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Garden Tower Terracotta

Want to expand your growing space, or you don’t have growing space?!

Vertical gardening in a 55 gallon barrel is a great solution! Cost-efficient, space-efficient! One barrel can be virtually an entire garden in itself – plant the sides in strawberries, lettuce, potatoes, herbs, carrots, beets, and hundreds of other plants, and a tomato and pepper in the top! In fact, an average 55-gallon drum can hold 72 plants in the sides alone, or fewer as you wish, depending on smaller or larger plant choices. Either way, it’s a good return per square foot.

No gophers, moles, or weeds, and few soil insect pests. Water usage is less because the system lowers evaporation since it’s enclosed. Water not used at the top trickles down to water plants below. A drain at the bottom collects any excess nutrient dense water, that is like a compost/worm casting tea, that you can pour right back on top of your barrel garden. Plants grow faster! 

Here’s the barrel building process! Select a clean barrel, make the pockets, set up a manual or automatic watering system, mix the fertilizer, plant, harvest, maintain.  

Get a food grade plastic barrel (if you are ok with plastic) from any food processing company, used on craigslist, from your local honey processor! 

DIY! Mark and make slits in the side with a buzz saw, open the slits with a soldering iron to soften the plastic, hammer a wedge in to open the slits to the dimension you want. OR, a jig saw, heat gun, crowbar, two by four. Use what you got. Some places you buy the barrels from will cut them for you for a little extra. Worth it for the long term investment you are making and the amazing production you will get from it.

The number of slits might be 48. If you are doing bigger plants, leave more space between the rows of slits around your barrel.

In the center install a 4 to 6″ worm tube! Put your worm food in there, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, stuff safe for them to eat. Drill holes into the tube so the worms can come and go, aerating your soil, leaving their castings as they meander. At the bottom of the barrel, make a hole that you can screw a plug into at the bottom of your worm tube. Put your barrel up on cinder blocks so when you remove the plug, the worm castings fall down into a container below. Put a cap on top of the tube to keep out critters like mice, and rain.

If your barrel will have a permanent location, sunny on all sides, you can attach legs, or put it up on cinder blocks. If you need to move it around or turn it for sun and shade, pop your barrel up on a plant dolly. Put the drum in its permanent location, or on your dolly, before filling the container with soil and plants because then it may be too heavy to move afterwards.

Check out Half-Pint Homestead’s video on how to make your own barrels! How to install automatic watering, a drip system in your barrels. John Kohler shows you how to set up a Garden Tower and plant your plants in it. He is a strong advocate of super soil with powerful amendments! And why not?! Makes a lot of sense. Lots of healthy plants in a small space are chomping up those nutrients right and left. What you put in is what you get back. The video is done in his inimitable way, quickly with lots of animation!

If you don’t want to build one yourself, get one in from a small company in Bloomington Indiana called Garden Tower Project! Their new custom terracotta colored, USDA food grade, UV-stabilized v1.1 Garden Towers are $269 (Feb 2014), versus the Tower Gardens, the tall white skinny towers, that start at $525 for a structure that grows only 20 plants. The foot print is about the same, but these don’t have to be anchored and your plants whipped about around a small diameter when there is high wind. And there are certain plants, like peppers, with vertical stems, that don’t do well in Tower Gardens. Garden Towers recycle your kitchen scraps, do worm composting, and your plants are grown in soil. 

If you are planting on a deck, balcony or rooftop, be sure the weight of either one can be accommodated safely. Be sure your water source is convenient and there won’t be water damage to your space or neighbors below or near you.

Plant placement! Smaller plants to the top, vining plants at the bottom. Put upright plants like tomatoes, peppers, bigger tall plants, carrots that need to grow straight, in the top of your barrel. Or plant the whole thing to strawberries! Perennials are not your best choice because they can become root bound. 

Maintenance is pretty simple. From time to time, you add some of your collected castings, and replenish your compost as soil settles, gets used. Replant when space becomes available.

