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SeedSaving SeedSavers Exchange - Passing on Our Garden Heritage
Founded in 1975, this non-profit organization was a pioneer in the heirloom seed movement.

In the days before seed companies, saving seeds was done without a thought, a fundamental garden practice. If you didn’t save seeds, you had none to plant the next year. If there was a weather disaster and you lost your crop, trading for seeds became vital. Seeds were traded with newcomers, travelers, and at markets. It was the earliest form of commodities trading! When people moved off farms into the cities, they still wanted to grow veggies, but didn’t have room or time to let the plants seed out. That’s when seed companies came into being in the 1860s. Today there are Seed Banks and ONLINE seed sharing to preserve our heritage seeds!

Your SECOND HARVEST is SEEDS! As summer or ‘winter’ in SoCal finishes, let your very best plants produce but don’t harvest the fruits. Beans get lumpy with seeds and will dry completely. Let them dry on the vine for full nutrition from the mother plant. Let a cucumber yellow and dry. Let the corn cob dry and the kernels get hard. Cukes, peppers, melons, okra and squash seeds are easy to process. Just remove the seeds and let them dry. Uh, do label the drying trays! Tomatoes are a tiny bit of a process but not hard at all. See more!

Save enough seeds for your own planting, for several rounds of planting across next year’s season, for replanting when there are losses, and some to give away or share at a seed swap. Keep the race going.

Saving Seeds is Easy!

1. Simple Gathering ~ Beets, Carrot, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Onion
Just separate the seed from the chaff with rolling pins, sieves, colanders!

Seeds - Gathering Fernleaf Dill is easy!Seeds Gathering Fernleaf Dill

2. Removing from pods ~ Arugula, Basil, Beans, Broccoli, Peas, Radish is super simple!

Seeds - Remove Beans from their Pods is super simple!Fat Radish seed pods!

3. Removing & Drying – Cukes, Eggplant, Melon, Pepper, Squash, Tomatoes, Zukes. Let them mature fully on the plant so the seeds get all the nutrition they can from the Mother plant.

Cucumber Yellow, Ready for SeedSavingSeeds Remove Dry Melon

Tomatoes, a wet fruit, require a wee bit of processing and tad of time, but it’s easy! Heirlooms are true, hybrids are unpredictable but fun. Put the little seeds in water, let sit no more than 2 days. Recent studies show tomato seed germination is best when seeds are soaked for only one to two days before they are rinsed and dried. Fermentation times longer than three days substantially lower the germination rate from 96% to only 74% on the 4th day! Word. Scrape the scum off. Rinse, add water, do it again, until you have clean seed. Dry. See all the tips and details!

Seeds Remove Process Dry Tomato

Storage ~ Each year keep your best! Scatter some about, called broadcasting, if they would grow successfully now! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s better than ever plantings. Airtight Canisters, Jars, Plastic Containers, Baggies. Or in envelopes just like at your nursery. Out of the light. Freeze if you want.

Viability Seeds vary greatly in their length of time of viability.

•The drier the seeds, the longer they will store.

•The harder the seeds, the longer they will store.

Veggie Seeds Viability varies by Years!

YOU can learn LOTS more about SeedSaving! Each year in July Seed Savers Exchange hosts an intimate gathering of leaders in the seed and garden movement at Heritage Farm in Decorah, IA.

Start a Seed Swap in Your Area! In Santa Barbara we had our 7th Annual Seed Swap in January! They are sponsored by our local Permaculturists. If there are none where you live, if you are willing, please, please, please, contact local permaculturists, garden groups/clubs, to see about starting one!

Remember, your seeds are adapted to you and your locality. If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank or Seed Library! While you are there, pick up some of your favorites and some new ones to try out! Santa Barbara’s FoodBank has a Seed Library at their warehouse, and teaches recipients how to grow their own food. The seeds are free!

Unregulated Biodiversity is Key, essential, so our agriculture remains adaptable to climate change, new pests and diseases. Heirloom seeds are vital to our continued nutritious future, and for our children’s healthy futures! And, as Ashley Glenn says…gardens have potential far beyond the plants in the ground. They are ancient classrooms, innovative laboratories….

SeedSaving Blessing Peru
Francisca Bayona Pacco, 37, is Papa Arariwa, Guardian of the Potato, Paru Paru in Pisac, Cuzco, Peru. She brings a coca leaves offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) asking protection from frost.

We give thanks. Plants, Seeds, Food, Beauty, Being Here Today Together.



The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Zucchini Costata Romanesco Kelly Armful Harvest Annie's Annuals

Smile and be wild! Be healed.

