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Herbs and Your Winter Veggies

Lavender, Marguestau at http://lestroisamies.wordpress.com/

Herbs – Pretty, aromatic, to repel pests!
The flavors that makes veggie dishes come alive!

Now’s the time for them to get a good start, with fall and winter rains coming. Divide the ones you already have growing now as your plants slow down. Rosemary and tarragon tend to root better in the fall, so gather cuttings now, and if you want to, grow them indoors over the winter. Tuck your divisions, cuttings, or new transplants, in here and there. Realize some of them are a bit invasive. You will have a steady supply at your finger tips! Either allow them to ramble – perhaps as ground cover, plant in a container, or keep harvesting and make several bouquet garni for your friends. Or pot up some of the babies you split off to give as gifts! Any gift you give to a gardener, tie on some flowering herbs with green garden twine rather than ribbons with bows! That’s sustainable and a double gift! More on growing herbs at Gardener’s Supply Company!

Healthy herbs are vibrant, full leaved, have good color, grow robustly! I often grow them just because they are pretty and smell good. But they are more, much more! They are so aromatic they are said to repel pests! They add marvelous flavors to our food, and are said to have medicinal properties as well! When one item serves many functions, in permaculture that is called ‘stacking!’ YES, works for me!

Here are some great winter combos:

Winter Veggie

Herb to Repel its Pest or….

Artichoke

Tarragon

Beets, Chard

Onions, sage

Broccoli

Chamomile, dill, garlic, hyssop, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, rosemary, sage

Brussel Sprouts

Dill, garlic, hyssop, mint, nasturtium, onion, sage, thyme

Cabbage

Chamomile, dill, garlic, hyssop, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onions, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme

Carrots

Chives, leek, onions fool the carrot fly, oregano, rosemary, sage

Cauliflower

Dill, garlic, hyssop, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, rosemary, sage, thyme

Celery

Nasturtium, leeks, onions

Collards

Catnip, dill, garlic, hyssop, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, rosemary, sage, thyme

Kale

Dill, garlic, hyssop, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, rosemary sage, thyme

Lettuce

Onions

Chives, Garlic,
Onions, Leek

Beets improve production. Chamomile, dill, savory

Peas

[Enhanced by carrots] NO onions

Potatoes

Cilantro, dead nettle, horehound, marigold, onion, tansy

Strawberries

Borage, onions, sage


Common dishes, tasty cuisines, made with your favorite herbs:

Cilantro

Asian, Caribbean, Mexican!

Garlic

Asian, Indian, Mediterranean

Onions

Bulb, stems in any cooked dish, minced in salads, edible flowers on salads

Oregano

Pizza, spaghettis, meats, stews, lasagna, egg dishes – Mediterranean

Parsley

Minced and sprinkled over veggies and baked fish and squashes, in salads, fresh sprig on plate

Rosemary

Chicken, fish, lamb, pork – worldwide, retards food spoilage

Sage

Meats, soups & stews, potatoes & veggie dishes – Mediterranean

Winter Savory

Meats & stews, beans, any legumes, stuffings, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, corn – European, Mediterranean

Thyme

Meats & stews, stuffings, pâtés – Asian, Creole, European, Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican

Enjoy more cooking details from Toronto, Ontario on Yvonne Tremblay’s page!

More tips to make it even better!

  • Angelica, Caraway, Dill & Dandelion are Lacewing habitat.
  • Chives planted around the base of fruit trees will discourage insects from climbing the trunk.
  • Garlic and yarrow are said to enhance the production of oils in herbs. Garlic is elegant, is marvelously odiferous, and yarrow has pretty ferny leaves and colors! Plant them freely. But specially grow yarrow near your compost so you can conveniently add leaves to your compost to speed decomposition.
  • Garlic improves the growth and health of roses and raspberries, general insect repellent, deters aphids, flea beetles!
  • Keep Fennel away from your garden. Fennel is disliked by most plants.
  • Though Feverfew is lovely and repels pests, it also repels bees.
  • Plant French Dwarf varieties of Marigold throughout the garden for beauty, but plant especially where you will plant tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries because they repel root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) – but only where they are actually planted! To do the job, let them grow 3 to 4 months, then ‘plow’ them under as green manure and so the roots will decay in your soil. Marigolds do attract spider mites and slugs, have an herbicidal effect on beans and cabbage, and root secretions can inhibit the growth of some herbs. They are also called Spanish, Mexican or winter tarragon. The leaves and yellow flowers have a taste similar to French tarragon. Use sparingly in herb vinegars, dressings or dishes which call for tarragon. Marigold myths!
  • Hoverflies – larvae of these creatures resemble thin wasps, devour great numbers of aphids. They can be encouraged into your garden by planting Tagetes (Marigolds), Calendula and Nasturtiums.

