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Summer Harvest Basket of Super Fresh Veggies!
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! 

Keep harvesting, it keeps your plants producing! Canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying are on the agenda! Check up on your winter squashes to see if they are ready to harvest and store. It’s Seed Saving time!

Though crazy busy with harvests, gardeners have fall planting on their minds. Among HOT August days, there are ones that have a hint of fall. Days are a tad shorter; shadows in different places now. As summer plants finish, nursery bed areas are becoming available. The soil is being prepared for first fall plantings now through mid August, especially from seed! Often these special nurseries are made in semi shaded areas, seedlings to be transplanted as they get bigger as spaces become available.

Plant your seeds far enough apart to get your trowel in to pick up your little plants to move them one by one to their new homes. Some are planted under finishing plants to take the finishing plant’s place, like peas under beans. Pop in some baby kale or cabbage between the tomatoes and peppers. Safe in a greenhouse is wonderful too!

Already, get your seed packs for celery, chard, mustard greens, parsley, peas, winter radish varieties, and Brassicas if we don’t have Bagrada Bugs: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, turnips. See Super Fall Veggies for help on choosing the very best varieties and Fall companion planting! Winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler, and you will have a much earlier crop. Be sure to leave space to plant additional rounds to keep steady table supply.

If you have Bagrada Bugs, wait until cooler October, when the bugs are gone, to plant Brassicas. That includes arugula, mustards, radish. See more about Bagrada Bugs management.

If you don’t have time to fuss with seeds, will be away at the critical time, keep harvesting, do your soil preps, and wait for September or October transplanting. Labor Day weekend is a favorite big planting time for many gardeners, and that’s only a month away now! At that time you can plant both seeds and transplants for two rounds at once, the seeds coming in six weeks after the transplants!

Summer plants you can still plant for early fall harvests, are beans and early maturing determinate tomatoes and corn. Corn is more disease prone at this time though.

Tuck in your year-round fillers, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, winter radish, to keep a colorful variety for your table.

ONIONS For the biggest, sweetest harvests, late summer and early fall are the prime times to sow seeds of short- or intermediate-day onions. Fall-sown short- and intermediate-day onions tend to yield more and are larger and sweeter than those seeded or transplanted in early spring.  Onions have stupendous flavor and come in white, yellow, red!

Give your late favorite summer/fall heavy producers you are keeping a good feed (sidedress).  Eggplants have a large fruit, beans put out a ton of beans, tomatoes are big and working hard, peppers can be profuse! They like a tad of chicken manures scratched in, bunny poop and straw (pick up at Animal Shelters), well aged horse manure and compost makes them dance with the faeries in the night time! Fertilizers highest in P, Phosphorus, keeps blooming and fruiting optimum.

  • Peppers specially like a foliar feed of non-fat powdered milk (Calcium) and Epsom Salts (Magnesium & Sulfur). They also can use more Potassium. This time of year kelp meal is good source and releases quickly. If you have predators about, don’t get the kind mixed with fish emulsion.
  • For deeper root feeding, use a spade fork to make holes about your plant. Push it into the soil, wiggle back and forth a bit, then pour a tasty compost/manure/worm tea down the holes. That will feed at root level and give the soil organisms something to think about!

Keep your watering steady out to the dripline to avoid slowing or stopping production or having misshapen fruits – that’s curled beans, odd shaped peppers, catfaced strawberries. Keep your soil moist. In hot late summer weather water short rooted high production plants like beans, cucumbers, lettuces and strawberries more frequently. Keep them well mulched, especially the cucumbers.  Keep them off the ground to protect them from suffering wilts fungi. I put down straw 1″ deep. You want the soil covered, but able to allow airflow, dry up the wilts.

In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons, big squashes and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when their stem is brown and dry, or they ‘slip’ off the vine. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate. Harvest okra while it is small and tender – bigger is NOT better! Let your winter squash harden. When you can’t push your fingernail in it, it’s ready.

In the cool of summer evenings design your fall garden! Move plants from the nursery area as space becomes available, but have a plan too. Tall plants, trellises, to the North or on the shady side, then plants of graduated sizes to the South or sunniest areas. Peas need a string or wire trellis for their tiny tendrils. They aren’t like beans that twine anything. Few winter plants need support, but big brocs, tall kales sometimes need staking. If they ‘lay down,’ if you have the room and want more plants, they will grow baby plants along their stems! Otherwise, put your plants back up and stake them securely. Build your new raised beds. Install gopher barriers!

