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

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

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

Just in case, have old sheets, light blankets, old towels handy. If a freeze is predicted, for small plants, like tender lettuces, just lay tomato cages on their sides and put your coverings over them. Secure them well so wind doesn’t blow them around and damage your plants. Remove them when the sun comes out! No cooking your plants before their time!

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

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

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

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

With your summer garden layout in mind, get SEEDS! Start them indoors NOW to be planted in March! After a HOT summer and fall that had even the heat lovers groaning, we have had a coolish November and December. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have another hot summer. Check your 2016 seed catalogs for drought and heat tolerant varieties or look in southern states or world areas that have desert low water needs plants and order up! The seeds of these types may need to be planted deeper and earlier than more local plants for moisture they need. They may mature earlier. Be prepared to do second plantings and use a little water.

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

Check out  Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips & Ideas! If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, wait and get transplants and pop them right in the ground per their right times! No fuss, no muss.

If you love your winter crops, and aren’t necessarily in a rush to do spring/summer, amend your soil immediately and plant one more round, from transplants if you can get them or have starts of your own. In cooler January weather, plantings will mature slowly, but they will mature faster than usual as days get longer, temps are warmer. Most January plantings will be coming in March, April. That’s still in good time for soil preps in April for the first spring plantings in April/May.

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

For us SoCal gardeners, besides beautiful bareroot roses, this month is bareroot veggies time! They don’t have soil on their roots, so plant immediately or keep them moist! Grape vines; artichokes; short-day (sweet) globe onions; strawberries; cane berries such as raspberries (get low-chill types); low-chill blueberries; and rhubarb, asparagus, and horseradish. Bare root planting is strictly a January thing. February is too late.

Plant MORE of these delicious morsels now! Arugula, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts if you get winter chill, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, culinary dandelions, garden purslane, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, Mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes – especially daikons, and turnips!

When you put in new transplants, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs from seriously damaging or disappearing them while they are small. Before you anticipate your seedlings coming up, sprinkle some pellets around the plant, along both sides of rows. That keeps the creatures from mowing them overnight, making you think they never came up! Do this a few times, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for a while.

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

If you need more robust soil, do something absolutely yummy with it! This is perfect timing to put in some green manure where you will plant heavy summer feeders – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, chilis, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and corn; hungry stalk vegetables like celery, fennel, rhubarb, and artichokes; or continually producing green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard. Or you can ‘rest’ an area by covering it with a good 6″ to a foot deep of mulch/straw! That will flatten down in no time at all! Simply let the herds of soil organisms do their work over winter. That’s called sheet composting or composting in place – no turning or having to move it when it’s finished. If you are vermicomposting, have worms, add a few handfuls to speed up and enrich the process. Come spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Repeat! Excellent Winter Garden Practices:

Thin any plants you intentionally over planted – carrots, beets, turnips, kale, chard, mustard. If you planted too close together, take out the shorter, weaker plants. Keep thinning beets as they get bigger, taking small ones from between the ones getting larger. Thinnings are great in your salads along with small tender Brassica leaves.

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

Especially feed your cabbages, lightly, time to time, because they are making leaf after leaf, dense heads, working hard. I often see kales lose their perk. You would too if someone kept pulling your leaves off and never fed you. Feed them too, please, while feeding your cabbages.Don’t feed carrots, they will fork and grow hairy! Overwatering makes them split. Your peas and favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, feeding themselves, so little to no feeding is needed for them.

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

In SoCal, winter is not a time for mulching except for erosion control. Its purpose in summer is to keep the soil and plant roots cool, and retain moisture. In winter, we pull the mulch back to let the soil warm up during the short days. Also, it’s good to remove pest habitat, let the soil dry a bit between rains to kill off the wilts fungi, and let Bagrada bug eggs die. Do not keep straw from areas where there have been infestations. Bag up clean summer straw, mulches, for compost pile layers during winter or lay the straw under the boards in pathways to feed the soil there. Later, move the pathway over, left or right, and plant in that fertile soil that is now under the boards!

