seeds from last season that I harvested from my vines after they dried out, were the first to come up. This is May 29th:

We have liftoff!

A day later, May 30th. The radishes are starting to sprout also:

May 31st:

June 1:

June 2:

June 9th. The bean leaves are starting to fill out. Thinned a couple of plants. Have yet to see if the beans are going to shade the radishes and beets too much. This is an experiment.

June 9th

June 9th

Some radishes did manage to grow just fine down underneath the beans! I grew a rainbow radish mix called “Easter Egg II”, from Renee’s Garden. Beautiful colors, and some were sweet. I really enjoyed growing, eating and sharing these with a friend.

Rainbow Radishes, June 23rd.

Easter Egg II radishes, June 23rd.

June 27th

June 27th

July 25th Im starting to get nice harvests of Kentucky Wonder Pole and Ram’s Horn beans from my little drawer bed.

July 25th harvest

July 25th harvest

By August 1st, the beans are flourishing, flowering and fruiting a-plenty, and I’m eating them straight off the vine for snacks. And steamed, on top of rice for dinner. Especially the Kentucky Wonder Pole beans! They are very productive.

August 1st

August 1st

August 1st, Closer View

August 1st, Closer View

End result of those months of toil and joyful tending: dried beans ready to cook or plant next year. I made a wonderful pot of beans in the crock pot from these!:
dried_beans_from_garden_800

Tis the season to plant tomatoes! This is a partial list of what I found at three retail locations.

I had fun exploring the farmer’s market, a nursery, and Home Depot. Did you know that there are said to be over 7500 varieties of tomatoes in the world?!

Most of the following are heirlooms (the links are so you can learn about the variety, or buy seeds).

What I planted this year:
Ananas Noire http://heritagetomatoseed.com/heirloom-and-op-tomato-seeds/ananas-noire/
Mr. Stripey http://www.tomatogrowers.com/MR-STRIPEY-TIGRELLA/productinfo/4735/
Sungold http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/vegetables/sungold_tomato.htm

Hillcrest Farmer’s Market (Whitney & Kathy – Whole Earth Acre Nursery):

