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Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

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Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/20/2017, 9:27 pm

Hi there! I'm Annie and I consider myself to be "new at this" even though I have tried gardening before (I've never succeeded). You might read this and think I've bit off more than I could chew, but I was sick for a while (paralyzed but 95% better now...just aches) and found gardening to be therapeutic.  I'm also in between jobs right now, so I have the perfect opportunity to learn how to do this right. I have finally learned composting, vermicomposting, and I'm getting better at starting plants from seed. Now I just have to figure out the rest.. haha.  My main challenges at this moment are making my HOA happy (I'm trying to grow edibles in my front yard without it being too obvious), irrigation (should I use drip? use a filter in the water? how do I install these things (I've been digging a lot of trenches and I'm thankful for YouTube)) and trellising. This season seems to be going... sort of ok so far. I am doing a combination of in-ground planting, containers, self-watering containers, and of course raised bed/SFG. I hope that it's ok that I mention all of my gardening even though my focus, I recently decided, will be SFG from now on.

Self-watering containers: I have tomatillos and tomatoes that have been doing well. When I tried self-watering containers, the plants did well at the beginning, then became diseased and died. Hopefully that doesn't happen again.


Herb Garden: I have this in my front yard, shaded area. It's doing ok. I'm noticing that in-ground plants have been having more pest issues (leaf holes) than potted plants. This is one reason why I've decided to focus more on SFG. I have different types of sage, basil, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, cilantro, parsley, chamomile, anise, etc.


Pots: I pretty much used Mel's Mix but with a little perlite (I figured a SFG is kind of like a big pot?) and they are well. I have lettuce, kale, different kinds of peppers, and wildflowers. I can't get my bunching onions to germinate and I killed all of my strawberries, but that's a pretty good survival rate for me. They are mixed in with my herb garden and next to SFG below.

SFGs: 1) This is my first SFG. It's 6x2. It has 3 cucumber and 2 watermelon (smaller, more compact variety) in the back and peppers in the front. I "cheated" and added 3 dwarf nasturiums in the very front too because I figured the flowers would keep my HOA happy. I also painted the box so that it matches the house.


2) I have posted pictures of my huge raised bed/retaining wall that is being built along the fence. This is why I have stuff in my front yard... the back yard is under construction.



3) Fabric SFG. I am also trying a fabric raised bed using SFG. Has anybody tried one? I'm starting with a 2x2. It's in the shade. Again, hiding from the HOA, and figured the shade will help when it gets hot since I will be growing lettuces in there. I didn't realize when I ordered it and that it has weird flap things to keep it square. I hope that doesn't effect things. It's got Mel's Mix, castings, rock dust and ready to go.


Community Garden (will post picture soon): Oh. This is what makes me want to pull my hair out. It's a brand new facility and the soil is lifeless. It was a vacant lot and the soil is like a rock. I didn't know how to apply the principles of SFG back in August and I wish I had done things differently. It's a 12x12 plot and I rototilled a good 18", put 6" boards, and added lots and lots of compost. Things have just germinated, turned yellow, and died. Now I realize that I probably over-watered, the Organic Miracle Grow Compost that they provided is probably not the best quality and I should have split it into individual raised bed instead of one big raised bed (slapping forehead). I also didn't include the vermiculite and peat moss, so I'm going to have different results. I don't know what to do now though...there's always stuff planted. I was planning on doing a 3 sisters garden. The corn is about 6" tall and I'm about to start the beans. The squash/melons are ready to be transplanted. I've never done anything like this. So far I'm a little worried because the corn leaves look yellowish. I've added so much compost, as well as castings, organic fertilizer, rock dust, and some gypsum. Any advice here would be appreciated. One thing I would like to do is figure out how to install Mel's conduit trellises here to keep things contained in the plot and have the squash/melons grow up a bit. I figure the conduit could also be used so that I can put shade cloth over the entire thing (it's going to be in the mid-90's the next couple of days!). I see that the most successful people have put up shade cloth. Also, they use synthetic fertilizers but it's not allowed and I would rather not got there.

