bay area, Edible gardening, Limited space, Nutrition, Urban gardening, Zone 9

May – plantings and harvests

Weather is fluctuating quite a bit in the Bay Area. Temperature soars to low 70’s and dips to high 50’s. With this I’ve had plants that are a bit confused, but several thriving. I have a steady harvest of spinach, truck loads of chard from my chard jungle, French and red viened sorrel, vitamin greens, cilantro, Okinawa spinach, parsley, sage,  oak leaf lettuce, frissee, and various other greens easily half pound each time. We harvest the greens atleast couple of times each week and either prepare salads, or saute with mild spices. The peas are still producing flowers when the temperature dips, and slows down when they rise. My son loves to snack on them routinely, straight from the plant. This week we harvested purple cauliflower, which had formed 3-4 inch heads, totaling to about 1.5 lbs. In this bed I plan on sowing okra once the temperatures are consistently warmer.

Strawberries are growing and ripening, and between slugs, roly polies and pests, we are harvest atleast 4-8 oz of berries every couple of days. The cinderblock idea for strawberries are going great so far, however when temperatures rise, I will need to figure out a consistent watering schedule as the cement blocks could scorch the tender roots. The dwarf mulberry tree is loaded with goodness. The blueberries have started to ripen, and with that is our regular visits from “Blue the bluejay”, as my kids fondly call it.

March planted cabbages are thriving. The 45 day cabbage is almost getting ready to be harvested, with heads firmed up and about 4-5 inch in diameter. Tomatoes are thriving, and are loaded with flowers, with promises of juicy harvests. A volunteer tomato near our air conditioner has overwintered successfully and is happily growing again. Surprisingly this spot does not get much direct sun, barring for couple hours of intense heat in the afternoon. Overwintered peppers have taken off and started to produce flowers. Moringa has shown signs of life after being dormant for months. Curry leaves are prolific with new growth and shoots. Eggplants have set fruits, and so have the summer squashes. Onions planted in December last year have set good sized bulbs, and I will be harvesting them as needed. The consistent rains have helped. Garlic seems to be ready, with most of the leaves losing its bright color. Icicle and watermelon radishes are consistently producing in the canopy of tomatoes, and in between lettuces, and just about every where. Cucumbers, winter squashes, melons and cantaloupes successfully transplanted and are growing slowly but steadily. Couple of them got eaten up by pests however, and I need to direct sow.  All home grown eggplants and peppers have had a slow start, but I think there is adequate time for it to take off once the hotter summer kicks in.

The tindora root I had purchased from ebay has produced shoots and is steadily growing. Sweet potatoes vines have rooted and I need to transplant them into the soil this week. I think I might be a bit late for the sweet potatoes, however there is no harm in trying. Ginger has produced shoots and are ready to go in the soil as well.

On the not so rosy side of gardening, something has been eating off all the bitter gourd, ridge gourd, gavar beans, and pole beans. I am truly puzzled of an insects affiliation towards bitters! I was very confident that no pests would bother a bitter gourd plant, but I was so not right! Perhaps the insect kingdom knows the value of bitters and chomps them off to balance their blood sugars!

Feb through April being very busy with starting seeds indoors, preparing beds, sowing and transplanting, May onwards is the time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of labor. Happy gardening my friends!


May 2019 – plantings and harvest
bay area, Edible gardening, Limited space, Urban gardening, Zone 9

Fruit explosion with mulching…

If you’ve read my post on Fruit trees in edible landscape, I had several varieties of fruit trees densely planted. We had heavily prepared the area with at least 4 inch thick mulch, compost, gypsum and azomite and inter-planted with diverse plants under the canopy of trees.

