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Our recent 1″ rain in Santa Barbara was just a kiss! We aren’t out of the drought by a long shot, so keep clear about how you do your planting.

Efficiency Planting Kadazan Girls
Kebun Malay-Kadazan girls plants a fine garden! Peas growing vertically behind 3 cauliflower plants. Growing in front of cauliflowers are leeks, carrots, corianders (cilantro), lettuces and 2 poppy plants. Companion planting rules, good job! Interplanting confuses pests!

In my many meanderings I one time read that small area gardeners are far more efficient than commercial farms. Here’s how we do it! First, we don’t need extra space for maintenance and harvesting machinery. We can use that space for perennial herbs that deliciously spice our foods and repel bothersome insects, and grow lovely flowers that fill our hearts with their beauty. Some flowers are edible, feed the bees and attract beneficial insects! Total winners!

Plant more than one crop together, right?! Water one, water all!

  • On the summer trellis put cucumbers below, beans above. In the winter put beets, carrots or lettuces below, peas above.
  • Tuck small variety cabbages like Baby Cabbage Pixie or Red Express on the sunny side under taller variety broccoli. Snip off lower branches once the brocs have enough size. Or plant cabbies around the base of your pom pom top curly leaf kales once the bottom leaves are harvested.
  • Cilantro and Brassicas are very happy together.
  • Tuck table/bunch onions in between everywhere except by peas. Keep them AWAY from the peas. And that means all onions/chives/garlic.

Plant cleverly and timely!  Put radish and carrots together. One’s up quick the other keeps growing more slowly, down.

Instead of planting low return space eater crops, put in year ’round continuous producers! 

  • Instead of that huge 7′ footprint artichoke for a few fruits a year, pop in some broccoli like All Season F1 that makes those nice 3″ side shoots all year long once the main head is taken. Marvelous nutrition.
  • Instead of corn that produces only 1, or 2, maybe 3 ears if you are lucky, plant a patch of forever feast low calorie massive Fordhook Giant chard. Amazing plant feeds an army. If you don’t need that much chard, plant gourmet ruby chard Scarlet Charlotte or brilliant yellow Pot of Gold! If a lot of chard suits you, plant them all! At home you can plant these among your ornamentals for bright winter color beauty!
Smaller yet quite productive varieties! These are better for when you like a veggie but don’t need that much. Look about for dwarf, patio, container varieties that use less water and are happy to nestle in among their neighbors. Improved Dwarf Siberian Kale is a good bet. It’s more open leaves make it less susceptible to mildew, and it’s easier to hose off aphids too! If you love cabbage, try some of those cute Red Express or Pixie Baby! They come in sooner, plant often for a steady fresh supply.

Plant two for ones!

  • Beets! Use the leaves in salads, steamed, in stews. Wiki says beets can be cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad. Pickled (probiotic) beets are a traditional food of the American South, and are often served on a hamburger in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Don’t forget Borscht! Plant the traditional deep reds, goldens, or those stripy pink and whites!
  • Carrots too! Steam or eat the greens in salads, eat the roots as you please! Try those spicy sweet heirloom Cosmic Purple carrots with bright orange inside! Or Purple Carrots F1, purple all the way through! If you want them faster, Thumbelinas are quick growers! If you like surprises, plant Renee’s Circus Circus variety pack!

And, naturally, look for those amazing Drought Tolerant varieties, and in summer, Heat Tolerant varieties!

Plant smart, save water!

STRAWBERRIES, LOTS OF STRAWBERRIES!
Plant in overhead rain gutters with food and fertilizer drips installed, and pluck your berries right from the sky!

Strawberry lovers have their tastes. Some love those potent little Alpine babies. Others of us love those big fat juice-down-your-jaw types that you eat when you pick. Then there are ones who want their firm non messy berries that store a bit better.

Strawberry Types

  • June Bearers, Camarosa, Chandler (high yield, large fruit), Oso Grande, Sweet Charlie, produce lots of runners, so rows quickly become a tangle of plants. The constant new growth and work of production requires regular fertilizer, typically a light feed of liquid fish/kelp every two weeks or so. They produce intensely in or around June and that’s it. For some gardeners that’s just right.
  • Day Neutral Albion (high yield, large firm fruit, resistant to verticillium wilt) and Seascape produce small crops of berries in cycles all season long. They don’t send out as many runners as June-bearers.
  • EverBearers Sequoia, large fruit, produces from spring to fall, whenever the weather is right. Everbearers have fewer runners than June bearers.

Timing

Timing is essential to a productive strawberry crop. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries even more than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, or know that you are experimenting! Plant when your local farmers do! In Santa Barbara CA area, plant your bareroot Albion Strawberries NOW NOV 1 to 5 (get at Island Seed & Feed)! Yes, the Santa Barbara dates are that specific! OR plant bareroot Sequoias December through February. In January you can get healthy bareroot Sequoias at La Sumida Nursery.

In areas with cold winters, plant your strawberries early spring as soon as all danger of frost has passed and the ground is dry enough to work. If you squish soil in your fist, it doesn’t drip.

In mild winter areas, plant your everbearers in spring so that you can harvest during summer. June-bearing varieties, however, can be planted in late summer or fall for a harvest the following spring. Planting June-bearing strawberries at this time allows them to become productive earlier. If you plant June bearers in spring, they will not start to grow fruit until the next year.

