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Winter Squash Gourd Pumpkin!

Winter Squash, Gourd, Pumpkin are now being harvested! Vivid fruitfulness: the variety of squash available is vast, and all make satisfying nutritious winter warmers! Delightful discussion by Francine Raymond at The Telegraph in the UK

Congratulations on your Squash & Pumpkin harvests and Happy Halloween!

Brassicas are the SoCal winter veg garden winners!

LARGE BRASSICAS

Broccoli is the favorite Brassica and rightfully so per the nutrition it offers. Plants differ in size, head color and shapes, how heat tolerant they are if you intend to let them over summer, and make side shoot production. To get value for the room Brocs take up, a lot of gardeners seek varieties that produce a lot of side shoots after the main head is taken. Some newer varieties are already producing side shoots before the main head is taken! These smaller heads are great steamed if large, or tossed with your salad if small. Do as you wish! Research has shown there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together! Probably true for other large Brassicas as well. More!

Kale has become a have-to-have! Eat young leaves fresh in salads. Steam with other veggies over rice. High in Vitamin A and anti cancer properties! Lovely varieties – green or purple, flat or curly leaves. They just keep growing. They are technically a biennial, 2 year plant. The first year is for production, the second they make seeds. But. In SoCal they over winter several years. Or if we have exceptionally hot weather, they may bolt and make seeds the first year! You can end up with a pom pom style, especially the curly leaf kales. But they lose their verve, look tired and tasteless, rather tortured. A fresh young kale in good soil will easily take up a 3′ footprint and produce thick tender vibrant leaves like crazy! What a difference. I hope you start fresh ones each year. They grow so quickly. You won’t lose any harvest time if you plant a baby at the base of the old one, then take the old one down when you are getting those sweet young leaves from the baby. I’ll bet you forgot how good they can really taste! Just be sure to work in some good compost so it can be strong and keep producing well. More!

Cauliflower now comes in the standard white, also green, orange and purple! The disadvantage is there is only one head and that’s it, though as with any Brassica, the leaves are edible. Like Collard greens.

Cabbage is more dense for the dollar than Cauliflower though it too has only one head and takes a long time to grow – even the mini varieties! But what a feast! A cabbage head is amazing and you can fix it so many ways. Shred in salad, coleslaw, steamed, cabbage soup – Borscht, stir fried, cabbage rolls, cabbage kimchi, in tacos, as sauerkraut! Or try a traditional Irish dish, colcannon, a mixture of mashed potatoes, cabbage or kale, onions, and spices. YUM! There are many cabbage varieties as well – ‘white,’ red or green. Different sizes, and I do mean different. There are 4 to 6″ minis for container gardens, sooner eating or you just don’t need a huge cabbage. Easily more than a foot in diameter monsters! First they grow loose, then they fill in and make hard dense heads. An amazing plant! While your cabbages are putting on size, plant lettuces among them and other Brassicas. Lettuce repels cabbage moths. More on Cabbage!

Brussels Sprouts are charming. They like a colder climate to make big sprouts. In Santa Barbara SoCal area you need to be prepared to harvest lots of small ones. But, I have to tell you, last year’s sprouts were up to almost 2″ diameter in two of our community gardens, so it wasn’t good soil that made the difference. The sprouts liked the weather or new more heat tolerant varieties are on board! I will query the gardeners…and one of our local nurseries is getting new varieties of various plants that are on the cutting edge. Those sprouts may have been purchased there.

All these big Brassicas need feeding from time to time because they are big, and most of them are continuously producing leaf crops! They are all susceptible to Mildew. Try for resistant varieties. Water in the morning when possible so they can dry by evening. A good reason not to over water or fertilize is aphids and whiteflies! They like softer plants. Use plenty of worm castings, as much as possible in their soil – as much as 25% if you can! Plant your Brassicas far enough apart, leaves not touching, for airflow when they are mature, so pests and diseases don’t easily spread plant to plant. Brassicas are generally frost tolerant, even a bit freeze tolerant, and it is said their flavor improves!

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

ENJOY LOTS OF SMALL BRASSICAS! 

For salads arugula, bok choi, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, tatsoi, peppery sweet alyssum! Root crops are Daikon and White Icicle, pretty China Rose and handsome Long Black Spanish radish, turnips, rutabagas! Grow horseradish for fermenting. Plant these tasty small Brassicas in rows, between, among, around, in patches. A few here, a few there! Be artful and enjoy their many flavors at your winter table!

Peas – Flat, Snap or Pod
Pea Golden Sweet Shelling or eat young whole pod

Flat is the same as Chinese or snow peas. String ’em or buy the stringless variety, and eat ’em right then and there or toss a few with your salad, steam or stew in Oriental dishes, add to your stir fry! Shelling or English peas are so delicious fresh out of the pod and might tasty steamed. SNAP peas are the sinful favorite of many. Few make it home from my garden. I just eat them. That’s why you get stringless varieties. Who wants to be picking their teeth at the garden, LOL?! Ok, if some of those snap peas do make it to the kitchen, add them to salads. If you must, lightly steam them, add them to stir fries. They are very tender. To keep their fresh green look, undercook….

Yellow, green or purple, you can get bush or pole peas! Bush peas come in sooner; pole peas grow tall, so come in later. Soon as your bush peas are done, the pole peas will come in shortly after, making for a steady supply. And the pole peas keep on coming. Compared to beans or tomatoes, peas have a shorter life span. And when they are done, they are done. Fertilizing, coaxing, additional water doesn’t help. Successive planting is the answer. Plant once a month or so if you love peas. You do have to keep them picked or, like beans, they stop producing. They have short roots and need to be kept moist. Onion family stunts peas! But carrots enhance peas! Plant carrots around the cage or along the trellis. If you plant carrots on one side of them, water the pea side so the carrots don’t get too much water and split.

Peas are the winter legume as beans are the summer legume of your garden! They are the trellis plants of our winter gardens. Put in your trellis first, then plant pole seeds, plus transplants of bush and pole all at the same time for them to come in one after the other. Your bush peas in cages will produce first, then your pole peas, and likely your seeded pole peas will follow in short order. Soon as your peas are done, clip off the plant, leaving the roots with their Nitrogen nodules in the ground to feed your soil. Plant more!

Presprouting your seed peas makes sense! Presprouting assures no spots will be empty where a seed didn’t come up and you lose production! Presprouting peas is super simple. Paper towel on plate, lay out peas an inch apart, fold the paper towel over them, spritz with clean water, keep them moist. By +/- 5 days they will have sprouted, some more than others! Carefully put them in the ground so you don’t break the little roots.  If you have hungry birds, cover the sprouted peas with aviary wire soon as you put them in the ground. A smart trick is to plant them in a slight low sloped mini trench. Moisture goes to the bottom of the trench, drying wind goes over the top of the trench. When you are planting while it is still warm in late fall, you can cover the trench with a board on top of the aviary wire. It’s high enough so the sprouts can get some size. Be sure there is a tad of airflow so the sprouts not in direct sun but not baked! See more about Peas! As with any seeds, a couple days before planting put down organic slug/snail bait and remove any overnight marauders that would feast on your tiny new plants.

You can have a terrific time with Beets! They thrive in cooler weather. Many colors! Grow the biggies, Cylindra! Plant them at the same time you plant smaller varieties so you have the littles first, then the biggies! Early Wonder Tall Tops and Dutch Baby Ball are a tasty choices, or red cold hardy Flat of Egypt! Try a yellow like Touchstone Gold!Purple leaved Chard! Gold ribs, savoyed. Super nutritious!