In Eugene OR, the students are making start up barrels to sell, and getting a community garden going this year! Perfect!

Alex at Garden Tower Project tells the story pretty quickly and makes the big points!  It’s way less expensive and complicated than hydroponics. You can put them anywhere. Perfect for seniors, no weeding! Oh, and the barrels come in different colors – green, red, white and blue, and now, that lovely natural looking terracotta!

Bushel of tasty String Beans in a Basket!

Tasty string beans, aka snap beans, are one of the easiest plants to plant from seed, and to grow! Poke those little seeds into the ground by your cage or trellis, ’bout a 1/2″ to 1″ deep depending on seed size. Water gently, and frequently enough to keep your soil moist, but only just moist so they don’t water log and rot, especially the light colored seeds. Wait a few days and you will see their little stems bowing up, leaves popping up next! So cute!

Plant them far enough apart so they have plenty of air flow when mature – that’s better for preventing mildew, so you don’t damage your plant when you harvest, and can actually get all those beans you grew! Leave room for cucumbers in between! Beans and cukes both need lots of water, so making a little trench and planting them in it is a great idea, just plant the cukes up a little higher to let the soil dry more and prevent the wilts.

Which kind of beans to plant? Your pleasure. All the same kind, different kinds in different patches, or mix ‘em all up on one trellis, one each! Trellises are a tad better for bean harvesting because you have easy access to both sides of your plants. Beans come in all colors, lots of shapes, and two plant sizes – bush or pole! Gold, white, green, red, purple, variegated! They are skinny like French filets, wide like broad Italian Romanos, short and fat, or 1 1/2′ long! Long beans take longer to come in and have a taste all their own. Plant at the same time as your other beans and they will come in when the others are finishing. Perfect! And you can plant dry beans for storage, for high protein winter dishes, if you have the patience to process them. Choose bush beans for early returns, lots at once if you are canning. Choose pole/vine beans for all season production, fresh and delish! Plant bush and pole at the same time for an earlier continuous supply. For drought and heat tolerance, plant Rattlesnake bean, aka Preacher Bean. 100-degree heat doesn’t stop them from producing lots of beans!

Once your seedlings are up with 2 to 4 leaves, give them the royal treatment ASAP! One Aspirin, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. While you are at it, add a 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk and Tablespoon of Baking Soda as well. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Nonfat powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Baking Soda makes the leaves alkaline and inhibits fungal spores – that’s MILDEW, the nemesis of beans! Use especially on your young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant. Use a watering can that has a rose (nozzle) that turns upward to get the undersides of leaves as well as their tops. Prevention is better than a remedy, believe me. So feel free to treat your babies once a week or as often as you can if you just can’t do once a week.

Beans are legumes, and legumes grab N, Nitrogen, right out of the air and deposit in little nodules on their roots! But. They are enthusiastic heavy producers, so a little light feeding of liquid fish/kelp mix is good at flowering time, maybe every couple of weeks. A Tablespoon in a full watering can, and later in the season too if you see the leaves yellowing. They are hungry. If you get lots of leaf and no flowers, lay off the N; rebalance your soil by adding some P, Phosphorous. P is for rapid growth, strong roots, more flower, fruit, and seed production.

Keep your beans harvested or your plant will think it has done its job and stop producing. Harvest while they are more young for tender, crunchy juicy beans – snap! Be a little careful when harvesting so you don’t damage your plantie and open it to diseases.

Beans don’t mind sharing but not with onion family plants. Instead, put cucumbers at their feet, and trellis the cukes too. Keeps them clean and insect free. Add some radishes to discourage Cucumber beetles – those cute little green with black dots jobs. Remove them instantly. Squish, stomp, whatever it takes. Bad news, they carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus.

Speaking of beetles, the Mexican Bean Beetle is a species of lady beetle, looks like one too. It is a notorious agricultural pest, one of the few lady beetles that feed on plants rather than other insects. They are yellowish-brown, 1/4-inch beetles with 16 black spots on their wing covers. See all about them here and organic garden practices to do if you have them.