Planting Tips

Yes, you can plant from seed! Start them in containers indoors about eight weeks before you plan to transplant the strawberries to the garden.They love sun, and rich, moist, well-draining soil. Be careful about the ‘rich’ part. Too rich and you will get all leaf, no berries. Dig the patch deep enough that the roots can go as deep as they want. Bareroot plants start at 5 to 6″ when planted! In nature strawberries grow along the woodland edge in slightly acidic soil. You can make them optimally happy by incorporating some pine needles, stomped cone broken bits or a bagged acidic compost mix into your soil. Both of those will add water holding capacity but not water log your plants.

There are variations of recommendations for planting spacing.  14 to 18 inches apart in rows 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart, OR 18-24 inches apart in rows 3 1/2 feet apart, are two examples.Get bareroot plants in the ground the day you get them if possible. DO NOT LET BareROOTS DRY OUT. If you can’t set them at once, small lots can be kept in good condition in the fridgie. Keep them moist but not waterlogged. To wake them up before planting you can soak the roots 20 mins to a couple hours (not overnight!) in warm water or a diluted seaweed solution. Just the roots, don’t immerse the whole plant.

Plant depth and root position are important. You want the crown just above the soil, roots completely covered, stems should be completely exposed. Spread the roots open like a little fan; get them down in the soil, let those little food seekers do their job! Some of your bareroots come with long roots, cut them off about 5 - 6″ long. Remove damaged or bent roots. Dig your planting hole accordingly. Dig down, make a little soil cone at the bottom, spread the roots over it, bury with soil. You don’t want the roots to be bent and remain near the surface where they can dry out.
Strawberry Planting Depth, Roots
Care

Mulch, when or not? If you live where there are cold snaps, in winter do a deep straw mulch to keep the soil at an even temp. Otherwise, remove mulch so the ground will be warmer. Definitely pull it off into an aisle in spring; make compost in place! Mulch does conserve moisture in summer, keeps your berries up off the ground, reducing rot, yes. But it also keeps soil cooler delaying flowering. It certainly doesn’t prevent slugs like many sites say it will. I am merciless with slugs. I use a tad of Sluggo type stuff two or three times, killing off the generations of slugs, and am pest free for almost the rest of the season. If they reappear, do another round. If you don’t mind that cooler soil, plant just close enough, mature plants act as living mulch shading the soil and preventing moisture loss. Save your back, save the straw.

No overhead watering. That spreads the Strawberry Spot disease, those little brown spots. Some say it is only cosmetic, but no, plants that have it don’t thrive, get more and more of it, eventually die. Leaf to leaf it spreads plant to plant. Remove/replace sick plants. Plant a little further apart. Be sure your soil is a little acidic.

Weeding is good. Be sure it is your strawberries that are getting the nutrients.

Treat your berries well and they will give you 2 to 3 years of production!

Eat ‘em ASAP!!! On average, studies show 2 days as the maximal time for strawberry storage without major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. However, many strawberries never make it to the kitchen. A cup of fresh berries gives 112% of your Vitamin C needs! Not bad. If they are not eaten blissfully immediately, preserve flavor and shelf life by picking into a shallow, paper towel lined container, no more than three or four layers of berries deep. Refrigerate immediately after picking. If you can bear it, give some away to a worthy recipient.

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Artichoke Pups Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden October 2014
Artichoke Pups! Love your Mother! Plant winter bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

Late August plantings are bringing the first fall/winter harvests of broccoli and cauliflowers now! But some of us waited for cooler weather, waited out the Bagrada bugs, and didn’t plant our Brassicas until mid October. By all means, you can plant now, and a second or third round for you who planted earlier or to replace plants that didn’t make it. Try purple or orange cauliflowers. I got some of those Sicilian Violets! Plant Brassicas ~ kales, collards, turnips, mustard greens, mizuna, kohlrabi, spinach. This year I am trying some smaller varieties of cabbages, Red Express, rich in lycopene and anthocyanins, and Baby Pixie, a mini white! I just can’t eat the giant heads quickly enough, and sometimes I’m lazy about doing probiotic processing. If you are in the foothills that get a good chill, do some flavorful Brussel sprouts!

Cilantro loves cool weather and is said to repel aphids on Coles/Brassicas – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts! And, cilantro is said to make them grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!

Transplants or Seeds! Definitely time to plant more lettuces, arugula, peas, parsley, chard, beets! Celery thrives in cool weather and makes pups. Speaking of pups, divide your artichokes and give the new babies room to grow big too and make pups of their own or give them to friends! Remember, they have a huge 6′ footprint when they thrive and are at full maturity. Plant bareroot artichoke now or in Feb, or in March from pony packs. Grow regular radish, and those cool season long icicle radishes and the larger daikons. Carrots enhance the growth of peas; onions stunt peas! Plant the Allium family, onions, leeks, chives, at least 3′ away from your peas. Further is better.

GARLIC!  Oh, yes, all kinds of that fine stinky stuff! Plant rounds of your fattest garlic cloves now through Dec 21, Winter Solstice, for June/July harvests! If one batch doesn’t succeed, another will! Garlic likes chill too, so we don’t get the big cloves like up in Gilroy, the Garlic Capital, Ca. If you don’t mind smaller bulbs, plant away. See a LOT about GARLIC!

Strawberry choices! In Santa Barbara area, plant your bareroot Albion strawberries NOW (Island Seed & Feed)!  NOV 1 to 5  Yes, the Santa Barbara dates are that specific! June bearers are Chandlers. Everbearers are Sequoias. OR plant bareroot Sequoias in January (La Sumida). Albions are a very firm berry. Both Albions and Sequoias are a large berry. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries even more so than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, farmers grow, or experiment!

1st Half of Nov: Plant seeds of globe onions for slicing. Grano, Granex, Crystal Wax.