Chard is an elegant super productive winter favorite! Handsome, colorful, really, they are the ‘flowers’ of the winter garden! Superlative nutrition, low calorie, easy to grow! If you want quantity, plant Fordhook Giants! They are wondrous – easily 3′ tall, foot wide leaves when conditions are right for them! Chard can’t be beat for production per square foot. More on Chard!

Lettuces thrive in cooler weather too, but do cover them at threatened freezes. Lay down tomato cages, cover, and secure the cover. Remove when the day warms up. Lettuces come in all kinds of shapes and delicious colors. They do best in rich soil, regular moisture. Winter is the cooler time when tender butter leafs and heading varieties do well.

Try super dense Salanova! Johnny’s Seeds says: Harvested as fully mature heads, the flavor and texture have more time to develop than traditional baby-leaf lettuces. The unique structure of the core produces a multitude of uniformly sized leaves, harvestable with one simple cut. Salanova is more than 40% higher yielding, has better flavor and texture, and double the shelf life of traditional baby-leaf lettuce, making it an excellent, more economical option. What do you think about all that?! More on Lettuces!

Perfect timing for tasty root crops – beets, turnips, rutabagas, daikon radish. Beets are a double winner because the roots and the leaves are edible! Pick leaves from time to time. When your beets are the size you want, pull them and eat all the leaves and the beets as well!

Winter is growing time for long Daikon Radish. And Carrots. Carrots are a dense root, so they take a while. Plant short varieties like Thumbelina and Little Fingers for sooner eating. Kids love them! At the same time plant longer varieties to eat when the Little Fingers are done. Or plant successively, every 2 weeks, once a month per your needs. The longer the carrot, the longer it takes to grow. Look at the seed pack to see how many days it takes to maturity. Of course, you can pull them sooner and smaller. 🙂 Avoid manuring where you know you will be planting carrots – makes them hairy. Steady water supply and not too much or they split. You might enjoy some of the mixed color packs – Circus Circus, Sunshine, Cosmic Purple! More on carrots!

Parsnips, celery and parsley are all in the carrot family and enjoy cool SoCal weather. Celery is in-the-garden edible let alone low calorie! Leeks and bunch onions, but NO onion family near peas.


 
If you haven’t planted already…some of you carry your layout plan in your head, others draw and redraw, moving things around until it settles and feels right. Do add a couple new things just for fun! Try another direction. Add some herbs or different edible flowers. Leave a little open space for surprises! Stand back, take a deep breath and ask yourself why you plant what you plant and why you plant the way you do. Anything been tickling the back of your mind you are curious about? More about Designing Your SoCal Winter Veggie Garden!

Plant longer maturing larger and taller varieties to the back, shorter early day varieties in front where they will get sun. Put littles on the sunny side of these. Plant your tall plants first, let them get up a bit. Then clip off the lower leaves and plant your littles. Or plant quick rounds of littles between the tall plants. They will be ready to harvest when the big plants would start shading them. A classic combo is lettuces among starting cabbages!

Mixes rule! Plant several varieties for maturity at different times and to confuse pests. Pests are attracted at certain stages of maturity. They may bother one plant but leave others entirely alone depending on temps and the pest’s cycle! There are less aphids on broccoli when you plant different varieties together. See Super Fall Veggies Varieties, Smart Companion Plantings!

Peas and green manure mixes – legumes and oats, feed and replenish your soil because they take N (Nitrogen) out of the air and deposit it in little nodules on their roots! If an area in your garden needs a pep up, plant it to green manure. Broadcast a seed mix of legumes and oats and let them grow. Bell beans, Austrian peas, vetch and oats from Island Seed & Feed Goleta is an excellent choice. Be sure to get the inoculant they recommend to use. The first three deposit N; the oats have deep roots that bring nutrients up and create soil channels for oxygen, water and soil organisms! Plant it where next summer’s heavy feeders, like tomatoes, will be grown!

If you are planning for mid January bareroot strawberry planting, be preparing your strawberry patch now if you are planting green manure! The green manure mix I use takes 2+ months to grow. I chop it down when the bell beans flower. Chop it into bits, add acidic (azalea/camellia) compost, worm castings and turn it all under. It takes two to three weeks to decompose, let the soil organisms restabilize, and be ready to plant. That puts us right at mid January when the bareroots arrive! Details on Living Mulch!

Here’s the schedule:

  1. Oct 1 plant your living mulch – put this on your garden calendar! If Bell beans are in your seed mix, or are your choice, they take a couple months to mature.
  2. About Dec 1 chop down/mow, chop up your living mulch and let it lay on the surface two weeks. If Bell beans are in the mix, chop when it flowers or the stalks will get too tough to easily chop into small pieces. Keep your chopped mulch moist, not wet, until it is tilled in. Being moist aids decomposition.
  3. Mid Dec till in your living mulch for mid January bareroot planting. The little white balls on the roots are like a beautiful little string of pearls. Those are the Nitrogen nodules legume plants make that we are growing them for! At this time add any other amendments you want. Strawberries like slightly acidic soil, so I add store bought Azalea/Camellia acid compost. It’s fluffy and adds water holding capacity.

OR. Strawberry runner daughters can be clipped Oct 10 to 15, stored in the fridge for planting Nov 5ish. Remove any diseased soil where your beds will be; prep your beds with acidic compost like an Azalea mix. Commercial growers replace their plants every year. Some gardeners let them have two years but production tapers off a lot the second year. If you let them have two years, generously replenish the soil between the berries with acidic compost. I lay down boards between the rows where my berries will be planted. The boards keep the soil moist underneath. I planted the berries just far enough apart that they self mulched (shaded the soil) when they grew up a bit. Worked beautifully. I got the idea for the boards from a pallet gardener.

Plant in super soil to get a good start! Clean up old piles of stuff, remove old mulches that can harbor overwintering pest eggs and diseases. Then add the best-you-can-get composts, manures, worm castings. In planting holes, toss in a handful of nonfat powdered milk in for immediate uptake as a natural germicide and to boost their immune system. Throw in a handful of bone meal that will decompose for uptake at bloom time. If you have other treats you like to favor your plants with, give them some of that too! Go lightly on incorporating coffee grounds either in your compost or soil. In studies, what was found to work well was coffee grounds at only 0.5 percent of the compost mix. That’s only 1/2 a percent! See more details about soil building! If you have containers, dump that old spent stuff and put in some tasty new mix!

Winter Feeding Lettuces like a light feed of chicken manure cultivated in. All the winter plants are heavy producers – lots of leaves, some of those leaves are monsters! Cabbages are packed tight, leaf after leaf! They may need a light feed. Remember, it’s cooler now, so their uptake is slower, so give them liquid feeds of things easy for them to uptake. Fish emulsion (if you don’t have predators) or a tasty tea mix – compost, worm castings, manure (no manure tea for lettuces).

Give your berms a check. Restore or add, shift them as needed. Before wind or rain, double check cages and trellises, top heavy plants. Stake them, tie peas to the trellis or cage. Start gathering sheets, light blankets for possible cold weather to come. Keep tomato cages handy.

You don’t have to garden this winter!

  1. You can cover it deeply with all the mulch materials you can lay your hands on up to 18′ deep. Believe me, it will settle quickly. Let the herds of soil organisms do their work over winter. That’s called sheet composting or composting in place, lasagna gardening – 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 living layers of whole soil for no work at all!
  2. If you have access to materials, another wise option is to do some form of long term sustainable Hugelkultur! There are many variations, quite adaptable to your situation. It can be done in a container, a tub, on a hillside, a field, in your own little garden plot!
  3. A third thing is to plant legumes and oats for superb soil restoration that takes some labor, but a lot less than tending your garden on a daily basis! You can plant it with green manure. Laying on lots of mulch is a ton of work when you do it, just gathering the materials can be a challenge. Green manure takes some work too, but it has awesome results as well. You broadcast a seed mix of legumes and oats, cover ever so lightly with soil, let them grow. Bell beans, Austrian peas, vetch and oats from Island Seed & Feed in Goleta is an excellent choice. Legumes gather Nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules on their roots! N is the main ingredient your plants need for their growth! The oat roots break up the soil. They dig deep and open channels for water and air flow, soil organisms.