The other bean pest is white flies. Ugh. Spray those little buggers away with your hose and invite them to not come back! Check daily until they are GONE.

At the end of the season, save seeds from your monster producing plants! They are the most localized to your garden space and you. It’s as simple as waiting for the pods to dry on the vine, collecting the seeds, and completely drying them before storing in jars.

China produces 48% of the world’s beans, the US is 15th. Beans are high in fiber, have diverse antioxidant carotenoids, give a quarter of your day’s requirements of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important for healthy bones and blood clotting, and are a good source of absorbable silicon. And they taste good right off the vine! They are yummy lightly steamed, in stews, Southern-style with ham or bacon and butter, roasted, chilled in salads, stir fried or sautéed with sauces and garlic! Hungry?!

 

Plant habitat for bees! Double benefits when you plant flowering herbs like Lavender!
As Gardeners, Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic! Laurie Struck, Earth Day 2013, National Geographic photo contest, Bee on Lavender.

IT’S PLANTING TIME! Soil temps at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden are 57 to 60 degrees now! Soil temps table at Fred’s. Fred is in Sacramento, so if you browse his site, consider that we are coastal and have more constant temps than where he is inland.

It’s TOMATO and Pepper time! If you didn’t get your winter squash in last month, do it NOW! Wait until May to put in your cantaloupe, but other melons are ok now. If you are growing jicama, no comparison to dry, tasteless store-bought, get ‘em in ASAP so they have the needed growing time.

TOMATOES! At gardens that have the Fusarium and Verticillium wilts in the soil,choose your tomato varieties with that in mind. Heirlooms don’t have as much resistance as the toms that have VFN or VF on their tags or seed packets, like Ace, Early Girl, Champion, Celebrity. The V is for Verticillium, the F Fusarium wilt, N nematodes. Your next choice is whether to buy determinates or indeterminates. Determinates grow about 3 to 4′ tall and quit, producing lots of toms all at once, great for canning. Indeterminates vine forever all summer long, fresh table tomatoes every day! If you have soil wilt problems, planting determinates, successively, and replanting (not in the same spot) as you lose plants, may be your best solution. In these times of drought, and you have no soil wilt problems, indeterminates are the way to go so you aren’t continually watering plants that aren’t producing yet. Unless, of course, you are going to be canning. Special care is needed for tomatoes in wilt infected soils. La Sumida has the largest tomato selection in the Santa Barbara area!

Eggplant, limas, melons (wait until May for cantaloupe), okra and peppers, pumpkins! Transplant early-maturing varieties of beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Sow and/or transplant asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, okra, summer-maturing onions, parsley, peanuts, the last peas (choose a heat-tolerant variety such as Wando), white potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, and spinach. Choose heat and drought tolerant varieties when you can.

Water Wise Practices!

  1. Please always be building compost. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.
  2. This California drought year consider planting IN furrows, where the moisture settles and the plants’ root areas will be slightly shaded. Rather than losing water to evaporation from overhead watering, put the water right where it will do the most good and nowhere else.
  3. And, PLEASE MULCH. It keeps your soil cooler, moister, less water needed.
  4. Sprinkle Mycorrhiza fungi right on the roots of your transplants when you put them in the ground. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Ask for it at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.

Keep ‘em coming! Mid April, another round! Poke in some bean seeds where your last peas are finishing, add cucumber seeds between the beans, plus dill at each end of the trellis to be there when you pickle your cukes! Plant radishes with the cukes to deter the Cucumber beetles. Plant corn in blocks, not rows, for good pollination!  In a good hot area, lay in some cukes, melons or winter squash, to ramble among the corn, soon as they are tall enough. They all act as a living mulch, reducing water needs. If you mounded up basins, put a stick in there so you know where to water. Spread down a thick straw mulch to keep leaves and fruit off the ground, out of the insect zone. That is most importantly true for cucumbers. They die pretty instantly, in about 3 days, if they get wilt infected. So when you plant them, put the cukes up, the beans low, so the cuke soil can dry a bit, creating unfriendly habitat for the wilt fungi.

