Like much of the world, here in Los Angeles, we’re now into week 5 of our “stay at home” orders. And like many people, I’ve been returning to domestic pursuits like baking and gardening, especially since I am not currently working. While I haven’t jumped on the sourdough starter craze, I have been #isolationbaking; bread, brownies, lemon cake, chocolate chip tahini cookies, and this week a coffee cake made with soured milk.
I’ve also revived my long fallow vegetable garden. In fact, it’s been over 5 years since I’ve posted about gardening and at least 3 since I’ve planted any vegetables. I thought it was time to do a new post here, for record-keeping, and hopefully to share with others in this time of #coronagardening and #pandemicplanting. Considering that we are all fighting a war against this virus, it’s not unreasonable to call this a “Victory Garden”. Plus, who knows what will happen with supply chains and food availability in the months to come?
I started working in the garden on March 29th, after removing 2-foot tall weeds from the raised beds and cutting back the weeds on the ground (yeah, no, that’s not a lawn). We live on a hillside lot in Los Angeles, and our vegetable garden is located down a very steep set of steps. Everything that goes down there has to be carried down by hand.
The first thing I did was cut back a massively overgrown rosemary bush, seen in the center of the photo. It had become woody, dead inside and was flowering. I also trimmed back our ancient Meyer Lemon tree which sits on the level below the rosemary. The birds and the bees were very happy!
Next, I started working on clearing the pathways around the garden beds. Underneath all those weeds were pathways made up of pea gravel. I started with a four-foot section and have tried to do that amount almost every day. It was tedious, backbreaking work, but worth it!
In the second week, it was time to start thinking about plants. In the past, I would have gone to one of the big box garden centers to buy plants, but I really wanted to avoid stores at this time, plus I was hearing that they were out of almost everything since so many people were gardening. I even tried to buy seeds online, but there really wasn’t much available.
Fortunately, our local community garden was holding its annual plant sale, adapted to this time of social distancing. Instead of being able to wander the garden and pick out plants at will, we were able to place our order online, pay, and pick up a few days later with the plants placed in the trunk. I was happy to have that as an option!
Above, five different tomatoes, a lemon cucumber, and a basil plant. Below, the plants in the dirt and then covered with chicken wire for protection from digging critters.
Shortly thereafter, I got really lucky! A true “gardening angel”, a good friend, sent us a ton of seeds! He’s a professional, and this is just what he had “on hand”! I was thrilled and felt like a kid in a candy store.
The day they arrived was the first day of almost a full week of rain here in southern California, so I decided to try my hand at starting seeds inside. I planted inside paper egg cartons, an old Costco pie pan with lid (makes a great “greenhouse”) and a plastic egg carton.
In the photo above, I’ve planted seeds for basil, cilantro, parsley, and various lettuces. I also planted a pink tomato, a green tomato, some eggplant, and two different bell peppers. Below are seeds started for green zucchini, yellow squash, bush beans, pole beans, and two different cucumbers.
I continued to work on clearing the weeds from the gravel pathways whenever we had sunshine.
With all the seeds I’d planted I decided to create a new garden bed near the rosemary bush. This was a lot of physical work, but I had nothing but time. Those bricks had to be brought from our front yard to the back yard and down the steps, two by two. It was a workout! All the dirt was turned over by hand. Along the narrow area, my plan is to put something that needs space or can grow down over the edge of the wall behind it. Maybe squash or cucumbers?
After creating the new bed, I thought I’d plant a few more seeds; spinach, kale, Nantes carrots, red carrots, and gold and red beets. It may be too late in the season for these vegetables but I thought I’d give it a try anyway.
As for the other seeds, some are starting to sprout already! Below, look at the pole beans and the cucumbers after only 8 days!
Finally, below is a before and after; week 1 on top, week 3 on the bottom. Working in the yard and getting my hands in the dirt has helped keep me sane during this time. I can’t wait to see how everything grows!
Leave a comment and let me know, are you planting anything this year? How is it going? Are you doing more than you normally would because you have the time?