How to grow veggies at home — all you need are seeds, soil, sunlight, and patience

Planting seeds or seedlings is always a hopeful endeavor. Evan Kleiman encourages us to try to grow veggies no matter where we live. Of course we can buy vegetables at the grocery store or at a farmers’ market, but gardening is about more than the end game. 

The process is about slowing down and paying attention to something outside ourselves. It also gets us outside. 

Kleiman thinks that gardening feels a lot like cooking. You mix soil with compost or fertilizer and put it in pots, then add the main ingredient, the plant. Right now in Southern California, we can plant all types of lettuces and greens, brassicas and herbs, peas and flowers. Don’t forget the flowers!

Starting from seed requires even more attention and patience, so using seedlings when you’re a beginner gardener makes sense. You need pots to start. They can be of any material, but they need drainage. If they don’t come with a hole in the bottom, you have to make one that’s at least one half inch in diameter. 

Pots can be of any material, but they need drainage at the bottom. Photo by Evan Kleiman. 

Seed catalogues. Photo by Evan Kleiman. 

You can’t use any old dirt in a container. You need lightweight, free draining soil with organic matter to feed the plants. Look for organic potting soil at local nurseries. 

As for the plants, look for stocky strong plants. Don’t buy leggy tall plants that have been in their small containers too long. Lettuces only need pots that are 8” deep. Tomatoes and peppers need containers that are 15” deep and at least 12’’ across. When you plant a seedling, you’re saving the two to three months it would take for a seed to get to that level of maturity. Cooler weather seedlings we start now will yield harvests one to two months later. 

One of Kleiman’s favorite places to buy healthy seedlings is Logan’s Gardens, which was started by Logan Williams and his father Jimmy. It may be the only Black-owned nursery in Southern California. Their work is legendary. You can find Williams and his seedlings on Wednesday at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market and on Sunday at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. He also can help you create your garden and maintain it.  

Logan Williams and his seedlings are at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market every Wednesday and the Hollywood Farmers’ Market every Sunday.  Photo by Logan Williams of Logan’s Gardens. 

A good guide to what we can plant when in Southern California is the Santa Monica College Digital Gardener’s Southern California Vegetable Planting Schedule.