Planting the ‘right’ things together can ‘double’ your yield per the space planted. Not only do plants dovetail, ie long rooted carrots with short rooted peas, and garlic, that doesn’t take up much space, can easily be snuggled on the sunny side of your winter Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale), improving the health and flavor of your veggies, but by including beautiful herbs in your garden, you save plants from pests, enhance growth, increase pollination – makes a real difference!

Ye olde disclaimer! Much of this info is anecdotal, but I’ve seen some of it act just the way it is claimed. There are contradictions on the web. When I find those, I leave the name off the list. Try these out for yourself. Here’s to flavorful and bountiful gardening!

Next week: BLACK FRIDAY Garden Gifts! Gifts to Give, Gifts to Get!

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Or wear your awesome Sloggers!  With boots like these from Sloggers Garden Outfitters, No Problem!  Regrettably, their selection for men lags.  Oops, did I say that?!  No matter, buy some for your Sweetie!  Valentine’s Day is coming….

This is bare root time – plants without soil on their roots!  For us SoCal gardeners that’s cane berry bushes, deciduous fruit trees, strawberries, artichokes, asparagus, short day onions.  Think twice about horseradish.  It’s invasive as all getout!  If you do it, confine it to a raised bed or an area where it will run out of water.  Rhubarb, though totally tasty in several combinations, ie strawberry/rhubarb pie, has poisonous leaves!  That means to dogs, small children and unknowing people.  Either fence it off, or don’t grow it.  I don’t recommend it in community gardens because we can’t assure people’s safety.  Bare root planting is strictly a January thing.  February is too late. 

SoCal’s Lettuce Month!  They germinate quicker at cooler temps!  Grow special ones you can’t get at the store, or even the Farmers’ Market!  They like a soil mix of well aged compost, organic veggie fertilizers, chicken manure.  Lay your seeds in, barely, and I do mean barely, cover them, 1/8 inch, pat them in.  Water gently with a watering can, or use the mist setting on your sprayer.  Keep the bed moist.  That might mean watering even twice daily!  If it is going to rain heavily, cover the bed so the seeds don’t wash away.  Slug and snail cocktails (Sluggo) make sense or your seedlings may vanish.  If your seeds just don’t germinate, be sure your seed is fresh.  Feed the bed once a week.  Fast growth keeps it sweet; slow growth is bitter!  Eat the younglings you thin from the patch, or transplant them.  Pluck those larger lower leaves for robust winter salads!  Plant another patch in 2 weeks to a month to keep a steady supply! 

As you harvest your winter veggies, keep planting, from seeds or transplants.  Transplants will speed things up by a good 6 weeks if you can find them.  Your winter veggies are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, parsley, peas, chard.  Seeds of beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radish, turnips, do well.  Pop in some short-day onions. 

Remember, harvest your cabbages by cutting them off close to the bottom of the head, leaving the bottom leaves.  New smaller cabbages will grow from those axils at the stem/leaf junctions.  You might get as many as four babies!  Do the same with lettuces!  Once you harvest your main broccoli head, let the side shoots form mini broccolettes!  The further down the stalk you cut, the fewer but fatter your side branches.  Pat Welsh, Southern California Organic Gardening, recommends the variety Bonanza.

The SideDress Dance continues – if you harvest, you fertilize.  That’s a good rule of thumb.  Sprinkle some fertilizer or drizzle your favorite liquid mix, especially before a rain.  Dig it in lightly, but not in a circle.  You don’t want to break all the tiny rootlets that spread out at the surface from your plant.  So do it on a couple sides max.  Dig it in a bit so the N (Nitrogen) doesn’t just float away into the air….  Use half strength of summer feedings to avoid a lot of tender growth a frost would take. 

