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Posts Tagged ‘Companion Plant’

Tasty Tomatoes and Cucumbers right from your Garden!

…each a miracle of seed and sun, I’ve always been one to enjoy tomato or cucumber right off the vine, with never a trip into the house—one magical wipe down a shirt-front and they’re ready.. ~ commenter Rachel

Happy Earth Day April 22, Arbor Day April 24! Please plant LOTS of trees!

It’s especially important to keep our gardens going now for fresh organic food and it’s a great place to get grounded, stay calm! Keep a safe distance but tell people you love them. It makes a difference. Get some fresh air and sunshine, watch your plants grow, plant some new ones! What you do now affects your summer crop returns! I love you ALL.

Soil Thermometer for Veggies

End of March Santa Barbara CA night air temps have been in the 40/50s. 8 AM March 31 Soil temps were 55-59°.  60° to 65° are what we are looking for. April night temps are currently predicted to be in the 50s, day temps 70+. BELL PEPPERS especially need warmer temps, nighttime temps steadily above 55°F and soil temps above 65°F. If planted too soon, sometimes they miss their natural growth sequence and never produce. Check out the Quick Guide to Summer Veggie Soil & Temp Preferences!

APRIL through JUNE Planting Timing

APRIL is true heat lovers time! Start MORE seedlings indoors NOW for successive June plantings. Sow seeds right in the ground! If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, get transplants and pop them in the ground per their right times! 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. MAY for cantaloupe, peppers, pumpkins and squash! Wait until the soil has warmed to 70°F before planting squash and melons. Many wait until May, some even June, to plant tomatoes to avoid soil fungi. Some gardeners wait until JUNE to plant okra. Okra really likes heat and grows quickly when happy. Choose faster maturing varieties like hybrid Annie Oakley F1 for coastal SoCal. Plus, it is said to produce almost double the pods of standard okra cultivars! Some Long beans need warm temps to start from seeds. If YOU anticipate a HOT summer, plant a tad earlier and be prepared to plant second rounds as plants finish early! Also be prepared to deal with it if summer is overcast as often is the case after all.

While we are waiting for the right temps, do soil preps that may still be needed. Weed out plants that won’t help your summer lovers. Make your soil fluffy with water holding compost, only 5 to 10%, while also adding tasty well aged manure!

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 slowly just perfectly! And if you made it, you know what’s in it! Make it HOT, Cold, or In Place! In place takes the least time, is the most efficient, is a worm buffet! Move the top 6″+ of soil, put in your ingredients, chop fine, sprinkle with well aged manure, mix in some soil so the chopped bits don’t form an impervious mat, cover with the soil you removed. Give it 2 to 3 weeks and you are ready to plant! 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.

Put in last minute amendments, soil preps for May plantings of cantaloupe, okra, more tomatoes. About Manures

Heat lovers are eggplant, limas, okra and bell peppers, pumpkins! Transplant early-maturing varieties of beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, bell 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 with zucchini, radishes (with cukes to repel cuke beetles, and with eggplant to repel flea beetles), rhubarb, and spinach.

Choose heat and drought tolerant varieties when you can. For example, why wait when it gets HOT and your tomato stops setting fruit?! Get heat tolerant varieties the heat doesn’t bother! Check out this nifty page of options at Bonnie Plants!  See Tomatoes are the Fireworks of Your Summer Garden!

Tomatoes! Heirlooms are particularly susceptible to the wilts, Fusarium and Verticillium. Instead, get varieties that have VFN or VF on the tag at the nursery. The V is for Verticillium, the F Fusarium wilt, N nematodes. Ace, Early Girl, Champion, Celebrity, are some that are wilt resistant/tolerant. In Santa Barbara area continual 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. La Sumida has the largest tomato selection in the Santa Barbara area! See Special Planting and growing tips for your Tomatoes and Cucumbers! If you are interested in the Indigo family of tomatoes, Terra Sol will be having them again this year! Call ahead to see when they will arrive – save space for them!

Time for heat-resistant, bolt-resistant lettuces of all kinds! Sierra, Nevada, Jericho, Black Seeded Simpson are some. Green Star wins the beauty award and is super productive! Tips for super Successful Transplanting!

Companion Plants Alyssum Flower Yellow Chard ~ Beautiful and Delicious!Companion Planting Set, excellent use of space!

Strengthen your garden! Organize your Companion plant sets! Keep the biodiversity rolling! Plant pest deterring plants first so they will be up and working when you put in your seeds or transplants!

