WRITTEN BY STEPH RODRIGUEZ
Sacramento’s Mediterranean climate makes for such a long growing season when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables sewn throughout the region. For Daylin Wade, a farmer and herbalist with Riverhill Farm in Nevada City, working the soil and watching plants grow is the heart of her life’s work, and she happily shares her wealth of knowledge during the various classes she teaches on gardening and medicinal herbs at Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova.
“I enjoy being outdoors and being able to grow food that is of high quality, and just seeing the whole process through from planting a seed to harvesting the vegetable and eating it,” Wade says.
According to Wade, when beginning gardeners start to test their green thumbs by trying to grow their own food, the biggest intimidation factor is in simply trying something new. But once hand touches soil, seeds are planted, and green leaves sprout from the earth, the reward is unlike any other, she says.
“I think there are two main benefits to growing your own garden. One is just the experience of being outside and getting exercise when you don’t even realize you’re getting exercise necessarily,” Wade says. “The other would be the quality of food that you can grow yourself — the freshness versus what you might get in a grocery store.”
With Sacramento’s prime planting conditions in mind, Wade offers the best tips and tricks for gardeners of all experience levels. She covers everything from what plants are the sturdiest against heat waves (and human errors) to helpful suggestions when it comes to what flowers work as natural deterrents to harmful insects while at the same time beckoning pollinators to do what they do best to promote healthy plant growth.
Robust veggies and herbs
Some plants are sturdier than others. For the novice gardener, knowing the myriad varietals of lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers and their ideal growing conditions is a vital step when starting an edible garden at home.
Wade says radishes not only are very forgiving, but they’re also a great way to get instant gratification once they’re planted in the ground. Within a week’s time, sprouts will emerge from the soil and within a month’s time radishes will be ready for harvest.
Another veggie that Wade recommends is summer squash, including zucchini, sunburst, and crookneck varieties for their durability. They can be planted toward the end of April, once the danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature warms up.
“I like summer squash for new gardeners because they produce a lot of food and they grow very quickly as well,” Wade says. “They take longer than radishes, but they produce a lot of food. So it’s a good way to grow a lot of things you can eat with just one or two plants, and they’re pretty hearty as well.”
Summer squash gets its name because you can grow it over the summer period. In warmer climates, squash is grown in multiple successions, meaning that it’s planted both in April and then again in June.
For many home cooks, adding a bit of finesse to lunch or dinner is easily solved by mincing a few fresh herbs and adding them to any dish. Wade says it’s basil season, and basil is a great herb to plant in the garden or even in a small container that’s easily accessible. She also suggests any of the Mediterranean herbs such as oregano and thyme or perennial herbs such as rosemary will all do well in the Sacramento heat.
“People tend to have difficulties with herbs like cilantro in the summertime because it has a hard time with warmer weather. It likes to go to flower quickly,” Wade says. “So I really encourage people to do basil in the summertime. You can certainly grow cilantro, dill, and parsley, but they are going to be encouraged to go to flower.”
Wade also says she doesn’t want to discourage new gardeners from planting these fragrant herbs, but to keep in mind that they naturally flower in the heat. While they still will add pep to summer dishes, it won’t be for very long.
Planting for the season
Have you ever tried to grow lettuce in the spring or summertime, only to have it wilt or look yellow and stressed? Wade says these occurrences are common when certain varietals of lettuce are planted that simply cave under the glaring heat. When selecting seeds for an edible garden, research what seasonal conditions each variety thrives in to alleviate stress on the plants and the gardener.
“Taking into consideration how hot it gets, you have a really hard time growing things like kale in the middle of the summer,” Wade says. “Lettuce also is an example of something that you can really grow year round, but you want to make sure you’re growing a heat-tolerant variety in the summer.”
Wade suggest that the UC Master Gardener Program is a good resource that caters directly to the Sacramento region. She also suggests looking at seed catalogues online to discover an abundance of varieties and their best growing conditions.
Instead of harmful pesticides, there are natural ways to deter destructive insects while at the same time inviting helpful pollinators and bugs to the party. Wade also recommends planting native plants such as California poppy, milkweed, and yarrow in between budding vegetable plants for their medicinal qualities, and milkweed in particular attracts monarch butterflies.
“What flowers do is attract a variety of insects that will both eat some of the insects that are eating your plants and pollinate some of your plants that you’re hoping to get vegetables out of,” Wade says. “If it’s something that has a flower [creating a fruit, like a squash or tomato], you need a pollinator. So planting flowers around vegetables is always a good method.”
Native flowers sprinkled throughout a garden bed also tend to be better with drought conditions and buzzing bees can’t help but pay them a nice visit.
UC Davis Master Gardener Information
Free 2018 seed catalogue
Upcoming Classes and Events at Soil Born Farms’ American River Ranch
2140 Chase Dr., Rancho Cordova • 916-363-9685 • Soilborn.org
Spring Gardening Clinic and Plant Sale
April 7, 2018 at 9 a.m.
Homegrown Herbalism Course with Daylin Wade
April 11, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.
Preparing a Summer Garden
April 21, 2018 1 p.m.
Steph Rodriguez is an award-winning freelance journalist who keeps a close eye on the food and music scene in Sacramento. With more than 10 years’ experience as a writer, she crafts stories that mirror the vast and diverse culture of the region. From entertainment and lifestyle features, to profiles with a farm-to-fork interest, she aims to capture the simplicity of Sacramento peppered with delicious moments.