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May is for Melons! Goldfarb & Page-Mann Regional Fruition Seeds - Juicy Watermelon!

Matthew Goldfarb & Petra Page-Mann of Fruition Seeds, Canandaigua NY

We have had crazy April weather in Santa Barbara! Night temps were low for the longest, then we have had HOT days followed by more cool evenings and now we are back to hot. My kale and cabbages bolted. Early varieties of tomatoes have done well and corn and hot pepper plants, but few have risked planting bell peppers yet. They like warm evenings and soil.

Recent night air temps have still been in the late 40s, up to as much as 58. Soil temps in the sun are now 60 to 68. Peppers especially need warmer temps, nighttime temps above 55°F, some say 60, and soil temps above 65°F. If planted too soon, sometimes they miss their natural sequence of production, and never produce. Best Planting Temps Per Veggie!

May is generally the super month for more heat lovers, but many here haven’t planted their first rounds yet. If your area has been behaving, space permitting, do plant your second rounds this month! Start some more, different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant! The special planting treat of May is CANTALOUPES!

Start from seeds, transplants or both! Add different varieties with different maturity dates for a steady supply, a palate pleasing assortment! Some people just remember when they planted what. Others make an ID plant tag with the plant date and name on it and the # of days to maturity. A quick glance will tell you if that set of plants is ready for another round to be planted. Or, just jot it in your calendar so you be sure to plant another round in 6 to 8 weeks.

If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, transplants are fine! Eggplant, limas, all melons, all peppers, pumpkins and squash! Many wait until even June to plant tomatoes to avoid fungal problems, but if your garden is fungus free, plant away! Ideally you would wait until the soil has warmed to 70°F before sowing squash and melon seeds, but if you can’t wait, and who can?, get nursery transplants and pop them in the ground!

Some gardeners do wait until JUNE to plant southern heat lover okra. Choose faster maturing varieties for coastal SoCal. If YOU anticipate a HOT summer, plant a tad earlier, but be prepared to deal with it if summer is overcast as often is the case after all.

Long beans are spectacular and love heat. Late May, June is the best time to start them. They grow quickly from seed. They will last longer than other beans, hitting their stride toward the end of summer. Certain varieties of them don’t get mildew either! Their unique flavor keeps your table interesting.

Right now, in addition to the plants listed above, sow and/or transplant more asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, parsley, peanuts, white potatoes repel squash bugs, radishes (with cukes to repel cuke beetles, and with eggplant, potatoes and arugula to repel flea beetles), and spinach.

Time for heat-resistant, bolt-resistant lettuces of all kinds! Sierra, Nevada, Jericho, Black Seeded Simpson are some. Tips for super Successful Transplanting!

See last month’s chat on Tomato and Cucumber specifics, especially if your soil has Fusarium and Verticillium wilts as ours does at Pilgrim Terrace and Rancheria Community Gardens. Mainly, keep those babies’ leaves off the ground! Remove lower leaves, get them UP in a cage or trellis and lay down a loose 1″ deep straw mulch blanket. Too much straw keeps the soil moist, which is good for some plants, not for others. Under maters and cukes, we want some air circulation and a bit of soil drying. The main purpose of mulch is to keep your plant’s leaves from being water splashed or in contact with soil, which is the main way they get fungi/blight diseases.

Tomatoes! Heirlooms are particularly susceptible to the wilts, Fusarium and Verticillium. Instead, get varieties that have VFN or VF on the tag at the nursery. The V is for Verticillium, the F Fusarium wilt, N nematodes. Ace, Early Girl, Champion, Celebrity, are some that are wilt resistant/tolerant. In Santa Barbara area continued drought conditions, consider getting only indeterminates that produce all season long rather than getting determinates that need start up time every time you replant, that need water during no production periods. If you are canning, then by all means, get determinates. In the Mother Earth News tomato survey, they found gardeners chose heirlooms over hybrids if their soil is wilt/blight free. Otherwise, the longer the gardener has gardened, they more they chose wilt resistant toms if their soil has fungi. La Sumida has the largest tomato selection in the Santa Barbara area! See Special Planting and growing tips for your Tomatoes and Cucumbers! 

With our warming temp trends, get bolt resistant/slow bolt varieties, and especially heat and drought tolerant varieties. Heat tolerant tomatoes and beans (Rattlesnake) keep right on producing when temps get up to and above 85.

Problem temps for tomatoes:

High daytime temperatures (above 85 F)
High Nighttime Temperatures (above 70 F)
Low Nighttime Temperatures (below 55 F)

Check out this nifty page of heat tolerant varieties at Bonnie Plant! If your plant is not heat tolerant, wait. When things cool down, it will start making flowers and setting fruit again.

Companion planting is more than saying Howdy! Certain combos enhance growth, others repel pests, some invite beneficial insects! Strengthen your garden! Plan your Companions! Keep the biodiversity rolling! Plant pest deterring plants first so they will be up and working when you put in your or seeds or transplants!

  • Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of culinary dandelions! It is thought to repel white flies, mosquitoes, tomato hornworms, aphids, houseflies, and asparagus beetles. Smells great and tastes great!
  • Beans, Cukes, Dill, Radish Combo! Cukes and Beans are great on the trellis, one high, one low. Dill goes with your pickling cukes. Radishes to deter Cucumber beetles.
  • WHITE Potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs.
  • Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes act as trap plants for flea beetles and to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Carrots love being with cilantro and chamomile, and chamomile improves the flavor of any neighboring herb!
  • Calendula traps aphids, whiteflies, and thrips!
  • Marigolds are brilliant and called the workhorse of pest deterrents!