Kelly Kilpatrick, Horticulturalist at Annie’s Annuals says:

‘My favorite squash ever! Zucchini ‘Costata Romanesco’ is lovely with dark green flecked flesh & strong ribbing. It doesn’t produce a ton of fruits, so you won’t be swimming in zucchinis you don’t know what to do with but the ones you do get are so much better tasting. The fruit is firm & tasty & a bit nutty-flavored. Produces a lot of male blossom buds that are great for stuffing. A robust plant, give it plenty of space – 3-4’ around should do. Better air circulation will help prevent mildew of the leaves, to which squash can be susceptible. I like to let the fruits grow gigantic (they don’t get spongy!) & then cut them into rounds & throw them on the grill. The grilled patties make the yummiest sandwiches, just get a good loaf of bread, slather it with pesto, add a patty & sprinkle with parmesan. Yum! I’m so hungry now!’

I got into Romanescos when I was photographing at Santa Barbara’s Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. The production was incredible, a zuke at every leaf junction! Others say the plant is prolific as well. Kelly’s experience must be comparing it with yet another even more prolific variety! Here is the May 16, 2016 image I took at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden!

Zucchini Costata Romanesco Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

At this stage, while the ribs are prominent, shave or slice the small zukes crosswise, the raw slices are star shaped! Perfect for your pasta sauce or to adorn your salad!

Planting Romanescos is like with other zukes.

Zukes are frost sensitive, but I saw them started from seed in the ground successfully in January at our Santa Barbara community garden several years! Start early indoors and transplant when temps are safe.

Full Sun and plenty of space!

Soak seeds overnight, 8 to 10 hours. Equisetum tea is the sovereign remedy for fighting fungus – especially damp-off disease on young seedlings. Spray on the soil as well as plant.

Right proper Companions! Plant potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugsRadish with cukes & zukes to repel flea beetles and cucumber beetles.

Rather than planting on a mound, consider planting in a basin. That will keep their soil more moist in these hot dought times in southern California. Put a stake in the center of the basin, water only at the stake. Make your basin large to serve the many mini lateral feeder roots.

Zucchini require a high level of feeding. Best planted in rich well-drained soil, high in organic matter, kept moderately moist.

Mulch heavily – up to 6″ deep. This keeps fruit off the ground and helps to avoid rot.

Powdery Mildew is the bane of zucchini plants. Deter diseases such as mildew by watering the soil not the leaves (also avoid handling plants). Water in the morning so plants can dry before damp evenings. Use your baking soda, powdered milk, aspirin foliar feed as prevention! It can be used on roses every 3 to 4 days, but do your veggie plants every 5 to 10 days, or after significant rains, as the plant grows, because these new plant tissues are not yet protected yet by your fungicide. Chamomile and garlic teas are also used to fight mildew on cucumbers and squash. Compost tea itself is very beneficial as inoculates the plants with a culture of beneficial microorganisms. Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties:

  • Cucumber: Diva
  • Yellow Summer Squash: Success, Sunray, Sunglo
  • Zucchini: Ambassador, Wildcat
  • Pumpkin: 18 Karat Gold, Gladiator

How many?! ONLY ONE Zuke plant is allllll I need.  A plant per person is plenty! Believe me! Harvest small, if you can’t keep up. Those are bite size when you cook them or slice for fresh in salads. ‘They’ say grow at least 2 plants to improve fertilization, but I have never had a problem with just one!

Harvest from 50 days. Zucchini flowers will come sooner, of course….

Zucchini Flowers Male FemaleZucchini flowers
are a great source of folic acid and are often “prescribed” for those who are lethargic, anemic or pregnant! Both male and female flowers are edible but you’ll find that the females are slightly more robust.

If you are growing your own squashes and don’t want to disturb the production, harvest just the male flowers (leaving one behind for pollination). If, instead, you have the universal problem of more zucchini than friends who will accept them – then go ahead and harvest the females as well! The females are the ones with the little “zucchino” for a stem.

In the image, the male, on the right, has no zucchino and only one stamen. Don’t be alarmed if your zuke makes lots of boy flowers first! That’s Mother Nature’s way of making sure the girl flowers get pollinated right away!

Saving seeds! Squash must be fully mature before harvested for seed production. This means that summer squashes must be left on the vine until the outer shell hardens. Allow to cure 3-4 additional weeks after harvest to encourage further seed ripening. Chop open hard-shelled fruits and scoop out the seeds. Rinse clean in a wire strainer with warm, running water. Dry with towel and spread on board or cookie sheet to complete drying. Viability is 5-6 years.


DELICIOUS RECIPES!

‘Long about late June, July, gardeners are starting to seek new ways to enjoy their Zucchini! ZOODLES! Here are 28 cool summer variations on how to include this common veggie in a unique way! http://hurrythefoodup.com/zoodle-zucchini-pasta-recipes/

Zucchini Zoodles with Kale Pesto

Zucchini Recipe Zoodles with Kale Pesto

Food processor recipe makes 2 servings plus 1½ cups leftover pesto!

