I am not the gardener in my family. To keep my yard looking remotely presentable a team of people show up for one hour every Wednesday mornings and presto flowers. Attempting to grow food – other than my citrus trees – is monumental for me.
We live in one of the best growing climates in the world and I have a weekly gardener coming to tend to my yard, sprinklers to water it and NOTHING to show for it… ever.
This year I decided that it was time to try to grow some food. My mother is an avid gardener, as are both of my sister… I could do this.
The initial idea was to plant in an amongst my regular plants. That didn’t work out very well… turns out our team of expert gardeners is not very adept at steering around newly sowed seeds and the soil wasn’t very good.
Not to be discouraged I pitched Dude on the idea of turning a thin sliver of our yard into a garden. By some miracle, not only did he agree – he also said “why not make it bigger”!
So I set to work – which in this case required a meeting with my gardener and we set a time to tear up a section of our yard, put in a drip watering system and import some compost. Now, after a few hiccups in the execution I have a lovely raised bed garden.
I’m still not sure we found the best soil. I searched high and low in Los Angeles for organic compost and ended up going with compost that is made from clippings from Griffith Park and zoo doo – yep exotic poo! The city calls it TOPGRO – they say it’s organic, it’s free for the taking and well tested to ensure that it is ready to be used.
In the LA area you can also get compost from the Green Recycling Center – 2649 Washington Street, Los Angeles. Fri/Sat/Sun from 9-3.
Once we got the compost in the fun started. My family had set up a rough plan for me that I tried to follow… and I’ve been trying to companion plant using this guide. There are many moments of confusion… will this lettuce really work in full sun, I need a taller plant that will work in the shade here… and so on.
The children are over the moon excited. I bought them each their own watering can to avoid the ongoing battles that would have come with one. I also faced an interesting dilemma at the garden store when purchasing a watering can of my own… Buy the plastic can that is made in the US or the Metal Can made in China? I opted for plastic – I think it will hold up much longer and not need replacing.
So far we have planted: Strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, red & green peppers, butternut squash, melons, cucumber, snap peas, lettuces, spinach, basil, broccoli, leeks, basil, chives, beets, carrots and grapes! Still to come are parsley, oregano, zucchini, beans and baby pumpkin.
We did a couple other things to help create a natural good growing environment:
- Worms – The kids went crazy over the container of worms I bought to get my worm population started… never thought I’d use those words together in a sentence!
- Ladybugs – Apparently ladybugs eat aphids and other undesirable pests… We’ll see because I set at least a hundred of them free one night. Releasing them at night, they don’t fly away. Instead they look for food and will hang out and lay more eggs. We’ll see!
I’m still noticing that some critters are munching on my delicate fresh plants, so I need to determine what is doing the damage to find the right natural predator for the job. I’ve also planted nasturtiums throughout the garden to help.
The gardener got me up and running and I’m doing the planting myself. For the gardening purists this may seem wrong, but for this Diva I’m going to call it a happy starting point.
Once I get this plot going – I’m going to go through my landscaping and see where we can find places to add raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.