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

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

  • Gophers  You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after the rains. If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.
  • Aphids  Watch for leaves unnaturally curled along the length of the leaf, particularly broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages. Squish or wash any or the colony away immediately, and keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed. After that, water less so plant leaves will be less tender and inviting.
  • White flies  Flush away, especially under the leaves. They are attracted to yellow, so keep  those Brassica yellowing, yellowed leaves removed pronto. Again, a little less water.
  • Leafminers  Keep watch on your chard and beet leaves. Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make; immediately remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners, especially the leaves that touch another plant. Water and feed just a little less to make those leaves less inviting. Plant so mature leaves don’t touch. Rather than row plant, interplant here and there.
  • Slugs, Snails  Lay down Sluggo, or the like, before seedlings even get started, immediately when you put your transplants in! Once stopped, there will be intervals when there are none at all. If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another couple rounds.

COMPOST always! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost is easy to make, and if you make it, you know what’s in it! Added to your soil, made or purchased, it increases water holding capacity, is nutritious, soil organisms flourish, your soil lives and breathes! It feeds just perfectly! Make it HOT, Cold, or In place!  Dry is dead, so be sure it is always slightly moist.

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

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

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

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

See the entire January GBC Newsletter:

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

Events!  January 31, 2016 Santa Barbara Seed Swap!

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Solitary Bee Hotel perfect for small garden!Bee Solitary Home Simple on Post

Put your bee home up in March or early April! This will offer prime nesting sites for solitary bees for laying their eggs. Soon they will be buzzing, hovering and feasting about your veggie garden! Plant their favorite flower foods in time to feed them! In addition, let a carrot or two, a celery, some cilantros and arugula flower up!

(Several excerpts from the UC California Agriculture Urban Bee Study)

California has 1600 native species of bees! Santa Barbara County has 5 families, 19 genera, 67 species! Solitary bees deserve a sweet space in our gardens and in our hearts!

Plant what they eat!

In an urban bee study by UC California Agriculture, California plants that got high counts of visits were easily accessible plants, cosmos (Cosmos spp.), lavender (Lavandula spp.) and catnip mint (Nepeta spp.), partly due to their long flowering periods. Of native bees throughout California, the two most attractive plant families to bees were Asteraceae (which provide pollen and nectar) and Lamiaceae (which provide nectar).

Bumble bees (Bombus spp.), small sweat bees (Halictidae) and honey bees all enjoy California Poppy. Honey bees and large carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) love palo verde (parkinsonia aculeata), wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and autumn sage (Salvia greggii/microphylla/cvs.). Digger bees (Anthophora edwardsii) forage faithfully on manzanita flowers (Arctostaphylos).

Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) and sunflower (Heianthus an-nuus) attract long-horn bees (Melissodes spp.) and honey bees.

Already you have learned the names of some of your bees, plus what they like to dine on! Plant different kinds of plants to bring more bee diversity!

Some 60 to 80 species were identified in each city; the ultra-green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) was among the most common. Top, a female on bidens (Bidens ferulifolia); above, a male on sea daisy (Erigeron glaucus).Some 60 to 80 species were identified in each city where study counts were done; the ultra-green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) was among the most common. Top, a female on bidens (Bidens ferulifolia); below, a male on sea daisy (Erigeron glaucus). Many bees lived here before urbanization; they and others have adapted. For example, honey bees (Apis mellifera), alfalfa leafcutting bees (Megachile ro-tundata), Megachile apicalis and Hylaeus punctatus. Megachile ro-tundata is a commercially important leafcutting bee. Honey bees, the most common yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii), the large carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex) and the ultra-green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) live throughout California.

Severely wet winters and springs are hard on bees. They prefer warm, sunny mornings with little or no wind.

And, they need safe living quarters!

Bee hotels, a pollinator’s paradise, are small to large, simple to elaborate! Pollinators’ housing needs are hugely diverse! Bare soil, hollow twigs, big holes in trees, little holes of only a certain depth.