Early this spring, all the fruit trees broke dormancy and started the display of flowers, starting with the apricots. Little did I know that I would be delightfully surprised with an explosion of fruits. Although I had read enough about the advantages of mulching, I definitely did not expect fruit abundance in the immediate year following the heavy mulching. To give you a perspective, the apricot tree had produced just one fruit last year. However this year has been a whole new story with at-least a 100 if not several more! Pears, which always produced flowers but refused to fruit are now loaded with fruits that are holding on well to the trees. Asian pear is bursting with fruits, and this again has never fruited in the 2 years prior. Literally every single tree, both which has been in the ground since one year to three, are now abundantly loaded with fruits.

I plan on heavily mulching again next year. This should allow the existing one to steadily decompose and build the soil ground up. After consistently doing so for a few years, the biodiversity of the soil would have changed enough for it to sustain the growing vegetation.

Pleasantly surprised and thrilled with the bounty. If this is not abundance, truly what is? 🙂

Fruit explosion – thick wood chips/mulching 1 year progress results
bay area, Container gardening, Edible gardening, Limited space, Nutrition, Urban gardening, Zone 9

Lesser known herbs… Cuban Oregano

Several years back, in the Niles antique market I stumbled across a pot of cuban oregano / Indian Borage / Mexican mint / Karpooravalli / Doddapatre. I was beyond delighted, as this was particularly hard to find 8 years ago, and was always grown in my mom’s kitchen garden. Growing up, I found delight in nibbling a couple of leaves while watering the plants. It has a sharp taste to it, and is medicinal. When added to a kashayam (steeped medicinal herbs) its used to ward off a chest cold or digestive discomfort. Its also periodically incorporated in cooking, for micro-doses of herbal goodness. The seller was surprised and intrigued when I showed such keen interest in the plant, as he had no clue that it was edible or what to make of it. I wrote down a recipe for him to try.

It was fairly easy to grow. I always planted them in a pot and little bits would fall off and create new ones, much similar to a succulent. The plant is currently in the edible landscape in our front porch, by the steps. They are beautiful succulents to look at, grows quickly trailing over the pot, needs very little water, and adds to the aesthetics of the front yard garden. What’s more to say, they are edible too! Crushing it gently releases aromatic essential oils, which is quite refreshing. They are frost tender, so a bit of protection under the eaves may be necessary. Its very easy to root indoors in just plain water, and I’ve liberally shared cuttings with my friends. I have never seen it flower or produce seeds. Often, I like snipping cuttings to arrange it in a flower vase for our dining table. This arrangement stays good for several weeks, if not months!

Pictures …


Popular Recipes…

  • Kashayam : Snip a few leaves and add it to boiling water with a tsp of black pepper, and cumin. Allow to steep, strain and drink several times a day. This is quite relieving for congestion. By itself, its excellent digestive aid, and I’ve often given this to my children when they were less than a year old, and is pretty much a must have plant for young families.
  • Dish or dip to go with rice: Sauté a cup full of leaves in a tsp of ghee, with black pepper, cumin and optionally a green chili. Transfer to blender, and add 2 tbsp of coconut and 1 cup of thick yogurt. Blend well. Optionally, add tempering of ghee with mustard or cumin and curry leaves if using it for eating with hot rice.

Remember, a little goes a long way as the smell is quite overpowering, similar to thyme.

 I would love to hear from you in the comments. Drop me a note if you like some cuttings. Pick up only.

Edible gardening, Urban gardening

The easiest and most rewarding plant to grow…

Plump,  juicy,  bluish-purple fruits, with little bit of a tang that bursts with flavor in a salad, smoothie, or simply eaten raw are some of my kids, all time favorites. Introducing the star of my landscape – the beautiful, bountiful blueberries!

As winters in my area are short, the key is to choose varieties that require low chill aka South bush varieties. Choose different varieties for a continuous harvest, varied flavor, and cross pollination.

Varieties for Zone 9a
The ones I am growing currently are highlighed in blue.

  • Early harvest (May – June)
    • O’Neal
    • Jubilee. Does OK in heavy soils.
    • Misty. Excellent yield.
  • Mid (June-July)
    • Monrovia’s Bountiful Blue – Compact bush – 3ft.
    • Sharp blue. Compact bush – 4ft.
    • Emerald
  • Mid – late (July)
    • Southmoon
    • Sunshine
    • Legacy – Its a northern bush variety. However, I decided to experiment it anyways, and seen good results.