For the kale pesto:
3 cups chopped kale leaves
¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts (toasted or raw)
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ⅔ cup)

For the zucchini noodles:
4 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup kale pesto (above), plus more for serving
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving
Grated Parmesan, for serving

See all the instructions!

And, of course, make any changes to the recipe your heart or palate desires!

See also Zucchini Bites and ala the New York Times, Zucchini Lasagna!

May your world be round and delicious! 

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

See the entire April GBC Newsletter

 

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SeedSaving - Advocates and Laws
Peasant seeds – the pillar of food production – are under attack everywhere. Under corporate pressure, laws in many countries increasingly limit what farmers can do with their seeds. Seed saving, which has been the basis of farming for thousands of years, is quickly being criminalised. What you can do.

It’s a New Year! Some of you will make serious gardening resolutions, others will take it as it comes, one day at a time as usual. But I do recommend you secure your seeds for the year ahead! Some are now less plentiful with droughts and storms, GMO threats, new laws. Recently much needed seed banks, libraries have sprung up. We want to use our seeds with reverence and seed save our best as they adapt to different conditions, assure their goodness for future generations. At Seed Swaps, take only what you need. If many people grow them, there will be more adapted to our localities. Before there were seed shops, seeds were often used as money. They are precious today as they have always been, maybe even more so.

Santa Barbara’s average last frost date is January 22 – and that is measured at the Airport! This isn’t to say there might not be another frost after that… With early plantings, know that you are taking your chances. If you lose ’em just replant! Guarantee your success by starting another round of seeds in two weeks to a month or so, both for backup and succession planting. Find out the frost dates for your California Zip Code! See the details – Protect Your Veggies from Freezing!

Just in case, have old sheets, light blankets, old towels handy. 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!

Planting early isn’t always a gain. Even if the plant lives, some won’t produce fruit until they have enough hours of sun, and for some, warmth including day/night and/or ground temps. And some plants set in too early will never produce. That waiting time for enough sun, enough warmth, interrupts the plant’s natural cycle and the production window is lost.

While others are dancing with glee at their new plants so soon, don’t worry if you wait a bit for a more sure thing! You can use that area for quick plants, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, grown for their leaves, until it’s the right time to plant heat lovers. These plants can be removed at any time and you still shall have had lush harvests. However, hardly anyone can resist planting early tomatoes! Another strategy is don’t remove your leaf producers; instead plant tomatoes here and there among them! Remove lower leaves on the sunny side of taller plants and put in some little transplants there. That way you have table food and your heart is happy too!

Choose early cold tolerant varieties. Ones with northern names, in SoCal that could be Oregon Spring, or Siberian. Stupice from Czechoslovakia is very early! Bellstar, from Ontario Canada, is larger and earlier than other plum tomatoes. Early Girl is a favorite! And SunGold cherry tomatoes are almost always a winner! Cherry toms are small and will ripen when other tomatoes just stay green for the longest!

We may or may not have El Niño here in Santa Barbara, SoCal. If it happens, if you haven’t gotten your land ready, be prepared to scramble to get your beds and berms up and secure. Have a good source of mulch, a kind that doesn’t wash away, in mind to quickly prevent erosion. Quickly install trenches to hold the rainwater, and do some terracing if you are on a slope! Our water goals have changed in recent years. Now we hope to keep every drop of water ON our land. Let the earth filter it, restore our water tables, let only clean water get to our ocean. The ocean provides food too ~ fishes, mineral rich seaweeds. Let’s give them a clean environment. See Rainy Day Tactics for Spectacular Veggies!

With your summer garden layout in mind, get SEEDS! Start them indoors NOW to be planted in March! After a HOT summer and fall that had even the heat lovers groaning, we have had a coolish November and December. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have another hot summer. Check your 2016 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.

This is THE time to start peppers from seed! Peppers take their time, much longer than other plants. They are super persnickety about soil temps – they need 60 degrees + for happiness. Soil Temps are critical for root function. Peppers will sit for agonizing months if they are too cool. When that happens they rarely take hold, never produce. Better not to plant at all, or pull and replant. A gardeners’ soil thermometer is an inexpensive handy little tool to own.

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 get longer, temps 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.

Continue to make the most of winter companion planting! Carrots enhance peas, onion family stunts peas. Cilantro enhances Brassicas and repels aphids on them! Lettuce repels Cabbage moths. Onions, leeks and chives help repel the carrot root fly. Carrots thrive when Cilantro, Chamomile, Marigold are planted with them. Companion planting is also a size strategy. Keep planting smaller plants, especially lettuce, on the sunny under sides of Brassicas! Take off a couple lower leaves to make room.

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.

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!

When you put in new transplants, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs from seriously damaging or disappearing 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.