Think soil, soil, soil! When an area is done, clear away insect hiding places. Remove and throw away any mulches from under where diseased plants were. If your soil is high for the area, plants there were diseased, and you have plentiful compost, maybe remove the couple top inches of soil and generously lay on some of that tasty new compost! Dig it into the top 4 to 6 inches. Amend your soils per the plant that will be grown in the area per your design. Strawberries need acidic compost IN the soil.

Keep turning your fall compost pile, start one if you haven’t! This warmer weather will help the pile decompose faster, and your plants will be blessed when you give the compost to them! If you aren’t hot composting, remember, thin layers and smaller bits decompose faster. The ratio is 1 wet/green to 2 dry/brown. Throw in whatever kitchen trim, torn tea bags, coffee filters/grounds, crushed eggshells – anything worms can eat will decompose faster.

I’m talking faster because starting now is a little late, so this is what you do to ‘catch up!’ Sprinkle with a handful or two of living moist soil to inoculate your pile, and add handfuls of decomposer herbs like comfrey, yarrow, chamomile. Turn it as often as you can to aerate and keep things humming. Vigorously shovel chop into smaller pieces as you go. Once a day if possible, but do what you can. I do mine anywhere from three days to every two weeks as I have time. Compost improves your soil’s water holding capacity and adds and stabilizes N, Nitrogen!  Yes!

Seed Saving! Allow your healthiest top producers to seed. Seeds are your second harvest! Each year keep your best! Scatter some about if they would grow successfully now! Or just scatter them about and when it’s the right time, even next spring, they will come up. Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s better than ever plantings.  Remember, these seeds are adapted and localized to you! If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank or Seed Swap! While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out! How to Save Tomato Seeds!

Happy Late Summer Gardening, My Friends!

 

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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 August GBC Newsletter!

August! Harvest, Seed Saving, Fall Soil Prep!
Veggie Seed Saving Plant by Plant!
SoCal Fall/Winter Veggie SOIL Tips for Delicious Returns!
The Veggie Gardening Revolution Continues!
Other Community Gardens –
Irvine California’s The Incredible Edible Park 

Events! Soil Not Oil, Fermentation Festival & National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA

…and wonderful images of Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden in July!

 

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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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Peppers Heat Lovers
Happy delicious Peppers!!!
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

Night air temps steadily above 50 and soil temps 60 to 65 are what we are looking for. Peppers, especially need these warmer temps. They do best with nighttime temps above 55°F and soil temps above 65°F. Average March night air temps have recently bounced from the 40s to 50s. On a cool March 31st, the soil temp now is +/- 60°F at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden.

Get yourself a little soil thermometer, and plant just at the right times in the right places. It makes the most difference to peppers. If planted too soon, sometimes they miss their natural sequence of production, and never produce. Warm soil, 65°F+, and nighttime temps above 55°F is what they like! BEST PLANTING TEMPS PER VEGGIE!

APRIL through June Planting Timing  Start MORE seedlings indoors NOW for late May/early June plantings. Sow seeds. If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, get transplants and pop them in the ground per their right times! APRIL is true heat lovers time! Eggplant, limas, melons (wait until MAY for cantaloupe), peppers, pumpkins and squash! Many wait until May, some even June, to plant tomatoes. Wait until the soil has warmed to 70°F before planting squash and melons. Some gardeners wait until JUNE to plant okra. It really likes heat and grows quickly when happy. 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.

With our warming temp trends, get bolt resistant/slow bolt varieties, and especially drought tolerant varieties.

Indoors, sow eggplant, peppers, and more tomatoes for transplanting into the garden in late May/early June.

April 1 or as close to it as you can, start your Jicama seeds! Winter squash for sure. It needs time to grow big and harden for winter storage. Melons now but cantaloupe in May.

Eggplant, limas, okra and peppers, pumpkins! Transplant early-maturing varieties of beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Sow and/or transplant asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, okra, summer-maturing onions, parsley, peanuts, the last peas (choose a heat-tolerant variety such as Wando), white potatoes, radishes (with cukes to repel cuke beetles, and eggplant to repel flea beetles), rhubarb, and spinach. Choose heat and drought tolerant varieties when you can.

Tomatos! 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 these drought conditions, consider getting only indeterminates. 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.

A word on the Wilts. They are both water and airborne. 