Put in ‘licious fast growers like lettuce, beets, turnips, arugula, in space being held for subsequent plantings. To use your space super productively, put these veggies on the sunny sides under any large plants. If needed, remove lower leaves that would shade out the ‘littles.’ If you anticipate unusually hot summer weather, grow the littles on the east side of larger plants to protect them from the afternoon sun.

Put in borders of slow but low growers like carrots, mini cabbages, in more permanent placements, like on what will become the morning side of taller backdrop plants like peppers and eggplant.

Watering Tips

  • In these drought times, water before 10:30 AM if at all possible. The earlier the better. Make your basins large enough to accommodate your plants water needs out to the dripline. Water at the base of your plant. If your plants are dusty, you are near a road or there has been a wind, give them a bath. Dusty plants are habitat for White Flies. Keep a lookout, and hose away ants.
  • The general rule of thumb is 1 inch per week. In very hot or windy weather, water as needed, even as much as twice a day!
  • Water beans, cukes, lettuces and short rooted varieties of strawberries more frequently – 2 to 3 times a week, daily in very hot or windy weather. They are all workhorses producing fast and repeatedly, cukes making a watery fruit even. Lettuces need to put on growth fast to stay sweet.
  • Garlic, bulb onions, and shallots naturally begin to dry this month. When the foliage begins to dry it’s time to stop watering. Dry outer layers needed for long storage will form on the bulbs. When about half of the foliage slumps to the ground, bend the rest to initiate this maturing. The bulbs will be ready for harvest when the foliage is thoroughly dry and crisp.
  • Please always be building compost and adding it, especially near short rooted plants and plants that like being moist. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • Good quality organic MULCH feeds your soil, keeps your soil cooler, moister, less water needed and prevents light germinating seeds from starting – less weeds!
  • Pat on Mycorrhiza fungi right on the roots of all your transplants except Brassicas, when you put them in the ground. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Ask for it bulk at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.
  • If you garden in a windy area, put up porous windbreaks to slow soil drying, and you will have less dusty conditions that bring White Flies.
  • Use a water device with an easy to use shut off valve.

It’s Mulch time! Compost is fine and fluffyish, intended to feed your plants, goes IN your soil. Mulch has larger pieces, and is meant to cover the surface to keep your soil cooler and moist. If it is put in the soil, larger pieces use your soil Nitrogen as they break down, depleting the Nitrogen your plants need. Straw is probably the cheapest and cleanest organic mulch. Some don’t like it that you do have to pull grasses that come up. Others don’t mind at all, they just tuck it under the mulch and it feeds the soil too! Otherwise, get good quality bags of undyed mulch.

  • If you are an organic gardener, it’s up to you if you choose to use City mulches. They are made from street side green waste recycle containers that can include diseased plants, non organic chemical treatment residues, toxic plastics etc.
  • Living mulch is when you plant an area densely enough that the leaves of the plants shade your soil and keep it moist. Lettuce does a good job. But also know that makes a moist habitat for slugs and snails, so put down some organic bait two or three times to kill off the generations. Get the store brand of Sluggo. It’s non toxic to pets and kids!
  • Peppers are the last plants you mulch. They like soil temps above 65. Mulch keeps the soil cooler, so use your soil thermometer to see if the mulch is cooling it too much for your peppers.
  • Any Brassicas – broccoli, kale – you are over summering need good deep mulch, 4 to 6 inches. They like cool soil.

Natural Disease & Pest Prevention!

Choosing excellent and appropriate plant varieties, using companion plants in wise combinations, making super soil, regularly applying prevention formulas more details and all the recipes, sidedressing and keeping up on maintenance are the things that keep your plants in top form! They will be less likely to have diseases, but pests adore tasty healthy plants just like we do, as well as them cleaning up plants that are weak or on their way out. Often when you plants are being munched, you have missed the prime harvest time. See more in the April Newsletter

The usual May culprits!

  • 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
  • Flea Beetles look like large black fleas and do hop mightily! They seem harmless enough, make tiny little holes in the leaves of eggplant, potatoes, arugula. But, those tiny holes add up. As the beetles suck out the juice of your plant they disrupt your plant’s flow of nutrients, open the leaves to disease, your plant is in a constant state of recovery, there is little production. Your plant looks dryish, lacks vitality. The trap plant for them, one that they like best, is radish! Thank goodness radish grow fast! Better yet, plant it ASAP when you put seeds and transplants in. IPM notes
  • Squash Bugs like your Zucchini and other squash, cucumber and melons. Plant WHITE potatoes amongst them to repel the bugs. You will get two crops instead of just one! IPM info
  • Whiteflies do the honeydew thing like aphids, leaving a nasty sticky black sooty mold or white fibers all over your plant’s leaves. The honeydew attracts ants, which interfere with the activities of Whitefly natural enemies. They are hard to get rid of, so keep a close watch on the undersides of leaves, especially if you see little white insects flying away when you jostle your plant. Whiteflies develop rapidly in warm weather, in many parts of California, they breed all year. Prevent dusty conditions. Keep ants out of your plants. Hose them away immediately. See more

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

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.
–  Alice B. Toklas

See the complete April Green Bean Connection for more great veggie gardening tips! Since we had such a cool April in Santa Barbara area, see April for more of what we can plant now in May!

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See the entire May Newsletter! (Sign up for it if you like!)

MAY – Plant More Exciting Heat Lovers!
Teas! Compost, Manure, Worm Castings Brews!
The Magic of Melons ~ Cantaloupe, Honeydew
Other Community Gardens – Inspiration Farm, Bellingham, WA

Events! International Permaculture Day, Fairview Gardens – Farm to Table & Farm Camp, Permaculture Course at Quail Springs!

