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Calendula Biodiversity Companion Plant Sage Strawberry Chard

Beautiful biodiversity! Calendula – yellow, Pineapple Sage – red, Strawberries, Scarlet Chard in back.

Calendula is a terrific January on herb that brightens SoCal Gardens most of the year though they do prefer cool weather and tolerate frost. Yellow, orange, white or bicolor! Spiffy green, green leaves! One blogger refers to them as Sunshine Incarnate! Aka Pot, English or Poet’s Marigold ~ Calendula Officinalis, not to be confused with the Tagetes Marigolds used for Nematode suppression. See the Tagetes details

Be ready to give them some room! They grow up to 2′ tall and can take up a good 3′ footprint, plus they self seed, given time will spread if you let them. Plant well back from narrow pathways, or soon you won’t be able to get through!

Calendula Frost Pilgrim Terrace Community GardenIt’s easy to grow. If you still have plants from last year, gather seeds, drop them here and there in well drained areas when soil temperatures reach 60 degrees or after last frosts. Cover with about a 1/4″ of soil, and the ones that like that spot will grow themselves! Or transplant babies. They aren’t too picky about their soil and are cold hardy to 25 degrees. Scorching heat is not good, so plant sooner or later. They do great in containers! Put them in accent places or where you can see them a lot of the time!

Remove browning lower leaves to keep them looking fresh and let air circulate. They are susceptible to mildew. Deadhead to keep getting flowers!

GARDEN WORKHORSE COMPANION PLANT

Most insects avoid the plants, which is in keeping with one of its old uses as the basis for insect sprays, contains pyrethrum. The idea of brewing up calendula tea from the plants’ flowers and leaves, and using it as an insecticidal spray, is getting renewed attention based on several recent studies. In Poland, growing calendulas among cabbage resulted in fewer problems with aphids, cabbage worms, and diamondback moths. A recent study in India showed that calendula extract reduced feeding by tobacco cutworms.

The Mexican beetle avoids Bean rows that have Marigold/Calendula growing among them. Calendula repels a number of unwanted soil nematodes and asparagus beetles, but may attract slugs. Plant Calendula with tomatoes and asparagus. Calendula attracts a wide range of pollinators because it provides nectar over the whole growing season.

It is a super trap crop for aphids, whiteflies, and thrips because it exudes a sticky sap that they find more appealing and delicious than nearby crops.

Calendula flowers attract pollinator bees and butterflies! The nectar–along with the pests that it traps–attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings. Black flies that are attracted are followed by predatory hoverflies that feast on insect pests.

Calendulas also benefit the garden below ground, where they form partnerships with soil-borne fungi that turn the plants into soil-cleaning machines. In China and the USA, calendula has been found to be useful in the restoration of soil contaminated with high levels of cadmium. In Columbia and Spain, cover crops of calendula were found to suppress root-knot nematodes.

Calendula is an excellent multi-functional plant for permaculture fruit tree guilds.

Calendula grows thick and makes a great cover crop. Seed an area, let it grow, turn it under.

Plant Calendula right in the middle of things, between, next to any plant you want to help!

PESTS & DISEASES

Pests are Aphids, snails, slugs, whiteflies and the cabbage looper. Wash away aphids, remove infested leaves if necessary. Use a vinegar solution to kill them. Toss some organic snail/slug bait around two or three times to remove generations of snails. Where there are holes in the leaves, seek and remove loopers.

The disease is Powdery mildew. No Overhead watering. Mildew can be a problem on a plant you have pinched back to get dense bushy foliage with little air circulation. Best to prevent mildew by including it in your baking soda applications. UC IPM Powdery mildew  UC IPM Calendula

SEEDSAVING

Herb Calendula Seed HeadsCalendula seeds have personality! No two are alike. Saving them is simple! Let them dry on the plant for the most nutrition the mother plant can give them. Select plants with the color you want. Hold a bag underneath the dried flower head, gently break off the seeds. If the seeds don’t want to break off easily, let them dry a little longer. Lay them out in a dry place for two to three days to dry completely off the plant.

Gather enough for yourself and to share as gifts or package up for your local Seed Swap! Label your packet, store in a dry cool dark place.


HYPO-ALLERGENIC MEDICINAL

An account, written in 1699, states “The yellow leaves of the flowers are dried and kept throughout Dutchland against winter to put into broths, physicall potions and for divers other purposes, in such quantity that in some Grocers or Spicesellers are to be found barrels filled with them and retailed by the penny or less, insomuch that no broths are well made without dried Marigold.” Marigold is another name for Calendula.