  • Regarding soil fungi like Fusarium and Verticillium wilts/fungi, how you care for cukes and toms is super important! Cucumbers are even more susceptible than tomatoes to the wilts fungi, die pretty instantly, in about 3 days, if they get infected. So when you plant them, treat them similarly to your tomatoes if you have wilts fungi in your garden.
  • Plant cukes and toms on a raised mound/basin with the bottom of the basin above the regular soil level. This allows good drainage. Top that with a 1/2″ of compost, cover that with 1″ of straw to let in air and sun to dry the soil. Keep the LEAVES OFF THE GROUND from the get go. Leaves touching the soil is the main way toms get the wilts. Remove lower leaves that might touch soil when weighted with dew or water from watering. Keep a regular watch for new foliage at ground level and remove it. AVOID WATER SPLASH and watering at ground level. Fuzzy damp leaves of toms and eggplant are perfect fungi habitat. Since toms have a deep taproot, they will get water from what you give to neighboring plants. Water near them but not at them or on them.
  • If you are comingling beans with cukes lower along a trellis, plant the beans between the raised mounds. Beans don’t get the wilts, but love the water. They are a big plant with continuous high production and small roots that need to be kept moist. Mulch with straw under cukes to keep leaves and fruit off the ground, and out of the insect zone.
  • Since the fungi are airborne, plant in different places as far apart as possible. Plant so leaves of one plant are not touching another plant. Remove sickened foliage ASAP to reduce fungi population and slow spreading.
  • The wilts can’t be stopped. Sooner or later the plant leaves curl lengthwise, get dark spots, turn brown then blacken and hang sadly. Plants can produce but it’s agonizing to watch. Sometimes they somewhat recover later in the season after looking totally dead. You stop watering them, summer heat drys the soil and kills enough of the fungi for the plant to be able to try again. But production is so little, it’s better to pull it, reduce the fungi population that can blow to other plants. Replant, in a different place if possible.

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

Strengthen your garden! Remember your Companions!
  • Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of culinary dandelions!
  • Beans, Cukes, Dill, Radish Combo! Cukes and Beans are great on the trellis, one high, one low. Dill to go with pickling cukes. Radishes to deter Cucumber beetles.
  • Potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs.
  • Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes as trap plants for flea beetles and to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Carrots love being with cilantro and chamomile!

Keep ’em coming! If you have already done some planting, mid to late April, pop in another round! Poke in some bean seeds where your last peas are finishing, add cucumber seeds between the beans, plus dill at each end of the trellis to be there when you pickle your cukes! Plant radishes with the cukes to deter the Cucumber beetles. Plant corn in blocks, not rows, for good pollination! In a good hot area, lay in some cukes, melons or last minute winter squash, to ramble among the corn, soon as they are tall enough. They all act as a living mulch, reducing water needs.

Succession planting makes such good sense. Put your seeds and transplants in at the same time. Seedlings will come along 6 to 8 weeks behind your transplants so you have a steady supply of yummy veggies! But if tending seedlings isn’t your cup of tea, just leave space and put in more transplants in 6 to 8 weeks after your first planting.

It is perfect to put in fast growers like lettuce, beets, turnips, arugula, to hold space until you are ready to plant bigger plants. When it’s time for the bigger ones, clear a space/harvest, pop in your seeds or transplants and let them grow up among the littles. As the bigger plants start to shade out the littles, remove lower leaves so the littles get light too! If you anticipate a HOT summer, plant littles on the morning light side of larger plants.

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.

This year my summer strategy is to plant tall in the West to filter sunlight, give shorter plants respite from the hot afternoon sun, keep them a bit cooler, keep the soil a bit cooler, more moist. Last summer, record HOT, our crops produced so much, they were plum done in July. Fall planting wasn’t successful until the end of October. Hopefully my new strategy will give a longer growing period this year.

Natural Disease & Pest Prevention!

  1. Be wise and pick the right plant varieties for your temps and conditions! Get heat tolerant, bolt resistant, drought tolerant, disease tolerant/resistant. If you are just starting, just start! You will learn as you go. Our climate is changing, so we are all adjusting and plants will be being hybridized, and hybridize naturally, for new climates. We can get varieties from other areas that are already used to conditions we will be having. Together we will do this.
  2. Plant companion plants that repel pests, enhance each other’s growth so they are strong and pest and disease resistant. Mix it up! Less planting in rows. Split up groups so pests won’t go from one plant to the next, and the next. Think biodiversity!
  3. Make top notch soil! Make compost. Grow worms for castings. In planting areas add tasty properly aged manure mixes. Add non-fat powdered milk for immediate immune system support at planting time; put in a finely ground bone meal for later uptake when your plant gets to flowering time. Sprinkle mycorrhizae fungi directly on transplant roots, all but Brassicas, at planting time to increase their uptake of nutrients and water.
  4. Immediately drench your transplants, foliar feed, with a non-fat powdered milk, baking soda, aspirin, soap mix to jazz up their immune systems. Specially give your peppers an Epsom salt and soap mix bath for a taste of sulfur. More details and all the recipes.
  5. Maintenance! Keep your plants strong while they are working hard! Be ready to do a little cultivating composts and manures in during the season (called sidedressing), or adding fish/kelp emulsion mixes if you don’t have predator pests like skunks! Keep your plants watered and vibrant, but not so much as to make their leaves soft and inviting to munching insect pests. Trap gophers immediately if you are able.
  6. Prevention A frustrating typical spring disease is Powdery mildew. It’s common on late peas, Curly Leaf kales, broccoli. 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. Not only is prevention so much better than after mildew has set in, but this mix stimulates your plant’s growth! See Aspirin Solution.

