Wondering what you should be doing in your garden RIGHT NOW?

AMEND. AMEN! Most of Sausalito’s native soil is clay and shallow. Not optimal for growing non-native plants that prefer well draining dirt. Luckily, poor soil is easily transformed with the addition of (nature’s miracle amendment) compost! You can make compost yourself (super bad ass!) or buy it in large plastic bags. I can’t stress enough how essential it is to amend your soil before planting. My first couple of experiences growing food and flowers during college were disasters, wholly because I never amended my soil. My tiny little tomato plants developed blossom end rot because my hard soil lacked nutrients. Just take my word for it. Even if you’re revisiting an old garden bed that has been previously cultivated- just amend it! Compost is almost always good. First, do some weeding. I love to use a hula hoe to weed superficially but you may need to use gloved hands or even a pick axe for tough roots from ivy or blackberries. I like to loosen my native soil with a digging fork or shovel before adding compost. Next, dump and level a 3-6in layer of compost on top of the native soil. Using your digging fork or shovel, mix this layer in with your loosened native soil 8in-1.5ft down. Good compost has manure and mushroom compost in it and is nice and decomposed. Decomposed wood is not as good, and what they call “hot” compost is not good. Try to avoid the cheapest stuff. Finally, smooth over your new fluffy garden bed with a rake so that it’s flat. Congrats! You can start planting now!

PLANT PERENNIALS, TREES, AND SHRUBS. If your soil has been amended, lingering spring rains and mild temperatures make April an excellent month to plant some larger 5 , 10, and  even 15 gallon perennials. [For gardening newbies- perennials come back every year. Annuals (like sunflowers, cosmos, and tomatoes) live for only one growing season.] Summer is one of the worst months for planting large perennials because the ground is dry deep down and the sun can be fierce. Spring and fall are best.

START ANNUALS FROM SEED. Annuals are generally easy to start from seed. Many plants like to be direct seeded (that is, sown straight into the ground) because they don’t like it when humans manhandle their fragile little roots. Beans, beets, and carrots for example hate to be transplanted. Seed packets should tell you what each variety prefers. I start almost all of my seeds in little plastic plant cells that annuals come in from the nursery, and then transplant them out. (Hate plastic? make pots out of old newsprint with this handy gizmo!) I prefer the transplant method because it gives the tiny plants a safe head start over a seed planted straight into the ground that might get eaten by bugs before reaching even an inch tall. Also, sometimes its difficult to see where your direct seeded plants are popping up when faced with weed pressure. Most spring blooming annuals like to germinate in the lower temperatures of early spring, before temperatures jump up to the 70s. Great plants to start include sunflowers, cosmos, snapdragons, and zinnias. For exotic varieties head up to the seed-starter’s-paradise, the Petaluma Seed Bank (and while you’re at it grab some brunch at the Tea Room Cafe or Della Fattoria Cafe!). For more info on how to start seeds, read this.

SCOPE OUT YOUR LIGHT SITUATION. This point is crucial to understand before you start shopping for plants. Full sun means 4-6 hours of unobstructed sunlight per day. The plants you buy your local nursery should be labeled with their sun requirements. If they aren’t, ask an employee or Google the plant’s scientific name for specifics. Generally, the south side of your property is where you’ll have the most success finding sunlight. Sausalito a tricky area because most of our houses are nestled up into the nooks and crannies of our gorgeous hills. Rodeo Ridge blocks a lot of sunlight that might reach our garden off of Nevada St., and summer days are cut short once the sun plops behind Wolfback Ridge behind us. There is one small slice of our property that gets full sun Spring-Summer. In Fall and Winter the sun spends too much time behind low in the sky behind Rodeo Ridge. You might have more luck finding sun on the southwest corner of your property. Long story short, no matter how good you are at geography, climatology, whatever… You should spend one whole lazy sunday putzing around your property in your slippers, observing how the sun travels around the nooks and crannies of you home. If you find out you have no sun, fear not!  There are many gorgeous (and some edible) shade plants which prefer darkness. See here.

RASPBERRIES. Yum! Raspberries and blackberries are planted in April. But who needs blackberries? Poke around the hood in July and you’ll find some growing wild.

BUY SOME STARTS and tons of more interesting annuals (that may reseed!) available from Annie’s Annuals in Richmond.

Article in progress….. 🙂






Hold off on: basil, peppers, summer squash…

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