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Our Garden Guru answers the following gardening questions:

1. Need advice for starting a vegetable garden!
2. Fog-tolerant herbs, fruits, veggies, and flowers that attract bees & hummingbirds
3. Low maintenance trees to plant in foggy areas
4. Vegetables to plant for areas with unpredictable weather


Q: Dear Garden Guru,

We want to start a vegetable garden. Where is the best place to plant the vegetables? We live near the ocean with a south facing backyard in Linda Mar. What kinds of vegetables, herbs and flowers should I plant? What do I need to do to prepare the soil for planting?

Thanks! Dorene in Pacifica


A: Dear Dorene,

The best place to plant vegetables is in an area that receives full sun. I assume you have a sandy soil so you will want to use an amendment rich in organic matter. We use Sloat Loam Builder. One bag usually covers 25 square feet. Vegetables also need a good source of calcium. Add Agricultural Lime according to the directions on the box. A pre-plant food such as E.B. Stone Sure Start contains humic acid and beneficial mycchorizae to help young plants utilize the nutrients in the soil. Digging the soil to a depth of 1 to 2 feet is usually sufficient.

Now what to plant. Since you live in a cooler and foggier area, the real heat lovers will not thrive. Melons, eggplant, okra, peppers, and basil are best left to the inlanders. You will be successful with all greens, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, early or cool- temperature tomatoes (see our tomato handout at the bottom of this note.), squash, peas, beans, leeks, and root crops such as beet and carrot. Most all herbs will be fine except the aforementioned basil.



Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Can you recommend a list of fog/Mediterranean climate tolerant herbs, fruits, veggies, and flowers (which attracts bees and hummingbirds)? Any guidance will be much appreciated.

- Wayne in San Francisco


A: Dear Wayne,

First tip is to take care of the soil. Don't skip on the amendments that will help retain moisture and offer nutrition. Water regularly, especially the flowers and vegetables. Choose organic fertilizers that will not harm the beneficial soil organisms that help your plants' root systems by improving nutrient uptake and guarding against disease. Actinovate is a wonderful supplement for any new garden plant.

Vegetables: peas, lettuces, chard, beets, cabbages, broccoli, mustard, spinach, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, arugula (actually all your greens), in the summer- cherry tomatoes too. Herbs- parsley, cilantro, rosemary, chervil, savory, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram

Fruits- raspberries, southern highbush blueberries, apples, pears, strawberries, loquat, pineapple guava, lemon, kumquat, Trovita orange

Flowers that attract beneficials and pollinators- white alyssum, cosmos, achillea, agastache, tulbaghia, Oenothera, Eriogonum (Buckwheat), Erigeron, Dianthus

Hummingbirds- Abutilon, Fuchsia, Agastache, Salvia greggii, Salvia clevelandii, Nasturtium, Delphinium

There is so much more, but this will get you started.


Q: Dear Garden Guru,

We live in the Balboa Terrace area in SF where it can get cold and foggy. We are wondering what type of trees would be suitable to plant in our back yard that would not require much maintenance. Flowering Cherry Bloosom? We are open to suggestions.

- Frances in San Francisco


A: Dear Frances,

The trees most often recommended are the Arbutus 'Marina, Ficus nitida, Magnolia grandiflora, Melaleuca quinquenervia and Dodonaea. Flowering cherry and plum will survive, but may show signs of leaf burn later in the season.


Q: Dear Garden Guru,

We'd like to start our first garden here in SF. We live near Stern Grove so our area can be very foggy. What do you recommend we plant that can thrive in this unpredictable weather? My son would love to eat from our garden.

- Jody in San Francisco


A: Dear Jody,

You are lucky enough, with your cool weather, to grow lettuces year round. Peas can be grown successfully as you seldom have consistent temperatures higher than 75 which prevents peas from flowering (and fruiting). Carrots, beets, radishes,leeks, and onions can be sown in mid August for fall harvest. Cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli can be started now too. For something sweet, plant strawberries early next spring.

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