Here in temperate Los Angeles, sandwiched sexily between the Mediterranean-like Santa Monica Mountain ranges and the sea-green Pacific, I can still pluck end-of-summer cherry tomatoes off our vines in the little garden out back. I see the last of my dried out string beans and stray parsley clumps staring back at me, sadly.
Ants have already devoured the last of my jalapeños.
Plan now for next year’s garden, say all the gardening experts. Now all you need is a sunny windowsill or a small space on your balcony to sustain a summer glow. Then plant a few of your favorite foods in pots of store-bought organic soil or dirt from the yard. And wait patiently for next year’s garden.
Home gardening benefits
The advantages go beyond tasty food and a rewarding sense of accomplishment. Growing your own food is as local as it gets; produce fresh off the plant contains the highest levels of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. It teaches my child how to sustain himself; how to choose a perfectly ripe peach or melon at any farmer’s market in the world.
Nutrients start to diminish at the moment of picking, so homegrown fruits and veggies may be more varied in color and shape than those you’ll find at the supermarket. To get prepared for next year’s crops, pick up a trowel and some potting soil and get ready to create your own farmer’s market.
I can, luckily, grow hearty plants and herbs nearly all year long, so I have purple Thai basil to top my salads, fresh mint for margaritas and son, Sam, 7, enjoys picking over-ripe cherry tomatoes right off the vine.
STEP 1. Pick easy-to-grow fruits and veggies
Focus on produce you like, then throw in one you’re less familiar with like Chinese eggplant or yellow carrots. It will inspire you to get creative in the kitchen, too.
Make sure your growing space can accommodate the plants you choose: Smaller foods like radishes and herbs generally won’t need more than 10 inches to grow.
STEP 2. Shop for the right equipment
You don’t need an elaborate tool shed—just a small trowel and a basic organic fertilizer like the All Purpose Fertilizer from Gardener’s Supply Company.
For patios and balconies, or other containers outdoors, use any deep container like a bucket, serving bowl or colander that has a hole for drainage. Fill them with organic potting soil, which drains much better than dirt imported from your yard.
Feels so nice to clip a spring of my own chocolate mint off a windowsill plant and add it to a cup of tea this month.