Solitary (nonsocial) bees will nest in a variety of substrates in urban gardens. The digger bee (Anthophora edwardsii) nests in bare dirt. About 70% of solitary bees nest in the ground! Solitary means a male and a female bee mate, and the female constructs a nest and lays an egg in each single cell she creates, with 3 to 10 cells per nest depending on space; there is no hive, division of labor or social structure as in the social honey bees and bumble bees.

Many of these solitary bees prefer to construct their nests in soils with specific characteristics, such as composition, texture, compaction, slope and exposure. Nesting habitat can be provided for these bees in gardens by leaving bare soil and providing areas of specially prepared soil, from sand to heavy clay to adobe blocks. Make a Miner bee nest! Excessive mulching with wood chips will greatly discourage ground-nesting bees, which need bare soil or a thin layer of natural leaf litter.

How to Recognize Solitary Miner Bee Nests in SoilIf you see soil like this, DO NOT WALK ON IT, rope it off so others don’t either. The Miner bee nests in colonies of separate tunnels excavated into hard clay. Females construct the nest, softening the hard clay with regurgitated water and removing clay particles with their mandibles.

Other bees nest in pre-existing cavities. Honey bees nest in large tree cavities, underground and in human structures such as the spaces between walls, chimneys and water-meter boxes. Bumble bees commonly nest in abandoned rodent burrows and sometimes in bird nest boxes. Most cavity-nesting solitary bees such as Hylaeus (Colletidae), and most leafcutting bees and mason bees (Osmia [Megachilidae]) prefer beetle burrows in wood or hollow plant stems. Nest habitats for these bees can be supplemented by drilling holes of various diameters (especially 3/16 to 5/16 inches) in scrap lumber or fence posts, or by making and setting out special wooden domiciles in the garden. Once occupied by bees, these cavities must be protected from sun and water exposure until the following year, when adult bees emerge to start new generations. Neglecting to protect drilled cavities occupied by bees can lead to bee mortality. Some people tuck them back in old mailboxes. You will find some excellent bee care tips at Wings in Flight!

A special note about the importance of Bumble bees! Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, but bumble bees DO! They do what is called buzz pollination, sonication! Please see all about in Sue Rosenthal’s post at Bay Nature! And Bumblebees can harvest pollen from flowers 400 times faster than honey bees can!
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Bee Solitary Various Nesting Needs

Solitary Bee Nests in 4X4s and Bamboo

Hollow twigs, bamboo, various size holes drilled in logs and 4X4s.

Solitary Mason Bee Adult Emerging from Nest Bee Solitary Mason Nests
Left, sealed nursery chambers. Right, adult emerging from nest.

Bee Solitary Nesting Materials
Image by French photographer Franck Barske

Some bees are big, others need very tiny spaces!

Large carpenter bees (Xylocopa) excavate their nest tunnels in soft wood such as redwood arbors or fences, and small carpenter bees (Ceratina) use pithy stems such as elderberry or old sunflower stalks. Partitions between the brood cells are usually composed of bits of excavated material.

Solitary Bee Farm Size Nest!

How good does it get?! This is an epic weather protected, farm-size community for solitary bees that opens to both sides!

How about this Pollinator Condo?! [It needs weather protection….] Lower larger holes are for Bumblebees. Bumblebees will also nest in old bird houses.

Solitary Bee Home, Pollinator Condo!

What a creative beauty this one is and uses so many natural materials!

Solitary Bee House, artsy crafty DIY Homemade, Gourd and Gorgeous!

You can buy bee homes, even bee home making kits, but if you are even a little bit crafty, why not make one?! It could be big, it could be on a post, or small and decorated hung among the tomatoes! Please check out these super important detailed tips here!

The bees will love you!

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, then became this blog too! All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. 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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Red Russian Kale leaves and raindrops at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara Ca Jan 6, 2016

Raindrops on Red Russian Kale leaves at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

Skillful Preparation

When you build your garden, make raised beds, mounds, berms for water capture. Install channels to help with drainage issues.

Mulch sloped areas to hold water in place to soak in, and keep soil from eroding. Anchor the mulch in some way to keep it from washing away. Bark chips are not a good choice. Keep every drop of rain on your property to water your trees and to improve our water table. Remember, slow, spread, sink

Make ‘permanent’ pathways with boards, stepping stones, straw bedding, so you won’t be compacting your planting area soil when it is wet or dry! Best is to lay down straw then put a board or two side by side on top. This holds the straw in place, in case of winds, and the straw will feed your soil for good spring planting.