Water Wise Practices!

  • Please always be building compost. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • This California drought year consider planting IN furrows, where the moisture settles. Plant crosswise to the Sun’s arc so the plants’ root areas will be slightly shaded by the depth of the furrow in early AM and late afternoon.
  • Make mounds with basins on top. Rather than losing water to evaporation from overhead watering, put the water right where it will do the most good and nowhere else. For larger leaved plants, put a stake in the center of the basin so you know where to water. With a long watering wand you can water under the leaves rather than on them ~ unless they need a bath.
  • And, PLEASE MULCH. It keeps your soil cooler, moister, less water needed.
  • Sprinkle and pat on Mycorrhiza fungi right on the roots of your transplants 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.
  • Dust Mulching, cultivation, is perfect to break up the soil surface. That keeps the water from wicking to the surface and evaporating. If you use a hula hoe you do two things at once! Just a half to one inch depth cuts off weed sprouts that use water. Indeed, it turns the soil a tad, all that’s needed. More weeds will follow, but it’s quick and easy to repeat the process. Two, three times, a few days apart, and there will be little weeds after that for awhile. Get ’em while they are small and easy to do. Smart gardening.

Keep COMPOSTING! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost keeps your soil aerated, has great water holding capacity, feeds just perfectly! And if you made it, you know what’s in it! Make it HOT, Cold, or In place!  Dry is dead, so be sure it is always slightly moist. Giving back to Mama Earth is nature’s natural way! And, like Will Allen says ….there is something very Spiritual about touching the soil, that’s where life begins.

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 planting puts 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!

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”  ~ Robin Williams

See the complete April Green Bean Connection for more great veggie gardening tips!

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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:

Southern Exposure Very Hot Summer Plants!
Costata Romanesco Italian Heirloom Zucchini!
Five Lovely Garden Companion Flowers
Growing the Perfect Veggies for Seniors!
Adult Day Care?! Na Pu’uwai’s Kapuna* Garden, Kaunakakai HI 
Events!
Botanic Garden SALE, EARTH DAY, Fairview Farm – Farm to Table Dinner, Farm Camp!

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Mulch ~ save water, reduce weeds, keep fruits above bug level and clean!

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 cool & coastal 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, up from insect predators.

Put up a low wind barrier – straw bales, a perimeter of densely foliated plants, a big downed log, be creative. Let your peppers and jicama get hot! Eggplant is Mediterranean, maybe coastal, because they like a little humidity, interplant them closely with other plants, but still they are heat lovers! Okra is full sun Southern hot!

Tomatoes need dryer soil to avoid the verticillium and fusarium wilt fungi if your soil has it. Plant them in a basin that keeps the water out! Make the basin on top of a mound with the basin bottom level above the surrounding soil level. 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. Cukes are susceptible to fungi wilts/blight too, so keep the leaves from touching bare ground. As soon as they are big enough, clip off lower leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water in case they get wet. They are a fuzzy plant, so better to water at the root, not on the leaves anyway. 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. In that case you will need to use a little Sluggo or its equivalent if you feel comfortable to use it.

WATER  Clearly, no mulch, more heat, equals more water needed. In drought areas, plant in basins below the surrounding 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, cucumber and eggplant, prefer not being watered on their leaves anyway. Since there is no raised mound, there is no maintenance needed for berms surrounding a basin though there is natural settling so you do need to clear the basin occasionally. If you are in a wet area, make those mounds with the bottoms of basins above the surrounding soil level for good drainage and check the berms from time to time to be sure they are holding up. These are variations on age old Waffle Gardening.

