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Vegetable garden for first time : Help requested

Hello All,

I am new on the forum and in the area of gardening ! :) I am all excited !!
I live in Southern California and I want to grow some vegetables in the garden... I have got seeds of Eggplant,cucumber,tomato,cauliflower,cabbage,watermellon,peas,carrot, beet,onion !!!
I have got a very small area in my garden which is like 4 feet by 4 feet ! (My mom says I can work only in that much area to start with) :(
Can I grow any of these vegetables in there?
When should I start?
I checked on some of the links here to find out Spring last frost date in my area in 13th Feb... How should I start?
I would greatly appreciate your help ! Thank you very much for all your help on the forum !!


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Super Green Thumb
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I woulds have to say that the eggplant, cucumber and watermelon are probably not in your future. They take up a lot of room which you don't have.

As far as the rest you might have to cut those down as well. Maybe a few tomatoes the rest don't take up much space.

Onions, cabbage, cauliflower and carrots could be started soon, maybe the beets as well. The tom's and the peas will have to wait a little bit.

Someone will chime in with better ideas, I'm not real good at when to start things as of yet. I just used to go with when they were in the stores.

It might help to know where you are at as far as climate zones to better help though. What state at least?

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Hi gixxerific,

Thank you very much for the reply !! I am in California (Los Angeles).
Do I need to plant the seeds in small pots before and then transfer them in garden or I can just put them on garden directly?
Which climet zone I am in?

Agains thanks so much ! :)


Super Green Thumb
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Location: El Cerrito, CA

Welcome to The Helpful Gardener.

You'll want to take best advantage of your 16 square feet (I have 96 square feet, so I know about maximizing the use of space).

USDA climate zones aren't really helpful for gardening in California. Our wind, rain, micro-climate, and other situations don't relate well to "winter temperature survival hardiness," which is the only criterion the USDA Climate Zones consider.

The Sunset Western Garden Book (usually available for browsing or maybe circulating at the public library; browsing at independently owned garden-supply stores) will answer all these questions. First find your area on the map, then read the description of your Sunset climate zone. The growing season for your zone is part of the description. There's a neat little colored graphic for that. :D

"Just how specific are the Sunset climate zones?" you might ask. :wink: That's a reasonable question! :)

:arrow: The Los Angeles area (from San Fernando down to Long Beach, and from the coast eastward to Claremont) contains seven Sunset climate zones: 18 through 24 inclusive.

You can find out more about Sunset climate zones here at THG by searching on my name and "Sunset climate zone." Heaven--and experienced members :wink: --know I go on about it all the time.... :lol:

Happy gardening!

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Hi cynthia_h,

Thanks so much ! I would go to the garden store and would try to read the book !
I will post my findings !!
Thank you very much...


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whassup N.B.i.G. :)

Judging from my first gardening experience, starting from seeds might take some knowledge to gather first. My lil' garden is lost about 80% (i have planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons) due to luck of knowledge.

Here are my mistakes:
1. Peat pots - they tend to play tricks with water. they can hold it like crazy or evaporate all in a flash. Use plastic, foam cups with draining holes made underneath
2. water: do not over-watter! Pot mix or soil (or whatever you are using) need to be wet but when pressed on should not sap moisture
3. Air circulation: once you get your sprouts - they need to breathe. Don't put em in a big covered (almost sealed) carton box with lights. which brings to...
4. additional light assistance: people recommend T8 light tubes (luminescent lights ). Higher output for you $.
what else did i manage to screw up ...?
5. thinning: do not throw lil' sprouts when you thin! Stick 'em in to a cup and who knows, might be it'll thank you ;)

Hope that will bring some light on don't's and downs. Look at [url=]Seed Starting......[/url] - you'll see my pix
Good luck and welcome!

P.S. Hope i got all right myself :)
lets see how will it turn out:)

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Your brain must be going a mile a minute. I know mine does at spring planting and I've been doing this for years. :lol:

Looking at your list of vegies, The only one you will need to start indoors is the tomatoes. As stated above, just get some plastic cups/foam cups/cut liter bottles/milk cartons with drain holes and add some potting soil. Follow the instructions on the seeds and make sure not to over water.

Before you get ready to plant, sit down and figure out where you want to plant. The peas will need to be where they won't shade the other vegies. Visualize your garden and then sketch it out on paper. Nothing fancy. Get yourself a little notebook and keep a journal of your garden. Key things to write down are daily temp., precipitation, ground temp, watering, any fertilizers and how much, general health of plants, diseases, bugs, etc.
This will all benefit you later down the road. Next year you will know what you planted, where & all the other tidbits ya wrote down.

A great book to read for beginners would be: The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith

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Read up on what you can do to prepare the garden bed. Adding compost is a must in my opinion.

Since you are gardening for the first time, I'd like to suggest that you start with plants that are least likely to give you trouble.
Eggplant,cucumber,tomato,cauliflower,cabbage,watermellon,peas,carrot, beet,onion
Out of these, I would say, cucumber is the easiest. Put up a 5~6 foot high net trellis in the back (north side) of your garden bed so the cucumber vines can climb up.