If you have made it this far, thank you so much for reading my novel. This is something that I really really want to get good at. Fresh picked veggies are so rewarding.

P.S. My fun panda grow light area


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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  yolos on 4/20/2017, 11:35 pm

Corn requires lots of nitrogen.  If you are just using compost, it is probably not enough nitrogen.  If you are organic, blood meal is high nitrogen but takes a while to be effective.  What about a quick fix with some high nitrogen liquid fert like fish meal???

Also, if this is a new plot it may not have a micro-herd established yet.  And some say that without a micro-herd organic growing does not do real well when first starting out.  It takes the micro-organism to break down the organic fertilizers in order for the nutrients to be available to the plants.??????????????????
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/20/2017, 11:47 pm

I have used fish fertilizer before without seeing any outcome back in August. I will give it another go. It definitely can't hurt. I also have new compost that is pretty heavy on manure. Do you think I should add? Also, I'll be adding beans which will add some nitrogen.
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/20/2017, 11:56 pm

Re: microorganisms. Yes, there are no worms, bugs, etc. It's lifeless. I received the Lifeless Soil Kit from John and Bob's today. I'm hoping that will help add little critters to break things down. Any other ideas welcomed. I always feel like I'm doing CPR on this little plot.
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  AtlantaMarie on 4/21/2017, 3:29 am

Hi Annie. Welcome from Atlanta, GA.

I'm kind of in & out right now, but at least wanted to welcome you to our party. :-)
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/21/2017, 8:09 am

glad you\'re here  Annie!


I think you're doing a good job. It's not unusual for our SFG's not to do well the first year but they improve each successive year. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the microorganisms. Some things live and some things die. And it's different every year. That's how we learn. I wouldn't worry about it. Just enjoy the fun and the experimenting and take notes. As you learn about what works in your area it'll get better and better.

If you use the search box in the top left you can learn a lot of things about irrigating and such. I still water with buckets and/or a hose so I can't help you. But there are lots of folks on the Forum who use it and can help you.

Also be sure to poke around and ask questions in your Regional thread. The folks there will be very familiar with what you can and cannot do.
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  countrynaturals on 4/21/2017, 10:22 am

Hi, Annie.  happy hi Welcome from Redding, CA.  glad you\'re here I'm only 2nd year and wasn't very successful last year, so I can't do much but cheer you on, but at least I'm good at that.
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/21/2017, 12:37 pm

Thank you Marie, CapeCoddess and CountryNarurals. You are very kind. Smile
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  sanderson on 4/21/2017, 2:28 pm

Hi Annie,  Welcome to the Forum from Fresno.   glad you\'re here  There is so much information on this Forum.  Just use the Search feature for specific topics.  Also, please join in on the northern CA ongoing thread.  So Cal, No Cal.  Not much different when it comes to hot summers.   Razz  http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t20189p950-northern-california-coastal-valleys-what-are-you-doing-this-month#264399

@ChasingAnnie wrote:
Community Garden (will post picture soon): Oh. This is what makes me want to pull my hair out. It's a brand new facility and the soil is lifeless. It was a vacant lot and the soil is like a rock. I didn't know how to apply the principles of SFG back in August and I wish I had done things differently. It's a 12x12 plot and I rototilled a good 18", put 6" boards, and added lots and lots of compost. Things have just germinated, turned yellow, and died. Now I realize that I probably over-watered, the Organic Miracle Grow Compost that they provided is probably not the best quality and I should have split it into individual raised bed instead of one big raised bed (slapping forehead).
It's not too late to divide up the plot.  Maybe for this year, 2 double rows of 1' square pavers for each isle.  Create a 2'x12' growing row, then a 2' wide paver isle, another 3'x12' growing row, another 2' wide paver isle, and lastly another 3'x12' growing row.  You will be able to reach everything without stepping on the soil.  Next year, if you want, you can remove the stuff under the pavers and donate it to another plot.  Wink Then, add more boards to create the separate beds.  PS: It's hard to over-water real Mel's Mix.