When planting transplants be sure to sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi directly on their roots, pat it on gently so it stays there. Direct contact is needed. This is good practice for all but Brassicas that don’t mingle with the fungi at all! Also, peas may have low need for it since they gather their own Nitrogen from the air and deposit it in little nodules that form on their roots.

Throw a handful of nonfat powdered milk, helps the immune system of your plant, in the planting holes of your big Brassicas, for immediate uptake, and bone meal in for later uptake when your plant is close to blooming. Add worm castings for plant growth hormones, immune boost! Don’t need a lot, they are potent.

It is great to RESTORE OR REST an area. Decide where you will plant your tomatoes, heavy feeders, next summer and plant your Green Manure there! Plant some hefty favas or a vetch mix for green manures to boost soil Nitrogen. The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell beans that feed the soil, and oats that have deep roots to break up the soil. When they start flowering, chop them down into small pieces and turn them under. Wait 2 or more weeks, plant! Favas are big and you get a lot of green manure per square foot. If you change your mind, you can eat them!

Presprout your favas! Presprouting equals 100% germination and mucho time saved since favas have a notoriously low germination rate! It’s a no-brainer since it is so easy to do! Just be gentle when you plant the babies. If fava is too tall and would shade out other plants, the vetch green manure ground cover mix grows shorter. It gets only 4-5′ tall. In Santa Barbara get it bulk at Island Seed & Feed. Be sure to get a packet of inoculant for the beans, peas and vetch.

Or cover an area you won’t be planting with a good 6″ to a foot deep of mulch/straw and simply let the herds of soil organisms do their work over winter. That’s called sheet composting or composting in place – no turning or having to move it when it’s finished. If you are vermicomposting, have worms, add a few handfuls to speed up and enrich the process. Keep it slightly moist. Next spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Be sure your soil is nutritious with excellent water holding capacity, has lots of humus in it. Worm castings are good for humus, and castings suppress several diseases and significantly reduce parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealy bugs and mites. Add safe manures. A mix of manures is quite tasty to your plants and offers a mix of nutrients. Cow manure is better than steer manure. Aged and salt free or very low salt horse manures are best and safe for your plants. Rabbit pellets are safe to use immediately and directly on your soil. Best to dig it into the top 3 to 6 inches so it doesn’t just dry up, off gas the Nitrogen, the very ingredient your plants need for superlative growth. If you have extra, you can top your soil with it, at which point it really becomes a mulch, maybe humus, keeping your soil moist underneath, rather than adding nutrient.

If you planted back in Aug, Sep, it’s time to Sidedress!  That might be cultivating in some yummy compost, well aged manures, bunny poop, and/or worm castings!  This would be especially valuable for crops grown for leaf, like lettuces, chard and kales, and celery that are in constant high production. Go gently with your carrots. In over rich soil they fork and get hairy!

Water  Keep your lettuces well watered for fast sweet growth. Go gently with chards and kales. Too much water softens them making them more susceptible to leaf miners and aphids. Not too much water for carrots either, or growth is too fast and they split, opening them to drying that makes them tough, and soil pests and diseases.

Immediately after transplanting, give your babies a boost! Drench young plants with Aspirin Solution, + 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda per gallon/watering can, to get them off to a great start! Do this the same or next day! Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains.

Check that your bioswales, drainage, Hugelkultur, terraces, are holding well, and clear your pathways. Keep your basins and perimeters of your beds in good condition to keep water where it is needed and water there only. At home, set up grey water and water capture systems. Lay down seedless straw, a board, or stepping stones so your footwear doesn’t get muddy. We will continue to pray for rain!

This year there is added incentive to cultivate, scratch up the ground 2 to 3″ deep, remove soil eating weeds. Not only does cultivating turn the soil to expose the Verticillium and Fusarium Wilts fungi that so affects our tomatoes and other plants, but it exposes those Bagrada bug eggs! We want them and the fungi to dry and die! While you are weeding, replace soil where beet or carrot tops have become exposed.

Gather sheets, light blankets, old towels, in case of hard freezes. If a freeze should happen, for small plants, like tender lettuces, just lay tomato cages on their sides and put your coverings over them, securing them well so wind doesn’t blow them away and damage your plants.

BEE FOOD! Plant wildflowers from seed for early spring flowers! Germination in cooler weather takes longer, so don’t let the bed dry out. If you are a seed ball person, fling them far and wide, though not on steep slopes where they simply wash away. What is a seed ball?

Winter leaf crop plants are incredibly productive and super nutritious! Cut and Come Again! Kale, cabbages, collards, lettuces. Cut bunch/table onions 1 to 2” above ground. They will come back 3 to 4 times – you will be amazed how fast! After you cut the main broccoli head off, let the side sprouts grow. Snip for salads, light steaming.

Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden.  We are very coastal, in the fog belt/marine layer part of the year, so keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

See the entire November 2014 Newsletter!

Pea Flowers Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA
Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!

Many of us SoCal veggie gardeners have been delayed by Bagrada bugs, so it is definitely planting from transplants time, with a side o seedlings! The lovely gain from that is two successive plantings at once! The transplants have a 6 week head start on the seedlings. There will be two harvests, a third if you plant from transplants again in November!

Lettuces are bounding up! Any non Bagrada fall crops are great to plant now! Beets, chard, peas!

Shape your land! Put in bioswales, drainage, Hugelkultur, terraces, whatever your land calls for or is capable of. Remember, Slow, Spread, Sink your water. Keep that precious resource on your property to water your trees, your garden, improve our water table. Set up grey water and water capture systems. We will pray for rain! If you do raised beds, make your soil Rosina’s way!

Install gopher barrier perimeters or make baskets. Plant happily, sleep fearlessly and peacefully.

