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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!

Brassicas are their favorite, and Brassicas, that’s broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kales, Brussels Sprouts, cabbages, are THE SoCal winter garden plant!

  • 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.

  • 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 lesser, in my case, I hold a large tray under an area of the plant, then tap gently, I smush the ones that fall into 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.

    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 plantleaves 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 rootbound, 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 live and breath.

    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. Greens are super healthy ~ just don’t plant cruciferaes (cross) like Mizuna, mustard or turnips, not any of the plants with four (cross) petal flowers. 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.

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 allKeep 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!

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!

Delicious Summer Veggies Harvest

Some of you gardeners may be a wee bit tired of picking prodigious batches of green beans, but keep up with harvesting, it keeps your plants producing! I hope you have been canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying!

There are HOT August days, and ones that have a hint of fall. Days are a tad shorter; shadows in different places now. It is the time of the turn of the seasons here in coastal SoCal! Though crazy busy with harvests, gardeners are making their first fall plantings mid August, especially from seed! Often they are made in semi shaded ‘nursery’ areas to be transplanted as they get bigger and space becomes available. Plant your seeds far enough apart to get your trowel in to pick your little plants up to move them one by one to their new home. Some are planted under finishing plants to take the finishing plant’s place, like peas under beans. Pop in some kale between the tomatoes and peppers. Safe in a greenhouse is wonderful too!

Already, get your seed packs for celery, chard, mustard greens, parsley, peas, winter radish varieties, and Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, turnips. See below for help on choosing the very best varieties! Winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler, and you will have a much earlier crop.

Make your own Seed Strips! They are great for radish, carrots, any seeds that are small and hard to handle. It’s an easy, satisfying evening activity that saves your back, and seeds, when you are planting!

If seeds don’t work for you, don’t have time to do the extra watering, you will be away at the critical time, keep harvesting, do your soil preps, and wait for September or October transplanting. Labor Day weekend is the big planting time for many gardeners, and that’s only a month away now!

Summer plants you can still plant for early fall harvests, are beans and early maturing tomatoes and corn. Corn is more disease prone at this time though.

Tuck in your year-round fillers, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, radish, to keep a colorful variety for your table.

Plant sweet potato slips in late summer for harvest around Christmas.  Jenny Knowles, then at Plot 16, harvested these tasty beauties Dec 28, 2011!  She let sprouted taters grow into plants while on her kitchen window sill. She planted them in August/Sep, on the sunny side of her black composter. Clearly, between the super compost nutrition, and the heat of the composter, both from the black color and the warmth of the decomposing compost, she succeeded! She got several smaller pups before she took the main plant and the large central potatoes. I was lucky to witness this fine harvest!

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.  Onions have stupendous flavor and come in white, yellow, red!

Give your heavy producers a good feed.  Eggplants have a large fruit, beans put out a ton of beans, tomatoes are big and working hard, peppers can be profuse!  They like a tad of chicken manures scratched in, bunny poop and straw (pick up at Animal Shelters), well aged horse manure and compost makes them dance with the faeries in the night time!  Fertilizers highest in P, Phosphorus, keeps blooming and fruiting at an optimum.

Keep your watering steady to avoid slowing or stopping production or misshapen fruits – that’s curled beans, odd shaped peppers, catfaced strawberries. In hot late summer weather water short rooted high production plants like beans, cucumbers, lettuces and strawberries more frequently.  Keep them well mulched, especially the cucumbers.  Keep them off the ground to protect them from suffering from the wilts fungi. I put down straw a good 3″ deep.

In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when they ‘slip’ off the vine.  Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate. Harvest okra while it is small and tender – bigger is NOT better!  Let your winter squash harden.

Design Your Fall Garden! Move plants from the nursery area as space becomes available. But have a plan too. Tall plants, trellises, to the North or on the shady side, then plants of graduated sizes to the South or sunniest areas. Peas need a string or wire trellis for their tiny tendrils. They aren’t like beans that twine anything. Few winter plants need support, but big brocs, tall kales sometimes need staking. If they ‘lay down,’ if you have the room and want more plants, they will grow baby plants along their stems! Otherwise, put your plants back up and stake them securely. Build your new raised beds. Install gopher barriers!

Think soil, soil, soil! When an area is done, clear away insect hiding places. Remove and throw away any mulches from under where diseased plants were.  If your soil is high for the area, plants there were diseased, and you have a plentiful compost stash, maybe remove the couple top inches of soil and generously lay on some of that tasty new compost!  Dig it into the top 4 to 6 inches. Amend your soils per the plant that will be grown in the area per your design.

Keep turning your fall compost pile, start one if you haven’t! This warmer weather will help the pile decompose faster, and your plants will be blessed when you give the compost to them! If you aren’t hot composting, remember, thin layers and smaller bits decompose faster. The ratio is 1 wet/green to 2 dry/brown. Throw in whatever kitchen trim, torn tea bags, coffee filters/grounds, crushed eggshells – anything worms can eat will decompose faster. I’m talking faster because starting now is a little late, so this is what you do to ‘catch up!’ Sprinkle with a handful or two of living moist soil to inoculate your pile, and some red wriggler worms here and there to make your pile jump up! Turn it as often as you can to aerate and keep things humming. Once a day if possible, but do what you can. Compost improves your soil’s water holding capacity and adds and stabilizes N, Nitrogen!  Yes!

SeedSaving! Allow your healthiest top producers to seed. Seeds are your second harvest! Each year keep your best! Scatter some about if they would grow successfully now! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings.  Remember, these seeds are adapted to you and your locality. If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank!  While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out!

Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!

See the entire August 2014 Newsletter!

Crusty Parmesan Herb Zucchini Bites!

Another way to have low-cal, tasty Zucchini fresh from your garden!

Easy to make, this is San Francisco blogger Elle’s recipe with a few additions of my own! See her blog and original recipe if you like! Thank you, Elle!

Slice your zucchini lengthwise
Brush with olive oil
Sprinkle with herbs – maybe fresh rosemary & thyme, finely chopped basil, cilantro or parsley
Top with any cheese you like, Parmesan is tasty!
Add any tasty bits that make you happy! Minced onion or bell pepper, fine shred carrot, bacon bits.
Salt & pepper to taste
Sprinkle with a tad of Paprika!

Pre-heat oven to 350F, lightly brush both sizes of the zucchini with olive oil and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes then place under the broiler for the last 3-5 minutes until cheese is crispy and browned.

Enjoy every last bite, you Zucchini lovers!

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