SFGers in NorCal & East Bay? (Bdobs?)

kristimamaMarch 31, 2009

Hi everyone,

Anyone here from Northern California, especially the East Bay? I'm near Walnut Creek, looking to swap gardening plans with other gardeners.

Bdobs, you're in Martinez, right?



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Holly DeVito

I am! I'm in Fremont.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 10:42PM
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Hi Kmama

How did your garden turn out last year?
You can email me via the link above
Yes, in Martinez, but lived in Walnut Creek for 13 years :)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 11:17AM
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momma_s(9b, SZ14)

Hey there. I'm in Pleasanton... I don't have a SFG yet, but I've been dreaming of mine for a year, and hopefully this fall/next spring it'll all come true... I just wanted to tack onto the post to see what others have to say, and to see how people grow around here (newly transplanted from VA). Hope y'all don't mind...

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 4:43PM
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Thanks for responding everyone. I'm wondering what you're all planting, and when. None of the books I have list planting times that really work for the east bay. Has anyone seen any kind of list for when to plant things like tomatoes, zukes, cukes, melons, broccoli, etc.

I'm also trying to figure out how to plan the crops to save room for broccoli and brussels sprouts which go into the ground out here around September, right when my tomatoes and zukes are still at their peak production. Most of my gardening books say that broccoli seedlings go in the ground in July, but here in the east bay my nurseries say it's more like September, so I'm just confused.

BDobs, I can't seem to get the email thing working, but to let you know... my boxes were an almost complete failure. LOL User error I suspect. LOL

I don't know what it was but I suspect I wasn't planting at the right time (like I tried to sow Arugula in the summer, etc) and my watering wasn't steady. And I didn't really mulch enough. So all that and it didn't really work very well. For fall, I managed to get a couple broccoli to come up, but I kind of abandoned the idea of gardening when the cold weather hit. Then the rain started and some favas that I sowed last fall are now seriously 8' tall (in 6" of soil) and starting to produce pods. And now my husband and I are totally inspired again.

This spring, we jsut built 2 extra deep boxes (18" of soil) and I bought a mixed soil from American Soil over in richmond. I decided not to fuss with mixing Mel's mix again and try something different... and at about $35 for a cubic foot you can't beat the cost. So although I am going to continue doing a lot of SFG principles of spacing and watering and composting, I parted with the soil mix for these new boxes.

When are you going to plant your tomatoes? What grew for you last year? I remember your garden looked amazing. Do you have it on a timer?

I'm going to put mine on soaker hoses this year.

Happy planting, y'all.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 6:34PM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

In the end, your going to be frustrated with soaker hoses...is that your only option for watering?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 8:16PM
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liisa_rwc(10b Bay Area CA)


I'm in Redwood City right in the middle of the Bay Area.
This is my first year vegetable gardening and SFG'ing. You can check out my blog for a list of what I'm growing and how things are doing so far.

Here is a link that might be useful: Liisa's Garden Journey

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 12:21AM
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snibb... why are you so sure I'll be unhappy with soaker hoses? What works better? I simply cannot stand outside and hand water it all.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 3:13AM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

I just think that by the time you start wnding the soaker hose up and down your rows, its hard to effectively water the corners, which means your going to have to water that part of your garden by hand anyway. Every time you bend that stuff you lose pressure in the hose. And, it always starts to spring a leak-then you will be out there reparing the thing all summer. I dont know, maybe it will last a summer without a leak, but, sooner or later, it will start to. I think you will discover that the longer the soaker hose, the less effective it is towards the end of the hose as well, which is going to have you hand watering again.
If it were me, I would take a look at a drip irrigation system. If your interested you can take a quick look at what I have set up in my SFG...just an idea though

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 9:15AM
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Holly DeVito

why would you be frustrated with them Snibbs? That's what I have. . . (not that I know AT ALL what I'm doing).

Kmama- try this link for a planting calendar for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: planting calendar

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 10:34AM
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Thanks for responding, Snibb. Those are very valid concerns and it helps me understand where you're coming from and not that you just think a SFG needs hand watering as Mel says, because that definitely did NOT work for me last year.

Usually, I've been told to steer clear of the drip irrigation, because water drips through this mels mix like a seive and the water ends up staying only where the little sprayer is. And I've heard that in my area, it's the drip systems that clog and fail over time with our water system.

What I'm envisioning is actually combining solid with soaker (i.e. like using using the solid corner pieces to deal with sharp angles), using a 4 or 8-port manifold (don't know if that's the right name) in the center of each box to make shorter runs and some "loops" (and it'll also allow me to have a run dedicated to the borders near the wood. So I think I've thought through those issues.

I'd like to see your system, but can't find a link anywhere.