Start seedlings of peppers!  They are notoriously slow growers, so to get them in the ground in March, start now!  Ask your Latino friends; they are experts!  When you see them planting, you do the same.  While you are at it, ask them if they happen to have any spare jicama seeds!  Fresh-from-the garden jicama is like nothing you have ever tasted! 

If you tossed wildflower seeds, keep their beds moist. 

Start a garden journal, especially enter your genius thoughts!  Domestic harmony?  Clean up your shed/working space, or build one.   Build a greenhouse!  Plan your spring garden, order seeds.  Order fall seeds now too so they won’t be sold out later on.  Build your raised beds – that’s with frames if you want frames, and start building your soil. 

Great Rain Tips!  Please click here!  Mulch keeps your plants from getting mud splattered.

Frost Watch!  Keep an eye on your weather predictions!  If it starts getting down near 32 degrees, run for the covers! That’s your cheap sheets you got at the thrift shop, spare beach towels, old blankies, and cover your plants mid afternoon if possible!  For things to know about cold weather plants, and more tips on how to save your plants, click here!

Do I see green leaves sticking out of the corner of your mouth?

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DSC00723 Lettuce Frost Hard Freeze
Chilly 2012 Winter Solstice morning, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA

Cold season things to know about your veggies!

  • Fertilize.  Healthy plants can withstand more cold. But. From August on, if you anticipate a cold winter, avoid applying fertilizer with Nitrogen, apply at half your summer rate, until after the last frost, to prevent a flush of tender growth that can be damaged by the cold.
  • Cool season crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, peas, and onions, originated in northern areas, and can tolerate frost and light freezes of short durations with little damage, plant cold hardy varieties. But other tender morsels often die literal black deaths from killing freezes. Lettuces, marigolds, your fragrant basil, and peppers are usually the first to go.
  • Better taste!  Cool-season vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, produce their best flavor when they mature during cool weather. They react to cold conditions and frost by producing sugars, making them taste sweet, especially Brussels sprouts and kale, but also parsnips and leeks! Ask the folks at the farmer’s market stands if their farms have gotten a frost yet – farms in the country often get frost long before the cities.
  • When there are several days at low temps, cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower) and onion sets, produce a seed stalk, called bolting. Unless you want to save seeds, at that point, harvest good leaves for greens, give the remaining plant to your compost.
  • Early spring planting! I’ve often said, ‘Who can resist early planting?!’ Cold spells do come after last average freeze dates. Most of our plants will be fine, but some plants are really sensitive. Bell peppers don’t like cold. If you have them as transplants, keep them inside for the duration. Many seeds may not germinate during this period. Water them sparingly so they don’t rot. Early planted Beans, Cucumbers and Zucchinis may not make it. Early variety tomatoes should be fine. If your lettuce gets frosty, not to worry. They amazingly usually make it ok. Good luck to you and your planties!

Frost we understand, but what’s a Hard Freeze?! When temperatures drop below 32° Fahrenheit (0° Centigrade) and remain there for several hours, even only 2 hours will do it, typically killing seasonal vegetation. Several hours at 25 to 28 degrees, ice crystals form not only on your plant, but in your plant, damaging the cell walls. The coldest time of day is  just before daybreak. Clouds at night can absorb and reflect heat back to the earth. Wind can mix the ascending warm air with the descending cold air. Calm, clear nights pose the greatest danger of frost. WIND:  If it is windy, less worryCold air must settle to form frost and any wind will usually prevent this. Or, a wind may dry your plants, making them more susceptible to freezing!

Floating Row Cover, Winter Frost Blanket, over Tomato Cages – see how they are staked in place by the cages? One gardener calls these Plant Pajamas!

Frost or freeze survival….

Before!