  • Alyssum, in the image above, is a great old fashioned pretty border plant, an understory living mulch. And white Alyssum repels the cabbage butterfly.
  • Basil repels several unwanted insects, is great near tomatoes but not in the basin with the tom. The tom needs less water.
  • 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.
  • WHITE 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, and chamomile improves the flavor of any neighboring herb! Plus, it helps neighboring plants – called the Plant Dr!
  • Calendula traps aphids, whiteflies, and thrips!
  • Marigolds are brilliant and called the workhorse of pest deterrents!
  • Lettuce and carrots make a great understory below larger plants like peppers, eggplant. They act as living mulch! If you already have enough lettuce and carrots, scatter a living mulch, soil feeding legume seed mix under those plants. At the end of the season you can turn it all under – aka Green Manure. Or remove the larger plants, open up spots and put in winter plants! See much more – Living Mulch/Green Manure!
  • Plant whole sets of companion plants as in the image above right! Very efficient use of space!

Keep ’em coming! If you have already done some early planting, mid to late April, schedule to pop in another round! Poke in some bean seeds where your very last peas are finishing, add cucumber seeds or transplants between the beans, plus dill at each end of the trellis to be there when you pickle those cukes! Plant more radishes to deter the Cucumber beetles, repel flea beetles. Fill in spots that could use a helper companion plant like calendula or chamomile! Succession planting makes such good sense. To keep a steady supply of your veggies, put your seeds and transplants in at the same time. Seedlings will come along 6 to 8 weeks after your transplants! But, again, 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 strategic lower leaves of the big plant 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.

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. Locally, save seeds from plants that do the best with the heat and share some of those seeds at the Seed Swap and with other gardeners.
  2. Think biodiversity! 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, more understories and intermingling. Split up groups so pests won’t go from one plant to the next, and the next. Allow enough room for air space between, no leaves of mature plants touching each other. That breaks up micro pest and disease habitats.
  3. Make top notch soil!
  4. In planting holes
    – Add worm castings for your plants’ excellent health. 25% is best; 10% will do if that’s all you got.
    – Add a tad more tasty properly aged manure mixes where manure lovers will be planted.
    – Add non-fat powdered milk for immediate immune system support at planting time
    – Put in a finely ground bone meal for 2 months later uptake when your plant gets to flowering time.
    – Add Jamaican guano high in P, Phosphorus, at planting time. It helps your plants continue to bloom LATE in the season! Its NPK ratio is 1-10-0.2, takes 4 months to become available to your plants. Other guanos don’t have this particular NPK ratio.
    – Add an eency tad of coffee grounds (a 1/2 of a %) if you have wilts in your soil
    – Sprinkle mycorrhizae fungi directly on transplant roots, all but Brassicas, at planting time to increase their uptake of nutrients and water.
    – Use acidic compost in strawberry patches and work in a little where you will be planting celery and string beans.
  5. 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.
  6. Thin baby plants you have deliberately or not overplanted! Many are great tiny salad greens. Most of all plants need space for their roots, or they struggle for soil food (can literally be rootbound in place), are weak and disease/pest susceptible, are not able to reach their full productive size. See this terrific post on Thinning Seedlings by DeannaCat!
  7. 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 like aphids. Trap gophers immediately if you are able.
  8. Harvest promptly. Insects and diseases know when plants are softening and losing strength as they age. Insects are nature’s cleaner uppers, and they and disease organisms are hungry! If leaves are yellowing or not looking up to par, remove them. Whiteflies are attracted to yellow.
  9. Prevention A frustrating typical spring disease is Powdery mildew. It’s common on late peas, Curly Leaf kales, broccoli, cucumbers and zucchini. 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 half 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, a Vital Resource for our Plants!

Water Wise Practices!

  • Please always be building compost. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • To save water 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. If you still want your plants on top of the furrow, make the raised part of your furrows wide enough that you can put a mini trench on top of it! That holds the water up at your plants’ feeder roots area. If you make low slopes to your trenches, and you water carefully, your furrows won’t degrade from water washing the sides away. Nor will seeds or plants be buried too deeply.
  • Make mounds with basins on top. For virus sensitive plants like toms and cukes, make sure the bottom of the basin is higher than the level of the surrounding soil level. Rather than losing water to evaporation from overhead watering, put the water right where it will do the most good and nowhere else. Make the mound to the dripline of your plant so small surface feeder roots get moisture for food uptake. For larger leaved plants like squashes, 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 to remove dust. Fuzzy leaved plants like tomatoes and eggplant don’t like wet leaves.
  • And, once your soil is heated up, PLEASE MULCH! Straw, Self Mulch, living mulch of understory plants like lettuce, or plant soil feeding living mulch legumes! It keeps your soil cooler, more moist, less water needed. And it stops light germinating weed seeds from germinating! Mulching right for each plant! Straw is dead, but has its advantages. It gets fruits up off the ground and keeps soil from splashing up on lettuce leaves! Straw mulch can help reduce cucumber beetles 3+ different ways. 1) Mulch might directly slow beetle movement from one plant to another. 2) The mulch provides refuge for wolf spiders, daddy long legs and other predators from hot and dry conditions, helping predator conservation. 3) The straw mulch is food for springtails and other insects that eat decaying plant material; these decomposers are important non-pest prey for spiders, helping to further build spider numbers! In addition, laid on an inch or lest thick, it lets airflow dry out wilts fungi in soil. That’s why straw is good to use under tomatoes and cucumbers.Living Mulch, Self mulching, planting closely enough so your plants self shade, is tasty and efficient use of your soil nutrients. It’s doubly efficient space use when you plant smaller companion plants under, beside, among, around larger plants!Soil feeding Living Mulch You can up the amps by tossing a mix of legume seeds under your plants to feed your soil as well! You may decide to do both. Plant the small plants you need, grow legumes under the rest along with the right companion plants per the crop there.
  • 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, weeding, is perfect to break up exposed soil surface. That keeps the water from wicking to the surface and evaporating. Do it especially after rains. 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 few weeds after that for a while. Get ’em while they are small and easy to do. Smart gardening.