Brandywine  http://www.victoryseeds.com/tomato_brandywine-red.html
Amish Paste  http://www.tomatogrowers.com/AMISH-PASTE/productinfo/5056/
Momotaro http://www.tomatogrowers.com/MOMOTARO/productinfo/5149/
http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seed_111-125.html
Rutgers  http://www.victoryseeds.com/tomato_rutgers.html
http://www.ufseeds.com/Tomato.item
Parks Whopper  http://parkseed.com/tomato-parks-whopper-cr-improved-vf1f2nt-hybrid/p/05380-PK-P1/
Ultimate Opener   http://www.totallytomato.com/dp.asp?pID=00785&c=42
Boxcar Willie   http://store.tomatofest.com/Boxcar_Willie_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0075.htm
Isis Candy   http://store.tomatofest.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=Isis+Candy&Search.x=18&Search.y=21
Chocolate Stripes   http://store.tomatofest.com/Chocolate_Stripes_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0115a.htm
Rose http://store.tomatofest.com/Rose_p/tf-0429.htm
Beefsteak
Church http://www.tomatogrowers.com/CHURCH/productinfo/5375–BULK/
Green Zebra (see above)
Patio Hybrid http://www.tomatogrowers.com/PATIO-F-HYBRID/productinfo/6334–BULK/
Super Sweet 100 http://www.tomatodirt.com/sweet-100-tomato.html
Black Cherry http://store.tomatofest.com/Black_Cherry_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0059.htm
Early Girl http://www.tomatodirt.com/early-girl-tomato.html
Carbon http://store.tomatofest.com/Carbon_Heirloom_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0099.htm
Italian Heirloom http://blog.seedsavers.org/tomato-tasting-awards-2012/
Stupice http://store.tomatofest.com/Stupice_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0473.htm
Marglobe Select http://www.totallytomato.com/dp.asp?pID=00450&c=39&p=Marglobe+Select+Tomato),
Paul Robeson http://store.tomatofest.com/Paul_Robeson_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0373.htm
Juliet http://www.growgardentomatoes.com/juliet-tomato.html
German Queen Tomato  http://store.tomatofest.com/German_Queen_p/tf-0188.htm
Legend http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/node/469
http://store.tomatofest.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=Legend&Search.x=20&Search.y=17
Goliath http://www.reimerseeds.com/goliath-tomato.aspx<br/>http://www.totallytomato.com/dp.asp?pID=00001&c=49&p=Original+Goliath+Hybrid+Tomato
San Marzano http://www.sanmarzanotomatoes.org/
Yellow Pear http://www.tomatodirt.com/yellow-pear-tomato.html
Home Sweet http://www.totallytomato.com/dp.asp?pID=00351&c=42&p=Homesweet+Hybrid+Tomato
Sun Gold Cherry http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/vegetables/sungold_tomato.htm
http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-7929-sun-gold-f1.aspx
http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seed_281-143.html
Silentz http://www.territorialseed.com/product/1560/seasonal_products
http://store.tomatofest.com/Siletz_p/tf-0454.htm
Marianna’s Peace http://www.tomatofest.com/mariannas-peace-heirloom-tomato.html
http://tatianastomatobase.com/wiki/Marianna’s_Peace
Indigo Rose http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/purple-tomato-debuts-‘indigo-rose’
http://www.territorialseed.com/product/13533
Big Beef http://www.directgardening.com/detail.asp?ProductID=5306
Lemon Boy http://www.tomatodirt.com/lemon-boy-tomato.html
http://www.jungseed.com/dp.asp?pID=00427
Aussie http://store.tomatofest.com/Aussie_Heirloom_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0035.htm
Black Krim http://store.tomatofest.com/Black_Krim_p/tf-0063.htm
Black Plum http://store.tomatofest.com/Black_Plum_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0064.htm
http://store.underwoodgardens.com/Black-Plum-Tomato-Lycopersicon-lycopersicum/productinfo/V1148/
Red Current http://www.victoryseeds.com/tomato-currant.html
Better Boy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Better_Boy (first tomato I ever grew) http://www.tomatodirt.com/better-boy-tomato.html
Ramano http://www.harrisseeds.com/Storefront/p-213-tomato-roma-vf.aspx
Siberian http://www.botanicalinterests.com/products/view/0053/Tomato-Pole-Red-Siberian-HEIRLOOM-Seeds
Japanese Black Trifeled http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/2008/08/japanese-black-trifele-tomato-hannas-tomato-tastings-2008.html
New Girl http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-5569-new-girl-f1.aspx
Jet Setter http://www.totallytomato.com/dp.asp?pID=00395&c=42&p=Jetsetter
Bush Goliath http://www.totallytomato.com/dp.asp?pID=00002&c=49
http://www.reimerseeds.com/bush-goliath-tomato.aspx
Oaxacan Jewel http://tatianastomatobase.com/wiki/Oaxacan_Jewel
http://www.tomatogrowers.com/OAXACAN-JEWEL/productinfo/6064/
Gold Medal http://www.seedsavers.org/onlinestore/tomato_3/Tomato-Gold-Medal.html
Champion II http://www.tomatogrowers.com/CHAMPION-II-VFNT-HYBRID/productinfo/2429–BULK/
Moskvitch http://tatianastomatobase.com/wiki/Moskovich
Aunt Rungs German Green http://store.tomatofest.com/Aunt_Ruby_s_German_Green_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0033.htm
http://www.rareseeds.com/aunt-rubys-german-green-tomato/
Dr. Wyches Yellow http://store.tomatofest.com/Dr_Wyche_s_Yellow_p/tf-0151.htm
Celebrity http://www.tomatodirt.com/celebrity-tomatoes.html
Mortgage Lifter http://store.tomatofest.com/Mortgage_Lifter_Radiator_Charlie_s_p/tf-0324.htm