Have a nice week.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 11:19AM
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I too abandined the Mels mix l;ast year and had much better results with my soil mixture

I planted my Tomatoes and peppers on Saturday. Techically thats a little early for the Bay, but since I'm mostly container, it wont matter.
"They" say to plant summer crops(Tomatoes, peppers, cucs) in late April to Early May.
You should be fine planting any and all now as we wont see any frost till December :)
I wanted to get a jump start as last year my late Tomato varieties got hit hard by blossom drop as they decided to bloom when we had that horrible 110* heat wave.

If your doing beans/Peas, get the seeds in the soil now.

I manually watered last year, but I'm setting up a timer system this year.
We had our first child in October, so time is at a minimum lately :)

For my raised bed, I plan on running 1/2" mainline from the timer and I will secure it to the top of one side of the box.
I found some 1/4" hose at HD that has 1/2gph drippers inside the hose every 6 inches. I will T this line off the 1/2" feed line every six inches running the width of my box. So in theory, there will be a little dripper every 6" the length and width of my box.
You can see in the last picture that I am tapping into my sprinkler main and installing a spiggot to run my timer on.
I found a great timer setup at Costco. Its made by Orbit, and it comes with a 4 way faucet splitter, a 4 way battery powered timer, three timer valves a couple quick connect fittings for $42

In my box I have
Two Toamtoes(by far my favorite)
8 squares of various bush beans, and 4 squares of dwarf snap peas on the end.
I also have 6 self watering containers with 8 Tomatoes and 12 peppers

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 12:13PM
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I have the mini in line 1/4" hose setup as well, I do worry about it just coursing straight down.... but I know I will forget to water.... so it isnt an option not to have it...

where did you find 4 legged tomato cages? for my earthtainers, I could only find 3 leggers, same brand as he recomends, but no 4 legged ones ANYWHERE! I am thinking of doing drip into my earthtainers as well... is that what I see in your pic? I am only doing 1 tomato per, as up here in Davis, they get HUGE, so I am trying to give them room this year....they say april 28th up here, but I am going to put mine in their tainers thursday

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 12:47PM
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I found those cages at Target of all places. They are really nice and plastic coated to boot.
I have them attached to thread rod I bolted to the aeration bench so I actually get about 56" of cage heigth.
I am running Eartyhbox's AWS(automatic watering system) to the boxes. Its a great system where it keeps the water level at a certain level at all times. No timer needed for them.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 12:58PM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

It would be too hard to go out and hand water all of that. It is not true though, that using a drip system is bad when using Mels mix. From what Ive ready, it sounds like you didnt use that mix last growing season, and maybe didn't water enough? The water doesn't just stay where the water tape is either. Its the same concept as that soaker your talking about. Just because it sits on top of the soil doesn't meant the only place getting water is where the soaker is. It spreads out when it hits the soil. If you would like, after soaker hose is done, dig down you you will see that the watering is much wider than the hose sitting on the surface. And, you have to have a drip system that allows for enough water-not sure if one going down each row is nearly sufficient, unless is says that it will water 12"...anyway..you can take a look...


    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 1:01PM
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TARGET! ARGH!!! I was at target and they just had limp 3 pole ones.... found strong big 3 pole ones at Ace.

I think the 3's will work for me, I am doing mine next to a fence, so I am planning on stabilizing them onto that anyway....

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 2:54PM
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Crazy crazy hail! What is up today! I guess this is why "they" say not to put tomatoes into the ground for another couple weeks. LOL

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 9:43PM
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Did it hail yesterday out our way??
I work in Oakland and it rained pretty hard for a while, but no hail.
My plants came out unscathed :)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 11:52AM
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Yep, about 20 minutes of some fairly heinous looking hail and I was wondering how all your seelings did. Have you got your seedlings covered with anything?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 9:25PM
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No covering for my babies, maybe because I am close to the water in Marinez we were a degree or two warmer and avoided the hail.
My guys are looking great!!
Soooo excited

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 3:44AM
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Hey BDobs, upthread you mentioned that you abandoned Mel's mix. What did you use instead. I remembered you spoke a lot of good things about harvest supreme, which I have found at Berkeley Hort. But I'm wondering exactly what you're using now that's so good, as I continually improve and build more places to grow. LOL

Hope you're enjoying the warm weekend.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 1:46AM
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I and my plants are enjoying the weather for sure :)
I am pretty much using the Harvest SUpreme with a some Peet and Vermeculite mixed in. Thats about it.
I also amend the mix with Espoma GardenTone fertilizer before planting

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 4:33PM
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OK, it's just downright HOT today!

Good thing I got my tomater's planted yesterday.

Yeah, that harvest supreme is awesome stuff. I used it this time and mixed it almost 50% into my previous mix (I also made several boxes double depth so now they're 20".)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 6:07PM
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momma_s(9b, SZ14)

Hi everyone. Earlier I said I wasn't doing SFG yet, but I've decided to do it after all since my container gardening experience has been less than stellar so far...

