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Happy Winter Solstice/Yule, Dec 21st!

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

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

December is winter’s June, harvest time! 

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

Lettuces are thriving, keep plucking the lower leaves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Onions:  Are sensitive to temperature and day length, are photothermoperiodic!  Whew!  They start bulbing only after enough daylight for a certain number of days.  To avoid bolting, in SoCal we need to plant seeds of short day onions in fall, or intermediate varieties in late winter.  Most sets are long-day types and won’t work.  Plant Grano, Granex, & Crystal Wax seeds in the ground Nov 1 to Nov 10, or bare root in January.  Granex stores a little better, all of them are sweet like Vidalia and Maui.  If you miss this window, plant intermediate onions in Feb.  Onion seeds sprout very easily!

Garlic LOVERS, if your garlic plants haven’t been as vibrant and robust as these in the image, really amend your soil, put them in full sun, feed them!  Sometimes add a tad boron and zinc to give them great taste!  Give them ample drainage and 24” deep watering.

Garlic is in the genes, I mean, the lily family, related to chives and onions.  So pretty!  Did you know roses make more pungent perfume, and more perfume, when interplanted with garlic and onions?!  Tuck some garlic in among your other flowers and veggies, but NOT with your legumes!  Like onions, garlic stunts peas and beans.

Research indicates garlic aids in lowering cholesterol, reducing cardiovascular disease, cancer prevention, relieving cold and flu symptoms.

Planting in the November/December will produce bigger cloves, but you can also plant garlic in the early spring – who can resist more fresh garlic?!  Gilroy CA, 30 miles south of San Jose, just up the road from Santa Barbara, is called The Garlic Capital of the World!  Gilroy’s Christopher Ranch was, and remains, the largest shipper of garlic in the world!  Take note that the 2012 Gilroy Garlic Festival will be July 27, 28, and 29th!  So their prime festival garlic roses had to be growing all winter and spring!  Count that backwards 7 months, and you have a Dec planting!  That means they have more daylight growing time after Winter Solstice as the days lengthen, and more growing time during warmer months!  Makes sense, yes?!  Garlic takes time – a long growing season and plenty of sun.  Be warned that overcast coastal weather may not go well with your garlic aspirations.  Also, pause, do you want to tie up that sunny land that long for such a small return?  Less insects, no vampires?  Ok, read on.  Some traditionally plant, not in late October, early November, but on Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, for harvest on the longest day of the year, Summer Solstice, or in July!  Your garlic will grow slowly all ‘winter,’ making huge bulbs!  It likes the cooler moist weather, and freezes are good for it!  You just have to be willing to feed them fat, and wait for them!

Here in SoCal, why not plant some in all the fall months?! That’s three rounds, Oct, Nov, Dec! See what works best in your microniche. If some fail, you will have others!

The garlic most of us are familiar with, commonly found in our grocery stores, are the soft-necked varieties, Artichoke and Silverskin, grown in milder climates with longer days.

California Early and California Late varieties need cold exposure of around 6 weeks below an average of about 40F for proper bulbing and clove development. It is the classic, white skinned ‘artichoke garlic’ of the supermarkets.  Continental garlic is more of a generic term covering various white or purple striped hard neck types adapted to more Mediterranean growing conditions.  That’s us.

Garlic needs choice generously amended nutritious soil, to be watered deeply, 24”, in fact!  Garlic World, at Gilroy CA, says garlic needs twice as much fertilizer as other veggies! And they need feeding during growing.  Visualize those hungry bulbs underground.  Heavy soil restricts their growth, so you want rich, loose – not water-logged, fertile!  When you drive through garlic growing country you can SMELL them!  That’s how alive they need to be!

The bigger the seed/clove, the bigger and healthier your plant will become, so plant the huge cloves, reserve the smaller ones for eating and seasoning!  Divide them just before planting.  Plant pointy end up, 2” deep, 4” apart.  Some people plant them 6” deep, others plant them just under the surface.  I’ve had them grow both ways, but to keep the bulbs moist and happy, it makes sense to give them at least that 2” depth.

When the tops start to fall over, stop watering, let the smelly little guys dry a week or two, still in the ground.  Clever harvesting means to carefully loosen the soil with a spade fork, and not bruise the bulb when you remove it.  Let it dry some more in a shady airy place 2 to 3 weeks.

RECIPES?  Fries, ice cream, pasta, sauces, soups, salsa, dips, bread, gift braids, pickled, jellied, roasted, cheese, dressings, potatoes, hummus, powdered.  Garlic cookies?!  At your pleasure.  Confessions of a Garlic Festival Food Judge  If you both love garlic, know that a couple can celebrate their anniversary by sharing the Forty Clove Garlic Chicken at The Stinking Rose in San Francisco or Beverly Hills!

Next Week:  Delicious December, Winter’s June!

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

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Mesa Harmony Garden could use your VOTE!