Walter Andersen’s:

Big Daddy http://www.burpee.com/vegetables/tomatoes/beefsteak/tomato-big-daddy-hybrid-prod002743.html
Tasti-Lee http://www.tomatogrowers.com/TASTI-LEE-VFFF-HYBRID/productinfo/5755/
Solar Power http://www.burpee.com/vegetables/tomatoes/saladette/tomato-solar-power-hybrid-prod002748.html
Yellow Pear http://www.tomatogrowers.com/YELLOW-PEAR/productinfo/5862/
Tumbling Tom Red http://www.totallytomato.com/dp.asp?pID=00766&c=52
Sun Gold http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/vegetables/sungold_tomato.htm
http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-7929-sun-gold-f1.aspx
http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seed_281-143.html
Sweet 100 http://www.tomatodirt.com/sweet-100-tomato.html
San Marzano http://www.sanmarzanotomatoes.org/
Sub Arctic Maxi (https://www.stokeseeds.com/product.aspx?ProductID=39772&CategoryID=140&checkCookies=1 http://www.tomatogrowers.com/SUB-ARCTIC-MAXI/productinfo/2733/),
Stupice
Roma,
San Francisco Fog
Cherry Red
Patio
Lemon Boy
Early Girl
Cherryridge
Black Krim
Big Pink
Tough Boy (Momotaro) http://www.evergreenseeds.com/tohymotbo.html
Yellow Pear
San Diego
Roma
Mottomoru
Early Girl,
Champion Celebrity,
Better Boy,
Zapotec Large Ribbed,
Yellow Brandwine,
Principe Borghese,
Mr Stripes,
Green Zebra,
German Johnson?
Jap Black Trifele,
Black From Tula,
Black Zebra,
Black Krim,
Brandwine Pink,
Arkansas Traveler,
Amish Paste,
Anna Russian,
Mortgage Lifter,
Sweet Seedless Hybrid

Home Depot (Marketplace St.):

Husky Cherry,
Patio,
Thurbush,
Celebrity,
Early Girl,
Big Boy,
Big Beef,
Roma,
Beefmaster,
Sun Sugar,
Hinds Super Roma,
Celebrity,
German Queen,
Husky Cherry Red,
Bush Goliath,
Super Sweet 100,
Yellow Pear,
Golden Jubilee ,
Beefmaster,
Parks Whopper

San Diego Seed Company “germinated” in an urban farming class at San Diego City College. Students Brijette Romstedt and Carrie Driskill had been casting about for ideas for a business to start. One day in class, their professor and farmer extraordinaire Paul Maschka gave a lecture about seeds, hybrids, genetically modified (GMO) crops and the like, and discovered that San Diego did not have a successful seed company. That was the perfect seed they needed: they suddenly saw the light (and the soil and the water and … you get the idea) and knew what they wanted to do.

Focusing on heirloom, open-pollinated varieties of vegetables, herbs and companion flowers, San Diego Seed Company fits into a wider picture of current hot trends in locally grown foods, home food gardening and the dawning awareness of the need for sustainable practices that are sweeping the country and world.

Heirloom varieties come from a time before industrialized agriculture and the push to sacrifice quality for efficiency. A classic example is the tomato: hybrid varieties of tomatoes were bred with a focus on high yield, long distance packing, shipping and storage, with taste and seed-saving a distant secondary concern. As a result, we have almost flavorless and strangely textured things we call tomatoes in the stores. Anyone who has tasted a fresh, truly ripe tomato from the garden has the proverbial light bulb go off: “So this is what a tomato is supposed to be like!”

This revelation goes double for these heirloom varieties, whose rich flavor and diverse colors and shapes hale from a time when the pace of life allowed for the slow development of what people wanted to enjoy on their dinner table and grow in their home garden or small farm, rather than plants conforming to the needs of industrial growers, chemical companies and distributors for supermarket chains.

Heirloom varieties show a great abundance of desirable characteristics, such as rich flavors, colors and shapes and adaptations that have survived thousands of years. They can be grown true to the parent from the seeds in the fruits.