Prevention  A typical disease is Powdery mildew. Plant leaving plenty of space for air circulation. Apply your baking soda mix. Drench under and upper sides of the foliage of young plants to get them off to a great start! Do this the same or next day if transplanting. A super combo is 1 regular Aspirin dissolved, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains. Prevention is so much better than after mildew has set in. See Aspirin Solution.

If you need more robust soil, do something absolutely yummy with it! This is perfect timing to put in some green manure where you will plant heavy summer feeders – 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. Or you can ‘rest’ an area by covering it 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:

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. Keep thinning beets as they get bigger, taking small ones from between the ones getting larger. Thinnings are great in your salads along with small tender Brassica leaves.

Sidedressing is like snacking. Some of your heavy leaf producers and big bodied Brassicas, may need a feeding now and again. Heading is your cue to help them along. If they slow down, or just don’t look perky, slip them a liquid feed that quickly waters into the root zone. Stinky fish/kelp is easy for them to uptake in cooler weather. Get your nozzle under low cabbage leaves and feed/water out to the drip line. Lettuces love manures. Compost and manure teas, fish emulsion (when there are no digging predators), pretty powdered box ferts, are all good. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings. Slow release is a wise consideration. Worm castings, though not food, work wonders! Also, be careful of ‘too much’ fertilizer, too much water, that makes for an aphid tasty soft plant. That said, another way to get goodness to the roots is push in a spade fork vertically, wiggle it back and forth, remove the fork, pour your foods into the holes, close ’em back up. Soil organisms will get right to work, your plant will stay healthy and be quite productive!

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.

Check beets, carrots, radish, potatoes, turnips, in general, for low soil, especially after rains. Soil naturally compacts with watering. Some of these veggies naturally push right up above ground as they grow. Planting their seeds deeper doesn’t compensate. It’s the nature of the veggie! Never hurts to put a handy little pile of extra soil near where you plant them. Cover their exposed shoulders to keep them from drying, getting tough, needing peeling, losing the nutrients in their skins. Uncovered carrot shoulders don’t ripen but stay green. Same with potatoes.

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. Do not keep straw from areas where there have been infestations. Bag up clean summer straw, mulches, for compost pile layers during winter or lay the straw under the boards in pathways to feed the soil there. Later, move the pathway over, left or right, and plant in that fertile soil that is now under the boards!

Do water! Watering is important even in cool weather. Also, some plants simply like being moist ie chard and lettuce, strawberries. No swimming, just moist.

Standard Veggie Predators Keep a keen watch for pests and diseases and take quick action!

  • 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.
  • Leafminers  Keep watch on your chard and beet leaves. Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make; immediately remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners, especially the leaves that touch another plant. Water and feed just a little less to make those leaves less inviting. Plant so mature leaves don’t touch. Rather than row plant, interplant here and there.
  • Slugs, Snails  Lay down Sluggo, or the like, before seedlings even get started, 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, and if you make it, you know what’s in it! Added to your soil, made or purchased, it increases water holding capacity, is nutritious, soil organisms flourish, your soil lives and breathes! It feeds just perfectly! Make it HOT, Cold, or In place!  Dry is dead, so be sure it is always slightly moist.

Again, get your summer garden layout in mind NOW for January/February SEED SWAPS! Peruse seed catalogs and order up. Later on, many seeds will no longer be available, so wisely get your entire year’s supply now!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Capture water. Grow organic!

December Garden Images! Western Bluebirds, the Fallen Tree, surprises!

See the entire January GBC Newsletter:

ALL About Beets, So Sweet!
Soil Care for Spring Planting
HEAL Community Garden for Sydney Children

Events!  January 31, 2016 Santa Barbara Seed Swap!

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Mulch ~ save water, reduce weeds, keep fruits above bug level and clean!

I used to be a total mulcher, covered my whole veggie garden. I’ve adjusted my coastal SoCal *mulch thinking to match the plant! Same goes for composting in place. That’s a good idea for some areas of your garden, other areas not at all!

If you are coastal SoCal, in the marine layer zone, your mulch, or composting in place, may be slowing things down a lot more than you realize. The best melons I’ve ever seen grown at cool & coastal Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden were on bare hot dry soil in a plot that had a lower soil level than most of the other plots. The perimeter boards diverted any wind right over the top of the area, the soil got hot!  It was like an oven! So, let it be bare! No mulch under melons, your winter squash, pumpkins except under the fruits to keep them off the ground, clean, up from insect predators.

Put up a low wind barrier – straw bales, a perimeter of densely foliated plants, a big downed log, be creative. Let your peppers and jicama get hot! Eggplant is Mediterranean, maybe coastal, because they like a little humidity, interplant them closely with other plants, but still they are heat lovers! Okra is full sun Southern hot!

