In recent years there’s been a groundswell of interest in eating healthier, locally grown food. Farmers’ markets are booming, more people are signing up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables, and there’s renewed interest in growing food at home.
You may be surprised by how much food you can grow in a modest space. Fruits and vegetables can be grown in a dedicated portion of the yard, in containers on patios and balconies, and even integrated into ornamental landscaping. And thanks to our mild Mediterranean-type climate in the Bay Area, we can grow many edible plants year-round.
When planning your edible garden, ask yourself these questions:
- What vegetables and fruits do you like to eat and would you like to grow?
- What culinary herbs do you use most often?
- What percentage of the produce your household eats would you like to grow on your property?
Tips for getting started with growing food:
- Start slowly. Getting an edible garden off the ground can be great fun, but keeping it going requires a bit of effort. If you’re new to gardening with edibles, rather than biting off more than you can chew and then getting discouraged, start with a small bed or even just a few pots. You may be amazed by how much food a small space can produce.
- Double dig. If you’re starting a garden in compacted soil, use the double-digging technique. Double-digging helps build soil health by increasing water and air flow, and makes it easier for roots to grow downward into the soil to access nutrients. Ecology Action’s website has info on biointensive gardening, double-digging, and other methods of growing healthy foods in healthy soil.
- Grow biointensively. For high yields in a small amount of space, use the biointensive gardening method. This approach, which includes close plant spacing in double-dug beds amended with compost, allows you to build soil health while conserving water and maximizing your production of edibles.
- Manage pests safely. Keep your food source healthy by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods to safely manage insect pests, plant diseases and weeds.
- Invite company. Companion planting can enhance the growth of vegetables as well as deter pests. For example, marigolds and basil are excellent companion plants for tomatoes while cosmos are great next to zucchini.
- Plan ahead. Most edibles need lots of sun, so keep this in mind when planning vegetable plots and areas for fruit trees.
- Reuse and recycle. Create raised beds using salvaged materials like broken concrete (“urbanite”) or old logs.
- Think long-term. Establish edible perennials—from fruit trees and raspberries to tree collards and rhubarb—to save time and water in your garden.