SouleMama’s Baby Boy
Let’s keep growing good things together!
November has gifted us with the fruits of our September plantings! Just like those transplant tags say, maturity in 50, 60+ days! Brilliant purple cauliflower, tightly packed broccoli heads, peas ready for garden eating – never mind taking them to the kitchen! Lettuces are springing out of the ground. Turnips have been eaten. Chards, kale, and collard greens have produced bountiful greens! For many, December brings the biggest fall harvests, Winter’s June, perfectly in time for your holiday table. Don’t forget to harvest your sweet potatoes! Cabbages, carrots and beets are taking a tad longer.
With shorter and cooler days, what you plant now will take a bit longer to mature, more than that 50, 60+ days. So December plantings will be coming in late February, March. That’s still in good time for soil preps in March, then the first spring plantings in April. Definitely plant one more round of your favorite winter veggies, from transplants when possible! Artichoke (give them 3’ to 4’ space), arugula, asparagus – Pat Welsh (Southern California Gardening) recommends UC-157, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, culinary dandelions, garden purslane, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes/daikons, and turnips!
GARLIC LOVERS December, is the last time to be planting garlic, with the special date being Winter Solstice day, Dec 21! Use the fattest cloves, give them super rich soil. Some say give them lots of water, others say little. Up to you. Also, you have the choice whether to plant with the skin on or presoaked skin off. Skin on protects the clove; skin off grows faster if it doesn’t get eaten or rots. Again, up to you. But all agree, choose the hefty cloves!
We have been super lucky, few bagrada bugs so far. Just in case, keep planting Red Giant Mustard as a trap plant so the Bagradas won’t bother your brocs and cauliflowers. Earlier in the year I found a few munching on my arugula. Be warned.
Choose an area to prepare for spring planting! Plant some beautiful favas or a vetch mix for green manures and to boost soil Nitrogen. The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell beans, plus oats to break up the soil (they have deep roots). Favas are big and you get a lot of green manure 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!
Winter Garden Practices
When you put in new transplants, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs from seriously damaging them while they are small. Before you anticipate your seedlings coming up, sprinkle some pellets around the plant, along both sides of rows. That keeps the creatures from mowing them overnight, making you think they never came up! Do this a few times, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for awhile.
Cover carrot, beet, radish, turnip, exposed shoulders with soil.
Keep watch on your chard and beet leaves. Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make; remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners. Water a tad less so the leaf is less soft and inviting.
Thin any plants you intentionally over planted – carrots, beets, turnips, kale, chard, mustard. If you planted too close together, take out the shorter, weaker plants. They are all great in your salads.
SideDressing – that’s feeding your plant during its growing time! Your plants will love a liquid fertilizer, like a stinky fish/kelp, that is easy for them to uptake in cooler weather. Sprinkle fertilizer around your plants or down a row, and dig it in a little, especially before a rain! Water it in. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings. Rabbit manure can be put down directly with no composting. Pretty box mixes are fine! Lay in some of your fat compost in the top 3 to 6 inches of your soil. If you haven’t been a fertilizing mid-season person before, think about how hard your plant is working. Big brocs, for example. When they start to head, when plants start to produce, that’s your cue to help them along. Worm castings, though not food, work wonders!
Especially feed your cabbages, lightly, time to time, because they are making leaf after leaf, dense heads, working hard. I often see kales lose their perk. You would too if someone kept pulling your leaves off and never fed you. Feed them too, please, while feeding your cabbages.
Don’t feed carrots, they will fork and grow hairy! Overwatering makes them split. Your peas and favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, feeding themselves, so little to no feeding is needed for them.
In SoCal, winter is not a time for mulching except for erosion control. Its purpose in summer is to keep the soil and plant roots cool, and retain moisture. In winter, we pull the mulch back to let the soil warm up during the short days. Also, it’s good to remove pest habitat, let the soil dry a bit between rains to kill off the wilts fungi, and let Bagrada bug eggs die. In summer I use straw mulch, so I bag it up and use it in my compost pile layers during winter.
Just in case, have old sheets, light blankets, old towels handy in case of hard freezes. If a freeze is predicted, for small plants, like tender lettuces, just lay tomato cages on their sides and put your coverings over them. Secure them well so wind doesn’t blow them around and damage your plants. Santa Barbara’s average First Frost (fall) date is December 19, Last Frost (spring) date is January 22. One month.
- Gophers You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after the rains. If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.
- Aphids? Watch for leaves unnaturally curled along the length of the leaf, particularly broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages. Squish or wash any or the colony away immediately, and keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed.
- White flies Flush away, especially under the leaves. They are attracted to yellow, so keep yellowing, yellowed leaves removed. Probably need a little less watering.
- Slugs, Snails Sluggo, or the like, before they even get started, right when your seedlings begin to show, immediately when you put your transplants in! Once stopped, there will be intervals when there are none at all. If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another couple rounds.
Any time is a good time to start COMPOSTing! Pile, in a bin, trench in, lay layers on top of your garden! Giving back to Mama Earth is nature’s natural way! Ask neighbors or kin to save kitchen cleanings for you.
Start getting your summer garden layout in mind. Peruse seed catalogs and order up for your Spring planting! :)
The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, in the fog belt part of the year, so keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.