Set up to harvest rainwater for later use, even if it is just putting out containers and buckets here and there!

Way ahead of time, plant for air circulation so foliage dries quickly. Plants too closely spaced, make a warmer micro environment, mildew easier. Choose mildew resistant varieties!

Keep a Weather Watch! 

  • Mulch! Lay down some straw to avoid mud splatter on lettuce leaves, keep fruits clean, up off soggy ground, above the insect soil level zone. Insects stay safe below the mulch, don’t venture above where predators and birds can get them.
  • Lay down fertilizer – manure, compost before a rain so the fertilizer will soak in. Perfect time to sidedress established plants! Be sure there are berms to keep it where you want it and it won’t wash away.
  • Dig in compost and castings in the top few inches of your soil.  When the rain comes, it’s like making compost and worm tea all at once in place.  They improve your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • Take the cover off your compost to let it get wet.  Or cover it to keep it just moist and warm and in steady decomposition.
  • Tie or stake plants that may topple from wind or water weight. Stake cages, trellises that might get blown over. Secure plants growing on trellises to the trellises.
  • Planting! For planting seeds, it depends on whether it matters where they will end up. For example, a green manure cover crop needs no formal rows or placements. If you want a plant where you put it, might be good to wait until after the rain. Near-the-surface seeds, or small seeds, ones not so hard or heavy, can be uncovered or buried, washed away or likely rot if they get in a puddle. Bean seeds can rot, virtually dissolve, in a couple days. Plant delicate transplants ASAP just after rain. If it’s expected to be a heavy rain, wait, so your plants don’t literally drown. Plant just after the rain. The sun will warm up the soil and off they will go! 

During a rainy period….

  • If you didn’t before, if it’s a light rain, get out there in your rain gear and add some compost, manure or fertilizer! Great excuse to play in the rain! Otherwise, no digging in saturated soil. It destroys soil structure that soil organisms make and need, stops oxygen flow the soil needs.
  • Check frequently to see how your plants are doing. Secure any tall plants, trellises that need it.
  • If a plant is too low and in standing water, raise it. Put your shovel deep under it, so not to harm the roots, push some filler soil underneath the shovel!
  • Add more mulch to sloped areas if it has shifted or isn’t quite deep enough.
  • Be sure your wormbox worms are not doing the backstroke! I cover mine with plastic INSIDE the worm box.  Any water either runs down the sides and out the bottom or puddles on the plastic. Easy to remove.
  • If the compost heap is wet enough now, cover it.
  • Rebuild any drainage channel that has weakened, clear if clogged. Rebuild water capture berms that have slumped. Level out areas that puddle.
  • Make sure all your rain harvest system is working well. Kudos to you for harvesting!
  • Practice arm-chair gardening! Read garden books, magazines, browse web sites, buy some seeds from mail-order catalogs, design your new garden layout!
  • Get some seeds, soilless potting mix, gather containers with, or make, drainage holes. Start some seeds indoors!
  • If the rain is prolonged, uh, do an aphid, snail and slug check as frequently as you can. Sluggo works on snails and slugs even when it is wet. Hard to believe, but, yes, it does.
  • If the rain is prolonged, do harvest your fresh and crunchy produce! Lettuces will flourish!
  • Check on fast maturing broccoli and cauliflower heads to cut at peak maturity! Gather your luscious strawberries. Keep your peas/beans picked to keep them coming!

After the rain! YES!

