muimi07
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Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

I live in the SF Bay Area, Zone 9b. I have room for a 4x4 garden and want to plant something, mostly for the benefit of my daughter who I am homeschooling. I know NOTHING about gardening other than I should probably water my plants everyday. Are there easy plants that I can grow in my zone during the winter? Or should I just wait till spring?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

So basically you know nothing about gardening, since watering your garden every day, especially in winter when plants don't grow as fast (or take up water as fast) and things don't dry out as fast, would probably kill it. Sorry :)
If you are planting seeds you do need to keep them dampened, so probably water every day, lightly, until they are sprouted and have true leaves, at which point you start backing off the water, watering deeper, but less often.

4x4 is a very small space, but sure there are some things you can plant now. To get fast easy results for a kid, radishes are great to plant. But you could also plant some spinach and a little bit of parsley. (I never thought I liked parsley until I started growing my own.) Other things you could plant now are leaf lettuce and carrots. Don't bother trying head lettuce - better gardeners than me have failed with it, definitely does not qualify as easy.

Any of those are ok, but with 4x4 you have to choose. Don't try to make up for a very small space by over-crowding it, everything will fail that way. Your seed packets will tell you proper spacing.

Secret to making this work is really good soil. Since it is such a small area, I'd just fill it with potting soil, mixed in to whatever is there already. Helps to build the sides up a bit, make it a raised bed.
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muimi07
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

rainbowgardener wrote:So basically you know nothing about gardening, since watering your garden every day, especially in winter when plants don't grow as fast (or take up water as fast) and things don't dry out as fast, would probably kill it. Sorry :)
I should have just made my username 'blackthumb' because I can't seem to keep anything green alive. This may be why ;) But thanks for the suggestions and advice. I'll see what I can plant (and hopefully not kill outright!) this fall/winter. :)

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applestar
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

I think I would also try sowing peas and/or fava/broad bean(s).

It IS a small area so you should probably decide (maybe discuss with your daughter) whether you want to try growing a favorite vegetable out of the (possible to grow list) to harvest and eat a full serving OR to grow one or two of a few things that would fit in the space to watch and possibly record how they grow (timeline of growth, sketch or photos of growth stages, etc.) and use as garnish or taste test a bite or two.

You really need a lot more than a 4x4 space to grow satisfactory amount of peas but you *could* grow just a row of them along one edge especially if you provide support to keep them from flopping over. You can choose dwarf peas that only grow to 18-24" tall, medium sized ones that grow to 28-36" or tall vines that grow to 6-7 ft. They can be shelling peas, sugars snap peas or snow peas. (or you can grow all three kinds but you will need to mark/label them carefully because even experienced gardeners might have trouble differentiating them until the pods start to mature.

Skip fava/broad beans if your family is of mediterranean heritage and potentially have genetic incompatibility for health reasons, but if you decide to try them, they also grow fairly tall 4-6 ft. And take up space. Maybe only one plant just to see how it grows?
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jal_ut
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

I would try some radishes, leaf lettuce and spinach.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

imafan26
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

I would make a list of things you and your daughter like.

Instead of planting right away, I'd do some planning.

A 4x4 foot space is small. You still need to do some preparation.

If this is not a raised planter but in the the ground, then you will have to do some digging and amending. the following is a link to the basics of building a small garden using the square foot garden plan.

https://thefoodproject.org/sites/default ... 2012_2.pdf

I would start a few seeds in small pots first while to get them started and plant them out. It will save time and space later. Don't plant a whole packet only a few seeds at a time and plant them out when they are ready. and start new seeds every few weeks for succession. This works for plants that mature early like lettuce and spinach. The following link is to a site with good information on how to grow using a square foot garden method
https://www.mysquarefootgarden.net/getting-started/plan/

If you and your kid likes or can acquire the taste Swiss chard, kale, and herbs will give you repeat harvests from only a few plants. One each of kale and Swiss chard will produce over a long time and they don't get really bad problems. Green onions and chives are easy plants that are cut and come again.

While I like tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peppers, and peas they need more than water. A trellis would be needed or some other support. They get mildew so it is not a good choice when it rains a lot so they are best planted in the warmer months.

You will need to fertilize and check the plants for insects and disease and take care of those things promptly. No matter when you plant you will need to learn how to determine how often you need to water. And there is always a bit of weeding to be done.

If you had more space I would have these plants on the list NZ hot weather spinach, cherry tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, sweet potato, fennel, dwf french marigolds, green onions and chives. The NZ hot weather spinach,tomatoes, and sweet potatoes need space to sprawl but you can't eat NZ spinach fast enough once it is established, Sweet potato leaves are also edible. Fennel and marigolds just have to be somewhere in the yard not in the vegetable garden. They will help with attracting beneficial insects and Florence fennel produces an edible bulb when it is still young and it tastes like licorice. Cherry tomatoes are the most productive they can sprawl or be supported on a trellis, but they do better in warmer weather.

Until you get the hang of it just grow one or two different kinds of plants and add more as your skill level increases. The garden will look bare in the beginning but plants will fill out the space and need room to grow. I would use the square foot grid and a ruler in the beginning to make sure you get the spacing right.

Gardening can be rewarding but even in a small space it takes more than just watering. However, it would be a good learning project for you and your daughter and you can share the chores.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

It was (as usual) a good and helpful post by imafan.

But just since you said you really don't know much of anything about gardening, I don't want to confuse you, since i's post talks about both warm weather crops and cool weather ones. In this quote, I have marked all the warm weather stuff in red and cool weather stuff in blue:

"While I like tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peppers, and peas they need more than water. A trellis would be needed or some other support. ...

If you had more space I would have these plants on the list NZ hot weather spinach, cherry tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, sweet potato, fennel, dwf french marigolds, green onions and chives. "

Only the ones in blue can you consider planting now. The rest would be for spring planting when things are starting to warm up.

And take seriously the space requirements. Your 4x4 is about room for one full size tomato plant with some small stuff around the edges. Cucumbers and sweet potatoes are large spreading plants.

And though it sounds demanding, once you get started it won't be. The good thing about a 4x4 is that it is a very manageable amount of space. It will benefit from frequent attention, like several times a week, maybe more at the very beginning, but once everything is up and going that will be just a few minutes worth, check everything out, see if it needs water, pull a weed or two that may have popped up and go on about your day.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

So did you plant anything? :)
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Aida
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Re: Winter veggie gardening for a true newbie?

Beans grow super fast, and you can even do the old paper-towel-in-a-clear-cup lesson with your daughter, to show her all of the root/sprouting/seed lessons you are probably teaching her. :wink:

It's something all of the elementary schools do, both I, and my 8 years younger brother have done it.
Pretty much what you do is take a clear cup, or even ziploc baggie, wet a paper-towel(the brown ones work best, but I've done it with normal tissue in a few layers), and put it in the baggie- then place a few beans inside, one side touching the paper towel and one side touching the plastic side so that you can see what is going on. Within just a few days, she will be able to watch the little roots come out, turn o stems, and then leaves. It's very exciting, because there is change everyday. Turn it into a graph/math lesson, too, by recording the progress. Just an idea. :mrgreen:

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