Talking with Carrie and Brijette, their passion and knowledge come through in everything they say. They are in the right place at the right time, and doing something they truly believe in and that makes them happy. And they have done their homework in terms of understanding seed saving. This knowledge and commitment serves their customers and the community well. Of course, they will be the first to admit there’s always a tremendous amount to learn about plants and starting and growing a business. They are going to grow along with their seeds.

Focusing on crops adapted to San Diego’s environment, SDSC fills a unique niche. While other seed companies sell varieties grown in and adapted mainly to other parts of the country, SDSC grows the seed locally, and has done research into what types are best for San Diego climate and soil conditions.

If you have ever grown vegetables, you’ve probably noticed the planting schedules on the back of the seed packets. “When all danger of frost is past” is a typical guide that gives one a hint to the typical American four-season temperate climates seeds are developed and marketed to. These planting schedules often do not apply to San Diego.

All of SDSC’s original seed lines came from local or regional organic farms.

There is a reason that San Diego county has “more small farms (less than 10 acres) than any other county” (San Diego farm Bureau – http://sdfarmbureau.org/SD-Ag/Ag-Facts.php ). San Diego is not only blessed with a mild Mediterranean-like climate that allows year around vegetable gardening, but has many microclimates created by the varied terrain and the influence of the ocean in coastal communities.

Buying seeds from other areas is also less sustainable, in part because it depends on the use of petrochemicals for transportation. Using locally grown seed closes the circle of sustainability: in growing, transporting, buying, and eating local food, buying local seeds will provide the missing element. The locally grown crops will be grown from seed grown locally.

As the cycle continues of growing seed locally, harvesting and replanting from their own production, SDSC’s seed lines will become better adapted to San Diego conditions. This is also in harmony with sustainable practices.

As they grow as an enterprise and gear up for larger production, they will eventually go beyond selling to local home growers, and sell to farmers.

Both Brijette and Carrie are Midwestern country stock, having grown up in Kansas amid great fields of corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Their grandparents both had farms, and vegetable gardens were part of their early lives.

They saw where food comes from, which is part of their calling now as business owners and teachers as they instruct classes at Wild Willow Farms that focus on seed saving.

Like plants in healthy soil, some of what they learned they attribute to osmosis. Carrie worked for Karen Contreras of Urban Plantations, learning about integrated pest management, seasonal planting and many other topics a budding seed farmer needs.

But growing vegetables for seed production is different than growing for produce. You cannot both harvest the produce and use it for seed production.

Being females in a male-dominated industry is not an easy seed to sow, but these two women have what it takes to succeed, and they are in the right place in the right time. Their sale at Earth Day 2011 was a roaring success.

Portions of the proceeds go to Wild Willow Farms, and helps them to develop and manage the collaborative seed bank. A special grant from the Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation also helped fertilize the seed bank project, which helped build the greenhouses, purchase a refrigerator for seed storage, and provide classes to inform the community on how to processes the seeds to supply the bank.

San Diego Seed Company has opened their website for business as of June 2012:
http://shop.sandiegoseedcompany.com/
Seeds are reasonably priced at $3.00 per packet (compare to $3.49 for Seeds of Change’s organic but non-local seeds)

I stayed in Escondido for a little while in March of 2012. On my way to breakfast one day, I spied a large community garden on the west side of Centre City Parkway.

Doing a little research during breakfast, I discovered there are two community gardens in Escondido.

The smaller one is the South Escondido Garden, at 1540 South Escondido Boulevard.

I went and took some photos and looked over the fence. One interesting thing was the little concrete posts used to border the plots. And why is every community garden full of Fava beans?!
 

Another view:

One more:

I then drove up to the larger garden, the Escondido Community Garden, near Centre City Parkway between El Norte Parkway and Mission Avenue. They have to main area: one for the general public, and the southern section for seniors. I talked to a couple of people at the senior garden. A very nice gardener named “Lilian” spent quite a bit of time chatting with me about the garden. Their plots are 20 feet by 20 feet! (The main section plots for the general public are “only” 4’x16′). They get free mulch from the city, and mushroom compost from a mushroom farm (also free I believe).