They are in line for a $10,000 award from RainBird, to install water wise systems in their 3-phase Food Forest installation! It’s an awesome project in Santa Barbara CA, turning unused land into a model garden, to produce food for the Food Bank – the highest % of that goes to seniors and kids.  You can vote every day if you are willing, and it is sure appreciated!  http://www.iuowawards.com/Projects.aspx#search  Blessings!

November things to know about your veggies!

PEAS, if you please!   

  • Go vertical!  Set up a trellis.  
  • Get your peas.  There are 3 kinds of peas – English shelling peas, Chinese snow peas, fat crunchy eat-‘em-off-the-vine snap peas!  I plant and enjoy them all!  Stringless is nice.  Mildew resistant is great!
  • At this time of year, plant from transplants.  Or.  Put in some from transplants at the same time as you put in some seeds.  That is equivalent to about a 6 week succession planting pattern.  Now through February, plant peas every month for continuous crop.
  • Inoculate your seeds if you haven’t grown peas there for the last 3 years.  If you had an area where peas grew well last year, grab some handfuls of that soil and put it where you are planting this year!  Rhizobia makes for abundant production.  Just sprinkle it on the seeds when you plant!  At Island Seed & Feed, one T of inoculant for 6 LBS of pea seeds is only $2!  It’s where the bulk seeds are. 
  • No manure, or very lightly, for peas, they make their own N (Nitrogen).  That’s what legumes do!
  • Peas germinate well at 40 to 75 degrees F, but the colder, the slower.  Pre-sprouting is fair, in fact, makes sense!  Sprouted seed will grow in soils too cool for germination.  YES!  Don’t you love it?!  Easy peasy has true meaning here.  Wet a paper towel on a plate, arrange your seeds on one half of the towel, not touching each other, fold the other half over.  Put them in a zip plastic bag, seal.  Put on a spot that maintains about 70 degrees.  Check those pups daily, add a wee bit of water, spray the paper towel, if needed.  Your peas will sprout in 4 or 5 days!  Soon as they sprout, put them carefully into the garden, right below the soil level.  Gently firm the soil so they have good contact.  If any fail, start another round to fill the gaps.
  • Space your pea babies about 2 inches apart.  If you are putting in seeds, put them in about an inch apart, then thin when they are of a likely height that looks like their survival is assured.
  • Birds?  If those walk-abouts are a bother, get some of that garden netting, or lay or prop those narrow patterned plastic plant flats over them.  When you aren’t using the netting on your peas, in spring & summer use it to cover your strawberries.
  • Water.  They like it.  Every day until seeds are germinated, then once a week deeply.  
  • Now we are back to the trellis.  When your plants are 1 foot to 1 ½ feet high, start weaving twine through/around them to secure them against winds and rain-heavy weight.  Those cute little tendrils just aren’t enough to hold them.  Before wind, rains, are predicted, check everybody to be sure all is secure. 

Stinky Onions?!  You bet!  Onions are sensitive to temperature and day length, photothermoperiodic!  Whew!  They start bulbing only after enough daylight for a certain number of days.  To avoid bolting, in SoCal we need to plant seeds of short day onions in fall, or intermediate varieties in late winter.  Most sets are long-day types and won’t work.  Plant Grano, Granex, & Crystal Wax seeds in the ground Nov 1, today, to Nov 10, or bare root in January.  Granex stores a little better, all of them are sweet like Vidalia and Maui.  If you miss this window, plant intermediate onions in Feb.  Onion seeds sprout very easily! 

Garlic is so easy – separate the cloves, plant in full sun, about 1 to 2 inches deep in rich humusy soil, points up, 4 inches apart.  That’s it!  Water and wait, water and wait…. 

Strawberries Anytime! But which kind?  There are 3 types of strawberries.  Deciding on whether to plant June Bearing, Everbearing, or Day Neutral strawberries depends on your available space, size of preferred strawberries and how much work you want to put into the strawberries. 

  • Everbearing (spring, summer, fall) and Day Neutral (unaffected by day length and will fruit whenever temperatures are high enough to maintain growth) are sweet and petite. They will not need much space and both are great for plant hangers. If you choose to plant them in the garden, be prepared to spend time weeding and fertilizing the plants.  Everbearing:  ♦ Sequoia, medium, heavy producer  Day Neutral/Everbearing:  ♦ Seascape, large 
  • June Bearing, mid June, strawberries produce a nice, large and sweet berry. Because they only produce for 2 to 3 weeks, there is not so much work to take care of them. You do, however, need space because of the runners.  They are classified into early, mid-season and late varieties.  ♦ Chandler, large, high yield, large quantities of small fruit later in season  ♦  Short day, Camarosa is large. It can be picked when fully red, and still have a long shelf life. This variety represents almost half of California’s current commercial acreage.  ♦  Short day, Oso Grande is a firm, large berry, with a steadier production period than Chandler. 