  • Be ready to weed! Do some dust mulching. It is simply soil cultivation to about 2 or 3 inches deep. Cultivation disturbs the soil surface and interrupts the wicking of soil moisture from below to the surface and losing it to evaporation.  Do it after rains or irrigating. It’s commonly done by dry farmers. A hula hoe does a great job in pathways, over wide areas! Those little 3 prong hand held or long handled stand up cultivators are great among your plants.
  • Do some thinning for air circulation as makes sense. Often there is a growth spurt, and you can see where thinning is needed.
  • Repair areas where soil has washed away exposing roots, carrot, beet, radish, parsnip or turnip shoulders.
  • Repair any berms or terracing, level out high/low spots. Clear clogged drains.
  • ASAP do what you do about snails and slugs. Keep checking for aphids – blast them away with water or remove infested leaves.
  • There is often more gopher activity after rain has softened the soil, so be ready! Here’s all about gophers and how to set Macabee traps! OR, now that the soil is softened, install a 1/2″ grid hardware cloth wire barrier basket under your entire garden area!
  • Harvest first, water second at ground level! That’s the rule to keep from spreading diseases spread by moisture.
  • It’s often warmer after a rain, and it is the warmth that mildew loves! Drench mildew susceptible plants with your mildew mix immediately. Apply it preferably before sunrise so it has time to be absorbed before it dries. Absorption can be in as quick as an hour! If you can’t do the sunrise schedule, do it early in the day while your plants are still shaded, and early enough so your plants can dry. If you prune mildewed areas off, remove those prunings, wash your hands and pruners before you go on to other plants. Water less frequently and at ground level, not overhead.

Easy homemade MIX for mildew prevention and abatementIt works for certain other diseases too! Be sure to spray up under leaves as well.

  • Heaping tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of nonfat (so it won’t rot and stink) powdered milk
  • One mashed regular 325 mg Aspirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dish soap
  • In a large watering can of water, preferably with a long spout so you can get in to the plant’s central leaves too.

Remember, here in SoCal, a light rain may not begin to wet your soil, not even a 1/4″ deep! Always do the old finger test to see what’s what. Sometimes you need to water after a rain!

I swear, Rainwater IS different than hose water! Plants just jump right out of the ground! Enjoy!

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

Read Full Post »

Winter Garden Design!

Winter veggies are super nutritious, well worth growing!

Winter veggies are some of the most nutritious, well worth growing!

Any garden design starts with where the garden is!  It can be part of your ornamental landscape, an area set aside in your yard – front, back, side, at a Community Garden, many places – even a ‘stolen’ spot along a street!  If you are planting at home, creating an edible landscape, remember, it can be beautiful and nutritious.  You can use as little or as much space as you like.  When we say things like ‘Food Not Lawns,’ you choose how much space you want to use for food, for your lawn, if any, whether you want box raised beds, or less intrusive looking mounds or terraced areas.  You are the creator!

If you haven’t already done, now is the time to think on how to design your garden for your winter veggie garden needs! How will you get the best out of your available area? If you are an experienced gardener, what can you do differently this year? Your design can be as simple as the one below, or you can check online for wonderful design sites!

Garden design can be simple or use marvelous online design companies for more complex needs!

For heat capture, the ideal is the Food Forest layout! Have a perimeter of trees in a U shape with the opening to the south. Read Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway! Or plant right next to the warm house! Greenhouses are lovely. Even small ones, or DIY cold frames are a blessing!

Sun/Shade Winter veggies enjoy full sun just like summer veggies! If you don’t have room for a Food Forest, generally the rule is tall to the north, short to the south. If you have shade, then tall goes into the shaded area, short and shorter in front of them.

Wind Strategies: Plant cold tolerant fruit tree with berry shrub borders on their sunny side, on the side the wind comes from. For small areas, use straw bales for the same effect, or erect a board enclosure. If you will be growing vining peas, use your trellises as windbreaks, being sure to stake them securely. On a balcony or deck, put tall box planters with trellises along the area the prevailing wind comes from. Secure them well too!

Rain/Water
• Design for good drainage, avoid planting in areas that flood. Even water loving veggies don’t like wet feet! But, if that’s the only area you have, install raised beds, or rock lined bioswales to slow, spread, and sink water to improve your water table.
• Plant on top of mounds and furrows (tops flattened), mulching the sides to reduce erosion, water gently so the mulch doesn’t wash away.
• On hillsides, plant just inside the top of the outer rim of the raised lip of the terrace, mulch well, water gently. Fill the lower inside of the terrace with cobble to slow rainwater, prevent erosion.
• On high areas, dig out the center and if you need to, use that soil to raise the perimeters to capture water for water-loving plants – lettuces, chard, carrots, bunch onions. Add some sand to improve drainage if needed.