I also didn't include the vermiculite and peat moss, so I'm going to have different results. I don't know what to do now though...there's always stuff planted. I was planning on doing a 3 sisters garden. The corn is about 6" tall and I'm about to start the beans. The squash/melons are ready to be transplanted. I've never done anything like this. So far I'm a little worried because the corn leaves look yellowish. I've added so much compost, as well as castings, organic fertilizer, rock dust, and some gypsum. Any advice here would be appreciated.
What kind of compost?  Why gypsum?  You stated that what is planted is not doing well.  Some plants can be carefully lifted by scooping with both hands to keep the roots safe.  Set aside (in a brownie baking pan?) while you transformed the material in the bed.  Remove some of the material.  Dump one inch of vermiculite aver the growing areas,  Wet thoroughly for dust control.  Dump 2" of bagged compost on top and mix in both with a shovel.  Water well.  Return the plants.  Here is a link to some photos of bagged compost that some folks have used.  http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t21089-recommended-store-bought-compost?highlight=compost

One thing I would like to do is figure out how to install Mel's conduit trellises here to keep things contained in the plot and have the squash/melons grow up a bit. I figure the conduit could also be used so that I can put shade cloth over the entire thing (it's going to be in the mid-90's the next couple of days!). I see that the most successful people have put up shade cloth.
Home Depot:  1/2" EMT with nylon Trellis netting.   Two EMT Inside Corner Pull Elbows to connect the upright EMT with the horizontal top.  EMT 1/2" 2-winged Straps to secure the uprights to the boxes, one at bottom of side, the other near the top. Or, you can use 2" x 3" boards for the frame and screw to sides of box(es).  EMT comes in 5' and 10' lengths.  One of the benefits of having separate boxes is that you can install multiple trellises where ever you want for what ever you want.  HD also has shade cloth.  I secure it to tubes or horizontal para-cord with large black binder clips.  How are the other plot owners installing shade cloth?  Oh, summer squash don't need trellises, only room to spread.  Winter squash, cucumbers, pole beans and peas can use trellis support.  Tall tomatoes are sometimes secured to trellises.

Also, they use synthetic fertilizers but it's not allowed and I would rather not got there.
Using fertilizers becomes a cycle of using fertilizers.  Using real composts, maybe organic slow-release nutrients, like Espoma products like blood meal, bone meal at this time, is much better in the long run while you are waiting for the microorganisms and worms to get established.  An excellent read is "Teaming with Microbes" by Lowenfels and Lewis.  A bit technical but not so much that one doesn't start to think about all the wonderful critters and life forms that do the actual feeding of the plants.

If you have made it this far, thank you so much for reading my novel. This is something that I really really want to get good at. Fresh picked veggies are so rewarding.
Very Happy

P.S. My fun panda grow light area

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What is growing behind the purple curtain? Very Happy

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  No_Such_Reality on 4/21/2017, 2:44 pm

Hello Annie from Santa Ana.  I'll commiserate with you.  I've been having my share of failures for several years, many of which are scattered over the forum.

In the community garden, did you rototill and then mix the compost and gypsum in with the soil?  So you have a garden bed that's basically our concrete like soil with some miracle grow compost and gypsum?

If you have a lot of our local soil in the mix, it will be very easy to over water. And under water.  There's a lot of clay in it.

Are any weeds or volunteer plants growing in the lot?  if it was vacant before the city re-purposed it, I wonder if it's had it's share of pesticides sprayed on it.

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/21/2017, 2:50 pm

I added gypsum because the guy at the nursery store told me to lol. It may help with the clay soil, but you are right. I want to get the soil web going instead of just adding fertilizer. The compost was donated by Miracle Grow to the garden. It's their organic line, but knowing what I know now-- it doesn't look right. It has big pieces of wood, not fully composted, and just doesn't have the right rich look. I'm making my own from now on from multiple sources.