“Our most important job as vegetable gardeners is to feed and sustain soil life, often called the soil food web, beginning with the microbes. If we do this, our plants will thrive, we’ll grow nutritious, healthy food, and our soil conditions will get better each year. This is what is meant by the adage ‘Feed the soil not the plants.‘ – Jane Shellenberger, Organic Gardener’s Companion: Growing Vegetables in the West (Colorado)

Winter watering in drought areas is the same as for summer. Before 10:30 AM, after 4 PM. Watch which way water flows along the leaves. Some plants it flows to the center stem. Some drip water off the leaf tips in a circle around your plant, the dripline. Some go both ways. Make berms just beyond where the mature plant’s water flows. If at the dripline, that’s where the tiny feeder roots take up moisture and nutrients. That’s why they call them feeder roots! If your garden has a low spot, plant your water loving plants – chard, lettuces, spinach, mizuna, mints – there or near a spigot.

Fall Pests & Diseases

  • Prevention Drench young plants, ones you just transplanted, with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start! Drench your seedlings when they get up a few inches. One regular Aspirin, 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. Aspirin triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Be sure to get under the leaves too!
  • Brassicas, Peas! Lots of ants and on Brassicas, lengthwise curling leaves are the giveaways for aphids, then whiteflies. Aphids carry viruses. Aphids come in fat gray or small black. Avoid over watering and feeding that makes for soft plants, tender leaves that aphids thrive on, and ant habitat. Spray aphids and whiteflies away, make the ants leave. Get up under those leaves, and fervently but carefully do the tender center growth tips. Do it consistently until they don’t come back. Cinnamon is amazing. Ants don’t like it at all, and when you are starting seedlings it prevents molds and damping off. Sprinkle it on the soil in your six pack. Get it in big containers at Smart and Final. Reapply as needed. ASAP remove yellowing leaves that attract whiteflies.
  • Chard, Lettuces, Spinach – Slugs and snails are the bane of so many crops, but these especially. Lay down something like Sluggo immediately. Then do it again in a week or so. Kill the parents, kill the children. After about 3 times you rarely need it again anytime soon.
  • Biodiversity In general, avoid row planting where disease and pests wipe the plants out from one to the next to the next. Instead or rows, plant in several different spots. If you can’t help yourself, because your family always planted in rows or that’s the way farm pictures show plantings, remember, this is YOUR garden! Also, leave room so mature plants’ leaves don’t touch. Give them room to breathe, get good big leaves that get plenty of sun and produce lots more big leaves and many big fruits! Stunted crowded rootbound plants just don’t perform as well and are more disease and pest susceptible.

Keep up with your maintenance. Weed so seedlings aren’t shaded out or their nutrients used up.

If you have lots of seeds, over planting is an age old practice. Plant too, too many, then thin them with tiny pointy scissors, aka harvest the young, and eat ’em! Young radish sprouts, teeny carrots – for you and your pup, beets, cilantro, arugula, onions, little Brassicas of all kinds are wonderful in a salad! If they get a little big, steam them or add to stir fries and stews. Another way to do it is plant flats of lettuces, Mesclun mixes, and mow them! Tender baby greens! They will grow back 3, 4 times.

Have it in the back of your mind what summer plants you will be wanting, where you will plant them. Plant more permanent plants like a broccoli you keep over summer for side shoots (like All Season F1 Hybrid), or a kale that will keep on going, where they will not be shaded out by taller indeterminate summer tomatoes.

October is the last of Seed Saving time for most of us. Make notes on how your plants did, which varieties were the most successful. These seeds are adapted to you and your locality. Each year keep your best! Start sorting and labeling seed baggies on coming cooler indoor evenings. Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings. Generously gather seeds for upcoming January Seed Swaps!

Santa Barbara’s Seed Swap is January 26! The last Saturday of January every year is National Seed Swap Day! Look in your area for an event, and if you don’t find one, collaborate with your local garden club or permaculture group to get one going!

Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays! Make Lavender sachets!

Take a deep breath of this fine fall weather!

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See the entire October Newsletter!

Check out wonderful September images at Santa Barbara’s Rancheria Community Garden! See how much the Magical GREAT PUMPKIN weighs, fall birds, remarkable veggies, tiny seedlings, Leaffooted bug, a brand new Monarch!

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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Purslane Flowers!

Some say Purs lenothers say Purs lane . Both are legit depending on where you are looking it up!

A weed?! No longer! Purslane has a major pedigree! It has 300-400 mg of omega 3 fatty acids per cup – highest of any plant, 10 to 20 times the melatonin – highest of any other plant, is highest plant in vitamin E, six times more vitamin E than spinach, and seven times more beta carotene than carrots! Purslane can produce seeds in only 40 days, up to 240,000 per plant, which may germinate after 5 to 40 years! The stems, leaves, flowers, seedpods and seeds are all edible. It’s a little powerhouse super plant, a worthy crop!

Purslane, (Portulaca oleracea) is an annual originally from India but long grown as a vegetable in China, England, and even in Australia by the Aborigines. It thrives in full sun, poor soil and drought.

Common ground cover Purslane. Easily identifiable if you are foraging.

Varieties! Purslane comes in a few forms and varieties, all edible! 1) It can be the wild ground hugger cover you never notice, in sprawling circular mats up to 3-1/3 ft across, with red stems. It is easily identified if you are foraging, has distinctive succulent foliage. If you are an inexperienced forager, there is a look-alike plant called “Hairy-Stemmed Spurge (Euphorbia vermiculata)”. Don’t be confused. Purslane is NOT HAIRY. 2) It can be a more upright ground cover used seriously as an understory living mulch! It keeps the soil cooler and more moist, shades out weed seed germination, plus you can eat it. 3) Then there is the upright large leafed Garden Purslane Portulaca oleracea gardeners grow. It is 1′ to 18″ tall, much easier on your back to harvest, your harvest is clean, it branches and grows quickly and abundantly!

Pinch off tops to get it to bush more. Once started, let it self sow. Johnny’s Seeds has Goldberg Golden Portulaca sativa and a microgreen seed, Red Gruner, with fine little pink stems! Red Gruner has Avg. 977,400 seeds/lb.! How did they figure that out?!

Companions! It’s not so much what plants can repel Purslane pests or diseases or be beneficial or bring pollinators to Purslane. It’s more what Purslane does for them!  The low growing types make good living ground cover, as does white Dutch clover. Clover feeds your soil, but Purslane feeds you!

Garden Purslane grows well among taller plants like eggplant or peppers. If you are having a hot summer that can be a good choice. Keeps the soil cooler and more moist. Some peppers prefer a little shade. If you are having a cool summer or live in a cool area or it’s a tad shady, ground cover keeps soil cool and is not preferred. Leave the soil bare to heat up.

Although pollinators will visit the flowers, Purslane plants are self fertile so almost all flowers will produce seeds. No need to plant pollinator attractor plants for Purslane.
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Growing Purslane in a container is a smart idea!

