Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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 and 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 and reproducers. They make virtual swarms, and when they suck juices from your plant toxic disease 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,even interplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccoli), rather than monoculturing – 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 to liveandbreath.

    Use mycorrhizae fungi when you plant. 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.

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!

Some start fall plantings from seed the last week of July. Now to mid August is great time too! Varieties make all the difference! Planting from seed gives you so many more choices!

Beets are so beautiful! Tops and roots are both nutritious! In salad as chopped greens, shredded roots. Root soup! Steamed slices. Cold with a dash of Balsamic! There are numerous colors, a combo seed pack may be perfect for you. Plant them on the sunny side, just barely under, larger plants like broccoli or kale, at the base of peas. Plant a beet patch alternated with pretty little red bunch onions!

Brassicas, Bagradas, Mustard Greens! I have been seeing Bagrada bugs this July, so I highly recommend you plant some trap plants like Giant Mustard Greens. Bagradas go for them first, among your Brassicas! Brassicas are our broccoli, kale, cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts.

  • Broccoli! My personal favorite variety is All Season F1 even though it doesn’t come in purple! It is a short variety about a foot and a half tall, produces a big main head followed by large 3″ diameter side heads! It continues to grow side branches, so the plant needs room to expand. The most radicallydifferent than that variety I ever grew was 5′ tall with trillions of little 1″ side shoots that I got really tired cutting. These days I cut down the stem several leaves deep, to the second to lowest producing junction, which slows things down so I have time to eat what I got before the next harvest.Research has shown there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together! Buy mixed 6 packs of brocs when they are available if you like the varieties in it, or plant a mix of seeds of varieties you like. UC study explains

    If you like the scent, winter, early spring are good times for cilantro. It doesn’t bolt so fast. Summer it bolts, winters It will freeze, so replants go with the territory. It makes brocs grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!

    Broccoli vitamins and nutrients typically are more concentrated in the flower buds than in leaves. That makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than Cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten, like kale, collards or Brussels sprouts. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other Cole cropsBroc is high in bio available Calcium too.

  • Brussels Sprouts are iffy in our 1 mile-from-the-coast climate. They like colder. If you don’t mind small fruits, go for it. They certainly are tasty, like mini cabbages! Buy local varieties recommended by your neighbors or nursery.
  • Cabbages grow huge, an easy 2′ footprint, but slowly. Plant carrot-like white icicle winter varieties of radish between them. They will do the same job as the giant mustard greens, same family. It is said lettuces repel cabbage moths. Put a few of them between the cabbages and radishes. Plant lettuces from transplants because dying parts of Brassicas put out a poison that prevents some seeds, like tiny lettuce seeds, from growing.Plant any variety cabbage you like, though red and savoy types, resist frost better! Check out the time to maturity if you want a sooner harvest, and harvest the first ones when they are smaller. Red cabbage shreds are pretty in winter salads. If you are making probiotic sauerkraut, let the heads get very firm so your sauerkraut is good and crunchy!
  • Cauliflower comes in traditional white, also yellow, green and purple! It comes in the traditional head shapes, and also the castle green spiral variant, Romanesco! It’s a visual choice! The colors do have varying antioxidant qualities if that is a factor for you.
  • Kale, the Queen of Nutrition! Kale’s attractive greenery packs over ten times the vitamin A as the same amount of iceberg lettuce, has more vitamin C per weight than orange juice! kale’s calcium content is in the mostbioavailable form – we absorb almost twice as much calcium from kale than we do from milk! Also, kale is one of the foods that lowers blood pressure naturally.There are several varieties! Dense curly leaf, a looser curly leaf, Lacinato – Elephant/Dinosaur long curved bumpy leaf, Red Russian flat leaf, Red Bor a medium curly leaf, and Red Chidori, an edible ornamental kale! Lots of amazing choices! Plants with more blue green leaves are more cold hardy and drought tolerant!

    Aphids and white fly love Kale, so you might want to choose varieties without those dense convolutions the insects can’t be gotten out of. But for the footprint per return, curly leaf kale can’t be beat. Keep watch. Spray those little devils away. Take a look at this Mother Earth page for some good practical thinking and doing!

Chard has two main varieties, regular colorful size, and huge super prolific white Fordhook Giant size! Colorful chard is better than flowers ~ it especially brightens the winter garden! It has super nutrition, is low calorie. It produces like crazy, the most if it has loose, well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter. If you need nutrition per square foot, the Giant is the way to go! Fordhooks are a phenomena!

Peas and Carrots, no onions, onion family, within several feet. Onions stunt peas. Carrots grow down, peas grow up, perfect! The frilly carrot foliage is lovely living mulch. Be sure your soil is soft for carrot growth, but not manured. Peas make their own Nitrogen, and carrots get hairy if overfed. Peas need water, but over watering causes carrots to split.

