While with great preparation in the late summer months, a winter garden can yield mouthwatering, hearty, veggies like broccoli, kale, and radishes, mid-winter is a difficult time to start a garden, even in the temperate climate of the Bay Area. However, now is a great time to start thinking about your spring and summer garden.
Spend some time creating a layout for your garden, whether that means in an open area of your yard, or an empty part of your balcony. Pay attention to where the sun hits and how long it lasts in certain spots. At noon on the winter solstice (December 21, 2012, aka the end of the Mayan calendar), note where the sun hits. This will be the area of your yard with the best sun exposure in summer 2013. Keep this in mind as you plan where your plants will go. Most seed packets will direct you on the amount of sunlight necessary for the type of plant. You will want to plant a variety of herbs and vegetables in your garden. This creates an environment that is more resistant to insects and is more symbiotic. So, note which ones will need additional structures to stay upright, like a tomato plant or a beanstalk, or which ones will require more space, like a squash plant, and plan accordingly for the space they will require.
There are some great places to buy seeds or starter plants in the Bay Area. Do a quick Google search to find a seed store or nursery near you. Personally, I like the East Bay Nursery, Biofuel Oasis, or City Girl Farmstore for organic seeds and starters. The bi-annual Merritt College Plant Sale is another great place to find organic, heirloom, or native plants, as well as unusual edibles and perennials. To start a plant from seed, find a south-facing window to place them in, if possible. I like to use egg cartons, yogurt cups, or other small plastic containers, to hold these young sprouts. Be sure there are drainage holes in in the bottom of any container you use for the seeds, and any container you use for your
by Kelsey Howard
plants going forward. Water regularly. If the soil still feels wet from a previous watering, be sure to wait until it dries out before watering again, otherwise the seeds will drown.
I like starting seeds for my spring garden in February or March. As mentioned above, variety is the key to a productive and delicious garden. I am always sure to have salad greens, basil, tomatoes, squash, beans, and corn started as early as possible--they're my faves and always seem to thrive in this region. Also, I like to save seeds from each year's yield so I can continue eating the same produce I in enjoyed in summers past. To save seeds is as simple as removing seeds from a fruit or vegetable, rinsing them in a mesh strainer to remove any excess pulp, laying them on a plate to dry out and storing them for the next growing season. I even save seeds from purchased, organic produce I enjoy and would like to try growing--this is a cheap way to get your hands on some seeds, too.
Once the seedlings have outgrown their starter containers, you'll either want to move them to a bigger container or, if it is after the last frost (in the Bay Area, around late-April)
STARTING YOUR SEEDS
GET IT GOING...
YOUR GARDEN THAT IS