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Archive for the ‘Maturity’ Category

Bowl of Tomatillos
Tasty image compliments of Rachel Steenland at The Plant Riot

Tomatillo, pronounced ‘toe-mah-tee-yo,’ means “little tomato,” but they aren’t a tomato. They grow in inedible papery husks, resembling small, straw-colored Japanese lanterns. Aficionados don’t substitute one for the other, but they are in the same family. Another variance from most plants is you need TWO to pollinate and get fruit!

CA Rare Fruit Growers says ‘There is considerable confusion in the literature concerning the various species. Hybrids between them are also known.’ Here’s their list! 

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.), Ground Cherry (Physalis heterophylla), Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa), Purple Ground Cherry (P. philadelphica), Strawberry Tomato (P. pruinosa), Ground Cherry, Husk Tomato (P. pubescens), Sticky Ground Cherry (P. viscosa).

Cape gooseberry, also known as ground cherry, produces small, sweet fruit inside papery husks. Tomatillo, also called husk tomato, produces similar but larger fruit that is a staple in Mexican cooking.  It is tart/tangy and crisp, used in gazpacho, guacamole and salsas, especially salsa verde. They are also used in lighter moles, like mole verde and mole amarillo. 

Here’s another comparison from WeCanGrowIt. Tomatillos and ground cherries both belong to the nightshade family, and although they taste very different, they look very similar. Both fruits grow like paper lanterns, enclosed in an inedible husk. Tomatillos are medium sized, while ground cherries produce a cherry-sized fruit and closely resemble their distant relative, the cape gooseberry.

Luscious Varieties!

Beautiful Yellow Tomatillo Blossom!

Fruits come in yellow, red, green, or purple and the flowers come in several colors too, including white, light green, bright yellow, and sometimes purple. Flowers may or may not have purple spots at the center. The fruits come in 1/2″ to 4″ grandes or gigantes!

Green Tomatillos are the standard.

BIG is Better? Some say the big ones, gold ball size or more, lack flavor and can taste bitter. But there are clearly gardeners who love them and some gardeners love bitter flavors! Try a few different ones. Remember to plant by twos, for pollination, of each variety, to see which you like! There are different varieties and sizes of the of green ones as well!

Tomatillo Variety Mexican Stain Yellow GrandeLook at these beauties! Horticulturist Jessica Walliser, says the fruits of YELLOW variety, Mexican Strain, are almost twice as large as green and purple types – usually 2″, and she finds they’re more flavorful after they fall from the plant. She adds them to homemade spaghetti sauce and tomato soup and has had excellent results. They’re very meaty. Territorial Seed says ‘These tasty summer treats are even more mineral-dense than tomatoes, packed with unique phytochemicals and flavonoids.’

If you are looking for a cold tolerant yellow, try Yellow Amarylla, bred to thrive in the cooler summer conditions of inland Eastern Europe.

Purple Tomatillo in the Husk and cut open to see the Seeds!Purple Tomatillos! Caribbean Garden Seed says theirs are a rare variety with smaller 1″ fruit that has a sweeter flavor than green tomatillos. Easy to grow, less sticky! One gardener says ‘Purple Tomatillos can be eaten fresh off the vine, though we much prefer to grill them or make purple salsa.’ There is also a larger Purple Strain variety. Purple Tomatillos, more sweet, are used in jams and preserves.

Tomatillo rare Variety Queen of Malinalco Stephen Smith of Roughwood Seed Collection!Many Tomatillos have a long history and great stories! Specialty heirloom grower Stephen Smith says this about his 2019 Queens: I was so impressed with these “Queen of Malinalco” husk tomatoes we grew this year. While dubbed “Queen of Malinalco”, this is not the true name of this landrace. Locally they are called “acorazado or acorazonado” meaning heart shaped”. This landrace is found in the old Aztec village/town of Malinalco, named after the Aztec goddess Malinalxóchitl . It is said that Huitzlipochtli abandoned his sister Malinalxóchitl because she was practicing evil witchcraft. While she slept, he left her in the middle of the forest. When she woke, she was furious at having been abandoned by her brother. She gathered people loyal to her and marched off to settle in what is now Malinalco. I suspicion back then these were utilized in special ceremonies and were most certainly a food of the deities. Very productive, 3-6 foot tall plants yield long, pear-heart shaped fruits that begin green and ripen to a golden yellow and push through their husk. The largest tomatillo we have ever seen. Amazingly fruity tasting fruits are excellent in pies, jams, etc. Get seeds at Roughwood 

Baker Creek Heirloom Rare Seeds says this Tomatillo is more like a sweet paste tomato! The fruit grow up to an awesome 4 inches long and the plants are very productive.  

Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. The Aztecs are credited with domesticating them. They were more important than the tomato.

Companion Plants can make a marked difference!

Plan ahead to include helpful plants where your Tomatillos will be planted. Plant those plants well before you plant your tomatillos so the companions will be working as soon as you plant your tomatillos. Plant with Borage to repel tomato hornworms. Basil is a classic with tomato type plants, also helps repel hornworms. Be mindful of differing water needs.

Nasturtiums (caution if you have snails) and Marigolds, attract pollinators. Marigolds repel nematodes in the soil; nasturtiums deter whiteflies! You can plant your Tomatillos with Peppers, Tomatoes, Sunflower, Onion – repels beetles, spider mites and ants, Garlic, Cabbage, Kale and Carrot. Basil, mint, chives, sage, parsley, garlic repel insect pests. Parsley in bloom also attracts hoverflies whose larvae eat aphids and predatory wasps that eat other pests!

Incompatible! Kohlrabi stunts tomatillos. Corn (not recommended as a food) attracts pests that harm tomatillos. Potatoes and eggplants attract potato beetles and potato aphids that tomatillos are also susceptible to. Dill and Fennel have oils that inhibit root development and can kill neighboring plants.

Companion planting is not an exact ‘science.’ There are contradictions online, so try it for yourself. There are so many soil variations, different planting times of year per temps, distances between plants, differing plant varieties that have different hardiness or tolerance. Note how far apart you plant companions/not companions from your Tomatillos. Is your Tomatillo growth slowed, then when they get bigger things are fine? Have you planted a ‘good’ companion close enough to your tomatillos to do them good?

GROWING Details!

Half-Black Bumblebee on Tomatillo Flower
Half-Black BumbleBee (Bombus vagans) on Tomatillo Flower

Tomatillos are in the Solanaceae family like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. Honeybees DO NOT pollinate them, Bumblebees DO! It’s called buzz pollination! If you are inclined, make homes and habitat for wild bees! It’s easy!

You need 2 or more plants placed close together for cross pollination.

Bonnie Plants says ‘Plan for each plant to produce about a pound of fruit over the season. However, most recipes call for ½ pound to make sauce, so plan to grow a minimum of 2 to 3 plants to have enough fruit ready to eat at one time. You may need more if you like them a lot.’Choose full sun, except in hot climates where some afternoon shade is recommended.

Soil & Water: Tomatillos love fertile loamy soil rich in organic matter. Add plenty of compost prior to planting. Preferred soil pH is between 5.5-7.0. If you have heavy clay soil, grow them in raised beds. They grow well in containers as long as watering is kept regular.

Seed Sowing Depth: ¼” deep   Germination: 7-14 days

Starting Indoors:  Sow 6-8 or 8-10 weeks before last frost. Sow in flats/cells/pots. Provide 70-80ºF or 75-85ºF soil temperatures. Those are optimum, but they can be planted at 59ºF! Cooler soil temperatures increase germination time. If your Tomatillos don’t germinate, supply bottom heat to the plants, and cover them with a dome or plastic. This will definitely help.

Thin to 2″ apart after the first true leaves appear. Fertilize the seedlings every 7-10 days with a liquid or water soluble fertilizer (diluted to ¼ of suggested measurement). Transplant seedlings 24-48” apart after last frost.

Sowing Outdoors: Not recommended, especially in short season northern areas. Because of Tomatillos long growing season, this shortens their production time by as much as 2 months. 

Plastic Bottle Cloche

It helps to use row covers early in the season, giving the plants extra warmth, especially in the north. Or use cloches to protect and keep young plants warm. A simple cloche can be any large plastic container with its bottom cut off, with or without the cap. Not only does it keep your plant warm, but protects it from bird damage. On hot days be sure to remove that cap! 

If you have good hot summer temps, lay down a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch to preserve moisture and keep weeds down. If you have less than optimal hours of sun, are in a northern area or are in a cool area (our community garden is seaside cooler), don’t apply soil cooling mulch.

Days To Maturity: Depends on the variety and your local temps, but generally 65 to 100 days after transplanting.

Tomatillos are unique in that as the flower withers and drops after pollination, the Calyx, the cover of the stem end of the flower, grows to fully surround the fruit, growing in size as the fruit does!

Tomatillo Flower to Fruit Process: Here are buds – the green ‘leaves’ bud cover is the Calyx, a blooming flower with the calyx spreading over it as protection, and lower right, the Calyx (flower cover) growing over a withered blossom.

Tomatillo Bud Blossom Calyx

Tomatillo Calyx over Flower, over Fruit
At left, Tomatillo Calyx over Flower, over Fruit. Below left, Tomatillo Calyx completely enclosing Fruit. At maturity Tomatillos have a mature calyx/husk color, enclosing a round Fruit, some with no point at the bottom!

Tomatillo Calyx completely enclosing FruitTomatillos can be compact and upright OR are highly-branched and sprawling, semi-indeterminate, with a more open canopy. Trellis or stake those plants for support. Staking the plants will ease harvest and keep fruit off of the ground, which reduces slug and other damage to the fruit and husk. It also enhances air circulation and discourages fungus problems on the foliage during periods of high humidity. If allowed to sprawl on the ground, the stems will rootand the plants will require more space than you may have anticipated, so be sure to use a trellis or tomato cage – unless you have the room and want more tomatillos!

Maintenance! 

Tomatillos work hard making all those little lanterns! They are heavy feeders and will benefit from regular fertilization. Others say they are hardy and too much food gives you leaves and little fruit! If your soil is poor, feed ’em. If your soil is rich, let them alone. Probably is wise to do the standard side dress when the flowers begin to form. 

Soak the soil 4-6″ deep at 7-day intervals. Some say 1 to 1.5 inches of water weekly. Like with any fuzzy leaved plants and tomatoes, avoid wetting the foliage when watering. Water at ground level. Keep the soil consistently moist. Overwatering can cause fruit to crack.

Pests & Diseases

Prolific Tomatillos and Flea Beetle Damage

Not only can you see how prolific Tomatillos are but also the Flea Beetle damage! See all the little holes in the leaves?! Plants are usually vigorous enough that the damage is merely cosmetic.

Pests: Aphids, cutworms, snails, slugs, flea beetles, European corn borer, mites, fruit worms, whiteflies, tomato hornworm, leafminers.

Diseases: Fungal leaf spots and early and late blights, powdery mildew, viruses, Bacterial soft rot. As possible, do a 3-4 year rotation, remove vines at the end of the year. as of 2017 two diseases have been documented, tomato yellow leaf curl virus associated with whiteflies, and turnip mosaic virus associated with aphids – see the last listing on this page. What turnip mosaic looks like.

Harvest Pointers Vary!

When to Harvest your Tomatillos
Thanks to Bonnie Plants for the image! 

Cutting is better than pulling them from and damaging your plant. Ripe fruits often fall to the ground, where they can be collected and taken to the kitchen. You can place some type of cloth under the plants for an easier harvest. These babies are prolific! harvest every two to three days.

Harvest when the fruit fills the husk, botanically called a calyx. Harvest lasts 1 to 2 months or until first frost. In that short time, your plant can produce 60 to 200 fruits within a single growing season! That means harvesting daily is common.

Some say the fruits should be hard, while others say they should feel slightly soft. Still others say the best time to pick for salsa is when husks turn brown & begin to open. They can be several colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple depending on the variety. With some varieties the plump fruit will bust right through the husk, and that is when you can tell that it is ready to harvest. You can just twist the fruit right off the vine at this point. 

For the green variety in the image, the bright green color on the right is ripe. The left is overripe, turning yellow because it was left too long on the plant. Overripe is not as good for cooking, as they lack the firm flesh and tart flavor of the green tomatillos. For Salsa Verde, tart is right! With additional time, they will become more seedy, but sweeter, for eating raw.

One gardener says Tomatillos are often ripe when the husk splits, the husk turns tan or dry, and the fruit is still green. However, some fruits fill the husk but do not cause splitting. Some experience with harvest will be necessary to assess ripeness per various varieties and your location.

How do you store them?

Simply gather them up and keep them at room temperature in a basket without removing their husks. Tomatillos will last for up to two weeks this way, 1 to 2 months in a cool dry place. For best flavor, do not refrigerate! If you must, store tomatillos in their husks for 2 to 3 weeks in a paper bag in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. Wiki says ‘They keep even longer with the husks removed and the fruit refrigerated in sealed plastic bags.’

For longer storage, you have to freeze them, whole or sliced, or can them.

Tomatillos are prolific! They can easily be frozen! Remove the husk, rinse and dry. Arrange the tomatillos, not touching, on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer. As soon as the tomatillos freeze (takes about 2 hours), pack the tomatillos in freezer bags. Freezing separately first prevents them from sticking together. Double bagging is a good idea to prevent freezer burn. Label the bags with the date and place them immediately in the freezer. Frozen tomatillos will be sweet when thawed, perfect for use in salsas, sauces, and soups. Tomatillos should keep in the freezer for up to a year.

SEEDSAVING!

Tomatillo SeedSaving
Thanks to Howard Parker for these images.

Per Seed Savers Exchange, Tomatillos are outcrossers, meaning that their flowers cross-pollinate and are incapable of self-pollination. So, if you have a favorite tomatillo variety for turning into salsa verde and want to save seeds, make sure you give it plenty of space from other varieties! If genetic preservation of a variety is the goal, Seed Savers Exchange says “the isolation distance should be increased to 1-2 miles.”

Keeping that in mind, let your green tomatillos ripen until they become bright yellow. Their seeds are tiny! If you aren’t needing a lot of seeds, try it like this with the tip of a small pointy knife!

As FOOD there is nothing like them! 

Salsa Verde made with Tomatillos!

I’m not sure Tomatillos have any whopping special nutritional features. Martha Rose Shulman, author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health,” says ‘Tomatillos are a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, as well as dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, potassium and manganese.’ There are so many wonder veggies, does it matter whether Tomatillos contribute highly? They’re a treat!

First, when you remove the husks, you find their skin has a sticky, sappy-like coating. The film has chemical compounds in it called withanolides that taste bad to pests, so the pests leave the tommies alone in the field! Leave it there, until you are ready to use them, it helps protect them while in storage. No worries. A quick rinse, a little vinegar if needed, and it’s gone!  

Tomatillos contain a pectin-like substance and can be used to thicken soups, stews or sauces when cooked. They can also be eaten raw, sliced and added to salads, guacamole, and fresh salsas. When slicing, use a serrated knife to easily cut through the skin without bruising. They can also be baked, dried, fried or pickled whole as a cold meat accompaniment, added to curries and stir fries. Serve grilled! Make marmalade and dessert sauce. The fruits, canned whole in Mexico, are sold domestically there and in the western United States.

Enjoy Salsa Verde as a dip, savoury sauce over enchiladas, tacos, eggs, as salad dressing, drizzle over chorizo, grilled fish, chicken, refried beans, rice, toast, and baked potato! As a marinade, in a burger! Use it as a dip for anything, including your bagel! Use it with Italian and French cuisines! 

