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Ask An OC Expert: How To Start Your Dream Garden

gardening planting header 610x250
(credit: istockphoto)

In a part of the world where you can go outside, walk, play golf, surf and grow flowers and vegetables every day of the year, it is difficult to focus, or even notice, any of the particular four seasons. Similarly, with the sprawling metropolitan playland that Orange County has become, it may be difficult to remember that it is named after the groves of oranges for which the area was once famous. Climate-wise, and still from a soil perspective, Orange County remains a lush, fertile paradise. Local Gardeniere Teena Spindler shares tips on how to turn your yard, green belt and community plot into a beautiful, thriving spring garden.

Flowers in the garden (Credit, C. Schmidt)

Teena Spindler
Orange County Great Park Farm & Food Lab
32 Discovery St.
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 724-6247

Interested in turning your back, front or side yard into a beautiful and/or functional private garden? You're in luck. One of the world's foremost gardening experts lives in our own backyard. Orange County Great Park's "West Gardeniere" Teena Spindler wants to help you make your gardening dreams a reality. Consult your favorite literature or visit a gardening center for specifics. Meanwhile, let Teena inspire and excite you with her insight regarding technique, reminders and creativity.

garden shovel planting
(credit: istockphoto)

Understand Your Space And Needs

The most well-conceived garden project will never even get off the ground, so to speak, if your planting plan does not fit your planting area. You love tomatoes, wonderful. You want lilies, of course. There are many details to consider, and if what you want does not fit the available sunlight and real estate, changes will be necessary. Teena understands there are certain undeniable truths that surround gardening. Water needs to runoff. Snails are gravity averse. But you needn't limit yourself to some inflexible formula. Gardening is meant to be enjoyable. It's a pastime, not a penance. Have fun with your project, just be aware of what and where you can and cannot grow and what you must and must not do. Trees need sufficient soil, be aware of holes where water will settle, and know what can and cannot cling to a hill. Teena can grow something anywhere at all, and so can you. It just takes time, awareness and patience.

multicolored flowerbed on a lawn
(credit: istockphoto)

Raised Bed Gardening

By simply surrounding your plot with wood framing, you can create a convenient raised bed. Planting, pruning, tending and harvesting all become much simpler when you can reach without all of the squatting and straining. Gather a few 1x10 or 1x12-inch pieces of lumber, based upon your spatial needs and limitations. Fashioning a frame is as easy as making a rectangle. Stacking and fastening boards side by side give you added height. Be aware, while added height means less bending, it requires additional fill dirt. Adjust your dimensions to fit your own soil/stooping ratio.

Mulberry Row flowers - Mulberry Row
(credit: Mulberry Row)

Save Space Through Vertical Gardening

If the room you have for planting is limited, or perhaps your ambitions are a little high, why not grow a vertical garden? Many varieties of berry and ornamental flower do not need vast or even small plots of land to flourish. A few pots stacked in a pre-designed rack can provide a wealth of fruit and/or beauty in a small space. Erect your own structure if you are adventurous. An old baker's rack can readily be moved outside to form the frame for your space-saving vertical pantry and masterpiece. Teena also recommends this method for plants that need extra drainage or where runoff and puddling may be an issue. Similar to the advantage gained through raised beds, above, vertical potting helps fend off pests, plant predators and weeds.

Related: Cooking Ideas For Kids From OC Chefs


Beautify And Accessorize

Flowering plants will spruce up any garden. But you can give your plot or yard added character through the use of simple, artsy, even unconventional items. Rock, stakes, fencing, bird houses and feeders and sundry objects like sun dials and water barrels can be added to become part of the landscape. Explore and diversify your space. Erect a lamppost and plant tomatoes or other creeping vines at its base. Experiment with trellises and wire. Plant rows of peppers and poppies, if you wish, then work in a couple stone steps and wood furniture. Make boarders with flowers, bark or both.

(credit: C. Schmidt)

Other Helpful Hints

Weeding and pest control are among the least pleasant elements of the gardening experience. Simple preemptive measures will ensure you spend less time managing crises and more time creating beauty and bounty. Copper tape is a safe, ecological snail deterrent. Simple fencing discourages squirrels. A little mulch down in a flower or vegetable bed greatly reduces weeds. Citrus does not ripen after you pick it. To know if it's ready for harvest, Teena recommends cutting one open to taste for desired sweetness. For lemons, cut and give one a squeeze. Juicy equals ripe. Watering can be an issue in the virtual desert that is Orange County. Collect what rain you can in a bucket or decorative barrel. Planting succulents is easy water-wise and characteristically appropriate in a Southern California spring garden.

Related: OC Carpenter's Tips For Building A Playset

Do you have any gardening tips? Share in the comments below!
Christopher Schmidt is a freelance writer experiencing and espousing the glory that is Orange County. Driven to travel, drawn to sports, spirits and celebrity, Chris' work can be found on
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