LIVING MULCH  Closely planted beets, carrots, garden purslane, radish, strawberries, turnips act as living mulch to themselves. The dense canopy their leaves make lets little light in, keeps things moist. 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 or purchased mulch. Chard likes moist and cooler, so mulch. Zucchini, doesn’t care. They are a huge leaved plant, greedy sun lovers, that are self mulching. But, you can do what some do. Feed their vine up through the largest tomato cages, stake them well, that plant is heavy. Cut off the lower leaves and plant a family of lettuces, carrots, onions, salad bowl fixin’s or basil on the sunny side underneath! If you are in a hot drought zone, plant them in the filtered shade underneath. All of them like plenty of water, so everyone is happy.

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 seeds from sprouting. Put on 4 to 6 inches minimum. 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, doing great!

If you live in a cold climate, cold, cold winters, mulch can protect your soil and keep it warm in winters. In SoCal, pull mulch away in ‘winter’ to let the sun warm the soil, remove overwintering pest habitat, let soil dry so fungi die. Pile it near your compost area and use it in compost layers if it is pest and disease free.

Mulching is double good on hillsides. Make your rock lined water-slowing ‘S’ terrace walkways snaking along down the hillside. Cover your berms well and deeply to prevent erosion and to hold moisture when there are drying winds. Use a mulch that won’t blow away or garden staple down some plastic. Plant fruit trees, your veggies on the uphill side of your berms.

Mulch with an organic degradable mulch that feeds your soil too! 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 undyed mulch you like. Use redwood fiber only in areas you want to be slightly acidic, like for strawberries.

COMPOSTING IN PLACE  Build soil right where you need it. Where you do put mulch, tuck kitchen waste out of sight under it, 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!

You don’t have to wait to plant! Pull back a planting space, add compost you have on hand or purchased compost, maybe mix in a little aged manure mix, worm castings, specific amendments to the kind of plant you will be planting. Sprinkle some mycorrhizal fungi on your transplant’s roots, and plant! Yes!

A caution:  The debris pile of composting in place may be habitat for overwintering insect pests, so put it safely away from plants that have had or might suffer infestations. To break a pest’s growing cycle, put no piles at all where there have been pests before.

In SoCal and southern states, when temps are 85 degrees or above for 3 to 4 days in a row, check for BAGRADA BUGS on any Brassica plants you have – broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, nor Mizuna, mustard, radish, arugula or turnips. If Bagradas are there, some gardeners immediately remove all Brassicas and all the surrounding mulch to remove Bagrada habitat, stop them laying eggs in the soil. Those gardeners then wait for cool weather again before planting any more Brassicas.

In the fall most SoCal gardeners remove tired mulch to remove habitat for overwintering pests or diseases, to let the soil warm up on short sunny ‘winter’ days. Some toss it completely away, dig it into landscaped areas to feed the soil. If clean they compost it. If you are in a snow zone, you would keep it on to keep the soil as warm as possible, cover and protect plants from freezing.

So, you see, there are times for mulch and times not for mulch. Using less saves money, saves work.

Mulch is magic when done right!

*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.

Updated from June 11, 2011 post

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Some start fall plantings from seed the last week of July. Now to mid August is great time too! Varieties make all the difference! Planting from seed gives you so many more choices!

Beets are so beautiful! Tops and roots are both nutritious! In salad as chopped greens, shredded roots. Root soup! Steamed slices. Cold cubes with a dash of Balsamic! There are numerous colors, a combo seed pack may be perfect for you. Plant them on the sunny side, just barely under, larger plants like broccoli or kale, at the base of peas. Plant a beet patch alternated with pretty little red bunch onions!

Brassicas & Bagradas  If you have Bagrada bugs this July/August, wait to plant your Brassicas until October when it cools and the bugs are gone. Plant from transplants then. Brassicas are our broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, arugula, mustard greens, Mizuna, radish.

With all the large Brassicas, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, I highly recommend succession, staggered plantings, even of the same type plant. Several of us at the Community Garden planted around  the same time. The plants thrived, but months later had never produced fruits! It was the weather. We just planted at the ‘wrong’ time. Plant some, then 3 weeks to a month later plant some more. And that’s not a bad idea if you can’t eat all those big broc and cauli heads at once! If you have a small garden, plant three of a six pack, give three away. Plant three more later on. Cabbages can be ‘stored’ in the field, but fresher is more tender.