Quick Basic Salsa Verde recipe! Emphasize your favorite ingredients as you wish! Tomatillos are the start. Add spicy HOT jalapeño peppers or not! Your choice. Fewer if you want less heat. Onion, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro! Rachel Steenland at The Plant Riot gives you all the juicy details!

More Recipes! Dan noSowitz says, don’t be limited to Mexican cuisine! Make a Raw Tomatillo And Spring Vegetable Salad, or Pasta With Tomatillo, Ricotta, And Sunflower Seed! Fried Tomatillos With Labneh And Za’atar. He says they’re [tomatillos] a really spectacular, unique ingredient, and the U.S. is unusual in that they are a very common sight throughout the entire country. (Just try finding tomatillos in France.) See his tasty recipes!

Tomatillo Fairy Lanterns and Blossoms

In addition to the terrific recipes, thanks to Dan noSowitz for this sweet image by Tim Lewisnm

May your garden grow deliciously with magical Fairy Lanterns! 

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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.

 

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Broccoli Head Queen of the Brassicas

In SoCal’s ‘winter,’ Brassicas reign! 

Broccoli vs Kale? Do both!

Broccoli This green veggie made the list of top 10 superfoods, which comes as no surprise. One cup florets contain 20 calories, 2 grams protein, and is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A and C. You’ll also find a touch of almost every other vitamin and mineral in it. Moreover, broccoli is brimming with plant compounds like indoles and isothiocynates, shown to help fight cancer. Vegetarians rely heavily on broccoli because it’s high in calcium.

In addition to its nutritional goodness, broccoli won’t bust your wallet. It made the top 10 list of healthy foods for under $3.

Kale This popular member of the cabbage family is also packed with good-for-you nutrients. One cup of chopped kale has 33 calories and 2 grams of protein. It has close to seven times the daily recommended dose of vitamin K and over twice the daily recommended amount of vitamin A. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, and a good source of calcium, iron, and folate. Kale contains the plant compound lutein, which has been linked to eye health.

FANTASTIC VARIETIES!

Broccoli varieties vary considerably, tall, short, more heat tolerant or cold tolerant, some make tons of side shoots, small heads, large heads! For smaller heads, grow quick maturing varieties. Packman is the exception! It can quickly produce 9″ heads! Brocs come in green or purple!

Cruiser 58 days to harvest; tolerant of dry conditions
Calabrese 58 – 80 days; Italian, large heads, many side shoots. Loves cool weather. Does best when transplanted outside mid-spring or late summer. Considered a spring variety.  Disease resistant.
DeCicco 48 to 65 days; Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, considered a spring variety. Early, so smaller main heads.
Green Comet 55 days; early; hybrid, 6” diameter head, very tolerant of diseases and weather stress. Heat tolerant. Plentiful 3″+ side shoot mini heads!
Green Goliath 60 days; heavy producer, tolerant of extremes. Prefers cool weather, considered a spring variety.
Nutribud 80 days; per Island Seed & Feed, is the most nutritious per studies, having significant amounts of glutamine, one of the energy sources for our brains! Not the largest heads and it doesn’t like hot weather.
Packman 53 days; early hybrid, 9” head! Excellent side-shoot production.
Purple broccoli contains anthocyanins which give it its colour. These have antioxidant effects, which are thought to lower the risk of some cancers and maintain a healthy urinary tract as well.
Waltham 29 85 days; late, cold resistant, prefers fall weather but has tolerance for late summer heat.

Baby Broccoli Variety Artwork F1 2015 AAS Winner!

Rather than the headers then side shoots, try Baby Broccoli! Here is Broccoli Artwork F1 the 2015 AAS – All-America Selections’ Edible – Vegetable Winner! They say ‘Artwork is a unique and beautiful dark green stem broccoli that has only recently become available to home gardeners. Previously, stem or baby broccoli was exclusively available in gourmet markets and upscale restaurants. Now home gardeners can make the art of gardening come alive with this delicious, long-yielding variety.

Artwork starts out similar to a regular crown broccoli but after harvesting that first crown, easy-to-harvest tender, and tasty side shoots continue to appear long into the season, resisting warm temperature bolting better than other stem broccolis currently on the market.’ See if it lives up to their review for you!

Purple Broccoli and Romanesco Fractals, a Hybrid with Cauliflower

Left: Purple Broccoli, aka broccoli of Sicily! Same as regular broccoli, just purple. Gorgeous! When cooked, it reverts to green, so eat it raw for the color!

Right: Amazing Romanesco fractal hybrid of traditional broccoli and cauliflower. First documented in Italy.

Super Productive Purple Sprouting Broccoli!  Broccoli Rabe is quite Bitter but compliments other rich foods!

Left: Outrageous Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli Red Fire F1! Look at all those side sprouts!

Right: What’s Broccoli Rabe? Pronounced like “Rob,” it is NOT a Broccoli! Bon Appetit says ‘It’s actually more closely related to a turnip, even though it has those little buds, similar to those found on broccoli florets.’ And it’s b i t t e r ! Good in combo with fat sweet rich foods!

Another hybrid! Broccolini or baby broccoli is a green vegetable similar to broccoli but with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks. It is a hybrid of broccoli and gai lan, both cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea.

IN YOUR SoCal GARDEN….

♦ Broccoli can be started in the ground from seed late July, August. If you grew transplants, as soon as they are ready, or transplants are available in the nursery, plant them then for sooner heads. Protect with coverings if the weather is hot. At the same time you plant your transplants you can also start seeds. That gives you a second round of plants in succession to keep a steady fresh table supply. Keep planting every one or two months through January. In January, be mindful of the days to maturity per the variety. Think about how you will be wanting space to start your spring for summer plants.

Brassicas don’t link up with Mycorrhizae Fungi. It won’t hurt them. It just wastes your time and money to use them.

  • Brocs prefer full sun, though partial shade helps prevent bolting (suddenly making long flower stalks).
  • Brocs LOVE recently manured ground. Well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal. Broccoli plants will grow in almost any soil but prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability.
  • Depending on the variety/ies you choose, seedlings should be 8″-10″ apart with 30″-36″ between the rows. Broccoli yields and the size of broccoli heads are affected by plant spacing. The tighter the spacing the better the yields, but the broccoli heads will be smaller. If you intend to keep your plants for side shoots, plant taller varieties to the north most so they won’t shade shorter summer plants you will soon be planting.
  • There is no need to mulch during fall and winter growing, but your Brocs and kale that you may keep over summer are the first plants you will mulch as weather warms! Mulch them deep! They thrive when it’s cooler. Mulch helps keep soil cool and moist as well as reduce weed competition.
  • An even moisture supply is needed for broccoli transplants to become established and to produce good heads. Never let the seedbed dry out. In sandy soils this may require two to three waterings per day.
  • Put a ring of nitrogen to the drip line around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, to grow bigger heads.
  • The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. The secondary sprouts produce heads from a 1/2 to 3 inches depending on the variety you choose. Sidedressing can increase yields and the size of your side shoots.
  • Cool weather is essential once the flower heads start to form. It keeps growth steady.

The days to maturity on seed packs starts with when you put the seed in the soil.  The days to maturity on transplants is from the time of transplant. Broccoli is notorious for uneven maturity, so you will often see a range of days to maturity, like DeCicco above. So don’t expect clockwork.

The trick to producing excellent broccoli heads is to keep the broccoli plants growing at a strong steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost, foliar feed with manure tea, or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest! John Evans, of Palmer, Alaska, holds the world’s record for his 1993 35 lb (no typo) broc! He uses organic methods! And, yes, moose eat broccoli!

Allow Space for Wise Companion Planting! And plant companions before your crop so the companions can help your main crop immediately.

Cilantro is #1! It makes it grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!
Lettuce amongst the Brassicas confuses Cabbage Moths which dislike Lettuce.
Chives, Coriander, Garlic, Geraniums, Lavender, Mint family (caution – invasive), and onions are said to repel aphids.
Mustard and Nasturtium can be planted near more valuable plants as traps for aphids. A word to the wise, in some areas nasturtiums are snail habitat.
Calendula is a trap plant for pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and thrips by exuding a sticky sap that they find more appealing and delicious than nearby crops.

PESTS & DISEASES

Brocs are truly susceptible to aphids. Yuk. Black, grayish greenish soft little leggy things that blend right in with the side shoot florettes. If you snap your fingers on the side shoot, you will see the aphids go flying. Those side shoots I remove. If aphids are in curled leaves, I hold the leaf open and hose them away with a strong burst of water! Then I keep my eagle eyes on them, each day, checking to get rid of them before another colony forms. Sprinkle cinnamon around your plants stem to repel the ants that care for the aphids. Sprinkle again after watering until the ants are gone.

Important planting tip: Research shows there are less aphids when you intermingle different varieties of brocs together!

Often whiteflies follow aphids. Aphids and whiteflies mean ants. ARGENTINE ants prefer sweet baits year-round. Protein baits are attractive to Argentine ants primarily in the spring.  See more Veggie Pests – Aphids and Ants!

Remove yellowing leaves asap because whiteflies are attracted to yellow. Also, dying parts of the Brassica family of plants produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing. Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce, are especially affected by the Brassica poison. A professor at the University of Connecticut says Brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.

Brassicas are susceptible to mildew. Plant them far enough apart per the variety/ies you are planting so there is good airflow. Water no more than they need. Too much water or too much manure make mildew habitat and soft leaves aphids and whiteflies like. Water in mornings at ground level so leaves have time to dry if they get wet.

HARVESTING

With traditional varieties, harvest the main head while the buds are tight! Cut about 5” down the stem so fat side branches and larger side shoots will form. Cut at an angle so water will run off, not settle in the center and rot the central stalk.

The respiration rate of freshly harvested broccoli is very high, so get it in the fridge asap or it goes limp! It should not be stored with fruits, such as apples or pears, which produce substantial quantities of ethylene, because this gas accelerates yellowing of the buds.

Edible Flowers! If you didn’t harvest your side shoots and your broccoli has gone to flower, harvest the flowers and sprinkle them over your salad, toss them in your stir fry for a little peppery flavor! You can get more side shoots, but things will slow down and there comes a time when you pull the plant.

When it gets late in their season, cut lower foliage off on their sunny side so small summer plants can be started under them while you are still harvesting your winter plants!

Broccoli Seed Pods  Broccoli Seeds

SeedSaving! 

Broccoli must be kept separated from other cole crops by a mile to prevent cross-pollination. That is impossible in community gardens of lesser size. Another factor to consider is Broccoli are mostly self-infertile. For seedsaving purposes they need to be planted in groups of at least 10 or more. For most of us that isn’t going to happen. Then, you need two years to do it! Broccoli, like all the Brassicas – cabbages, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts – are biennials. So unless you have some extreme weather shifts, and they flower early, you wait overwinter until next spring. If you have an early opportunity to save seeds, lucky you! They are viable 5 years.

If you are in a snow zone, dig up the seed plants at the end of the first growing season if the winter temps in your area fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Replant in pots of sand. Store the sand pots over the winter between 32 and 40 degrees F. Transplant the seed broccoli back to the garden the following spring. Allow the plant to go to seed, or bolt, during the second season.

If your plants are that mile or more apart from others they would hybridize with, and you want seeds, leave the flowers, let the seed pods come. Let them stay on the plant until dry. Keep a close watch. When the birds first start after them you know they are ready. Or poke some holes in a plastic bag. Pop the bag over the drying seed pods and wait until they are entirely dry. Harvest your pods. Maybe leave some for late winter food for the birds. Let them dry further, a week or more off the plant. No moisture, no rotting. In a baggie, rub them between your hands to pop them open to release the seeds. Store in a glass jar out of sunlight. 

NUTRITIOUS FEASTING!

Broccoli is an absolutely delicious and nutritious food, especially those sprouts! Broccoli may be the most nutritious of all the cole crops, which are among the most nutritious of all vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower (and other members of the genus Brassica) contain very high levels of antioxidant and anticancer compounds. These nutrients typically are more concentrated in flower buds than in leaves, and that makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten – like Kale. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other cole crops. Recent studies have shown that broccoli SPROUTS may be even higher in important antioxidants than the mature broccoli heads. Other research has suggested that the compounds in broccoli and other Brassicas can protect the eyes against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people. If you choose to eat broccoli leaves, you will find that there is significantly more vitamin A (16,000 IU per 100 grams) versus flower clusters – the heads (3,000 IU per 100 grams) or the stalks (400 IU per 100 grams).

Broccoli Sprouts by Getty

There are so many ways to eat Broccoli! Sprouts! Fresh and simple in a mixed salad with thin almond slices and your favorite dressing. Fresh bits & dip! Steamed, drizzled with olive oil and a touch of squeezed lemon! Quiche, omelets, frittata. Broc pesto. Sweet & spicy stir fry with other tasties. Garlic roasted for trail treats and snacks for the kids. Commingled with feta in a bow tie pasta dish; alfredo. Broc & cheddar soup on an extra cool day. Baked potato casserole with ALL the trimmings! Tasty with rice and tofu, a sprinkle of soy sauce. Try in a Butternut squash curry. On Pizza! Details at The Kitchen!

To your happy gardening and healthy living! 

11.4.18, 7.30.19 Updated

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer 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.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

 

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Design Your Beautiful Summer Garden!

Designing your garden is an intricate and intimate process depending on a lot of factors. It will ‘look’ like you as you are at the time of your life that you do it. Gardens are a form of autobiography. ~Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993. If you plant from seed, designing your garden leads to making a pretty accurate seed list.

Some of your choices will be the same as what your family always did. Or, you may be a permaculture type doing a Food Forest guild system. There is no right way. You are you, your situation unique. You may be the same the rest of your life, only influenced by drought, deluge, seasons or climate change. You may be research oriented and enjoy trying out new plants and practices from across the world, allowing volunteers the birds bring to grow. You might decide to leave an untouched wild area in the name of freedom or magic, or rest a section of your garden each winter! Or plant it to a green manure cover crop or incorporate living mulch!

Choose a sunny place with easy access to water! Bioswales may be part of your water capture plan. In SoCal consider a centuries old technique, a water saving Waffle GardenGreywater distribution location may determine where fruit and nut trees will be planted. Then how will their mature shade affect the rest of your garden? Use dwarfs?

Garden Design Slope HillsideMake your garden a shape that flows with the area, whether that be simply the space available, or contoured to the land. Use slopes and hillsides! (Image by Arterra LLP Landscape Architects) Grow permeable windbreak shrubs to slow wind. If you don’t have outdoor space, but do have a sunny doorstep or balcony, put those containers to work!

Layouts can be any design you want! Circles with cross points, spokes, concentric, spiral! Squares like a formal British royal garden. Wild like a cottage garden or food forest garden guild. Beds in blocks. Straw bales wherever you can put them! Terraced on a slope! S curves along an existing path interspersed with ornamentals! Maybe you would like to add a greenhouse this year, or you need a shed and convenient workspace.

Put in pathways – straw bedding, boards, gravel, pallets, living mulch, as suits the spirit of the location, are safe and make you happy to be there!

Where is the summer and winter sun path in the sky? Where will you plant tall to short? Generally it’s tall in the North to short in the South. A full 6 to 8 hours of sun is best for almost all veggies. You can do shade, but it’s slower and fruits are not as big or plentiful. If so, choose varieties of plants that like cooler weather.

