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Grow produce to save cash at market

April 27, 2009 6:32:53 AM PDT
California grows about 80 percent of the nation's produce, so why aren't you growing some? With lots of sun and a wonderful climate in Southern California, it's time to save some cash at the market and get growing.Even if you don't have a terrace, expert Julianna Roosevelt from An Edible Garden says you can grow in a sunny loft, near an arcadia door with sun exposure, or even the window ledge above your kitchen sink.

"Well you've got 365 days to grow here and no matter whether you've got cement, you know, or no backyard at all, you have a terrace, you can grow container gardens," Roosevelt said.

"You can pick pots out of garage sales, any place at all, as long as you have drainage in your pot," Roosevelt said.

She also says you'll need about 10 inches of soil to grow, so if pots are oversized, they can be filled in the bottom with Styrofoam.

Mike Brown of Project Greenscaping filled a plastic pot with drainage with good soil and a variety of herbs and plants that work together, like basil, tomato and sage. He added earthworms to aerate the soil, and ladybugs to eat harmful insects, like aphids, so there's no need for pesticides.

"The ladybugs will eat up to several hundred aphids in a single day," he said.

Net the ladybugs initially so they will lay eggs and settle in.

According to expert Kevin Mack from An Edible Garden, rosemary and marigolds also repel bugs, as do praying mantises, and something called Neem oil.

"There is a scent very similar in the marigolds that will repel the bugs," Mack said.

It's like the citronella candles.

Experts say lettuce, herbs and tomatoes are some of the easiest to grow. Whether it's pots or garden beds, the biggest problem with new growers is overwatering.

"The system of how you deliver the water to the plants is not as crucial as how much and what time of day," said Craig Ruggless, Franchi Seeds. "Watering very early in the morning is usually the best time."

The next best time is in the late afternoon, but never in the midday.

Ruggless said no garden needs water daily. He waters by hand or soaker hose, watering soil, not the plant.

Water meters are helpful to detect whether plants are dry, moist or drowning.

"Keep in mind of what the mature size of the plant that you're growing will be when you choose its location, and make sure that nothing shades out something smaller, at ground level behind," Ruggless said.

Tall plants like tomatoes, beans, and corn can block sun in winter, inhibiting growth of others. Yet in the summer, they might shield fragile plants from heat and sun. It's also OK to add or remove plants as needed year-round.


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