Plant Pollinator 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 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, pollinators and insect eating birds and beneficial insects love them and you will get some seeds – some for the birds, some for you, some to take to the seed swap! Grow beauty – cosmos, marigolds, white sweet alyssum – all benefit your garden in their own way! See Grow a Pollinator Meadow at Home! Here are some special considerations – Courting Solitary Bees!

May your crops be abundant and your Spirit blessed!

Oh, and please see more about Tomatoes in February’s Newsletter!

Updated annually



Mother’s Day is May 10!
 Here are some wonderful ideas for green and loving gifts! Get living gifts started now! Click here

Veggies and Flowers! Please enjoy these early spring March images at Rancheria Community Garden! You may get some ideas for those Mother’s Day prezzies! Happy Spring gardening!

Check out the entire April 2020 Newsletter!
It includes these and more!
Designing Your Spring/Summer Veggie Garden!
Quick Guide to Summer Veggie Soil & Temp Preferences!
Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips & Ideas! Part 1
Maggots in your Compost?! Two Surprising Answers!



Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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

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Perennial Sweet Peas Seeds need Cold Stratification to Germinate!

Some seeds, like Pansies or perennial Sweet Peas, need special treatment to be able to break dormancy and germinate! If you have wondered why you have never had luck germinating some plants from perfectly fresh seed, cold stratification may be what is needed!

Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, says stratification sequences may vary: ‘Some seeds require a warm and moist treatment, while others require a cool and wet treatment. Even still, other seeds require a combination of both warm and cool treatments followed by a warm treatment, or a combination of warm and cool moist followed by a dry cycle and warm period to germinate. Knowing what seeds require to break dormancy is critical before beginning any seed stratification project.’ Also some plants require stratification from heat, like from fires, to help expose the seed to air and moisture.

The main requirements of Cold stratification are cold and moist. Depending on where you live, it is best to plant when winter is here to stay. If you plant when it is too warm, the seed coat can break down and you may have little germination.

But if you are starting in early season, soak your seeds 12 to 24 hours and put them in a plastic bag or sealable container with sand, peat, or equal amounts of sand and peat. Date and label. Check frequently to see if they are sprouting. Some seeds require a longer period; some need to be in the freezer!

Pinetree Garden Seeds says: ‘Soaking them in cold water for 6-12 hours before starting the process can help cut down on the total stratification time needed. This also helps the seed absorb some of the moisture it requires for the chemical changes that will take place.’

There are different methods, but mainly two.

In the Ground!

1) If your plant reseeds, as soon as it seeds, you can simply broadcast your seed if it doesn’t matter where they come up. Any rowdy ones that come up not in accordance with your garden plan can be transplanted where you might decide you want them, you could give them away, or last resort, eat if appropriate, or compost. I use the broadcast method for Breadseed Poppies. But sometimes you may reroute your garden plan to accomodate what you think will become a lovely display of beauty!

If you have a seed packet, in fall, a more formal version is to decide where you want them, prep that soil, scratch in your seeds. Mark the spot, date and label with a tag. Keep them moist; they will come up when they are ready.

The dangers of these two plans may be floods or wildly fluctuating weather, ie cold, HOT, cold. Keep some backup seeds just in case you need them. Then you go to the #2 methods, or you can do both a 1 and a 2 of your choice just in case…

Seed Cold Stratification Paper Towel

In the Fridge or Freezer!

2) You can use the paper towel method. Moisten the towel, put seeds on one side, fold the towel over on them. Put the towel in a plastic bag, zip it closed. Put it in the fridge and wait. Some say to check every 2 to 3 days, remove any that mold. Others say check in 10 days. Some say it may take up to a month or two. If they get brown spots around them or smell musty, they are rotting and should be tossed. But mainly is to keep that towel moist!

If you have a seed packet, here is the lazy gardener’s choice offered by myseedneeds for poppies! ‘We recommend a short cold stratification period of 6 to 12 weeks, though simply storing your seed packets in your crisper drawer for a couple of months is a trick used by gardeners who don’t want to mess with damp paper towels and plastic baggies.’

