We all know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables- preferably from local sources. Most of the produce in your local market has traveled thousands of miles to get there, and even your local farmer’s market may be selling produce that was picked days or weeks ago.

Photo: Flickr/ NatalieMaynor

When you grow your own food, you will get fruits and vegetables that are fresher and higher in nutrients. You’ll also know exactly what went into the soil and onto the produce, whether it’s organic or not. You will have control over what goes into your body and your family’s bodies-which is always better.

Growing your own food will also give you a better appreciation of the earth and what it can do for us, linking you to our planet and helping you to appreciate the veggies on your plate even more. There’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment you feel when you are eating food that you grew yourself (it’s also a great way to brag to dinner guests)!

So do you want to start your own garden? Then read on for a list of the basics of what you need to know to get a garden started in LA’s specific climate

Choose a visible place for your garden

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Your garden is going to need continuous attention and care. If you hide it behind a shed or put it somewhere you can’t see from the house, you’re more likely to forget about it and neglect it. Besides, you want to see the fruits (and vegetables) of your labors!

Plant raised beds or in containers

The LA soil is not naturally rich enough to provide the kind of nutrients that fruit and vegetables need. It will be a real struggle to try and add all that to the soil in your yard. An easier way to manage this is to buy large pots or build boxes that you can fill with quality soil. As a bonus, if you have limited space, these pots or boxes can fit on a patio or balcony.

Plant seedlings and seeds

Planting baby plants that you buy from a nursery will give you food sooner, but by planting seeds, you’ll be playing the long game. When your seedling plants are done for the year, your seeds will be ready to produce- well into the fall and early winter.

Water the ground, not the leaves

Using a drip system or soaking hose will let you get the water to the plants’ roots, which is where they need it. This is also environmentally responsible since water that soaks directly into the ground is less likely to evaporate and go to waste. You’ll use less water if you soak the earth, not the leaves.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rotate your crops

Don’t plant the same thing every year in a single container. In a single pot or box, one year, plant tomatoes, the next year herbs, and so forth. This fights the buildup of toxins and makes for healthier plants.

Use mulch to prepare for dry spells

Adding an inch of mulch to your pots, boxes, and beds will help the soil retain moisture, making it less necessary to water often.

Water your garden early

Watering first thing in the morning, as early as 6 am, will mean that the water will evaporate slower, and help you avoid peak water use times.

Photo: Max Pixel

Weed often

Weeds will take up precious water from your harvest. Weed often so that you are pulling the plants before they seed: once they go to seed they will just keep on coming!

Fight pests

You will likely want to set traps for rats and squirrels (who will make off with your veggies). Humane traps, if you prefer, work well and allow you to rerelease the pest farther away.

Photo: Flickr/ Tambako the Jaguar

Concentrate on the veggies and fruit that do best in our climate! Here’s a list of the best bets for home gardening over the summer:

  • tomatoes
  • tomatillos
  • squash
  • watermelon
  • cantaloupe
  • peppers (all types)
  • cucumbers
  • pumpkin
  • basil
  • green beans

Remember that our winters mean year-round opportunities for gardening. In the fall, you can plant the following vegetables that will grow well in cooler winter temperatures:

  • beets
  • radishes
  • parsnip
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • kale
  • peas
  • carrots

So why not give it a try? Any time of year is a good time to start a garden in LA, so why not buy a pot or bed today? You’ll grow some healthy food and have great nutrition all year long!