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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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May is for Cantaloupe & more Melons! Honeydew Fruit Bowl Flowers

Melons are total beauty queens! Their outsides are marvelous, no two alike! You can grow minis to monsters! The insides are beautiful colors! If you couldn’t see in color, their tastes would make up for it! Textures are plentiful! Some of them slither, others crunch! Warm and drizzly down your chin at the garden, ice cold on a hot day! Fruit salsa! You can cut them in a thousand ways, from cubes to balls, slices, astonishing intricate veggie art! They can be eaten with your fingers, put in smoothies, as part of creamy ambrosia. Sprinkle with spices, toss with mint. Add coconut or walnuts!

Besides all these delightful features, Melons are good for you!
CANTALOUPE (American) – 100% of Vitamin A, and 24% of Vitamin C
HONEYDEW – 53% of Vitamin C

Melons, like pumpkins, need heat! Melons are native to Africa, and the trick to getting the best-quality fruit in cooler climates is to duplicate the continent’s hot sun and sandy soil as best you can. Light, fluffy soils warm faster than do clay ones, and melons love loose, well-drained dirt! Amend with compost or leaf mold. Ideally, you would wait to sow seed until the soil has warmed to 70°F before planting squash and melons, but SoCal hits 60+ degree soil in April and you can plant transplants successfully then! Start seedlings indoors to get the soonest start, but don’t start the seedlings too soon! They grow quickly!

You in cooler coastal areas really need the heat. Naked unmulched soil heated by hot sun does the job!

Put your melons in an area where they are sheltered or there is a windbreak so they get good and hot! Remember the tricks about windbreaks. A porous windbreak works best. In a cooler climate, a wall, maybe of berry producing shrubs with dwarf fruit trees behind, can reduce cooling and drying winds, allowing the warmth of a food forest!Windbreak Effectiveness Diagram Porous

Use clear or black plastic to heat up the ground. They absorb heat, warm the soil early, conserve moisture, control weeds, keep some pests and diseases away, and make harvesting a whole lot easier and cleaner. Or, use black landscape cloth instead of black plastic! The cloth allows the soil to breathe and water to pass through. Combine that with spun polyester row covers over transplants to give them a fast start. They increase the temperature by 5 to 8 degrees, and conserve moisture. Spun polyester is also handy because you can water straight through it. Or you can use a clear plastic film over seeds or young plants to generate more heat, and late melons can be ripened under plastic, too. Row covers must be removed when plants start to bloom so pollinating insects can reach the flowers.

If you choose the black plastic, and you don’t garden over winter, lay it over the future melon garden in late winter to start warming the soil. Weigh down the edges so it doesn’t take flight. When you are ready to plant, make five-inch, x-line cuts at least four feet apart on 6 to 8 foot centers depending on the size of the melon you are growing – if you are growing several plants in rows. If you commingle edibles and ornamentals, allow at least three feet in all directions around the cut-plastic x. Pull the plastic back and create a hill of soil (amended with lots of organic matter).

Green plastic film mulch For your consideration, green mulch is to melons, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins and squash what red plastic film mulch is to tomatoes. According to reports of research trials in the Northeast and Oregon, cooler areas, it stimulates earlier and heavier yields of fruits. One person reported the green film was very thin. As a deterrent to weeds, it didn’t come close to black plastic. And at the end of the season it wasn’t reusable, so they had to discard it. Maybe things have changed since then or it comes in different weights.

If you have super good heat, keep your melons off the ground with super thick mulch and even then, put them up on sturdy upside down containers. You want them out of the munching bug and soil diseases zone. They will color up more evenly, consistently, and you can save space, if grown on trellises, making little slings to hold the fruits up. But if your area doesn’t get super hot, on the ground is better than up on a cooling wind exposed trellis.

If you mulch, put a stake where the center of the planting basin is so when you water, the water goes where the central roots are. Save water by not watering the rest of the area that doesn’t need it and that would cool the ground. Make your basin large enough that tiny lateral feeder roots get water too. Melons like to be kept moist.

Fabulous varieties!

In cooler coastal areas consider growing mini melons that don’t take as long to mature, or early melons, container varieties, that mature in 85 days or less. Consider growing spicy sweet Green Nutmeg, which has been around more than 150 years. Jenny Lind is another green-fleshed cantaloupe that weighs about a pound, 70 days. Early varieties have compact foliage. Vines and the distance between leaves (nodes) are shorter than larger, long-season melons. They flower early and have smaller fruits.

Heat and drought tolerant varieties per Southern Exposure Seed Exchange are:

Melons: Top Mark, Sweet Passion, and Kansas all have extra disease and/or pest tolerances. Edisto 47 is particularly recommended for hot, humid summers where fungal disease is an issue. Missouri Gold produces well through droughty conditions. [If you live in SoCal coastal foothills, plant away. If you are in the cooler beach areas, if you think we will have a HOT summer, take a chance, plant if you have room! It’s recommended to wait until May to plant cantaloupe.]

Watermelon: Crimson Sweet and Strawberry watermelon are good choices where heat and humidity make fungal diseases a problem.

A clever strategy for instant succession planting, if you have space, is to plant melons that mature at different times. Growing small fast maturing melons AND late large melons = 2 harvests!

Soil  Slightly acid light, sandy loam with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5 is preferred. You might guess melons are very heavy feeders, they are making a lot of plant and a large fruit! Before planting, add in a little extra compost, and leaf mold, some well rotted manure, cow manure if you can get it.

Water! You are going to see a lot of recommendations to plant on mounds. Here in California, and other places, we are in drought conditions so I am recommending to plant in basins like the Zuni desert waffle gardens techniques. All the water goes to your plant, less is lost to evaporative wind across a mound top, less water is needed. If in a cooler coastal area, your plant is sheltered from cooling wind, produces more in the heat.