Freezes?! If your area has freezes, pick a windy location that keeps cold winter air moving. Remove perimeter shrubs that stop air flow. And get out your floating row covers! You can use them to extend your fall harvests and start spring plants sooner too!

Bon appetit!

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Harvest, Replant, Maintenance, Spring Preps, SEEDS! 

Keep harvesting!  Plant consideringly.  That means, summer planting starts in March.  January, February are generally cold, so slow growth though day length is getting longer.  Keep in mind what space you want available in March for the March starts.  If you are a winter plant lover gardener, one way to do this is to plant another round of your favorite winter plants, then in March designate a ‘nursery’ area, and start your summer seeds there.  Transplant the babies to their permanent locations as the spaces become available.  That in mind, plant more broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, kale, kohlrabi, potatoes.  Plant an understory of all year favorites – beets, carrots, parsley, radish, and turnips, on the sunny sides of taller plants.  And LETTUCES!  They love January!

January IS bareroot month!  Start bareroot artichokes, short day globe onions, strawberries (if you missed November), asparagus, horseradish (Be warned! Invasive).  Depending on the weather, strawberry flowers may appear shortly after planting.  Remove them so more energy goes into root development.  Seascape, developed by UC Davis, is an everbearer strawberry that produces well in our moderate coastal climate most of the year. Sequoia is an large berried everbearer; Chandler is a June bearer – produces May/June, then done.  For those of you at home, plant bareroot cane berries, blueberries, roses, deciduous fruit trees!  Visit Bay Laurel Nursery in Atascadero!

Clear overwintering pest habitat, debris; weed.  Turn top soil to aerate and let the bad fungi die, pray for the good ones.  Sidedress your producing plants lightly – add some fish emulsion with kelp.  Sprinkle and lightly dig in cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal or fish meal.  Keep a weather watch; keep those old sheets and coverings about in case of hard freezes.  Farmers’ Almanac on Frost   Weather.com Frost Map  Make this one your home page during cold winter months.  No mulch this time of year; it keeps the soil cold.  Rain Tips!  Secure peas and tall plants.

If you have been growing favas, time to secure them from winds, rain.  Pop in a few stakes and tie them with that green stretchy stuff, or some twine.  If they have too much shade, water or fertilizer, they will go to leaf and no bean pods.  If that happens, pinch off the growing tips.  Take ‘em straight to your kitchen for steaming or stir fry!  Back at your garden, side-dress with a sprinkly organic box fertilizer or fish emulsion with kelp, or whatever your choice is, water well!  Takes about a week for the beans to appear.  Let them get 5 to 8 inches, filled with beans, and their yours – tasty and high in protein!  If you are growing for seed, let the pods blacken and dry.  Black?  Yep, I know, counter intuitive.

Make compost, start preparing your soil for spring planting.  Make raised beds.  Plan your spring garden; get seeds, wait until March to start planting your summer veggies.  Wait for it.  Plants planted out of season struggle with weather, day length, temps, and are susceptible to pests and diseases they aren’t naturally able to fend off.  Now, if you have a greenhouse….

No greenhouse?  Start Seeds Indoors – we are now the prerequisite six to eight weeks away from March!  Start tomatoes, marigolds, peppers, cosmos, zucchini, impatiens, salvia, basil, and others.  Especially start peppers!  They take longer than other veggies.  Otherwise, wait until all chance of freezing temperatures have passed and buy transplants at your favorite nursery.  I’ve seen zucchini started in the ground in January thrive.  If it doesn’t come up, no problem!  Put some more seeds in soon again!  Keep planting.  I haven’t seen it work with tomatoes, but Marshall Chrostowski of Pacifica Institute’s Garden starts his toms in January for late March picking!  He uses heat transmitting black row covers on the ground, and floating row covers above.  That’s clear plastic with holes over hoops.  They make the soil 15 degrees warmer, with 15-20% warmer air!  You can buy floating row covers at your nursery.  Give it a try! Eating garden fresh organic tomatoes late March?! Yum! Row covers will speed up your notorious slow-grower peppers too! Not only do floating row covers warm things up, but they keep flying pests away from your plants! Check out Digital Seed’s Planting Schedule!

