Thursday, April 2, 2015

Growing An Urban Vegetable Garden - Tips And Information For Year Round Gardening In Southern California

Growing an urban vegetable garden - tips and information for year round gardening in Southern California. The climate in southern California is a gardener's dream. You can grow food crops year round. I am harvesting food from our  city garden every month of the year. I garden in my suburban yard outside of  Los Angeles in zone 10a.

Very warm summers and lack of water are a concern these days. Seems we are becoming more like southern Arizona in our growing season so I have adjusted my planting schedule more for the desert southwest gardening.

How to Grow a Vegetable Garden in the City, urban farming, Swiss chard, sustainability

Planting along the typical spring time line seems to no longer apply here. Year round gardening is possible but when most of the country takes a break during winter and heads indoors, we have our main break from gardening in the hottest months of summer. Most plants, except those adapted to high temps, either die or stop setting fruit, then as summer heads into fall, the garden reawakens and is in high production again.

Below is my planting schedule of crops to ensure continual harvests of food crops from our vegetable garden.

Southern California planting schedule, successive gardening schedule

Soil Preparation
Two things are vital in year round gardening, constant amending with compost and in our hot climate, mulching to retain moisture in the soil. Unlike the typical garden where you amend the soil, plant and harvest and you are done, in southern California you can have up to three to four planting seasons. I love the ideas of  French Intensive Gardening but I no longer turn over or till my soil. In nature soil is amended by layer upon layer of wonderful mulch that decomposes and feeds the soil below.

After years of amending my soil it is nice and loose and rich. Unless I am planting in a new area, I only dig a hole big enough for the plant or seed I am placing. By not disturbing the soil, I now have very few weeds as they do not germinate in undisturbed soil as easily. I plant, with compost in the hole and mulch around the base of the plant or over a seeded area. I then reapply compost around the base of upright plants like tomatoes but do not apply compost again to root crops or leafy plants to avoid any contamination.
I have never had a problem but this is my system.

The only fertilizer I use is compost and compost tea. Again being careful to not apply the tea to crops I am harvesting soon though compost tea is touted as a wonderul foliar spray. I do not spray plants with it but apply at base. Seedlings I do water generously with and they seem to thrive with it as opposed to plain watering.

Plant Placement

French intensive gardening, Growing An Urban Vegetable Garden - Tips And Information For Year Round Gardening In Southern California

No more rows, I look at my garden as a grid, almost like a quilt and each box, some larger, some smaller, is packed with different vegetables. When one area or plant is harvested, it is immediately amended with compost and replanted trying not to disturb the surrounding plants.

Close Plant Spacing
• Use off set spacing (grid)
• More plants in bed
• Made possible by adding compost each time you plant, not just once a year (I do not compost too  closely to leafy plants or root crops I will be harvesting within a month)
• Shades plant roots
• Protects soil from UV rays
• Controls weeds
• Creates mini ecosystem

Also, pay attention to the patterns of sun. You can see in my old garden photo, the sunflowers look nice but I placed them where they often shaded my other plants. Now they are only grown along the back wall where they do not block the sun.
Growing An Urban Vegetable Garden - Tips And Information For Year Round Gardening In Southern California

Growing An Urban Vegetable Garden - Tips And Information For Year Round Gardening In Southern California

Below you can see a slice of my garden as of April. In the top corner I just harvested some beets last week. I will make a second harvest just below and open up a space that can be replanted soon.  Notice as you look see the smaller plants towards the bottom of the photo. Those beets were planted in three week intervals for successive harvests over several months. Successive planting is the key to intensive gardening and harvests. 

Now I am moving away from sowing cool season crops and in the summer this main garden bed is let go to fill with pumpkins, squash and tomatoes. I harvest and let the plants cover for more moisture retention and again very few weeds. In fall I will pull out faded plants and make room for more compost and cool weather crops.

successive planting example, southern California vegetable gardening


  1. I wish how I wish that I had a yard with normal loamy dirt, however I live in the desert and have desert landscaping. So my gardening efforts for vegetables are in containers along with the soil amendment we manufacture and try to get a little taste of tomatoes before it gets to hot.

    This yer I am going to try some Micro-Greens too.

    I will be reading your post thoroughly and writing one of my own soon.

    Thank you for sharing on Friday Features, I appreciate your article.

    Have a fantastic Easter.
    Oh My Heartsie Girl

  2. We can usually grow all year round too.

  3. Our climate is much the same, growing most of our food three months of the year and not much in summer. I'm redoing my beds this week and am thinking about the French Invasive method to get more bang for my buck as far as harvest. Do you have a book to recommend on the subject? Enjoy your bounty!

    1. Daisy I don't have a specific book. I found info online and read up on it that way. Try googling it and see what you find. I'll look for some sites I liked and post the links here tmw.

  4. Looks good. I'm planting more intensively too. I have fruit trees with herbs underneath, etc. We're getting rid of more turf over time, less watering/mowing and you can grow food! Unless you're looking at re-sale value right away I'd lose more turf if it were me. I saw Gov. Brown on the news and turf will be more and more tuff to keep green, and costly...

  5. I like to Growing Vegetable tips.I have a little vegetable garden . I wat to degine the garden with lovely.