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Posts Tagged ‘interplant’

Our recent 1″ rain in Santa Barbara was just a kiss! We aren’t out of the drought by a long shot, so keep clear about how you do your planting.

Efficiency Planting Kadazan Girls
Kebun Malay-Kadazan girls plants a fine garden! Peas growing vertically behind 3 cauliflower plants. Growing in front of cauliflowers are leeks, carrots, corianders (cilantro), lettuces and 2 poppy plants. Companion planting rules, good job! Interplanting confuses pests!

In my many meanderings I one time read that small area gardeners are far more efficient than commercial farms. Here’s how we do it! First, we don’t need extra space for maintenance and harvesting machinery. We can use that space for perennial herbs that deliciously spice our foods and repel bothersome insects, and grow lovely flowers that fill our hearts with their beauty. Some flowers are edible, feed the bees and attract beneficial insects! Total winners!

Plant more than one crop together, right?! Water one, water all!

  • On the summer trellis put cucumbers below, beans above. In the winter put beets, carrots or lettuces below, peas above.
  • Tuck small variety cabbages like Baby Cabbage Pixie or Red Express on the sunny side under taller variety broccoli. Snip off lower branches once the brocs have enough size. Or plant cabbies around the base of your pom pom top curly leaf kales once the bottom leaves are harvested.
  • Cilantro and Brassicas are very happy together.
  • Tuck table/bunch onions in between everywhere except by peas. Keep them AWAY from the peas. And that means all onions/chives/garlic.

Plant cleverly and timely!  Put radish and carrots together. One’s up quick the other keeps growing more slowly, down.

Instead of planting low return space eater crops, put in year ’round continuous producers! 

  • Instead of that huge 7′ footprint artichoke for a few fruits a year, pop in some broccoli like All Season F1 that makes those nice 3″ side shoots all year long once the main head is taken. Marvelous nutrition.
  • Instead of corn that produces only 1, or 2, maybe 3 ears if you are lucky, plant a patch of forever feast low calorie massive Fordhook Giant chard. Amazing plant feeds an army. If you don’t need that much chard, plant gourmet ruby chard Scarlet Charlotte or brilliant yellow Pot of Gold! If a lot of chard suits you, plant them all! At home you can plant these among your ornamentals for bright winter color beauty!
Smaller yet quite productive varieties! These are better for when you like a veggie but don’t need that much. Look about for dwarf, patio, container varieties that use less water and are happy to nestle in among their neighbors. Improved Dwarf Siberian Kale is a good bet. It’s more open leaves make it less susceptible to mildew, and it’s easier to hose off aphids too! If you love cabbage, try some of those cute Red Express or Pixie Baby! They come in sooner, plant often for a steady fresh supply.

Plant two for ones!

  • Beets! Use the leaves in salads, steamed, in stews. Wiki says beets can be cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad. Pickled (probiotic) beets are a traditional food of the American South, and are often served on a hamburger in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Don’t forget Borscht! Plant the traditional deep reds, goldens, or those stripy pink and whites!
  • Carrots too! Steam or eat the greens in salads, eat the roots as you please! Try those spicy sweet heirloom Cosmic Purple carrots with bright orange inside! Or Purple Carrots F1, purple all the way through! If you want them faster, Thumbelinas are quick growers! If you like surprises, plant Renee’s Circus Circus variety pack!

And, naturally, look for those amazing Drought Tolerant varieties, and in summer, Heat Tolerant varieties!

Plant smart, save water!

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Bagrada Bug Stages

Please reread, scan this, for the many updates I have made. The Bagradas are now here in force, many plants have been swarmed and already lost, including seedling mustard and radishes. YUK and bummer!

California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas gardeners alert!

Per Wikipedia, Bagrada Bugs are native to much of eastern and southern Africa and parts of southern Europe and Asia. They made a sudden appearance in Los Angeles in June, 2008, its first sighting in the Western Hemisphere. It then moved into the cropland of the heavily agricultural Coachella and Imperial Valleys of California, doing damage to cole crops there, especially those grown organically. As of September 2014 it has reached as far north as San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Merced and Inyo counties, and all California counties to the south except Tulare County.