Melons need plenty of water to support quick vine growth in early summer! The rule of thumb is a minimum of 1-inch of water a week, 2 inches is likely better. If you use plastic mulch, it will retain moisture so check the soil under the plastic to see when watering is really required. Once the first fruit ripens, stop all watering. Too much water at ripening time dilutes the fruit’s sugars and ruins the sweet flavor. The melons don’t need the water because they develop a deep root system soon after they start to flower.

Plant! Seed soaking and presprouting definitely speed up germination! Plant three to five seeds two inches apart and about one inch deep. Keep them moist and watch them grow! Once the vines have two sets of true leaves, thin out the smaller or weaker vines, leaving the two strongest to grow on.

Valuable Companions  At the same time you plant your melons, put in radish, marigold, maybe nasturtium to repel Cucumber and flea beetles, squash bugs. Nasturtium harbors snails, so you are warned….

Male flowers come first so they can pollinate the females when they arrive! Not to worry if you don’t get fruit set at first.

Sidedressing Melons are a lot of plant and hungry! Fertilize every two to three weeks before blooming starts, using an all-purpose 5-5-5 fertilizer. In the root zone, put some spade fork holes around your plant. If you are using mulch, pull it back and add several inches of compost to root areas monthly. Put the mulch back and water it in. It’s like giving your plant compost tea as the water and compost drizzle down in the holes! Especially sidedress melons when blooming starts and every 6 weeks after.

Diseases

  • Fungus diseases, include Alternaria leaf spot, powdery mildew, anthracnose, and downy mildew.
  • Water melons in the morning, ideally at soil level, so leaves dry before evening, preventing fungal diseases.
  • Apply the home remedy Mildew mix! As soon as your little plants are up about 3″ or you put transplants in the ground, mix a heaping tablespoon of Baking Soda, 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk, 1 regular aspirin, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap in a watering can. Apply foliarly, both under and on top of leaves. The main ingredient is the bicarbonate of soda! It makes the leaf surface alkaline and this inhibits the germination of fungal spores. Baking soda prevents and reduces Powdery Mildew, and many other diseases on veggies, roses, and other plants! It kills PM within minutes. It can be used on roses every 3 to 4 days, but do your veggie plants every 5 to 10 days, or after significant rains, as the plant grows, because new plant tissues are not yet protected by your fungicide. See more details!
  • To prevent powdery mildew, spray the leaves with wettable sulphur during late summer when the nights begin to cool down.
  • At the first sign of disease, remove infected parts; remove and discard the mulch around the plant and replace it with fresh, clean mulch.

Pests  Spun polyester row covers are excellent for controlling cucumber beetles and vine borers. Vine borers are the worst melon pest in some states, but not in California. Additional practical info on vine borers from U of Georgia. Though written with squash in mind, just think melon, another cucurbit, as you read it. Remember, row covers must be removed when plants start to bloom so pollinating insects can reach the flowers. Once the row covers are removed, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the leaves to protect the plants from cucumber beetles. Plant Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes, and melons to repel wilt-carrying striped cucumber beetles.

Maturity, When and How to Harvest

On very hot days melons can over ripen on the vine, giving them a waterlogged appearance. Most summer melons are fragrant when ripe. Sniff the skin; if you smell the flavor of the melon (the senses of smell and taste are interrelated), it is ripe for the picking. Another indicator for ripeness is when the stem separates (slips) easily where the vine attaches to the fruit. Cantaloupes are mature when the rind changes from green to tan-yellow between the veins.

Honeydew, crenshaw, and other winter melons are ready to harvest when they turn completely white or yellow, and the blossom end is slightly soft to touch. Since they do not slip, cut the melons from the vine. They will continue to ripen for several days at room temperature once they are picked.

The sweetest and most flavorful melons are those picked ripe from the vine and eaten right away. They may not be icy cold, but the fresh flavor and perfume more than make up for the temperature difference. Go ahead, open a melon and eat it right in the garden—without utensils—and let the sweet nectar run down your chin. That’s the true taste of summer!

Poor Flavor? It may be the weather: cloudy during ripening, too hot, too much or too little water, it rained a lot before harvest, or a combination of factors.

Saving Seeds is easy! When you save and store seeds, you help to continue the genetic line of plant varieties, leading to greater biodiversity in garden plants and preventing extinction of different varieties. A word to the wise! Like other cucurbits, melons easily crossbreed, so allow a ½ mile for reliable distance isolation between different types or cultivars. To be completely safe from any accidental cross-pollination, keep them away from other family members including cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins.

  • Pick melons for seed saving when the tendril nearest the melon is completely dried, then store the harvested melon intact for another 3 weeks before removing and cleaning the seeds. Scoop out the seeds, put them into a wire mesh sieve, then with running water over the seeds rub them gently against the mesh, using it to loosen and remove the stringy fibers. The final test: Healthy seeds will sink to the bottom of a bowl of water, while dead seeds and most of the pulp will float. Get your seeds as clean as possible to keep them from sticking to whatever surface you dry them on.
  • Drain them in a strainer. Pat the bottom of the strainer with a cloth towel to pull extra water from the seeds after they have drained. Spread them on a piece of glass or a shiny ceramic plate to dry (they will stick to paper, even waxed paper). Place the glass or ceramic plate in a cool, dry shady spot for several days. After the seeds are dry, they can be carefully removed from the glass or plate and final-dried before being stored in jars.
  • Your seeds will keep for up to 5 years if stored in a cool dry place, however, the shorter the storage time, the better. Date and Name your seed jar. Dry seeds well to avoid mildew. Fluctuation in temperature or moisture levels of stored seeds lowers their longevity significantly. Prevent insect infestations by adding diatomaceous earth, it’s non toxic, to the stored seeds in their jars. Add a few pinches to the seeds in a bowl and gently stir to thoroughly cover each seed.