If you choose to make your own compost, select an easy access area for composting, near the kitchen, if you will be using it on an ongoing basis. Plant compost speeding herbs like comfrey or yarrow right next to it. They like a lot of water and your compost needs to be kept moist, so near a spigot is good thinking. Plant pretty calendula – summer or borage – winter to hide it and bring bees and butterflies! If you use straw layers, leave space beside your composter or compost area for a bale staked in place on its end.  See more

Also choose an area, maybe near the compost, for your worm box if you will be growing them for their valuable castings. Mine are in full sun all year and produce like crazy. See more

Decide if you want to do a no dig Lasagna type bed or your soil is fine and you can just get to planting right now! But first, either way, install gopher protection wire!

The nitty gritties are deciding what plants you want, how much space they take up per the return you hope for. 

What plants do you want? Will you judge by nutritional value first, return per square foot? Will you really eat it or has your family just always grown it? Will you be biodiversely companion planting or monoculture row planting?

Think about your choices for permanent residents! Plant perennial herbs by the kitchen door, at corner points or gates. The perennial Dragon Fruit along the fence. An amazing chayote needs tons of room. Artichokes are big, and grow 10 years! Set aside an all year area for flowering plants for bees, beneficials, butterflies and birds! See Stripes of Wildflowers!

In summer, where will biggies like that Winter Hubbard Squash, pumpkin, squash or melon, artichoke, sweet potatoes fit or is there really enough space for them per their production footprint? Sweet potatoes want a lot of water. Do you need them to cover space while you take a break from other planting?

Will you be planting successive rounds of favorites throughout the season? If you plant an understory of fillers – lettuces, table onions, radish, beets, carrots, etc – you won’t need separate space for them. If you trellis, use yard side fences, grow vertical in cages, you will need less space. See Vertical Gardening, a Natural Urban Choice! If you plant in zig zags, rather than in a straight line, you can usually get one more plant in the allotted space.

Are you growing for food or seed or both? Waiting for plants to flower to seed takes time, and the space it takes is unavailable for awhile. But bees, beneficial predator insects, butterflies and birds come. And you will have seeds adapted to your area for next year’s planting, plus extras to share, perhaps take to the Seed Swap!

Would be lovely to put in a comfy chair to watch the garden grow, see birds, listen to the breeze in the leaves. Or read a bit and snooze in the hammock.

Social at Davie Village Community Garden in Vancouver's West EndInstall a summer social area, table, chairs, umbrella. Have candlelight salads in the garden with friends. This is at Davie Village Community Garden in Vancouver’s West End.

Plant sizes, time to maturity  There are early, dwarfs, container plants that produce when they are smaller, have smaller fruits. There are long growing biggies that demand their space, over grow and outgrow their neighbors! Maybe you don’t need huge, but just enough for just you since it’s only you in your household. Or it’s not a favorite, but you do like a taste! The time it takes to mature for harvest depends on weather, your soil, watering practices, whether you feed it or not along the way. The size depends on you and the weather also, but mainly on the variety you choose. You can plant smaller varieties at the same time you plant longer maturing larger fruiting varieties for a steady table supply. How long it takes to maturity, and the footprint size of your mature plant is critical to designing your garden, making it all fit.

Vertical and Horizontal Spacing!

  • Vertical Space – More plants per square foot!
    • One method is to double trellis up! Cucumbers below beans!
    • The other is to plant in ‘layers!’ Plant an understory of ‘littles’ and fillers below larger taller plants ie Lettuce under Broccoli. The lettuce does double duty – food and as living mulch!
  • Horizontal Space – Give them room to thrive at MATURE SIZE!
    • Pests and diseases go right down the row of plants of the same kind, especially when they touch each other. You may lose them all ~ better is Biodiversity. Interplant with pest repelling, growth enhancing and edible companion plants! Alternate varieties of the same kinds plants.
    • More is not always better. Plants too closely transplanted, seeded/not thinned, get rootbound. That squeezes oxygen from the soil, prevents or dramatically reduces water uptake for plants in the center. Plants can’t take up nutrients without water. That lessens growth and production since your plants are literally starving. In crowded conditions feeding your plants doesn’t help. Weakened plants are more disease and pest susceptible. Give them room to breathe and live to their full glory! Only ONE healthy plant may produce more than an entire row of stunted plants.
    • On the other hand, do as many have always done, deliberately overplant then thin for delicious mini salad greens!

Look up each of your plant choices. Make a list – name, variety, days to maturity, mature spacing. The mature spacing gives a good indication how tall your plant might get and if it will shade out other plants. If you put your list on your computer you can click on the column to reorganize the list per footprint space/height or days to maturity.

Your purpose may be for your and your family’s daily food, as a chef for your clients, for a Food Bank. Fruit and nut trees may be part of your long term plan.

Now that we know how much space you have and your purpose for growing each plant, we can estimate how many plants of each you need, how many seeds you will need if you plant from seeds. Know that Mama Nature has her own schedule – lots of rain, no rain. Wind. Hail. Heat. Birds love picking seeds or tiny seedlings you planted and snails/slugs are perpetually hungry. We won’t speak about gophers. Add to your number of seeds to account for surprises, gardener error, low germination if the seeds are old. Get enough for succession plantings.

A special design factor! Remember that patch of plants that self-seed every year? Don’t forget to allow for them in your Garden plan! My BreadSeed Poppies are a perfect example. The seeds fall from the pods all by themselves. The seeds are miniscule. All of summer planting, soil amending, turning the soil for spring planting happens, winter planting happens, and there, in early spring, by the greatest miracle, come the Poppies! The seeds that end up at the surface know just where and the perfect time they want to grow. Every year I forget to allow for them. But they are so beautiful, again, I change my plan, wait for them to stun us with their beauty, and make seeds to gather and share at the annual Seed Swap! It takes that time, now almost a sacred ritual.

If you are a SoCal gardener, you may plant several times over a season. In summer plant bush bean varieties and determinate tomatoes for soonest table supply and to harvest all at once for canning. If you want a steady table supply all season long, also plant pole bean varieties and indeterminate tomatoes. If you have a Northern short season summer window, you may choose cold tolerant early bush and determinate varieties for quicker intense production. In SoCal ‘winter,’ plant bush and pole peas at the same time for early peas then a longer harvest of the pole peas!

Take into account the number of people you are feeding and their favorites!

Graph paper, sketches, a few notes jotted on the back of an envelope, in your head. It all works and is great fun! If you sketch it, keep that sketch to make end-of-season notes on for next year’s planning!

Here’s to many a glorious nutritious feast – homegrown organic, fresh and super tasty!

See also some of the bigger long term choices planning your garden.

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer 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 bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

Read Full Post »

MY Cucumbers! Cucumbers and Cassie, Indiana Veggie Gardener!

MY cucumbers! Cassie lives in Indiana and usually has dirt under her fingernails.

Some people LOVE Cucumbers! Dice ’em or slice ’em, put slices on your eyes, make a soothing skin cream, hair tonic! Sulphur in cucumbers helps stimulate the growth of hair and makes it thick and healthy. Although less nutritious than most fruit, cukes are delicious and good for your health in many ways. 

  • Magnesium, potassium, and the mineral silicon in Cucumbers keep your skin beautiful! The juice cleans your pores by removing dirt, bacteria and excess oil. Cucumbers have a natural cooling effect and reduce the redness, inflammation of blemishes. Their Vitamin E fights free radicals and heals scars. They treat bad breath, so you will look and smell good!
  • Cucumbers will help heal stomach ulcers. Drinking two glasses of cucumber juice every day can cure heartburn. Cukes help reduce your blood pressure. And they lower blood sugars, helping with diabetes.
  • Cucumber contains polyphenols called lignans, and phytonutrients called cucurbitacins. They help prevent the growth of breast, uterus, and prostate cancers.
  • They help get rid of excess uric acid in the body and help maintain healthy kidneys and bladder conditions, even prevent the formation of kidney stones. They also help digestion and reduce constipation!
  • Vitamin B and electrolytes in the cucumber will be useful to help relieve headaches.
  • Weight loss! Cucumbers are 95% water and low calorie! They will help keep you hydrated and delay hunger, as well as improve your joint health and reduce bad cholesterol!

Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes squashes (including pumpkins), luffas, melons, and watermelons. Cucumbers grew wild in India over 4000 years ago and have since traveled worldwide! They have been traded by empires, eaten every day by emperors, brought to Haiti by Columbus in 1494, banned as deadly at times! In 2010 worldwide cucumber production was 57.5 million tons, with majority of the world’s production and export being located in China (40.7 million tons)! As of a 2013 article, In the United States, consumption of pickles has been slowing, while consumption of fresh cucumbers is rising!

Huge Selection of Extraordinary Varieties!

Cucumber Melothria Scabra Mouse Melon TreatsSizes from itsy tiny watermelon-like heirloom Mexican Sour Gherkin AKA Mouse Melons, sandia de raton, to small bumpy pickling types, substantial juicy slicers, to longs like wonderful Chinese Suyos!

Cucumbers can be green, white, golden orange, healthy bitter red orange spiky Gaks, up to 3 meter long brown Kigelias, brilliant red Dragon’s Eggs! You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried a few exotics!

The different shapes are a treat! Mouse Melons, round lemon cucumbers, the standard long shapes, fat Hmongs, African Horned Cucumbers!

You can get big viners, or bush type patio container types with smaller leaves at shorter intervals. Compact yet lots of production!

Now we have varieties producing all female flowers (gynoecious types) that produce seedless fruit earlier have more concentrated production, a longer shelf life. No bees are needed. In experimental trials the following varieties have produced high yields and have resistance or tolerance to common diseases: Burpee Hybrid, Comet A II, Dasher II, Marketmore 80, Slice Master, Sprint 440 II, and Victory!

Disease Resistant Varieties

Read the notes about these varieties! These are features you want to see when picking varieties!

Long Green Slicing

Burpless (hybrid – 62 days to harvest; the original sweet, long, Chinese-type hybrid; does well on a trellis
Marketmore 76 – 68 days; very uniform, dark green, straight fruit; multiple disease resistance
Straight 8 – 58 days; AAS winner; long-time favorite; excellent flavor; evenly dark green fruit

Long Green Slicing (compact plant)

Bush Crop – 55 days to harvest; delicious; 6-8 inch fruit on dwarf, bushy plants
Fanfare – hybrid – 63 days; AAS winner; great taste; high yield; extended harvest; disease resistant
Salad Bush – hybrid – 57 days; AAS winner; uniform 8 inch fruit on compact plants; tolerant to a wide variety of diseases
Marketmore 97 – 55 days. One of the best early northern cucumbers producing long dark green fruit, non bitter. This excellent slicing cucumber variety is tolerant of powdery mildew, cucumber mosaic virus and resistant to scab, providing a good crop under adverse conditions. Very dark green, looks thick skinned, bumpy.

Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties like AAS winner gynoecious and parthenocarpic Diva!

Early Varieties

Marketmore 80
BETH ALPHA – 58 days Heirloom. The original Middle-East type. Often a parent for the wonderful high-end Slicing hybrid cucumbers. Probably the best all round cuke. Early, productive over long season, mild. Thin skin, wonderful taste with no ‘bitter ends’.
Dasher II  Early, dark green; concentrated set
Very early:   Lightning, Speedway, Thunder

Heat/Cold, Drought Tolerant Varieties

If your area has short cool summers, go for early, cold tolerant, smaller fruited varieties, container types. In hot areas, enjoy those big slicers and Japanese longs! Sometimes heat and drought go together, or you would just like to save water. Here’s a great page at SFGate that lists six heat tolerant varieties with all their details! Little Leaf H-19 (parthenocarpic) and Suyo Longs are terrific! Ashley withstands heat and has good downy mildew resistance.

Monoecious or Gynoecious

Affects  your choice of plant for harvest! Monoecious is over the season a steady table supply harvest. Gynoecious is like bush plants, all at once harvest for canning. Female flowers of gynoecious varieties still need to be fertilized with pollen from male flowers, so a certain percentage of monoecious plants need to be planted along with the gynoecious plants to serve as pollenizers. Most seed companies provide cucumber seed blends that contain 85% to 90% gynoecious seed and 10% to 15% monoecious seed.

NOTE: If you are planting non gynoecious types, all female flowers, not to worry if first flowers don’t make baby cukes! Male blossoms come first so they can fertilize the female blooms unless you have an all female no pollination needed gynoecious and parthenocarpic variety. Cucumber vines will produce the greatest amount of female flowers when day length shortens to approximately 11 hours per day. Plant a round at the time you can hit that window!

Choosing Companion Plants

Your climate, soil and many, many other factors determine how well plants grow together. I’ve seen gardeners make exact opposite claims with the pictures to prove it. Bottom line is try things for yourself!

Companion plants enhance each other’s growth, repel pests! Adding companion plants adds a whole new dimension to planning your garden! Spacing changes. Locations change. Your plants are healthier, there is more production, your growing season is extended. By intermingling companion plants, biodiversity happens naturally. For example, rather than having a separate herb area, spread them throughout your garden. Put those herbs to work beside veggie plants they help and favor! Plant 4 or 5 plants with an herb at the hub of the wheel! The herb will serve all those plants at once!

Cucumbers & Dill! This is a companion combo based on timing and usage! Plant Dill at the same time as your cukes, and with your cucumbers so they will mature at the same time for pickling, probiotics, and you have convenience of harvest! Another natural combination is basil and tomatoes!

A super spatial combo is trellising Cucumbers below, letting pole beans grow up, through and above the cukes!

Cucumber Beetles are BAD. They vector bacterial wilts, squash mosaic virus, and others. They harm beans and Cucurbits, the Cucumber family – that’s cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, ZUCCHINI, some gourds.

RADISHES get the gold star award! They repel a variety of beetles, including the nasty disease carrying Cucumber Beetle! Plant Radishes, followed by Cucumbers so the radishes will be up and running when your cucumbers need them! Let the radishes grow out. It’s not like you are planting a crop of radishes there. You want them to mingle among your cukes. You won’t need very many radishes to do this. If you didn’t get them in before planting time, get them up and growing ASAP!

Other helpers! Basil or summer savory, and dwarf marigolds, can mask cucumbers from cucumber pests like striped or spotted cucumbers beetles.

Here are some valuable tips from Jim and Mary at Old World Garden Farms.Plant Sacrificial and Repelling Crops : Many successful growers will plant sacrificial plants that the beetles love nearby their cucumber plants.

  • Alyssum, Zinnias and Pumpkin vines are all excellent sacrificial crops. Beetles prefer them even more than cucumbers, so they tend to stick to attacking them. It makes them easy to spot and destroy, and gives a fighting chance for your cukes.
  • You can also plant repelling crops that beetles dislike such as radishes, oregano (can be invasive – plant in a 5 Gal bucket), and nasturtiums (nasturtiums can bring snails). Plant them right with your cucumbers to help repel the beetles away.

INCOMPATIBLE Plants

Potato, super aromatic herbs like Sage.

Planting for Pleasure!

Long Cucumbers hanging from Overhead Trellis!

First decide how you will grow your Cukes! On the ground, trellising or overhead?!

That determines how you layout your garden! Overhead may require separate additional space, or you might install it over your patio but not so tall that you can’t reach to harvest! Unique! Trellises will make varying kinds of shade depending on what kind of trellis you use. You might like some shade for summer lettuces. A simple vertical trellis still makes shade, but less if you install it along the direction of the summer sun’s path! If you have already planted other plants and don’t want to shade them, you might choose smaller varieties of cucumbers that will grow to less heights, have smaller leaves.

Small pickling cucumbers are easy on a vertical trellis. If you are growing heavy slicers, a vertical trellis is still good. If you are growing a LOT of long cukes, you might grow them on an overhead, let them hang for easy harvesting. Cucumbers up on trellises will ripen all the way around while ground growing might leave an unripened yellow area on their down side.

