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Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:14 am
Location: El Cerrito, CA

I know I have awful soil so...

Was going to get Golden Gate Gardening book to read about what to plant in the areaa, and then Amazon recommended SFG book, so I figured I'd read that too (libraries are great!)

So, having read it I'm interested, but finding getting, well ANY of the raw ingredients for less than a small fortune here in the bay area is unlikely to be easy, so wondering if anyone has recommendations on soil mixes to put in containers that are "relatively" low maintenance (I have a three year old, and spending tons of time doing garden chores is not his idea of fun) and allows me to follow somewhat similar ideas to the SFG information? (I would go online, but even there it all costs a small fortune (after shipping)).

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Greener Thumb
Posts: 1068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 9:15 pm
Location: Los Angeles

I've heard that Berkeley and other cities give away composted yard waste, but you have to arrive early on giveaway day because it goes fast.

Contact your (and their) Dept of Sanitation for details.
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

Newly Registered
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:14 am
Location: El Cerrito, CA

So, been doing a bit of reading, haven't figured anything out on the peat moss front yet (or may just get it, but I'm a little worried about the potential environmental impact, but since it's, in theory a "one time" thing...)

On the Vermiculite front, I'm actually leaning towards Lava Rock, is a company near here that sells it, and that seems to be a good replacement for Expanded Shale, which is a good replacement for Vermiculite, any thoughts on that? Sorry, I know it's a lot of questions, thinking of using this mix to grow lettuce, radishes, beets, (for the cold season) and the possibly also potatoes, zucchini, and some others in the warmer season (not sure yet haven't finished reading about what is good to plant here in fogland).

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Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

SFG is good, but you'll feel much more secure if you take a look at the Sunset Western Garden Book. The El Cerrito library has a circulating copy. The Sunset climate zone system is quite specific. You and I and everyone else on the East Bay margin from Fremont up to Crockett or so live in Sunset Zone 17. Others do, too; there's a great map in Sunset to show the zones in the Bay Area.

What I've grown during the cool season (plant very soon): chard, kale, broccoli, romanesco broccoli (DH calls it "fractal broccoli"), rapini (aka broccoli raab/rabe), potatoes, bok choy, cabbage, arugula, carrots, sorrel, fava beans, and the like. Favas are amazing: I've now grown them in every month of the year. Harvested in March (Palo Alto), June (here), September (Palo Alto 2nd time), and November (here).

What I've planted that hasn't worked yet during the cool season: beets (not sure why), parsnips, radicchio.

The City of El Cerrito has now sponsored two compost give-aways, one in October 2010 and one in Spring 2011. Driver's license or other ID with El Cerrito address was required. I missed the spring one (rats!), but we each got 2 cubic feet in October 2010. There will be a community gardening meeting--an initial meeting--at City Hall on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10:00 to noon; this would be a good time just to drop by and get your name on the Environmental Activities e-mail list. It's how I found out about the compost give-aways.

How large a Square Foot Garden are you trying to improve? And have you checked with American Soil and Rock on Jacuzzi Street for prices? Not cheap, but excellent stuff. Westbrae Nursery on Gilman in Berkeley also runs occasional specials on organic potting soil and/or bagged compost/fine-grade mulch.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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