  • Broccoli! My personal favorite variety is All Season F1 even though it doesn’t come in purple! It is a short variety about a foot and a half tall, produces a big main head followed by large 3″ diameter side heads, and later on a plentiful supply of smaller ones! It continues to grow side branches, so the plant needs room to expand. The most radically different than that variety I ever grew was 5′ tall with trillions of little 1″ side shoots that I got really tired cutting. These days I cut side shoots off down the stem several leaves below, to the second to lowest producing junction, which slows things down so I have time to eat what I got before the next harvest.Research has shown there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together! Buy mixed 6 packs of brocs when they are available if you like the varieties in it, or plant a mix of seeds of varieties you like. At least plant two different kinds, one of each on one place, then in other places. This keeps diseases and pests from spreading one plant to another. UC study explains

    If you like the scent, winter, early spring are good times for cilantro. It doesn’t bolt so fast. Summer it bolts, winters it will freeze, so replants go with the territory. Cilantro makes brocs grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!

    Broccoli vitamins and nutrients typically are more concentrated in the flower buds than in leaves. That makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than Cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten, like kale, collards or Brussels sprouts. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other Cole cropsBroc is high in bioavailable Calcium too.

  • Brussels Sprouts are iffy in our 1 mile-from-the-coast climate. They like colder. If you don’t mind small 1″ fruits, go for it. They certainly are tasty, like mini cabbages! Buy local varieties recommended by your neighbors or nursery.
  • Cabbages grow huge, depending on the variety, an easy 2′ to 3′ footprint, but slowly. If you love cabbage but can’t eat a huge head, select varieties that mature sooner, harvest when smaller or grow minis! Mini Pixie Baby is a white; Red Acre Express is a red, both tasty! Plant any variety cabbage you like, though red and savoy types, resist frost better! It is said lettuces repel cabbage moths. Put a few of them between the cabbages. Plant lettuces from transplants because dying parts of Brassicas put out a poison that prevents some seeds, like tiny lettuce seeds, from growing. Red cabbage shreds are pretty in winter salads. If you are making probiotic sauerkraut, let the heads get very firm so your sauerkraut is good and crunchy!
  • Cauliflower comes in traditional white, also yellow, green and purple! It comes in the traditional head shapes, and also the castle green spiral variant, Romanesco! It’s a visual choice! The colors do have varying antioxidant qualities if that is a factor for you. Once that main head is cut, unlike broccoli, cauliflower doesn’t make side shoots. Unless you eat the greens, your plant is done. It’s compost time.
  • Kale, the Queen of Nutrition! Kale’s attractive greenery packs over ten times the vitamin A as the same amount of iceberg lettuce, has more vitamin C per weight than orange juice! kale’s calcium content is in the most bioavailable form – we absorb almost twice as much calcium from kale than we do from milk! Also, kale is one of the foods that lowers blood pressure naturally.There are several varieties! Dense curly leaf, a looser curly leaf, Lacinato – Elephant/Dinosaur long curved bumpy leaf, Red Russian flat leaf, Red Bor a medium curly leaf, and Red Chidori, an edible ornamental kale! And there are more amazing choices! Plants with more blue green leaves are more cold hardy and drought tolerant!

    Aphids and white fly love Kale, so you might want to choose varieties without those dense convolutions the insects can’t be gotten out of. But for the footprint per return, curly leaf kale can’t be beat. Keep watch. Spray those little devils away. Remove yellowing leaves immediately. White flies are attracted to yellow. Take a look at this Mother Earth page for some good practical thinking and doing!

Chard has two main varieties, regular colorful size, and huge super prolific white Fordhook Giant size! Colorful chard is better than flowers ~ it especially brightens the winter garden! It has super nutrition, is low calorie. It produces like crazy, the most if it has loose, well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter. If you need nutrition per square foot, the Giant is the way to go! Fordhooks are a phenomena!

Peas and Carrots, no onions, onion family, within several feet. Onions stunt peas. Carrots grow down, peas grow up, perfect! The frilly carrot foliage is lovely living mulch. Be sure your soil is soft for carrot growth, but not manured or they get hairy and sometimes fork. Peas make their own Nitrogen, and carrots get hairy if overfed. Peas need water, but over watering causes carrots to split.

Peas come in two plant size varieties, bush and pole. Bush varieties produce sooner all at once; pole takes longer but produces continuously. A lot of gardeners plant both for an earlier and longer pea-loving harvest!

Peas come in three main kinds!

  • SNAP! Those are eaten off the plant, pod and all, tummy beans! Many never make it into the kitchen! You can cook them, but why?! They are a quintessential snack, delightful bits in a fresh salad!
  • English are the originals, but are grown for the pea, not the pod! These are also called shelling peas since the peas need to be removed from the pod. These can come in splendid varieties 8″ long, full of tasty peas!
  • Chinese peas are the flat ones you get with those Oriental dishes, although many of them never get to the kitchen either!