Choose trellis shapes that give you easy picking access and that will give ample space for the variety of cucumber you choose!

Trellis Squash Melon CucumbersLeaning Cucumber Trellis

Getting your cucumbers off the ground keeps them out of the nibbling insect zone, but it is a little cooler up there and may delay growth a bit. If you are in a cool windy coastal area, you might decide to grow low shrub porous windbreaks to shelter an area, and leave your cukes on the ground. Mulch with only an inch layer of straw to keep them off the ground and the insects happy under the mulch. The thin straw layer allows aeration and some light through to keep the soil warm.

Sun, Soil, Spacing

Full summer sun! Cucumber is not a ‘winter’ plant, they grow best at 81 F to 101! They will do alright at 60 degrees at night, and above 70 degrees during the day. If you are coastal cool, if possible, find a SHELTERED spot for them so they can be good and warm! In the garden plant them on the sunny side of corn, beans or tomatoes. Look for a light colored wall, west facing, with no chilling wind that whips by. A light, sandy loam soil works well for early production. Cucumbers thrive in well drained, fertile soil and need a pH above 6.0.

Some northern gardeners prepare their cukes, melons, squash, peppers and tomato soil well in advance, in fall for spring! They compost in place – pile on manure, chopped leaves and grass, sprinkle on coffee grounds and kitchen scraps, wood ashes from winter fires, etc. In spring dig a foot square hole, fill with your luscious compost, plant your seed right in that compost! Lasts all season if you live in a short season area, and no compost is wasted where no plant is planted! As long as you get that compost out to just beyond the feeder root area your mature plant will have, it’s good.

Incorporate a layer of worm castings at the top of your planting area if you are planting seeds. Castings improve and speed germination, improve water holding capacity to keep your seedlings moist longer!

Spacing depends on which varieties you plant and whether you trellis or not. For trailing cucumbers on the ground, plant 3 to 4 seeds in hills, spacing the hills 3 to 4 feet apart in the row and space rows 5 feet apart. If you plan to trellis your cucumbers, space the hills 2 feet apart in the row and thin to one plant per hill. If you use a vertical trellis, as your plants grow, be prepared to gently weave them up the trellis or tie them in place. Cukes are not like beans or peas that do it by themselves and bend easily.

Hilling or Basins?! If you live in a wet summer rainy area, hilling is great for drainage, though sometimes toward the end of summer, salts accumulate on the top of the soil and water simply runs off. Or the hill flattens from watering, roots are exposed, you need to replenish the soil. Laying on compost mulch covered with a straw mulch will help that. In hot Mediterranean summer dry areas like SoCal, a dripline-wide basin corrals the water right where your plant needs it. Put a stake in the center of the basin so you know where to water. If your soil is infected with wilts or blights, make a hill, put the basin on top, with the bottom of the basin above the regular soil level. This waters your plant, allows drainage and some drying, reducing the fungi. Mulch with only 1″ of straw to allow airflow, but to keep leaves from touching soil. Keeping the leaves from touching the soil is critical because it is the number one way wilts access your plants.

Germination

Cucumbers are frost tender. Wait to plant until the soil has warmed up to 65° degrees or above.

Pre sprouting is smart! Soak your seeds in water for 5 to 10 hours, drain. Put them on damp paper towels wrapped loosely in an unsealed plastic bag and put in a warm spot. 70-85 degrees is optimum. Check the bags every day – keep the towels moist. The seeds will sprout in a few days. It saves time and guarantees you will have a plants in every space! You won’t waste time waiting for failed seeds in the ground. Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips Plant your sproutlings very gently. 

Transplant Technique Separating Lemon Cucumbers - John Kohler

Selecting Transplants to save money! Not everyone wants to plant from seed! Not everyone wants to spend a ton of bucks on transplants either! Ok, so do it John Kohler style! See this video of him separating out ELEVEN lemon cucumbers from one 4″ container he purchased for $1.79 – those were the days, ha, ha! I didn’t believe it, but he did it easy! And I’ll bet they all grew! You can use this technique with many plants. 

Tag your seedlings and transplants with the date planted, variety name, # of days to maturity. Having your plant date and days to maturity tells you at a glance how well they are doing per how long they have been in the ground. If your seeds don’t germinate, you know your seed is compromised or too old. If there are no fruits when expected, are you over fertilizing and your plant is going to leaf and no fruit, or are they slow due to cooler weather than usual? When the season is done, how did that variety do for you? Should you save some seeds? Put a note in your records of what to do better next year, for selecting next year’s purchases, how many to plant. Also, jot down where you got that transplant or the seeds. 

Successive Planting

If you have poor or fungi infected soil, two plantings may make sense. The first planting may not last long depending on whether you planted a resistant variety or not. A later second planting, when the soil has heated and dried, may be more successful. To help keep the soil drier, use an open mulch like straw, only 1″ is best, for airflow. 

Planting smaller shorter fruited varieties is good early on. A month or two later you might plant long varieties that need good heat to make those big babies! 

Pollination! Or, Why do my cucumber plants have flowers but no fruit?

Unlike tomatoes that have both male and female parts in every flower, the cucurbits – squash, melons, cucumbers, have male flowers and female flowers. Somehow the pollen must be transferred. And, complete pollination is a must! Without it you may get deformed cucumbers, slow growing cucumbers or no cucumbers at all! With good pollination you can get more and larger cukes!

NMSU says: The female flower cannot produce the pollen needed to cause the fruit to develop and is dependent upon insect (or human) pollinators to transport the pollen from the male flower. The male flowers begin forming [a week or two] before the female flowers form. So, it is possible to have cucumbers blooming, but not producing fruit.

When skies are gray, it’s rainy or it is super windy, some pollinators don’t fly. Hand Pollination is easy! Daub that Q-tip or mini brush on the male flower’s anther (the stem is shorter and has no baby cuke forming under the flower – sometimes they grow in clusters where the females grow singly) then roll it onto the female’s stigma at the center of the flower! Or break the male flower off, remove the petals and do it direct! Don’t shake it and lose all the pollen before you introduce it to that girl flower! One can do several females.

Use only fresh male flowers. Flowers open in the morning. The females are only receptive that day and pollen is only viable that day. If you are doing a few it’s quick. If you have a lot of cukes, it’s going to take some time. But if you love cucumbers, it is so worth it! Do squash and melons the same way!

SFGate says: If pollination is a problem each year for your cucumbers, choose parthenocarpic varieties. Parthenocarpic varieties produce only female flowers and do not need pollination to produce fruit. This type of cucumber is also seedless.

Watering/Mulch  Compost   Fertilizer  Sidedressing

Cucumbers have short roots and need consistent water, kept moist, to never dry out. Pick first, water afterwards. Avoid wetting the plants and water in AMs if possible to avoid mildew. Plant mildew resistant varieties like Diva. Apply your baking soda mix to alkalize the leaves. Some say most granular fertilizers leach from the soil rather quickly due to watering. That is why the instructions say you should reapply periodically through the season, even once a week. Time release pellets do better. But adding organic material, compost, to your soil not only adds nutrients, it loosens the soil, attracts worms and other soil building critters and helps your soil retain moisture and nutrients.

Feed your cukes when they first begin to run (form vines and sprawl); again when blossoms set. A big vined short rooted, long fruited variety of cucumber, in a long summer is a heavy feeder, so some gardeners recommend to fertilize once a week! A small fruited, small leaved patio type container cucumber may need little to no feeding.

Since Cucumbers are short rooted, be very careful if you dig in fertilizer or compost. Dig only on one side so as not to break off all the tiny surface feeder roots. Better to add a 1″ layer of compost, some worm castings if you have them, in the planting basin, cover with straw and water well. Foliar feeding mixed teas feeds the whole plant with no harm to the roots at all! Do both the compost and foliar!

Fruits will be aborted during dry spells and very hot weather. Keep your plants watered, moist, regularly, and don’t worry if your plant temporarily stops flowering and producing. When the weather cools, you will be back in business!

Common Diseases

Mildew is #1. 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. Not only is prevention so much better than after mildew has set in, but this mix stimulates your plant’s growth! IPM on Powdery mildew

The worst diseases, spread by Cucumber Beetles, are the Wilts, Fusarium and Verticillium. Please see Wilts & Cucumber Beetles, Tomatoes & Cukes! for the details, prevention and treatment.

Common Pests

Cucumber Beetle Western Striped SpottedStriped/Spotted Cucumber Beetles are the nemesis of Cucumbers. Squish. Cucumber Beetles get in cucumber, squash and melon blossoms. They aren’t picky. They are yellow greenish with black stripes or dots about the size and shape of a Ladybug. They are cute but are the very worst garden pest. They carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus, deadly to cukes. Radish repels them, is a champion plant, a hero of the garden! Plant enough radish for you to eat and to let others just grow, be there permanently or at least until the beetles are done, gone. IPM data

Squash Bugs like your Zucchini and other squash, cucumber and melons. Plant WHITE potatoes among these plants to repel the bugs. You will get two crops instead of just one! IPM info

Whitefly infestations leave a parasitic fungus called black sooty mold, and that attracts aphids/ants and aphids add to the black problem. Hose ‘em, several days in a row to get rid of them, being sure to get under the leaves! Sprinkle the ground with cinnamon to repel aphid-tending ants. Remove any yellowing leaves throughout your garden that attract whiteflies. Water a tad less. Remove unhealthy leaves that may lay on the ground and harbor pests or diseases. Thin some leaves away to improve air circulation. IPM on Whiteflies

Bill Finch has written a detailed, educated and humorous account about using summer horticultural oil on whiteflies!It’s worth the read.

Maturity

Most cucumber varieties will start to bloom in about 60 to 65 days after they germinate. They have male and female blooms on the same plant. Only the female bloom produces fruit. Insects are necessary for cross pollination. Grow lots of bee food! If it is necessary to apply insecticides it is best to apply them as late in the afternoon as possible, when bees are less active. Parthenocarpic varieties having all female flowers, don’t need bees. 

Harvest & Storage

Cucumber Pickles And Dill Jars

Mexican Gherkins/Mouse Melons, are ripe when they fall to the ground! Lemon cukes are best eaten while still young and pale green. Other Cucumbers mature rapidly and once in production check every other day for ones ready to harvest. No storing on the vine or your plant thinks it’s done and stops producing. Cut, clip or carefully twist off while holding the vine. Cukes are old if they are large, puffy, dull and yellow. Use care not to step on vines during harvest. 

Pickles are the only real way of storing cukes, and there are the cuke varieties that are specific for that purpose! Probiotic pickling is the healthiest way of doing it. 

Cucumbers are another room temp veggie. University of California, Davis, says cukes are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F. They thrive and last longer at room temp. However, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days if they are used soon after removal from the refrigerator.

Seed Harvest, SeedSaving, Inbreeding Depression.  When, Seed Saving Process, Viability

If you are in a short summer cool climate, don’t have a long enough summer to save seed, buying seed may be your only option.

Parthenocarpic means your plant produces without pollination, makes NO seeds. Like with hybrids, saving seeds is not an option. However, there are reports of saving seeds from parthenocarpic plants! Some flowers do get pollinated. Soak the seed like usual, keep only the sinkers that look the most like your original seed! You might not get many, but probably enough!

If you have non parthenocarpic varieties and want to save cucumber seed, plant only one variety! They cross breed like crazy! Experienced home seed savers can grow more than one variety at a time in a single garden by using hand pollinating techniques. If you don’t hand pollinate, separate two different cucumber varieties by at least 1/2 mile to ensure purity. Inbreeding Depression, reduced vigor due to breeding related plants, is not usually noticeable in cucumbers. Seeds should be saved from at least 6 cucumbers on 6 different plants.

You may ask what if I plant non and Parthenocarpic varieties together? Parthenocarpic cucumbers grow fruits without pollination, developed for commercial greenhouse production – no bees. As a home gardener, if pollinated they will have seeds. If you don’t mind seeds, then interplanting is not a problem. But these seeds will be hybrids. Experimenting can be fun, or disappointing if you want what you had before.

Saving the seeds of Cukes, Eggplant, Melon, Pepper, Squash, Tomatoes, and Zukes is super easy.

Leave the best or last of your cukes to get old on the vine to reap all they can from the Mother plant. Leave them at least 5 weeks after the eating stage, until they have turned a golden color. Now is the time we want those old large, puffy, dull and yellow ones! In northern areas the first, light frost of the season will blacken vines and make cucumbers easier to find. Undamaged fruits can be stored in cool, dry place for several weeks to finish ripening. 

Slice your cucumbers lengthwise and scrape seeds out with spoon. Put them in warm water no more than two days. Scrape any scum off. Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Viable seeds, sinkers, are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the strainer onto paper towel or piece of newspaper. Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two). Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label with date and variety, store in a packet or plastic bag. Check them in a week or two to be sure there is no mold or any insect infestations.

The drier the seeds, the longer they will store ~ about 5 years for cucumbers, 2 – 10 maybe. 


Cucumbers are easy to eat! 

Cucumber Open Sandwich Dill Garnish

Some cucumbers simply never make it home from the garden. Next best fresh is in a tasty greens salad!

Eat cukes and yogurt! Raita, an Indian dish, is pretty and a very nice cooling summer dish. It can also be used as a sauce over falafels, as a veggie dip or salad dressing! Chicken, lettuce & cucumber slice sands!

Make a pale green egg salad with fresh minced basil, green onions, and crunchy cucumbers. Tuck it into pita pockets. Mmm…..

In Asia cucumbers are often stir-fried and are quite tasty. Give it a try! Toss cold noodles with sauce, cucumber, and scallion or coriander. Sprinkle noodles with sesame seeds.

How about a delicious Pineapple Cucumber Smoothie?! Add blueberries for blue, Strawberries for pink! Or do Cucumber, Apple & MInt! With Kale. Watermelon! Do a flavor a day – just add Cucumber!

  1. Add cucumber, pineapple, frozen banana, light coconut milk, water, lime zest, lime juice, greens, and ice cubes to a blender and blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
  2. For a thicker smoothie, add more ice. For a thinner smoothie, add more liquid of choice. …

Pickles are prime! Do probiotics for the very best nutrition! Add carrot sticks, hot peppers, garlic, dill, whatever tickles your tastebuds!

FYI the inside of a cucumber can be up to twenty degrees cooler than the outside temperature! This is where the saying cool as a cucumber came from.

Stay cool!

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Updated at various times…


The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, then became this blog too! All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Read Full Post »

Tasty Red Bell Pepper, Tomatoes, Edible Garlic Flowers!

Edible Garlic chive blossoms on beautiful thick walled red bell pepper!
Image by super gardener Kenny Point in Pennsylvania

Peppers are not just food, they are an adventure that spices your life! They are not just a veggie, but an edible garden beauty in your landscape!

Peppers Come in an Amazing Array! 

Mini to Mammoth! Tiny brain wrecking hot chilis, dainty mini to humongous sweet Bells! Early maturing thin walled, later thick walled. Short, long – pointy, round. Ones that hang down, others that point up!

Peppers come in colors you won’t believe! How about these super thick walled Jupiter Sweet Burgundy! On the right are 8″ colossal beauties Yellow Monster Peppers! Really sweet, meaty, great fresh, fried or roasted!

Peppers Varieties - Burgundy Bell, Yellow Monsters, Fish, HOT Chile Numex Twilight

Striped, one of the prettiest peppers ever, Fish Pepper, above left, is an African-American heirloom that predates the 1870s. It starts out an unusual cream color striped with green, the fruits ripen to orange with brown stripes, before turning all red. Super for containers! At right is beautiful Numex Twilight. It can produce more than 100 small pretty pods! At 100,000 Scoville Units, it’s HOT! Respect.

