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May 19, 2009 09:44 AM

Getting a Late Start

Another garden newbie here. Planning to take advantage of the long weekend by starting a garden in the back yard. Problem is most plant-able space is heavily shaded, I currently have some herbs there that have been struggling for about a year (Thyme doing well, Rosemary, basil, and tarragon not so much). I have decided that I going to go with some containers in the sunnier part of the yard (grass). Here are some questions that I need answers to, also if this has been covered in another post, please let me know.

Location: San Diego, CA
Plants or Seeds?
What are the best economical containers?
What about soil? I know nothing.
Would like to plant squash, greens, herbs, tomatoes, what other veg is easy to grow?

Thanks in advance for the assistance.

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  1. My gardening experience is limited to NH but I'm sure someone else will post some info for you. For containers I have used everything from half whiskey barrels (good size for squash or cucumbers), cheapest big plastic pots I could find (sale at discount dept store), and re-used large pots that some shrubs came in. You need drainage so you could also consider cleaning out some used 5 gallon dry wall buckets and drilling holes in the bottom. You will find info on the internet of people planting right in bags of soil.
    Soil: you can buy potting soil that contains some fertilizers or you can mix your own starting with purchased dirt. I'm taking soil dug from the yard and mixing with dried composted manure, peat moss (to lighten and hold moisture), lime and fertilizer. I've never had a proper soil test done and probably should. In the past I have made Mel's Mix, a formula used by the author of Square Foot Gardening.
    For tomatoes and peppers, it's easiest to buy plants esp if you find a place that sells single plants at a reasonable price.
    I like to grow basil from seed (several varieties) but I buy plants of sage, rosemary, tarragon, and most other herbs. Rosemary is not hardy in our area so I buy a new plant every year. In your area you can probably snip some from someone's hedge.
    I was just reading about growing lettuce in a large pot. It sounded like it was easy but I have enough space to just put seeds in the ground. If you put a trellis in the container, cucumbers will grow up the trellis. I think starting out with a few tomatoes that ripen at different times, some herbs, greens and squash is a great start. Your county extension office would have growing information for your area.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dfrostnh

      Thanks for the reply, had a look at the Square foot gardening sight, good info.

      1. re: stevuchan

        for squash are you meaning summer or winter? they both take up a lot of room. You may have to use a trellis or support and grow it in a vine. in my square foot garden I have to set aside 9 sq feet for each zucchini or winter squash plant.

        instead of separate containers, if you have the space you may consider building a planter box in your sunny part of the backyard. this would be detailed in square foot gardening. it can be built right over top of the current sod.

    2. This year I've planted herbs and tomato plants in all sorts of containers, from actual plant pots to plastic tubs and 5-gallon buckets, an old aluminum stockpot, even the outer part of an ice cream maker I picked up at the town dump. I've drilled holes in the bottoms and so far everything's working out fine. I discovered the top of a hooded cat box in the back of our shed and couldn't resist: After a thorough washing, I set it upside down and planted tomato plants in the back and marigolds in front spilling out through the door. As long as it's clean, has some sort of drainage, and isn't made of something that's going to leach into the soil, it can be a plant pot!