Alameda Backyard Growers

“Hey — how are your tomatoes doing this year?” Alamedans have probably used this question as a late-summer greeting since the advent of kitchen gardens in the 1870s. With 2018’s never-ending gloom in mind, Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) decided to survey gardeners around town about 2019’s backyard crops. Survey participants represented Central Alameda, the Bronze Coast, Bay Farm and the East End. Gretchen Doering, Seed-to-Table Director for Italo’s Garden at the Alameda Boys & Girls Club (ABGC) answered for the West End.

It’s August. The weather is warm and the kids are playing in the pool. So that makes this the perfect time to think about the fall garden, right? Right! In order to take advantage of the long growing season in Alameda, this is the time to plant seeds either directly in the garden or in flats for September transplant to ensure harvests late into the fall.

Because Alameda has a summer-dry climate, the vast majority of plants grown here need extra water during the non-rainy months in order to survive. Even drought-tolerant plants like succulents likely need irrigation for their first summer or two. But when, how, how much and how often to water? Different plants have different needs, but there are some common rules. 

Should developers be required to provide space and other necessities for community gardens in new projects? That is a question for cities to consider as neighborhoods of single-family residences give way to multi-family housing.  

Since the growing season in Alameda is 365 days long, it is possible to grow something tasty during every season of the year. Although most Alamedans have small spaces in which to cultivate, practicing succession planting (replacing harvested crops with a new edible) and interplanting (growing compatible plants together) takes advantage of the Island City’s frost-free winters to maximize use of the growing area available. 

Regular applications of compost and organic fertilizer will keep a small yard working hard to produce delicious food.

Many people don’t think too often about the dirt beneath their feet, but the dirt that covers most of the Earth’s dry land makes growing things possible. For those of us who want to have healthy and happy gardens, the composition of that dirt — usually called “soil,” in this context — is vitally important. 

Gleaning — an ancient practice that goes back to Biblical times — is not scavenging (to search for things that others have discarded), nor is it foraging (gathering foodstuffs from the wild). It is, in essence, gathering food that has been overlooked. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines gleaning as “the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state or county fairs or any other sources in order to provide it to those in need.”


Project Tree’s first Tree Care Workshop on Jan. 26 was quite the success. The Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) reported 32 attendees received 28 coupons to purchase trees at local nurseries (one to a household). The coupons were underwritten by a donation from the Alameda Sun.

ABG volunteers helped guide gardeners with a wide range of gardening know-how, from beginners to seasoned professionals. The group hosted a lively discussion on the variety of factors that come into play when trying to choose and plant the right tree in the right spot in one’s yard.

Artificial lawns — usually installed to save water and reduce yard maintenance — are popping up all across Alameda. Unfortunately, there are many serious environmental drawbacks to artificial turf, and they are not a good solution for Alameda.


Project Tree was created in 2016 when the publishers of the Alameda Sun, alarmed at the decline of Alameda’s urban canopy post-drought, offered Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) $1,000 to buy and plant some trees. A fledgling program was designed to purchase and plant fruit and shade trees in private yards around town. Project Tree Phase 1 eventually proved itself a success by putting 34 new trees in Alameda soil.