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Have you already seen Part 1?  Why soak or presprout, all about seeds, how seed coats function; soaking times, seed soaking solutions.

Soaking Pea Seeds - Floaters are Dead, Sinkers You Plant!

Scarify Seeds  Scarify pea seeds to speed up absorption of water, and therefore, germination.  Rub them between sheets of coarse sandpaper, or clip them with a nail clipper by making a slice through the seed coat, not the seed, with a nail clipper [not removing a chunk]! This happens naturally in nature when a mouse with muchies comes along and nibbles seeds.

EZ Planting Techniques!  

1.  You will find that small wet seeds do not sow as well as dry seeds. They cling to your fingers, and tend to drop in gobs. This can easily be remedied by laying the seed on a paper towel for a little while. Not only will they be really easy to see, but the surface water will be drawn off, and the shell of the seed will continue to remain soft and moist until you have time to plant them.  They germinate in 2 days usually!

2.  Nutsy but fun!  With smaller seeds, you can make seed tapes if you plant in rows or if you plant in blocks, you can even just glue them to a thin paper napkin with some Elmers glue (the white, water soluble kind) to ensure the spacing you want without having to thin them. Purely optional though.  Maybe the kids could do it for you, or as a class project?!

3.  Carl Wilson, Denver County Cooperative Extension Agent, Horticulture says pre-germinating seed indoors is helpful in early spring because sprouted seed will grow in soils too cool for germination. It’s easy to sprout seeds on moistened paper towels sealed in a plastic bag for a few days. The difficult part is to sow fragile young seedlings without injury to them. The solution is sowing in a fluid gel, called fluid seeding.

To make a gel for planting seeds, add one tablespoon cornstarch to one cup of water and bring to a boil. Cool the starch mixture to room temperature before pouring it into a plastic sandwich bag. Gently ease your germinated seeds into the gel and close the bag with a twist tie. If the weather is not right for planting, store the gel bags in the refrigerator for a few days until conditions improve. To plant, snip the corner off the plastic bag and squeeze the gel and seedlings into the planting furrow as you would toothpaste from a tube.  [Great for carrot seeds!]

4.  The easiest method for sowing seeds after soaking is to put them in a plastic squeeze bottle along with some water. If you keep swishing the solution in the bottle as you hold it in an upturned position, you can get an even distribution of seeds. This, of course, is for fine seeds such as parsley, onion, celery, asparagus, and carrots.

Hot weather seed tricks:  Water furrow deeply before planting. After planting, place a board over it to keep soil moist and cooler. Requires regular peeking for signs of germination. Presoak your seeds. Plant deeper. Space farther apart.

You can plant carrots, parsley, celery, lettuce, coriander, etc. in 100-degree temperatures. Keep the soil cool, reduce light intensity and maintain soil moisture. Add humus to soil first.

Carrots, parsnips, peas don’t like recently manured ground but the cabbage family, fennel, onions, lettuce and late squash and corn love it.

Water the garden area thoroughly the day before planting. Moist seeds, moist soil = quicker germination. After that, you have to watch your seedlings and make sure they don’t dry out or that they are not drowned by over-enthusiastic watering.  [Practice until you get it right.  Don’t give up if you don’t get any seedlings the first time, even the first few times you try – be sure your seeds are viable.]

Au Naturel!  From Glib at iVillage Garden Web:  In my view, a better technique involves watching the weather forecast at the appropriate time of the year. When 80%+ rain is forecast, abandon any other project and seed the hell out of the garden. There are a few windows of opportunity during the year when direct seeding is easy.  Part of the art is knowing when the time is right for direct seeding. It is not just the rain but also the overcast skies that help.