Prep your Soil for fat growth!

  • Clear away weeds, debris, spent or unhealthy plants, habitat for overwintering pests/diseases.
  • Most winter plants are heavy feeders. Brocs, caulis, kale, cabbages are big plants making lots of huge leaves! Chard, cabbages and lettuces are nothing but leaves! So now is the time to lay in that compost you have been making, and some worm castings - castings are most effective when a smaller amount is used—just 10-40 percent of the total volume of the plant growth medium that you put it in!  Add some manure to your lettuce, parsley and garlic beds, Brassica areas.
  • Peas and carrots are the exceptions. Peas are legumes and make their own Nitrogen, but sometimes they can do with a tad more if that soil is depleted. Too good a soil makes carrots hairy and they fork. Depending on how you use your carrots, some of us don’t mind those two for one forked carrots! Over watering, irregular watering, however, can make them split and that opens them to diseases.
  • Establish your pathways, put up your trellises or cages for peas.
  • Plant, plant, plant!
It’s Transplant Time!  Put in cabbage and artichokes. Cilantro loves cool weather and is said to repel aphids on Coles/Brassicas – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts!  
  • From Seeds:  MORE arugula, beets, brocs, carrots, celery, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, parsley (keep moist 20 days unless you presoaked your seed), radish. Fall marks the end of the season for small red radishes and the beginning of the season for larger daikon-type radishes.
  • Potatoes?! Oh, yes!  Reds, fingerlings, Yukon Gold – your favorites! 
  • Check those lettuce packets for seed planting depth.  Some you spread on the ground and simply pat in, water very gently. Others go in 1/4″ deep. True. 
  • Did you already plant fall veggies in August, Sept, or both? Excellent! Plant another round!

Trap plants or not?! Trap plants attract Bagrada bugs! If you do decide to plant trap plants, interplant plenty of mustard every couple of weeks. Fast grower Giant Red is a good choice. Plant some among your lettuces to keep them off it. Don’t be surprised to find them on your Arugula too, another Brassica. Or don’t plant Brassicas – that’s all the Coles, broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, nor Mizuna, mustard, radish, arugula or turnips until the weather cools.

Green Manure  Each year choose an area or two to let your soil rest, be restored.  Decide where you will put your tomatoes next summer and plant a patch of favas there! Buy the organic seeds at your natural foods store bulk bins!  Presprout your favas! Presprouting equals 100% germination and mucho time saved since favas have a notoriously low germination rate! It’s a no-brainer since it is so easy to do! Just be gentle when you plant the babies. If fava is too tall and would shade out other plants, put in a vetch green manure ground cover mix. It gets only 4-5′ tall. In Santa Barbara get it bulk at Island Seed & Feed. Be sure to get a packet of inoculant for the beans, peas and vetch.

FIRST GARLIC? Indeed. It’s Vampire Time! Plant late October through Winter Solstice day. That’s at least two rounds, why not make it three?!  See a LOT about GARLIC! for tasty planting information. 

Harvest any lingering seeds.  Special notes about your Winter Squash:  Harvest and Curing - Fruit should be left until the vines are brown and withered, but should be harvested before frost or they will not store well. Optimum is when the stem is drying and the squash is well-matured, the rind hard and not easily broken with the thumbnail. With pruning shears, cut from the vine leaving 2 to 3″ of stem, and cure for 10 days in the field, or indoors in a cool place if frost is likely. Undamaged, they will keep for several months if stored in a cool dry place. Dampness is bad.

Cut your strawberry runners Oct 10 to 15 to put in fridge to chill at least 20 days until you plant them bareroot Nov 1 through 5! 

Those of you with container gardens, dump out that old spent summer soil, pop in some tasty new mix, install a trellis for the peas, anchor that pot! Get going - put in your seeds, baby transplants! You will soon be having holiday table treats, like crisp lettuces, bunch onions, colorful chard, nutritious kale!

Give your babies a boost! Drench young plants with Aspirin Solution, + 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, to get them off to a great start! Do this immediately for transplants!

Winter’s plants are incredibly productive! Cut and Come Again! Kale, collards, lettuces, leaf by leaf. Cut bunch/table onions 1 to 2” above ground. They will come back 3 to 4 times – you will be amazed how fast! After you cut the main broccoli head off, let the side sprouts grow. Snip for salads/steaming.

Enjoy the beautiful fall weather and nutritious feasting!

See the entire October 2014 Newsletter!

Pretty! Make the most of your vertical space! For us veggie gardeners, best plants are dwarf or bush varieties of vegetables and herbs, compact fruits like strawberries, patio/container types or determinate tomatoes! Plants that produce many fruits or flowers per plant are ideal. Little flowers get planted tight and snuggly. Veggies need more room between, access to more soil, to grow bigger and fruit well.

Pallet Garden Flowers
Sam West’s flower Pallet Garden in Sydney Australia

Where will your pallet live? Be sure balconies are safe for the wet weight and your neighbors won’t be bothered by your dripping! If you are a renter be sure it’s allowed, or that your owner association approves. All the better at your small community garden space! Free Standing can go anywhere! Put some feet on it. Make an L shape that supports 2 or more pallets zig zag style.


WHY Pallet Garden?! 

Pros:
Space saver if used vertically, more production per space available
Avoids soil diseases
Schools, apt dwellers with only a balcony, everyday gardeners with limited budgets and/or space can grow pallet gardens!
No expensive lumber costs because pallets are usually free!

On-the-ground version saves water, keeps plants moist, protects roots, holds soil in place.