  • Watch your weather forecast religiously! Weather has no mercy.
  • Water early in the dayWet soil insulates and protects roots. The water warms up during the day and releases heat slowly during the night. The upper part of a plant may die, but the roots may be strong enough to push up new growth!
  • Move frost tender plants under eaves, a spreading tree, into greenhouses, garage. Key word here is UNDER.
  • Haunt yard sales, the thrift shop, for old bed sheets, blankets, tablecloths, curtains, towels, shower curtains, burlap sacks, tarps – many end their lives covering garden plants for frost protection! Use newspaper with clothes pins so it won’t blow around. Plastic can be worse than nothing if it touches the plant. Prop up an unused trellis, get creative! Use those wire tomato cages to support your covers! Lay them down among short plants, stand them around taller plants. At home you can lay out a folding chaise lounge chair, or lawn chairs, and cover them!! Secure the edges with stakes, rocks, bricks, or cover with soil. You can use upside down plant pots only if they are large enough that the plants they will cover don’t touch the pot. Put a rock on top to keep them from blowing over! That’s called a hot-cap! The beauty of floating row covers (see image), also called frost or winter blankets, is they can be left in place during the day! Cover the plants mid- to late-afternoon if possible, before temperatures start to drop.
  • Set up windbreaks.
  • What you can’t cover, that is not frost hardy, harvest. Root crops such as carrots and radishes should be harvested or mulched heavily before a hard freeze.

After! 

  • If you didn’t cover, wash your plants off before the sun gets on them. Sometimes that will counteract the freeze burn.
  • If you did cover, take the covers off, before the sun hits the beds, so everybody can get their sun quotient for the day! Winter days are short!
  • Dry out your covers, keep them handy.
  • Damaged leaves appear dark green and water soaked at first, later becoming black. If your plant is totally gone, it’s compost, replace your plant. Except potatoes! They will resprout, give ‘em 10 to 14 days!
  • Should you trim the ugly damaged stuff off and give your plant a lot of fertilizer to help it? Whoa, Nelly! That’s a NO! The damaged part is protecting the now undamaged part. If you trim and add a lot of fertilizer, tender new growth will form, and that will be toast if there is another frost or freeze. Wait to trim until no more frost is predicted, feed lightly.

Was that groaning, whining I heard? Stop it. Just go out there and cover your plants, no fooling around, you hear?! You will be glad you did, it’s your plants’ lives you are saving! Besides, reviving is harder than covering, and regrowing takes all that time all over again. Also, many will be well past the window for replanting, so cover, cover, cover! Better to have a yard full of ghosts (sheet covers) and look silly, than lose your plants.

Repeat, Religion! Watch WEATHER reports in case of freezes, heavy winds, rain. Santa Barbara’s average First Frost (fall) date AT THE AIRPORT is December 19, Last Frost (spring) date is (was?) January 22. That can vary from the coastal areas to the foothills, and our climate is changing generally to warmer, so these dates may not be viable guides much longer, if even now….

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Updated 12.16.15


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. 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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Reminder:  My campaign this fall is for garden cleanup, and turning the soil to expose the fungi that affects our tomatoes, and other plants, so the fungi dries and dies!

Vibrant Yellow Chard!

November, though cooler, is a rich planting time!   

First do remaining fall cleanup of lingering summer plants still at it with the warm weather we have been having.  Now is a perfect time to weed and clear pathways. 

Last chance to plant wildflowers from seed for early spring flowers!  Germination in cooler weather takes longer, so don’t let the bed dry out. 

More transplants of winter veggies.  That’s Brassicas – brocs, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips!  Plant super low calorie nutritious chard, a fast grower; and from its same family, beets.  Beets and carrots are a two in one – you eat the bulb/carrot, and can harvest the leaves to steam as greens, or chop and drop into your stew!  Bright Lights chard is a favorite of mine – it’s as pretty as any flower with its bright easy-to-harvest stalks.  Carrots near peas!  Celery near the water spigot.  Fava, parsley, potatoes.  The fru fru thin leaved varieties of lettuces, that are too tender for hot summer sun, now thrive!  Plant in easy to reach places, so you can continually harvest the big lower leaves.  

Plant seeds of onions for slicing.  Bare-root artichoke, strawberries.  Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries (more to come on this soon) even more than onions.  So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, or experiment!  Get your bare-root strawberries in between Nov 1 to 10.  