Seed Cold Stratification in Sand, Peat, Worm CastingsOr…you can presoak your seeds. Pot up sand or peat, or equal sand and peat; add worm castings to help germination. Put in your seeds. Put the pot or container in the fridge, or put the pot ON the ground in a sheltered place or sink it up to the top of the pot on the colder north side of your building! Be sure to keep those seeds moist.

Important Sustainability point from Harold and the Cats of Alchemy: ‘Seeds…won’t come up all at the same time, like the seeds of most cultivated plants are bred to do. Seeds that use cold to germinate are closer to the wild and so have a good reason to stagger their germination – more are likely to survive that way, and you will get more genetic variation. That means there will be a greater likelihood of getting plants that will survive and prosper in your conditions.’

Plants that can prosper from Cold Stratification treatment

Terms like “self-sowing”, “perennial”, “cold hardy”, or “cold stratification” on a seed packet are indicators your seeds may need cold treatment.

Many Common Domestic Flowers, important companion plants: Bachelor Buttons, BreadSeed Poppy, Cosmos and Pansies, Johnny Jump Ups and Violets (edible petals), Sweet Peas, Zinnia are a few.

Wildflowers! Here’s a terrific MAP to select native wildflowers that need cold stratification before planting in spring for your area! American Meadows! Native wildflowers are terrific companion plants that attract native bees! They need to be in your fridge 4 to 5 weeks, so be sure to start early enough for planting time. Your seeds will germinate quicker and grow well. Don’t forget native Milkweed for Monarchs!

Many Common herbs, perennials, also important veggie companion plants and provide food for pollinators: Calendula, Lavender, Rosemary and Sage

Seed Cold Stratification Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Be sure to look up each plant individually to see it’s specific needs, ie length of time and temp. Here’s an example at SFGate for Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale), a perennial. Some poppies grow readily but the Oriental poppies need special treatment!

  1. Place 2 tablespoons perlite or sand in a plastic bag. Moisten it slightly with water, but don’t allow it to become soggy.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to the bag and mix the seeds with the perlite or sand.
  3. Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for two weeks. Check it occasionally and provide more water if necessary to keep it slightly moist. Do not allow it to dry out.
  4. Remove the bag from the refrigerator and store it in a cool, dry location for one week. Place the bag back in the refrigerator for two more weeks.
  5. Repeat this cycle of cold and thaw for six weeks to up to three months. Sprinkle the stratified poppy seeds on moist soil in early spring. They will germinate within two weeks when the soil temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. [So start your process in plenty of time!]
Cold Stratification is a simple technique that may take a little dedication, but it really pays off!

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the 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.

Read Full Post »

Bowl of Tomatillos
Tasty image compliments of Rachel Steenland at The Plant Riot

Tomatillo, pronounced ‘toe-mah-tee-yo,’ means “little tomato,” but they aren’t a tomato. They grow in inedible papery husks, resembling small, straw-colored Japanese lanterns. Aficionados don’t substitute one for the other, but they are in the same family. Another variance from most plants is you need TWO to pollinate and get fruit!

CA Rare Fruit Growers says ‘There is considerable confusion in the literature concerning the various species. Hybrids between them are also known.’ Here’s their list! 

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.), Ground Cherry (Physalis heterophylla), Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa), Purple Ground Cherry (P. philadelphica), Strawberry Tomato (P. pruinosa), Ground Cherry, Husk Tomato (P. pubescens), Sticky Ground Cherry (P. viscosa).

Cape gooseberry, also known as ground cherry, produces small, sweet fruit inside papery husks. Tomatillo, also called husk tomato, produces similar but larger fruit that is a staple in Mexican cooking.  It is tart/tangy and crisp, used in gazpacho, guacamole and salsas, especially salsa verde. They are also used in lighter moles, like mole verde and mole amarillo. 

Here’s another comparison from WeCanGrowIt. Tomatillos and ground cherries both belong to the nightshade family, and although they taste very different, they look very similar. Both fruits grow like paper lanterns, enclosed in an inedible husk. Tomatillos are medium sized, while ground cherries produce a cherry-sized fruit and closely resemble their distant relative, the cape gooseberry.

Luscious Varieties!

Beautiful Yellow Tomatillo Blossom!

Fruits come in yellow, red, green, or purple and the flowers come in several colors too, including white, light green, bright yellow, and sometimes purple. Flowers may or may not have purple spots at the center. The fruits come in 1/2″ to 4″ grandes or gigantes!

Green Tomatillos are the standard.

BIG is Better? Some say the big ones, gold ball size or more, lack flavor and can taste bitter. But there are clearly gardeners who love them and some gardeners love bitter flavors! Try a few different ones. Remember to plant by twos, for pollination, of each variety, to see which you like! There are different varieties and sizes of the of green ones as well!