SMART CHOICES!

Disease resistant If your land is moist, hybrids are probably going to do better for you than heirlooms. In coastal Santa Barbara CA we usually have a late spring/summer fog belt/marine layer, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Choose Resistant varieties per the list below and also Potato Yellow Mosaic Virus, Pepper Mottle Virus and  Cucumber Mosaic Virus.
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Pepper Resistance Codes:(BLS 1-3) Bacterial Leaf Spot (Races 1-3)
(BLS 1-2) Bacterial Leaf Spot (Races 1, 2)
(PC) Phytophthora Root Rot
(PVY) Potato Virus Y
(TEV) Tobacco Etch Virus
(TM 0-2) Tobamovirus (Races 0-2)
(TM 0-3) Tobamovirus (Races 0-3)
(TMV) Tobacco Mosaic Virus Here are recommended varieties by UC Davis in California. TMV is Tobacco Mosaic Virus, PVY is Potato Virus Y. AAS is a super plus! It is an All America Selections winner!
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Hot
Tam Mild Jalapeño (mild heat with Jalapeño flavor) PVY
Jalapeño M (very hot)
Anaheim TMR 23 (chili pepper, moderately hot) TMV
Anaheim (standard hot chill)
Cayenne Long Red Slim (hot)
Hungarian Yellow Wax (popular for canning, moderately hot)
Serrano Chili Pepper (tabasco type)

Sweet Bell
Bell Boy AAS, TMV
California Wonder TMV
Yolo Wonder TMV
Keystone Resistant Giant TMV
Jupiter TMV
Golden Summer Hybrid (yellow when fully mature) TMV
Golden Bell (yellow when fully mature)
Early Pimento (used fresh or for canning) AAS
Sweet Yellow or Cubanelle Sweet Banana AAS
Gypsy AAS, TMV
Hy-Fry
Cubanene

GROWING CONDITION CHOICES

Location!
If you have a short summer season or are cooler and coastal perhaps, choose earlier smaller fruited varieties than ones that need a long hot summer to fully mature and if necessary change color too.

Cold Tolerant! 
If you love your peppers and want some early, or have a short growing season, order ones that mature quickly and are cool weather adapted! Plant those first and others more heat tolerant soon after to carry the length of the season. For sweet bell peppers, get seed for Ace, Lady Bell or King of the North! Obriy Ukrainian sweet red pepper is both cold and heat tolerant! For hotties that don’t mind cold, order up Early Jalapeño,  Hungarian Hot Wax or Anaheim. Rocoto stands some cold but not a hard freeze. Manzano are reported to survive at 20°! The extraordinary feature of these two peppers, Capsicum pubescens (hairy leaves), is they grow into four-meter woody plants relatively quickly, and live up to 15 years! Truly sustainable! If cold weather can happen anytime where you live, grow your peppers in pots; take them inside when it gets cold.

Heat Tolerant! Peppers are a Solanacea like tomatoes, and like tomatoes they produce poorly during high temperatures. Banana, ‘Gypsy’ and pimento produce very well, despite the heat. Jessie Keith says ‘super spicy classic jalapeño ‘Tula’, wonderfully flavorful pasilla-type pepper ‘Holy Molé’ (2007 AAS Winner), and classic spicy sweet red bell pepper ‘Mexibell’ (1988 AAS Winner). Of the sweet bell peppers nothing beats the tough, [thick walled] disease-resistant ‘Orange Blaze’ (2011 AAS Winner) and its crisp, bright orange peppers.’ Heirloom Olympus (65 days green, 85 days red) has large bell peppers on medium-sized plants with good leaf cover. They are high-yielding plants, are heat tolerant and can set fruit under a wide range of conditions. MG Seed Stock. If you planted varieties that are more heat susceptible, put up a shade cloth cover. Depending on the density you select, shade cloth can lower the temperature by approximately 5-15 degrees. If you live in a hot area, bell pepper transplants can be planted in August for fall production when the weather cools down.

Drought tolerant Look for the terms drought tolerant, drought resistant, dry farmed when searching for the best variety for your garden. It’s important to know that drought tolerant doesn’t necessarily mean heat tolerant and vice versa, so stay alert if you need both. When you are buying seeds, consider the location of the seed company. Perhaps local seed houses will understand your needs best. Check in with local farmers to see which varieties they are growing, remembering that some of their standards are different than a home gardener. For those of you in water critical areas, one way to help the situation is to pick pepper varieties with fewer days to maturity. You get peppers, you can freeze some, your plants are done before the highest heat and driest times. The UC Sonoma County list is short, only two varieties, Jupiter Red Bell and Ordoño.

Pepper HOT Cayenne Blend Eden BrothersHAPPY COMPANIONS! 

Sweet Peppers like: Basil, tomato, rhubarb, eggplant, lettuce, asparagus, parsley, silver beet, spinach, carrot, onion, beans, cabbage, peas, marigold and okra.

At left, Cayenne Mix at Eden Brothers Seeds, Scoville Scale: 30,000-50,000 Units

Hot Pepper plants are terrific with eggplant, tomato, okra, Swiss chard, escarole, squash and cucumbers. Marlene Affeld says ‘emit a chemical from the plant roots that helps prevent Fusarium, root rot, and a wide range of other plant diseases!’

PLANTING

Peppers are Temp Particular! Peppers grow best in daytime air temperatures 65° to 85°F. Transplant when night time temperatures stay above 50 degrees, 55 is better. Below that plants grow very slowly, have yellowish, puckered leaves, and look sickly, often don’t recover. Night temps between 60° and 70° are best. The ideal temperature for peppers is a daytime temperature around 75°F and a nighttime temperature around 62°F.

At soil temperatures above 65 degrees, pepper growth accelerates. If either the soil or air temperature is much below 55 degrees, blossoms of transplants may drop off. The plants may survive and more blossoms will appear. But it is more likely plants will become stunted and never recover. If your plant is puny and showing no growth, best to compost it and replant when it is warmer.

  • Nighttime temperatures below 60 F or above 75 F can reduce fruit set. In daytime temperatures greater than 85°F, peppers may drop their blossoms although set fruit will ripen. When daytime temps reach 90 F and above, and stay there, just like with tomatoes, the blossoms seldom set fruit. Not to worry. Just give them some time after temps are lower.
  • Plumping up! Gardeners in hot regions will need to be especially patient with big bells and sweet roasting peppers. Both of these tend to wait until the nights are longer and cooler in late summer before fruiting and plumping up. These folks may want to plant banana peppers or sweet non-bells, which will ripen in time to use with those bumper crops of tomatoes and basil. Peppers need time on the plant to absorb nutrients and water and plump up their flesh, so pack your patience.
  • Color Changes! Mother Earth News says: After reaching their maximum size, green peppers that are meant to turn red, will develop red pigments in 10 to 28 days, if daytime temperatures are between 65 degrees and 75 degrees. In southern regions where temperatures exceed that range, peppers turn yellowish and may acquire an off-color pallor that is not attractive. Below the optimum temperature range, color development slows dramatically; below 55 degrees, it stops completely. If soil temperatures drop below 68 degrees, pigment production declines and eventually ceases.

Peppers love sun, but a bit of shade is good for the fruit. I planted a Poblano between two big tomato plants. For a while I thought it was a goner, shaded out, then, it just grew and grew! It got almost 4′ tall and produced like crazy and I gave giant peppers away!

Peppers need VERY RICH SOIL, are heavy feeders! Place compost for water holding capacity, worm castings, rotted manure under them when transplanting. Mix in Maxi Crop and Island Seed & Feed Landscape Mix. Sandy soils are preferred for the earliest plantings because they warm more rapidly in the spring. Heavier soils can be quite productive, provided they are well drained and irrigated with care.

Epsom Salts! Rather than in the soil, do foliar Epsom Salts! A cheap home remedy that can keep plants greener and bushier, enhance production of healthier fruit later in the season, and potentially help reduce blossom-end rot. You could apply 1 tablespoon of granules around each transplant, but research has shown a foliar spray of a solution of 1 tablespoon Epsom salts + a 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap (Dawn) per gallon of water at transplanting, first flowering, and fruit set is more effective! As a foliar spray, Epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants, otherwise, it is sometimes hard for the plant to get it out of the soil because of calcium competition.

Plant your peppers about a foot to 18″ apart.  A healthy pepper will get big and top heavy with fruit! It is wise to put small tomato cages over thick wall bell pepper varieties when you plant, to support the weight when they are heavy with fruit.

Though a perennial, they are very susceptible to freeze. With Bell peppers, I have heard a lot of people say their peppers overwintered and produced just fine the following year, but I have not seen that to be true at the community gardens. They are never as robust nor do they produce the big healthy fruits first year plants do. If you are one of the lucky ones, by all means, protect them when there are freezes.

Hot peppers are another story. They seem to do a lot better overwinter, depending on the variety, and I have seen them carry on wonderfully!

CARE

Personal Mulch! Solanaceae, that’s peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, like mulch from their own leaf litter, so just let the leaves fall and accumulate. In hot summer weather your peppers will appreciate a heavy mulch. Several inches of straw or dried grass clippings will keep the soil cooler and reduce moisture evaporation. Continually moist ground is a necessity for peppers, as they, like tomatoes, suffer from blossom end rot, a physiological disease caused by a calcium deficiency. Most soils contain ample calcium, but the mineral relies on water to transport it to the plant’s root system. When the soil lacks moisture, the calcium can’t reach the plants and a tell-tale black leathery spot forms on the blossom end of developing fruit. Heavy Nitrogen fertilizer applications can also induce a transient calcium deficiency. I emphasize that you give your peppers plenty of compost for water holding capacity and keep them well mulched!

Peppers, have shallow roots, need even wateringKeep the soil moist, not soggy, to encourage root development and prevent blossom wilting and bitter-tasting peppers. Moisture stress during bloom can cause substantial reduction in fruit set.

Later on, however, as a friend from Farmers Market pointed out: ‘Red & yellow peppers are green peppers that have been ripe for a while. So you are asking an already ripe fruit to stay on a vine longer to change color. Too much water, and the pepper will start to turn brown and rot. So we switched to watering a LOT less frequently and the results have been outstanding.’

Sidedressing Peppers need fertilizer in small doses, a rich organic fertilizer when blooms appear. If you scratch in some compost, be careful not to damage their shallow roots. Liquid chicken manure is high in nitrogen and potassium for heavy feeders like peppers. Big, sweet peppers require a continual source of nutrition. The easiest way to fertilize them is to incorporate gradual-release fertilizer in the ground at planting. Fish-meal pellets, alfalfa pellets or cottonseed meal are all good organic choices. You also can foliar-feed plants every week or two with a fish/seaweed soluble fertilizer, spraying the tops and bottoms of leaves, or water the ground with the same mixture.

Replenish mulch as needed throughout summer! You might schedule a mulch check for them and all your plants once a month.

ANNUAL OR PERENNIAL? Technically peppers are perennials, grow year after year – in the right climate. Some chiles overwinter well in Santa Barbara. Bell peppers are another story. Geographically, in Santa Barbara CA they are temp sensitive annuals! I’ve heard claims about them overwintering in the garden successfully, but I have yet to see it. If you like to do it, better to pot your pepper before any frosts and take it indoors by a sunny window or into your fine greenhouse! You have a couple choices. Prune it ruthlessly, or keep it growing, even producing, with lights and bloom sprays. There are many online threads about overwintering your peppers. Check out tips from several experts to make your efforts count!

Personally, there are so many tasty fresh winter foods that grow well here in our SoCal ‘winter,’ that I am more than happy to replant peppers in spring!

PESTS & DISEASES

For Blossom End Rot, see above under Care.

Early Blight and Verticillium Wilt are a problem at all the Santa Barbara Community Gardens. Please see more about them and what to do here.

See more about Pepper pests and diseases at the UC Davis IPM page.

Choose Resistant varieties.

California Wonder Peppers changing color!  Eden Brothers Seeds image.

California Wonder Peppers Changing Color - Eden Brothers imageHARVEST

Bell peppers are at their sweetest and are highest in Vitamins A,  C and carotenoids when fully mature! When choosing bell peppers for eating, select those that are firm, heavy for their size with shiny, bright and vibrant richly colored skin! The bell pepper’s sweetness increases as their color changes from green to their final color if they are a color changing variety.

Their stems should be green and fresh looking. To avoid breaking branches, use a sharp knife to cut, instead of pulling.

It’s nice to know that if not optimally ripe, vitamin C and carotenoids in bell peppers will actually increase with refrigerator storage over the next 10 days!

STORAGE can be really fun with peppers! So many options!

For maximum flavor, eat peppers on the same day they are picked! Room temp is best for peppers, leave them on a kitchen counter for a day or two to ripen further. Rinse with cold water just before you use them. Bell peppers are very sensitive to ethylene gas so don’t store them with fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas. If you put them in the fridge, do it only 1-3 days and use immediately upon taking out of the fridge. Don’t remove their cores because they are quite susceptible to moisture loss. Peppers are warm-weather fruits that don’t store well in cold temps. If you have too many peppers, consider the following storage options.

Freezing This is the easiest storage method. Peppers freeze well without blanching. Thawed peppers still retain some crispness and can be used in cooked dishes or raw in uncooked preparations. Their flavor is retained, so use frozen peppers primarily for adding ‘spice’ to soups, stews, and sauces. If you stuff the peppers before freezing, you’ll have a ready-made dinner, perfect for the microwave.

To Tray Freeze Sweet Bell Peppers

Wash and core peppers. Chop, dice or slice according to how you plan to use them.
Spread in a single layer on a tray of a cookie sheet. Place tray in the freezer for an hour or longer. Loosen pepper pieces from the tray and pour into zip closure freezer bags. Immediately place sealed bags in the freezer. The pepper pieces will remain separated for ease of measuring. Simply remove as many as you need, reseal the bag and return to the freezer. Or bag them separately in the amounts you plan to use them.

Pickling/Canning Peppers are low-acid fruits so require canning under pressure. It’s easier to pickle peppers as you would cucumbers in a crock filled with a simple brine of four cups of water, four cups of vinegar, and 1/2 cup of pickling salt. Add a clove or two of garlic and some fresh herbs for delicious added flavor.

Sweet Banana, Sweet Hungarian, Cubanelle are long, narrow tapering down to one, two or three lobes. They are thin walled, Cubanelle the thinnest. They are usually picked when light yellow or green. Because they have less water content than bells, they are perfect for frying. ‘Sweet Banana’ was the 1941 All America Selections Winner!

Pepper! Colorful Decorative Ristras!Drying This method works best with thin-walled peppers, particularly the smaller varieties that can be dried whole right on the plant. The key to drying peppers is doing it slowly to retain their color and flavors. Perfect for spicing up bland backpacking meals!

Another form of drying is in brilliant wreaths and Ristras!

You can grind chiles into culinary or medicinal powders! They retain their lovely colors! Paprika is a dried powdered form of bell pepper, and though we are used to seeing red paprika, a paprika can be made from any color of bell pepper and it will end up being that same color. Both the decorative forms and these potent powders make sensational gifts!

SEED SAVING

To prevent cross-pollination, hot pepper plants should not be planted near sweet or bell pepper plants. TRUE! Plant at least 400 feet between varieties to ensure absolute purity. That’s important info for seed savers!

Harvest mature, fully-ripe peppers for seed. Most bell peppers turn red when fully mature. If frost threatens before peppers mature, pull entire plant and hang in cool, dry location until peppers mature.