Cons:
There are start up costs. Sometimes the pallet. Landscaping cloth, staple gun/staples, maybe other tools. The best potting mixes and plants.
Maintenance can be intensive. Watering, replacing soil, feeding dense plantings. Deadheading, clean up, plant replacement to keep it filled and fresh looking.


Flowers or Veggies, vertical pallets need a little organization!

Pallet Garden organization
Joe Lamp’l’s Garden Pallet at Mother Earth Living

Tall plants on top.
Vining types like lemon cucumbers, mini melons, at the bottom! If you aren’t doing veggies, put sprawling crawling creeper ground cover types at the bottom.


Choose it to use it! Upcycle! HT, Heat Treated (not chemical,) pallets are the ones you want.

Pallet Garden Heat Treated HT

Pallets come in different sizes, weights and variable construction! They can be rectangular or square, long and narrow, small or large.

If you get your pallet from a company, ask if it is ok to take it. Some pay a deposit and can only get it back when the pallet is returned. Check out your local recycling center, organic garden supply, Craig’s list.

If you will be growing edibles, fruits, veggies and herbs, be sure your pallet is food friendly. What was it used for? Is it imported? Chemical treatments to avoid bacteria and molds, prevent insects and fungi, aren’t good. Pallets made of wood dust and composite wood block contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Avoid stained pallets. When in doubt, don’t!


Pathways with Purpose! This size, long skinny pallets with wide spacing, are great for pathways with a worm farm underneath! Next season you can plant directly in the space that was previously your walkway or move the rich soil where you want it and do another path where you will plant next! Great for muddy terrain. If deeper mud, just lay pallets on pallets to get the height you want!

Pallet Worm Walkwaiy
Chris Cano’s Worm Walkway in Gainesville FL 


Vertical gives more space! Safe from bunnies but easy munchies for deer! Secure your vertical pallets so a strong wind won’t down them. Add T feet. In the ground use star pickets or strong stakes. Zip tie to your balcony.

Pallet Garden Vertical
bSq Design manages & revitalizes the life cycle of humble pallets!


Successful Pallet Garden Veggie Varieties!

Top 

Determinate Tomatoes: Celebrity, Fresh Salsa, SuperTasty, Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Patio Hybrid and Toy Boy are all great selections!
Peppers: Sweet Heat, Great Stuff, or Baby Belle. Candlelight hot peppers
Eggplant with smaller fruits, Okra
Bush beans or peas
Cabbage
Onions

Middle 

Lettuce mix: Healing Hands, Alfresco, or City Garden Mix. Spinach.
Strawberries
Herbs: Red Rubin or Genovese basil, sage, spearmint, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and cilantro

Bottom

Summer squash: Saffron or Dwarf Summer Crookneck, bush varieties
Cucumbers: Bush Champio, Salad Bush, or Spacemaster
Watermelons: Bush Sugar Baby or Golden Midget. Any mini melons.

And, of course, it can be lovely to mix your favorite veggies, herbs and flowers! Dwarf nasturtiums at the bottom?

A big thank you to Growing a Greener World’s  Joe Lamp’l for a lot of these suggestions!


Herb Garden! Of all the pallet herb gardens I like this one the best. It looks good. It has a dual purpose. Behind it is a bug proof curtained patio sleeping/reading area. Imagine a summer afternoon gentle breeze, the heavenly scents….while you are snoozing. It is conveniently placed right outside the doorway to the kitchen area. It is attractive enough it could be indoors in a well lighted area.

Pallet Garden Herbs DIYShowOff

The tall herbs are to the top. There is a goodly variety of herbs ~ basil, parsley, rosemary, dill, oregano, thyme, peppermint, chocolate mint, spearmint, tarragon, lavender, plus another type of spicy globe basil.  Boards have been removed so they all have room to grow well. The garden has sturdy feet. This page DIYshowOff.com has the tutorial.


The standing, movable A-Frame! Some pallets are smaller, more lightly planted, less heavy, easier to move. Don’t water right before moving!

Pallet Garden A-Frame


The ultimate space saver, the Wall or hang them on your fence! If you are growing veggies, be sure they are conveniently reachable for tending and harvesting! They are great snuggled on the end walls of balconies or against balcony dividers between apartments for more privacy!

Pallet Garden Wall


Let’s Plant These Babies!

Pallet Garden Potting Soil

Get out your gloves! Nail bites and splinters are no fun. Hose down your pallet, maybe give it a scrub, with bleach to kill cooties or if you would like it a bit lighter color. Let it dry. Make any needed repairs, hammer nails down flush. Sandpaper where/if needed.

6 to 8 hours are enough, but veggies do best in full sun! Make your pallet garden very near or at where it will live. They are heavy, especially when laden with wet soil!

Choose your method! There are many online tutorials, so enjoy yourself, gather up ideas from experienced aficionados!

  • Make pockets out of landscape fabric. That leaves space for air flow between rows.
  • Cover the pallet back with single or doubled landscaping fabric or shade cloth. Leave a longer length at the bottom so you can fold it up around the bottom like wrapping a present ~ to keep the soil from falling out the bottom. Staple the fabric to any place it touches wood to keep the soil where you want it. Plant tight to hold the soil in place.
  • Some don’t trust staples and fabric, so nail plywood on the back.
  • If you are planting veggies, you need more space between plants, won’t be planting tight to hold soil. You could use a second pallet for parts, and build wooden pockets that won’t fail and allow air flow! Drill drain holes in the bottom pieces.
  • If you are doing a lay-on-the-ground pallet garden, staple landscape cloth around the sides to hold the soil in. Lay it down, fill it with your soil and plant!

Choose the very best organic potting mix enriched with tasty nutrients and that has good water holding capacity. Super ones oriented to container gardens will do the job!