Peas come in two size varieties, bush and pole. Bush varieties produce sooner, pole produces continuously. A lot of gardeners plant both for a longer pea-loving harvest! :)

Peas come in three main kinds!

  • SNAP! Those are eat off the plant, pod and all, tummy beans! Many never make it into the house! You can cook them, but why?! They are a quintessential snack, put in a fresh salad at most!
  • English are the originals, but are grown for the pea, not the whole pod! These are also called shelling peas since the peas need to be removed from the pod. These can come in splendid varieties 8″ long, full of tasty peas!
  • Chinese peas are the flat ones you get with those Oriental dishes, although many of them never get to the kitchen either!

The last thing to know about peas is they can be Stringless! Look for that on the seed package or transplant tag. Strings can be tough, get tangled in your teeth, take time to remove before using. It’s a simple thing, but makes a difference to your enjoyment.

You can go crazy picking veggie varieties! Fun, happy, crazy! If you can’t make up your mind, if one is an All America Selection, AAS, go for it! They are generally superb. You may have a dilemma whether to go with heirlooms only or some hybrids too. Nature hybridizes plants all the time, so I feel good with them. GMOs are another story. Personally I am not in favor of them. Safe Seeds sellers list by state and country. Companies known to use GMO sources. Some may surprise you.

Get used to thinking in combinations! Happy plant communities help each other thrive! And speaking of communities, Brassicas don’t partner up with community forming mycorrhizal fungi. Other winter veggies do, so if you are buying compost, get the ones with the most mycorrhizal fungi, and sprinkle the roots of non-Brassica transplants with mycorrhizal fungi when you are planting!

May you and your garden enjoy each other’s company!

 

Bagrada Bug Stages

Brassicas are their favorite, and Brassicas are THE SoCal winter garden plant! I’ve seen them here and there lately, but this morning found infested mulch! YUK and bummer!

  • What some of the local organic farmers are doing is planting mustards 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! The Bagradas prefer them, so they go there rather than your brocs.
  • Mind you, you still have to remove the Bagadas by whatever means you prefer, or the brocs are next. Bagradas are fast reproducers, make virtual swarms, and when they suck juices from your plant toxic disease producing stuff gets in your plant. In hot temps, I’ve seen a 1 1/2 foot tall plant go down in 3 days.
  • I highly suggest biodiversity, interplanting – that’s mixing it up, even interplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccolis), rather than monoculturing – 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 the between leaves so they don’t touch.
  • Remove infested or diseased leaves immediately. Hold a bucket underneath the area you are going to clip. Bagradas drop to the ground the moment you disturb the plant. The bucket catches them and the leaves. DO NOT lay the leaves or trim on the ground. Eggs you might not see hatch quickly, defeating your clipping. Tie them in a plastic bag, and take them to the TRASH, not in compost or green waste. Simply moving Bagradas doesn’t work. They fly.
  • Don’t lay down mulch, instead, remove any mulch you see them in, and from around infested or susceptible plants until the Bagrada season is OVER. They hide out in the mulch, mate like crazy, then climb back up on the plant when you are gone. I’ve seen it. Stand very still and wait…sure enough, there they come. That’s your second chance to remove, euphemism for kill, some more.
  • For plants other than Brassicas, use mycorrhizae fungi when you plant. 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!

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

Good luck, Dear Gardeners. Let us know your stories.

Topiary Woman Garden Dreams at Chelsea Flower Show, London 2006
Heather Yarrow at 2006 4Head Garden of Dreams co-designer, watering topiary sculpture designed by Sue and Peter Hill. Royal Horticultural Society, 84th Chelsea Flower Show, London

Heat lovers will flourish, you may feel like lazing about, but at times, some plants need your help! It’s a fine art!

Keep an eye on weather reports.

Water is key.

  • Water in advance when hot weather is predicted.
  • Water early in the day as possible so your plants have as much moisture as possible during the hottest time. On the hottest days, a second watering may be needed.
  • Don’t be confused by wilting. Some plants, like chard, shut down to conserve water when it is hot. They perk right back up by the next morning!
  • Water deep and occasionally. Frequent light watering encourages lush growth but also promotes shallower roots so that the plant is less prepared to cope when there is a reduction or no water coming on a hot day.
  • Remove water competitor weeds.
  • Harvest frequently and thoroughly; make it easier for your plants to keep up with the business of staying alive. Ripening fruits demand huge loads of water and nutrients.
  • Hydrozone – Plant water lovers, shallow rooted planties, together when compatible.
  • Strawberry tip: On a raised mound, lay down an untreated pallet, or 3 to 4 inch wide boards side by side separated about 3 to 4 inches apart. Fill the pallet with soil, plant your berries. As the berry leaves grow, they cover the boards, keeping them cool, the boards in turn keep the soil below cool and moist and the boards feed the soil as they decompose.