The other folks are installing shade cloth using t-posts around the plot and a big post in the middle. I'm trying to figure out a good design for a 12x12 plot. I thought conduit fittings would be like PVC fittings (tees, 4-ways, every shape imaginable!) and could create some sort of grid. Unfortunately I found out that metal fittings are much more limited.

Everyone believes I grow pot behind my panda. It's spinach, chard, lettuces, etc. at the moment. They are heat-tolerant varieties that I'm playing with.


Last edited by ChasingAnnie on 4/21/2017, 3:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/21/2017, 3:05 pm

NoSichReality~ wow! You are so close! Let me know if you have found a local place for cheap vermiculite. That stuff is expensive.

Yes, I rototilled, added tons of the not-so-great compost and rototilled again to mix. The gypsum I added about 2 months ago and mixed with a hoe (not rototilled). I do wonder about pesticide use. There are some weeds growing, but not much actually. You are right, I'm really having trouble getting a good watering schedule. This clay has terrible drainage. What I've done is not use my drip this season. I want to get an idea on just how long it takes for the soil to saturate and dry. I just go manually water and stick my finger in the soil. This won't work all year when it's triple digits and I can't go so often (it will need to be on a timer), but I'm hoping to have an idea by then. People at the garden say to water deeply and infrequently to promote the best root growth. They aren't exactly succeeding either though. I don't know...don't a few short waterings throughout the day when it's really hot make more sense?
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  Banned Member on 4/21/2017, 5:44 pm

Welcome Annie.  I will add that you can add nitrogen to your Mel's Mix by adding alfalfa meal. I do not like blood meal or dried blood, because it comes from the mainstream ag industry as a waste by-product, and you don't know what was in the animals' blood. 

Since you are going to have corn, why not join me in trying a 3 sisters garden.  Around the corn, when it is about 5 to 6 inches tall, plant pole beans.  The beans will fix more nitrogen for the corn.  Once the beans are up and wrapped around the corn, plant squash around the corn/beans to provide mulch and a barrier against animals stealing the corn and beans.

You can find a ton of information about 3 sisters gardens online.  And, there is a forum thread or two in the archives here.

Good luck with your garden.  I did not have any issues with my SFG raised beds the first year, but I amended them with more than just Mel's Mix.  I added organic nutrition to the squares in the form of rock dust, compost tea, fungal-rich humus, worm castings, and kelp meal.

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/21/2017, 6:19 pm

Hi TNGeezer! A three sisters garden is exactly what I'm doing!
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  sanderson on 4/21/2017, 7:20 pm

For unusual PVC fittings, here is a CA company. http://www.snapclamp.com/ I'm thinking if you use PVC, it will have to be at least 1". The 1/2" works great as frames for 4' wide beds but not much longer.

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  sanderson on 4/21/2017, 8:39 pm

Annie,  So the other beds are not in good shape, either?  Confession time.  My first year (March 2013) I made the mix per Mel's recipe, so I thought.  1/3 fluffed peat moss (on fleek), 1/3 perlite and vermiculite (acceptable) and 1/3 Kellogg red-stripe bag of, uh, of, of inferior product for gardening. Embarassed  I read the label and it looked like it had 5 different life sources.**  The plants were fine for about a month and then suddenly stopped growing! Shocked  That's when the good folks on the Forum started helping me.  If I had used 1/3 mixed composts for that 1/3 I would never have learned how important real compost is to living gardens.  A hard lesson learned.  I started a compost pile but even making good compost was a big learning curve. tongue

Now, year two, I had to empty all the boxes and get them off the ground because of root invasion from roses, bushes and trees.  That's one problem you will never have, at least. Start of winter crops.

** "INGREDIENTS: Aged recycled forest products, aged arbor fines, composted chicken manure, oyster & dolomite limes (as pH adjusters), bat guano, worm castings, and kelp meal"  See, I thought that = wood, chicken manure, bat guano, kelp and worm castings.  5 different life forms.  Wrong balance and way too much wood pieces, which rob nitrogen from the soil while they further decompose.