The last thing to know about peas is they can be Stringless! Look for that on the seed package or transplant tag. Strings can be tough, get tangled in your teeth. Take time to remove the strings before using. It’s a simple thing, but stringless peas take less time, makes a difference to your enjoyment.

You can go happily quite crazy picking veggie varieties! If you can’t make up your mind, if one is an All America Selection, AAS, go for it! They are generally superb. You may have a dilemma whether to go with heirlooms only or some hybrids too. Nature hybridizes plants all the time, so I feel good with both. GMOs are another story. Personally I am not in favor of them. Safe Seeds sellers list by state and country. Companies known to use GMO sources. Some may surprise you.

Get used to thinking in combinations! Happy plant communities help each other thrive! And speaking of communities, Brassicas don’t partner up with soil community forming mycorrhizal fungi. Other winter veggies do, so if you are buying compost, get the ones with the most mycorrhizal fungi, and sprinkle the roots of non-Brassica transplants with mycorrhizal fungi when you are planting!

May you and your garden enjoy each other’s company!

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April is time for Heatlovers!  Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant!!!Nighttime temps are now 50+ degrees!  If you have been waiting for these good temps, you just want to plant, plant, plant! Still, unless you have plenty of space, be a wise gardener and plant successively, some now, some later, some after that, to keep your table in steady supply of delicious organic food! If you are planting for canning, plant the amount you need all at once. Wait until the soil has warmed to 70°F before planting squash (except for winter squash – plant it ASAP) and melons. Santa Barbara, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, coastal ground temps are 60 degrees now.

Yes! Now we’re talking true heat lovers time!  TOMATOES! La Sumida has the largest tomato selection in the Santa Barbara area! Ask for Judy to help you with your questions. 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.  I do have to admit, though, there are many of us that can’t do without our heirloom SunGolds!

Eggplant, limas, melons (wait until May for cantaloupe), okra and peppers, pumpkins!  Sow or transplant asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, okra, summer-maturing onions, parsley, peanuts, the last peas (choose a heat-tolerant variety such as Wando), white potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, and spinach.

April 1 IS JICAMA PLANTING DAY! If you miss it, plant ASAP! All about Jicamas!

Transplant early-maturing varieties of beans, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Wait on cantaloupe, ‘cz they will do better started in May.  Sprinkle Mycorrhiza fungi right on the roots of your transplants 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 at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.

If you didn’t get your Winter squash in last month, do it NOW, soon as you can, for sure!  It is a little late, so be sure to get transplants so it will have a long enough season to harden for harvest.

Mid April, another round!  Tuck in some bean seeds where peas are finishing, intermingled with cucumber seeds that will grow below the beans, plus a few dill to go with the cukes! Plant radishes with the cukes to deter the Cucumber beetles. Squash! Plant some corn in blocks, not rows, for good pollination!  In a good hot area, lay in some cukes, melons or winter squash, to ramble among the corn, soon as they are tall enough, put down a thick straw mulch to keep their leaves and fruit off the ground.

Grow herbs for beauty and table taste!! Sow or transplant basil, borage, chervil, 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 planting puts 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.

Good Homes for Good Bugs!  Lure hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps, by planting chamomile, cosmos, marigold and yarrow.  Let a carrot go to flower!

Check out:  Growing UP, 4 High Yield Summer Plants!

See the entire April Newsletter!

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15 Super Tips for a Productive Summer Veggie Patch!

Asymmetrical Design

Whether you are tucking things into niches between ornamental landscape plants, planting a patio patch like in the image, setting up a first time summer garden patch, or replanning your annual garden, here are some great ideas to increase your production!

1. If you have space, and are creating a back, or front, yard food forest, always start with your tree placements first! Determine which veggies grow well with each kind of tree. Santa Barbara Mediterranean Food Forests

2. Keep in mind veggies need sun! 6 to 8 hours, preferably 8! They are making fruit, and often many! That takes energy.

3.  Put tall plants to the north (see image below), so they won’t shade the shorties. If there is a partially shaded area, plant your tallest plants on the shaded side so they can reach up to get some sun; put the shorter plants in decreasing heights, in front of them so all get as much light as they can. When you are planting rounds, another batch every few weeks, start in the north or the ‘back’ – the shaded area, and work your way forward.

4. Trellises and tall cages are terrific space savers and keep your plants off the ground out of harm’s way – pests, diseases, damage. Your veggies will be clean, and have more even ripening. Cucumbers, beans, tomatoes. Squashes and melons can be trellised if you provide support for heavy fruits. Even Zucchini can be grown up through cages leaving a lot of ground space for underplantings. Harvesting is a lot easier and certain when those fast growing zuchs are up where you can see them!