If you made pockets, stand up your pallet and plant away. Otherwise, the easy way to plant is just lay the pallet on the ground and plant into it as usual. Fill it with premoistened potting soil, install your plants. Starting at the bottom, lift and shake a bit at each layer to settle the soil. Make sure soil is firmly packed as you move up. Fill in spots that settle.

Get out your staple gun again, and staple landscape fabric over the top of the pallet. This lets you fill the pallet completely with soil. It keeps the soil from falling out each time you water, and prevents weeds from growing around the plants in the top section of the pallet garden. Cut X holes where you will plant the top plants and plant them.

If you aren’t using pockets, leave your planted pallet laying on the ground for three or four days. 2 to 3 weeks is much better though, to let the plants get established and hold the soil in place. Depends on you, your plants, your pallet, space available and patience!

Carefully and slowly, gently water so soil doesn’t wash away. Add more soil where there is settling or roots get uncovered.

You can run a drip system through the planter if you like, especially if you planted densely. Water won’t get from the top to the bottom of a densely planted pallet. You can put the drip in at anytime, but it’s easier before you plant. Just drill holes in the side and run your line through side to side. One way or the other, water thoroughly. Check the bottom rows to be sure they are moist.

Water as needed. If you planted densely to prevent soil loss, there are a LOT of thirsty roots all packed together. Water frequently. And all those roots are hungry! Feed them regularly with liquid fertilizer, right? But not so much they grow crazy! You will learn the right amounts for your particular plants, soil and location from experience.


Paint ‘em or stain ‘em! This Pocket Pallet Garden of Strawberries is attractively stained and vertical. It is not needing to be tightly planted because the soil is safely held in the pockets! Each plant has plenty of soil. If you need more plants/berries, bind two pallets back to back, plant both sides, double your production! Place lenthwise north to south so each side gets plenty of sun. Feed lightly about once a week during production.

Pallet Garden stained strawberries vertical


Lay-down pallets! Rather than going vertical, many gardeners lay their pallets right on the ground! Strawberries and lettuce worked best for this gardener! And strawberries and lettuce are great companions! The boards act as mulch, keep the soil moist and protect the roots from losing their surrounding soil. There’s less weeding! When you are done at that location, pick up your pallet, give it a shake and move on! Start again with new vibrant soil! Make a strawberry pallet planter, or chard, or lettuce or mix them all up together! Spring is good to plant your berries, or in SoCal, the first week of November bareroot!

Love carrots?! They are not good in vertical gardens, but great in lay-down versions! Make a frame the size of your pallet, and lay your pallet on top of that! Then your root vegetables will have plenty of space to grow deep.

Pallet Garden Strawberries
Mavis Butterfield loves her pallet gardens and they love her!


Save-your-back raised bed pallet! Ideal for growing gourmet mesclun mixes to mow and munch!

Pallet Garden Raised Bed


Make a statement, tell a story! Leaning learning pallets! This one features bee friendly plants!

Pallet Garden Green Bee Education


Pallet gardens are as beautiful and variable as the creativity of the Gardener! Pallets can be used as privacy walls, to create patio enclosures, as windbreaks, fences, borders, dividers, compost enclosures, garden furniture, a potting bench, tool rack/holder, to build structures like sheds, greenhouses, decks, outdoor rooms! They enhance the art of gardening and can be garden art!

This beautiful pallet garden was at the 2012 Canada Blooms National Home Show!

Pallet Garden BSq Structure Canada Blooms 2012
bSq Design manages & revitalizes the life cycle of humble pallets!

Bagrada Bug Stages

Please reread, scan this, for the many updates I have made. The Bagradas are now here in force, many plants have been swarmed and already lost, including seedling mustard and radishes. YUK and bummer!

California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas gardeners alert!

Per Wikipedia, Bagrada Bugs are native to much of eastern and southern Africa and parts of southern Europe and Asia. They made a sudden appearance in Los Angeles in June, 2008, its first sighting in the Western Hemisphere. It then moved into the cropland of the heavily agricultural Coachella and Imperial Valleys of California, doing damage to cole crops there, especially those grown organically. As of September 2014 it has reached as far north as San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Merced and Inyo counties, and all California counties to the south except Tulare County.

Although spiders and other general predators may feed on the Bagrada bug, it does not have specific natural enemies in the United States. Birds don’t eat these nasty stink bugs.

The only effective substance, so far, that kills them, is one you have to be licensed to use.

Brassicas are their favorite food, and Brassicas, that’s broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kales, Brussels Sprouts, cabbages, are THE SoCal winter garden plant! Late summer they also infested our tomato and pepper plants.

  • Per UC IPM, as an alternative to greenhouses, screened tunnels or floating row cover fabric can provide plant protection in gardens. The mesh of the screening material must be fine enough to exclude the Bagrada bug nymphs and should be elevated so that it does not touch the plants because the bugs can feed through these coverings. The edges of protective covers must also be buried to prevent the bugs from crawling underneath to the plants, and they must be applied before Bagrada bugs get into the crop and soil.
  • What some of the local organic farmers are doing is planting mustards, the Bagrada’s most favorite Brassica, as a trap plant. Giant red mustards give them plenty to munch on. If you find  mustard transplants at your nursery, buy them without delay! TheBagradas prefer them, so they go there rather than your brocs. You can also plant radishes, another Brassica, as a trap plant. Don’t harvest them, just let them grow to full size.Plant your trap plants so they are well up BEFORE you put in your broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale or cabbage.If you are planting from seed, immediately securely cover with a floating row cover or the babies will be eaten. Recent seed plantings of giant red mustard and radish have literally been mowed by the bugs. If you can find transplants, get them and do the same, cover immediately with a floating row cover. Once the cover is off, keep a dedicated sunny midday watch and remove any Bagradas. You may save your transplants and your other plants. Or, grow transplants at/in home, away from the pest, then keep a keen watch when you plant them out.