All melons are flavorful enough on their own, yet you can enhance them with a sprinkle of ginger or salt. A squirt of lemon or lime juice will bring out the melon’s sweetness.

A popular treat offered by Los Angeles push cart vendors is fresh fruit sprinkled with salt, chili powder and a squeeze of fresh lime juice! it makes a quick, healthy snack or a vibrant side for a barbecue! 

Mexican Fruit Salad with Chili Powder

Recipe Mexican Fruit Salad with Chili Powder

Choose 1, 2, 3 or more fruits and/or vegetables—here are some that work well:

  • mango
  • pineapple
  • watermelon
  • cantaloupe or other melon
  • cucumber or fresh pickles
  • jicama

lime juice
chili powder
salt, to taste or not at all! If you use salt, assemble your salad at the last minute—the salt begins leeching juice from the fruit right away.

May your life be sweet and spicy!

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

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Read this carefully and see what new ideas you can use here in SoCal! I’ve added a few comments in brackets for our local gardeners….

WHAT TO GROW THROUGH VERY HOT SUMMERS by Lisa Dermer

“Heat-tolerant” and “drought-tolerant” are phrases to look for when selecting the best varieties to grow where summers are very hot. Humidity, especially warm, humid nights, leads to fungal diseases, so it’s also good to look for fungal disease resistance.

Some plants continue producing even during periods of extreme heat and humidity or heat and drought. Here are some of our recommendations:

Heat Lovers Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Dermer

Beans: If you want green beans and shelling beans throughout the summer, it’s best to expand your repertoire to a few different species. The common green bean, Phaseola vulgaris, doesn’t handle drought or high temperatures. But lots of classic Southern beans love our high-heat summers! Try growing Southern Peas (Cowpeas) like Whippoorwill, White Acre, and Pink Eye Purple Hull. Asparagus Beans (Yard Long Beans) also love heat and humidity – they’re slightly firmer than green beans and quite a bit longer. They’re commonly used in Thai curries. Green Pod Red Seed is the classic, reliable heirloom. If you’re in the Deep South, Chinese Red Noodle takes advantage of the long season and is more heat tolerant. Lima Beans (Butterbeans) are generally very reliable in heat, humidity, and drought. [In Santa Barbara area Rattlesnake beans, aka Preacher Bean, produce fabulously in 100 degree weather!]

Tomatoes: Look for tomatoes that come from the Deep South, especially those bred by the universities. The large red slicer Tropic VFN (from the University of Florida) produces through very hot summers. Ozark Pink VF (from the University of Arkansas) is highly recommended for very hot climates. These blemish-free medium-sized tomatoes have very bright, crisp flavor. For market growers looking for reliability in heat and humidity, Neptune (also from the University of Florida) is a great choice. This medium-large red slicer recently did very well in trials conducted at the University of Georgia. [Try these, but in SoCal, cherry tomatoes are often your best choice.]

Eggplant: Take advantage of your summer heat by growing an eggplant that requires it: the flavorful French/Italian heirloom Listada de Gandia thrives in hot weather.  The better known heirloom Black Beauty is also dependable in the South. The long, narrow Asian eggplants like Ping Tung Long also produce well through intense heat. [Long eggplant does better in cool coastal areas because it takes less time to develop. Terra Sol Garden Center in Goleta has been carrying Ping Tung Longs!]

Peppers: Nematode resistant bell peppers are the best choices for Southern gardeners. Carolina Wonder and Charleston Belle are both excellent. Hot peppers generally thrive in heat and humidity. (Lots of hot places use hot peppers in their cuisines – perhaps because these plants grow so well in hot climates!) Sweet, spicy Aji Dulce peppers have an unusual, complex flavor, with just a hint of heat. They’re generally unaffected by pests and diseases, but they take a little longer to mature than most peppers.

Cucumbers:   Find out which diseases are problems in your area and use the resistance codes to help you choose what to grow. Little Leaf H-19 (from the University of Arkansas) has excellent disease resistance and is well adapted to very hot summers. It’s classified as a pickler, but it’s also very tasty sliced and in salads. Ashley is a slicer particularly recommended where disease is a problem, but my favorite choice for a heat-loving slicer is Suyo Long (the long, slender fruits are best grown on trellises). [Island Seed & Feed in Goleta is growing Suyo Longs!]

Summer Squash and Zucchini: We recommend growing Moschata type summer squash if you have trouble growing summer squash and zucchini in your hot climate. The Moschata types have better pest and disease tolerance and produce well straight through very hot summers.Tromboncino summer squash has the extra advantage of also making excellent squash blossoms for stuffing. Waltham Butternut winter squash can be harvested small (3-5”) for eating like summer squash.  (Moschata types need nights above 60 degrees F to grow well.) You might also try edible Luffa gourds. When harvested small, they’re a great summer squash alternative.

Winter Squash and Pumpkins: As with summer squash, we recommend choosing moschata types when growing winter squash and pumpkins in the South. (Avoid pepo and maxima types.) Pretty much any moschata will thrive through hot summers, but particularly productive varieties are Seminole Pumpkin, Waltham Butternut, and Tan Cheese. Green-Striped Cushaw is from another type of squash altogether (argyrosperma or mixta). We know Southern gardeners who won’t grow anything but Cushaws: they’re super productive through our summers and their seeds are very large and tasty. The flesh tastes a little different than most winter squash and not as sweet, but it can be used in pies if you add extra sweetener.

Melons: Top Mark, Sweet Passion, and Kansas all have extra disease and/or pest tolerances.Edisto 47 is particularly recommended for hot, humid summers where fungal disease is an issue. Missouri Gold produces well through droughty conditions. [If you live in SoCal coastal foothills, plant away. If you are in the cooler beach areas, if you think we will have a HOT summer, take a chance, plant if you have room! It’s recommended to wait until May to plant cantaloupe.]