  • There are two methods to process pepper seeds, dry and wet. The dry method is adequate for small amounts. Cut the bottom off the fruit and carefully reach in to strip the seeds surrounding central cone. In many cases, seeds need no further cleaning.
  • To process the seed from large amounts of peppers, cut off the tops just under the stem, fill a blender with peppers and water and carefully blend until good seeds are separated and sink to bottom. Pepper debris and immature seeds will float to the top where they can be rinsed away. Spread clean seeds on paper towel and dry in cool location until seed is dry enough to break when folded.

FYI Birds are not sensitive to capsaicin, the heat factor in chilli peppers, and are therefore the main dispersers of the seeds!

HEALTH

Pepper Hot Oil & Healing Spices

Remedies: Hot Oil! Healing Spices. The countless health benefits claimed are exciting and enormous! Cayenne is said to stop heart attacks. Hot oil works wonders on knees.

Nutrition: I’m not sure people really eat peppers for nutrition, LOL! Peppers are in a food category all their own! Choices are made according to the Scoville Scale, how hot or not they are! At the lower end of the scale, nutrition may factor in somewhat, but it is more likely a visual choice, shape and color, whether for salad or type of cooking you will use the pepper for.

Beautiful Red on Yellow striped Bell Peppers from the Netherlands!

From the Netherlands, marvelous Red on Yellow, AKA Flame, Enjoya, and Aloha!

Sweet luscious Bell Peppers have a whopping 169% of the daily value of Vitamin C we need, but who thinks of peppers as a source of Vitamin C?! More we think of low calories, but most of all, that delicious taste! But look, here’s more! Absorption of dietary iron is significantly increased when consumed with fruits or vegetables that are high in vitamin C. Eating raw bell peppers with iron-rich foods like meat or spinach, may help increase your body’s iron stores, cutting the risk of anemia. Eat peppers!

Absolute Culinary Delight!

Mexican recipes are classic! Salsa! Chile Rellenos! Add to burritos, roll-ups and tacos. Stuff and eat fresh, hot pockets! Roasted, grilled on the barbie! Pickled. Fine chopped in tuna or chicken salad! Go Cajun by sautéing with celery and onion, then mix with tempeh, chicken, seafoods. Stir fry some bits in the wok with cashews, shrimp and Oriental veggies. Puree in summer zucchini soups, hot or cold. Add color and crunch to your dip tray, make a pureed pepper dip! Pizza topping. Fresh slices in a cool Romaine, cucumber, avocado salad – add black beans for protein!

Peppers! Salsa and Rellenos

Roasted Poblano Salsa, and by chef Rick Bayliss, Grilled Shrimp Chile Rellenos in Corn Husks

Buddha Bowl with Red Peppers

Tasty Buddha Bowl with Red Peppers

To your great health and a happy palate! Stay cool when it’s hot!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Read Full Post »

Design Your Beautiful Summer Garden!

Designing your garden is an intricate and intimate process depending on a lot of factors. It will ‘look’ like you as you are at the time of your life that you do it. Gardens are a form of autobiography. ~Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993. If you plant from seed, designing your garden leads to making a pretty accurate seed list.

Some of your choices will be the same as what your family always did. Or, you may be a permaculture type doing a Food Forest guild system. There is no right way. You are you, your situation unique. You may be the same the rest of your life, only influenced by drought, deluge, seasons or climate change. You may be research oriented and enjoy trying out new plants and practices from across the world, allowing volunteers the birds bring to grow. You might decide to leave an untouched wild area in the name of freedom or magic, or rest a section of your garden each winter! Or plant it to green manure!

Choose a sunny place with easy access to water! Bioswales may be part of your water capture plan. In SoCal consider a centuries old technique, a water saving Waffle GardenGreywater distribution location may determine where fruit and nut trees will be planted. Then how will their mature shade affect the rest of your garden? Use dwarfs? 

Garden Design Slope HillsideMake your garden a shape that flows with the area, whether that be simply the space available, or contoured to the land. Use slopes and hillsides! (Image by Arterra LLP Landscape Architects) Grow permeable windbreak shrubs to slow wind. If you don’t have outdoor space, but do have a sunny doorstep or balcony, put those containers to work! See some smart design ideas and tips at the Magic of Permaculture!

Layouts can be any design you want! Circles with cross points, spokes, concentric, spiral! Squares like a formal British royal garden. Wild like a cottage garden or food forest garden guild. Beds in blocks. Straw bales wherever you can put them! Terraced on a slope! S curves along an existing path interspersed with ornamentals! Maybe you would like to add a greenhouse this year, or you need a shed and convenient workspace.

Put in pathways – straw bedding, boards, gravel, pallets, living mulch, as suits the spirit of the location, are safe and make you happy to be there!

Where is the summer and winter sun path in the sky? Design to plant so tall plants don’t shade out the shorties – generally that is tall in the North, short in the South. If you have only morning sun, you plant tall in the West, vice versa for only afternoon sun. A full 6 to 8 hours of sun is best for almost all veggies. You can do shade, but it’s slower and fruits are not as big or plentiful.

If you choose to make your own compost, select an easy access area for composting, near the kitchen, if you will be using it on an ongoing basis. Plant compost speeding herbs like comfrey or yarrow right next to it. Plant pretty calendula or borage to hide it and bring bees and butterflies! If you use straw layers, leave space beside your composter or compost area for a bale staked in place on its end.  See more

Also choose an area, maybe near the compost, for your worm box if you will be growing them for their valuable castings. Mine take full sun all year. See more

Decide if you want to do a no dig Lasagna type bed or your soil is fine and you can just get to planting right now! But first, either way, install gopher protection wire!

The nitty gritties are deciding what plants you want, how much space they take up per the return you hope for.

What plants do you want? Will you judge by nutritional value first, return per square foot? Will you really eat them or has your family just always grown it? Will you be biodiversely companion planting or monoculture row planting?

Think about your choices for permanent residents! Plant perennial herbs by the kitchen door, at corner points or gates. The perennial Dragon Fruit along the fence. An amazing chayote needs tons of room. Artichokes are big, and grow 10 years! Set aside an all year area for flowering plants for bees, beneficials, butterflies and birds! See Stripes of Wildflowers!

Where will biggies like that Winter Hubbard Squash, pumpkin, squash or melon, artichoke fit or is there really enough space for it per its production footprint? Do you need it to cover space while you take a break from other planting?

Will you be planting successive rounds of favorites throughout the season? If you plant an understory of fillers – lettuces, table onions, radish, beets, carrots, etc – you won’t need separate space for them. If you trellis, use yard side fences, grow vertical in cages, you will need less space. See Vertical Gardening, a Natural Urban Choice! If you plant in zig zags, rather than in a straight line, you can usually get one more plant in the allotted space.

Are you growing for food or seed or both? Waiting for plants to flower to seed takes time, and the space it takes is unavailable for a while. But bees, beneficial predator insects, butterflies and birds come. And you will have seeds adapted to your area for next year’s planting, plus extras to share, perhaps take to the Seed Swap!

Would be lovely to put in a comfy chair to watch the garden grow, see birds, listen to the breeze in the leaves, read a bit and snooze.

Social at Davie Village Community Garden in Vancouver's West EndOr a social area, table, chairs, umbrella. Have candlelight summer salads in the garden with friends. This is at Davie Village Community Garden in Vancouver’s West End.

Plant sizes, time to maturity  There are early, dwarfs, container plants that produce when they are smaller, have smaller fruits. There are long growing biggies that demand their space, over grow and outgrow their neighbors! Maybe you don’t need huge, but just enough for just you since it’s only you in your household. Or it’s not a favorite, but you do like a taste! The time it takes to mature for harvest depends on weather, your soil, whether you feed it or not along the way. The size depends on you and the weather also, but mainly on the variety you choose. You can plant smaller varieties at the same time you plant longer maturing larger fruiting varieties for a steady table supply. How long it takes to maturity, and the footprint size of your mature plant is critical to designing your garden, making it all fit.

Vertical and Horizontal Spacing!

  • Vertical Space – More plants per square foot!
    • One method is to double trellis up! Cucumbers below beans!
    • The other is to plant in ‘layers!’ Plant an understory of ‘littles’ and fillers below larger taller plants ie Lettuce under Broccoli. They do double duty as living mulch!
  • Horizontal Space – Give them room to thrive at MATURE SIZE!
    • Pests and diseases go right down the row of plants of the same kind, especially when they touch each other. You may lose them all ~ better is Biodiversity. Interplant with pest repelling, growth enhancing and edible companion plants! Alternate varieties of the same kinds plants.
    • More is not always better. Plants too closely transplanted, seeded/not thinned, get rootbound. That squeezes oxygen from the soil, prevents or dramatically reduces water uptake for plants in the center. Plants can’t take up nutrients without water. That lessens growth and production since your plants are literally starving. In crowded conditions feeding your plants doesn’t help. Weakened plants are more disease and pest susceptible. Give them room to breathe and live to their full glory! Only ONE healthy plant may produce more than an entire row of stunted plants.

Look up each of your plant choices. Make a list – name, variety, days to maturity, mature spacing. The mature spacing gives a good indication how tall your plant might get and if it will shade out other plants. If you put your list on your computer you can click on the column to reorganize the list per footprint space/height or days to maturity.

Your purpose may be for your and your family’s daily food, as a chef for your clients, for a Food Bank. Fruit and nut trees may be part of your long term plan.

Now that we know how much space you have and your purpose for growing each plant, we can estimate how many plants of each you need, how many seeds you will need if you plant from seeds. Know that Mama Nature has her own schedule – lots of rain, no rain. Wind. Hail. Heat. Birds love picking seeds you planted and snails/slugs are perpetually hungry. We won’t speak about gophers. Add to your number of seeds to account for surprises and gardener error. Get enough for succession plantings.

If you are a SoCal gardener, you may plant several times over a season. Plant bush bean varieties and determinate tomatoes for soonest table supply and to harvest all at once for canning. If you want a steady table supply all season long, also plant pole bean varieties and indeterminate tomatoes. If you have a Northern short season summer window, you may choose cold tolerant early bush and determinate varieties for quicker intense production.

Take into account the number of people you are feeding and their favorites!

Graph paper, sketches, a few notes jotted on the back of an envelope, in your head. It all works and is  great fun! If you sketch it, keep that sketch to make notes on for next summer’s planning!

Here’s to many a glorious nutritious feast – homegrown organic, fresh and super tasty!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer 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 bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Gorgeous Kale - Purple Curly Leaf
There’s kale and there’s kale! This truly tasty purple curly leaf kale image is by Steve!

Last Harvests are being collected and stored! Some of you have started seedling nurseries or starts at home, many have prepped their soil and harvested seeds! If you didn’t yet, make your fall planting beds extra yummy – add 5-10% compost, 25% worm castings, manures – the amount depending on the type of manure. We want rich soil for those big winter plants. Seeds do especially better with worm castings! We want lots of those marvelous leaves for greens. Winter plants like brocs, collards, cauliflower, chard, are heavy producers, need plenty of food.

BUT NOT CARROTS! Too good a soil makes them hairy and they fork.  And over watering, irregular watering, can make them split. Build your beds up so they drain well, are above the coldest air that settles low down. PEAS, the winter legume, make their own Nitrogen, so feed only lightly if at all

Some of you carry your layout plan in your head, others draw and redraw, moving things around until it settles and feels right. Do add a couple new things just for fun! Try another direction. Add some herbs or different edible flowers. Stand back, take a deep breath and ask yourself why you plant the way you do. Anything been tickling the back of your mind you are curious about?

If you need to skip a beat, take some time off from the garden, let it rest, but let nature rebuild while it’s resting!

  1. You can cover it deeply with all the mulch materials you can lay your hands on up to 18′ deep. Believe me, it will settle quickly. 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 living layers of whole soil soil for no work at all!
  2. You can plant it with green manure. Laying on lots of mulch is a ton of work when you do it, just gathering the materials can be a challenge. Green manure takes some work too, but it has awesome results as well. You broadcast a seed mix of legumes and oats and let them grow. Bell beans, Austrian peas, vetch and oats from Island Seed & Feed Goleta is an excellent choice. Legumes gather Nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules on their roots! N is the main ingredient your plants need for their growth! The oat roots break up the soil. They dig deep and open channels for water and air.

Kale Flat Leaf High Mowing.jpgIf you decide to plant, unless you have Bagrada Bugs, it’s Brassica time! They are the mainstay of winter gardens! Their leaves are edible – Kales the Queens! Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, Cauliflower and collard greens! Then there are all the mini Bs, the fillers and littles – arugula, bok choy, mizuna, kohlrabi, mustards, radish, turnips. Rather than plant six pack transplants, put in seed when possible and stagger your plantings of the large Brassicas. Rather than all six cauliflower coming in at once, plant two now, two later and so on. Adjust that, of course, if you have a large area available to plant and a lot of people to feed! Another way to do it is to get varieties with early, middle and late maturity dates and plant them all at once! Plant both mini and monster cabbages at the same time! Minis come in sooner, monsters later!

Finicky eaters may enjoy a marvelous selection! Fall veggies come in lots of shapes and colors! Kales are renowned for their beauty and varieties – classic curly leaf, Red Russian, Elephant, Red Bor, that is really purple, are just a few! Cauliflower comes in traditional shape and spiral, classic white and yellow and purple and green! Get seed packs of them all and mix them together! Carrots already come in color mix seed packets! Circus Circus is a fun choice, especially when your kids are planting! Beets are terrific fun! Yellows, reds, pinks, whites and Chioggias (circles of colors)! You can get them in rainbow mixes just like getting rainbow chard mixes! Rather than have your finicky eater say no, open up that catalog or take them shopping a the nursery and let them pick what they would like to try!

More veggies that love cooler weather are beets, carrots, celery, chard, cilantro, leeks, spinach and especially lettuce – tender butter leafs and heading lettuce! If you anticipate a hot Sep, plant more heat tolerant lettuce.

  • The winter legume is PEAS! Peas are like beans, they come in bush and pole types. And those come in three main types – shelling, eating snap peas and flat China/snow peas! They are super easy to sprout! Dampen the paper towel; spray the towel to keep it moist. Takes 2 to 4 days. Pop them into the garden by the trellis – if it is hot, devise some shade for them. You just need to be careful as you plant them so you don’t break the sprout off. Definitely plant some every month or so. They don’t live all season long. When they are done, they’re done. It is true that picking peas, just like picking beans, is labor intensive. I eat a lot of mine before they get home, so I don’t mind. Bush peas come in first and pretty much all at once; pole come on later and continue to produce. On the first round it makes sense to plant both at once!
  • Onions For the biggest, sweetest harvests, late summer and early fall are the prime times to sow seeds of short- or intermediate-day onions. Fall-sown short- and intermediate-day onions tend to yield more and are larger and sweeter than those seeded or transplanted in early spring.

Image result for long beets cylindraVarieties that do better in winter are long beets like Cylindras, long radishes like Daikons, pretty China Rose and handsome Long Black Spanish! Plant small beets like Dutch Baby Ball for quick beets while your Cylindras are growing twice to three times bigger!

Combos make a difference! Carrots enhance peas, onions stunt peas. Plant the carrots on the sunny side feet of pole beans. Combos can use space wisely! Carrots grow down, peas grow up, perfect! Cabbage babies need to be planted 12 to 28″ apart! A healthy plant will take up much closer to that 28″. They take a long while to grow, head, head tight! Plant lettuces that repel cabbage moths, or other fillers, that mature sooner, in the space between them. You can do this at home amongst your ornamentals, and/or in containers too! Fillers can be onion/chive types, beets. Short quickest growing winter radishes can be among the long slower growing carrots among the slowest growing, your cabbages. Cilantro makes brocs grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener! Research has shown there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together!