Planting is easy! Seeds are as tiny as poppy seeds! Just sprinkle them where you think you want them. They may get stuck to your fingers, fall to the ground and come up there too, LOL! Keep them moist until all the seeds have sprouted. They will grow! Water very gently – sprinkle, so they don’t wash away, get buried too deeply, or puddle and clump! If that does happen, just thin them and eat the micro plants in your fresh salad. After they are up about an inch, you can water them almost as vigorously as you do your other plants.

They grow just fine in containers! Choose a pretty container to make a terrific gift! Preferably plant in a container that will not easily dry out. And, particularly,  if you are on a balcony, keep it out of the drying wind pattern.

Upright Purslane is lovely among your plants, grows quickly, is easy to harvest and so nutritious!Plant in full sun, rich soil and keep them moist if you want fat super plants! Yes it will grow unwatered sidewalk crack size, but that’s a small crop. You can take seeds from those small plants and grow it big. Chamomile is the same way. When you get it into garden rich moist soil, boom! You got a food supply! Water regularly. Moisture-stressed leaves are not as palatable as those from well-watered plants.

Planting temps. Purslane is frost susceptible. Seeds prefer warm temps to germinate, it’s a summer ‘weed.’ Above 70 during the day and 50 at night, preferably warmer. But mine were up in a long cool 2019 May in Santa Barbara Ca. If you have enough seeds and space, lay them in two or three different times. They will come up when they are ready. 

Space them about 4 to 6 inches apart, cover with 1/4″ of soil. They will be pretty big at their peak healthy mature summer size! I might put mine 8 to 10″ apart, but mainly I let them come up from last year’s self seeding that happens. If there are too many in one place I eat a few! And, of course, you can always deliberately over plant just because you want those micro greens!

WEEDING! If you aren’t happy with having Purslane, remember those 240,000 seeds one plant can produce! Remove the plant entirely. That means roots and all. Since it is a succulent type, even segments will happily produce another plant! NEVER let it flower! If it is seeding, don’t put it in your compost. Remember, those seeds can germinate in 5 to 40 years!!!

If you are happily growing Purslane, keep your crop area weed free and remove little Purslanes if there are too many or some are too close to each other. It can get pretty thick very quickly when they are untended. Purslane is a good Mexican food, so, thank goodness, I can give away my extra to the families at our community garden! Otherwise you may need to educate your friends and neighbors to get them to try it.

Pests & Diseases Purslane has few pests, although in some parts of the country, California is one place, Purslane sawflySchizocerella pilicornis, and a Leafminer weevil, Hypurus bertrandiperris, will damage or kill your plants. UC IPM says these pests were ‘accidentally’ introduced to kill Purslane, a weed from a farmer’s point of view. They say the pests are working well. I have definitely seen Leafminer damage on my plants.

If your plants get succulent fungi diseases, like Black Stem, lay back on the water, water in the morning, water at ground level – no overhead watering, keep any mulch away from the stem, thin your plants so they and the soil dry from more airflow. Purslane is quite drought tolerant, so you can get away with laying back on water. I haven’t observed this disease at Pilgrim Terrace/Rancheria Santa Barbara CA Community Gardens.

You can get three kinds of harvests!

First are the leaves at 6-8 weeks, then continuously as they grow. Second are the green seed pods that are used in place of capers. Third are the super easy to harvest edible seeds!

Master Gardener Stephanie Wrightson of Sonoma County says ‘Harvest purslane when it is young—before it goes to seed and when the leaves and stems are tender. Always remove flowers; cutting back mature plants allows regrowth. If you are harvesting common purslane from your ornamental garden, make sure that the area has not been sprayed with pesticides—always thoroughly wash your harvest. Purslane is crisper [and more tart] when harvested in the morning, but sweeter when harvested in the afternoon [when the malic acid content is lower].’

When you want more Purslane, cut your plant almost to the ground leaving two leaves at the base for re-growth.

Storage! Get cool ASAP! Purslane wilts, and warm temperatures after harvest bring out the mucilaginous factor. Store purslane in the crisper drawer, coldest area, of your refrigerator, and use within a week.

Purslane Seed Pods and Seeds

SeedSavinggathering Purslane seeds is a piece of cake and fun! They are contained in adorable little green seed pods. When the seed pods are dry, hold a bag or bowl under the seed pod, pop the tiny pod top off, and let the seeds spill into your container – bag or bowl. The seeds are tiny! Likely a few will make a leap for it and you will have tiny plants come up there next year! Store your seeds in a cool dry place. Date and label with their name.

Here is what the seedlings look like so you won’t pull them up thinking they are a weed! These are with baby Chard at  She says when they are mature, ‘in the mornings their small yellow flowers open for pollination and make a beautiful, edible garnish for salads and patés.’

Purslane Seedlings with baby Chard at Chef Emily's!

Chef Emily also makes a tasty salad dressing! Toss some purslane in a blender with some clean fresh herbs, a clove of garlic a few glugs of olive oil and some lemon zest and juice, give it a whirl and have a delicious bright green salad dressing!

International tasty Purslane Power!  Purslane contains one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids — five to six times the concentration in spinach. Chickens grazing on purslane produce high omega-3 eggs. In Mexico, called Verdolaga, it is eaten in omelets, as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, used in salsa or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews. Aboriginals made seed cakes. Or it was pounded into flour to make damper. Wiki says: ‘Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, historically prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travelers. It consists of a wheat flour based bread, traditionally baked in the coals of a campfire or in a camp oven. Damper is an iconic Australian dish.’ Commenter Nihal said ‘Back in Turkey there is two types, wild and cultivated. Cultivated ones are sold in bunches in farmers market throughout the summer. But the wild ones are much more delicious. We usually cook it with tomato and add a little bit rice or bulgur wheat.’ In Greece the leaves are fried in olive oil, then mixed with feta cheese, tomato, onion garlic and oregano. The seeds are also edible. North Carolina market gardener Patryk Battle throws basil and purslane (upper stems and all) into a blender or food processor, adds a small amount of olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and enough hot water to get a good consistency. Because it’s so juicy, purslane helps create a low-fat pesto without too much oil. Personally, I eat it while gardening or simply sprinkle fresh raw leaves into my salads. You could add tender sprigs to your sandwich or lightly steam the stems, seeds and leaves or use in stir-fry dishes, curried dishes. Make Verdolaga smoothies and popsicles! The green seed pods are sometimes pickled and used as fake capers!

Here are some additional creative recipes to get you thinking and whet your appetite! From Edible Wild FoodChicken Weed WrapFried or Baked PurslaneNorth African Style PurslaneNutricized PurslanePurslane Egg CupsPurslane Smoothie and PopsiclesSummer SaladSweet Pickled Purslane Stems

There you have it, Purslane culinary tips from several continents!

Word to the wise ~ Purslane is mucilaginous, like okra, giving it a somewhat slimy texture when cooked. Cook it less time. Eaten fresh in salads, it has no such effect. Frances Robinson at Mother Earth News says it more palatably: Purslane’s high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) thickens soups and stews.

4 Cautions:  Individuals with a history of kidney stones should use purslane with caution as it may increase kidney filtration, urine production, and possibly cause a stone to move.  Purslane injection induces powerful contractions of the uterus, but oral purslane is said to weaken uterine contractions. Avoid use during pregnancy. A purslane only diet for your chickies and livestock can be toxic due to the high oxalic acid content. In fact, for us humans, no eating very large quantities daily for the same reason. Some people do report allergic reactions. Keep you first encounter to a small taste just in case, especially if the Purslane is uncooked, garden fresh potent!

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds recommends eating Purslane fresh in a salad with thin shaved beets and carrots drizzled with a light, lemon or balsamic dressing. And those look like Calendula petals to me! What a beautiful salad!