Watermelon: Crimson Sweet and Strawberry watermelon are good choices where heat and humidity make fungal diseases a problem.

Okra: Choose older and heirloom varieties of okra with deeper root systems. The deep roots give these plants resistance to nematodes and improved drought and heat tolerance, but these varieties also usually take longer to mature. Gold Coast is a variety particularly noted for its deep roots, but Stewart Zeebest and Beck’s Big Buck also are excellent heirlooms for the Deep South.

Greens: Lettuce is very difficult to grow outside when it’s hot, and spinach is pretty much impossible, but don’t give up on summer salads and cooked greens. [In coastal Santa Barbara we successfully grow heat tolerant Romaines – Sierra, Nevada, Jericho are some.]

For cooked greens, Swiss chard and turnip greens are the best choices in the South. These plants are biennials, which means they usually won’t bolt (go to seed) until they’ve gone through their first winter. So they stay tender and mild all summer. [In Santa Barbara the chard suffers so from the heat I can’t bear it. I compost it and plant again in the fall.] Sweet potato greens, New Zealand summer spinach, and the young leaves and shoot tips of squash can all be used for cooking greens.

For salads, buckwheat leaves add an unusual nutty flavor. Grain amaranths like Mayo Indian are very productive in high heat and humidity. Many heat-loving herbs add flavor to salads, including roselle, anise-hyssop, dill, & basil.

We strongly recommend Red Malabar summer spinach to anyone who hasn’t tried growing it yet. The crisp, slightly succulent leaves stay mild in high heat and maintain healthy growth all summer. The gorgeous red vines need to be trellised or caged, but this keeps the leaves clean. They’re excellent as cooking greens and in salad mixes.

See their Growing Guides & Library, remembering that planting times may vary from their location in Mineral VA and yours! Support them by buying seeds from them! Thank you!

I highly recommend subscribing to their blog for more super tips on growing your favorite veggies and trying some new ones!

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

See the entire April GBC Newsletter

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Yummerlicous basket of summer veggies grown near Mahanandi, a peaceful temple town in India.  Indira and her Husband Vijay share the traditional recipes of their families.  Brinjals, btw, are eggplants!

Each of your plants has special harvest needs and techniques to get continuing excellent returns! 

  • Be gentle in closely planted areas.  Leaf damage opens your plant to diseases and pests.  Breaking off new tender shoots stops that point of growth.
  • Harvest when your plants are dry, before you water, to reduce disease spread.

Beets  Pull when they are small and tender.  Steam the leaves too.

Broccoli  Though thought of as a winter crop, All Season brocs are perkin’ right along, prolific with side shoots!  Keep them picked to keep them coming.  Get them to the fridge ASAP because they wilt fast.

Cantaloupe is ready when it ‘slips’ from the plant – no pulling, it just comes off in your hand.

Corn is ripe when the silks turn crispy brown, and the juice is white when you pierce a kernel with your finger  nail.  Corn pretty much comes in all at once.  Get ready to feast, invite friends!  Corn turns starchy immediately, so get it to the fridge, or into that boiling water ASAP!  Cut the kernels off the cob to sprinkle over salads, freeze for winter stews.

Carrots  Poke around with your finger to see if the shoulder, the top of the carrot, is the size you want.  Loosen the soil with a spade fork if necessary, pull, rinse, eat!  I mean take them home to share with your family!  If they are hairy and forked, your soil was too rich.  If the shoulders are green, they needed to have been covered with soil.

Cucumbers!  Harvest at will.  Your choice, but big ones can be seedy.  And if you wait too long, the plant thinks it’s done and stops producing.  Harvesting smaller is better.  Keep your cucs well watered – they make a watery fruit.  Pickle some!  Grow dill beside them to be ready for pickling.

Eggplant, Aubergine.  Shiny.  When they are shiny and they don’t spring back when you press them.  The more you clip, the more you get.  Another no-store-on-the-plant!

Green Beans  Or any kind of bean!  Pick, pick, pick, carefully so as not to damage your plant, to keep them coming!  Pick when the leaves are dry, so you don’t spread diseases, and before the pods get bumpy.

Lettuces  Crisp summer lettuce salads hit the spot!  Pick the leaves last, just before you head for the fridge.  Keep taking the lower leaves.  If your plant starts to bolt (grow upward), take the whole plant right away unless you want it to seed for you, otherwise, it’s compost.

Peppers!   When they are big and they’ve got that great pepper shape!  Peppers have a specific number they reach and they won’t make any more until you pick some!

Radish  Keep them well watered for fast growth, pull before they split.  They are usually a bit hotter in summer.

Summer Squash (zucchini, crookneck, etc.)  Cut them off at your preference, but when it’s hot, keep a watch under those leaves!  Giant squash sap the strength from your plant and keep younger fruit from developing.  Harvest small for salad slices.  When you find a giant hiding, use it for stuffing and baking.  If you are getting too many, pick the blossoms off to slow them down; eat the blossoms!

See ALL about SQUASH at On The Green Farms! 

Tomatoes!  Red on the vine, before the bugs, birds or mice get them.

Watermelon  When the tendrils start to dry and the bottom of the melon turns creamy color.  If it makes a dull sound when you thump it, it’s overripe.

SEEDS!  Seeds are another kind of harvest!  Let your best plants flower and seed.  Collect those seeds for planting next year!  But not the seeds of hybrids or corn unless your corn in no way can hybridize with anyone else’s corn!

Preserve!  If you have a great abundance, start preserving!  Dry, freeze, can!

Share!  Have extra tomatoes, beans, cukes, zuchs, and you don’t have time or inclination to preserve?!  Share your abundance! Here’s how!