This works well in spring and early summer around here (Michigan). Rains are fairly frequent, and seedlings “know” that if they emerge and the air temp is a bit low they should stick close to the ground for a while. There will be no transplant shock, and the workload is truly minimal (minimal work is always interesting to me). When the temps increase, they are 100% ready and take off.

In August this does not work so well, if you have to plant your kale for Fall and winter. Then soaking, followed by twice a day misting, is the least worst technique. Still, if you have your seedlings coming up under a searing sun it is not good. You still want to look at the forecast and see if you can catch a cloudy day or two. Lacking that, keep those Ikea cardboard boxes around, opened flat. They can cover a bed in mid day if needed.  [Or pole up some garden shade cloth, or prop up some of those latticed plastic flats, the ones with the 1/4” lattice.]

There you have it!  Take your pick or don’t!  If you do, let me know your successes…and failures.  

Please also see Part 1! Why soak or presprout, all about seeds, how seed coats function; soaking times, seed soaking solutions.

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The 3rd Annual Seed Swap was a great success!  I found some great fava beans donated by Tom Shepherd, Shepherd Farms.  I’m still looking for some jicama seeds.  There were wonderful talks, was lively music, new friendships made, and, of course, seeds gathered for mighty planting!  If you didn’t make it this year, be sure to come next year! 

Feb 5 Banana Plantation & Mulching Party at Mesa Harmony Garden!  8 AM to 1 PM, Holy Cross Church, Meigs/Cliff Dr.  Wheelbarrows, picks, pitchforks, shovels needed – bring if you can!  Over 100 fruit and nut trees have been planted already, now it’s BANANA planting time!  Come see the 34 plot community garden and the project!  Get inspired!  

Feg 14  Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Feb 19 The Seed Ball Making Party!  11 AM to 4  PM at Plaza de Vera Cruz  – across the street from the Saturday Farmer’s Market, where Sol Foods Festival was.   If there is rain the new location will be posted on eatthestreet.org.  If you have seeds to share, please do bring them.  And bring some snacks or dishes to share if you wish!

What is a seed ball?  Think of them like this:  Little Adobe Gardens  Imagine then, a clay ball the size of a large marble. Imagine also that it contains seeds for a complete habitat. The seed ball could contain plant potential for an entire ecosystem.  It can be made by anyone, anywhere in the world where there is clay, compost, seed and water.  The ball is tossed wherever you want to plant, rain moistens it, the clay ‘melts’ its nutrients into the surrounding soil and blankets the seeds with minerals & vitamins.  Covered & moist, they germinate, voila!  Flowers!  Or veggies! 

In honor of Masanobu Fukuoka, the Father of Seed Balls, The Story of Seed Balls by Jim ‘Catfish’ Bones:


Feb 27  Santa Barbara Guerilla Planting Day!  The Seed Ball Party is purposely planned to precede a day of Guerilla Planting, planting anything and anywhere, respectfully!  Particularly it is emphasizing planting unused land – flowers or vegetables!  Some people will be planting trees!  Several downtown Santa Barbara businesses are already planning creative events!  One brewery is going to plant Barley!   

Feb 26  10 AM  Vegetable Gardening with Oscar Carmona  La Sumida NurseryRain or shine. Class is free! 

Feb 26-27 Santa Barbara Spring Home & Garden Expo!  HOME should be an experience, not just an address. 
Earl Warren Showgrounds     Saturday 10 – 5,  Sunday 10 – 4
Admission: Adults $6.00, Kids 12 & under are free  Parking: Free
*A portion of the proceeds benefit the Community Environmental Council (CEC) 

Fairview Gardens Urban Homesteading is an exciting new series of classes scheduled throughout the year.  Some of the classes filled the first day the announcement was made, so sign up right away for any you are considering, and ask to be on a list for a 2nd group to be formed!   It is a wonderful way to reconnect with the earth. The series, designed by the staff at Fairview, covers everything from container gardening, composting and raising chickens, to canning, preserving, and more, taught by the best people in our community on site at the farm.  (805)967-7369  info@fairviewgardens.org

Apr 16 & 17, CEC’s Earth Day Festival 2011!

Give your Valentine a basket of veggies and some seeds to plant!  Have a great month!

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