Calendula Infused Oil Hypo-allergenic MedicinalMedicinal, of course, depends on whether you like doing that with your plants. I’m not too patient about building my own remedies, though one of these days I might do it. I know Calendula from tubes of goo I buy at the health food store. It’s a natural remedy for skin ailments, minor cuts and burns, sunburn, insect bites, diaper rash, dandruff! Use for skin and tummy ailments with dogs, horses, and cows, ear mites in doggies.

Sore throat? It doesn’t matter whether it is viral or bacterial infection because Calendula is effective against both! Gargle your tea 2-3 times a day or sip warm calendula tea slowly to get immediate relief. For children, mix honey with the tea and give spoonfuls of it several times a day.

Calendula infused oil Recipe by Ashley

It increases blood flow to the skin cells, provides antioxidant protection that reduces the appearance of wrinkles and ages spots, and even the visibility of scars. Calendula tea is great!

The easiest way to make the tea is to put about a tablespoon of dried calendula flowers in a heat proof mug and pour boiling water over them. Cover with a saucer and let steep for around 15 to 20 minutes.

It has antibacterial properties that make it good in toothpastes, mouthwashes, soaps, and shampoos. It is very effective in killing bacteria that cause everything from gingivitis to cavities. Research has shown that calendula has antioxidant compounds that directly impact your vision, helps prevent macular degeneration and the development of cataracts. Calendula can significantly reduce inflammation discomfort from a cough, joint pain, upset tummy. Add some calendula oil to your skin balm.

If you need a lot of flowers for your remedies, fertilizers high in phosphorus help. Jamaican bat guano is great, but needs to be added to your soil 4 months in advance of planting so it has time to break down for your plant to uptake. Plant densely and deadhead.

Warning: Some people have allergic reactions to high doses of calendula oil. Consult a trained herbalist or medical professional to avoid any major side effects.

EDIBLE LANDSCAPING – COOKING WITH CALENDULA!

Petals of single flowered varieties have better flavor! It’s spicy leaves and flowers are added to soups, sprinkled on salads, used as garnishes, in salsas, burritos, scrambled eggs, and frittatas! The yellow pigment of the flowers is used in place of saffron, in fact is called ‘Poor man’s saffron.’ It is tasty good looking in quiche, cake frosting, rice, butter, in or on cream cheese! Add to bread, syrups and conserves. You can dry the flowers and leaves for longer storage, to make winter tea and tonics.

There are tons of calendula varieties with different flower shapes, color combos, dwarfs for containers and borders, single to multi heads! Prince is heat resistant. Pacific Beauty is heat tolerant, has long stems for cutting!

Orange Calendula Flower at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden
Orange Calendula Flower at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA

We are charmed by its beauty and it serves us well. Thank you dear plant.

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

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Tomato Chef's Choice Pink F1 Beefsteak, 2015 AAS Vegetable Award WinnerTomato Chef’s Choice Pink F1 Beefsteak, 2015 AAS Vegetable Award Winner

The request I got was what are the best cherry, the best heirloom, the best standard and the best beefsteak to grow in our area?! Quite reasonable query.

Santa Barbara has such a range of zones! And, if you ask 5 gardeners they will have 5 answers! That’s my experience gardening at a community garden.

Best depends on WHEN you plant. If you plant early, you want ‘early’ producers that are more cold tolerant, the smaller varieties. A month later you can go for the bigger toms. Beefsteaks don’t do well on the Westside unless you have a hotspot. Gardeners at the Terrace don’t get the best results with them. They take too long to mature and often don’t get big like a beef steak should, take forever to redden, thus, low production.

Best depends on whether your soil has Verticillium or Fusarium wilts, which the Terrace does. And the wilts are wind borne as well as soil/water splash spread. Heirlooms generally have little resistance and die first at our garden. And whether heirlooms do well has a lot to do with what the gardener does with their soil and whether they help them out weekly/biweekly with an immune building foliar spray like the mix of powdered milk and aspirin. Soil needs worm castings, that help with the immune system, and at transplant time mycorrhizae fungi sprinkled on their roots for greater uptake of nutrients and water. Best for us are tomatoes that have VFN on their tags ~ Verticillium, Fusarium, Nematodes resistance. Resistance is exactly what it means. The plants do die sooner or later from the disease no matter how much you do, feed, spray, treat.

How the gardener plants tomatoes makes a difference. Up on a mound with a basin on top. Top that with a 1/2″ of compost, cover that with 1″ of straw to let in air and sun to dry the soil but keep the leaves from touching the soil. Touching the soil is the main way toms get the wilts. Lower leaves that might touch soil when weighted with dew or by watering need to be removed ASAP.