Tomatoes need dryer soil to avoid the verticillium and fusarium wilt fungi if your soil has it. Plant them in a basin that keeps the water out! Make the basin on top of a mound with the basin bottom level above the surrounding soil level. Let ‘em dry nearby; water a foot or more away from the central stem. Let that tap-root do its job, get the water below the fungi, wilt/blight zone, the top 6 to 8 inches. Drier soil is not comfy for slugs.

Get cucumbers up on a trellis, then you won’t need mulch to keep the cukes clean and bug free, but rather because they have short roots. Cukes are susceptible to fungi wilts/blight too, so keep the leaves from touching bare ground. As soon as they are big enough, clip off lower leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water in case they get wet. They are a fuzzy plant, so better to water at the root, not on the leaves anyway. Plant heat tolerant lettuces at their feet to act as living mulch. They both like plenty of water to keep them growing fast and sweet, so they are great companions. In that case you will need to use a little Sluggo or its equivalent if you feel comfortable to use it.

WATER  Clearly, no mulch, more heat, equals more water needed. In drought areas, plant in basins below the surrounding soil level. Use your long low flow water wand to water only in the basin at the roots of your plant. Fuzzy leaved plants, tomatoes, cucumber and eggplant, prefer not being watered on their leaves anyway. Since there is no raised mound, there is no maintenance needed for berms surrounding a basin though there is natural settling so you do need to clear the basin occasionally. If you are in a wet area, make those mounds with the bottoms of basins above the surrounding soil level for good drainage and check the berms from time to time to be sure they are holding up. These are variations on age old Waffle Gardening.

LIVING MULCH  Closely planted beets, carrots, garden purslane, radish, strawberries, turnips act as living mulch to themselves. The dense canopy their leaves make lets little light in, keeps things moist. If you cage or trellis your beans, most of the plant is up getting air circulation, keeping them dryer, more mildew free, if you don’t plant too densely. They, cucumbers and strawberries, also have short feet that need to stay moist, so do mulch them – your beans and cukes with clean chop and drop or purchased mulch. Chard likes moist and cooler, so mulch. Zucchini, doesn’t care. They are a huge leaved plant, greedy sun lovers, that are self mulching. But, you can do what some do. Feed their vine up through the largest tomato cages, stake them well, that plant is heavy. Cut off the lower leaves and plant a family of lettuces, carrots, onions, salad bowl fixin’s or basil on the sunny side underneath! If you are in a hot drought zone, plant them in the filtered shade underneath. All of them like plenty of water, so everyone is happy.

If you are going to mulch, do it justice. Besides wanting to cool your soil, keep moisture in, prevent erosion, keep your crop off the soil and away from bugs, and in the long-term, feed your soil, mulching is also to prevent light germinating seeds from sprouting. Put on 4 to 6 inches minimum. Less than that may be pretty, but simply make great habitat for those little grass and weed seeds! Mulch makes moist soil, where a rich multitude of soil organisms can thrive, including great fat vigorous earthworms! You see them, you know your soil is well aerated, doing great!

If you live in a cold climate, cold, cold winters, mulch can protect your soil and keep it warm in winters. In SoCal, pull mulch away in ‘winter’ to let the sun warm the soil, remove overwintering pest habitat, let soil dry so fungi die. Pile it near your compost area and use it in compost layers if it is pest and disease free.

Mulching is double good on hillsides. Make your rock lined water-slowing ‘S’ terrace walkways snaking along down the hillside. Cover your berms well and deeply to prevent erosion and to hold moisture when there are drying winds. Use a mulch that won’t blow away or garden staple down some plastic. Plant fruit trees, your veggies on the uphill side of your berms.

Mulch with an organic degradable mulch that feeds your soil too! Chop and drop disease and pest free plants to compost in place, spread dry leaves. Spread very well-aged manures. When you water, it’s like compost or manure tea to the ground underneath. Lay out some seed free straw – some feed stores will let you sweep it up for free! If you don’t like the look of that, cover it with some pretty purchased undyed mulch you like. Use redwood fiber only in areas you want to be slightly acidic, like for strawberries.

COMPOSTING IN PLACE  Build soil right where you need it. Where you do put mulch, tuck kitchen waste out of sight under it, where you will plant next. Sprinkle with a little soil if you have some to spare, that inoculates your pile with soil organisms; pour on some compost tea to add some more! Throw on some red wriggler surface feeder worms. Grow yarrow or Russian comfrey (Syphytum x uplandicum) near your compost area so you can conveniently add a few sprigs to your pile to speed decomposition. It will compost quickly, no smells, feeding your soil excellently! If you keep doing it in one place, a nice raised bed will be built there with little effort!

You don’t have to wait to plant! Pull back a planting space, add compost you have on hand or purchased compost, maybe mix in a little aged manure mix, worm castings, specific amendments to the kind of plant you will be planting. Sprinkle some mycorrhizal fungi on your transplant’s roots, and plant! Yes!

