Happy Green New Year, Gardeners!!
Santa Barbara’s average last frost date is January 22! This isn’t to say there might not be another frost after that…and plants won’t produce fruit until they have enough hours of sun, and for some, warmth including day/night and/or ground temps. Know that you are taking your chances. If you lose ’em just replant! Guarantee your success by starting another round of seeds in a month or so, both for backup and succession planting.
With your summer garden layout in mind, get SEEDS! Start them indoors NOW! Check your 2015 seed catalogs for drought and heat tolerant varieties or look in southern states or world areas that have desert low water needs 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.
You have planting timing choices to make this year. So far, here in Santa Barbara, we have been having a super mild winter, hot at times, finally getting some frosts the last few days of December. We May start planting some spring crops very early, ie zucchini in January! Some crops, like tomatoes fruits won’t mature well because the day lengths aren’t long enough yet, air and ground temps are too cool. For those it’s better to wait. However, if you get planting fever, put in small fruited varieties and cherry toms to start your tomato season. You can probably better use that area though for other quick plants, grown for their leaves, until it’s the right time to plant toms. Plants grown for their leaves can be removed at any time and you still shall have had lush harvests.
This is THE time to start peppers from seed! Peppers take their time, much longer than other plants.
Check out Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips & Ideas!
If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, wait and get transplants and pop them right in the ground per their right times! No fuss, no muss.
If you love your winter crops, and aren’t necessarily in a rush to do spring/summer, amend your soil immediately and plant one more round, from transplants if you can get them or have starts of your own. In cooler January weather, plantings will mature slowly, but they will mature faster than usual as days are longer, things are warmer. Most January plantings will be coming in March, April. That’s still in good time for soil preps in April for the first spring plantings in April/May.
For us SoCal gardeners, besides beautiful bareroot roses, this month is bareroot veggies time! They don’t have soil on their roots, so plant immediately or keep them moist! 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. Bare root planting is strictly a January thing. February is too late.
Think twice about horseradish. It’s invasive as all get out! If you do it, confine it to a raised bed or an area where it will run out of water. If you have long term space available, add in some deciduous fruit trees! Rhubarb, though totally tasty in several combinations, ie strawberry/rhubarb pie, has poisonous leaves! That means to dogs, small children and unknowing people. Either fence it off, or don’t grow it. I don’t recommend it in community gardens because we can’t assure people’s/children’s safety.
Plant MORE of these delicious morsels now! Arugula, 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!
If you need more robust soil, you may choose to put in green manure where you will grow heavy summer feeders like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, chilis, 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! That will flatten down in no time at all! 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. Come spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!
Repeat! 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 a while.
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 or watering in a way that washes the soil away? 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. Remove them when the sun comes out! No cooking your plants before their time! Santa Barbara’s average First Frost (fall) date is December 19, Last Frost (spring) date is (was?) January 22.
Standard Veggie Predators
- 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! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost is easy to make. Added to your soil, it increases water holding capacity, is nutritious, soil organisms flourish, your soil breathes! Make a compost pile, put clean green waste/kitchen trim in alternate layers with straw/leaves in a bin, trench in kitchen trim, 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! The soil organisms will work at the top as well as from the ground soil up. Throw on some red wriggler worms to speed the process. Giving back to Mama Earth is nature’s natural way! Ask neighbors or kin to save non-predator type kitchen veggie scraps for you. Go lightly on coffee grounds.
Get your summer garden layout in mind NOW for January/February SEED SWAPS! 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 a fog belt/marine layer area most years, 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
See the entire January 2015 Newsletter!
December has been a dramatic month at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We had HOT days, then finally some frosts and freezes! There has been some brilliant colors and winter bird flocks. See wonderful December Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden images! Happy 2015 gardening to you all!