One way to get the kids more enthusiastic about eating vegetables is for them to cultivate and care for their own vegetable garden. Having fresh produce on hand, straight from the family garden, is a rewarding way for the family to spend time together. The kids will enjoy it so much they may not notice how educational it really is. Here are five veggies that grow well in the San Francisco climate.
1. Bell Peppers
Many varieties of sweet bell peppers thrive in San Francisco’s foggy climate during warmer months, as they can be susceptible to extremely hot temperatures or too much sun. Not only do these tasty peppers work great in salads, fajitas or on their own as a healthy snack, yellow, red and orange varieties also provide color to your vegetable garden.
Herbs can grow year round in San Francisco and make for a good starting point for a family plant project. Many herbs do well in San Francisco’s foggy, damp and rainy winters. Foods benefit from the great variety of herbs that can come from a San Francisco garden: rosemary, sage, lavender, marjoram, parsley, thyme and oregano do well in our climate, as do mint, tarragon and dill. Begin with “starters” (small, young plants) in the early spring, as seeds won’t sprout outside in the cold.
Tomatoes are a good choice for planting in San Francisco, but grow better in warmer seasons, so aim for mid-February through March or April. San Francisco’s microclimate may guide you on what works best for your garden, depending on where you live in the city. It is important for San Francisco veggie gardeners to note that the closer you are to the ocean, the smaller the size of the tomato your garden will yield.
4. Leafy Greens
San Francisco’s winter is best for cool seasonal vegetables such as leafy ones like lettuce or spinach, which grow well here. These are great choices for kids to tend at home and in school gardens because the vegetables finish their growing cycle in one short season. Another cool season veggie group is root vegetables, such as beets, carrots and onions. Artichokes grow all year round, but do best locally from spring to summer. They take up a lot of space, so a family garden needs adequate room. Broccoli is another good choice and grows well all year.
5. Fruit Trees
Along with a vegetable garden, enjoy easily cared for dwarf fruit trees that are perfect for city living. The most popular now is the Meyer lemon tree, a hearty choice for foggy San Francisco. Plant the tree where it can get about five hours of direct light that filters through the fog, and enjoy fragrant lemons throughout the year. Dwarf apple, apricot, cherry, peach, pear and plum trees are in garden stores now, so check which ones work best in your area.
As a family, attend a “how to” seminar or workshop on creating a garden. San Francisco’s Sloat Garden Center and the University of California’s Master Gardeners program offer free to minimal cost gardening and plant seminars, perfect for a family learning day.
Sloat Garden Center
2700 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco CA 94116
Hours: Mon to Sun 8:30 am to 6:30 pm
Sloat Garden Center is a wonderful place with three San Francisco locations. The venues periodically host free seminars and events on a variety of gardening topics. Check out the ”Growing Up Green” program, which donates money each year to schools and civic groups. Your child’s school can receive help for school gardening projects, gifts, raffles or other fundraising efforts throughout the year.
Flowercraft Garden Center
550 Bayshore Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94124
Hours: Mon to Fri 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, Sat 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Sun 10: am to 5:00 pm
An independent family-owned nursery established in 1974, Flowercraft Garden Center is there with a helpful knowledgeable staff. As a San Francisco native, the shop’s abundant selection of lush plants reflect the city’s capricious climate. Quality plants, excellent gardening tools and first rate customer service combine into a one stop destination. Check out the Flowercraft website for monthly gardening tips and a informational newsletter to print out.
University of California Cooperative Extension
Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco Counties
Gardening HelpLine: 650-726-9059 x 107
UCCE Master Gardeners is a unique organization of volunteers trained and certified by the University of California to provide community service and educational outreach. The goal is to help home gardeners and community organizations garden sustainably while creating healthy environments for their gardens and the community in general. Master gardeners offer their expertise through hands-on workshops, plant clinics, educational lectures and other programs in San Francisco and San Mateo counties. There is even a Gardening Helpline two days a week to help with your gardening questions.
Related: Narsai David: Cruciferous Vegetables
Melanie Graysmith is a freelance writer and educator living in San Francisco. She often writes about adult education, culture and lifestyle topics. She enjoys writing short stories, poetry, and scriptwriting, and is also a member of an independent film making group. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.