Purslane Salad Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Recipe

Here’s a final little comparison to remind you of the Omega-3 Linolenic Acid content! (Grams* per 100-gram serving or approximately a half cup.)

Purslane: 0.4
Lettuce, buttercrunch: 0.03
Spinach: 0.09

Mother Earth News sums it up perfectly! Purslane may be a common plant, but it is uncommonly good for you.

Purslane is one remarkable plant! Grow it!

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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. 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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Cucurbit Hand Pollination with Brush

In optimal conditions insects, mainly bees, pollinate our veggies. Wind works for some plants. Other times due to weather or stresses, humans help!

Wind-pollinated veggies

such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, are fertilized by the beating of Bumblebees’ and other insects’ wings, at exactly the right frequency! More pollen is released and pollination is more efficient. It’s called BUZZ POLLINATION! About 11 AM, when the male flower anthers (they hold the pollen) are most open, you can improve your tomato, eggplant and pepper production by giving the cages they are in or the main stems of your plants a few sharp raps, or gently shake the stems, to help the flowers self pollinate. Or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen.

Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, or other Solanaceae, so build solitary bee condos for native bees. Native bees, per Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth, are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are more plentiful than previously thought and not as prone to the headline-catching colony collapse disorder that has decimated honeybee populations. A Jan 2019 UK study says pollination by wild bees yields larger strawberries than pollination by honey bees! This led them to say it’s worth it to make habitat for them!

The very best Solanaceae pollinator is a Bumblebee!!! See more! Bumblebees fly earlier in spring and bring in our first spring crops! And they don’t sting!


Video Produced by Joshua Cassidy

Please click on the image or here to see the video!

And, did you know Flowers can hear buzzing bees—and it makes their nectar sweeter!

While you are helping your tomatoes pollinate, if you are growing them in cages, also very gently help them up through the cages. Remove any bottom leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water. Remove any diseased leaves ASAP!

Pollination Cucurbits Male Female Flowers     Pollination by Hand Cucurbits Male Stamen to Female Stigma

Pollination of Cucurbits by hand. In left image, male flower on left, female right.

Squashes, melons and monoecious cucumbers

can easily be hand pollinated. Cukes are notorious for needing help being fertilized! Cucurbits have male and female blooms on the same plant. If there are not enough pollinators about, we need to help. Also, multiple visits from the bees are required for good fruit set and properly shaped cucumbers. Male flowers open in the morning and pollen is only viable during that day. Hand pollinate during the morning hours, using only freshly opened flowers. You can use a small pointy paint brush, a cotton swab, Q-tip, your finger, and move pollen from the male stamen to the center of the female flower. Or the best, most complete method is to take the male flower off the plant, pull the petals off, and gently roll the male flower anther around and over the female stigma in the center of the female flower. The pollen is sticky, so it may take some time. One male anther can pollinate several females. Repeat. Female blooms will simply drop off the plant if they are not pollinated. So when your cukes are in production, you need to do this daily.

Don’t be confused by the little fruit forming under the female flowers and think pollination has already happened. The flower needs to be fertilized, and adequately, or the flower and fruit just fall off. Flowers not pollinated enough, that don’t abort, make misshapen fruits. That goes for corn having irregular to lacking kernels. Misshapen Strawberries are called cat-faced. Squash and cucumbers can be deformed. On an unwindy day, tilt the stalk so the corn tassels are over the silks and tap the stalk. You will see a shower of pollen fall on the silks. You may need to do it from one plant to another so you don’t break the stalk trying to get the pollen to fall on silks on the same plant.

Planting a lot of plants close together stresses plants. At higher densities, plants compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight, and the resulting stress can lead to a higher proportion of male flowers, less female flowers, the ones that produce. If you really want more fruit, give them room to be fruitful. The same goes for other stresses – damage from insects or blowing soil, low light intensities, or water stress – less female flowers are produced.

Weather affects pollination. Sometimes cool overcast days or rain, when bees don’t fly, there is no pollination. Rain washes pollen away. High humidity makes pollen sticky and it won’t fall. Drought is a problem for corn pollination. Too high nighttime temps, day temps 86°F and above, will keep your tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables from making pollen or setting fruit unless they are high temp tolerant varieties. Too windy and the pollen is blown away.

If it is your cucumbers that are not pollinating well each year, try parthenocarpic varieties. Parthenocarpic varieties produce only female flowers and do not need pollination to produce fruit. This type of cucumber is also seedless. Try a few varieties and see if you like them.

Pollinator Habitat is crucial! Most important of all is to plant flowers for every season possible in your area, near or right beside your plants, make those bee homes for wild bees! From Cornell: Native bees are two to three times more effective than honeybees! However, if weather isn’t with you or other stressful conditions occur, hand pollinating is the answer.

May your Veggie Basket be overflowing!

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

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

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

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

Already, get your seed packs for celery, chard, mustard greens, parsley, peas, winter radish varieties, and Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, turnips. See Super Fall Veggies for help on choosing the very best varieties and Fall companion planting! Winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler, and you will have a much earlier crop. Be sure to leave space to plant additional rounds to keep steady table supply.

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

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

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

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

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

Give your late favorite summer/fall heavy producers you are keeping a good feed. Eggplants have a large fruit, beans put out a ton of beans, tomatoes are big and working hard, peppers can be profuse! They like a tad of chicken manures scratched in, bunny poop and straw (pick up at Animal Shelters), well aged horse manure and compost makes them dance with the faeries in the night time! Fertilizers highest in P, Phosphorus, keeps blooming and fruiting optimum. Peppers specially like a foliar feed of non-fat powdered milk (Calcium) and Epsom Salts (Magnesium & Sulfur). They also can use more Potassium. This time of year kelp meal is good source and releases quickly. If you have predators about, don’t get the kind mixed with fish emulsion.

Keep your watering steady, out to the dripline, to avoid slowing or stopping production or having misshapen fruits – that’s curled beans, odd shaped peppers, catfaced strawberries. Keep your soil moist. In hot late summer weather water short rooted high production plants like beans, cucumbers, lettuces and strawberries more frequently. Keep them well mulched, especially the cucumbers. Keep them off the ground to protect them from suffering wilts fungi. I put down straw a good 3″ deep.

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

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

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

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

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

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! Or just scatter them about and when it’s the right time, even next spring, they will come up. Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s better than ever plantings. Remember, these seeds are adapted and localized to you! If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank! While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out!

Happy Late Summer Gardening, My Friends!


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

See the entire August GBC Newsletter! SeedSaving for the finest Nutrition, Growing Thick Walled Peppers! Ojai Valley of the Moon Community Garden and info about the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA!

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Veggies growing in homemade compost!

Veggies growing in homemade compost! Photo by Rod Zimmer

Compost is the single most best thing you can do for your soil! It feeds your plants, adds water holding capacity, and much more! 

Anytime we have a season change, compost becomes more important. In summer most of us are thinking how can I do it all?! Harvesting takes more time than waiting for the plants to produce. There’s more watering to do in summer. Yet, fall is soon upon us and though making compost takes a wee bit more time, it is so needed to give our plants a good start! In winter, making compost is essential for spring planting!

Here are some possibilities!

There are 3 basic kinds of compost, cold and hot and composting in place.

Of the cold kind….

The kind that finishes the quickest is the kitchen veggie waste that gets chopped vigorously with the shovel every few days, turned and turned again. Small bits decompose faster. The pile is kept moist. The dry brown material in the pile isn’t usually  straw. Straw is hard to chop and takes a long time to decompose. It’s more like leaves, some already chopped, partially decomposed mulch type stuff. The right leaves have nutrient value. See more. With only a couple of turns, this whole process might take two weeks, usually less – even in cooler weather! It’s quick. For quick results it’s also best to put your compost in full sun. Shaded compost usually ends up untened. It’s in an out-of-the-way place, processes so slowly a lot of gardeners forget they ever made the pile. Neglected, the pile literally dies.