Fillers and accents, unders and besides, can be red bunch onions, bright radishes!  Try some of the long radishes, like French Breakfast, said to have a ‘delicate crunch and gentle fire’ or a quickie like Cherry Belle that matures in only 22 days – that’s only 3 weeks! 

Check out the amazing Health Benefits of Eating Radish

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Happy October, Month of Magic!

The next months…so you can plan ahead!       

October  Transplants of all fall crops, but specially of cabbages and artichokes.  Cut Strawberry runners off to chill for Nov planting.
November  Seeds of onions for slicing.  Wildflowers from seed (don’t let the bed dry out).  Strawberries in no later than Nov 5.  More transplants of winter veggies.
December is winter’s June!  Crops are starting to come in, it’s maintenance time!      

My campaign this fall is for garden cleanup, and turning the soil to expose the fungi that affects our tomatoes, and other plants, so the fungi dries and dies!     

Purple Broccoli, Bright Lights Chard, Cauliflower, Yellow Mangetout Snow Peas, Radishes or Beets of all colors, ‘Licous Red Lettuces!

This is Southern California’s second Spring!  Time to plant your winter garden, all the Brassicas, that’s, cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kales, plus celery, chard and peas, peas, peas!  All kinds!  And what I call the ‘littles,’ the veggies you plant all year, beets, bunch onions (the ones that don’t bulb), carrots (bonemeal yes, fresh manure no), radish, spinach, arugula, and, especially, all kinds of lettuces!   Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays!  Start making holiday gifts, herbal wreaths, powdered herbs, pretty vinegars and oils, shampoos, soaps, or candles!      

Winter weather?  Bring it on!  Starting to cool down now!  Your plants will grow fast then start to slow down.  Less weeds and insects.  Aphids & White Flies are a winter crop problem (see below please).  Some people prefer the cool slower pace of winter gardening to the more phrenetic hot summer labor and work of big harvests, distribution, storage.  Harvesting cold hardy vegetables after they have been hit with a touch of frost can enhance the flavor and increase the sweetness of greens such as kale and collards.     

Extend the crop! Cut and come again!  Harvest your big greens – kale and collards, and lettuces leaf by leaf rather than cutting your plant down.  Many lettuces will ‘come back’ even if you cut them off an inch or two above ground.  Leave the stalk in the ground, see what happens!  Rather than pulling your bunch/table onions, cut them off about an inch to 2 inches above the ground.  They will come back 3 to 4 times.  Leave a potato in the ground to make more potatoes.  After you cut the main broccoli head off, let the side sprouts grow and snip them for your salads or steam them.  Cabbages?  Cut off right below the head, then let them resprout, forming several smaller heads at the leaf axils.     

Gather your last lingering seeds midday on a sunny dry day.  Dry a few seeds from your favorite tomatoes!  Sidedress continuing and producing plants.  Then cleanup!  Remove funky habitat for overwintering insect pests, fungi.       

Build wire bottomed raised beds for gopher protection.  For very useful information, please see University of California, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Pocket Gophers.     

Prepare your soil!      

  • If you are a new gardener at Pilgrim Terrace, ask other gardeners, or the previous person who had your plot, how the soil  was tended.  Some plots may need no amending, others may need a lot.  Add compost, manures, seaweeds, worm castings as needed.  Some people do the whole garden at once, others conserve valuable materials by preparing only where they will specifically plant, for example, a large plant like a broc.  If it is a lettuce bed that you will do repeated plantings in, you might opt to do the whole bed at once.
  • Since mulch keeps the soil cool, some people pull it to the side in winter, to let the sun heat the soil on cool days.
  • Simple soil test!  Test the soil by putting a drop of vinegar in a teaspoon or so. If it fizzes, it’s too alkaline. Then test it by putting in baking soda mixed with a little water. If it fizzes, it’s too acidic.