A caution:  The debris pile of composting in place may be habitat for overwintering insect pests, so put it safely away from plants that have had or might suffer infestations. To break a pest’s growing cycle, put no piles at all where there have been pests before.

In SoCal and southern states, when temps are 85 degrees or above for 3 to 4 days in a row, check for BAGRADA BUGS on any Brassica plants you have – broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, nor Mizuna, mustard, radish, arugula or turnips. If Bagradas are there, some gardeners immediately remove all Brassicas and all the surrounding mulch to remove Bagrada habitat, stop them laying eggs in the soil. Those gardeners then wait for cool weather again before planting any more Brassicas.

In the fall most SoCal gardeners remove tired mulch to remove habitat for overwintering pests or diseases, to let the soil warm up on short sunny ‘winter’ days. Some toss it completely away, dig it into landscaped areas to feed the soil. If clean they compost it. If you are in a snow zone, you would keep it on to keep the soil as warm as possible, cover and protect plants from freezing.

So, you see, there are times for mulch and times not for mulch. Using less saves money, saves work.

Mulch is magic when done right!

*Mulch is when you can see distinct pieces of the original materials.  Finished compost is when there are no distinct pieces left, the material is black and fluffy and smells good.

Updated from June 11, 2011 post

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Salad Summer Veggies
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

We have had a mild winter here in Santa Barbara and some hot March days, so many of us at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden have planted early. It will be important to plant more rounds in a month or two to keep our table in fresh supply later on!

Soil temps at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden are from 62 to 68 degrees now! Get yourself a little soil thermometer, and plant just at the right times in the right places. It makes the most difference to peppers. If planted too soon, sometimes they just never recover. Warm soil, 65°F+, and nighttime temps above 55°F is what they like! BEST PLANTING TEMPS PER VEGGIE! Night air temps are now close to holding 55°F and above. Soon. Very soon.

Start MORE seedlings indoors early April for late May/early June plantings. Okra is a good choice to seed now, plant in June. Sow seeds directly in the ground too! Transplanting is faster by six weeks! If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, only get transplants and pop them right in the ground per their right times!

April 1 or as close to it as you can, start your Jicama seeds! Winter squash for sure. It needs time to grow big and harden for winter storage. Melons now but cantaloupe in May.

Eggplant, limas, okra and peppers, pumpkins! Transplant early-maturing varieties of beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Sow and/or transplant asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, okra, summer-maturing onions, parsley, peanuts, the last peas (choose a heat-tolerant variety such as Wando), white potatoes, radishes (with cukes to repel cuke beetles, and eggplant to repel flea beetles), rhubarb, and spinach. Choose heat and drought tolerant varieties when you can.

Keep ’em coming! If you have already done some planting, mid to late April, pop in another round! Poke in some bean seeds where your last peas are finishing, add cucumber seeds between the beans, plus dill at each end of the trellis to be there when you pickle your cukes! Plant radishes with the cukes to deter the Cucumber beetles. Plant corn in blocks, not rows, for good pollination! In a good hot area, lay in some cukes, melons or winter squash, to ramble among the corn, soon as they are tall enough. They all act as a living mulch, reducing water needs.

Trellis Cucumber SlantingSpread down a thick straw mulch to keep leaves and fruit off the ground, out of the insect zone. That is most importantly true for cucumbers. They are even more susceptible than tomatoes to the wilts fungi, die pretty instantly, in about 3 days, if they get infected. So when you plant them, treat them similarly to your tomatoes if you have wilts fungi in your garden. Keep the LEAVES OFF THE GROUND. Completely AVOID WATER SPLASH. Plant them on a raised mound/basin with good drainage. You can almost dry farm your tomatoes, but that won’t do for cucumbers, they need their water. If you are comingling them with beans, lower along a trellis, plant the beans between the raised mounds. Beans don’t get the wilts, but love the water. They are a big plant with continuous high production and small roots!

Another common technique for cukes, and melons, is to grow them up over a frame. The cukes are off the ground, hang and grow straight, are easy to harvest. As you see in the image, you can plant lettuces that prefer less heat but also love water, in the shade of your trellis.

Water Wise Practices!

  • Please always be building compost. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • This California drought year consider planting IN furrows, where the moisture settles. Plant crosswise to the Sun’s arc so the plants’ root areas will be slightly shaded by the depth of the furrow in early AM and late afternoon.
  • Make mounds with basins on top. Rather than losing water to evaporation from overhead watering, put the water right where it will do the most good and nowhere else. For larger leaved plants, put a stake in the center of the basin so you know where to water.
  • And, PLEASE MULCH. It keeps your soil cooler, moister, less water needed.
  • Sprinkle Mycorrhizae fungi right on the roots of your transplants when you put them in the ground. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Ask for it bulk at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.

Natural Disease & Pest Prevention!