Plant Bee Food, Herbs and Flowers! Sow or transplant basil, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. Be mindful where you plant them… Mediterranean herbs from southern France, like lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme, do well in hot summer sun and poor but well-drained soil with minimal fertilizer. On the other hand, basil, chives, coriander (cilantro), and parsley thrive in richer soil with more frequent watering. Wise planting puts chives where you need to repel Bagrada Bugs, by your broccoli, kale, but away from peas if you are still growing some. Cilantro, a carrot family workhorse, discourages harmful insects such as aphids, potato beetles and spider mites, attracts beneficial insects when in bloom. Dill is a natural right next to the cucumbers since you will use the dill if you make pickles. They mature about the same time. Let some of your carrots, lettuces, cilantro bloom! Bees, and insect eating birds and beneficial insects love them and you will get some seeds – some for the birds, some for you! Grow beauty – cosmos, marigolds, white sweet alyssum – all benefit your garden in their own way!

May your summer garden be rich with beauty and fragrant with diversity! 

See the entire April 2014 Green Bean Connection Newsletter!

Handsome Hardneck Garlic at Ontos Farm, Australia
Ontos Farm in Australia says the flavour of the garlic also depends on soil and climate. The ideal climate is cool with cold winters and no rain after October, our April, during the bulb filling period. Santa Barbara CA climate may be getting a little too warm to grow garlic? Most of this ‘winter’ here has been like summer.

The question was ‘What do you think of bleach as a rust treatment?’

Bleach is safe to use; you can try it. 1/4 c per gallon of water, drench your plant once a day for a week. If that seems to be working, try maintenance applications once a week after that. But. I’m not seeing it referenced online as a rust cure. In fact, I’m not seeing anything where anyone reports success getting rid of rust. Rust is wind-borne and once in your soil, it’s the devil to pay.

I let it be on my large bunch onions. Pulling away infected leaves, I use the remaining central stems, which is all I need. But the reports about garlic are that rust infected plants have stunted dry bulbs. Unfortunately that would be more so as you remove infected leaves, reducing the plant’s ability to grow. More energy goes into survival than production. It might ‘catch up,’ but it takes a long time to grow anyway, so not really worth the wait.

UC Davis has little to say, crop rotation, get rid of infected plants, use a fungicide. What commercial organic growers do is probably the best solution. It’s a strong fungus. DO NOT COMPOST infested plants and spread rust throughout your soil by applying that compost. Maybe sometimes polite, cute or light weight organic remedies work; often they don’t. This is one of the times it doesn’t. When I had cancer I did both alternative stuff and heavy hitting chemo and radiation. It worked. I would put cancer and rust just about in the same category. Neem is probably the toughest of organic remedies I saw mentioned and online reports are it doesn’t work on rust either.

Prevention. Others mention shade and soil issues. Right now our Pilgrim Terrace community gardener Shannon has over 2′ tall garlic with not a speck of rust on them! She makes super prodigious steer manure/alfalfa compost and uses it generously every year. Religion. You can just see there is a lot of soil organism action happening. Her soil is ALIVE! She plants a lot of garlic because her Sweetie loves it. She also gets great okra, another heavy feeder. I would start with your soil. Make it super rich. Don’t be squeamish about manures. Use the righteous potent stuff. Alfalfa is more nutritious than straw, poor man’s alfalfa. Alfalfa is high in nitrogen where straw is really best for aeration as a mulch. Shannon mulches generously with straw, so her plants are being fed from above and below.