Garden Design       

  • In addition to planting your veggies, plan ahead to plant flowers, to always have some in bloom, to attract pollinators.  Borage is a lovely plant, blooms all year, has purple blue star flowers that are edible and good for you!  Toss a few on top of your salads!
  • Make habitat!  Plants for beneficial insects, poles for birds, rocks for lizards! 
  • Plant tall in the North, the mountain end of our plots; plant shorties in the South.  This is especially important in our winter gardens because of the low sun long shadows.
  • Give your big plants plenty of room to become big; plant fillers and littles (beets, bunch onions – the ones that don’t bulb, carrots, radish, spinach, arugula, lettuces) on their sunny south sides!
  • Put plants that like the same amount of water together (hydrozoning). 
  • Put plants together that will be used in the same way, for example, salad plants like lettuces, bunch onions, celery, cilantro.
  • Biodiversity.  Planting the same kind of plant in different places throughout your garden.  It can be more effective that row cropping or putting all of one plant in one place, where if disease or a pest comes, you lose them all as the disease or pest spreads from one to all.
  • Layering example:  Transplant peas at the base of any beans you still have.

How to plant!       

  • This is the time to put your mycorrhiza fungi to work!  One of the great things mycorrhiza does is assist Phosphorus uptake.  Of the N-P-K on fertilizers, P is Phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop.  Sprinkle it on the roots of your transplants when you plant them!  More about mycorrhiza:  http://www.mycorrhizae.com/index.php?cid=468&    http://www.mastergardeners.org/newsletter/myco.html      Island Seed & Feed carries it.
  • Use vigorous fresh seeds, choose vibrant not-fruiting transplants that preferably aren’t root bound (having a solid mass of roots).  If the transplant is pretty big for the container, pop it out of the container to make sure it isn’t root bound.  If it is the only one there, and you still want it, can’t wait, see what John R. King, Jr (2 min video) has to say on how to rehabilitate your plant!
  • Lay down some Sluggo (See Slugs & Snails below) right away, even before seedlings sprout, when you put your transplants in, so your plant isn’t overnight snail and slug smorgasbord! 

Strawberry Runners!  Mid Oct cut off runners, gently dig up if they have rooted, shake the soil off.  Clip all but two or three leaves off, tie ‘em together in loose bunches. Plastic bag them and put in the back of your fridge for 20 days.  Plant them Nov 5 to 10!  Prechilling your plants makes them think they had a cold winter.  When days get longer and warmer, they will produce fruit, not as much vegetative growth.  You can then either keep your plants that produced this year, or remove and compost them, start fresh with new plants!     

Watering – Morning when you can because plants drink during the day, and we want them to dry so they don’t mildew!  Water underneath, especially late beans, and your new peas, who are especially susceptible to mildew.  Except for your short and shallow rooted plants, once a week and deeply is good unless there is a hot spell or rain.  Then, check ’em.  Poke a stick in the ground to see if the soil is moist under the surface.     

Happy playing in the dirt!

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Broccoli, the Crown Jewel of Brassicas!

 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kales, kohlrabi!

Fall Broccoli  Broccoli is not only beautiful, but one of your best garden investments per square foot since it continues to produce after the main head is taken!  Grow large headed varieties, sprouting varieties, Romanesco spirals, or loose leafy Raab with ‘pleasantly bitter and peppery highlights!’  Plant a variety of types!  One of the best fall large head varieties is Waltham 29.  Green Goliath is good spring, summer or fall; tolerant of extremes.  Saga has good tolerance for late summer heat.  Cut and come again!  When the main head forms, before the buds start to loosen up, cut off the head at an angle so water doesn’t go down the core of the plant and rot it out.  Let the side shoots grow and harvest, harvest, harvest.  OR, plant the best sprouting varieties, which produce no main head but lots of sprouts, they are DeCicco and Green Sprouting Calabrese.  If you let your broc flower, production stops.  The flowers are edible, though,  and pretty salad toppers!  If you let it go that far, let the seed pods form, then collect them for the next round of planting.

Fat Cabbage Tips!  Low calorie slaws, soup greens, sauerkrauts, stir fry!  Red or green.  Firm the soil, that means walking on it, before you plant, and around the plant when you plant, because cabbages get heavy!  Because they are making a very dense head all in one place, they need all the nutrients they can get right at their fingertips, I mean root tips!  It helps them make their compact heads, and if you do it right, prevents cabbage maggots – see this link for how to do it.  Cabbages like water, but not having soggy feet, and they should not be watered when their heads are getting mature.  Cabbage is a cut and come again though in a different way than broccoli and lettuces.  When you harvest the head, cut carefully just beneath the solid head leaving the loose, older leaves uninjured.  Sprouts will grow in the axils of these remaining leaves, forming several mini heads!  Seeds up to 4 years old can be used.  Plant a variety!  Enjoy green, red, Savoy, or Chinese cabbages!  If you overplant, thin, and use the tasty little greens in salads!

