Happy Holidays with Lots of Green HUGS!!
It is such a blessing to be connected with each and every one of you! Thank you for sharing so much, the support you give, for engaging your Spirit with our community. Please intentionally shop and give green. May it go well with you and yours now and in the New Year!
September/October plantings are coming in, perfectly in time for your holiday table! For many, December brings the biggest fall harvests, is Winter’s June! I put the date I planted on my ID tags, along with the # of days to maturity. From time to time I check them. If it is beets or carrots and it’s about time for them to be ready, I poke my fingers into the soil to see how they are coming along.
With shorter and possibly 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 for the first spring plantings in April.
You have planting timing choices to make this year. So far, here in Santa Barbara, we have been having a super mild winter, hot, in fact, with no frost in sight. If that keeps up, we can start planting some spring crops very early, ie zucchini! Some crop’s fruits won’t mature well because the day lengths aren’t long enough yet. For those it’s better to wait. You can use that area for other quick growers until it’s their time. If you love your winter crops, amend your soil immediately and plant one more round, from transplants if you can get them or have starts of your own. They will mature faster than usual.
Check your 2015 seed catalogs for drought and heat tolerant varieties or look in southern states or world areas that have desert tolerant plants and order up! The seeds of these types may need to be planted deeper and earlier than more local plants for moisture they need. They may mature earlier. Be prepared to do second plantings and use a little water.
Besides beautiful bareroot roses, decide now where you will be buying any January bareroot veggies you want! Consider: grape vines; artichokes; short-day (sweet) globe onions; strawberries; cane berries such as raspberries (get low-chill types); low-chill blueberries; and rhubarb, asparagus, and horseradish.
Plant these delicious morsels now! Artichoke pups (give them 3’ to 4’ space), arugula, asparagus, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts if you get winter chill, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, culinary dandelions, garden purslane, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes – especially daikons, and turnips!
GARLIC LOVERS Same as with Brussels Sprouts, these stinkies need good winter chill. 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. Try both? 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 rot. Again, up to you. But all agree, choose the hefty cloves!
Plant green manure where you will grow heavy summer feeders like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, chiles, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and corn; hungry stalk vegetables like celery, fennel, rhubarb, and artichokes; or continually producing green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard. Green manure can be beautiful favas or a vetch mix to boost soil Nitrogen. 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!
Excellent 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. Especially check after rains.
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 along with small tender Brassica leaves.
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 scratched in 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. Heading is 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.
Glance at beet roots, turnips, in general, for low soil, especially after rains. Maybe you aren’t quite planting your seeds deeply enough? Anyway, cover up beet, carrot, radish and turnip shoulders to keep them from drying and getting rough looking and tough.
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. Bag up summer straw, mulches, for 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 (was?) January 22.
- 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. After that, water less so plant leaves will be less tender and inviting.
- White flies Flush away, especially under the leaves. They are attracted to yellow, so keep those Brassica yellowing, yellowed leaves removed pronto. Again, a little less water.
- 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.
COMPOST always! Pile, in a bin, trench in, lay layers on top of your garden with a light covering of soil so all the nutrients are contained and it doesn’t draw flies! Giving back to Mama Earth is nature’s natural way! Ask neighbors or kin to save non-predator type kitchen veggie scraps for you.
Start getting your summer garden layout in mind. Peruse seed catalogs and order up for your entire year’s plantings! 🙂
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. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!
Leave a wild place, untouched, in your garden! It’s the place the faeries and elves, the little people can hang out. When you are down on your hands and knees, they will whisper what to do. All of a sudden an idea pops in your mind….
Winter beauty and super nutrition to you!
In the garden of thy heart, plant naught but the rose of love. – Baha’U’Uah
“Earth turns to Gold in the hands of the Wise” Rumi