Since I'm new to the area (and west coast), I was wondering if y'all could tell me when I should plant the following. I only have seeds, so let me know if I should wait until fall too.

onion sets (for onions, not scallions)
onion seeds
bush green beans
potatoes (haven't been able to find any sets tho)
Broccoli (already have seedlings, but don't know if I'm too late/early for these)
Lettuce vaireties, cool weather

I already have bell & hot peppers and okra going in containers that I plan on moving to my bed once it's complete. I'll have a 2'x8'er.

Lastly, does anyone know where I could find Harvest Supreme in the Tri-Valley area? Where do you like to get your supplies/seeds/sets? I'm still pretty timid about driving too far away from Pleasanton...

Thanks for your feedback!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 3:53PM
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Hi Momma S,
welcome to California!
I think you'd be fine starting carrots now from seeds.
Broccoli... I don't know but I'm planning on waiting till summer to set them out for fall. I think it's possible it's too late for broccoli, but truthfully I don't know. Your local nursery will tell you.

Don't know anything about onions or potatoes.

It says you're in the Tri Valley area?

I just discovered Sloats in Danville... they may be able to tell you about timing for your area.

Green beans... go for it now... either seedlings or seeds. They're gonna love our heat.

I think most lettuces will be fine right now, and wouldn't mind some afternoon shade. Once the really hot weather is here, I think you'd have a hard time unless you have good shade in your yard. So in my garden I have them in a few places, with the intention of switching them out with a bush bean or carrot in a couple months.

For Harvest Supreme, BDobs I think said he got his at Navlet's but I could never ever find it there under that label. (There are lots of things that have similar ingredients that will LOOK the same as harvest supreme, including one called "Bumper Crop"... but trust me that there's something in the harvest supreme that is really really rich and works so well.)

There's a navlets in Pleasant Hill and Martinez. The other place I know that does stock it is Berkeley Horticulture in Berkeley... might be a trek for you but well worth it. They also have lots of fun organic starts, lots of heirloom varieties and stuff geared towards the bay area climate.

Also Orchard Nursery in Lafayette does NOT stock Harvest Supreme (they have bumper crop and a great Dr. Earth potting soil) but they have a great mix of seedlings and a lot of knowledge about growing in our climate out here.

Sorry to hear your container gardening experience isn't working so well for you.

Good luck with SFGing.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 2:15AM
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momma_s(9b, SZ14)

Wow, thanks for the *great* info, kristimama! There is a nursery here that sells Bumper Crop, and that's actually what I used in my containers, and I may have done the ratios wrong, but it fried my lettuces a little (the the heat wave we had last week fried some of the replacements doh!).

I see Berkley Hort. mentioned on craigslist ALL the time, so I think I'm going to have to check them out. They always have wonderful looking things for sale...

For broccoli, do you start your indoors in summer? When do you start them?

Thanks for the welcomes! Everyone is so kind out here--I love it! I think the sun and perfect weather makes people relaxed and happy. hehehehe--certainly helps me! ;-)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 11:39AM
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Hi, I live in Berkeley, near Berkeley Hort, so it's a lot cooler here in general than on the other side of the hills, where it seems the rest of you are from. Anyway, I'm starting my first SFG and was going to go by Mel's rules for Mel's mix, and 6" of soil. In reading this forum, I see people are using a lot of different soil combinations, and using more than 6". What would you recommend for a 1st timer? Follow Mel's rules, or try what some of you are doing?

Thanks for any help,

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:31AM
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Hi Marcia,
I think there are tons of opinions on the depth, etc. Obviously 6" works for some people, since it's been written about and proven ad infinitem.

That said, it didn't work for me. But I live out in Walnut Creek where stuff just got hotter and drier faster and I couldn't deal with watering twice a day. Also, mine are on a hot concrete patio so that heated it up even more.

Personally, I found the my lettuces and other short things are now doing great in about 8-10". My tomatoes right now are growing in about 20" and I simply cannot believe they can grow well in 6". And for my raised beds, I just got American Soil (richmond) their "Local Hero" (which is a sandy loam). And last time I was at Berkeley Hort, one of the guys there was saying I should get American Soil's "Wondergrow Compost" instead and grow in 100% compost. My mom prefers the compost over at Acapulco. So I think what I'm learning is that gardening is very individualized. So go figure. I always talk to the people at the nurseries... see what they do.

One thing about mel's mix that I do like is the vermiculite component, which seems to both provide drainage and aeration, but also hold onto some of the moisture for the plants to access it as they need it. And things seem to germinate especially well in mels mix.

But then again, I'm no seasoned pro yet. Still, this is only my second growing season so there are better folks here to talk about it all.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 7:46PM
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I'm over in San Carlos and been lurking on the forum for a while. First time with SFG and it's been 3 years since I had garden. Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together. Keeping the squirrels out is going to be my biggest challenge :)

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 3:24PM
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