Hi, there. I’m John Atkinson, and I’m teaching myself to grow vegetables in semi-arid San Diego, California. 2012 is the fourth season in this process.
The soil where I live is very rocky and contains a lot of clay. Unlike the rich, dark earth I saw growing up in Indiana, where lots of green things live, die, and compost into the ground, San Diego soil is sort of a light tan color. The lighter colored it is, the less organic material is present. This means there’s not much in the way of nutrients in the natural soil around here.
Vegetables need nutrients, and my yard didn’t have them. I decided to try container gardening so I could control the growing medium and start small.
In 2009, my first “garden” was four clay pots on a table on the porch. One held a patio tomato plant, and the rest held herbs. Everything grew, but I didn’t harvest much.
In 2010, I bought 6 GrowBoxes™ from AGardenPatch.com. I grew two boxes of heirloom tomatoes, Swiss chard, basil, Japanese cucumbers, jalapeños and bell peppers, Sequoia strawberries in a hanging bag, and some lettuce. All went pretty well that year, except the wind toppled my tomato boxes. (I guess it’s a tribute to the tomato plant that it was tall enough and dense enough to act like a sail and catch enough wind to knock over a box full of potting soil and 4 gallons of water.)
In 2011, I added 18 more GrowBoxes™ and grew three plantings of tomatoes, a total of about 22 tomato plants of different varieties. I also attempted zucchini, pumpkin, butternut squash, Swiss chard, collards, beets, sugar snap peas, garlic, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, and herbs. Most everything came in, though the squirrels and rats from the canyon behind my house race me to see who can harvest the tomatoes first. They like winter squash, too. Still haven’t had a successful pumpkin, butternut squash, or melon, for that matter.
Now 2012 is here. I’m trying leeks for the first time this year, and four varieties of garlic, along with the usual fun stuff: tomatoes, lettuces, herbs, strawberries, beets, carrots, and maybe even a ground cherry. Just don’t tell the squirrels!