Would you believe now is the time to plant spring cabbages?!  They are named for the season they are harvested in!  As some plants bolt (go to seed stalks) in warming weather, cabbages can bolt going into cooler weather!  Get disease and bolt resistant varieties.  Yellow or Fusarium wilt (F on a nursery tag means your plant is resistant to this) is a relatively common disease, we have it in the soil at Pilgrim Terrace, that causes the leaves of plants to wilt and die. The first sign of the disease is yellowing and browning of the lower leaves. The plants are stunted before wilting occurs. Grow yellows-resistant (YR) or yellows-tolerant varieties. Most modern hybrids have this tolerance or resistance bred into them.  

A bit o’ Irish folklore:  Country girls were blindfolded then led into a field where they pulled the first cabbage they could find. If the cabbage head had a lot of dirt attached to the roots, their future loved one would be wealthy. And eating the cabbage would reveal his nature – bitter or sweet!

Cauliflower, Broccoflower
:  I read they are hard to grow, but I’ve never had trouble and I see lots of our gardeners have success with them!  Maybe we’re just good!  It isn’t necessary to tie up the leaves to get a good white head, but you can do it if it makes you happy!  Get some of those pretty purple ones, or yellow!  Once they have headed up, that’s it.  Sadly, they don’t make side shoots like brocs do, nor do they ‘come back’ like cabbages.  Steam the leaves or chop and drop or compost.

Kale is King!  Cut and come again, high in Vitamin A.  Lots of fun varieties – colorful fringy more tender flat leaved Red Russian; bumpy grayish long leaved Italian heirloom Lacinato/Elephant/Dinosaur; Curly Leaf – almost twice as much leaf per leaf compared to flat leaved greens and in a smaller space!  Harvest lower leaves, let your Elephant and Curly Leaf keep growing vertical year after year, plant other crops under them.  Truly efficient use of your land.  Stake to be wind safe.  A blue-green color is associated with greater cold tolerance.

Keep a keen watch for aphids, from the very beginning.  An infestation can stunt and even kill baby plants.  Also watch for little white flies coming out from under the leaves.  Hose aphids and flies away immediately.  It’s much easier to take care of them early on, your plant will get a better start, and your neighbors’s plants won’t be infested.

Click here for Brassica Companion Plants, see last paragraph please

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The next months…so you can plan ahead! 

As more of your plants are finishing, make notes about your summer crops in your garden journal. 

September  Let some plants continue to grow for seed saving!  First fall planting month! 
Planting from seeds is fun; transplants produce sooner.  Plant Sweet Peas for Christmas bloom!  Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays! 
October  Transplants of all fall crops, but specially of cabbages and artichokes.  Cut Strawberry runners off to chill for Nov planting.
November  Seeds of onions for slicing.  Wildflowers from seed (don’t let the bed dry out).  Strawberries in no later than Nov 5.  Transplants of winter veggies.
December is winter’s June!  Crops are starting to come in, it’s maintenance time!

Congratulations to all you first time gardeners!  You have planted a summer garden, learned a lot, enjoyed the fruits!  Welcome to an abundant coastal southern California winter garden!  September can still be hot, but you will start feeling the difference, shortening days, the light on your plants changing, thinking of snuggling in with your seed catalogs and a cuppa. It will soon be time to enjoy crisp weather, water a bit less, wait a bit more as things slow down. 

Labor Day weekend is a great time to plant!  If you haven’t already, start your first fall peas at the base of your declining beans.  If you don’t have enough room yet, establish a little nursery in an open area to plant celery, your Brassicas:  cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards cauliflower, kales – to later  transplant into other garden areas, or spread apart, late September and October.  Or start in containers for later transplanting.  If you don’t have the time to tend them, simply get transplants at the nursery when you want them.  However, the beauty of planting from seed is you can get the varieties you want, you can experiment with new varieties!  A seed catalog is a lovely and dangerous thing. 