The wilts can’t be stopped. Sooner or later the plant leaves curl lengthwise, get dark spots, turn brown, hang sadly. Plants can produce but it’s agonizing to watch. Sometimes they somewhat recover later in the season after almost looking totally dead. I think the summer heat drys the soil and kills enough of the fungi for the plant to be able to try again. When we think it is dead, we water it less. It’s better to water near a tomato, not right at its roots. It has a deep tap root and will find water from water you give to neighboring plants.

The best of each? Cherry, heirloom, standard, beefsteak? I believe often it is totally gardener preference. If they love that variety, they will pamper it like a baby and it grows and produces like crazy! Some gardeners love Lemon Boys that are practically tasteless to me. Some gardeners like a mushy almost grainy texture. Some gardeners far prefer taste to quantity of production. I personally don’t find heirlooms to be anymore tasty than the toms I choose, though I do love their color variations and odd shapes! I’ve chosen toms just because I like their name. And I don’t recommend doing that, LOL! Some plant that variety because that’s what their family planted, sentimental, and they swear it tastes better too! Genes, you know.

Other than that, if you want to get technical, AAS Winners are a total best bet! All America Selections is a non profit of 80 years standing! The 2014 tomato winner was a yummy looking orange heirloom! They are selected each year from the best that are produced, proven producers, disease and pest tolerance/resistance. Obviously color, size, taste and texture are personal choices and best becomes a moot point. I do a little of both. I primarily pick VFNs and let myself ‘experiment’ from time to time, and let at least one volunteer live out of pure curiosity! LOL

Mother Earth News has a great collection of gardener tomato variety preferences cross country. Check it out! For the Southwest, Sungold and other cherry tomatoes are the popular, practical choice. Those of us more coastal are very lucky to have a greater range of choice.

A technical point is some varieties of tomatoes are far better for tomato grafting than others.

So, best depends on best for what, when, where and who! Personal taste, soil conditions, when you plant, where you plant. A windless hot spot with lots of light even in a cool neighborhood works well so you have more choices of varieties that will succeed.

HEAT TOLERANT VARIETIES! Many plants start shutting down, dropping flowers, baby fruits, at about 85 degrees. But, like Rattlesnake green beans that produce wonderfully in temps up to 100 degrees, there are some terrific tomatoes that keep right on producing! Look at successful varieties grown in hot inland California, southern and desert areas to see their choices, not just in the US, but places like Israel too. In this SoCal drought heat, I highly recommend you take a good look at nursery tags! Query a knowledgeable nursery person if in doubt, and double check that variety online before you purchase. Best choices from now on, in the warmer winter and hotter California summers, needs to include heat tolerance! Key words in heat tolerant tomato names are heat, solar, fire, sun!

GardenWeb has some great discussions from around the country on heat tolerant varieties and gardener tips of all kinds! Best heat resistant tomato varieties? – GardenWeb

Happy Tasty Tomatoes to You!

 

 

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Soil Thermometer Veggies

Soil temp is always your basic seed planting time guide!

There are minimum germination temps, ideal temps and max temps. Plant when soils reach minimum temperature measured at 8 a.m., 4 inches deep. Beans are an exception, being measured at 6 inches deep.

40 Degrees! Crops that germinate in the coolest soils: arugula, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, pak choi, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, radicchio, radish and spinach seed.
50 Degrees:  Cabbage, Chinese cabbage, leeks, onions, Swiss chard, and turnips.
55 Degrees:  Corn, tomatoes.
60 Degrees warm-season vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots and cauliflower.
65 Degrees: Cucumber, peppers, cantaloupe
70 Degrees heat lovers!  Beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, okra, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

In northern climates it can take several weeks for tomatoes, eggplant and peppers to germinate in the garden. You can get a jump on the season if you do cold-tolerant, or if North, short-season variety transplants. Squash, cucumbers and corn grow quickly and are easy to start from seed.

Heat your soil with plastic mulch and use a cloche, fabric row cover or cold frame. The bane of early planting is a late hard freeze. If you decide to take an early season chance, have covers handy for unprotected plants!

We can thank Dr Jerry Parsons, Extension Horticulturist at the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, for the temps info in this great chart below! You see, there are minimum temps, optimum, and no-go temps! At the practical temps you might not get 100% germination, but you will get a crop at the right time. Too soon you get too little. Too late, like in SW desert areas or hot climates, there may be too much summer heat and little production, high water costs.

Notice that there are differences from the temps and plants listed above and the chart below, some plants appear in two temps, and some plants, like okra, might not be planted in the north at all! Dr Parsons has longer Texas heat in his area. Northern gardeners need to plant sooner for short cooler summers. Plant cold tolerant or early varieties. And, plant more seeds to compensate for those that don’t germinate. Or, presprout for more surety.

Regions have huge variances in planting time strategies, and even in the same yard there are micro niches that vary considerably, so get a thermometer and plant in the right place at the right time!