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  sanderson on 4/21/2017, 8:51 pm

Have you looked at these photos? Everything looks so healthy. Don't need great depth of "soil", just quality. http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t20737-my-old-deck-table-top-garden-today#264458

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Here's the community garden plot!

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/21/2017, 9:32 pm


Everything will be ripped out except the garlic around the corners/edges (the only plants that REALLY seem to be doing well), a pepper, nasturtiums (that are almost dead, but I'll give them a little more time...they are also along the edges) and the mounds of corn-- the rest will be part of the three sisters garden. Radishes, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, green onions (would germinate and die), 90% of carrots and 9 out 10 kale died.  They didn't seem diseased or bothered by pests... just didn't grow. My beets did ok, a few carrots, and I got one lovely kale since August.

As you can see, I added the boards around the whole thing instead of small plots (mistake #1) to create a "bed" but I still tried growing in sections instead of rows and left some aisles.  I would say not too successful and many lessons learned. I'm just trying to figure out my next steps...

I was thinking of diving the plot into 4 areas by adding stepping stones (I don't know if I can add new boards at this point), doing trellises, introducing better compost, microbes, etc., redoing the drip lines so they are not so far apart and planting the rest of my three sisters garden?
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/21/2017, 10:01 pm

@sanderson wrote:So the other beds are not in good shape, either? 

The community garden is not in good shape... except for some root crops that did ok.

I think I learned some lessons and did better with my potted plants (I call my 1x1 beds) and blue 6x2 bed, but I just planted everything this week so it might be too early to tell. Two days after I transplanted my nasturtiums, they bloomed (didn't even realize they had buds). I'm going to go ahead and believe this is a good sign! haha

The fabric 2x2 bed doesn't have anything yet (transplants too young).

My very long raised beds in the backyard are still under construction. Hopefully I will know what I'm doing by then. I'm hoping they will be complete in a month or so.

Sanderson- your beds are GORGEOUS!

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  sanderson on 4/22/2017, 1:03 am

I hope you didn't think that the photos in the link are mine. Razz I only posted one photo of my smaller table tops.

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/22/2017, 10:59 am

Quite a while ago John Kohler did a great video on where he gets his compost. If you are in communication with him maybe you could have him turn you on to that location.
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  sanderson on 4/22/2017, 3:00 pm

Annie, I send you a PM, the flashing red PM at the top.

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  No_Such_Reality on 4/27/2017, 12:37 am

Unfortunately no, I last bought vermiculite about 6 years ago, got lucky with a big bulk bag at the Home Depot in Savi Ranch right off the 91.

In the picture of the garden, do you know who has the bed two spaces to the right of yours?  I noticed it appears to be doing okay and it has a shade cloth over it.  I notice that down here, get the right Santa Ana winds and a bright sunny day and it take out any but the most robust of teenage plants (any plant right up to that point where they turn into a big plant.)

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  ChasingAnnie on 4/27/2017, 12:51 am

Yes, I do know her. I am in communication with everyone that has had any type of success lol

She has had trouble with pretty much everything she has planted, except for chard under some shade and an herb (forgot which one). All hard-core gardeners have put up shade cloth, so I'm going to do the same. It's definitely on my to-do list. I've bought 50% shade cloth and I'm trying to figure out some sort of frame. That lady uses PVC, but it's not very sturdy when santa ana winds pick up.
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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

Post  sanderson on 4/27/2017, 4:21 am

EMT will probably stand up better to the Santa Ana winds than PVC. You can clip some sun shade (like 2'-3' wide strips around the wind side to act as a buffer. My first sun shades were made from cotton muslin with grommets. The winter pulled some of them out! The HD sun shade is holey allowing some wind to pass through with less stress. If/when you divide the box in 2 long beds or 4 smaller beds, it will be easier to fasten EMT to the sides with more flexibility.

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Re: Hello from Chino, CA (Zone 10a)

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