Since soil infestation is a problem, just start with new soil each year! Remove entire old beds immediately after harvest if you decide to let your infected plants grow through for the small bulbs. Take that soil somewhere away from where you are planting; spread it out thinly so it will dry out, causing the fungus to die. You could use it as a ‘mulch’ in landscape areas where the fungus won’t hurt those other types of plants, still far, far away from garlic or onion planting areas. Before your new planting time, build new beds with super charged compost. Or if you start 2 or 3 months sooner, you could build compost in place. Thin layers of manures, kitchen green wastes, alfalfa. Throw in some worms and whatever else makes your heart sing!

Garlic The United States is the world’s largest import market for fresh garlic, in 2010 importing 164.4 million pounds of fresh garlic valued at $130 million. and 30,170 MT of dried garlic valued at $32.6 million. China accounted for the majority of total U.S. garlic imports. Being so tasty, and healthy for us, let’s successfully grow our own!

California’s 2013 was the driest year on record in 119 years.

Beautiful Pineapple Tomato Heirloom is drought tolerant, suitable for grafting!
This beauty is Territorial Seed’s heirloom Pineapple tomato - drought resistant, indeterminate, suited to grafting.

Drought won’t stop us from growing tomatoes, but we do need to adjust some of our veggie variety plant choices.

Herbs by nature are naturally drought tolerant since most of them are Mediterranean.

Veggies are generally not naturally drought tolerant. Most are seasonally advantageous short rooted annuals, not deep rooted perennials. They grow quickly, need water to do that. Period. To produce fruitfully, they need to be able to make generous leaves to support photosynthesis to produce generous fruits and lots of them. Yet there are more heat loving varieties that do thrive in dry areas.

Some of us very coastal gardeners will be quite happy for the heat! It will mean we can grow plants we couldn’t before, like melons, pumpkins, large fruited eggplants, okra, that gardeners further inland, in the hot foothills, or south of us have been enjoying all along! There are even drought tolerant varieties of melons like Blacktail Mountain.

One drought solution is to grow only super prolific plants for the most return per square foot, especially the drought and heat tolerant varieties! These 5 are a great backbone-of-your-garden veggies!

  • Indeterminate tomatoes produce all summer long from one plant! No need to replant determinates costing periods of time with no production and additional water usage. Of the heirlooms, Pineapple, per Bountiful Gardens is the most cold-hardy and drought resistant large tomato they have seen.
  • Pole beans!  Same issue with bush beans as with determinate toms. No need to replant bush beans costing periods of time with no production and additional water usage. Pole beans produce all summer long. Try Rattlesnake bean, aka Preacher Bean. 100-degree heat doesn’t stop them from producing lots of beans.
  • Zucchini  Dark Star, produces in only 50 days. It is the result of organic growers working together to grow an open-pollinated heirloom-type zucchini that could outdo the modern hybrids. The result is a zucchini with great performance in cooler soils and marginal conditions, along with a big root system that goes deep to find water and resist drought.
  • Giant Fordhook chard, BountifulGardens.org says it is tolerant of drought and heat in our research garden.
  • Kale! In our warmer weather Curly leaf kale, a favorite, is more susceptible to aphids, and those little devils are hard to get out of those convoluted leaves. One thing you can do is pick more frequently to keep new growth coming fast. And it will be a must to do frequent routine pest checks; keep flushing them away. But how about a heat tolerant flat leaf kale like Thousand Headed Kale?! It has many growing points instead of just one, so it puts out a lot more foliage and tender shoots. Huge plants make lots of food. A must for self-sufficiency.

Check out Bountiful Gardens! They specialize in heirloom, untreated, open pollinated varieties for sustainable agriculture. In the drought tolerant section they say, ‘Please note that this does not mean that the crops listed don’t need some watering – these are crops that will grow with less water and all of these crops will need moisture to get established.’

