Gardening Tips

Here are some on-line gardening sheets and links to great gardening resources. Common Ground gives classes on many gardening topics, see our Upcoming Classes! Also, don’t miss our Planting Calendar!

Why Double Dig? What is Grow Biointensive

Double-digging is the process of fully digging up the top layer of a garden bed, removing that layer, loosening the layer beneath, and then returning the top layer. This method, especially effective in heavy clay like that found on the Midpeninsula, gives roots more room to grow and breathe, and hence produces healthier, more vigorous plants. It is one of the techniques employed in the “GROW BIOINTENSIVE” method that has been developed by Ecology Action.

Ecology Action and Bountiful Gardens both give an overview of why double digging is good for your garden, as well as an overview of the “GROW BIOINTENSIVE” method, which emphasizes:

  • double-dug, raised beds
  • intensive planting
  • composting
  • companion planting
  • carbon farming (compost crops, green manure)
  • using open-pollinated seeds
  • a whole-systems approach to gardening and mini-farming

John Jeavons’ book, “How to Grow More Vegetables (than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine)” is the bible on the “GROW BIOINTENSIVE”” method. It is available at the store.

When and What to Plant

Our Planting Calendar shows you when to start seeds, transplant, and what can be direct seeded.

Open-Pollinated Seeds: What are they? Why use them?

  • Bountiful Gardens has thorough descriptions of the veggies, flowers, and cover crops grown from its open-pollinated seeds, and expected yields.
  • Seeds of Change has good pictures and descriptions of its veggie, flower, and cover crop seeds. All are oranic and open-pollinated, and we carry many of them.
  • Mountain Valley Growers has great descriptions of their herbs, many of which we carry. Soil Preparation and Composting
  • Our revised Organic Fertilizer Program tells you how much compost, alfalfa meal, phosphate, kelp meal, and other organic fertilizers to apply. All of these are available in bulk from the store.
  • Select from information handouts on soil amendments for general vegetable gardens, soil amendments for roses, recipes for composting, growing garlic, growing potatos, and growing blueberries.
  • The City of Palo Alto gives composting workshops, discount bins (after taking class), and free city compost.
  • The County of Santa Clara has workshops, a master composting program, and bins.
  • The County of San Mateo has a master composting program, workshops, discount bins, free compost give-away, and good how-to info on-line.
  • Worm castings are full of enzymes to help your plants absorb nutrients and minerals. Purchase red wiggler worms and a worm composting bin at Common Ground to make your own castings or purchase bags of Vierra Worm Farm castings.

Compost Crops

  • Bountiful Gardens has an overview of Compost Crops, as well as descriptions of many of the more common ones, which they sell and we sell in the store.
  • Our Cover Crop Information sheet tells you what crops, and when, where, and how much to plant.

Where to Plant (and Community Garden Listing)

Most vegetables like at least six hours of sun per day. Observe any space you may have and see that it gets that light, during the season you wish to grow.

Note that the angle of the sun changes during the year, and what may be in the sun during the winter can be shaded by trees in summer! If you don’t have a space that is suitable, consider planting in containers (we give classes on this!), or joining a community garden.

Palo Alto Community Gardens

Contact: Virginia Gibbons
(650) 463-4907

Four beautiful organic gardens comprising over 60,000 square feet. Check it out!

Mountain View Community Gardens

There are two city-run community gardens in Mountain View, one at the Senior Center (for seniors only), and also the Willowgate Community Garden on Andsbury Avenue. Both gardens have long waiting lists, but to get on the list, go to the Senior Center at 266 Escuela Avenue.

Midtown Community Garden by Acterra

The non-profit organization Acterra runs this local community garden, located near Middlefield and Colorado in Palo Alto. They host workshops and events for schools, youth groups, and adults. Email:

San Carlos Community Garden

The Senior Center Garden is on the Senior Center property at 601 Chestnut Street. The vegetables and herbs grown in it are used in the weekly Lunch Program for healthy, nutritious meals. We have 5 raised beds and a small compost bin. We have weekly volunteer waterers and a volunteer composter. The crop planting and the harvesting are also done by volunteers. Currently growing are lettuce,  tomatoes, green beans, onions, herbs, sunflowers, cucumbers, and more. You are welcome to visit our outdoor patio gardens, look at our Garden Binder that lists what we have been planting, harvesting, and when. If you would like to volunteer to water the garden, to be on the Garden Committee, or would like to attend our monthly informational Garden Talks, please call.

Contact: Hannah Linebarger, Recreation Supervisor (650) 802-4114.

San Jose Community Gardens


Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative

P.O. Box 2164

Berkeley, CA 94702


Supports community gardens throughout Berkeley.

Further Advice and Exploring

  • Canopy Trees for Palo Alto is a non-profit advocate for Palo Alto’s trees that works to educate, inspire and engage Palo Altans as stewards of new and existing trees.
  • The mission of the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County is to develop, adapt and extend research-based horticultural information and educational programs to the residents of Santa Clara County.
  • The Bay Area Gardener is a terrific online resource for local gardeners.
  • ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has great resources online (ATTRA is an acronym for Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas).
  • UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Divison has an awesome, searchable, on-line collection of free articles on just about every horticultural item we grow in California. Not all organic, but a place to
  • start!
  • Rodale’s Organic Gardening Magazine has an on-line version.
  • The GardenWeb Forums are a great place to find out just about everything about gardening. There are special forums for organic and California gardeners.
  • The Green Gardener is a great online gardening column. Bookmark this as a favorite!
  • Gardening classes at The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz are open to the public.