    If you are a mustard greens or radish eater, you must plant enough as trap plants plus what you hope for to eat. I highly recommend you plant them in various areas well separated from each other. At the community garden I see patches that have been infested, mowed, and areas that haven’t been touched at all. Hope that’s just not a matter of time until they get those next.

  • The big CON of trap plants is they BRING Bagradas! The other alternative is to remove any Cruciferous plants, like mustard types, radish, all Brassicas, until the weather cools. Then, plant whatever you want!
  • Mind you, you still have to REMOVE BAGRADAS by whatever means you prefer, or the brocs are next. Bagradas not only move FAST, but are fast growers andreproducers. They make virtual swarms, and when they suck juices from your plant toxicdisease producing stuff gets in your plant. In hot temps, I’ve seen a 1 1/2 foot tall plant go down in 1 to 3 days. White patches start on the leaves, they wilt and the plant dies.PLEASE Remove infested or diseased leaves immediately.  Hold a large bucket lined with a plastic or tightly closeable bag underneath the area you are going to clip. Bagradas instantly drop to the ground the moment you disturb the plant. So you can’t sneak up on them and cover the plant with a plastic bag. The bucket catches them and the leaves. DO NOT lay the leaves or trim on the ground. They lay eggs both on your plant and in the ground. Eggs you might not see hatch quickly, defeating your clipping. Securely tie the clippings and bugs in a plastic bag so they can’t escape, and take them to the TRASH. Do not put them in compost or green waste. Simply moving Bagradas doesn’t work. They fly.If the infestation is small, in my case, in the cool of early morning, while the Bagradas are slow and haven’t had their morning coffee yet, I hold a large tray under an area of the plant, then tap gently, I smush the ones that fall onto the tray. I keep doing it in stages until there are no more. Then I come back in about five minutes and do it again. The ones that fall to the ground quickly go back up the plant. And don’t let the little round black/red instars get away either. They mature quickly and lay more eggs. You could use a bucket of soapy water, but it really isn’t big enough for the size of most plants.

    REMOVE MULCH HABITAT from around infested or susceptible plants until the Bagrada season is OVER. They hide out in the mulch, mate like crazy, lay eggs in the ground. They are expert at playing dead, and once you are gone, quite quickly climb back up on the plant. I’ve seen it. Stand very still and wait…sure enough, there they come. That’s your second chance to remove, euphemism for kill, the ones that escape the first round.

  • PLANTING TIPS  I highly suggest biodiversity, interplanting - that’s mixing it up,eveninterplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccoli), rather thanmonoculturing – a row of a single kind of plant. With rows of a single plant, the pest or disease simply goes plant to plant and you lose the whole row. This also stops leafminers (typical on soft leaved chard & beets) from going plant to plant. Slows them way down.Plant so mature plant leaves don’t touch! Stop the ease of transmission. If you can’t help yourself, and go monoculture, plant too close, clip back, harvest, the between leaves so they don’t touch. More is not always better. Dense plantings can literally starve plants that get root bound, that have less access to a healthy allotment of soil food and soil organisms that tickle their roots. Jammed together leaves are not able to get the sun power they need, so there are smaller leaves and less fruits. Snails successfully hide out; mildew and leaf miners can ruin the crop. There are so many reasons to give your plants ample space toliveandbreath.Unfortunately, Brassicas don’t mingle with mycorrhizae fungi. With other plants the fungi network linking your plants is proven that when one plant gets a disease or pest, it warns the neighbor plant. That plant then boosts its own defenses!

    You could wait and plant your Brassicas late, from transplants, in October, when the weather has cooled. Bagradas thrive at sustained temps 85 degrees and above.

Here is the link to some additional really excellent information at UC IPM (Integrated Pest Management) published Jan 2014.

You have choices!

  1. Persevere, plant and do what you can. Pray for survival.
  2. Wait until the weather cools, plant late, October works well.
  3. Mix it up! Plant a few Brassicas/mustard/radishes now, some more later. Succession plantings are a wise gardener technique! If a first planting fails, plant another round when conditions have changed. If both plantings succeed, YES, you have a continuous fresh table supply!
  4. Don’t plant over winter; rest your soil, or plant soil restoring cover crops!
  5. Only plant what Bagradas don’t care for and doesn’t attract them for now; plant your Brassicas later when it’s cooler. Greens are super healthy ~ just don’t plant cruciferaes (plants with four-petal flowers/cross) like Mizuna, mustard or turnips. Better not to get those mixed mesclun 6 packs at this time.

Good luck, Dear Gardeners, be fearless and strong!

See the entire September 2014 Newsletter!

Fall Crop Bountiful Basket
Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!

Bountiful fall crops are on their way! Labor Day weekend is the favorite fall planting time for many gardeners. Some like it even more than spring planting! Fall is cooler, slower paced, quieter. When and where there isn’t a drought, there is less watering.

If you want specific varieties, not standard fare at the nursery, you plant from seed. Plant them in a ‘nursery’ area in the shade of finishing summer plants, in 6 packs, under the grow lights, in the greenhouse! Plant your fall seeds outdoors a tad deeper than you would in spring; soil is moister and cooler an extra inch or two down. It’s the law to keep them moist. If you plant successively for steady fresh table supply, plant a batch in September, again in October. Days will shorten and start cooling, but you are taking advantage of a fast start because your plants will grow quickly in the warmer weather now than later on. Sep plant from seeds, Oct from transplants.

