There are vegetable gardens, and then there are vegetable gardens in San Francisco.
Sure, you can garden year-round, because below-freezing is basically unheard of. But that assumes you have any idea what to plant. Or when. Or if you have a plan for watering in a perpetually drought-stricken state. Or if your neighborhood (yes, your neighborhood) gets sun regularly.
I’m wrapping up my first season of gardening right now, and not writing about this experience sooner was a mistake for a lot of reasons. Namely:
- I really need to keep track of what I’m doing if I have any hope of improving next year.
- I’ve looked for an excuse to blog about anything except what I ate for breakfast for years. Gardening and plants seems like it miiiiight finally be the right answer.
- There are almost zero resources for gardening in San Francisco.
The first two reasons are pretty selfish, but that third one is the kicker.
When I moved to San Francisco for love (yep) last August, I made my partner promise I could put a garden in the back yard (please note: my move also had a cheese contingency*). However, between moving across the country, starting new jobs twice, and figuring out what in the world the weather is here, it took me almost a year before I was ready to garden. But when I went to figure out what vegetables to plant last July…oh dear.
I knew San Francisco has microclimates. It’s the reality of living with water on three sides plus some mountains and some mountain-like hills. What I didn’t realize was how much that would impact my planting options. I’m from Kansas City, which is a solid zone 6b. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a…well it’s a 10b. But. The southern end of my neighborhood is foggy more often than not. So forget tomatoes. Or peppers. Or okra. My coworker lives on the northern end of my district though, on a hill, and she gets bright sunshine every afternoon. The Outer Sunset is a windy, cloudy mess almost all the time. The Mission is sunny and warm nearly every day. Hop a ferry across the Bay to Oakland, and you’re sweltering. And so on and so on.
In the midst of trying to relearn everything grade school science class taught me about weather, I learned that almost no resources exist that explain how in the world to garden in a 7×7 mile city where nearly every neighborhood has a completely different climate. The only exception to this is Pam Pierce’s Golden Gate Gardening, which is an actual godsend.
So, as Pam has bestowed knowledge on me, I figure I better pay it forward and lay the path for the next backyard gardener trying to figure vegetables out in the Excelsior District / Outer Mission Neighborhood.
And here we are. I can’t promise much, but I’ll keep some notes about my backyard garden (and maybe my indoor houseplant jungle as well…at last count I was just under 50 indoor plants, oops). And maybe someday, some other Midwest-transplant blogger gardener will appreciate it. I hope.
* Did you know that while most things in San Francisco cost roughly 25–40% more (let’s not talk about housing, which is 303% more expensive as of this writing), I read a statistic shortly before moving that said cheese is 60% more expensive. SIXTY PERCENT. A girl cannot live on not-cheese alone. So I made my partner promise to keep our home rich in cheese. So far, so good.