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Just a couple of days ago I was contacted by a writer working for The Associated Press.

She was working on an article about vegetable gardening and she needed some quotes about what I thought were the most common mistakes made by beginning vegetable gardeners.

That was a pretty easy question. A lot easier than many I’ve had in the past; like “what is the best home grown tomato”, “which plants are poisonous” or my favorite “how should a gardener eradicate bunny rabbits once and for all”. There’s no right answer to any of those questions. Even if there was, there’s no way to avoid a basket full of hate mail with any answer I might give. With questions like these, my cell phone connection immediately gets a little fuzzy. “Your breaking up on me; can you hear me?; I can’t hear you, can you hear me?” It usually works.

I steer clear of those questions, but this was an easy one: “What are the most common mistakes made by beginning vegetable gardeners?” That’s simple. I could rattle off those mistakes, no problem – and I did.

Problem is I got one “mistake” wrong and it’s been bugging me ever since. So, at least for the residents of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, I’m going to clean up that mistake right now.

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There ARE vegetables that can be grown in shade, at least a modest amount of shade. It is true that vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, squash and melons need a lot of sunlight. But those gardeners who toil in shade are not doomed to a life without homegrown vegetables.

If you have bright shade or only a half day of sunlight here are ten vegetables to consider. By coincidence, all but the last of these are winter growers, perfect for planting right now.

  • Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, romaine, endive, arugula, cress, and radicchio
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Peas
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard, spinach and kale
  • Beans

Generally, a good rule of thumb is that plants grown for their fruit need full sun. But if you grow it for the leaves, stems, or maybe even the buds, a little shade will do just fine. Of course, no vegetable will grow in full shade.

The best part of growing these plants is that you'll be able to squeeze more produce into a limited space. Suppose, like most home gardeners, you've got sunny areas and shady areas. Use the sunny areas for those vegetables that demand nothing less. But tuck beets, Swiss chard or romaine into the shadier parts of the garden. Plant lettuce and radishes in a window box. With a little occasional untangling, peas and beans can even be grown in a hanging basket near the kitchen window, even with a roof overhang.

By being creative and taking advantage of the shady spots in your garden you may be able to double the amount of vegetables you can grow.

And when you read a quote from Ron Vanderhoff in another newspaper and it says that vegetables can’t be grown in the shade, that’s not entirely true. We had a bad connection at the time, and I think the writer must have mis-heard what I said.

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Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens , Corona del Mar.

Questions from Readers November 15.

Question:My 25 ft., 7 year old Strawberry Tree has developed deep cracks (up to 1.5 inches deep and 12-15" long) in the lower trunk and branches. What is the cause? I’m on Balboa Island, near the beach front. Laurie Newport Beach

Answer:There is a reasonably good chance that your Strawberry Tree (Arbutus) may be infected with a bark canker. These bacterial diseases are characterized by deep cracks that appear vertically on the bark, first at the trunk, but later moving up into the lower branches. Once infected, canker diseases cannot be removed from a plant, but a tree like your may live for many more years, even with the canker. Nonetheless, this tree could become a hazard if a large portion were to break away. With an issue like this I would suggest calling a consulting arborist, who could make a more accurate diagnosis and provide more specific advice.

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