The use of concrete blocks for plot borders is a difference from other gardens I’ve seen.

A nice covered picnic table area:

A longer view, looking north to the main section:

The senior gardens area:

Another view of the senior gardens area. This underutilized plot is going to be given to a new gardener:

Before I left, Lilian gave me a large bag of lettuce straight from her garden. We had shared experiences and knowledge about pests, community, and many other aspects of gardening. That sharing is one of the great things that a community garden is about!

For more information, the City of Escondido has a page here about their program:
http://www.escondido.org/community-gardens-program.aspx

On August 27th, 2011, I went up to lend my hand at the building of a new community garden in Linda Vista.  Fifty five people showed up at the Bayside Community Center (2202 Comstock St. San Diego, CA 92111).  The Bayside Community Center teamed with Ford Eco-Challenge San Diego driver, Dave Cynkin, to build garden beds for the Linda Vista Community Garden. Here’s the story as it appeared on TV – NBC 7 San Diego.

I volunteered to help the cutting and laying of wire mesh since I had experience doing this for my own plot at the Golden Hill Community Garden. The photographer for the Linda Vista Gardens site caught me hard at work here.

Here’s the story in pictures (they are all my photos except for the links to the community garden’s Flickr page):

Before work started, we got the overall plan from Bob Greenamyer of Victory Gardens San Diego. By coincidence, the day I worked on this blog post (September 28), The San Diego Reader newspaper published a front-page article about replacing lawn with vegetable gardens, and Bob appears in the article on page 24:

Safety First

A big pile of mulch and shovels ready to go!

Mulch

Plots marked out on the lawn. They are going to make new garden plots right on the lawn using the “lasagne method”. This is where you where you lay down cardboard, then layers of soil and compost. The grass underneath dies for lack of light, and roots grow down through as the cardboard breaks down. Worms will eat the cardboard too! This constitutes grassroots soil building (pun intended) and getting some better use out of a lawn in a dry climate at it’s best.

Replace Your Lawn with Veggies

Lots of gardening tools piled up, ready to go:

Tools

Here we are rolling out the mesh over the cardboard. The wire mesh keeps out gophers. Chicken wire has holes that are too large, so you need to use wire mesh (1/4 or 1/2 inch):

Rolling out Wire Mesh to Keep Out Gophers

Here I am again. I dont’ know why they always shot me from behind, but that’s OK.

The bulletin board inside the community center:

The retaining walls that were needed on the canyon side:

Retaining Walls

Building a retaining wall:

Building a plot wall

Here you can see the mulch being spread. First we put just plain local soil on the cardboard, took the biggest rocks out of it, then put down layers of mulch and grass clippings. Over time, as water, plant roots, worms and microbes do their work, good soil will be created. A simple border was made with local rocks:

Lasagne Method of Creating a Garden Plot Over Lawn

Digging the plots (Phelan Reissen manning a pick ax – he’s my boss/partner from Digithrive, and can be credited with telling me about the event). The soil in San Diego can be pretty hard, as it’s full of clay, sand and rocks:

Watering some of the “lasagne” plots:

Watering a "Lasagne" Plot

Laying gopher mesh in the plots near the fence:

Laying Gopher Mesh in a Plot

Next: I’m hoping to visit the garden soon and get pictures of how it’s growing!

 

Links:
Linda Vista Gardens Blog

Made some dinner tonight with goodness from the garden: fresh sweet corn kernels, cut off the cob, added a wonderful chewy sweet nuttiness to a bean and cheese burrito (cheese+corn_beans = complete amino acid complement too). Had some fresh garden tomato on the side. “Harvest to table” to mouth! 🙂 This was the “Triple Play” sweet corn from Seeds of Change organic heirloom seeds of New Mexico. A variety they developed themselves from several heirloom stains.

