Resources and Tips for Gardeners in The Richmond

Get to know the Argonne Garden: Walk around, observe what is growing well in surrounding plots and common areas: healthy blooms, color, fragrance. Note the difference in ease of movement through cleared and mulched pathways. Examine the contents of the shed and greenhouse, where tools are kept, how supplies are organized. Identify the location of the green bins, compost pile, and mulch. Meander through the orchard, rest awhile on a that a hummingbird? Enjoy!

Assess Your Site

  • Notice the direction of sun and wind.
  • What is the soil like? Sandy?

Are there weeds present? Spending the extra energy before you plant to thoroughly remove stubborn weeds (at the root) will pay off down the line.

  • Clear the pathway around the plot, deeply weed, and apply mulch for ease of navigation.

Visualize Your Garden

Look at your garden space and envision what you would like to grow. To nourish, replenish, for solace and challenge: veggies, blooms, favorites from memory, color, fragrance... it is your garden world to create (organically, of course!)

* You may want to select from a list of plants that grow well at the Argonne; Kale, Snap Peas, Strawberries, Artichokes, Parsley, Fava Beans, Red Lettuce, Sorrel, Spinach, Carrots, Chard, Rhubarb, Tarragon, Sage, Sunflowers, Coastal CA Native Plants, wildflowers and roses.

Make a Plan:
Think about placement of plantings with respect to access, sun, watering needs, density, size, aesthetics, and so on... Keep a Planting Log or Garden Journal, noting your planting dates. Maybe even draw a map of where you planted which seeds/ seedlings. Before you plant, prepare the soil. (See below)

Weeds & Co:
Weeds can be described as unwanted, invasive green growths that often rapidly multiply or spread, robbing the soil of nutrients & harboring infestations of munchers such as aphids, earwigs, snails & slugs. Left to grow, they will act as described, finding their way via underground root systems or seed heads freely riding in the wind to reseed in pathways, your & your neighbor's plot & the common areas.

Notorious Argonne Invaders:
Crabgrass, (a rapidly spreading, spikey grass with deep root systems) Oxallis, (tiny, brown bulbs that grow into clover-like green leaves with yellow blooms that will infiltrate everywhere!) Fennel, (up to 6 feet in no time with underground root runners!) Snails & Slugs, Aphids & Earwigs (Oh, my!)

Invasive Weed Removal Strategies:

  1. Dig deeply with a shovel or trowel until the entire root is out, shake to loosen soil, pile in wheelbarrow, pick up stray strands or seed heads, and discard in green bins.
  2. Place soil sifting screen on wheelbarrow, shovel soil on top, remove unwanted oxallis bulbs, etc., and place in green bins.

Prepare Your Bed

“Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants” — the motto of organic gardening!

Add Organic Matter (OM) – *the single most important step to improving soil! * What OM will do for you:

  • Holds moisture, saves water
  • Adds fertility, stores nutrients
  • Balances mineral deficiencies and soil pH
  • Boosts soil life (feeds helpful micro-organisms)
  • Builds good soil structure

Sources of OM: compost, aged manure, green manure, worm castings, chopped leaves, straw, or grass clippings (avoid using weeds).

How Much?
When you are preparing your bed for the first time, consider adding a nice big layer (depending on how much is available and how much you can shovel!) of OM and turning it in. Thereafter, add 1" of fine textured OM (or 4" of bulkier OM, such as chopped leaves) about twice a year since you will be gardening year round.

Avoid Bare Soil
You just spent a lot of time and energy building some nice soil — protect it! Bare soil loses nutrients, can become compacted by rain, and eroded by wind. Keeping the soil covered slows evaporation, keeps your soil alive, and keeps weeds out. Cover it with veggies, plants, a ground cover, a green manure, or mulch.

What You Can Plant (and When)

Late June / Early July
Beets, broccoli*, Brussels sprouts*, cabbage*, carrots, collards, kale*, kohlrabi*, lettuce, mustard, parsnip, potato (tubers), radish, Swiss chard, turnips.

Bush Beans and Summer Squash - last chance for this year.
(*=starts. New seedlings can get a start before the September heat.)

Green onions, arugula, endive, parsley, cilantro, dill, leeks, peas, radishes, spinach, kale.

Winter Planting
Pam Pierce's recommendation for a winter garden: garlic, Fava beans, peas, sweet peas, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, beets, swis chard, leeks, artichokes
*I would add that you can protect fragile plantings like lettuce, etc from the possibility of frost damage, if necessary, by placing straw mulch (near shed) around young plants to raise soil temp & deter weeds

Slug and Snail Deterrents:
Spread crushed eggshells around plants, add copper strip on upper side of garden border, spread diatomaceous earth or sluggo (iron phosphate), place pan of dark beer (Argonne snail & slug preference) or brewer's yeast in water, w/ top at soil level.

Water, Water, Water

The Argonne Garden is an ecosystem that has its own micro-climate within the Richmond District and San Francisco. It’s location on an incline attracts strong sun and wind on clear days, with dense fog intermittently, and during July and August. A sandy ground foundation in addition to the incline allows for rapid water absorption and run off, even during the rainy season.

Recommendations for watering:

  • Newly planted seeds: Daily
  • Small plants: Alternate days or daily on high wind days and over 65°
  • Mature plants: 1-2 times week, over 75 d: daily or alternate days.

Recommended Reading: Golden Gate Gardening: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California, by Pam Pierce.