Water if there has been a drying wind. Windy conditions can interfere with fruit set too, so if you can, create windbreaks. Use non heat radiating materials that allow some airflow so they won’t be blown over if you are in a wind pattern area. No air flow can make your garden a heat trap. In future, at planting times, anticipate winds, install trellises, planting them thinly to allow air flow. In SoCal ‘winters,’ they can block cold winds. In spring, put in some corn for filtered shade and as a windbreak. You may have to stake taller large bodied varieties of corn. Might choose varieties with less height that mature sooner, require less nutrients, and create less waste.

Keep your Mulch topped! Cover bare spots and replenish where your mulch is getting thin. 4 Inches is a good depth. Preferably use light colored mulches, like straw, that reflect the sunlight. If your mulch has meshed into a tight layer, use a watering spike so water gets to the roots of your plants. Straw, rather than a meshing mulch, is better for your veggies. But if you have Bagrada Bugs, REMOVE your mulch ASAP!

Water Spikes, a saving grace in Container Gardens

Container gardeners consider these terra cotta plant spike/bottle setups. Steady moisture right at the root zones! The adapter fits wine or plastic bottles! There are other variations. You can cut the bottom off a plastic bottle, for easy refilling! Cover with cloth and a rubber band to keep debris or insects from clogging your spike. One of the advantages of container gardening is plants can be moved into temporary shade if available if necessary.

Incorporate water holding compost into your soil, but also know that your soil only needs 5% humus, and over composting is not helpful.

WikiHow says: ‘In times of heat shock, a seaweed extract based liquid fertilizer treatment often reduces heat stress and it may help protect the plant in future.’ If your plant needs a feed, mix that kelp with some fish emulsion.

Shade Cloth over Remesh, easy, custom fit!If you have tender plants, maybe seedlings, set up some temporary shade. Safely prop up some nursery plants flats with the fine mesh, or use some scrap lattice. For an easy custom fit, a simple set up is remesh, bent to the shape you want, anchored, covered with shade cloth. The beauty of shade cloth is it comes in ‘shade factors,’ the degree of blocked sunlight, and can range from 25% – 90% ! Salad greens do well with 50 – 60% shade factor. Heat lovers like squash and beans do well under 30% shade cloth. Or, simply pop in a well anchored umbrella. Power up some shade sails, an old sheet or dust cloths. Just be sure there is air flow – no baking your plants! When the heat is over, remove your covers promptly so your plants won’t get used to having them and suffer at the time of their removal.

If you live in a hot area, consider permanent options like this beautiful sliding wire canopy at Desert Botanical Garden! Install it East to West for all day shade when needed. This image is used by permission from Rock Rose Blog! Thanks, Jenny, it’s lovely! Please see her post for more clever and beautiful shade ideas ~ love your garden, be creative!

Shade Sliding Canopy, used by permission from RockRose Blog! At Desert Botanical Garden.

Design well ahead of time for ‘shelter’ plantings! In late summer/early fall, winter transplants, having shallow roots, will do well in partial shade of mature plants that will soon be pulled. This way, the sun will be available to the little ones when they are better established. In spring, plant corn or leeks, tall onions, north to south, that later allow filtered light to plants that need a little shade later on. Corn planted June/July can shade peppers or strawberries at the hottest August/September weather.

Too much heat, water stress

  • Know that veggies have their own priorities. Some ‘bolt,’ go into flowering mode, at significant weather changes. They think the season has ended.
  • Some plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, stop flowering and fruiting when temps rise above 85 to 90 degrees F (depending on humidity) for an extended time. Humidity causes pollen to stick and not fall to pollinate. Dry heat causes the pollen to fall and not stick! At those extremes, no amount of sharply rapping your plant or its cage will help pollination.
  • There are heat tolerant varieties, for example  Heatmaster and Solar Fire tomatoes are two. Heirlooms are more fussy, hybrids less. Cherry tomatoes and the Oregon State U-bred parthenocarpic tomatoes, including Gold Nugget, Oregon Spring, Oregon Star, Siletz and Legend, are the exception, as they will set fruit over a wider temperature range than most large-fruited types. Parthenocarpic and cherry tomatoes will fruit throughout the heat of summer, even in Tucson, according to the University of Arizona.
  • At 95 degrees, beans and peas simply drop their flowers. At 100 degrees, corn tassels are killed, no pollination can happen and its all over for them.

When it cools down, your other plants will get back into production. Wait for it.

Here in SoCal we are facing more heat, less rainfall. Being mindful of how and when you use our water is important. Selecting heat tolerant varieties makes good sense. With long-term climate changes, we gardeners will become more skilled at hot weather gardening!

%d bloggers like this: