This year, December really is SoCal’s Winter’s June! We are having such mild weather our gardens still have tomatoes, corn and beans! Those of us who planted our broccoli and cauliflower in September, have gotten a lot of huge healthy plants, but no fruit! I’m sharing their leaves/greens with others! You can eat them just as you would collards and kale – steam, chop up for stews and stir frys! Lettuces are spectacular! Pluck those lower leaves and let them keep producing. Snap peas are not making it home, devoured at the garden, or en route. 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 outer lower leaves more frequently to stay ahead of the miners. Water a tad less so the leaf is less soft and inviting.
Those of you who planted jicama must be totally enjoying them! I didn’t plant them this year, and am missing that fresh crisp juicy crunch in my salads. Store bought is just no comparison.
Carrots and cabbages take their time, you know. If you planted your carrots densely, start harvesting the tiny ones for tender salad toppers! Cover with soil any tops/shoulders that have gotten exposed by the rains. No feeding them or overwatering – that causes them to fork, split, be hairy! Since cabbages are making leaf after leaf dense heads, feed them lightly now and then, and let them take the time they need. I always plant some in full sun, others in partial shade so they will come in at different times rather than all at once. They do keep well, but I like ’em as fresh as they can be! Do sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around to keep snails and slugs from moving in. Do this a few times, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for awhile.
Your peas and favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, feeding themselves, so little to no feeding is needed for them.
Kales are a powerful favorite of many, providing excellent nutrition. They are highest in bioavailable Calcium. Culinary dandelions are highest in Vitamin A! Garden Purslane, the upright kind, is highest in Omega 3s!
Truly, plant more rounds. If the ‘winter’ remains mild, they will grow quickly. Start a new garden with or put in successive rounds of 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, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes, and turnips! As soon as one is done, plant another!
Put in bunch onion patches here and there, especially among your broccolis and cauliflower to repel the Bagrada bugs in the spring, but not by your peas! And chards I have planted near onions don’t do well as neighbors either. Remove the onions. Plant a pretty little Italian red bunch onion border – highlight your salad! How about some garlic chives? Smell good…. Or some great monster leeks for leek & potato soup! Mmm….
For you Garlic aficionados – Remember, this is THE time to be planting your largest garlic cloves – give them super rich soil and lots of water. If you are so inspired, many plant on Winter Solstice day, Dec 21! Plant skins on, or for more mojo, quicker sprouting, here is the way to prep your cloves Bob Anderson style:
- Soak in water and baking soda for 16-24 hours before planting. Soak separate strains separately. (One T soda to 1 gallon water, or a half teaspoon in a cup of water). Remove the skins – start at the bottom being careful not to damage the growing tip OR the bottom, because that’s where the roots grow from!
- Just before planting soak nude cloves in rubbing alcohol for 3-5 minutes and plant immediately.
SideDressing – that’s feeding your plant during its growing time! Liquid fertilizer like fish/kelp 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! Plants love a fish/kelp mix. 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. Worm castings, though not food, work wonders! Big brocs, for example. When they start to head, when plants start to produce, that’s your cue to help them along.
Winter is not a time for mulching. Its purpose in summer is to keep the soil, 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 habitat, let the soil dry out between rains, to kill off the wilts fungi, and let Bagrada bug eggs die. I use straw mulch, so I box it up and use it in my compost pile during winter. Only if your garden is on a slope do you want to mulch, to prevent soil erosion.
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 curled along the length of the leaf, particularly broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages. Squish or wash any or the colony away immediately.
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.
Slimy 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 round.
Any time is a good time to start COMPOSTing! Pile, in a bin, trench, layers on top of your garden! Giving back to Mama Earth is nature’s natural way!
Make Organic, Sustainable Holiday Garden Gifts! Plants themselves make wonderful gifts!
Start perusing seed catalogs for your Spring planting!