Soil Germination Temperatures Veggies Parsons

Start with fresh viable seed for great germination, and don’t forget your seed soaking & presprouting options!

With a Soil Thermometer and good gardener self discipline, get your seeds and plants in the ground at their most productive times for your location! Here’s to abundant harvests!

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Artichoke Pups Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden October 2014
Artichoke Pups! Love your Mother! Plant winter bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

Late August plantings are bringing the first fall/winter harvests of broccoli and cauliflowers now! But some of us waited for cooler weather, waited out the Bagrada bugs, and didn’t plant our Brassicas until mid October. By all means, you can plant now, and a second or third round for you who planted earlier or to replace plants that didn’t make it. Try purple or orange cauliflowers. I got some of those Sicilian Violets! Plant Brassicas ~ kales, collards, turnips, mustard greens, mizuna, kohlrabi, spinach. This year I am trying some smaller varieties of cabbages, Red Express, rich in lycopene and anthocyanins, and Baby Pixie, a mini white! I just can’t eat the giant heads quickly enough, and sometimes I’m lazy about doing probiotic processing. If you are in the foothills that get a good chill, do some flavorful Brussel sprouts!

Cilantro loves cool weather and is said to repel aphids on Coles/Brassicas – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts! And, cilantro is said to make them grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!

Transplants or Seeds! Definitely time to plant more lettuces, arugula, peas, parsley, chard, beets! Celery thrives in cool weather and makes pups. Speaking of pups, divide your artichokes and give the new babies room to grow big too and make pups of their own or give them to friends! Remember, they have a huge 6′ footprint when they thrive and are at full maturity. Plant bareroot artichoke now or in Feb, or in March from pony packs. Grow regular radish, and those cool season long icicle radishes and the larger daikons. Carrots enhance the growth of peas; onions stunt peas! Plant the Allium family, onions, leeks, chives, at least 3′ away from your peas. Further is better.

GARLIC!  Oh, yes, all kinds of that fine stinky stuff! Plant rounds of your fattest garlic cloves now through Dec 21, Winter Solstice, for June/July harvests! If one batch doesn’t succeed, another will! Garlic likes chill too, so we don’t get the big cloves like up in Gilroy, the Garlic Capital, Ca. If you don’t mind smaller bulbs, plant away. See a LOT about GARLIC!

Strawberry choices! In Santa Barbara area, plant your bareroot Albion strawberries NOW (Island Seed & Feed)!  NOV 1 to 5  Yes, the Santa Barbara dates are that specific! June bearers are Chandlers. Everbearers are Sequoias. OR plant bareroot Sequoias in January (La Sumida). Albions are a very firm berry. Both Albions and Sequoias are a large berry. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries even more so than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, farmers grow, or experiment!

1st Half of Nov: Plant seeds of globe onions for slicing. Grano, Granex, Crystal Wax.

When planting transplants be sure to sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi directly on their roots, pat it on gently so it stays there. Direct contact is needed. This is good practice for all but Brassicas that don’t mingle with the fungi at all! Also, peas may have low need for it since they gather their own Nitrogen from the air and deposit it in little nodules that form on their roots.

Throw a handful of nonfat powdered milk, helps the immune system of your plant, in the planting holes of your big Brassicas, for immediate uptake, and bone meal in for later uptake when your plant is close to blooming. Add worm castings for plant growth hormones, immune boost! Don’t need a lot, they are potent.

It is great to RESTORE OR REST an area. Decide where you will plant your tomatoes, heavy feeders, next summer and plant your Green Manure there! Plant some hefty favas or a vetch mix for green manures to boost soil Nitrogen. The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell beans that feed the soil, and oats that have deep roots to break up the soil. When they start flowering, chop them down into small pieces and turn them under. Wait 2 or more weeks, plant! Favas are big and you get a lot of green manure per square foot. If you change your mind, you can eat them!

Presprout your favas! Presprouting equals 100% germination and mucho time saved since favas have a notoriously low germination rate! It’s a no-brainer since it is so easy to do! Just be gentle when you plant the babies. If fava is too tall and would shade out other plants, the vetch green manure ground cover mix grows shorter. It gets only 4-5′ tall. In Santa Barbara get it bulk at Island Seed & Feed. Be sure to get a packet of inoculant for the beans, peas and vetch.