Tomatillo Variety Mexican Stain Yellow GrandeLook at these beauties! Horticulturist Jessica Walliser, says the fruits of YELLOW variety, Mexican Strain, are almost twice as large as green and purple types – usually 2″, and she finds they’re more flavorful after they fall from the plant. She adds them to homemade spaghetti sauce and tomato soup and has had excellent results. They’re very meaty. Territorial Seed says ‘These tasty summer treats are even more mineral-dense than tomatoes, packed with unique phytochemicals and flavonoids.’

If you are looking for a cold tolerant yellow, try Yellow Amarylla, bred to thrive in the cooler summer conditions of inland Eastern Europe.

Purple Tomatillo in the Husk and cut open to see the Seeds!Purple Tomatillos! Caribbean Garden Seed says theirs are a rare variety with smaller 1″ fruit that has a sweeter flavor than green tomatillos. Easy to grow, less sticky! One gardener says ‘Purple Tomatillos can be eaten fresh off the vine, though we much prefer to grill them or make purple salsa.’ There is also a larger Purple Strain variety. Purple Tomatillos, more sweet, are used in jams and preserves.

Tomatillo rare Variety Queen of Malinalco Stephen Smith of Roughwood Seed Collection!Many Tomatillos have a long history and great stories! Specialty heirloom grower Stephen Smith says this about his 2019 Queens: I was so impressed with these “Queen of Malinalco” husk tomatoes we grew this year. While dubbed “Queen of Malinalco”, this is not the true name of this landrace. Locally they are called “acorazado or acorazonado” meaning heart shaped”. This landrace is found in the old Aztec village/town of Malinalco, named after the Aztec goddess Malinalxóchitl . It is said that Huitzlipochtli abandoned his sister Malinalxóchitl because she was practicing evil witchcraft. While she slept, he left her in the middle of the forest. When she woke, she was furious at having been abandoned by her brother. She gathered people loyal to her and marched off to settle in what is now Malinalco. I suspicion back then these were utilized in special ceremonies and were most certainly a food of the deities. Very productive, 3-6 foot tall plants yield long, pear-heart shaped fruits that begin green and ripen to a golden yellow and push through their husk. The largest tomatillo we have ever seen. Amazingly fruity tasting fruits are excellent in pies, jams, etc. Get seeds at Roughwood 

Baker Creek Heirloom Rare Seeds says this Tomatillo is more like a sweet paste tomato! The fruit grow up to an awesome 4 inches long and the plants are very productive.  

Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. The Aztecs are credited with domesticating them. They were more important than the tomato.

Companion Plants can make a marked difference!

Plan ahead to include helpful plants where your Tomatillos will be planted. Plant those plants well before you plant your tomatillos so the companions will be working as soon as you plant your tomatillos. Plant with Borage to repel tomato hornworms. Basil is a classic with tomato type plants, also helps repel hornworms. Be mindful of differing water needs.

Nasturtiums (caution if you have snails) and Marigolds, attract pollinators. Marigolds repel nematodes in the soil; nasturtiums deter whiteflies! You can plant your Tomatillos with Peppers, Tomatoes, Sunflower, Onion – repels beetles, spider mites and ants, Garlic, Cabbage, Kale and Carrot. Basil, mint, chives, sage, parsley, garlic repel insect pests. Parsley in bloom also attracts hoverflies whose larvae eat aphids and predatory wasps that eat other pests!

Incompatible! Kohlrabi stunts tomatillos. Corn (not recommended as a food) attracts pests that harm tomatillos. Potatoes and eggplants attract potato beetles and potato aphids that tomatillos are also susceptible to. Dill and Fennel have oils that inhibit root development and can kill neighboring plants.

Companion planting is not an exact ‘science.’ There are contradictions online, so try it for yourself. There are so many soil variations, different planting times of year per temps, distances between plants, differing plant varieties that have different hardiness or tolerance. Note how far apart you plant companions/not companions from your Tomatillos. Is your Tomatillo growth slowed, then when they get bigger things are fine? Have you planted a ‘good’ companion close enough to your tomatillos to do them good?

GROWING Details!

Half-Black Bumblebee on Tomatillo Flower
Half-Black BumbleBee (Bombus vagans) on Tomatillo Flower

Tomatillos are in the Solanaceae family like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. Honeybees DO NOT pollinate them, Bumblebees DO! It’s called buzz pollination! If you are inclined, make homes and habitat for wild bees! It’s easy!

You need 2 or more plants placed close together for cross pollination.

Bonnie Plants says ‘Plan for each plant to produce about a pound of fruit over the season. However, most recipes call for ½ pound to make sauce, so plan to grow a minimum of 2 to 3 plants to have enough fruit ready to eat at one time. You may need more if you like them a lot.’Choose full sun, except in hot climates where some afternoon shade is recommended.

Soil & Water: Tomatillos love fertile loamy soil rich in organic matter. Add plenty of compost prior to planting. Preferred soil pH is between 5.5-7.0. If you have heavy clay soil, grow them in raised beds. They grow well in containers as long as watering is kept regular.