Prickly Pear - Zapatas, have edible pads and fruits!Try new plants from arid countries. Maria Arroyo at our Santa Barbara Community Gardens office recommends a traditional local plant, zapatas, Prickly Pear! Both pads and the fruits are edible! The fruits, tunas, are used in brilliantly colored healthy anti inflammatory juices, uh, margaritas, a jelly candy, and jams. The pads, nopales, are used various ways. From Phoenix Arizona, here is Kymm Wills’ easy Nopales Recipe!  When & how to harvest those dangerous nopales! Or, check out your local Mexican market.

I have been thinking of the Santa Barbara Mission traditional La Huerta corn. The cobs are quite small. That is likely what happens generation after generation when there is little water. Bet the New Mexico/desert varieties have small production as well. In some instances we will need to adjust our expectations about how much yield to expect when we use less water. We may need more land to plant more for the same previous yield.

This is time to check out southern university sites in states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, maybe Florida, hot states, for their successful heat loving varieties. Please report in to me your location and ones you try that prove successful. Please save those seeds!

Our planting techniques need rethinking. One simple change is to plant IN furrows and basins/wells would keep water right and only where it is needed rather than randomly watering an entire area. Grey-water is king. Think how much an apt building would make. Even a 10-minute shower with a low flow shower-head at 2.5 gallons per minute is 25 gallons of water used per shower.

FYI  Feb 19 I attended the Farm Policy presentation. Here are some notes I took:
  • Santa Barbara County is #12 in California agriculture production.
  • Broccoli is our #2 crop (strawberries #1), 20% of US production! Most of what is exported goes to Japan, cut in special forms to their taste!
  • Farm production is up to 3B/yr.
  • We could be in a 500 year drought. Farming as we know it will be changing. Wells are drying up.
  • Nutrition is the base cause of noncommunicable diseases, 50+% overweight, 8% diabetes, our life expectancy now declining.
  • Amazingly, we import 95% of our fruits and vegetables. Yes, you read that right. Suggestions – increase local food distribution, grow more at home!
  • Mexico has the highest obesity rate in the world.
  • Europe now has a 50% reduction of meat and dairy use.
  • The Santa Ynez Valley Fruit and Vegetable Rescue gleans a 2nd harvest of unused produce, ie misshapen, too small, from farms, farmers’ markets, for seniors, youth, and others in need. Wonderful story!

Which Landscape Plants to Save? TREES! 

Trees are long term plants, and they make shade. Shade means cooler, less evaporation, and though trees use water, they also preserve water.

I like Joan S Bolton’s thorough and thoughtful, informative professional post. HOW TO KEEP YOUR TREES HEALTHY DURING THE DROUGHT

Here are some more details at SB County Agriculture & Weights & Measures Newlsetter. See Page 4, Our Oaks are Thirsty by Heather Scheck.

Stay strong in these challenging times. Enjoy the changes. To your good health and happiness!

Transplant Roots

I know these are not veggies. What I want you to see is the roots. Healthy, opened out, pointing down, not rootbound. These little guys will get a good start.

Rather than popping your transplants out of the six pack and stuffing them into the ground unceremoniously, throwing some water at them, 5 minutes and you’re gone, consider enhancing that process! It’s an investment.

Think how big that rootball will get and generously give the planting spots some wholesome nutrients. Remember, also, hungry micro roots grow laterally searching for food, like from naturally decomposing leaves and insects, so make your planting hole a little larger than that. Do as nature would do.

Put your plant fuels right where they will be used, right in that planting hole! Dig about an 8″ to foot diameter hole shovel-blade deep. Throw in a half a shovel of compost if that area hasn’t had compost added recently. Add 3/4 cup or so of chicken manure (or your choice), a good handful of bonemeal, handful of nonfat powdered milk, 1/2 C worm castings, maybe a little bit of landscape mix from Island Seed & Feed bulk bins. Could put in 1/4 C or less of coffee grounds. Compost and manures add N (Nitrogen), necessary for growth. Bone meal is high in Phosphorous (for blooming) and takes 6 to 8 weeks before it starts working – perfect timing!  It is also high in calcium, which helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. Nonfat powdered milk, also high in calcium, is for immediate uptake, a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Worm castings have special plant-growth hormones, improve water holding capacity, suppress several diseases and significantly reduce parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealy bugs and mites. They are not fertilizer. Coffee grounds help prevent soil diseases. You only need very small amounts of castings and coffee grounds to do the job.

