As spring blooms across San Benito County and many residents remain hunkered down in their homes to adhere to the shelter-in-place order, some are looking for a way to stay active and enjoy time outside.
One way to connect with nature, while maintaining a safe distance from other people, comes in the form of gardening. Whether you simply want to utilize a planter for a small home garden, or you’ve designated an area of land to plant a crop, there are solutions for everyone.
Here are some tips from local farmer Ruby Granados of Royal Greens Family Farm and resources from Earthbound Farms for everything from planting a small indoor garden to the best veggies to plant in April.
Royal Greens Family Farm
Granados, 27, first got involved in gardening and growing produce at 14 years old by helping her father, Efren Garcia, on his farm in Hollister. Three years ago, Granados and her husband Jesse took over the family farm and have shared their love of fresh organic food with their children and the community.
“I love it,” Granados said. “If I am stressed I will go out to the farm. It’s connecting with nature.”
While the farm is delivering products to its customers’ homes, Granados said that people growing fresh food for themselves is also a great solution.
“There are a lot of benefits from this,” Granados said. “You are getting food straight from your garden. You know what you put into it. There are a lot of people who don’t know what they are buying from the store because it is nice and shiny.”
Asked what first-time growers should plant in April, she had several suggestions.
“You can’t go wrong with tomatoes and basil, as well as green beans and even cucumbers. All of those are super easy to grow,” Granados said. She then added other foods to the list, such as zucchini, potatoes and ginger.
If worried about accessing seeds or young plants during the shelter-in-place order, use a piece of a potato or ginger to start a new growth at home. Once they begin showing roots, they’re ready to be transferred to a pot or planter.
“When a potato starts rooting you will see what they call the other eyes,” Granados said. “You can put the whole entire potato [in soil] once it starts rooting. Or you can cut it in half to grow more plants.”
For all crops suggested, find a location with plenty of sun, whether it is in the backyard or a pot of soil next to a window.
Granados also recommended finding an organic fertilizer to mix into the soil to provide extra nutrients. If venturing out to a store for organic fertilizer seems daunting, Granados provided at-home solutions.
“You can throw your egg shells around the tomatoes or other plants,” she said. “It is like a natural fertilizer and it balances the soil around the plant.”
Banana peels also work.
“For some reason we noticed when we put the banana peel down, instead of bugs going after the plants they go for the banana peel,” Granados said.
She explained how deviating the bugs from the plants to the banana peels has led to less bruising of crops and fewer insects eating the fresh produce.
On starting a garden she said, “It’s easier than it looks. It’s a lot of fun and you get to see what is in your food.”
Located in San Juan Bautista, Earthbound Farm has a blog that teaches readers how to grow their own greens inside.
The company’s website asks, “How’d you like to grow your own greens, even if you have no yard? We’ll teach you to farm organically, reusing an Earthbound Farm clamshell and a semi-sunny window. Reusable, recyclable Earthbound Farm salad clamshell containers make marvelous containers for mini organic lettuce gardens or other plants.”
Using tutorial videos, Earthbound Farm has created a 15-part series that covers the process of planting greens from seeds, followed by instruction that takes you from day six of growth all the way to day 69.
In the series, viewers are advised on how to properly space out the seeds and choose the correct location to get the proper amount of sunlight. Other tips include regularly rotating the container 180 degrees, as well as using the wicking method, which uses water drawn through a wick from a reservoir to keep plants hydrated and not oversaturated.
The website also includes a link for people who would prefer to follow written instructions.
NOTE: Prior to starting your project, please contact your local garden supply store and arrange for shopping with covin-19 safety measures in mind.
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