Seed Sowing Depth: ¼” deep   Germination: 7-14 days

Starting Indoors:  Sow 6-8 or 8-10 weeks before last frost. Sow in flats/cells/pots. Provide 70-80ºF or 75-85ºF soil temperatures. Those are optimum, but they can be planted at 59ºF! Cooler soil temperatures increase germination time. If your Tomatillos don’t germinate, supply bottom heat to the plants, and cover them with a dome or plastic. This will definitely help.

Thin to 2″ apart after the first true leaves appear. Fertilize the seedlings every 7-10 days with a liquid or water soluble fertilizer (diluted to ¼ of suggested measurement). Transplant seedlings 24-48” apart after last frost.

Sowing Outdoors: Not recommended, especially in short season northern areas. Because of Tomatillos long growing season, this shortens their production time by as much as 2 months. 

Plastic Bottle Cloche

It helps to use row covers early in the season, giving the plants extra warmth, especially in the north. Or use cloches to protect and keep young plants warm. A simple cloche can be any large plastic container with its bottom cut off, with or without the cap. Not only does it keep your plant warm, but protects it from bird damage. On hot days be sure to remove that cap! 

If you have good hot summer temps, lay down a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch to preserve moisture and keep weeds down. If you have less than optimal hours of sun, are in a northern area or are in a cool area (our community garden is seaside cooler), don’t apply soil cooling mulch.

Days To Maturity: Depends on the variety and your local temps, but generally 65 to 100 days after transplanting.

Tomatillos can be compact and upright OR are highly-branched and sprawling, semi-indeterminate, with a more open canopy. Trellis or stake those plants for support. Staking the plants will ease harvest and keep fruit off of the ground, which reduces slug and other damage to the fruit and husk. It also enhances air circulation and discourages fungus problems on the foliage during periods of high humidity. If allowed to sprawl on the ground, the stems will rootand the plants will require more space than you may have anticipated, so be sure to use a trellis or tomato cage – unless you have the room and want more tomatillos!

Maintenance!


Tomatillos work hard making all those little lanterns! They are heavy feeders and will benefit from regular fertilization. Others say they are hardy and too much food gives you leaves and little fruit! If your soil is poor, feed ’em. If your soil is rich, let them alone. Probably is
wise to do the standard side dress when the flowers begin to form. 

Soak the soil 4-6″ deep at 7-day intervals. Like with any fuzzy leaved plants and tomatoes, avoid wetting the foliage when watering. Water at ground level. Keep the soil consistently moist. Overwatering can cause fruit to crack.

Pests & Diseases

Prolific Tomatillos and Flea Beetle Damage

Not only can you see how prolific Tomatillos are but also the Flea Beetle damage! See all the little holes in the leaves?! Plants are usually vigorous enough that the damage is merely cosmetic.

Pests: Aphids, cutworms, snails, slugs, flea beetles, European corn borer, mites, fruit worms, whiteflies, tomato hornworm, leafminers.

Diseases: Fungal leaf spots and early and late blights, powdery mildew, viruses, Bacterial soft rot. As possible, do a 3-4 year rotation, remove vines at the end of the year. as of 2017 two diseases have been documented, tomato yellow leaf curl virus associated with whiteflies, and turnip mosaic virus associated with aphids – see the last listing on this page. What turnip mosaic looks like.

Harvest Pointers Vary!

When to Harvest your Tomatillos
Thanks to Bonnie Plants for the image! 

Cutting is better than pulling them from and damaging your plant. Ripe fruits often fall to the ground, where they can be collected and taken to the kitchen. You can place some type of cloth under the plants for an easier harvest. These babies are prolific! harvest every two to three days.

Harvest when the fruit fills the husk, botanically called a calyx. Harvest lasts 1 to 2 months or until first frost. In that short time, your plant can produce 60 to 200 fruits within a single growing season! That means harvesting daily is common.

Some say the fruits should be hard, while others say they should feel slightly soft. Still others say the best time to pick for salsa is when husks turn brown & begin to open. They can be several colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple depending on the variety. With some varieties the plump fruit will bust right through the husk, and that is when you can tell that it is ready to harvest. You can just twist the fruit right off the vine at this point. 

For the green variety in the image, the bright green color on the right is ripe. The left is overripe, turning yellow because it was left too long on the plant. Overripe is not as good for cooking, as they lack the firm flesh and tart flavor of the green tomatillos. For Salsa Verde, tart is right! With additional time, they will become more seedy, but sweeter, for eating raw.

One gardener says Tomatillos are often ripe when the husk splits, the husk turns tan or dry, and the fruit is still green. However, some fruits fill the husk but do not cause splitting. Some experience with harvest will be necessary to assess ripeness per various varieties and your location.

How do you store them?

Simply gather them up and keep them at room temperature in a basket without removing their husks. Tomatillos will last for up to two weeks this way, 1 to 2 months in a cool dry place. For best flavor, do not refrigerate! If you must, store tomatillos in their husks for 2 to 3 weeks in a paper bag in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. Wiki says ‘They keep even longer with the husks removed and the fruit refrigerated in sealed plastic bags.’