If the roots of your transplant are jammed up a bit, gently pull down their little legs, spread them out. Dig your planting hole wide and deep enough that you can make a little cone of soil in the bottom. The longer roots will dangle down around the cone, happy to be in their natural direction, already starting to be able to reach for deeper soil moisture. Some gardeners trim or cut them off rather than have them curl and fold.

Sprinkle Mycorrhizal fungi right ON the roots of your transplants when you put them in the ground. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. The exception is the Brassica family – for example, won’t work on broccoli, kale, turnips, radish – save your time and money. Ask for it at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.

If you have a spritz bottle handy, spray the roots and saturate the planting hole with hydrogen peroxide. It gives the little guys a boost of oxygen, uptake of nutrients, kills many disease causing organisms, pests, algae, fungus and spores. H2O2  Important details!

Give everybody a drink of water to settle the soil and merge the soil with your roots so they can eat. Be sure where your water will flow. Use trenches, basins/wells, mini embankments, to keep it where you want it, where it is needed. For plants like melon or winter squash, put a stake in the center of the basin where the seeds or transplants are, so you can water right where the roots are. Time to time, restore the basin. As your super healthy plant matures, finding where it starts is often lost among the prolific monster foliage.

After they are in the ground and watered, give them an Aspirin+ bath! Yup. One Aspirin, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. While you are at it, add a 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk and Tablespoon of Baking Soda as well. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! As stated above, powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Baking Soda makes the leaves alkaline and inhibits fungal spores! Use especially on your young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant. Use a watering can that has a rose (nozzle) that turns upward to get the undersides of leaves as well as their tops. Especially do this for tomatoes! Sometimes I plant one day, give the new babies their treatment the next, depending on how much time and energy I have, how many plants I need to plant.

Last, top off your soil with soil feeding mulch. Straw is simple and allows aeration so soil stays healthy. Apply it thick enough to keep sunlight from getting to the soil. Mulch keeps tomato leaves from picking up wilts from soil. It keeps cucumbers, winter squash and strawberries up off the ground, less susceptible to insects and rot, keeps fruits clean.

Don’t forget to put down an organic snail/slug bait, or you may not have plants the next day. If you live in a bird area, cover your new planties with bird net or row covers.

Soon, very soon, put up trellises by beans and cukes, and install sturdy cages for tomatoes and peppers. Going vertical gives you more space to plant, and keeps fruits clean up off the ground, free of soil diseases and ground crawlies! Convenient picking height too. Eat ‘em as you stand there!

Planting Seeds!  Do your soil preparations the same as for transplants! If you aren’t putting in your seeds at the same time as you do your soil prep, stake the center of the spots where the seeds will go so when you plant their roots will have maximum opportunities for tasty nutrition! Lay down that snail/slug stuff right when you plant. Tiny sprouts are a delicacy. Water gently so your seeds stay where you put them and aren’t uncovered; keep them moist until they are up. When your little ones are up about 3, 4 inches, give them their aspirin+ bath, mulch them properly, install their trellises and cages.

Mazel tov!

Lacto fermenting is terrific for your health! You do NOT want to see the word vinegar anywhere around your sauerkraut or pickles! We want probiotics!

Handsome cabbages perfect for lacto fermenting, probiotics! Farmers' Market Tailgate Sale Walla Walla!
At Melissa Davis’s Food Blog, Walla Walla Farmers’ Market monster organic tailgate cabbage!

Cabbage & Veggie Mix for Lacto Fermenting - ProbioticsDelish Red Cabbage perfect for Sauerkraut, Lacto Fermentation Probiotics!