Do not plant strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant have been grown in the past four years, because these crops carry the root rot fungus Verticillium which also attacks strawberries 

Commercial growers replace their plants each year.  FOR THE BIGGEST AND MOST ABUNDANT STRAWBERRIES, REPLACE PLANTS EACH YEAR…

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Fat Pumpkins & Fun Hay Rides, Lane Farms, Goleta CA

 Happy Halloween! 

  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites!
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 
  • Pumpkins are used for feed for animals.
  • Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • The name ‘pumpkin’ originated from ‘pepon,’ the Greek word for ‘large melon.’
  • Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
  • As of Oct 2009, the largest pumpkin ever grown weighted 1,725 pounds!
     

DollarWise – From Grocery to Garden!

Adapted from Pat Veretto’s article…. 

Beans, Garlic, Tomatoes and more

Beans being beans, you can plant the ones that come from the grocery store. Eat half the beans, plant the rest! Beans are seeds and seeds grow.  So do whole peas, raw peanuts, popcorn, wheat berries, raw untreated spice seed (celery, anise, sesame, etc.)… well, you get the idea. Vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and fruits like watermelon, have seeds in them that will grow. Eat the food, then plant the seeds of the food you like!  

Note: Green beans of any kind, or peas in the pod bought at the produce counter, will not grow. They’re “green” – immature seed.  

If you don’t know the general planting rules for a vegetable, read seed packet at the nursery, or check online.  Easy.  

  In addition to seeds, the grocery store is a source of tubers like potatoes, yams and fresh ginger, sprouting plants like garlic and onions, and plants you can sometimes regrow, like celery, cabbage and carrots (carrot tops only, for edible greens – you won’t get another carrot).  

If you’d like to save tomato seeds to plant, first remember that tomatoes from the grocery are hybrids, unless you get heirlooms. Hybrids  mean the plant and tomato you get may not be what you expect (but it will be a tomato!). Scoop the seeds from a cut tomato and save with the liquid surrounding them, or mash a whole tomato and let it set at room temperature two or three days, then rinse gently and dry for storage, or plant them right away.  

Peppers, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, and eggplant should be allowed to mature before using the seed, as the seed matures along with the vegetable. Planting these can be an adventure, as it’s not possible to know with what or if they’ve been cross pollinated, but try it anyway.  

Garlic will grow happily in a container on your windowsill or in the ground. Buy fresh garlic and use the largest cloves to plant. Put the unpeeled clove, pointed side up, in light soil with the tip just showing. Keep the soil damp and in a few days you should see a green shoot. You can eat this top, but if you let it grow, it will eventually turn brown and dry up. That means the garlic is “done” – you can dig it up and you should have a whole bulb of garlic, from which you can choose the largest clove and start the process again. If you plant garlic outside, you can leave it over winter for a spring harvest, or plant in the spring for a late summer or early autumn harvest.  

Root Crops from the Produce Department

Did you ever sort through one of those tubs of “onion sets” looking for ones that looked alive? Then you know what a bonus buying onions that are already growing can be! Green onions, the kind packaged or rubber banded and ready to eat, can be put back in the ground and grown to full size onions. Look for onions that have a round bulb because flat or thin bulbs may be another type of onion that never grows any larger, like a winter or spring onion. Set the onions upright in two or three inches of water for a couple of hours before planting, then keep the soil damp until the roots have been reestablished. 

  Most full sized onions will regrow if you cut the root end off along with an inch or so of onion. Plant the root in good ground, and keep it watered. It will begin to sprout within a few days and you’ll have green onion shoots, and sometimes a new onion bulb.  

About the only difference between “seed potatoes” and the eating kind of potatoes from the grocery store is the size – government specifications are between 1 ½ and 3 ¼ inches diameter. Other than that, the rules are that they can’t be affected by nematode injury, freezing or various rots, soil or other damages… I truly hope that the potatoes we buy to eat are of such high quality.  

Some potatoes are treated to keep them from sprouting – you’ll want the ones that sprout. Look out for the radiation symbol on the package. Irradiated potatoes are dead – they won’t grow.  

Most sprouting potatoes can be cut to get more than one plant. Just be sure to keep enough of the potato flesh to nurture the sprout until it can develop roots. Plant potatoes when the weather is still cool, barely below ground in light, sandy or straw filled soil.  

  Is it cost effective to buy groceries to garden with? Well, you’ll usually get enough seed from one squash to plant 15 to 20 hills. One potato is enough for three to four plants each of which should produce at least a meal’s worth in a poor season. And remember the “seed quality” beans? How much does it cost for a whole pound of beans?  Buy local – farmers market, roadside stands – for seeds adapted to our area.  Buy organic for untreated seeds!  Once you grow your own, harvest the seed of your best plants, specifically adapted to your very own garden! 

Creative Home & Garden ideas says ‘If you buy some foods, such as horseradish, with the tops (or at least part of the top still attached), you can cut off the top, plant it in the ground, and it will reproduce another horseradish root just like the one you bought. The next year it will divide, and soon from only one top you will have an entire patch of horseradish.

And that’s a bargain. When was the last time you bought something, ate it, and still had 200 of them left over?

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