"Triple Play" Sweet Corn

"Triple Play" Sweet Corn

This meal was a nice way to reward myself after laboring, with an aching back, all by my lonesome: put up half the barrier fence needed to make the solar-powered electric fence 100% effective in warding off ground squirrels and rats.

I realized that I had to do something about “mid-air squirrels”, as Jon of McGregor’s Fence company so colorfully put it. The fence had been working pretty well, but now and then some animal would get through and nibble on some veggies. Once I saw a ground squirrel leap through the wires, and a few days ago I spotted a rat leaping through as they exited the plot on my approach.

As they explain on their website:
“… if you try to keep animals out of vegetable gardens with only an electric fence it won’t work because the animals are pretty well insulated by their fur so if they don’t touch the wire with a nose or paw, they’re likely to trundle right on through and get no zap at all. However, if you put a low barrier fence a few inches behind the electric fence it will stop the animal long enough so that it will investigate the situation with its nose or paw and will then come in contact with the electric wire. This works whether the animal tries to climb over the wires or under them. It will get zapped and it will turn tail and go away.”

To top off the day in the vegetable garden, as the sun went lower, the light complemented the reddish corn stalks, and a red Nasturtium volunteer poked it’s head out (click to see larger size):

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:

In  my adventures visiting front yard gardens, sometimes sparks will happen. Revisiting this front yard garden near Dale and Ivy was one such occasion. His name was Will, and he embodied the spirit of enthusiaism I also hold inside for gardening and growing food, and the “green world” of this interconnected Earth we live on.

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park

I’d seen this garden a few times, and talked with him tending it about year ago. The other day when I swung by to photograph it, he was out front. He didn’t have much time to talk as he watered before running off to his job at a bank, but he later sent me his story. I love his metaphor of the rambling bamboo.

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park

“My story is like the rambling nature of say, the running bamboo: starting in one place, following the water and nutrients to another, and popping up in all sorts of unexpected places and ways. Oh yes, and almost impossible to eradicate!

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park

“I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin in the 1960s, surrounded by corn fields and dairy farms. While my parents were professional people, I always seemed to gravitate to outside activities and vocations. I began my first garden in third grade, learned how to raise worms and feed chickens, and spent many a summer in the lake and forest country of northern Wisconsin.

After failing to gain acceptance to medical school in the 1980s, I travelled around the country and eventually settled in Washington State. There I met several mentors and friends involved in the Seattle Tilth movement:   http://seattletilth.org/ I am eternally grateful for the knowledge shared and experiences gathered during these days, culminating in working with the founder of the Permaculture Movement, Bill Mollison:   http://www.permaculture.org/

As if this was not enough, I also enjoyed an incredible encounter with Masanobu Fukuoka, promoter of no tilth agriculture and author of The One-Straw Revolution:  http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/  His humble yet powerful presence was sublime.

Moving to California, I began growing food for my family in a small back yard of our home in San Luis Obispo. I began supporting local agriculture by shopping at the local famers markets, toured the CalPoly agriculture facilities and exhibits, and furiously ordered seeds and supplies. I almost earned the right to take care of a local shrine of gardening and history known as the Dallidet Adobe:  http://historycenterslo.org/?page_id=80. But as with the bamboo finding an obstacle, either from within or without, my path had to twist and turn a bit further.

Many occupations and fields of human endeavor later, I find myself here in San Diego working for a major financial firm. The pay lets me stay a landowner instead of a sharecropper, and until I can find a way to harvest my insatiable desire to garden, I will continue to learn small scale farming in the short spans of time I am allowed. I am happy to be providing endless entertainment to neighbors and passers by, many of whom urge me to move to the country. Somehow I feel not ready to tackle any more land at present, as the rocky clay soil of our area proves most challenging.

Well, that is a brief description of my relationship to the land upon which I roam. In closing, I would say that the Earth is my first and best teacher, and that when I listen closely, I always have a better time. Thanks!”

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park

Will's Garden Near Dale and Ivy, South Park