No need to plant patches or rows, unless you want to. Scatter them about on the sunny side between larger plants as an understory! Plant different varieties to keep your table exciting. Don’t plant them all at once, but rather every week or two for steady table supply. If you would enjoy a quick payback on your table, select the earliest maturing varieties.

If you have lots of seeds, overplanting is an age old practice. Plant too, too many, then thin them with tiny pointy scissors, aka harvest the young, and eat ’em! Young radish sprouts, teeny carrots, little Brassicas of all kinds are wonderful in a salad! If they get a little big, steam them or add to stir fries and stews. Another way to do it is plant flats of lettuces, mesclun mixes, and mow them! Tender baby greens! They will grow back 3, 4 times.

When planting in hot fall weather, plant your outdoor seeds a tad deeper than you would in spring; soil is moister and cooler an extra inch or two down. It’s the law to keep them moist. If you plant successively for steady fresh table supply, plant a batch in September, again in October. Days will shorten and start cooling, but you are taking advantage of a fast start because your plants will grow quickly in the warmer weather now than later on. Sep plant from seeds, Oct from transplants.

Winter Feeding Lettuces like a light feed of chicken manure cultivated in. All the winter plants are heavy producers – lots of leaves, some of those leaves are monsters! Cabbages are packed tight, leaf after leaf! They may need a light feed. Remember, it’s cooler now, so their uptake is slower, so give them liquid feeds, teas, things easy for them to uptake.

Keep letting your strawberry runners grow for Oct harvest. Plant in October or plant new bareroot plants. If you replace your strawberries, in Santa Barbara try Seascape, bred at UCSB. Big plentiful berries, firm, tasty, strawberry spot resistant! They have long roots that gather plenty of nutrition and stay moist at deeper levels. Remember, strawberries like slightly acidic soil, so get Azalea/Camellia compost for their bed.

Pest and Disease Prevention  Drench young plants, ones you just transplanted, with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start! Drench your seedlings when they get up a few inches. One regular Aspirin, 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Be sure to get under the leaves too!

Brassica pests! Lots of ants and lengthwise curling leaves are the giveaways for aphids. Aphids carry viruses. Aphids come in fat gray or small black. Avoid over watering that makes for soft plants, tender leaves that aphids thrive on, and ant habitat. Spray the aphids away, make the ants leave. Get up under those leaves, and fervently but carefully do the tender growth tips. Do it consistently until they don’t come back.

September is still Seed Saving time for some. Make notes on how your plants did, which varieties were the most successful. These seeds are adapted to you and your locality. Each year keep your best! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings. Generously gather seeds for upcoming January Seed Swap!

Borage is a magical cool season plant with edible flowers, blue for bees! It has a large 3 to 4′ footprint, so allow for that or plan to keep clipping it back. Plant Sweet Peas for Christmas bloom!

Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays! Fall bounty is on its way!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens 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 September 2016 GBC Newsletter!

September Starts SoCal’s Second Season!
Designing Your SoCal Winter Veggie Garden! Think Big!
Two Mexican Herbs Used Instead of Cilantro!
Other Community Gardens – Cultiva Ciudad-helmed Huerto Tlatelolco, Mexico City 

Events! National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA, 6th Annual Fermentation Festival, Master Gardeners’ Year-Round Edibles from the Garden – Fall Planting!

…and wonderful August images at Rancheria Community Garden!

 

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SeedSaving Blessing Peru
Francisca Bayona Pacco, 37 at the time of this image, 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.

For some SeedSaving is a sacred event, ensuring survival, giving thanks, praying for future success. For others, these days and in times of commercial seed companies, it may be more like dancing by the light of the Harvest Moon!

SeedSaving SeedSavers Exchange - Passing on Our Garden Heritage

Founded in 1975, non-profit organization Seed Savers Exchange 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!

Things to know before you plant! Many plants hybridize all by themselves! Brassicas and Cucurbits – squashes, cucumbers,  have a great time in the garden cross pollinating! VARIETIES of the same plant need to be planted a mile or more apart to assure pure seed. If you don’t mind sometimes odd results, go ahead and experiment. If you give those seeds away, label them plainly for the recipient. Many Brassicas are mostly self-infertile. For seedsaving purposes they need to be planted in groups of at least 10 or more. Biennials, like Brassicas, don’t make seeds until their second year unless weather causes them to bolt prematurely in their first year.

Your SECOND HARVEST is SEEDS! In JULY you can tell which plants are your winners! It is the important time of deciding which plants are prime producers having maximum health to pass on to future generations. Some gardeners tie a bright ribbon on selected plants, at top and bottom, so they don’t accidently harvest it or pull that plant in a flurry of virtuous weed pulling or a fall garden clearing frenzy! Put one ribbon near the ground, another where the fruits are. Once you have selected your Saver plants, know they will take the time it takes, depending on weather, for their seeds to fully mature and dry. Leaving your seeds on the Mother Plant ensures maximum possible nutrition is attained in the seeds.

Once your plants are selected, at a certain point, you may decide to stop watering some of them. That’s how it would be in Nature. Some seeds need to harden, so let them. I stop watering seeding cilantro. If you want more Lettuces right now, they will self seed where they stand if you keep the area where they are falling moist. Tip the plant, pull some of the seeds, let them fall, or let the birds do it for you! Or, collect them to plant later or next spring. Or do a bit of both! Read on below for how to save different kinds of seeds.

As summer, or ‘winter,’ in SoCal finish, let your very best plants produce but don’t harvest those fruits! Beans get lumpy with seeds and will dry completely. 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 below!

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 the seed swap. Keep the local race going. 2020 Note! As your plants come into seeding time, consider sharing them as soon as possible! “Little Free Seed Libraries” are Sprouting Up to Help Gardeners Share Seeds in Troubled Times. Take a look at some very clever and loving ideas!

Saving Seeds is Easy!

1. Simple Gathering ~ Beets, Carrot, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Onion
Let the seeds mature and dry on the Mother plant, just like in nature, for maximum fertility. Into a bag, shake them loose or roll them between your fingers to remove them. Separate the seed from any chaff with rolling pins, sieves, colanders! After gathering your ‘dry’ seeds, let them dry some more, out of the sun. Store them, but check on them a week or two later to be sure no insects have emerged.

Leeks & Fennel

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

2. Removing from pods ~ Arugula, Basil, Beans, Broccoli, Okra, Peas, Radish is super simple! Know that Brassicas like Brocs, Kale, Cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, are Biennials and seed their second year, unless there are weather changes, hot/cold/hot, and they bolt in their first year. Then you can get seeds from them their first year.

Beans & Radish

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 & Cantaloupe

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, some hybrids are true, others 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

Remember! Potatoes are ‘seeds’ in themselves. Set some of your favorites aside for your next planting. When the eyes sprout, pop them in the ground. Remember to save seeds of your best herbs for scents to ward off insects you don’t want, for you to grow for medicinal purposes. Save seeds of your healthiest flower companion plants that make your garden beautiful, widen your heart, and bring pollinators.

Storage ~ Each year keep your best! Scatter some about, called broadcasting, if they would grow successfully now or later when they want to! 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. Label them with their name/variety, date/year harvested, where collected, any important notes.

Scatter self seeders that need cold stratification now and let them over winter. Some seeds ‘store’ and grow all by themselves and we’re not talking bird drop volunteers! BreadSeed Poppies are an example! Broadcast them if you will, or let Nature do that by letting your dead plant fall to the ground letting the seeds spill from the dry pods! In spite of being the tiniest seed, they survive until just the right time next spring. They know the soil temp they need, the day length, moisture, and they come up right where they like it best! If you decide to ‘plant’ some, do it very early. In coastal Santa Barbara our Breadseed Poppies start in March. Lay in your seeds in January. They know what to do. And they do vary per their colors, variety. Sprinkle them, where the ground might stay moist, cordon off the area, then simply wait.

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 CA we had our 12th Annual Seed Swap in January 2020, sponsored by our local Permaculturists. If there are no Swaps where you live, if you are willing, please, please, please, contact local permaculturists, garden groups/clubs, to see about starting one! Or invite your neighbors and just do it in your own back or front yard!

Special 2020 Note! As your plants come into seeding time, consider sharing them as soon as possible! “Little Free Seed Libraries” are Sprouting Up to Help Gardeners Share Seeds in Troubled Times. Take a look at some very clever and loving ideas!

In 1981, the nonprofit seed conservation organization Native Seed/SEARCH hosted the first national grassroots seed conference in Tucson, Arizona, to better meet the community’s need for access to quality seeds. Thirty-seven years later, ensuring community access to seeds remains a vital issue, perhaps now more than ever. In order to promote further dialog and cooperative action, in 2015 Tucson hosted the first International Seed Library Forum!

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) from the North Pole. Conservationist Cary Fowler, in association with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), started the vault to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds that are duplicate samples, or “spare” copies, of seeds held in gene banks worldwide. The seed vault is an attempt to ensure against the loss of seeds in other genebanks during large-scale regional or global crises.

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….

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

Updated annually



Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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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Heirloom Golden Detroit Beet 55 Days

Heirloom Golden Detroit Beet at Dust Bowl Seeds: High yield large orange round beet, non-bleeding, good bolt resistance, 55 days.

Beets are what I call a Two for One crop! The leaves are low cal and nutritious; the roots are a sweet treat with excellent benefits of their own!

Companion Plants Beets, with their quick growing flat dense foliage are almost more a living mulch plant than a companion per se. If you don’t eat the leaves, 25% magnesium, add them to your compost! They help bush beans, but stunt pole beans and pole beans stunt them! Grow them with lettuce, onions, Brassicas – especially kohlrabi, and at the foot of peas. Garlic and mints help beets, garlic improving their flavor, speeding their growth. Rather than growing invasive mint with them, grow your mint in a container elsewhere, chop up bits of it and sprinkle it around your beetroots.

Cylindra BeetVARIETIES, CHOICES ABOUND

Winter beets

Like long winter radishes, Daikons, Danish heirloom Cylindra are their beet equivalent. There are orange ones like in the image at left, or that gorgeous crimson red that beets are known for! It is a perfect uniform slicing beet, aka “Butter Slicer”! The flesh is very tender, easy to peel if you want to, is sweet with wonderful texture. The root grows up to 6″ long but many harvest at 3-4″ for fresh eating. 55-60 days These seeds are at Urban Farmer, non GMO.

Mini & Monsters

  • Little Ball (50 days; very uniform, small size; good shape; very tender; grows quickly to form smooth roots)
  • Red Mammoth Mangels are monsters, grow up to 20 lbs and 2′ long! Though generally used to feed stock, harvested small, they are delicious. Read this funny story and see a winning Mangel at Tales from Swallow Farm!

Colors

  • Standard deep reds, scarlets! Ruby Queen is an AAS winner! Early; round, tender, sweet, fine-grained, attractive, uniform roots, 60 days. If you are growing for the color of the leaves, Bull’s Blood has amazing dark, dark red leaves! Pick early and there is no oxalic acid taste at all.
  • Gourmet goldens stay tender-fleshed and particularly sweet and mild in taste, whether pulled very young or allowed to size up. 55 days. If you steam them with rice, the rice will look golden, like you cooked it with Saffron!
  • Striped di Chioggia is a beautiful scarlet-red Italian heirloom with interior rings of reddish-pink and white. It germinates strongly, matures quickly, 50 days, and does not get woody with age!

GREENS There are varieties that produce an abundance of greens, but why not just grow Chard for greens?! What’s different about beets is they make those fine fat roots! If you keep cutting the greens you slow their production. When you harvest your beets, then eat those greens!

Planting 

Beets are closely related to Swiss chard and spinach. The seeds look so much alike you can’t tell them apart! Avoid following these crops in rotation. Grow beets in full sun; beets for greens can be grown in partial shade if you must. Beets tolerate average to low fertility soil, but love tasty fertile soil. However, too much Nitrogen and you get more leaves than beets or no beets at all! They grow best in loose soil so they can swell easily. Add well-aged fluffy compost to the planting beds and keep beds free of clods, stones, and plant debris. Beets like well-drained soil, but keep them moist. If all your seeds don’t germinate, pop in some more right away, not too deep – about a 1/2″ to an inch, a tad deeper in hotter weather. Give cool weather plantings a  bit more time to come up.

Up to one third of the tasty beet greens can be harvested without damaging your plant, but if you want those beet roots, use less leaves, let your beets get their nutrition and grow quickly!

Beet seeds are clusters of seeds in a single fruit.Soak seeds overnight or presprout! Seedlings are established more easily under cool, moist conditions. Start successive plantings at 3 to 4 week intervals until midsummer for a continuous supply. The beet “seed” is actually a cluster of seeds in a dried fruit. Several seedlings may grow from each fruit. See the sprouts at left? Two from one seed is no surprise. Some seed companies are now singulating the seed for precision planting, by dividing the fruit. Plant seeds about 1/2 inch deep and one inch apart. Allow 12 to 18 inches between rows.

Poor stands are often the result of planting too deeply or soil crusting after a heavy rain. In fact, some gardeners don’t bury the seeds at all, but broadcast, throw them over an area, and let them do as and when they will. And they do! Seedlings may emerge at different times, making a stand of different sizes and ages of seedlings. It works as an automatic succession strategy! If you have slugs, an emerging stand can vanish overnight! You thought they never came up. So. Prepare the planting area by putting down a sluggo type stuff before you plant!!! Do it twice, a few days apart, to get two generations. If you forgot, or that didn’t happen, put down the sluggo type stuff right when you plant, then religiously about a week later if you found any dead slugs. You need to kill off the generations.

You can tell when seedlings are up because the tiny stems are red if you planted red beets, yellow if you planted goldens!

Beet - Red SeedlingsBeet - Gourmet Golden Seedlings

Planting Time Beets are a cool-season crop. Sow beets in the garden as early as 4 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. Succession crops can be planted every 2 weeks for a continuous harvest. In warm-summer regions, do not plant beets from mid-spring through mid-summer. Sow beets for fall harvest about 8 weeks before the average first frost date in fall. In mild-winter regions, beets can be sown until late autumn and can be left in the ground for harvest through the winter.  Avoid seeding during daytime temperatures of 80 degrees F, wait until it is cooler.

Storage beets need to be planted early in the season to give them plenty of time to make full size. But, you know you could start a second crop of early maturing smaller beets just for fresh fall eating!

Care  Do thin your beets! The most frequent cause for beet plants failing to develop beets is overcrowding. If you are using unseparated seed clusters to plant from, your beet seedlings commonly emerge in clusters. Hand thinning is always necessary. When the first true leaves form, thin with small scissors leaving the strongest seedling. Cut or pinch so you don’t disturb the roots of nearby seedlings Definitely thin at 5″ tall or less! At 4 to 5″ tall you get to eat those little seedlings in your salad! Thin 1″ up to 5″ apart depending of the size of the beet you want to grow.

Weeding is important because tiny beets have only that little tap root that becomes the fat root. Clearly, deep, or just about any, cultivation is a no, no. Weeds rob beets of nutrients, moisture, and flavor. Keep beets evenly moist for quick growth and best flavor.

Mulch is perfect in summer to conserve soil moisture, prevent soil compaction and help suppress weed growth. In hot weather install shade cloth to keep your beets from bolting. Mulch in winter keeps soil cool, and growth is slowed down.

Beets are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized at planting time, as well as a month later. A fertilizer with the analysis of 5-10-10 can be applied when you plant your seeds, and again when the plants are about three inches high.

