bay area, Edible gardening, greenhouse, Urban gardening, Zone 9

Greenhouse construction

Past couple years, after using the small plastic sheeting greenhouse, I decided that it’s time to upgrade to a more permanent one. As backyard plans firmed up, the location of the greenhouse became more apparent. We decided to take the plunge and invest in a 12*8 Palram Essence greenhouse from Costco. After waiting for missing parts to arrive, and rains to subside, we got working on the massive undertaking of putting them together.

First step: Open the packages, sort and group all parts and name them with a sharpie. Order any missing parts. Expect 2 week wait time for missing parts to be delivered. Meanwhile work on setting the foundation.

Foundation: We have uneven ground, and had to level it quite a bit. We did not want the greenhouse to sit on ground as that part of the garden gets soggy when wet. Once the base was fairly level we used 6*6 and 4*6 lumber for the base and reinforced it to the ground with 18″ rebar. We added sturdy weed blocker, as the structure was being built over a grassy area.This took us two days of physical work.

Hiccups: Once the foundation was done, we put up some of the structure. Unfortunately, weather turned for the worse, and due to lack of free time and we ended up not completing it immediately. We ended up with a few bent parts due to high winds. We undid parts of the frame, and decided to tackle it once weather got better. It just took us 3 months of wait and a test of my patience!

Restarting the project: Luckily, Feb bought us some unexpected warm days, and sunshine. That was enough to motivate hubby to get started on it. It took us 2-3 days of consistent work to put the structure up. We filled the base partially with lava rock as it helps with heat retention.

The structure is up! YAY! I moved the overwintered peppers into the greenhouse. Many of the plant starts from my garage seed starting setup moved up to the greenhouse for growing. I already had a vegetable bed inside, and the plants in the greenhouse continued to thrive.

Next steps: We plan to add a fan and possibly some heat source for winter. There are alignment issues and gaps, so I’ll have to add greenhouse tape, or foam to seal any gaps before winter arrives. I am working on the perfect configuration for adding a workbench to place all my starter plants. We already have plumbing and drip irrigation for the greenhouse bed, but we will need to extend it to the container plants. I am beyond excited and so glad that we purchased a large greenhouse, instead of opting for the smaller sized one.

Completed greenhouse

Experimental garden during summer: Growing inside the greenhouse is quite tricky, in dealing with pests, as well as temperature control. I plan to try out a few vegetables such as tomatoes, okra, yard long beans, ginger, turmeric and see how that goes.

Lava rocks on the floor. 8’*2′ raised bed and several containers.

Few tips:

  1. Level the ground, and square the edges perfectly. If not, you will experience issues as you build the greenhouse, with doors / windows misalignment.
  2. Follow instructions to the T. Instructions are mostly visual, with barely any text.
  3. Sort and group all materials ahead of time. There are usually missing parts, and this will help pre-order before you start the project. Palram customer support is good, and we had no issues reordering items missing.
PALRAM greenhouse garden tour 2020

Overall though it took a while to build the greenhouse, the structure is permanent and expect several years if not decades of use from it.

bay area, Container gardening, Edible gardening, Nutrition, Urban gardening, Zone 9

Growing lush cilantro

Lush vibrant cilantro

Cilantro is the leafy counterpart of the spice coriander seed, which is ubiquitous in Indian, Mexican and Asian cuisine. They have incredible detoxification benefits, particularly well known as a chelator for heavy metals. Added to smoothies, made into chutneys, or garnished they are versatile in their use.

Cilantro is a cool season edible and aromatic leaf that grow well in both containers and in the ground. Growing them is fairly easy, but they bolt pretty fast if they are heat stressed.

Here are 6 tips for lush cilantro growth :

  1. Seed choice: Choose slow bolt variety seeds, and not the one from the pantry for reliable good leafy growth.
  2. Growing media : Easy to grow in containers / ground alike. Pick a shallow (4-6″ deep) and wide container, and fill with a mix of compost, perlite and coco coir for good water retention, nutrition and aeration.
  3. Germination and timing: Best germination is between 55 deg -70 deg. Each spherical seed pod has two or more seeds in it. Gently crush to separate the seeds in half. Soak in water for up to 24 hours. Densely spread on growing media and add about 1/2 inch soil to cover the seeds. Once they germinate, thin them optionally. If you want large plants, thin the plants and replant in separate areas of the garden.
  4. Watering and feeding: Use a regular watering schedule and ensure that the soil is moist. A high nitrogen fertilizer will promote good leafy growth. I use a liquid fertilizer periodically but most often good compost is adequate to provide the nutrients.
  5. Harvest : Regularly remove leaves from outer sections of the plant once the plants are at least 4 inches tall. If allowed, the plants could grow as tall as 1 – 3 ft.
  6. Extending the harvest: Start the first couple batches indoors with the help of a heat mat, when outside temperatures are still in the 40’s. Set out transplants once the seedlings are 2-3 inches tall. Direct sow seeds every two weeks when day time temperatures are between 55 deg – 70 deg, until summer and start again during fall season once weather starts to cool off. As temperature rises, pick different cooler spots in the garden at each sowing. Under a tree canopy is a great location. Mulch with bark or compost to keep roots cool. Water adequately and frequently when temperatures rise.

A cilantro pesto recipe for a savory spread for breads / flat breads:

2 cups cilantro leaves and stem

1/2 cup walnuts, almonds – optional

2 chillies, salt to taste and a 1 tbsp of cooking oil

1/2 tsp turmeric powder.

A small bit of tamarind or 2 tsp lemon juice.

Heat a heavy bottomed pan, add oil, chillies and turmeric. Add all the other ingredients. Saute’ them together until the cilantro slightly wilts. Blend until well incorporated into a paste, adding a bit of water as necessary. Alternately, you can skip the saute’ and blend the ingredients raw. Store in the refrigerator and use it liberally as spreads/chutneys. Its particularly tasty as a spread in an avocado sandwich. It also tastes great with freshly steamed rice and a dollop of ghee.

Cilantro is an excellent addition to the front yard garden. Lush bright green is refreshing to look at in late winter/early Spring. They add ornamental value besides culinary and medicinal uses.The whiff of smell as you water the cilantro plants is delightful to the senses. Try some in your garden this season!

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!