  1. Shred 1 organic cabbage, (like for coleslaw). Or, mix it up!  White cabbage, carrot, onion, red pepper, shredded green beans, apples, cucumbers, water, salt, sugar, and spices! You want your cabbage pieces as consistent as possible so they ferment at the same rate. Thread cuts are best because they expose more cabbage cells making more lactic acid that preserves flavor, texture and color.
  2. Optional Spices you can add: bay leaves, coriander, juniper berries, caraway, garlic, mustard, onion, fennel – your faves, your choice!
  3. 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt or a good salt, use filtered water (non-chlorinated)
  4. 1/4 cup liquid whey (not necessary, but even more healthy)

Cabbage Pounders - Beechwood

Layer your shredded cabbage in a large container sprinkling with salt and whey as you go. Mash with a pestle (from a mortar and pestle) or whap with a tenderizer pounder, or the head of a clean hammer (!) until the cabbage starts to release it’s juices (about five to fifteen minutes). Cabbage releases liquid, creating its own brining solution.

Put your cabbage in a container, crock, Mason jar, and tamp it down tight. Leave it loosely covered for an hour or so. If the juices aren’t covering the cabbage at this point, add enough filtered water to cover. If you’ll be using more than a 1/2 cup or so, add in another teaspoon of salt per cup (stir to dissolve before adding to cabbage).


Cabbage Sauerkraut Jar on Lid holding cabbage down.

Cabbage Making Sauerkraut, weighted jar in jar

Cabbage near the surface tends to float. It’s important that it remain submerged during fermentation. When making sauerkraut in a crock, place a weighted plate over the cabbage to pack it down and keep it submerged. In a mason jar, you need to either tamp down the cabbage a few times a day or place a large outer leaf of cabbage over the surface of the shredded cabbage to hold it down. Put a lid, rubber side up on top of the leaf, a jar on top of that to hold it all down, or put a smaller jar in weighted with a stone or marbles!

Keep the jar covered with a clean cloth or piece of cheese cloth. This will allow airflow, but prevent dust or insects from getting into the sauerkraut. If you are not using a fermenting jar with an airlock, and put a lid on it, make sure to “burp” the container several times a day.

Minimum fermenting time is about three days, though the kraut will continue to ferment and become tastier for many days after that. As simple as it sounds, the best rule of thumb is to keep tasting the kraut. Put a lid on it and refrigerate (or take it cellar temperature) when it tastes good to you. The sauerkraut is safe to eat at every stage of the process, so there is no real minimum or maximum fermentation time.

Bubbles, foam, or white scum on the surface of the sauerkraut, are all signs of normal, healthy fermentation. The white scum can be skimmed off as you see it or before refrigerating the sauerkraut. If you get a very active fermentation or if your mason jar is very full, the brine can sometimes bubble up over the top of the jar. This is part of the reason why I recommend using a larger mason jar than is really necessary to hold the cabbage. If you do get a bubble-up, it’s nothing to worry about. Just place a plate below the jar to catch the drips and make sure the cabbage continues to be covered by the brine.

It is possible that you might find mold growing on the surface of the sauerkraut, but don’t panic! Mold typically forms only when the cabbage isn’t fully submerged or if it’s too hot in your kitchen. The sauerkraut is still fine (it’s still preserved by the lactic acid) — you can scoop off the mold and proceed with fermentation. This said, it’s still important to use your best judgment when fermenting. If something smells or tastes moldy or unappetizing, trust your senses and toss the batch.


Label your ‘Kraut! Ingredients, date.  Southport Grocery in Chicago says Grandma really did know best, Eat Your Fermented Veggies!

Cabbage Sauerkraut Label SPG Southport Grocery, Chicago
Wise woman Sharon Kaufman says: Since this is a food with beneficial bacteria, the optimum way to serve it is cold or at room temperature. Heating it kills off all the good stuff, so think of eating it as you would a pickle – cold and crunchy. YUM!

And there, my friends, you have it! Using your cabbages to maximum health benefit! And it is SO EASY!

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