Or cover an area you won’t be planting with a good 6″ to a foot deep of mulch/straw and simply let the herds of soil organisms do their work over winter. That’s called sheet composting or composting in place – no turning or having to move it when it’s finished. If you are vermicomposting, have worms, add a few handfuls to speed up and enrich the process. Keep it slightly moist. Next spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Be sure your soil is nutritious with excellent water holding capacity, has lots of humus in it. Worm castings are good for humus, and castings suppress several diseases and significantly reduce parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealy bugs and mites. Add safe manures. A mix of manures is quite tasty to your plants and offers a mix of nutrients. Cow manure is better than steer manure. Aged and salt free or very low salt horse manures are best and safe for your plants. Rabbit pellets are safe to use immediately and directly on your soil. Best to dig it into the top 3 to 6 inches so it doesn’t just dry up, off gas the Nitrogen, the very ingredient your plants need for superlative growth. If you have extra, you can top your soil with it, at which point it really becomes a mulch, maybe humus, keeping your soil moist underneath, rather than adding nutrient.

If you planted back in Aug, Sep, it’s time to Sidedress!  That might be cultivating in some yummy compost, well aged manures, bunny poop, and/or worm castings!  This would be especially valuable for crops grown for leaf, like lettuces, chard and kales, and celery that are in constant high production. Go gently with your carrots. In over rich soil they fork and get hairy!

Water  Keep your lettuces well watered for fast sweet growth. Go gently with chards and kales. Too much water softens them making them more susceptible to leaf miners and aphids. Not too much water for carrots either, or growth is too fast and they split, opening them to drying that makes them tough, and soil pests and diseases.

Immediately after transplanting, give your babies a boost! Drench young plants with Aspirin Solution, + 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda per gallon/watering can, to get them off to a great start! Do this the same or next day! Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains.

Check that your bioswales, drainage, Hugelkultur, terraces, are holding well, and clear your pathways. Keep your basins and perimeters of your beds in good condition to keep water where it is needed and water there only. At home, set up grey water and water capture systems. Lay down seedless straw, a board, or stepping stones so your footwear doesn’t get muddy. We will continue to pray for rain!

This year there is added incentive to cultivate, scratch up the ground 2 to 3″ deep, remove soil eating weeds. Not only does cultivating turn the soil to expose the Verticillium and Fusarium Wilts fungi that so affects our tomatoes and other plants, but it exposes those Bagrada bug eggs! We want them and the fungi to dry and die! While you are weeding, replace soil where beet or carrot tops have become exposed.

Gather sheets, light blankets, old towels, in case of hard freezes. If a freeze should happen, for small plants, like tender lettuces, just lay tomato cages on their sides and put your coverings over them, securing them well so wind doesn’t blow them away and damage your plants.

BEE FOOD! Plant wildflowers from seed for early spring flowers! Germination in cooler weather takes longer, so don’t let the bed dry out. If you are a seed ball person, fling them far and wide, though not on steep slopes where they simply wash away. What is a seed ball?

Winter leaf crop plants are incredibly productive and super nutritious! Cut and Come Again! Kale, cabbages, collards, lettuces. Cut bunch/table onions 1 to 2” above ground. They will come back 3 to 4 times – you will be amazed how fast! After you cut the main broccoli head off, let the side sprouts grow. Snip for salads, light steaming.

Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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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, in the fog belt/marine layer part of the year, so keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

See the entire November 2014 Newsletter!

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Delicious Summer Veggies Harvest

Some of you gardeners may be a wee bit tired of picking prodigious batches of green beans, but keep up with harvesting, it keeps your plants producing! I hope you have been canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying!

There are HOT August days, and ones that have a hint of fall. Days are a tad shorter; shadows in different places now. It is the time of the turn of the seasons here in coastal SoCal! Though crazy busy with harvests, gardeners are making their first fall plantings mid August, especially from seed! Often they are made in semi shaded ‘nursery’ areas to be transplanted as they get bigger and space becomes available. Plant your seeds far enough apart to get your trowel in to pick your little plants up to move them one by one to their new home. Some are planted under finishing plants to take the finishing plant’s place, like peas under beans. Pop in some kale 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: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, turnips. See below for help on choosing the very best varieties! 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.

Make your own Seed Strips! They are great for radish, carrots, any seeds that are small and hard to handle. It’s an easy, satisfying evening activity that saves your back, and seeds, when you are planting!

If seeds don’t work for you, don’t have time to do the extra watering, you will be away at the critical time, keep harvesting, do your soil preps, and wait for September or October transplanting. Labor Day weekend is the big planting time for many gardeners, and that’s only a month away now!

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

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

Plant sweet potato slips in late summer for harvest around Christmas.  Jenny Knowles, then at Plot 16, harvested these tasty beauties Dec 28, 2011!  She let sprouted taters grow into plants while on her kitchen window sill. She planted them in August/Sep, on the sunny side of her black composter. Clearly, between the super compost nutrition, and the heat of the composter, both from the black color and the warmth of the decomposing compost, she succeeded! She got several smaller pups before she took the main plant and the large central potatoes. I was lucky to witness this fine harvest!