For longer storage, you have to freeze them, whole or sliced, or can them.

Tomatillos are prolific! They can easily be frozen! Remove the husk, rinse and dry. Arrange the tomatillos, not touching, on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer. As soon as the tomatillos freeze (takes about 2 hours), pack the tomatillos in freezer bags. Freezing separately first prevents them from sticking together. Double bagging is a good idea to prevent freezer burn. Label the bags with the date and place them immediately in the freezer. Frozen tomatillos will be sweet when thawed, perfect for use in salsas, sauces, and soups. Tomatillos should keep in the freezer for up to a year.

SEEDSAVING!

Tomatillo SeedSaving
Thanks to Howard Parker for these images.

Per Seed Savers Exchange, Tomatillos are outcrossers, meaning that their flowers cross-pollinate and are incapable of self-pollination. So, if you have a favorite tomatillo variety for turning into salsa verde and want to save seeds, make sure you give it plenty of space from other varieties! If genetic preservation of a variety is the goal, Seed Savers Exchange says “the isolation distance should be increased to 1-2 miles.”

Keeping that in mind, let your green tomatillos ripen until they become bright yellow. Their seeds are tiny! If you aren’t needing a lot of seeds, try it like this with the tip of a small pointy knife!

As FOOD there is nothing like them! 

Salsa Verde made with Tomatillos!

I’m not sure Tomatillos have any whopping special nutritional features. Martha Rose Shulman, author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health,” says ‘Tomatillos are a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, as well as dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, potassium and manganese.’ There are so many wonder veggies, does it matter whether Tomatillos contribute highly? They’re a treat!

First, when you remove the husks, you find their skin has a sticky, sappy-like coating. The film has chemical compounds in it called withanolides that taste bad to pests, so the pests leave the tommies alone in the field! Leave it there, until you are ready to use them, it helps protect them while in storage. No worries. A quick rinse, a little vinegar if needed, and it’s gone!  

Tomatillos contain a pectin-like substance and can be used to thicken soups, stews or sauces when cooked. They can also be eaten raw, sliced and added to salads, guacamole, and fresh salsas. When slicing, use a serrated knife to easily cut through the skin without bruising. They can also be baked, dried, fried or pickled whole as a cold meat accompaniment, added to curries and stir fries. Serve grilled! Make marmalade and dessert sauce. The fruits, canned whole in Mexico, are sold domestically there and in the western United States.

Enjoy Salsa Verde as a dip, savoury sauce over enchiladas, tacos, eggs, as salad dressing, drizzle over chorizo, grilled fish, chicken, refried beans, rice, toast, and baked potato! As a marinade, in a burger! Use it as a dip for anything, including your bagel! Use it with Italian and French cuisines! 

Quick Basic Salsa Verde recipe! Emphasize your favorite ingredients as you wish! Tomatillos are the start. Add spicy HOT jalapeño peppers or not! Your choice. Fewer if you want less heat. Onion, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro! Rachel Steenland at The Plant Riot gives you all the juicy details!

More Recipes! Dan noSowitz says, don’t be limited to Mexican cuisine! Make a Raw Tomatillo And Spring Vegetable Salad, or Pasta With Tomatillo, Ricotta, And Sunflower Seed! Fried Tomatillos With Labneh And Za’atar. He says they’re [tomatillos] a really spectacular, unique ingredient, and the U.S. is unusual in that they are a very common sight throughout the entire country. (Just try finding tomatillos in France.) See his tasty recipes!

Tomatillo Fairy Lanterns and Blossoms

In addition to the terrific recipes, thanks to Dan noSowitz for this sweet image by Tim Lewisnm

May your garden grow deliciously with magical Fairy Lanterns! 

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the 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.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Tomatoes, Fusarium Wilt, and Dandelion, a Virtuous Plant!

Culinary Dandelion Whole Plant Root Allelopathic Fusarium

It turn out that culinary Dandelions are super Companion Plants for Tomatoes! Canadian researchers have discovered that the dandelion weed can protect tomato plants from fusarium disease. Fusarium attacks the plant roots. It reduces the number of tomatoes that the plant produces. Dandelion roots produce cichoric acid. This acid prevents the disease from getting iron from the soil. Fusarium needs iron to survive.

Here is a link to the extensive and fascinating abstract on Dandelion in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science , 2002, 82(4): 825-853. It says ‘Taraxacum officinale possesses allelopathic properties that can reduce germination of other plant species (Falkowski et al. 1990). In addition, phenolic compounds produced by T. officinale are considered responsible for allelopathic biological control of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici in greenhouse tomato plantings in Canadian experiments (Kasenberg and Traquair 1988). Satisfactory control of this pathogen was achieved when residues of T. officinale were incorporated into sterilized greenhouse soil. The mode of action is unknown but it may act directly by secretion of allelochemicals or promotion of antagonistic microflora (Jarvis 1989).