  • Give to Pilgrim Terrace residents!  Take your veggies to the office 8 AM to 5 PM (Modoc/Portesuello).  They watch the garden for us, so it’s good payback!  The elders really appreciate fresh veggies and herbs!
  • Santa Barbara County’s Foodbank  Drop off M-F 7 AM – 3:30 PM at  4554 Hollister Av.
  • Share at weekend Neighborhood Food Exchanges!  Dates and locations  

Thanks for your generosity when so many really need your kindness.   Just a quick stop among your errands….

Organic garden-fresh produce can’t be beat!  Enjoy every life-giving luscious bite!

Next week:  August in Your Garden!

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Foliar plant care is so easy!
Use a
Dramm Can, the Perfect Foliar Machine!

Worm Castings, Compost, Manure Tea, Fish Emulsion/Kelp for FEEDING – All in ONE!

You can easily make this tea!  A handful of castings, a handful to a cup of compost, handful of manure, stir and let them soak overnight in a bucket.  In the morning, swoosh it around in the bucket one more time, let it settle, then pour the top liquid into your watering can, the one with the up turning rose.  Add a Tablespoon Fish Emulsion/Kelp, mix, and drench your plants in the morning!  Yum!

Epsom Salts, Magnesium Sulfate, Your Solanaceaes, Peppers especially, and Roses!

Magnesium is critical for seed germination and the production of chlorophyll, fruit, and nuts. Magnesium helps strengthen cell walls and improves plants’ uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.  Magnesium deficiency in the soil may be one reason your tomato leaves yellow between the leaf veins late in the season and fruit production slows down.

Sulfur, a key element in plant growth, is critical to production of vitamins, amino acids (therefore protein), and enzymes.  Sulfur is probably the oldest known pesticide in current use. It can be used for disease control (e.g., powdery mildews, rusts, leaf blights, and fruit rots), and pests like mites, psyllids and thrips. Sulfur is nontoxic to mammals, but may irritate skin or especially eyes.  Sulfur has the potential to damage plants in hot (90°F and above), dry weather. It is also incompatible with other pesticides. Do not use sulfur within 20 to 30 days on plants where spray oils have been applied; it reacts with the oils to make a more phytotoxic combination.

Epsom Salts are easy to do!  Buy some Epsom Salts, what you soak your feet in, at the grocery store, mix a tablespoon per gallon, foliar feed!  Foliar feeding is simply sprinkling leaves with your solutions, and works better than applying to the soil!  Get a Dramm 5 liter long snouted watering can that has a turnable sprinkler head.  That long spout comes in handy, reaching well into your plant!  Turn the head so the water shoots up under the leaves then falls back on the tops!  The long arc of the handle gives lots of maneuvering ability!  Feed your plants once when they bloom, and again ten days later. The results, attributed to magnesium in the salts, are larger plants, more flowers, more fruit, thicker walled peppers!  I use this mix on all my Solanaceaes: eggplant, pepper, tomato, tomatillo.  Roses love it too! 

Baking Soda & Nonfat Powdered Milk for PREVENTION!

The bicarbonate of soda makes the leaf surface alkaline and this inhibits the germination of fungal spores. Baking soda prevents and reduces Powdery Mildew, and many other diseases on veggies, roses, and other plants!  It kills PM within minutes.  It can be used on roses every 3 to 4 days, but do your veggie plants every 5 to 10 days, or after significant rains, as the plant grows, because these new plant tissues are not yet protected yet by your fungicide.  Irrigate well 2 days before use; on a sunny day spray off as much of the PM as you can from plants in sunny locations.  A heaping Tablespoon baking soda to a gallon of water, with a 1/2 Teaspoon of a surfactant – insecticidal or dish soap or salad oil, does the job.  It is not effective without the surfactant to spread it and make it stick.  You can add a liquid fertilizer with it if you want.   Cautions:  1)  I have had no trouble using it on my veggies, but it may burn the leaves of some other plants, so try it on a few leaves first.  2)  Don’t apply during hot midday sun that can burn the leaves.  3)  Avoid over use – it is a sodium, salt.  For a definitive discussion of Baking Soda usage and research, see https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/bakingsoda.html.   The article is an easy read, nicely summarized, has references, includes cautions and info on commercial preparations.  Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties:

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

Add nonfat powdered milk to your Baking Soda fungicide!  Powdered milk is a natural germicide, boosts your plant’s immune system!  Apply right away on young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant.  A 1/4 c milk in your gallon of water.  Get under those leaves, early morning so the leaves dry and the habitat is less humid.

Also add Salicylic acid, an aspirin to the mix! It triggers a defense response in tomatoes and other plants as well, and stimulates growth!  One regular strength dissolved/gallon does the job.

Healthy plants and abundant production are so rewarding!  Just take a few minutes to give your plants a boost with these simple treatments!  Whether Dramm, or another can, get yourself a good one!  Make it easy to get up under those leaves!  Otherwise, you are treating only 1/2 your plant!

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

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

For more heat, put up a low wind barrier – straw bales, a perimeter of densely foliated plants, a big downed log, be creative. Permeable shrubs are the most effective wind barriers. Let your peppers and jicama get hot! Eggplant are Mediterranean heat lovers! Okra is Southern, hot.

Tomatoes need dryer soil to avoid the verticillium and fusarium wilt fungi, no more than an inch of loose straw to allow airflow at soil level but keep heat down. Let ‘em dry nearby; water a foot or more away from the central stem. Let that tap-root do its job, get the water below the fungi, wilt/blight zone, the top 6 to 8 inches. Drier soil is not comfy for slugs.