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 heavy producers a good feed.  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 at an optimum.

Keep your watering steady to avoid slowing or stopping production or misshapen fruits – that’s curled beans, odd shaped peppers, catfaced strawberries. 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 from the wilts fungi. I put down straw a good 3″ deep.

In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when 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.

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 a plentiful compost stash, 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.

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 some red wriggler worms here and there to make your pile jump up! Turn it as often as you can to aerate and keep things humming. Once a day if possible, but do what you can. Compost improves your soil’s water holding capacity and adds and stabilizes N, Nitrogen!  Yes!

SeedSaving! 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! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings.  Remember, these seeds are adapted to you and your locality. If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank!  While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out!

Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!

See the entire August 2014 Newsletter!

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Toddler and Carrot!  Let's keep growing good things together!
SouleMama’s Baby Boy
Let’s keep growing good things together!

December Plantings!

November has gifted us with the fruits of our September plantings!  Just like those transplant tags say, maturity in 50, 60+ days!  Brilliant purple cauliflower, tightly packed broccoli heads, peas ready for garden eating – never mind taking them to the kitchen!  Lettuces are springing out of the ground.  Turnips have been eaten.  Chards, kale, and collard greens have produced bountiful greens!  For many, December brings the biggest fall harvests, Winter’s June, perfectly in time for your holiday table.  Don’t forget to harvest your sweet potatoes!  Cabbages, carrots and beets are taking a tad longer. 

With shorter and cooler days, what you plant now will take a bit longer to mature, more than that 50, 60+ days.  So December plantings will be coming in late February, March.  That’s still in good time for soil preps in March, then the first spring plantings in April.  Definitely plant one more round of your favorite winter veggies, from transplants when possible!  Artichoke (give them 3’ to 4’ space), arugula, asparagus – Pat Welsh (Southern California Gardening) recommends UC-157, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, culinary dandelions, garden purslane, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes/daikons, and turnips!

GARLIC LOVERS  December, is the last time to be planting garlic, with the special date being Winter Solstice day, Dec 21!  Use the fattest cloves, give them super rich soil.  Some say give them lots of water, others say little.  Up to you.  Also, you have the choice whether to plant with the skin on or presoaked skin off.  Skin on protects the clove; skin off grows faster if it doesn’t get eaten or rots.  Again, up to you. But all agree, choose the hefty cloves!

We have been super lucky, few bagrada bugs so far.  Just in case, keep planting Red Giant Mustard as a trap plant so the Bagradas won’t bother your brocs and cauliflowers.  Earlier in the year I found a few munching on my arugula.  Be warned.

Choose an area to prepare for spring planting!  Plant some beautiful favas or a vetch mix for green manures and to boost soil Nitrogen.  The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell beans, plus oats to break up the soil (they have deep roots).  Favas are big and you get a lot of green manure per square foot.  If you change your mind, you can eat them!  🙂  Or cover an area you won’t be planting with a good 6″ to a foot deep of mulch/straw and simply let the herds of soil organisms do their work over winter.  That’s called sheet composting or composting in place – no turning or having to move it when it’s finished.  If you are vermicomposting, have worms, add a few handfuls to speed up and enrich the process.  Next spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Winter Garden Practices

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

Cover carrot, beet, radish, turnip, exposed shoulders with soil.

Keep watch on your chard and beet leaves.  Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make; remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue.  Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners.  Water a tad less so the leaf is less soft and inviting.

Thin any plants you intentionally over planted – carrots, beets, turnips, kale, chard, mustard.  If you planted too close together, take out the shorter, weaker plants. They are all great in your salads.

SideDressing – that’s feeding your plant during its growing time! Your plants will love a liquid fertilizer, like a stinky fish/kelp, that is easy for them to uptake in cooler weather. Sprinkle fertilizer around your plants or down a row, and dig it in a little, especially before a rain! Water it in. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings.  Rabbit manure can be put down directly with no composting.  Pretty box mixes are fine!  Lay in some of your fat compost in the top 3 to 6 inches of your soil.  If you haven’t been a fertilizing mid-season person before, think about how hard your plant is working.  Big brocs, for example. When they start to head, when plants start to produce, that’s your cue to help them along.  Worm castings, though not food, work wonders!

Especially feed your cabbages, lightly, time to time, because they are making leaf after leaf, dense heads, working hard.  I often see kales lose their perk. You would too if someone kept pulling your leaves off and never fed you.  Feed them too, please, while feeding your cabbages.

Don’t feed carrots, they will fork and grow hairy!  Overwatering makes them split.  Your peas and favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, feeding themselves, so little to no feeding is needed for them.

