FARMcurious

to educate, inspire and equip the urban homesteader

Small garden tips and a book giveaway

April 15, 2012
Golden Gate Gardening 3rd Edition

My very favorite Bay Area gardening book is Golden Gate Gardening, a work of genius written by Pam Peirce.  I love the book so much that when I speak to serious SF Bay Area gardeners and find that they don’t own it I’m shocked.  I reference it anytime I plant something new and frequently before harvesting a new crop.  If you’re growing veggies here in our climate, I consider it a must-have, which is why I’m going to give one away this month.

Here’s why you need Golden Gate Gardening:  The climate in the San Francisco Bay area is unlike any other in the US.  If you’ve ever tried to plant in your Bay Area garden based on the advice on the back of a seed packet, you might have an idea of why a book like this could be helpful.  Not only does the book list important things to know about seed germination, area-specific pests and harvest tips, it also details when to plant for our area and lists varieties the author has found to be successful here.

Here’s how to win it:  All you have to do is leave a comment to this post with your most compelling garden question, best Bay Area gardening tip, funniest/strangest garden story, favorite gardening old wives’ tale or anything else you think might amuse/delight us.

Comment as many times as you like in as many of the above topics as you please and we’ll choose one winning comment from the batch.  More comments obviously give you more opportunities to win the prize.

We’ll accept entries through Monday, April 30th at 6pm pacific and we’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, May 1st.

Thanks for playing and good luck!

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comments:

  • Having a bit of “wild” in your yard will help keep the pests down as they will go there and it also provides habitat for the beneficial insects.

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  • Eat your brassicas! The grow like gang busters here and are some of the healthiest veggies around. The family includes radishes, turnips, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and more. Try them in fried rice (kids love it). Also, weird but true — the flowering tops of kale that has wintered over are awesome and taste kind of like sweet broccolini. Stick an egg on some and call it dinner.

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  • Has anyone succeeded in growing asparagus in containers? If so, how deep and big do they need to be? I have very limited space, but I’d sure like to plant a small crop of these tasty early veggies.

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    • Kitty, I actually planted my first asparagus ever in a container and carted it around with me for two years before I bought a house and put it in the ground. It grew incredibly well. I used two three-gallon buckets like you would buy a tree sapling in. I filled the first one with soil then cut the bottom out of the second one, stacked it on top of the other and filled it with soil and the asparagus starts I purchased. In the end the whole thing was probably 2.5 feet deep. It grew very well on my SF balcony and by the third year I was harvesting a small number of spears. It’s in the ground now and old enough (4 yrs) that it’s putting off spears as wide as my thumb. I feel certain I could have left it in the containers if I had wanted to and it would have done just as well. I still have those buckets if you’d like to have a go at them.

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  • My best garden tip is too use wood chips. They keep moisture in when it is hot out.

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  • I am proud to say that one year in Berkeley I started a bean plant in my kitchen window and then started tying off yard to various parts of the ktichen ceiling. After a few months, we had a living kitchen roof just like the Cal Academy of Science!

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  • Someone gave me a sprouted bean for a baby shower favor. What the heck do I do with it now? It’s bolting which I think means it’s bolting.

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    • you should put it in a pot full of soil or directly into the ground. give it something to climb on and eat beans in a few months!

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  • love that book!

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  • I garden in an apartment.. All i gotta say is. You don’t need curtains when you can maximize all available incoming light with hanging plants of herbs and trays of lettuce.

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  • my garden loves its spa days. yes…i said its spa days. imagine your own favorite days at your local spa when you’re plucked, rubbed, smoothed, nourished and made to feel beautiful again. well…i do just that for my entire vegetable garden at least twice a month during heavy growing seasons. i provide spa-like TLC for each and every one of my plants. i start by turning on my favorite relaxing spa music complete with nature sounds of course. i weed and hand till the soil. add any necessary supplements. i probe every plant for unwanted pests while also talking to them soothingly. yes…many even have names. i remove any dead leaves and stems. i also prune them as appropriate. i finally clean and sweep the wood on the beds, add new mulch where needed and provide a thorough watering. by the end of spa day, my vegetable garden and all its inhabitants look and feel brand new. i can just feel how happy my plants are afterwards. my neighbors think it’s also why my garden does so much better than theirs. we share the same soil and sunlight with gardens right next to one another…but my plants bear more and bigger fruit every season. i love my garden spa days!

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    • Kevin, I love this idea. You should hire out your spa services to busy people who want a beautiful garden. ;-) My plants could definitely use some sweet-talking and TLC.

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  • Be sure to regularly trim back passion flower vines – I went away for five months one year to return to nearly 2/3 of our back yard being swallowed by passion flower. It had even grown up and almost over a 20-ft maple tree! Needless to say it proved I was the one doing the gardening around here…though the boyfriend really gets the credit for uncovering the tree again :)

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  • Best tip for anywhere: if you have littles, and you have a garden, get a baby carrier. I like the Ergo. But bottom line: to do *anything* in the garden you have to get those kids up and on your back.

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  • What are some good veggie combinations to plant near one another? I’ve heard certain types of plants thrive together because of differences in nutrient usage.

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    • companion planting! dill and cucumbers (plant your sage elsewhere!); tomatoes and basil (Keep potatoes away from tomatoes); beans fix nitrogen in the ground and make other plants happy; trap crops like petunias or nasturtiums will attract bugs to their flowers and away from yours; sunflowers will encourage ants to farm aphids on them instead of on your other plants; nematodical marigolds will help put happy nematodes in your soil; asters and crysanthemums will assist in keeping bad bugs away from plants; yarrow is thought to increase essential oil production in herbs and provides habitat for good insects; and borage is the 31 most awesome helpful companion plant to anything— those are all the ones i know off the top of my head and the ones I have together in my garden!

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  • What’s the secret to growing carrots? I’ve tried twice in container and have never gotten anything bigger than my pinky. I’ve left them for months, thinned them out, and still they stayed short and thin.

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    • Carrots can be so picky! The need really loose, loamy soil with no rocks or other lumps to deter their growth. They also need to stay fairly moist all the time. If you’ve gotten them to sprout you’re halfway there – that’s where most people fail. Carrots actually do very well companion planted under tomatoes so you might try that.

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  • Another question, how do you keep cats from eating your garden? Mine seems to have a taste for kale and the leaves of scarlet runner beans. I’m glad she’s getting her greens, but she’s killing the plants.

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    • I have the opposite trouble with cats in the garden (depositing what they’ve already eaten!). That said, I’ve heard a few ideas. You can try spraying the leaves with a hot pepper sauce (cayenne mixed with water, maybe?) and see if that deters her.

      You might also consider planting something meant for the cat to keep her away from your prized plants (perhaps wheat grass?). I do that with the chickens – just keep enough other goodies around that mostly the keep out the things I don’t want them in. Mostly being the operative word! Good luck.

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