Keep young roots covered with soil. When you water or it rains, the soil sinks, exposing part of the root. Add soil or the root may not bulb. Planting the seed deeper doesn’t help. The seedling still needs to be able to get up. Planting beets on lower soil rather than on a higher area, a mound, is better. Soil then has a chance to collect down around the roots rather than leaving them exposed. But always do check the roots anyway. Further drainage can wash that soil away. You might need to install a berm.

Beets, carrots, radish and turnips naturally Keep Beet shoulders covered with Soil!push right up above the ground! Plant in low sloped walled mini trenches. That way the seeds stay more moist longer, germination per cent is better. When the beet root starts to get above the soil level pull the sides of the trench onto the beet root shoulders! Avoid planting on a slope where normal watering washes the soil away. You can see in the image how crowding, not thinning, adds to the problem. Exposed areas toughen and have to be peeled, losing nutrients packed in the skin. Harvest sooner and a bit smaller for fresh tender roots! I have grown big 4-5″ beets though, and they are still tender! Just keep them moist and let them grow fast!

If you’re planning to serve your tender baby beets whole and unpeeled, try hilling the soil around their shoulders as they grow. This will keep the skin from hardening over and losing its smooth, red appearance.

Pests & Diseases

Flea beetles, leaf miners, aphids and Cercospora leaf spot are the usual. Regular inspection of your plants can help deter a major pest infestation. If you have the patience, the use of floating row covers will offer nearly 100% protection.

Biodiversity You almost always see beets planted in rows. The damage from leafminers is, uh, downright ugly. Rather than letting them walk right down the row, plant to plant, try planting your beets in small clusters here and there among your other plants. Another simple remedy, if you have the space, is plant so no plant leaves touch another’s when they are mature. The tastiest remedy is to deliberately overplant then harvest the tiny tasties between, and keep thinning as they get larger! If they still touch, harvest the between leaves first! Remove infested leaves ASAP! Water a tad less so the leaves aren’t quite so soft and inviting.

Flea beetles have a season. If your plant is healthy and growing fast, it will probably be bitten temporarily, then do ok. There will just be a lotta tiny holes in those leaves.

Aphids. Keep watch, spray ’em away before they get out of control. Remove badly infested leaves. Check for ants, water a tad less.

See more on these pests!

Disease - Cercospora Leaf Spot on Chard, Spinach & Beet leavesBeets, Chard and Spinach get Cercospora leaf spot – like the Chard at left. Sadly, no resistant cultivars of table beet are known. Late fall or early spring plantings are most likely to be affected. Late summer when conditions are favorable (high temperatures 75-85˚F, high humidity, long leaf wetness periods at night) is the worst. Beet roots fail to grow to full size when disease is severe. Successive plantings made close together can allow disease to move from one planting into the next. It grows on infected crop residues, so immediately remove leaves that collapse on the ground. It is spread by rain splash, wind, irrigation water, insects, workers, and equipment. This is one case where AM watering really makes sense to reduce humidity. UMASS Amherst recommends to ‘Avoid overhead irrigation if it will result in prolonged leaf wetness periods (e.g., through the night); irrigate mid-day when leaves will dry fully or use drip irrigation.’ If all that fails, use foliar fungicides. Plant less densely for more airflow, thinnings are tasty! In general, harvest more frequently so leaves don’t surpass their prime health. Planting only every 3 years in the same spot isn’t possible if there is too little garden space, so cultivating, turning and drying the soil between plantings is good. See more

Harvest & Storage 

Roots! Most varieties will mature within 55 to 70 days, but can be harvested at any time in their growth cycle. Young roots 1 1/2″ diameter can be harvested about 60 days after sowing. If you like them bigger, it won’t take much longer! After 3″, though, some can get tough if they weren’t kept moist so they could grow fast.

Best color and flavor develop under cool conditions and bright sun. When beets mature in warm weather, they are lighter colored, have less sugar and have more pronounced color zoning in the roots. Fluctuating weather conditions produce white zone rings in roots. Lift spring beets before daytime temperatures average greater than 70°F. Start the fall harvest when daytime temperatures are consistently in the 50s. If you live in cold climes, Pull up the last of your beets before the ground freezes.

Cut the tops off the beets one inch above the roots, to retain moisture and nutrients avoid bleeding during cooking. Greens quickly draw moisture from the root greatly reducing flavor and the beets become shriveled. Beets store best at 32°F and 95 percent humidity for about a week, three weeks in an airtight bag. Do not allow them to freeze. Use beets while they are still firm and fresh. Or, store some as naturally fermented pickled beets, whole or sliced!

For longer storage, don’t wash the dirt off your root crops. Just let it dry, then brush it off as much as possible. Keep at temperatures near freezing and with high humidity to prevent wilting. If you can’t eat all those beet greens, tops, right away, freeze them and use them in soup stocks!

Greens are best fresh in salads when four to six inches tall, but mature sized leaves are plenty tasty steamed over rice. Add them to stews. Stir fry with olive oil and a tad of garlic! Remember, they will wilt with cooking, so gather a few extra!

SAVING SEEDS

Beet Seeds drying on plant

Beets are biennials. Normally, they produce an enlarged root during their first season. Then after overwintering they produce a flower stalk. If they experience two to three weeks of temperatures below 45 F after they have formed several true leaves during their first season, a flower stalk may grow prematurely. If you are a seed saver, that is a lucky opportunity! Saving beet seeds is generally a two-year project because this biennial doesn’t flower and produce its seed clusters until the next growing season.

Tie the stalks to stakes when they become floppy, look for blossoms in June and July, harvest the seeds in August. if you want to speed the process a little, cut 4′ tall tops just above the root when the majority of flowering clusters have turned brown. Tops can be stored in cool, dry locations for 2-3 weeks to encourage further seed ripening. Strip off the seeds. When the seed clusters are thoroughly dry and brittle, they can be gently rolled to break them open. This will release the seed, usually 3 to 5 per cluster. LABEL the seed pack with name and year because beet & chard seeds look virtually the same! Beet seed will remain viable for about six years. Do a moonlight dance in gratitude!

Only let a single variety of beet, or chard, go to flower when you will be saving seeds. Beet seeds, being wind pollinated, have a talent for cross-pollination over distances of a mile or more. Many recommend a 2 mile separation distance. If you are in a community garden or and urban neighborhood, that means track your fellow gardeners to make sure they don’t have flowering beets or chard when you do.

Important tips per Everwilde Farms: ‘Beet plants must weather the winter in order to produce seed; in warmer climates, simply mulch the plants. In cooler climates, dig up the roots and store them in sand, without the roots touching, in a cool and humid location; plant them in early spring. In the spring, the plants will go to seed; wait until the seed heads are fully grown and dry before removing them. The seeds will readily come off the stems after they are completely dry. Store the seed in a cool, dry place for up to five years.’ You can see it is a lengthy, but worthy, process.

Fall Beets! Fistful of Tasty Happiness!A Fistul of Nutrition and Benefits!

Beets have my admiration! Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours, boost your exercise time by 16%! Beets have betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s an anti-inflammatory, protects internal organs, improves vascular risk factors, enhances performance, and likely helps prevent numerous chronic diseases. Beets have phytonutrients that help ward off cancer. Beet powder reduces cholesterol. Check out more details at whFoods.com.

Beets are high in folate and manganese. Folate is a B9 vitamin that helps strengthen neural tubes, reduces the risk of neural defects in babies, and can help prevent gray hair! Manganese helps your body with blood-clotting factors, sex hormones, bones and connective tissue. It helps with calcium absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, blood sugar regulation, and that your brain and nerves function at optimal levels. Manganese is an integral part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, that helps combat free radicals.

What makes beet greens unique is they are high in calcium and provide 25% of the daily magnesium we need, higher than turnip and mustard greens. Calcium is good for our bones, a gentle temperament, pain reduction. Magnesium is a mineral that maintains normal muscle and nerve function, keeps a healthy immune system, maintains heart rhythm, and builds strong bones.

Like other greens, they excel in Vitamins K and A. A is significant for eye health, prevents night blindness, strengthens your immune system, stimulating production of antibodies and white blood cells. The beta-carotene in vitamin A is a known antioxidant that fights free radicals, cancer and heart disease. Vitamin K has blood clotting properties, helps wards off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach! And they are low in fat and cholesterol!

Comparison of Kale to Beet Greens. The comparison isn’t complete, so compare carefully to what is written here. Variety is good.

Practical CautionsBeet greens contain unusually high levels of oxalic acid though far less than Spinach and Purslane. Oxalic acid is a chelating compound that binds to minerals like calcium, phosphorous, etc which are then expelled unused from the body. Oxalic crystals can cause kidney stones when eaten in large quantities for very long periods. Use with caution and keep your water intake up.

Because of the greens’ high vitamin K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid these greens. Beets tops increase K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are attempting to lower.

Since beetroots have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, sugar beets are second only to sugarcane in sugar production, eat your beetroots in moderation! Two to three times a week is fine. Though beets are a veggie, see sugary fruits for how to best eat your beets if you need to keep your body alkaline! If you are making a salad with beets, check out the alkaline dressing recipes at the bottom of Virtuous Veggies!

Due to that sugar, candida overgrowth can be a problem, but beets are abundant in nitrates; great for your heart. They can increase exercise endurance, allowing people to exercise for 16% longer periods of time without tiring. The trick is to ferment them, drink them juiced with fiber! See the details at Body Ecology!

Fermented Beet KrautCulinary Treats! When preparing your beets for cooking, wash them carefully to avoid breaking the skin. Breaks and tears allow color and nutritional value to escape. They can be cooked whole, then sliced or diced. Shred fresh or cooked and cooled into salads. Ferment/probiotic. Beets are high in natural sugar and roasting brings out the natural sweetness. Borscht is a popular beet soup which can be served hot in winter and cold in summer. Beet Salsa! Cut your beets up into small bits, add sweet onion, apple cider vinegar, a touch of honey and some water. Pop the whole mix in the fridge and add to salads or eat alone as a tangy treat, dip! Make beet smoothies! Substitute the leaves for spinach. Put greens in soups, drinks, ravioli, pasta, on sandwiches, pizza, in omelets, stuffed in bread and puffs!

May your beets be sweet, beautifuland plentiful!

Updated Nov 26, 2018

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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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Seeds Rock! From Catalog to Seed Swap or Seedy Sunday!

December, January is one of the happiest times of year for veggie gardeners! The holidays are when you give yourself your seeds for your whole garden for the year to come! Catalogs are out, you supplement with what you seed saved yourself. If you have some old iffy seeds that may not germinate, you might want to order some fresh ones to make sure you get good germination!

Seed swaps, or the like, are usually at the end of January in southern locations like SoCal. In northern areas it may be later. Seed swaps are exciting and wonderful, and are a random event! There may be seeds there you want, there may not be. They may be old non-viable seeds or fresh as they need to be! Guaranteed you will come home with some you want to try! Use Seed Swaps as fun backups to your catalog orders. Reliable seed companies have a reputation to uphold. You know what the seed is, how old it is. If you wait until after the Seed Swap, seed companies may be sold out of rare seeds or seeds that they only were able to get a few of due to weather last year and such. However, Seed Swaps ARE LOCAL – seeds of plants that grew well in your climate area!

Catalogs!

From reputable seed houses you are sure of what you are getting, organic, non-GMO. If a packet is on sale, pay attention to the year it was packed for. Make sure it is current or still viable.

Catalogs have endless marvelous varieties including from far away places! Southern states, warmer countries may have seeds that will do well in warmer weather times or areas.

Consider if drought or heat tolerant, cold tolerant when selecting seasonal veggies

Take a careful look at disease and pest resistance/tolerance.

Though much of companion planting is untested, look specially for plants that enhance each other’s growth, not just pest prevention.

Compare days to maturity. Do you have the land to wait for large fruits or would you like a steady table supply of smaller varieties, favorites.  Or will just a few be fine for a taste once a year? Smaller fruits may be perfect if you are a one person family or are not a big eater, enjoy quality versus quantity.

If space available is no consideration, order as you wish, experiment to your heart’s content! If space is tight or you are container planting, note spacing requirements. Think about dwarf varieties

Over planting lets you thin for tender trims for your salads. Harvest to leave enough space between your seedlings or young plants to allow the remaining ones room for their mature size. With some plants, like Chard, thinning can occur in stages. Thin leaving enough room for them to get bigger, thin again, even again. If you have few seeds, you might want to presprout, or plant at the mature distance. That can be a wee challenge if the seeds, like radish or carrots, are tiny. Do your best.

Seed Swap Tips, Considerations and Etiquette!

Planting from seeds, especially free seeds, is frugal and enjoyable! Meet other gardeners! Continue the race of super plants adapted to your area!

Some tips for swapping your saved seeds

Take your best clean seed – no chaff that might decompose and rot the seed. Remember, we want to inspire and be an example! We want new gardeners to succeed, to plant and save their seeds too!

Either take your seeds in a bag or container and let swappers select the number of seeds they need, or pack them in paper coin envelopes or plastic baggies so everyone gets some. Label seed packs with botanical and common name, and DATE – including the year – they were gathered! Note the location they were grown and, if large seeds, the number of seeds in the packet helps. Five seeds per pack for larger and common seeds is good. Thirty seeds or so is good for smaller seeds. If you don’t have small coin envelopes or want to buy little plastic baggies, you can cut up junk mail envelopes into smaller envelopes to hold your seeds. Whatever packaging you choose, make sure it will stay securely closed. No fun losing your little pups on the way home.

If your seed is unusual, you might include growing information as well. Many swappers are new gardeners or never planted that plant before. They will be most grateful since you already have had the real experience with that plant in our locality!

Tips, considerations, etiquette for choosing swap seeds

It’s not always certain exactly what you are getting or how old the seed is, but the price is right! However, old seed may not germinate at all, you lose time waiting for it to grow.

You get only what’s at the Swap, but the beauty of it is it’s local, adapted to your area! If it goes well for you too, please save some of your seed to share at the next Seed Swap!

Crazy surprises are terrific! You might try something you never would have thought of, and because it’s free you think there is nothing to lose! Hey, I’ll give it a try!

  • Take your garden plans, both summer and winter, with you. Find out how big that plant will grow, decide if it will really fit in your available space.
  • Take small baggies or envelopes and a pencil with you.
  • Label what you get when you get it. Name, date harvested.
  • Take only what you need and a few more in case those fail or you love them and want to plant another round or two! Leave the rest for others. Try not to get seed greed fever! 🙂
  • Look for the date on packages or containers. Are the seeds still viable?
  • Is it a summer or winter, or year ’round plant?
  • Ask tons of questions!

The last word! Remember, a Seed Swap is a random affair. Get your standby favorites from those reliable catalogs. Use Seed Swaps as a fun backup source and especially for local seeds.

Enjoy the suspense, the surprises, the tasty goodness of growing fresh wholesome food!

If you are from out-of-town but near enough, and enjoy adventurous journeys, come make a day of it at our Sunday Jan 27, 2019 SEED SWAP in our fair city, Santa Barbara CA!

If you don’t live in our area, please check to see when Seed Swaps will be in your area! If there are none, if you are willing, please, please, please, contact local permaculturists, garden groups/clubs, to see about starting one! Preserving our heritage, not GMO but heirloom seeds, is vital to our continued nutritious future, and for our children’s healthy futures!

ONLINE SEED SWAPS! As the National Gardening Assn says: One gardener’s extras are another’s treasures! Here’s how they do it!

See Seeds Rock! Choosing the Perfect Ones for You!
See also Smart Design for Your Spring & Summer Garden, Seed Selection!

With great gratitude to you and all our ancestors!
Happy seed hunting!

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Updated 12.5.18


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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 bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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