In SoCal, winter is not a time for mulching except for erosion control.  Its purpose in summer is to keep the soil and plant roots cool, and retain moisture.  In winter, we pull the mulch back to let the soil warm up during the short days.  Also, it’s good to remove pest habitat, let the soil dry a bit between rains to kill off the wilts fungi, and let Bagrada bug eggs die.  In summer I use straw mulch, so I bag it up and use it in my compost pile layers during winter.

Just in case, have old sheets, light blankets, old towels handy in case of hard freezes.  If a freeze is predicted, for small plants, like tender lettuces, just lay tomato cages on their sides and put your coverings over them.  Secure them well so wind doesn’t blow them around and damage your plants.  Santa Barbara’s average First Frost (fall) date is December 19, Last Frost (spring) date is January 22.   One month.  

Veggie Predators

  • Gophers  You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after the rains. If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.
  • Aphids? Watch for leaves unnaturally curled along the length of the leaf, particularly broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages.  Squish or wash any or the colony away immediately, and keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed.
  • White flies  Flush away, especially under the leaves. They are attracted to yellow, so keep yellowing, yellowed leaves removed.  Probably need a little less watering.
  • Slugs, Snails  Sluggo, or the like, before they even get started, right when your seedlings begin to show, immediately when you put your transplants in! Once stopped, there will be intervals when there are none at all. If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another couple rounds.

Any time is a good time to start COMPOSTing!  Pile, in a bin, trench in, lay layers on top of your garden!  Giving back to Mama Earth is nature’s natural way!  Ask neighbors or kin to save kitchen cleanings for you.

Start getting your summer garden layout in mind. Peruse seed catalogs and order up for your Spring planting!  🙂


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden.  We are very coastal, in the fog belt part of the year, so keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Nutritious and Beautiful Rainbow Lacinato KALE!
Rainbow Lacinato Kale is almost too pretty to eat! West Coast Seeds says, ‘A fabulous cross of beloved Lacinato with the super cold hardy Redbor produces these multicoloured plants with mostly the strap-like leaves of the Lacinato and the colouring of the Redbor. It is slower to bolt and more productive than Lacinato. Enjoy cooking this colourful bouquet all winter long.’ 65 days.

In SoCal, rather than cold tolerant varieties, select heat tolerant varieties that will grow well over summer too!

Kales have amazingly different colors and shapes!

  • Scotch – Curly Leaf Kale is the most plant you will get for the footprint of all the plants in your garden! Its leaves are amazingly convoluted, and it keeps growing as you pick, tall and taller, up to 7′! In healthy soil it may make side plants along its naked stem. It’s disadvantage is if it gets aphids, then whiteflies attracted to yellowing leaves, they are hard to hose out of the leaves.
  • Siberian Kale is a curly edged flat leaf variety. If you like your curls, but not your aphids, you might prefer this beauty. It’s leaves are light blue-green with white stems. It is the most tender variety, making it a great choice for raw salads.
  • Red Russian is a flat leaved low variety, with a red/purple midrib, beautiful among your ornamental yard plants!
  • Red Bor, a completely purple beauty, midribs and leaves, is perfect for edible landscaping. 3 to 5′ tall. It is mild and crisp!
  • Lacinato, aka Dinosaur Kale, is a bumply long narrow leaved variety that gets tall. Rainbow lacinato kale, image above, is more productive and quite prettier!
  • Ornamental kale, aka Salad Savoy, is such a pretty winter garden accent! Ruffly, maybe frilly, purple, white, green heads.

Kale, Brassica oleracea, varieties have differing tastes. Some are more peppery to a bit bitter, like Curly Leaf; Red Russian is milder. Some are snacks in the field, while others need some cooking or even disguising in a stew with other veggies if you aren’t a kale lover, but want the nutrition. Salad Savoy is mild and tender.

Soil  Fertilize well at planting time because your plant will be working hard, leaf after leaf, forever and ever! Kale grows best when your soil is mixed with organic matter and perhaps a tad of lime in the soil. Overplant, closely, to start, for lots of little plants for salads, then keep thinning to 24 to 36 inch centers for your final spacing. Even my dwarf kales get up to 36″ wide!

Intermingle with companion plants and different varieties of kales and Brassicas! Cilantro enhances Brassicas. Lettuces repel cabbage butterflies. Different varieties mature at different times and you will have less pests like aphids.

In SoCal weather your kale will grow up to 4 years even though it is a biennial. Feed them time to time because they are heavy producers, a continuous leaf crop. Dig in a compost, worm castings, manure chow. Be careful not to break main roots. Scratch in some of those delicious box powder ferts, or if you live in Santa Barbara get that super landscape mix at Island Seed & Feed. Water it in well. Or get out your spade fork, poke in some holes and pour a compost, castings, manure tea down the holes! Your soil, your kale, and the faeries will dance in the moonlight!

