ebarrett08
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new: need help selecting plants

Hi,
I am renting a new house in Southern California that has 4 raised beds in the back yard. I am new to gardening and looking for some suggestions on what to plant and/or how to start. We are moving in May 1st, so I think that is a little late to start a garden, but we have no choice. I have a 3 year old daughter, so I though some vegetables would be fun for her. I would definitely like cherry tomatoes, other than that I'm open to suggestions. Looking for something easy for a beginner and rewarding for a 3 year old. Thanks!
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SPierce
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Tomatoes are always fun- perhaps add in an extra variety, like a chocolate tomato or a mortgage lifter for bigger tomato to go with your cherry ones?

I also always love watching Zucchinis grow, and pumpkins too!

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lorax
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In your cooler months you can grow lettuces, which are ridiculously easy and rewarding, but once it comes summer you'll need crops that are more heat resistant. Radishes come to mind (and your daughter will love them - they take a month from planting to harvest), as do carrots, beets, and chard (all of which are low maintenance, plant and forget until harvest type things. They can all be started now.) A small patch of potatoes might be an idea as well - I remember being completely enthralled by digging potatoes with my grandfather when I was about 3 or 4 years old.

You can also plant annual fruit - strawberries are a great one since you can get them as bedding plants, which makes putting them in very easy. What's the shrub at the back of the yard? And the tree? (If you don't know, you can post us closeups in the Plant ID forums and we'll tell you) You may already have some perennial fruit production going on back there.

On the flowers side of things, maybe look for Marigolds and Calendulas, which are bright sunny flowers with very few issues, and if your daughter eats them there's no problem. Ditto to Pansies, Cornflowers, and if your yard is sunny enough, Sunflowers (they die in the shade, but if you've got a full sun spot that would roast other plants, sunflowers will thrive in it.)

If you want something a little more permanent but still very easy to grow and care for, check out 'Dwarf Orinoco' and 'Dwarf Cavendish' (or if you're very lucky at the nurseries, 'Dwarf Red') banana plants (they should be appearing in the nurseries around now). In SoCal, you'll see edible fruit in about a year and a half; the plants themselves are very beautiful, and grow quickly.

For cherry tomatoes, the very best ones I've ever grown and eaten (and I grow anything between 4 and 40 types a year, depending on space) have been Sweet 100 and Sweet Millions, followed closely by Strawberry. You'll need a cage or similar type of support, because these are vining plants and if you let them lie on the ground, the bugs will eat more of your tomatoes than you do. Sweet 100s are particularly problem-free plants; you shouldn't need more than 2 or 3 vines total to supply you with tomatoes throughout the season. If you're starting from seeds, start now; if you're starting with bedding plants you've got a bit of time to look for them.

Aaaand, probably I should have started with this, but take a look at your soils before you plant anything. If they're very crumbly or anything less than a rich brown or black when moist (ie if they're grey or reddish) you should think about getting some compost or hummus and turning that in before planting. Sniff a handfull too - good soil has no chemical smells, just a deep earthy fragrance which is quite pleasant.

Now that I've written you a small novel, I hope it's helpful! Happy Gardening! :()

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applestar
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I just want to clarify -- so you are moving into this rental on May 1st and will be starting to work on the garden after the move?

I guess what you can plant will depend on how hot it will be by then in S. Californa.

Is there any chance you'd be able to work in the garden before then? It might be nice to have vegs that will be ready to be harvested soon or in about a month after you move in. A lot of vegs are ready for harvest in 55-75 days after planting.

ebarrett08
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thanks for these suggestions. I won't be able to start any seeds, we are moving from Kentucky to California, so I can't bring anything like that with me. I know I can buy tomato plants, can you buy plants of other vegetables, or only seeds? Will it be too late to plant seeds?

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applestar
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This is going to somewhat of a random guess, but I imagine you are going to encounter heat issues. Just from previous postings from hotter areas, I'm guessing tomatoes may languish in the summer, but I believe first thing cynthia_h will tell you would be to find out the exact Sunset zone of your new home.

I suspect you'll do well with heat loving vegs like eggplants and hot peppers (you might be able to get plants of those -- I really don't know what would be available at that time in your locale) If strawberry plants are available then, I think day neutral/ever bearing strawberries would be great for your daughter. My kids love picking strawberries in the garden, and, especialy in the beginning of the season, most of the harvest never make it into the kitchen. :D

Malabar and new Zealand spinach, asparagus beans and rattlesnake beans, southern peas, okra, melons, watermelons, squash, Armenian cucumbers.... All can be grown from seeds sown directly in the ground. (I think I want to add amaranth)

Sweet potatoes can be started from shoots grown from store bought potatoes

There are new and old threads discussing almost every aspect of growing these vegs. 8)

rkunsaw
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Location: Clarksville,Arkansas

There are plenty of things you can plant after you move in.

Okra,squash,corn,purple hull peas,cucumbers,tomatoes,sweet potatoes to name a few.After the summer crops are done then you can plant a fall garden
I started with nothing and still have most of it!!!

Lianne
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when I was a little kid my mom grew radishes and sun flowers with me. i loved it and still remember the excitement of the "harvest" and just seeing my seeds grown into something back then!

cynthia_h
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Well, that's a mystery. I wrote an excellent (if I say so myself) response to this thread, but upon hitting "Submit," it went into Cyberia.

Briefly, then:

1) Do let us know where in SoCal you'll be living. There are approx. twenty (20) Sunset climate zones in that region, some with freezing winters, some with no winter at all. Some with torrid summers, some with cool summers. Random, if any, relationship btw summer/winter temps.

2) Buy transplants, but only from independent nurseries whose staff can give you locally oriented, expert advice. Big Box staff rarely have this kind of knowledge; after all, last week they were selling paint / lighting fixtures / lumber. I've planted transplants as late as June and as early as August and harvested in September / December, respectively.

3) If you'll be living in California or any other state in the western U.S. for more than a year, invest in Sunset's Western Garden Book. It's terrific both for beginning and experienced gardeners: there's an entire section of how-to stuff for new gardeners, and the encyclopedic listing of plants by their scientific names (cross-ref'd to common names) with the Sunset zones in which each variety will thrive is the heart of the book. "What can I grow where I live?" Sunset climate zone + proper variety = success. :D

For more on the Western Garden Book, do a Search of the forum with me as the author; I've blabbed about it a lot, but not lately. :wink:

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

ebarrett08
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We will be in Riverside.

ebarrett08
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I looked it up, sunset zone 21

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