Early Spring Vegetable Gardening

Ideas and book reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Recent rains have softened the soils and readied them so you can start digging and planting your spring vegetables. The East Bay is rich in local garden stores and urban farm shops with the supplies and know-how to help you get started. Here are some of my favorite spots for getting inspired:

At Albany’s stylish Flowerland Nursery you can pick up water-wise edibles and attractive containers. Stop by the Highwire coffee truck for a treat and browse the beautiful selection of plants outside and the lovely garden items inside the shop.

In Richmond, Annie’s Annuals is a vast 2.5-acre growing nursery with constantly changing offerings. All plants are grown in 4-inch pots without growth hormone, and include many perennials as well as annuals. They’ve just set out an assortment of spinach, peas, collards, and Cipollini Borettana onions, in addition to more than 140 other vegetables currently in stock. Annie herself is offering a Gardening 101 class this Saturday at 11am. Perfect for anyone looking to build their first garden!

Vegetable seeds are 20{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} off this week at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery. While you’re there, pick up some bareroot berries and fruit trees, ready for planting right now. I always appreciate the knowledgeable and friendly staff who help me identify the just-right amendment, answer my questions, and dispense needed advice.

If you need irrigation supplies, outdoor lighting, tools, or rainwater, graywater, and erosion supplies, The Urban Farmer Store in Richmond is a terrific resource.

Oakland’s Pollinate Farm & Garden is an excellent choice if you’re looking for organic, heirloom, and rare seeds. If you’re new to growing veggies from seed, you can learn the best techniques in their Seed Starting Workshop on February 24. Another wonderful spot for urban farming supplies is Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley, which also offers classes on keeping chickens and bees and preserving your harvest. Each of these urban farming stores offers hay and other supplies to help your garden grow in a resource-efficient way.

Some of my favorite tools come from Hida Tool and Hardware. At this small Berkeley shop specializing in Japanese tools, staff are happy to help you find exactly what you need. Their varied selection of well-made garden implements includes saws (Silky Gomtaro pruning saw is a good choice for shaping your fruit trees right now), pruners, weeders (I rely heavily on the Hori Horis and Kusatori Ichiban Weeder, which can be slipped into thin cracks and crevices), grafting knives, and hand trowels.


Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert & Dry Times:
The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening Without Wasting Water

By Maureen Gilmer
(Sasquatch Books, 2015)

A helpful guide to growing healthy organic vegetables with an efficient use of water. Using modern techniques as well as tips and stories from a broad range of native traditions, this guide offers the best of ancient wisdom and the newest innovations in conservation, and includes a variety of recommendations and a seasonal crop guide.

High-Yield Vegetable Gardening
By Colin McCrate and Brad Halm
(Storey Publishing, 2015)

The authors, founders of the Seattle Urban Farm Company, explain how to make your food garden more productive, no matter how big or small it is. Packed with charts, tables, schedules, worksheets, and record-keeping pages, this spiral-bound volume explains how to prepare the soil, select and rotate crops, and map out a specific customized plan to optimize space for the growing season.



Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening:
The Secrets to Growing the Biggest and Best Prizewinning Produce

By Jodi Torpey
(Storey Publishing, 2015)

If you aspire to grow champion vegetables for yourself or to take to a local garden swap, Master Gardener Jodi Torpey will show you what to do. From choosing the right varieties and scheduling planting dates to harvesting, preparing, and transporting your produce, Torpey walks you through every aspect of competitive showing, with useful tips for thinking like a judge.



Container Theme Gardens: 42 Combinations,
Each Using 5 Perfectly Matched Plants

By Nancy J. Ondra
(Storey Publishing, 2016)

No garden to plant vegetables? Try a container on your deck, rooftop, balcony, or porch. Garden designer Nancy Ondra has designed 42 container gardens, including edibles, using only five perfectly matched, easy-to-grow plants. Each plan includes photographs of what the full planting will look like, as well as a handy shopping list so you know exactly what you need.