Mildews, yuk. Severely infected plants may have reduced yields, shortened production times, and fruit/leaves that have little flavor. Powdery mildews like warm and dry weather, are windborn! Be good to neighboring gardeners, remove infected leaves ASAP! Some Powdery mildew spores can’t germinate in water, so water your kale overhead every couple of days to wash spores away and suppress the spread of the mildew!  Downey mildew, the fuzzy underleaf kind, likes cool moist weather, is spread by wind, water, and overwinters in your soil!

Mildew Prevention is the wise choice.

  • Do fall cleanup of leaves and debris.
  • Plant in full sun
  • Treat with homemade remedy: heaping tablespoon Baking soda, 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk, one regular aspirin, teaspoon liquid dish soap per watering can/gallon immediately after planting transplants and every 10 days or so after that, and after rains.
  • Water less and early in the day.
  • Avoid excess fertilizer, use slow release fertilizers instead.
  • Remove weeds and plant less closely to reduce humidity.

Apparently it is safe to eat steamed washed mildewed kale. But having read about spores overwintering in soil, I’m no longer putting it in my cold compost, likely a perfect habitat for it.

Varieties  Several webpages recommend getting mildew resistant varieties, but in all my searching I didn’t find one variety mentioned. If you do, please let us know! If, however, you are looking for cold hardiness, here is great information from Mother Earth News field trials! Kales are generally Heat tolerant but even more heat tolerant varieties are surely coming. Coastal SoCal kales grow all year long and the most severe condition in recent years is heat!

The nutritional value of kale is superb, both in disease prevention and treatment!

  • The trick is to balance the nutrition versus the calories. For example, kale has less calories, but sweet potatoes have more Vitamin A. But that kale does have 98% of our daily need!
  • Kale has less sodium and a surprisingly high Vitamin C count, in fact, raw kale has 200% the Daily Value we need! Even cooked, it has 71%! A cup of cooked kale or collards contains more vitamin C than an eight-ounce glass of orange juice, and more potassium than a banana. All that and only 55 calories!
  • One of the super features of kale is it has a high amount of bioaccessible Calcium, especially needed by older women! We can absorb 50 to 60% of kale’s calcium. A cup of kale has more calcium than a cup of milk, that many are allergic to! And, it is a top source of Vitamin K, also essential to bone health.
  • Steamed kale’s fiber-related components bind with bile acids in your digestive tract to lower your cholesterol levels. Raw kale does too, just not as much.
  • Extraordinarily, kale’s glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level!
  • Over 45 different flavonoids in kale, kaempferol and quercetin heading the list, combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that reduce your risk of cancer.

Proper Storage  Do not wash kale before storing. Water encourages spoilage. Remove as much air as you can from the plastic storage bag. Pop it in the fridge, it will keep for 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes.

Eat more, cook less! Eating a cup to 2 cups 2 to 3 times a week is good, 4 to 5 times is better! Steaming is best. If you have young thin stemmed kale leaves, cut the leaves into 1/2″ slices. If your kale is older, thick stemmed and you don’t want the stems, run a sharp knife along the stem to shave the leaves from the stem, cut those into 1/2″ slices. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance their health-promoting qualities, then steam for 5 minutes.

Tasty Culinary Adventures:  With most kales, young leaves can be added to a salad. Mature leaves are better in soups, quiches, stir fry, steamed over rice sprinkled with soy, or sautéed and tossed with your favorite dressing! Kale chips are easy to make; dry and sprinkle with your favorite flavors! Have you had it chopped with scrambled eggs for breakfast?! Make a cream of kale soup, kale potato soup. Add to accent your fish chowder. Add to winter stews, or with cream of Butternut squash! Chopped and steamed with diced potatoes, diagonally sliced carrots, and onions, all tossed with olive oil. Are you hungry yet? Get rad and try a smoothie! With yogurt and berries, mmm, delish! Finely chopped in hummus, or super tender baby leaves, thinnings, chopped in salad, or sprinkled with enthusiasm in enchiladas!

Cool kale salads! Delish with dried cranberries, toasted or raw cashew pieces, vegan mayonnaise and a little lemon juice. With fruits like avocados, apples, pears. Napa or red cabbage, carrots, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Dress to taste with vinaigrette, sesame-ginger or tahini dressing. How about chopped kale, pine nuts, and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil?! If your plant flowers, those are edible too! Just run your fingers along the stem then sprinkle the flowers over your salad.

Bon appétit! To your superb health and longevity!

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

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