I might be wrong, but I suspect that it's a little late for you to start peas now but that would be my next pick. You can plant the peas this fall after the weather cools down. By that time, you might feel more confident to also plant the other cool weather crops: cauliflower, cabbage, onion, and beets. They can replace the warm weather crops that would be winding down or are already harvested.

At this point, I'm inclined to recommend tomatoes. And even though starting indoors is the norm for me because I have to get a head start here in New Jersey, I wonder if it might be possible for you to just directly sow the seeds in the ground right now. Success will depend on which variety tomato seeds you have. Some fruit as early as 50~60 days, some take as much as 80 days. If you get into hot weather, tomatoes will stop fruiting.
Tomatoes will need about 24"x24" space so that's going to take a big chunk out of your available garden space. Plant it in the back, but away from where you planted the cucumber.

Eggplants, I also start early indoors, but they are relatively easy starters -- especially Asian eggplants which are early to fruit as well. You might also try planting these seeds directly in the garden. At least 18"x18" space.

Carrots take a little more care because they take longer to germinate and you need to keep the soil moist until they do. They also take a while to mature, but they're great fun. They need deep fluffy/loose somewhat sandy soil. It's usually better to pile the soil up higher. Sow them on the top surface, lightly cover with sand mixed with soil, then scatter some dried grass clippings on top as mulch to help keep in the moisture. You should still be able to see the ground. Carrot seedlings have a pair of thin leaves. When you see them sprouting, you may need to remove the grass clippings to help them grow up.

OK, I left the watermelon till the end because they take up a LOT of space. It's not hard to grow, but it would be about the only thing you'll be able to grow in a small space.

You didn't mention beans, but they're just about the easiest things to grow. Don't you like beans? You'll be surprised how much better home grown beans taste. You can grow pole beans on the trellis, and bush beans can be pretty closely spaced depending on how well your garden bed is prepared. I grew Purple Podded Pole beans and yellow podded Marvel of Venice Pole beans last year, along with Jade Green Bush beans.

For greens, Swiss Chard is very easy to grow, and you can get a variety mixtures called Rainbow Chard or Bright Lights that have leaf stems ranging from dark red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. The leaves are good in salad when small and cooks up like spinach when big.

Have fun and good luck. Come back with any questions you might have. :wink:

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planting schedule etc for LA

I'm afraid we are throwing a ton of information at you and you are excited and just want to get started-- we've all been there! :)

But you have a couple constraints to start with, one is that 4x4 space (do a good job with it this year and maybe next year you can do more) and the other is gardening in LA where it is going to get hot pretty soon.

So from your list Eggplant,cucumber,tomato,cauliflower,cabbage,watermellon,peas,carrot, beet,onion

The cabbage, cauliflower, peas, carrots, beets are cool weather crops. I have already planted mine here in Ohio and we still have snow on the ground. It's really too late for you to plant them there, they will just fizzle as soon as it warms up. But all is not lost -- save the seeds and plant them in the fall for a fall/ winter garden. They will do great.

By the USDA hardiness zones you are in zone 10. (That's different from the Sunset zones cynthia was talking about)

Here's a planting schedule for zone 10:

So start your tomato seeds in pots now. Plant the onions in the ground now. Maybe go get yourself some green pepper seeds and start them in pots now. Of your eggplant, cucumber, watermelon, pick which one you like best and plant a few seeds now and then pick out your best ONE seedling.

In your 4x4 space you could probably have 2 tomato plants 2 green pepper plants, some onions, and your one cucumber or whatever, but the cucumber will get very big and spread out of the patch. But if you have room to let it spread out that would be ok. Or you can put up a little trellis across one side of your plot and let the cucumber grow up the trellis (cucumber works better for that than watermelons which are heavy and need special support).

Best wishes and let us know how it goes!

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Couldn't you plant your watermelons on the edge of your bed and just let the vines trail off into the grass? I'm not sure, but I don't think that it is necessary to have the vines touching the earth.

This way, it would hardly take up any space in your garden.
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Hello all toxicburn1,Cagolddigger,applestar,rainbowgardener,garden5

Thank you very much for all your help and info !!!
Very very helpful !!

As suggested, I am starting with working on making drawing of the garden on paper so that can be guide map !
I will keep all updated about how it goes !

Again I greatly appreciate all your help ! :) Thank you...


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Check out youtube and search for square foot gardening. It's a great idea for your small space. My main suggestion is to till the ground and add manure first before you do anything. I would say go right on ahead and toss what you want to plant in the ground. Don't bother with starting them indoors as us Californian's are rather lucky and don't need to worry about frost and cold any more.

Other than that... think about how the sun falls across your plot through the day and plant so that taller plants don't block the sun from the shorter one's. Also if your going to do vine type plants try to use either a wall or trellis to train it to grow up thus saving your ground space.

Oh and have fun! :wink:
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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Hi mrsgreenthumbs,

Thank you for the info ! The squarefoot garden looks interesting.... I can use some of those tips !!
Thank you very much ! :)


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