In this case, allelopathic is good! Allelopathic can happen 3 ways. 1) Release of chemical compounds from their roots into the soil. 2) Release of allelochemicals in gaseous forms. 3) Like with Brassicas dying/dead leaves that fall, gaseous allelochemicals are released from the small pores of their leaves. In fact, Brassica species are so potent they are grown for weed management by using them as cover crops, companion crops, and intercrops, for mulching and residue incorporation, or simply by including them in crop rotations. However! Some seeds can’t germinate there – that’s one reason why we remove dead Brassica leaves ASAP.

Allelopathy is great for weed suppression, but be mindful. Permaculture News advises CAUTION! They explain that ‘residues of allelochemicals may exist in the soil for a long time after the plant is removed; which results in soil sickness and makes some sites unsuitable for general plant growing.’

Do know that many weeds, including dandelions and lambsquarters, are known to host verticillium wilt. Remove them. When your crops are done, don’t let these weeds overwinter or leave them lying about.

Clearly this is a very careful game to play to keep a healthy balance. 1) You might not want to put Brassicas or dandelions in your compost? 2) As a gardener carefully choose where you will plant dandelions or Brassicas. In a greenhouse is one thing, but in the ground is another. If you have space you might dedicate a special area for your Dandelions – a place where you don’t plan to plant something else later.

Not only are Dandelions dandy tomato savers, but also dandelion greens have superior nutritional and medicinal properties, 4 times the Vitamin A in spinach, in fact, the highest of all greens! The cultivated dandelion variety, Taraxacum officinale, is said to be far superior to the rest in taste! It has broad upright leaves that seem to multiply in great stands right before your eyes.  These dandelions like rich, moist soil. Commercial varieties include Thick Leaf, Improved Thick Leaf, and Arlington Thick Leaf. Don’t be confused! Most American dandelion growers cultivate San Pasquale and Catalogn chicories, but call them dandelion greens, which are similar. Oh, and after a frost, their protective bitterness disappears. Grow your own, 100% organic! In Santa Barbara area Island Seed & Feed has some seeds!

What a beauty! Perennial Italian Red Rib Heirloom Dandelion!

ITALIAN RED RIB DANDELION, Heirloom Variety, perennial, 30-70 Days

Wild Man Steve Brill says: ‘The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They’re higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium [more than milk!] content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.’ Low in calories, a terrific liver cleanser, people have eaten dandelions for centuries. The name comes from the French, who called them dent de lion, or “lion’s teeth” because of their sharp, serrated leaves. All parts of the dandelion are edible, but the youngest leaves, less bitter before blooms form, are most commonly eaten, in salads, sautéed or steamed. Drizzle with a deliciously tangy vinaigrette made of honey, Dijon mustard, orange juice, and fresh rosemary. Or toss with garlic, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper, or with bacon fat (pancetta if you prefer) and a little wine vinegar.

There are many super ways of eating them! In breads, pasta dishes, soups and stews, quiche, omelets, fat sandwiches, avocado/dandelion wraps, sautéed, stir fried and wilted, tea and tarts, fritters and pancakes, pesto, and, of course, Dandelion Wine!

More Tomato Tips! 

Buy toms that are tagged VFN, or just VF – that’s Verticillium Wilt and Fusarium resistant. When they are about a foot tall, water their neighboring plants, but not them.  That keeps a drier soil the fungi can’t thrive in. Once a plant has the diseases, the leaves curl lengthwise and black spots appear on the lower stems and leaves, pull it and start over. Months of lost production time and poor production are not worth it. If your plant gets diseased, but is producing and you decide to keep it, don’t prune out the suckers (the little branches that are between the main stalk and a branch) because blight can enter your plant through these cuts.

For more pollination, tap your stakes and cages, or the main stalk, to shake the flowers – around 11 AM is best! If your toms aren’t well pollinated, they may be strangely shaped! Make homes for wild bees!

Plant toms quite apart from each other so 1) they don’t hybridize on the spot 2) their leaves don’t touch and the wilts can’t spread from one plant to the next.

Since toms are true heat lovers, if your planting area is a bit cool, you can plant a U perimeter of tall plants, leaving the South side open, and plant your toms in the warm center of the U! Water those neighbor plants, but not the toms directly. Water regularly so your tomato’s tap root can gets its regular water. That prevents blossom-end rot. The wilts like moist soil, so the idea is to keep the soil right next to your tom dry. Let them get their water by their tap root below the moist upper soil level where the wilt lives. See more wilt prevention tips!

See also Wilts & Cucumber Beetles, Tomatoes & Cukes! for special planting details!

Between wonderful companion plant Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, and your specialized growing techniques here and at those links, the Wilts may become history!

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Last updated 12.23.19



Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. In 2018 they lasted into September and October! Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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