GIY: Grow your own produce in four easy steps

Illustration: Willie Ryan

So what if our ground is bad for digging and our dirt is salty? We can still grow. Make a planter, buy some soil and toss in some seeds. Harvesting edibles from a backyard garden in the desert is that simple, says Angela O’Callaghan, area specialist for the Cooperative Extension’s social horticulture program. “Plants want to grow.”

And though its getting too cold to plant small seed veggies—such as cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplants, which require nighttime temperatures warmer than 70—lettuces love to grow this time of year, O’Callaghan says. “By middle of November, you’ll yield a good salad. If you harvest the outside leaves, you don’t have to wait six weeks, then the lettuce will continue to grow.”

Should you have any difficulty, O’Callaghan says the Master Gardener help line is there for you at 257-5555. Also, O’Callaghan will host a workshop on composting in small spaces from 8 a.m.-noon September 25. For more information, call 257-5573.

Here are her step-by-step instructions for growing your own lettuce. Use the same steps for spring planting season:

1) Build a raised garden bed frame using wood or stacked bricks. Just the siding—no bottom needed because the soil should drain right into the ground. It can be any size, or even be a large pot.

2) Buy seeds and a nice rich soil that is not for ornamental plants. “If it says, ‘For ornamentals only,’ believe them,” O’Callaghan says.

3) Plant seeds on or into soil, depending on which vegetable you’re growing. The packet should say.

4) Water the seeds allowing for good drainage. “Vegetables with wet feet are particularly unhappy.”

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