In a community garden or a small garden area you might not have space for such a pile. But if it’s a priority you probably will make the space! If you do, and if you want to keep it a bit contained, instead, make a shallow pit and put your ‘pile’ in there. Toss a thin layer of healthy soil over it and turn that in to inoculate your compost with soil organisms. They will speed the decomposition process. A thin layer of soil also keeps flies away and you have no smell. Cover it with a light layer of straw or plastic to keep it from being unsightly to visitors while it is in process. A wire cover over straw lets rain in, so I use a couple plastic bags left from manure. I put a light weight board over my cover and a concrete stepping stone on the board to keep it from blowing away. If it rains, the cover keeps your processing compost from getting too wet. If it’s dry weather, covering keeps it moist. It will decompose better rather than off gas the Nitrogen, dry and die. The cover is instantaneous to remove, then you can have at that pile with gusto! With that kind of pile, you have a fairly steady supply of compost. Most of the time some of it is ready to put here and there.

I am very grateful to three neighbors who give me their green kitchen waste. Since I also grow worms, I ask them to give me only what they imagine a worm could eat. Worms!

Compost Sifting‘Every day I fill the wheelbarrow with rich screened compost. It really smells quite delicious; nutty with a spicy note.’ Sifting your compost is a piece of cake! Grab your wheelbarrow or bucket, get a piece of hardware cloth/hogwire or a nursery plant flat with a smaller weave to it, like in the image, and sift away! You can build a lovely framed sifter or buy great rolling devices. Choose the size opening you want. Or, don’t sift at all. I like a little texture to my compost. 

Have your compost pile handy, nearby, warm in the sun for speedy decomposition! Keep it moist, cover it when it needs it – in hot/dry or rainy weather, turn it! Compost that gets turned regularly often gets raided before it’s completely finished. You can still make out some of what the stuff is that’s there. That works just fine because it finishes quickly, in the ground, at home with all the lovely soil organisms.

If there comes a time when you compost has been sadly neglected, spread the stuff out as a mulch and start over, or let it go and just buy what you need. No shame in that.

Hot Compost is PDF, pretty darn fast!

It can heat up to amazing temps, so hot it makes ash and you cannot put your hands in it without getting burned. You can see it steaming on a winter morning! The point is to kill diseases, pests, weed seeds. Well that almost gets done, because, you see, the heat is in the middle of the pile. So they say turn it so the hot part goes to the outside and the cool part to the inside. That, my friends, is easier said than done. But, at least some of it happens.

Two interesting points here. My cold compost pile gets that hot! Yep, it does. A well-built pile with thin layers will cook quite happily no matter your intention. It’s nature. The other thing is I don’t put diseased plants or seeding weeds in my pile, so I don’t need it to get hot. Sure, some pest eggs probably make it. However, what happens most is veggie seeds sprout when I put the compost in to amend my soil! I swear, I can’t see those seeds when it is compost. It all looks dark and yummy. But lots of times I’m glad that happens! The plants get a terrific start and I get surprises! This year I enjoyed two elegant celery plants that came up about a foot and a half from each other and everyone complimented how beautiful they were, robust, with gorgeous long dark green stalks!

Whether you do hot or cold compost is your choice. I’ve tried it both ways. Sincerely. Got a long thermometer, built cubic yard piles and turned them. Now I have cold compost and turn it. No way around that turning if you want results sooner than later. It doesn’t matter what size I build it. I’ve seen 1 cubic foot piles heat up just fine! If it gets hot, it’s hot. If it doesn’t that’s fine with me. Taking care of it, turning, keeping it moist, making thin layers gets the job done. The layers are more a measuring device – 1 dry to 2 wet. Once they are in, mix up the material so the straw is moistened and the wet just doesn’t make a mass. My friend who chops and turns his with vigor gets much faster results, and I may take that up too.

Composting in place

No dig composting in place is an age old technique more recently called Lasagna Gardening. It takes some prep time, that is often done with a group of friends, but once that is done, you’re home free! There’s no turning, no carrying finished compost about because it is already where you want it! Materials may take longer to decompose. It is a cold pile, but if your pile is directly on the earth, soil organisms happily munching makes things happen quickly. It takes a lot of materials to start depending on the size you want your garden to be. You can start with a small area, add more later.

The beauty is it can be done on top of a lawn to form a raised bed, with or without a box border. If you have lawn where you want to plant, peel back the lawn or not, lay down cardboard or newspaper to kill off the lawn, prevent it growing back, up into your bed. If you choose cardboard, water a LOT to soak that cardboard. Layer to your heart’s content until you run out of materials. You can make beds 18″ high to start. They will settle a lot. That 18″ can easily become 9″ in two or three days in warm weather! You can plant instantly! Just pull back a planting hole, add some ready or nursery-bought compost and any other amendments right for your plant, and plant! Your amazing ‘lasagna’ will decompose and make beautiful soil without you doing a thing more! Add more materials as you acquire them to any spots you want to build up or if you want more compost or a bigger or another bed!

If you are doing composting in place while gardening, you just put on the layers, between the plants or down a row, with the materials you have on hand until you run out. The smaller the chop, the pieces, the faster the decomp. Keep them moist so they will decompose faster.

Trench it and forget it! Trenching has always been the simplest technique of all! It’s a super simple way of putting chopped veggie kitchen wastes to work. Dig, pull back a 6″ trench, no deeper. Soil organisms live at the top. Put your kitchen waste in the trench, grab the shovel and vigorously chop the waste into fine pieces. If you don’t feel like chopping it, don’t! Put in the stuff, cover with some of the soil you pulled back. Turn that a couple times to mix in soil organisms to speed the decomp process, cover with the remaining soil and forget it. Period. Done. A week later you can dig in that area and find no trace of it. Soil organisms are intelligent and born hungry.

I combine trenching and a pit. If I have a spot needing compost, I trench it there. If there are no spots needing it right now, I put it in the pit and hold it until a spot needs it or a plant needs sidedressing (feeding mid season). In that case, in summer I also at a bit of manure or if it’s SoCal winter time, a little fish emulsion for easy and quick uptake.

NOTE! Compost you make isn’t the same as manure, nor nursery bought bagged compost. When you trench, you can add those at the same time if you wish. Manure is good ole down home stinky poopy stuff high in Nitrogen. You can also plant cover crops, living mulch, green manure for Nitrogen. You plant different areas to restore your soil, or in SoCal winter to make good soil for spring planting. Your soil also needs water holding capacity from bulk – what is called forest materials in nursery compost bags. Bagged nursery compost is fluffy. Air space. Your soil needs that too. Kitchen waste compost doesn’t have that. I buy bags of nursery compost – bulk and chicken manure – Nitrogen, as well and add them, sometimes to an area, definitely to my planting holes. Plants uptake a lot of their nutrition from tiny lateral feeder roots that often grow beyond the dripline of your plant, so if you can, do a whole area. Add special amendments to your planting hole. Make that planting hole a bit larger than you have been doing? Sometimes it depends on your budget how much materials you have available. Planting cover crops is cheaper, but it takes longer…

If you have massive amounts of stuff to compost, the fastest way of all, record time, is to use maggots! Cities use them and sell the compost! See all about it!

