Life in Lakeside - Fall Gardening

Since I live in San Diego, the weather is mild which means that it is possible to have a garden growing year round. Back in October 2014 I decided I’d like to try growing a garden so I found some vegetables that should do well in cooler, wetter weather. I drafted my husband and son to help in getting lumber for a raised garden bed and to build it for me. Fortunately, they kindly agreed to help out and about two weeks later I had a new garden bed. Then we went back to Home Depot and picked up romaine lettuce, kale, broccoli, oregano and tomato plants. I planted the lettuce, kale and broccoli out back with the remnants of my summer garden and the tomatoes out front. 

I remember planting everything on a lovely fall afternoon. It was very peaceful, a mild day unlike the super hot days of summer. First I did some cleaning up of the summer plants from my garden. I had grown tomatoes, peppers, onions, sweet basil, thyme, and sage. The onions were long harvested, the tomatoes had given up the ghost but the rest of the plants were hanging on in spite of our very dry weather. I pulled out the dead plants and then used a rake to even things out somewhat. There had been a depression in the center that tended to pool water so I tried to fix that.

Then for excitement, I dug through my compost heap and found some good compost to add in to the garden out back. I still need to figure out how to sift through my compost heap so I can get a finer soil without picking through the items that are still decomposing. Perhaps that will be a good project for the spring.

When planting everything I ran into my usual dilemma, more plants than space. I sighed because I had wanted to avoid this issue but at least I’m consistent. I looked over the space and decided I could squeeze everything in so I got my garden shovel and started digging little holes for all of the plants.

While digging I remembered back to a visit in Iowa to my grandparents. On one of the visits my grandmother showed me how to best plant things in a garden and as I dug holes in the good, black dirt, I drifted back to that afternoon. I remember digging in similar good soil that is common in Iowa. There is a rich smell, of growing things that I associate with the best dirt to plant in. I smiled as I looked at the dirt in my little garden spot, thinking that it could only dream about being as good as Iowa soil. I remembered my grandmother telling me to make sure the top of the plant’s soil should be placed just below the top of the hole. After I made sure each of the holes was deep enough I then put water in and let it drain out. I remember her telling me that plants needed a lot of water when first planted so the soil should be soaked in the area around the hole.

I had to be patient, it takes a while for water to drain out in our dirt. In that long ago summer I think the water drained out very quickly but It’s been at least 40 years and my memory doesn’t work as well as it used to. After the water drained out I put each plant in and then I put more water in the hole around the plant. I remember that this second watering was for reducing the shock for the plant and its roots.

Finally, after the water drained out again, I was able to move the dirt back into the holes and pat it down. I suspect there are other ways to plant flowers and vegetables but the double watering is the technique I use most often. I don’t know if all of her advice should be used in every situation. But I did get the vegetables planted and they have done very well, especially after the rain storms we got in November and December. So far I have had lettuce for my nightly salad, along with some kale. I’ve also used the kale in the soup concoction I make for my lunches. There are some tomatoes which are taking a long time to ripen and some broccoli as well. Even some bean plants sprouting from seed, although they are also taking a while to grow.

I’ve also had lots of little green peppers and I’ve shared those with friends. I didn’t want them to rot in place so it was fun to pick them and use in salads and my soups. I harvested some thyme and dried it out. However, I have decided that thyme should be named the ‘pain in the butt’ herb. It is a royal pain to try and get the tiny little leaves off and not get a bunch of twigs mixed in. I did end up with some dried thyme but compared to the large batch of thyme branches I started with and the tiny pile of tiny leaves I had at the finish I’m not sure it was worth the effort. I may need to get some more sweet basil and plant that, the plant is not doing well but it may come back as it warms up outside. I also want to try the oregano but I’m letting the plant grow more before I start pulling leaves off for my soups. I’m definitely enjoying my experiments with gardening, it will be fun to try some new vegetables in the spring before the weather gets too hot again.