  • Be wise and pick the right plant varieties for your temps and conditions! Get heat tolerant, bolt resistant, drought tolerant, disease tolerant/resistant (VFN). If you are just starting, just start! You will learn as you go. Our climate is changing, so we are all adjusting and plants will be being hybridized, and hybridize naturally, for new climates. We can get varieties from other areas that are already used to conditions we will be having. Together we will do this.
  • Plant companion plants that repel pests, enhance each other’s growth so they are strong and pest and disease resistant. Mix it up! Less planting in rows. Split up groups so pests won’t go from one plant to the next, and the next. Think biodiversity!
  • Make top notch soil! Make compost. Grow worms for castings. In planting areas add tasty properly aged manure mixes. Add non-fat powdered milk for immediate immune system support at planting time; put in a finely ground bone meal for later uptake when your plant gets to flowering time. Sprinkle mycorrhizae fungi directly on transplant roots, all but Brassicas, at planting time to increase their uptake of nutrients and water.
  • Immediately drench your transplants, foliar feed, with a non-fat powdered milk, baking soda, aspirin, soap mix to jazz up their immune systems. Specially give your peppers an Epsom salt and soap mix bath. More details and all the recipes.
  • Maintenance! Keep your plants strong while they are working hard! Be ready to do a little cultivating composts and manures in during the season (called side-dressing), or adding fish/kelp emulsion mixes if you don’t have predator pests like skunks! Keep your plants watered and vibrant, but not so much as to make their leaves soft and inviting to munching insect pests. Trap gophers immediately if you are able.

Plant Bee Food, Herbs and Flowers! Sow or transplant basil, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. Be mindful where you plant them… Mediterranean herbs from southern France, like lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme, do well in hot summer sun and poor but well-drained soil with minimal fertilizer. On the other hand, basil, chives, coriander (cilantro), and parsley thrive in richer soil with more frequent watering. Wise planting puts chives where you need to repel Bagrada Bugs, by your broccoli, kale, but away from peas if you are still growing some. Cilantro, a carrot family workhorse, discourages harmful insects such as aphids, potato beetles and spider mites, attracts beneficial insects when in bloom. Dill is a natural right next to the cucumbers since you will use the dill if you make pickles. They mature about the same time. Let some of your carrots, lettuces, cilantro bloom! Bees, and insect eating birds and beneficial insects love them and you will get some seeds – some for the birds, some for you! Grow beauty – cosmos, marigolds, white sweet alyssum – all benefit your garden in their own way!

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.  Alfred Austin


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, only a mile from the beach, and during late spring/summer 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….

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 April 2015 Newsletter! 

March was a brilliant month at the garden! Enjoy some colorful Garden Images including a just born Swallowtail Butterfly!

Happy Spring gardening to you all! 

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Soil Thermometer Veggies

Soil temp is always your basic seed planting time guide!

There are minimum germination temps, ideal temps and max temps. Plant when soils reach minimum temperature measured at 8 a.m., 4 inches deep. Beans are an exception, being measured at 6 inches deep.

40 Degrees! Crops that germinate in the coolest soils: arugula, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, pak choi, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, radicchio, radish and spinach seed.
50 Degrees:  Cabbage, Chinese cabbage, leeks, onions, Swiss chard, and turnips.
55 Degrees:  Corn, tomatoes.
60 Degrees warm-season vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots and cauliflower.
65 Degrees: Cucumber, peppers, cantaloupe
70 Degrees heat lovers!  Beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, okra, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

In northern climates it can take several weeks for tomatoes, eggplant and peppers to germinate in the garden. You can get a jump on the season if you do cold-tolerant, or if North, short-season variety transplants. Squash, cucumbers and corn grow quickly and are easy to start from seed.

Heat your soil with plastic mulch and use a cloche, fabric row cover or cold frame. The bane of early planting is a late hard freeze. If you decide to take an early season chance, have covers handy for unprotected plants!

We can thank Dr Jerry Parsons, Extension Horticulturist at the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, for the temps info in this great chart below! You see, there are minimum temps, optimum, and no-go temps! At the practical temps you might not get 100% germination, but you will get a crop at the right time. Too soon you get too little. Too late, like in SW desert areas or hot climates, there may be too much summer heat and little production, high water costs.

Notice that there are differences from the temps and plants listed above and the chart below, some plants appear in two temps, and some plants, like okra, might not be planted in the north at all! Dr Parsons has longer Texas heat in his area. Northern gardeners need to plant sooner for short cooler summers. Plant cold tolerant or early varieties. And, plant more seeds to compensate for those that don’t germinate. Or, presprout for more surety.

Regions have huge variances in planting time strategies, and even in the same yard there are micro niches that vary considerably, so get a thermometer and plant in the right place at the right time!

Soil Germination Temperatures Veggies Parsons

Start with fresh viable seed for great germination, and don’t forget your seed soaking & presprouting options!