Hugelkultur Sepp Holzer Diagram Cross Section

Hugelkultur is a long term choice. Hugelkultur, hill mound, is the quintessential sustainable variation of ‘composting’ in place. It can be above and/or below ground and takes a lot more energy to start but what a payoff! Get some big logs, branches. If you are doing it above ground, lay two logs closely side by side, put a lot of bigger to smaller branches between them, then go for it! Woods that work best are alders, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, willow (make sure it is dead or it will sprout). Add leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available. Add some red wiggler casting worms if you have them. As possible add your materials in thin 1/2 to 1″ layers, dry, wet, dry, wet until the area is filled. Lay a third log on top of them and if you have sod you peeled up, lay it on top of the whole pile upside down and do it again! Top the turf with grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, straw, green leaves, mulch, etc. Top that with soil and plant your veggies! If you did it right, you end up with a steep sided tall pyramid pile and veggies planted at easy picking heights. See a LOT more and example variations at permaculture, practical solutions for self-reliance.

Raised bed Hugelkultur Lasagna Combo Buckman StyleIf you are starting a raised Hugelkultur bed, dig down about a foot or more, lay in the big logs, big branches around them, smaller branches on top, layer as above to the height you want, allowing for settling. The difference is that this is a flat top raised bed. You can also dig deeper and make the top of the bed flush with your soil! Also, you can do terracing with a Hugelkultur substructure.

Container gardeners you can do your own mini Hugelkultur version as well. A 1/2 beer barrel, a five gallon can, kid’s swimming pool, whatever you have, can be repurposed! Just be sure there are drainage holes. Double purpose your container by making it a self-watering system as well!

Hugelkultur is an excellent long term sustainable choice!

~ The heat from decomposition gives your plants a terrific early start or extends your growing season. You do need to be careful of freezes if you live in a cold area.
~ The right hardwood logs will give your plants steady nutrition for 20 or more years!
~ If you do the above ground version, you have more planting space because it is tall and vertical!
~ Nearby fruit trees are also fed.
~ The logs and branches soak up water and hold it, so less water to none is needed after the first year.

More clever tips!

  1. At intervals, near the center of your compost pile, place handfuls of old compost or fresh rich soil, as an infusion, an inoculant of soil making organisms.
  2. In dry SoCal, I cover my compost pile to keep it from drying out, and I never need to water it.
  3. When cold composting and composting in place, add red wriggler worms to chomp up materials. They add worm castings that help your plants’ immune systems and uptake of nutrients. If you will be turning the compost, kindly use a pitchfork so there will be the least damage to your worms.
  4. Be smart, add herbs! Penny Woodward says: ‘Regular handfuls of chamomile, dandelion and yarrow leaves and flowers will all speed up decomposition of the compost with YARROW being the most effective. Yarrow also adds copper, nitrates, phosphates and potash while chamomile adds calcium and ‘sweetens’ the mixture. Dandelions contribute copper, iron and potash. Nettles are problem weeds but they actually improve the quality of the soil they are growing in and when added to the compost they contribute iron and nitrogen. Tansy adds potassium, which is very important for plant growth while Valerian increases the phosphorus content so essential for good flowers and fruits [but is invasive!]. The most nutritious compost plant is COMFREY and it grows most of the year in SoCal coastal climate. The leaves are rich in potassium, nitrogen, calcium and phosphates. I keep a clump growing next to the compost. It grows like crazy, and I layer on a handful of leaves whenever I throw in kitchen scraps.
Stemilt's World Famous compost!

Fine finished Stemilt World’s Famous Compost!

Mix it up! Do any version or combo of compost versions that work for you or as you have the materials available to do what you want! Do more than one method at the same time! Super soil is the Number 1 thing you can do for your garden and compost makes the difference! When your compost smells great and you could just about eat it, you know you made it right!

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All that said, there are tons of composting devices available. Some work more or less, some work for one person but not another, for various reasons. Google for pros and cons of each one before you purchase. See if you think you will tend it as it needs to be tended, if it suits your needs, your location. Will you need additional tools. Imagine doing the process it requires. Would that really work for you. Worst is you buy and it fails. You can resell it, give it to someone who would be dedicated to the process it needs, donate it to a charity sale, or an organization that needs one. It’s ok.

All that said, if building your own compost isn’t your choice, support your local nursery and get the best from them! Otherwise, have a good dirty time of it!

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

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4th July US Flag Woman Garden Seeds Independence

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.  –  Henry David Thoreau

Important Habitat!

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Let a carrot or two, a celery, and some cilantro bloom out! The blooms will be food for and bring beneficial insect pollinators. Birds will have seeds for food and scour your plants for juicy cabbage worms, whiteflies, aphids, earwigs, grasshoppers, cucumber beetles and grubs fresh for their hatchlings! Chickadees even eat ants!

Planting!

Some planting is always doable in July, and very last rounds of summer favorites! Transplant basil, celery, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, leeks, summer lettuce, green onions, white potatoes, summer savory, New Zealand spinach. In our hot foothills and further south, go for more melons, okra, pumpkins, summer & winter squash. Corn is an exception – late plantings often develop smut. I’ve seen tomato transplants and bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops into October!

Fall transplants need babying! Transplant late afternoon or evening so plants have the whole night to begin to recover before they’re hit with a full day of sun and heat. Water well and provide shade from intense mid-day sun. Prop up and secure some of those plastic plant flats that have the finer pattern to filter the light. Keep your transplants moist for at least a month or until they’re well established. Mulch to save water unless you have Bagrada Bugs.

At the end of the month, sow carrots (they do best from seed), celery and, if no Bagrada Bugs, Brassicas. If you have the Bugs, wait until it cools in October. Brassicas are arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, pac choi, radish, rutabaga, turnip. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time.

Harvest and Storage Tips!

Pluck those tasty veggies when they mature.

String Beans Harvest just about daily. If they bulge with seeds and start to dry, your plant thinks it’s done and stops producing. Pick, pick, pick!
Corn When the silks turn brown and you push your fingernail in a kernel and it squirts milky juice, it’s ready! It holds its sweetness only 2 to 5 days! Harvest early in the day, make time to your fridge or the barbie because the sugars turn to starch very quickly!
Cucumbers – no storing on the vine. Your plant thinks it’s done. Cut, clip or carefully twist off while carefully holding the vine.
Melons Harvest sooner by placing ripening melons on upside down aluminum pie pans or cans to keep them off the damp soil. The reflected heat and light will help them ripen evenly and sooner than when they are shaded by foliage.
Okra! If your summer has been hot enough you got some! It must be harvested before it gets tough. Letting it get bigger simply doesn’t pay. So look carefully for mature fruits and take ’em! I grow the burgundy and ruby types, slice them fresh over my salads. Pretty little stars. 
Peppers
– depends on the pepper. Let them stay on the plant if you planted ones for pretty colors. Cut or clip them off so not to damage your plant. Quick-freeze ones you won’t be using right away! Slice, dice, and freeze in baggies in the amounts you anticipate using in a stir fry or stew.
Potatoes are ready for digging when the plant flowers. Wet up the soil and dig about for the biggest ones, leaving the others to get sizable for another later harvest.
Tomatoes when they are the color you chose. Bend cherry toms back so you get the cap and stem. This keeps them from splitting open. O’ course, if they split, you absolutely must eat them on the spot so they don’t spoil! No problem freezing toms whole! Just remove the stem core. You can blanch them and remove the skins first, or not…your choice.
Zucchini  Harvest in self defense! They get BIG, FAST! Some of you came from big families and like baking them and would never think of harvesting them until they are huge, lotsa bang for your buck! Others have a family of 1, can’t possibly eat all that zuke, so harvest them quite small, fresh salad slicing size. The ridged types make pretty little star shaped slices!

