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Happy Winter Solstice/Yule, Dec 21st!

I like this saying I found at the Old Farmers Almanac:  Old Frost, the Silversmith has come:  His crisping touch is on the weeds.  – Charles Dawson Shanly

And, bless him, his touch will soon be on our veggies!  Some will love it; kales are said to taste better after a good frost.  Basils, some peppers and other tender plants will fold and die.  Gather seeds while you still can.  It’s tuck & roll time –  ready a stack of covers in case we get some hard freezes.  Keep a diligent weather watch.  Watering the evening before an anticipated freeze will help your plants withstand damage.

December is winter’s June, harvest time! 

Brocs, cauliflowers, peas, are all coming in now, especially if you planted in August, September!

Lettuces are thriving, keep plucking the lower leaves.

Keep harvesting your chard and beet leaves to keep ahead of the leafminers.  Don’t over water making the leaves too soft and inviting.

Cabbages take time to get to the stage to form that super head of tight fitted leaves.  Don’t despair, they are working on it.  Lay down Sluggo or do slug/snail maintenance around your cabbages to keep the pests from damaging your beauties.  Can you imagine what the plant would look like if the leaves were spaced out on a stalk?!  Pretty tall.  Feed lightly during winter to make Nitrogen easily available.  It’s cooler, so uptake is slower.

Your favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, putting it into little nodules on their roots.  So are your peas, both legumes.  They do that!  Little to no feeding for them, they make their own N.

If you tuck in kitchen veggie trim, don’t be surprised if a few potatoes (they look like tomatoes, same family) pop up here and there.  If you like ‘em, let ‘em come if you have space!

If you have everbearer strawberries you may have few berries after a few warm days.  Even a single berry is such a treat!

Collards, kohlrabi and kales are very happy, providing excellent nutrition.  You can eat the leaves of all your Brassicas – brocs, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, and, of course, cabbages!

Carrots are coming!  Plant another round near your peas!  All kinds!  Mix the seeds up for surprises later!

Yes, you can still plant!  Start a new garden with or put in successive rounds of artichoke (give them 3’ to 4’ space), arugula, asparagus – Pat Welsh (Southern California Gardening) recommends UC-157, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes, and turnips!  As soon as one is done, plant another!

Put in some little bunch onion patches here and there but not by your peas!  Plant some of those little  Italian red ones – so pretty in your salad!  How about some garlic chives?  Mmm….

Remember, this is THE time to be planting your largest garlic cloves – they need twice the fertilizer, so make a super rich soil for them.  If you are so inspired, many plant on Winter Solstice day, Dec 21!  Plant skins on, or for more mojo, quicker sprouting, here is the way to prep your cloves Bob Anderson style:

  • Soak in water and baking soda for 16-24 hours before planting.  Soak separate strains separately. (One T soda to 1 gallon water, or a half teaspoon in a cup of water).  Remove the skins – start at the bottom being careful not to damage the growing tip OR the bottom, because that’s where the roots grow from!
  • Just before planting soak nude cloves in rubbing alcohol for 3-5 minutes and plant immediately.

SideDressing – seedlings up 2 to 3 inches get hungry!  Liquid fertilizer once a week is quick and easy for them to uptake.  Feed your other plants every 6 weeks.  That means, sprinkle fertilizer around your plants or down a row, and dig it in a little, especially before a rain!  Water it in.  Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings.  We don’t want a lot of tender new growth that a frost would take.  Some people love their manures, others love Island Seed & Feed’s Landscape Mix, and some love their stuff that comes in a pretty box!  Plants love a fish/kelp mix.  Try the powdered version for a little less stink.  If you decide to do foliar teas, pick a warm, dry, or breezy morning so your plants will dry well before evening.  Do what makes you and your plants happy!  If you haven’t been fertilizing, think about how hard your plant is working.  Big brocs, for example.  When it starts to head, when plants start to produce, that’s your cue to help them along.

Gophers.  You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after the rains.  If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.
Aphids?  Watch for curled leaves, squish or wash any or the colony away immediately.
White flies.  Flush away, especially under the leaves.  They are attracted to yellow, so keep yellowing, yellowed leaves removed.
Slimy Slugs, Snails.  Sluggo before they even get started, right when your seedlings begin to show, when you put your transplants in!  Once stopped, there will be intervals when there are none at all.  If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another round.

Make Organic, Sustainable Holiday Garden Gifts!  Plants themselves make wonderful gifts!  Start perusing catalogs for your Spring planting!

Happy Holidays, of all kinds, to you and yours! 
Garden Blessings, Cerena

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February! SOIL & SEED Month!

Please see February 2010 for tips on aphids/white flies, slugs/snails, gophers, soil, seed starting basics! 

When there are warm days, it is ever so tempting to plant up summer veggies!  Don’t do it.  Not yet.  Start seeds. 

Depending on how much space you have, plant a last round of your very favorite winter crops – lettuces, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, kale, kohlrabi, potatoes, radishes, turnips.  Bare-root asparagus and artichokes.  I forgot to tell you last month, you could start zucchini!  At Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden we had an elder gardener who always started his in January, early February, and had great zucchini way before everyone else!  Other than zuchs, really look at those days to maturity, and add the number of days you expect for harvest duration.  If you plant a long maturing plant that would be harvested for some time, think if you would rather have that space for an early round of a summer veggie you love more.  Choose mildew and disease resistant varieties for your late peas.  