Tasty morsels to plant!

  • If you have plenty of space to accommodate a bad weather ‘error,’ and anticipate an Indian Summer, you can chance plant bush beans, summer squash, container type varieties of small tomatoes. At least plant earliest in Sep .
  • Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, are a big yes! And carrots, celery, leeks!
  • Colorful Chard is the ‘flower’ of your winter garden! Mid-August is one of the best times, Sep certainly is good too! Marigold don’t mind cool days; lovely on a dark day.
  • Plant more heat tolerant lettuces.
  • It is so easy to sprout peas! Dampen the paper towel; spray the towel to keep it moist. Pop them into the garden by the trellis – if it is hot, devise some shade for them.
  • Onions For the biggest, sweetest harvests, late summer and early fall are the prime times to sow seeds of short- or intermediate-day onions. Fall-sown short- and intermediate-day onions tend to yield more and are larger and sweeter than those seeded or transplanted in early spring.

I like what Better Homes & Gardens has to say – Sown in September, sprinters such as arugula, mustard, spinach, turnips, and crispy red radishes are ready to pick in little more than a month. Also try pretty Asian greens, such as tatsoi or mizuna, which grow so fast that you will have baby plants to add to stir-fries and soups just three weeks after sowing. If you would enjoy a quick payback on your table, select the earliest maturing varieties available.

Plant Sweet Peas for Christmas bloom! Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays! 

Keep letting your strawberry runners grow for Oct harvest. Get your pallet ready if  you want a strawberry pallet that sweet first week in November!

Brassica (that’s your broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, B-sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collards, turnips) Companions are aromatic plants like sage, dill, chamomile. Carrots, chard, beets, peppermint, rosemary, celery, onions, potatoes, spinach, dwarf zinnias. Brassicas are helped by geraniums, dill, alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, etc), rosemary, nasturtium, borage. Dill attracts a wasp to control cabbage moth. Zinnias attract lady bugs to protect plants. Avoid nightshades and strawberries.  Notice there are contradictions – potatoes are in the nightshade family. And usually we would avoid mustards, but now we have Bagrada bugs, we use the mustards as a trap plant for the Bagradas.

COMPANIONS!  Cabbage babies need to be planted 12 to 28″ apart.  A healthy plant will take up much closer to that 28″! They take a long while to grow, head, head tight. Plant carrots, or other fillers, that mature sooner, in the space between them. You can do this at home amongst your ornamentals, and/or in containers too! Fillers can be beets, or onion/chive types to repel Bagrada Bugs. Short quickest growing winter radishes can be among the long slower growing carrots among the slowest growing, your cabbages.

Brassica pests!

  • Brassicas are the very favorite of Bagrada Bugs.  Keep a keen watch for them especially when temps are above 75°F. Bagrada bugs tend to be most active and visible during the warmer parts of the day, so that’s when to look for them. Bagradas make white spots on the leaves as they suck the juices out of your plant. They carry diseases and overnight the leaves start to wilt. If you don’t get rid of them ASAP, you lose your plant in short order. And that’s when they are polite. A plant can be so infested it is swarmed and it looks like the plant is moving.Per UC IPM, as an alternative to greenhouses, screened tunnels or floating row cover fabric can provide plant protection in gardens. The mesh of the screening material must be fine enough to exclude the Bagrada bug nymphs and should be elevated so that it does not touch the plants because the bugs can feed through these coverings. The edges of protective covers must also be buried to prevent the bugs from crawling underneath to the plants, and they must be applied before Bagrada bugs get into the crop.
  • Lots of ants and lengthwise curling leaves are the giveaways for aphids. Aphids carry viruses. Aphids come in fat gray or small black. Avoid over watering that makes for soft plants, tender leaves that aphids thrive on, and ant habitat. Spray the aphids away, make the ants leave. Get up under those leaves, and fervently but carefully do the tender growth tips. Do it consistently until they don’t come back.

Make your fall planting beds extra yummy – add compost, worm castings, manures.  We want rich soil for those big plants.  We want lots of those marvelous leaves for greens.  Winter plants like brocs, collards, cauliflower, chard, are heavy producers, need plenty of food.

BUT NOT CARROTS!  Too good a soil makes them hairy and they fork.  And over watering, irregular watering, can make them split. Build your beds up so they drain well, are above the coldest air that settles low down. PEAS, the winter legume, make their own Nitrogen, so feed only lightly if at all.

Keep your water steady for plants still in production. Remove mulch habitat in areas where Bagrada bugs have been seen.

Build your new raised beds. Install gopher barriers! Put up a greenhouse.

RESTORE OR REST AN AREA  Plant some hefty favas or a vetch mix for green manures and to boost soil Nitrogen. Plant them where you had summer’s heavy feeders like corn, eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes or where you will plant heavy feeders next summer. The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell/fava beans, plus oats that break up the soil (they have deep roots). Favas are big, produce one of the highest rates of compostable organic material per square foot! If you change your mind, you can eat them! :) Or cover an area you won’t be planting with a good 6″ to a foot deep of mulch/straw and simply let the herds of soil organisms do their work over winter. That’s called sheet composting or composting in place – no turning or having to move it when it’s finished. If you are vermicomposting, have worms, add a few handfuls to speed up and enrich the process. Next spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Pest and Disease Prevention  Drench young plants, ones you just transplanted, with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start! One regular Aspirin, 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system.

September is Seed Saving time! Make notes on how your plants did, which varieties were the most successful. These seeds are adapted to you and your locality. Each year keep your best! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings.

See the entire September 2014 Newsletter!

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