With a Soil Thermometer and good gardener self discipline, get your seeds and plants in the ground at their most productive times for your location! Here’s to abundant harvests!

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

Keep ’em coming! That means almost daily harvesting of beans, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes to get them while tender and at max flavor! If you don’t harvest, for example, storing on the vine, your plant thinks it has done its job and slows down, may even quit producing. Fruits left too long are less juicy, get tough sometimes, may have an off flavor, and may get seedy. No greedy thinking like ‘I wonder how big it would grow? I want more bigger.’ Nope, that confuses your plant.

Transplant basil, celery, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, leeks, summer-maturing lettuce, green onions, white potatoes, summer savory, New Zealand spinach. In our hot foothills and further south, go for more melons, okra, pumpkins, summer & winter squash. Corn is an exception – late plantings often develop smut. I’ve had tomato transplants and seen bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops into October!

Transplant late afternoon or evening so plants have the whole night to begin to recover before they’re hit with a full day of sun and heat. Water well and provide shade from intense mid-day sun. Prop up and secure some of those plastic plant flats that have the finer pattern to filter the light. Keep your transplants moist for at least a month or until they’re well established. Mulch well so they stay more moist while getting started.

Keep your heavy producers well fed with two exceptions. Eggplant like only a little chow at a time but throughout their growing time, and beans make their own Nitrogen from outta the air, so toward the end of their season, a light feeding helps them maintain their vigor. Manure can be applied as a mulch directly onto globe artichokes, asparagus, cabbages and other cole crops, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn, and squash–but don’t let it touch the stems or foliage, as it will burn them. Keep high-nitrogen fertilizers away from beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or there’ll be more foliage than fruit.

Big plants need a lot of water!  Tomatoes and other large plants may need about one inch of water every three days of hot dry weather. Rinse the undersides of leaves with water to discourage spider mites. Water and fertilize melons deeply once a week for juicy, fleshy fruits. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate.

While all the rest is happening, replenish straw mulches that have thinned and shrunk down. Be sure any exposed roots or carrot or beet tops are covered with soil. Fall can be hot. Knock back what weeds have come along. Keep the compost humming, especially use any disease free summer plants when they are done, and seed free weeds! Keep your compost covered to keep it moist and active. Layer it just like lasagna – 2″ dry (straw), 1″ wet – that’s fresh pulled green plants and/or kitchen scraps.

Protect vine crop fruits like melons and squash from snails and slugs by lifting the fruits or vegetables onto cans, berry baskets, or boards.  Metal cans speed ripening and sweetening of melons by concentrating the sun’s warmth and transferring it to the melons.  Place ripening melons onto upside down aluminum pie pans or cans to keep them off the damp soil. The reflected heat and light will help them ripen evenly and sooner than when they are shaded by foliage.

Want more tomatoes?! When you walk by, whap the central stems, or the cage they are in, sharply, a quick whap or two or three. That shakes up the pollen and more flowers are pollinated! Around 11 AM is the best time!

Though you are busy as a skunk on a log keeping up with harvesting, feeding, watering, in your shadow thoughts, your mind is already thinking where and when your fall plantings will start happening. Late July, August, are prime time to start fall plants for warm weather fast growth and earlier fall harvests that will last throughout winter. At the end of July, get the earliest start possible on your fall plants! Sow carrots (they do best from seed), celery and cole crops–broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time. If you don’t make these earlier plantings, don’t miss Labor Day weekend!

Where the big fall anchor plants, broccoli, cabbages, kales, will go is what your plans will need to hinge on. Some of your summer plants got planted later and need more time for their run. Some are your favorites and you want them to keep producing. A few of your very best you will want to let seed out and that takes more time and their space. As late season plants finish off, start removing some of the lower leaves for sunshine space to plant those fall babies. The fall kids can come up while your late summer plants are finishing up. The babies might not mind a little protection.

First, second week or so of July, start your fall soil preps. Get some not quite finished compost into those fall planting spots. Put in 25% worm castings, add some of Island Seed & Feed’s super landscape mix, a handful of bone meal and powdered milk. A tad of chicken manure is good for all except where the peas will go, and none for your strawberries. They don’t like the salts. Keep onions and peas away from each other.

SEEDS!  Get your fall plant seeds if you don’t already have them, and get them started! SAVE seeds of your best plants for spring planting!

Canning and Probiotic food storage are all-year long blessed second benefits of bountiful production. Good reasons to baby your plants and harvest on time.

If you are gardening at home, put up some fine raised beds, including gopher protection. If the soil in the beds is dead, spent, toss it out. Use it as mulch somewhere else. Replace it for late summer and lusty fall plantings.

May the juices of morning fruits run down your chin, cool midday salads refresh your palate, flavorful veggies adorn your evening platter! Stand tall, Love deep, Live well!

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