Strawberries are a little different. Quickly as possible, store fresh picked berries in a container lined with a paper towel in the coldest part of your fridge. They will last about a week, but it’s more fun to eat them sooner!

If you don’t need or want any strawberry runner babies, pinch off the runners so your plant’s energy goes to fruiting. If you want to start a new November bed, let the runners grow now to the size you want, put pots nearby, anchor the runner in place, let them root in the pot, container. When they are doing well on their own, clip the connection to the Mother plant. The babies nearest the Mother are the strongest. Clip off the ones further away. Start your new bed with them or give them away.

Your SECOND HARVEST is SEEDS! As July goes on or in August, when you or your plant are ready, let your very best plants produce but don’t harvest the fruits. Beans get lumpy with seeds and will dry completely. Let them dry on the vine for full nutrition from the mother plant. Let a cucumber yellow and dry. Let the corn cob dry and the kernels get hard. Cukes, peppers, melons, okra and squash are easy. Just remove the seeds and let them dry. Uh, do label the drying trays! Tomatoes are a tiny bit of a process but not hard at all. See more!

Save enough seeds for your own planting, for several rounds of planting across the next season, for replanting when there are losses, and some to give away or share at a seed swap. Keep the race going.

Keep up with Sidedressing and Watering

Compost and worm castings are important for more than as soil builders. Compost has super water holding capacity, and as some of us get tired toward the end of summer, and it is hotter, our soil needs compost more than ever, especially if you want to extend production time.

Worm castings help our plants uptake soil nutrients and boost your plant’s immune system. When your plant is taxed producing fruit in great summer conditions, it also is peaking out for the season and fighting pests and diseases are harder for it. And, sometimes a plant is just done. No amount of coaxing will have effect. It worked hard. Thank it and take it to the compost altar.

Manures are great for all but beans, beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or there’ll be more foliage than fruit!
Give your peppers and solanaceaes, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, Epsom Salt/Magnesium treatments.
Every couple of weeks your strawberries would love a light fish emulsion/kelp drench.

Don’t be fooled by Temporary High Temps! Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, stop flowering and fruiting when temps rise above 85 to 90 degrees F (depending on humidity) for an extended time. Humidity causes pollen to stick and not fall to pollinate. Dry heat causes the pollen to fall and not stick! When weather cools, you will have blooms again and be back in production. Rattlesnake beans, on the other hand, keep right on producing at 100 degree temps! So choose heat tolerant veggie varieties, like Heatmaster and Solar Fire tomatoes, from locales with hot weather. They are out there!

Wise Watering  Keep up with even watering so fruits have their right shapes. Though June has the longest days of summer, July through September can be the hottest in SoCal. Be aware if you are overwatering. Plants vary in their needs and as temps vary. You can save 20 to 30% and have healthier plants!

Water being critical due to the drought, needs to be thoughtfully managed, just like for our lawns and landscapes. To mimic the Santa Barbara Stage 3 Drought Regs, see if you can apply these ideas to your garden. For example, build berms to keep water exactly where it does the most good. Berms need to go to the dripline of your plant so tiny feeder roots can fully supply your plant with water and nutrients as it needs.

  • Routinely check your irrigation system if you have one.
  • Hoses must be equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle when in use. We can do that by using water wands with easy-to-use thumb valve shutoffs.
  • Irrigation with potable water is prohibited between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. for automatic systems. If manually operated, such irrigation is prohibited between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Irrigation with potable water that causes runoff onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or parking structures is prohibited.
  • Any excessive, unnecessary or unwarranted use of water is prohibited.
  • All leaks must be repaired as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Irrigation during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall is prohibited.

If you garden at home, please look into water capture and gray water systems, super attractive bioswale catchments. In Santa Barbara County there are rebates available! Do it now to be ready for winter rain. Also there are FREE landscape workshops! And we have FREE water system checkups. Call (805) 564-5460 to schedule today! Just in June 23 in LA, Elmer Ave retrofit!

Fall Soil Preparation & Planting

Make compost with your finishing summer plants that are pest and disease free. Recycle that green gold! Make mini layers with that and veggie kitchen scraps that you and your friends save for you alternated with dry brown layers of straw or dried leaves. 1/2″ layers are the very best, 1″ layers are fine too. It goes one part wet/green to two parts dry/brown. The thinner the layers the faster your pile decomposes.

Soil Prep As your summer plants finish, spaces become available for fall planting prep. Amend your soil with what is needed for what you will plant there. Unless there are Bagrada Bugs, mulch the soil to protect what you have created, keep it moist. Remove mulch if Bagrada Bugs appear. They lay eggs in the soil and mulched soil is lovely safe habitat for them. Unless you have seen them in action, I can’t impress on you how quickly prolific they are.

Container and raised bed gardeners remove spent soil. Toss it out or use it as mulch somewhere else. Replace it and add tasty amendments – compost, manures, worm castings – for late summer and lusty fall plantings. The water warmer raised beds need washes nutrients away. How many times have you seen sunken dried up raised beds with only straggly plants remaining? If you decide to have a raised bed, you need to make the commitment. They are isolated from the natural daily goings on in ground level soil, so you have to help them. Ground level soils need amending, sometimes replacing, but much less than raised beds and containers.

Starting a Nursery Patch  It’s time to get seeds if you don’t already have them! While there is little space for big winter plants, small nursery patches can be planted. Leave enough room between seedlings so you can get your trowel in to lift them out to transplant later when space becomes available! If seeds and nurseries aren’t your thing, wait until your local nursery starts having the transplants that make you happy! August they might start trickling in. Labor Day weekend is a favorite planting time for some gardeners. October is just fine too!

Clean up funky pest habitat that the little buggers can overwinter in or while it is still hot they will multiply in.

July is a month to keep all your balls in the air! Planting, harvesting, caretaking, preparations! The payoff will be delicious harvests, and the promise of winter crops starting early in the season. Remember to leave space for second and third rounds for steady table supply. Plant quickly maturing veggies like lettuces and beets to have production in those waiting spaces until you are ready to plant those later rounds.

Think on when you want those October pumpkins and what you want on your table for ThanksGiving, maybe sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie! And at Christmas time, maybe a sauce over some of those delicious frozen beans or some fresh butterhead lettuce salad topped with cranberries. Plan for it!

May your table be bountiful and your Spirit radiant with exceptional health!

See the entire July GBC Newsletter! How to make super compost, Zucchini Fritters, and info about the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA!


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

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Container Vegetable Living Gift - Lettuces Edible Flowers

What more wonderful than a living gift?!

Plant a planter box, a cut and come again lettuce bowl
Give her a growing tower, garden gear
Give her seedlings and seeds
Plant edible flowers for her that she will love
Offer her some of your time weeding, turning in amendments
Maybe she could use some of your homemade organic compost or worm castings
Pony up for the Community Garden fee!
Or the garden book she has been wanting….
That trip to the amazing garden she’s been wanting to see
Gift Certificate to a seed catalog company of her choice!

Special gift! Fresh organic salad in a Mason jar for busy Moms! Yum!

Super delicious nutritious Mason Jar meals!

A fresh gathered Bouquet Garni tied with a hearts ribbon
Bundles of fresh herbs she can hang and dry in her kitchen
Herbed oils and vinegars in pretty bottles
How about some easy-to-make cucumber night cream?!

Maybe ‘she’ is a Dad Mom! There are a lot of guy Moms out there, busy single dads who love to garden!

(Moms, do give big hints or leave your bucket list lying about!)

A Happy & Green Mother’s Day to all you loving people!

Mother's Day Garden Gifts

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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 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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