Welcome to my blog series on Bay Area Gardening. I have nearly a 600-square foot area of my backyard that I use just for vegetable and fruit gardening. And I also maintain a mini orchard of nearly 15 fruit trees, of which about 15 are mature and producing heavily. And every year, I manage to find some space for more fruit trees and have added another 5 fruit trees that are relatively small but producing in smaller quantity.
I will walk you through the layout of my vegetable garden that I started in 2016 and what has worked and what has not in my bay area gardening experience. Of course, my fruit trees deserve a special mention too.
Bay Area Gardening – Introduction
Growing up in a small town in south India, my parents used to grow a variety of vegetables in the backyard garden, in their busy lifestyle. I remember taking buckets of water to the garden to help my dad. But, soon we grew up, parent’s work took priority and had to move out for our education in search of city life. That was the end of gardening lifestyle for us. Years passed by and now I finally live in a climate with nearly a full year of growing season.
The fact that my parents had introduced me to gardening and growing vegetables in the childhood, I dove right into it to start my own my garden, the moment we bought a place in bay area with a decent size backyard.
The backyard ,at the time of house purchase, was a lush green grass that was well groomed and attractive looking. It only took us a couple of months to ruin that pretty looking green grass into a full-blown vegetable raised bed area. Initially, it didn’t look pretty at all. In fact, it was a chaos, untidy and unorganized were the words I would use to describe my garden.
Trust me, there are still much tidying to do in my garden after a few years. But, we are getting better.
It would be a huge lie, if I told you that I have been a successful gardener all along. There were several failures, frustrations and heart breaks. Eventually, as years went by, I learned new tips, tricks, techniques and developed a style and a routine that has been giving me better results.
This space is for me to share what has been working for me in terms of vegetable gardening in bay area and fruit tree caring.
I am not the one to learn from other’s mistakes. I have to make the mistakes on my own and fail on my own to learn. So, everything I learned and talk about in this space is from my real deal experiences.
Bay Area Gardening Zone
First and foremost, one needs to know what the climate zone is to understand what plants would work and how the growing season is, etc., It’s a very crucial information to have handy.
The city I am in falls into Zone 9B. You can google your zip code to get the zone info. Here is a handy website that will give you USDA Hardiness zone. https://garden.org/nga/zipzone/
So, what does this zone mean after all ?
Hardiness zone is the standard by which, people decide which plants are highly likely to grow well at that particular location. These zones also give us a idea of how long the growing season is.
Bay area being a 9a-9b zone, we have one of the longest growing season in the country. Most of the years, the last frost will end around 1st week of March and first frost of the year comes around mid-December. That essentially means, you can keep yourself busy from Mid-Feb to Mid-December in gardening as a hobby. That’s a solid 10-months of a year. Nothing can beat this window for growing season in my opinion.
Well, it’s not to say all vegetables grow well in all the months. Vegetables have their favorable temperatures and growing months as we will see below. That also means, you will not be growing the same boring fewer type of vegetables. Variety makes it interesting and fun to play with.
Bay Area Gardening – Best Vegetables To Grow
Bay area gardening is a blessing in my opinion. Nearly everything can be grown thanks to the long growing window. I have tried growing pretty much everything from seeds over the years and some were a success and others weren’t.
Around the time we bought the house, there was a local garden center that closed down their business and everything went on a sale in that store. I went crazy and bought nearly 50 different seed packets, not knowing whether I would actually use them or not. Call me greedy…but to make sure I don’t waste those seeds, I have been giving them away to friends aggressively.
After about 4-years, I finally had the need to buy newer seeds. As a beginner gardener back in the days, I didn’t know the seeds don’t store well for years. I thought I had enough for years to come, only to realize that it’s better to save fresh seeds every year.
I am not going to list out all the possible vegetables that you can grow in your garden in bay area. There is a neat table on the vegetables and timing of them in the Santa Clara County Master gardeners website.
Growing Indian/Asian Vegetables in Bay Area Garden
Not so surprising that Indian and Asian vegetables grow really well in bay area gardens. Bottle gourd, Ridge Gourd, Ash Gourd, Bitter Gourd, Tindora, curry leaves, you name it, they grow and thrive in bay area gardens.
There are several places to procure seeds for Asian / Indian vegetables. I have gotten them from the following websites with great success.
I have also seen plants/seeds in local Indian stores. Never personally bought them to give any review. But there are several Indian grains that can be turned into edible plants. I will dedicate a full post for that.
Bay Area Soil Composition
Majority of Bay Area soil are not immediately conducive for vegetable gardening. Soil tends to be thick clay and super hard for tender vegetable roots to get through. I have had to work on breaking down the soil extensively to make it more vegetable growing friendly.
I recently redid a vegetable bed to loosen the clay soil into a more vegetable friendly one. Here is a video explaining the process.
Bay Area Free Compost
I get it, we all are super busy to do composting on own. Plus, most of the bay areacur cities already gets a compost trash bin from the city. When the city is already taking care of composting business, why not use it right ?
Sunnyvale Waste Management near Baylands park a place where you can get free compost if you have Sunnyvale/Mountain view/Palo Alto or Los Altos based driver’s license. Check their website for availability.
Bay Area Gardening – Best Fruits To Grow
I have a decent number of fruit trees in my garden. Some mature and some young ones.
Here are my currently heavily producing fruit trees:
- Red Apple
- Green Apple
- Strawberry fruit (yes, its a tree. Not the regular strawberries)
- Asian Pears
Young but fruiting trees:
- Li Jujube
- Two types of Pomegranates
- Gooseberries (Black currant variety, not the Indian Amla)
Baby Fruit Trees:
- Jamun – I recently bought a Jamun plant online and it is in a small pot now. This needs to be winter protected and cared for. Hope I can really make it survive.
My Gardening Method
- We make our own compost
- We only use organic fertilizers
- Follow home remedies for growth and pest controls
- Don’t mind spending an entire weekend on the garden projects
My Garden Harvests
You might be wondering how much do I really harvest per season. We are actually a small family of three as of now. At the time of writing this post, my Son is 2.5 years old and barely eats a handful of veggies. So, we really need a harvest for 2 adults plus a little extra at this point.
Given my 600 square foot garden space in the backyard with 5 vegetable beds and 20 different pots, I must say an average yield in the peak harvest season will give me yield for 3 days worth of veggies and greens per week. But, I totally get creative and use green and young fruits such as green plums, green apples as vegetables to cook.
I easily get 2 harvests of a mix of greens per week. I grow all kinds of greens from several varieties of spinach, amaranth, swisschard, kale etc.,
Some of my other successful harvests are:
- Bell Peppers
- Hot peppers
- Some gourds
If I really grow extra veggies, I do dehydrate or freeze them. Stay tuned to this space for more updates on all the harvest updates and how I store excess food.
Happy Bay Area Gardening !!