Inefficient Single Row Planting

5. There are rows and there are rows! Single row planting wastes space! Compare the images. If you do rows, plant 2 or 3 different plants in side by side rows, then have your walk way, then another 2 or 3 plants together. Whether you do 2 or 3, or even 4, depends on plant size, your reach, and ease of tending and harvest. Plant taller or medium size plants, like peppers and eggplant, by twos so you can reach in to harvest. Plant shorter smaller plants like lettuces, spinach, strawberries together since they are easy to reach across to harvest. If plants in the rows are the same size, plant the second row plants on the diagonal to the first row plants. That way your rows can be closer together and you can plant more plants!

Attractive Multi-row Veggie Amphitheatre around the Eden Project restaurant!

6. Rather than rows, biodiversity, mixing things up, confuses pests, stops diseases in their tracks, because they can’t just go from the same plant to the same plant down a row. Since we are not using tractors, there is no need for rows at all, but they can be lovely. The curved rows in the image are behind the Eden Project restaurant outdoor seating! Truly garden to table!

7. If you need only a few plants, rather than designating a separate space for lettuces and littles like radishes, tuck them in here and there on the sunny side under bigger plants! When it gets big enough, remove the sunny side lower leaves of the larger plant to let light in.

8. Plant what you like, and will really eat along with some extra nutritious chards, kales.

9. Plants with the same water needs are good together. Like a salad patch – lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choy, bunch onions, radish, chards. Putting the things together that you will harvest together saves time! Put carrots at the foot of pole beans.

10. Overplanting can take the fun out of things. Too many zucchini in hot summers, and you are going crazy trying to give away the over large ones you didn’t harvest soon enough. Too many green beans are labor intensive harvesting, takes forever. Planting green beans too close together is hard to harvest, and they mildew more with low air circulation. Overplanting is delicious when you plant lots of lettuces, carrots then harvest what you thin out! That’s baby kales, chard, mini carrots. These are the eat-on-the-spot-in-the-garden types!

11. Traditionally, and if you lived in the North with cold winters, you planted the garden all at once in spring! If your parents did that, you are unthinkingly likely to do it as well. In our SoCal Mediterranean climate, we plant all year though there are warmer and cooler veggie seasons. But each of these seasons are longer, and overlap! It is easy to get 3 plantings in succession IN EACH SEASON! Some plants will grow all year, mostly the ‘winter’ plants in our coastal gardens, for example, beets, broccoli, onions and cabbages. It takes strength to leave open space for successive rounds. But you can do it. Mark that space off, plant temporary fast growers, nitrogen-fixing fava, or lay down some soil feeding mulch like seedless straw. That space will be super productive when its turn comes.

12. Pole plants, have a lot longer production period than bush, like beans! Indeterminate tomatoes are true vines, can last all season long, but are susceptible to Fusarium and Verticillium wilts/fungi diseases. Might be better to plant determinates, limited growth varieties, in succession. That’s plant a few, then in a few weeks a few more, and so on. Let the determinates produce like crazy all at once, pull them when they show signs of the wilts. If you have only a small space available, or want to do canning, then bush plants are for you!

13. Plants that act as perennials in our climate are smart money plants! Broccoli’s for their side shoots, continuous kales and chards.

14. Special needs or companions!

  • Eggplants, though heat lovers, love humidity, but not overhead watering. Put them among other medium height plants.
  • Basils are great on the sunny sides of tomatoes, and go to table together.
  • Corn needs colonies – plant in patches versus rows! Every silk needs pollination because each produces a kernel! The best pollination occurs in clusters or blocks of plants. Consider that each plant only produces 2 to 3 ears, usually 2 good ones. How many can you eat a once? Will you freeze them? The ears pretty much mature within a few days of each other! So, if you are a fresh corn lover, plant successively only in quantities you can eat.

15. Consider herbs for corner, border, or hanging plants. They add a beautiful texture to your garden, are wonderfully aromatic, repel pests! Remember, some of them are invasive, like oregano, culinary thyme. Sage has unique lovely leaves. Choose the right type of rosemary for the space and look you want.

Please be CREATIVE! You don’t have to plant in rows, though that may be right for you. Check out this Squidoo Vegetable Garden Layout page! Check out the Grow Planner for Ipad from Mother Earth News! They may make you very happy! This is a perfectly acceptable way to play with your food.

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