Some Facts

  • Soil condition: blueberries love highly acidic soil, thriving in the range of 4.5 to 5.0.  I recommend plating in containers to control the acidic environment. Peat moss is your best friend. A good potting mix for a half wine barrell is: 1 part organic potting mix, 1 part peat moss or coco coir, 3 big scoops perlite for water retention, 2 big scoops of cottonseed meal / azalea ferilizer / acidic fertilizer.
  • Feeding – every month during the growing season. Good options are cottonseed meal, pine needles, fir bark, fir saw dust, azalea fertilizer. Remember peat moss / coco coir doesn’t have nutrition by itself, so you will need to amend it during the growing season.
  • Mulch – very important to protect delicate roots and prevent weeds. Peat moss dries in heat, so its important to mulch. Use 4-6 inches of pine needles, saw dust, fir bark etc.
  • Plant more than one variety, for successful cross pollination and continuous supply.
  • Pests and competitors: Free of diseases, except for powdery mildew. Prune for ventilation. Birds love them as much as kids do. Add netting to protect your bounty.
  • Pruning: Minimal pruning. Simply remove dead twigs and shape as needed for improved air circulation.
  • Containers: Resounding yes! All of mine are in containers. I highly recommend especially if your soil is alkaline. Choose a container that is atleast 18″ wide and 18″ deep.
  • Harvest: Pick when firm, plump and ripe.
  • Watering: Now this is very important. They are shallow rooted, and roots could dry quickly in the heat.  Make sure they are regularly watered, deep watering atleast 2 times a week, especially during flowering and fruiting season.

Ideas to incorporate in your edible garden

  • As a beautiful hedge. With pretty white flowers in spring, and beautiful fall foliage in autumn, its sure to delight. It gives excellent color to your landscape and food for you.
  • In Containers: Plant them in half wine barrells or pretty containers for depth, color and interest to your landscape. Choose one that is atleast 20″ wide and 15-20″ deep.

How I grow mine

  • My soil is alkaline and heavy clay. Half wine barrells filled with straight out peat moss and fertilizer works best for me. I planted two plants in each container. Ideally, one plant per container is preferred.  I mulched them with fir saw dust.
  • I have a total of 14 blueberry plants, added over a span of 2 years. Most of them were purchased at my local Home Depot, some from Peaceful valley supply farm, and Alden Lane nursery. They all have been very productive since first year of planting, despite the high heat that touched 109 deg last summer.
  • We added irrigiation for consistent supply of water, and simply follow my lawn watering schedule. I’ll write a separate post of the irrigation systems we built over time.
  • They are all in my front yard, following the curvature of landscape in the NE section of my yard. This gives them adequate morning heat, and protection from harsh late afternoon sun.
  • They blend extremely well in my landscape, with a backdrop of beaded iris. They  provide color and interest most months of the year. Best of all, they are edible!

You wont regret adding a couple of blueberry plants to your edible garden this year. Incorporate them in your existing landscape and you are sure to be rewarded!

Be sure to share your experiences. Happy edible gardening!

Urban gardening

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Here I share my journey with urban, edible gardening in the Bay Area. With my experiences, trials, failures and successes I hope to inspire you to grow some of your own edibles and have fun at that. No matter how busy your tech job is, a couple hours a week, and little space is all that you need to have fun growing the coolest, nicest, yummiest edibles which will be fresher than the produce at the farmers market.

Its easier than you think, and no, you don’t need a farm. I promise, it definitely won’t look like one too. We are shooting for the stars in an urban setting, small spaces, cool looks and of course limited time.

Read on, be INSPIRED and take ACTION. All that you need to start is a little container, some soil, seeds and a good attitude! The benefits will follow along!!

Be sure to share your experiences. I would love to hear from you!

for the love of nature.

– Akila