Plant lettuces in shadier spots behind plants that will protect them during the September heat, but who will soon be done allowing your lettuces full sun when it is cooler later on.  Remember, September can be HOT. 

Time to be building gopher-protected fall raised beds or hardware cloth/aviary wire baskets!  You can custom make these baskets yourself.  Make deeper ones for single plants, ie your big gopher-tasty brocs.  Or make a long basket to put along the foot of your pea trellis, deep enough for the carrots you plant with them, that enhance peas.  Or make a shallow basket for your square yard of salad greens.  See what I mean?  These are fine portable baskets.  When you are done using them in one area, they can easily be moved to the next spot, even reshaped to fit a new location.  Inexpensive wire cutters are all you need.  Talk with Hillary Blackerby, Plot 24 – see hers.  She dug trenches, then stepped on the hardware cloth, shaping it exactly to the trench!  Perfecto!  

High in Antioxidants, Brassicas,
the Backbone of Your Winter Garden!

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kales, kohlrabi!

In our climate, Brassicas can be grown year round!  But they thrive in cooler weather, are fairly frost hardy, and are said to have better flavor after a frost!  They love a very rich manured soil and need it because cooler winter temps slow the uptake of nutrients.  Be generous.  Except for broccoli, Brassicas are grown for their leaves, and rich soil makes leaves, and broccoli leaves are edible too!  If your soil is slightly acidic, sprinkle a bit of lime to increase the pH, and help prevent the fungal disease club root.  Firm the soil, with your feet, around your Brassicas to support the plant in its upright growth, especially in a windy area.  A lot of Brassicas are top-heavy, sometimes needing staking.  Mulch and water well.  

If you water too well, making a ‘softer’ plant, or have too much nitrogen (manures), white fly and aphids are more likely.  Studies show hosing them away is as effective as chemical treatments!  Do it early in the day so plants can dry off (prevent mildews), and be sure to get the underside of the leaves as well, and especially in curled leaves that protect aphids.  Or spray with insecticidal soaps or oils.  Even though aphids and white fly are yukky, keep watch right from the get go!  They like tender baby plants.  Don’t delay spraying, and keep watch every day until they are gone!  Don’t let them spread to other parts of the plant or other healthy plants, your neighbor’s plants.  They stunt the growth of your plant and open it to other diseases.  If the infestation is too much, remove infected leaves ASAP, at worst, the whole plant.  Don’t leave them laying about or put them in your compost.  That truly ‘nips them in the bud!’ 

Now, here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know about some of your Brassicas!  From AllExperts, Organic Gardens:

Your ‘Kale Vegetables’ are Brassica Family crops that pose their own pro’s and con’s in your battles with bugs.  Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Turnips, Horseradish, Radishes and some other vegetables generate a natural chemical called GLUCOSINOLATES.  If you till the spent plants in at the end of a season, then rotate to another NON-BRASSICA Crop, or even just a Cover Crop, they’ll decompose all Summer and release those Glucosinolates into the Soil.  [BIOFUMIGATION

The nicest thing about this is that Glucosinolates are NATURAL INSECTICIDES (plus they demonstrate anti-Cancer properties in the laboratory).  They also act as Fungicides because they contain sulphur.  Cornell University School of Agriculture tells us these weapons ‘sit benignly inside a cell until it’s punctured — usually by predator feeding. They then mix with certain enzymes from other cells, reacting to yield sharp-tasting, sometimes toxic compounds.’

My comment:  Clearly, this is a problem if you are planting small seeds, especially lettuce, under your Brassicas.  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 said Brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.  Ok, so if you decide to chop and drop your Brassicas, plant transplants of small seed plants in those areas rather than starting plants from seed.

Brassica Companions:  Aromatic  plants, sage, dill, chamomile, chard, beets, peppermint, rosemary, celery, onions, potatoes, spinach, dwarf zinnias.  Brassicas are helped by geraniums, dill, alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, etc), rosemary, nasturtium, borage.  Dill attracts a wasp to control cabbage moth.  Zinnias attract lady bugs to protect plants.  Avoid mustards, nightshades, strawberries.  Notice there are contradictions – potatoes are in the nightshade family.

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