Keep sidedressing your producing plants, protect your tasty lettuces from slugs and snails.  Keep watch for aphids, and, if you disturb your plant and a little cloud of white things fly off, you have white flies.  Spray those little buggers off asap so they don’t spread to your other plants or someone else’s!  Keep up with your harvesting.  Wait until it warms up some more to prune frost damaged plants.  Even wait until next month to fertilize.  

But do prepare your soil for March summer veggie planting.  Dig if you must – I’m a no-dig, no weed person who leaves the living soil structure intact [see Gaia’s Garden, 2nd edition, chapter on soil].  Instead, prepare your soil by layering good stuff on top, called Lasagna Gardening, sheet composting, composting in place, or on-the-ground composting!  Garden smart!  If it is already there, you don’t have to move it from the compost pile to where it is needed!  Build your soil in place or in your new raised beds!  If you are putting raised beds on top of your lawn, lay down several layers of heavy cardboard first, to stop the grass and weeds, thoroughly soak it, then layer, layer, layer!  When they get there, your plant’s roots will easily poke their way through the cardboard.  Definitely attach gopher proof wire mesh to the bottom of your raised bed frame before you start filling it, unless you are creating your garden on top of concrete or a roof.  If you are container gardening, check out Patricia Lanza’s book Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces: A Layering System for Big Results in Small Gardens and Containers: Garden in Inches, Not Acres. 

Healthy layering should be 2 dry/Carbon to 1 wet/Nitrogen. 

Carbon – carbon-rich matter (like branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust, shredded brown paper bags, coffee filters, conifer needles, egg shells, hay, peat moss, wood ash) gives compost its light, fluffy body.
Nitrogen – nitrogen or protein-rich matter (manures, food scraps, leafy materials like lawn clippings and green leaves) provides raw materials for making enzymes. 

  • Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
  • ADD dry materials – straw, leaves and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.  Fine chopped, smaller materials decompose faster.
  • Lay on manure, green manure ( clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass ) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.  Put on rinsed seaweed for minerals, scatter some yarrow sprigs to further speed decomposition, and, of course, your kitchen food waste. 
  • Think how that pile is going to decompose lower and lower.  Build enough layers to get the amount of soil you need.  Could be 18” high.
  • If you like, sprinkle some microbe rich topsoil over it all to ‘inoculate’ with living soil organisms that will immediately go to work.  Add a few handfuls of red wriggler compost worms.  Add any other amendments that make you happy.
  • Install some pathways.  Don’t walk on your oxygen rich breathing brew and squeeze the life out of it, or crush your worms and soil structure!  Keep things fluffy for good soil aeration and water absorption.   
  • If you need to, for aesthetic reasons, cover the compost with a pretty mulch that will break down slowly.  Spread it aside when you are ready to plant.  It could be down leaves; if you need your soil in that area to be slightly acidic, cover with pine needles (strawberries).
  • If things get stinky, add more carbon.
  • You want to plant NOW, or the same day you layer?  Can do!  Or your instant soil wasn’t so instant?  OK, here’s the instant remedy.  Make planting holes in your layers, put in some compost you purchased or have on hand, mycorrhizal fungi, and plant!  The rest will catch up, and the heat from the composting material underneath will warm your plants!  You WILL have a fine garden!  

If you do also need a traditional compost pile for spot needs, consider “No-turn” composting!  The biggest chore with composting is turning the pile from time to time. However, with ‘no-turn composting’, your compost can be aerated without turning.  The secret is to thoroughly mix in enough coarse material, like straw – little air tubes, when building the pile. The compost will develop as fast as if it were turned regularly, and studies show that the nitrogen level may be even higher than turned compost.  With ‘no-turn’ composting, add new materials to the top of the pile, and harvest fresh compost from the bottom of the bin.

So here are 3 ways to save garden time and your back!  1)  No digging!  2)  Compost in place, no moving it.  3) No compost turning!  Uh huh.

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Glorious cauliflowers are being harvested, peas devoured, lettuce leaves eaten on the spot, mini carrots munched, radishes and arugula carried home for salads! In December, your August to October plantings are paying off!  Broccolis and cabbages are coming very soon!

Winter harvesting is so fine!  Cut and come again is the name of the game! Cut the main head from your brocs, continue to harvest the mini side shoots. Cut the cabbage heads above the lowest leaves, let 4 more form in the remaining leaf axils. Take the lowest lettuce leaves, the outer celery stalks, and keep right on harvesting! Pluck your peas to keep them coming. Pull tender young beets and carrots.

Planting: Yes, you can still plant!  Start a new garden with or put in successive rounds of artichoke (give them 3’ to 4’ space), asparagus – Pat Welsh (Southern California Gardening) recommends UC-157, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes, and turnips! As soon as one is done, plant another!

Cauliflowers – to tie or not to tie?  Some cauliflower is self blanching, that is, the central leaves naturally curl over the head, keeping it white! If your cauliflower doesn’t do that, and you want white heads, tie the leaves over the head as soon as it starts to form. You can tie it anyway if you want to, to guarantee that pristine color. They grow super quickly, so keep watch and harvest when they are still tightly headed! Sadly, if the temp is below 40 degrees, there is too much salt, not enough N (Nitrogen), or your plants dried out, no head may be formed. That’s called buttoning. Leaves stay small, a tiny curd forms but never gets big. If you grow purple cauliflower, no tying needed!

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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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