How to Garden: Growing Groceries

Marin Magazine, Garden, Gardening, Tokyo Market Turnips

Even with Marin’s bountiful farmers’ markets, healthy groceries and delivered local produce, it’s great to grow some food at home. The good news? Almost anyone can grow good eats, whether you have a small balcony or rolling acres. And by planting produce you save money, conserve energy resources, reconnect with the earth and help teach the younger generation where food actually comes from. Here are tips to consider before sowing the first seed or digging the first hole.

1. Follow the Light

Find your sunniest spot (at least four to six hours of direct sun) and start your edible garden there.

2. Elevate

If your soil is unhealthy, rocky or packed with clay or your only available space is concrete, consider building or buying raised beds so you can control the soil mix. Good bed materials are cedar, redwood, small boulders or brick.

3. Think Small

If you are new to this, start with one raised bed or a few containers to test your green-thumb skills.

4. Soil Alert

Always use compost-rich organic soil for plant health and vigor. For convenience, consider bagged organic soil formulated for growing veggies.

5. Seed Money

While it’s tempting to buy nursery seedlings in six-packs, consider using seeds — some seeds are easier (and cheaper) to grow. Also, seeds allow variety and let you test out less conventional or heirloom options.

6. Easy Peasy

Now that you’ve created the most ideal environment, try growing these top edibles: peas, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, strawberries, parsley, oregano and thyme.

Know Your H20

For a few pots, hand-watering might be OK, but for larger vegetable plots install drip irrigation on a timer to guarantee consistent hydration.

Free and Clear

Commit to growing organically — without chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. It’s healthier for you and for the environment.

Marin Magazine, Emily Murphy
Emily Murphy


“No matter what you grow, begin your garden with plants you love and try a handful to start,” recommends Emily Murphy, a Mill Valley–based organic gardener and photographer, creator of the blog Pass The Pistil and author of Grow What You Love.

Murphy’s current obsession is Tokyo Market turnips because they are uncommon, quick to germinate, and have a short growing season so you can harvest and enjoy them in no time.

Also, “midsummer is the perfect time to sow carrots,” she says, “because they prefer warm soil for optimal germination and then they sweeten up as the months move into fall.

Plan to harvest carrots after the first fall frost for that perfect carrot taste.”

Kier Holmes

Kier Holmes; Writer, Photographer

Kier Holmes is a native, Marin-based landscape designer who works at M2 Design and Construction, for over 15 years, has artfully designed and created sustainable gardens that are dynamic year round. She also writes for Gardenista, is an elementary school garden educator, a garden speaker for adults and leader of the Garden Club for kids at the Mill Valley Library. Holmes readily admits that she is a nerd about all things plant related, and can geek out on a dinner-plate dahlia like nobody’s business. Her natural habitat is among flowers and her hands are almost always dirty.