Get cucumbers up on a trellis, then you won’t need mulch to keep the cukes clean and bug free, but rather because they have short roots. Preplant radish to repel cucumber beetles when your cukes bloom. The radish will provide a living mulch as their leaves shade the cuke roots. Eat a few radish, but let the rest grow out to keep repelling the beetles. In time you can gather their seeds. Plant heat tolerant lettuces at their feet to act as living mulch. They both like plenty of water to keep them growing fast and sweet, so they are great companions. Slugs and snails like peas and lettuce. You will need to use a little Sluggo or its equivalent if you feel comfortable to use it.

Clearly, no mulch, more heat, equals more water needed. In drought areas, plant in basins below the main soil level. Use your long low flow water wand to water only in the basin at the roots of your plant. Fuzzy leaved plants, tomatoes and eggplant, prefer not being watered on their leaves anyway. Since there is no raised mound, there is no maintenance needed for berms surrounding the basin, but you will need to keep the basin from filling in. Plant companion littles and fillers in the basin around the base of bigger plants. They will enjoy the cooler damper soil and provide living mulch to keep that soil more cool!

LIVING MULCH  is triple productive! It mulches, provides companion plant advantages, and is a crop all at the same time! Closely planted beets, carrots, garden purslane, radish, turnips act as living mulch to themselves and bigger companion plants you plant them by. The dense canopy their leaves make lets little light in, keeps things moist. Cucumbers under broccoli are living mulch while the brocs repel cucumber beetles! If you cage or trellis your beans, most of the plant is up getting air circulation, keeping them dryer, more mildew free, if you don’t plant too densely. They, cucumbers and strawberries, also have short feet that need to stay moist, so do mulch them – your beans and cukes with clean chop and drop, straw or purchased mulch.

Zucchini, doesn’t care. They are a huge leaved plant, greedy sun lovers, that are self mulching. But, you can feed their vine up through the largest tomato cages, cut off the lower leaves and plant a family of lettuces, carrots, onions, salad bowl fixin’s or basil on the sunny side underneath! Especially preplant radish to repel cucumber beetles! All of them like plenty of water, so everyone is happy.

Cooler crops, over summering Broccoli, Kale, Chard like moist and cooler, so mulch deeply very early in spring.

Pallet Garden Strawberries Boards as MulchBoards as mulch! Your strawberries like slightly acidic soil, and acidic mulch – redwood or pine needles. Also, you can lay down boards between mini rows of strawberries to keep the soil moist under the boards, the soil between the rows that the berry roots have access to. It’s a variation on pallet gardening. The advantages of using boards are you can space or remove your boards so you can easily access the soil to add amendments, you can add or remove boards to make a bigger or smaller patch, you can make the boards the length you need or want, space them as needed per the plant. Planting between boards can be used for lots of other plants too if you won’t be planting an understory! As for your strawberries, as they leaf out and get bigger, in addition to the boards, they will be living mulch for themselves!

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

Mulching is double good on slopes and hillsides. Make rock lined water-slowing ‘S’ terrace walk ways snaking along down the hillside. Cover your berms well and deeply to prevent erosion and to hold moisture when there are drying winds. Be sure to anchor your mulch in windy areas -biodegradable anchor stakes are available.  has some clever ideas on how to keep your mulch on a slope. Plant fruit trees, your veggies on the sunny side under them, on the uphill side of your berms. Make your terrace wide enough so you don’t degrade the berms by walking on them when you harvest.

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

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

Mulch Straw Plant Now!

You don’t have to wait to plant! Pull back a planting space, add compost you have on hand or purchased, maybe mix in a little aged manure mix, worm castings, your favorite plant specific amendments. Sprinkle some mycorrhizal fungi on your transplant’s roots (exception is Brassicas), and plant! Yes!

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

Mulch is magic when done right!

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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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Cucumber Flowers

June is another grand month for planting, more heat, fast growth.  Plant in spots that have already finished; plant for succession, a continued harvest of your favorites!  If you couldn’t take advantage of April or May, step up to it now!  Seeds are good, transplants are faster if your summer palate is salivating!  Hotties like corn, cucs, beans, jicama, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, New Zealand spinach, all squashes!  I’ve planted corn in August and got great October corn!  Plant tasty year-rounds – beets, carrots, chard, cilantro, radish, turnips.  Tomatoes with basils now and next month.  More tomatoes if you will be dehydrating for camping, winter stews, snacks.   Try something new –maybe something you can’t get at the store!

Why are we discussing okra in June? Because it is time to plant okra seed for fall gardens. Depending on the variety, first pods are ready for harvest about 2 months after planting. If you plant in mid-June, you will not harvest until mid-August. If you wait until later, cool nights will decrease production. Of course, many gardeners have okra already growing that will continue to produce until frost. If these plants are too tall, they should now be cut back to a height of 4 feet so that re-branching and production will occur before cool weather arrives.  If you are an okra lover, it’s double your pleasure because it is in the hibiscus/hollyhock family and makes breathtakingly lovely flowers!  Okra is like little stars in a salad; you cut it in thin slices across the raw pod.  Or cook it traditionally, steamed, in stew, jambalaya over rice, or deep fried.  If you are driving through Mojave, there’s a restaurant on the main drag that fries it to perfection!  Perhaps the most important thing to know is okra has to be harvested while small to medium, while tender.  Otherwise, you end up with an unchewable tough monster.  Big is not better, trust me.

Biodiversity really works!  Mix it up, spread out your plantings.  Solid blocks (except for corn for pollination) of one plant or overplanting same kind plants in leaf touching rows are particularly susceptible to pest and disease spread, gopher loss.  Lose one, lose ‘em all.  To further confuse pests, pop in some herbs, basil with tomatoes, marigolds, as an understory in the between spaces!  Grow arugula and lettuces in the shade of your mighty corn!

Two on one trellis!  Check out the good size dark cucumbers hanging, and the ‘hammock’ supported melons!

Enjoy your luscious harvests!

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