Although spiders and other general predators may feed on the Bagrada bug, it does not have specific natural enemies in the United States. Birds don’t eat these nasty stink bugs.

The only effective substance, so far, that kills them, is one you have to be licensed to use.

Brassicas are their favorite food, and Brassicas, that’s broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kales, Brussels Sprouts, cabbages, are THE SoCal winter garden plant! Late summer they also infested our tomato and pepper plants.

  • Per UC IPM, as an alternative to greenhouses, screened tunnels or floating row cover fabric can provide plant protection in gardens. The mesh of the screening material must be fine enough to exclude the Bagrada bug nymphs and should be elevated so that it does not touch the plants because the bugs can feed through these coverings. The edges of protective covers must also be buried to prevent the bugs from crawling underneath to the plants, and they must be applied before Bagrada bugs get into the crop and soil.
  • What some of the local organic farmers are doing is planting mustards, the Bagrada’s most favorite Brassica, as a trap plant. Giant red mustards give them plenty to munch on. If you find mustard transplants at your nursery, buy them without delay! The Bagradas prefer them, so they go there rather than your brocs. You can also plant radishes, another Brassica, as a trap plant. Don’t harvest them, just let them grow to full size.

    Plant your trap plants so they are well up BEFORE you put in your broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale or cabbage.

    If you are planting from seed, immediately securely cover with a floating row cover or the babies will be eaten. Recent seed plantings of giant red mustard and radish have literally been mowed by the bugs. If you can find transplants, get them and do the same, cover immediately with a floating row cover. Once the cover is off, keep a dedicated sunny midday watch and remove any Bagradas. You may save your transplants and your other plants. Or, grow transplants at/in home, away from the pest, then keep a keen watch when you plant them out.

    If you are a mustard greens or radish eater, you must plant enough as trap plants plus what you hope for to eat. I highly recommend you plant them in various areas well separated from each other. At the community garden I see patches that have been infested, mowed, and areas that haven’t been touched at all. Hope that’s just not a matter of time until they get those next.

  • The big CON of trap plants is they BRING Bagradas! The other alternative is to remove any Cruciferous plants, like mustard types, radish, all Brassicas, until the weather cools. Then, plant whatever you want!
  • Mind you, you still have to REMOVE BAGRADAS by whatever means you prefer, or the brocs are next. Bagradas not only move FAST, but are fast growers andreproducers. They make virtual swarms, and when they suck juices from your plant toxicdisease producing stuff gets in your plant. In hot temps, I’ve seen a 1 1/2 foot tall plant go down in 1 to 3 days. White patches start on the leaves, they wilt and the plant dies.

    PLEASE Remove infested or diseased leaves immediately.  Hold a large bucket lined with a plastic or tightly closeable bag underneath the area you are going to clip. Bagradas instantly drop to the ground the moment you disturb the plant. So you can’t sneak up on them and cover the plant with a plastic bag. The bucket catches them and the leaves. DO NOT lay the leaves or trim on the ground. They lay eggs both on your plant and in the ground. Eggs you might not see hatch quickly, defeating your clipping. Securely tie the clippings and bugs in a plastic bag so they can’t escape, and take them to the TRASH. Do not put them in compost or green waste. Simply moving Bagradas doesn’t work. They fly.

    If the infestation is small, in the cool of early morning, while the Bagradas are slow and haven’t had their morning coffee yet, I hold a large tray under an area of the plant, then tap gently, smush the ones that fall onto the tray. Keep doing it in stages until there are no more. Come back in about five minutes and do it again. The ones that fall to the ground quickly go back up the plant. And don’t let the little round black/red instars get away either. They mature quickly and lay more eggs. You could use a bucket of soapy water, but it really isn’t big enough for the size of most plants.

    REMOVE MULCH HABITAT from around infested or susceptible plants until the Bagrada season is OVER. They hide out in the mulch, mate like crazy, lay eggs in the ground. They are expert at playing dead, and once you are gone, quite quickly climb back up on the plant. I’ve seen it. Stand very still and wait…sure enough, there they come. That’s your second chance to remove, euphemism for kill, the ones that escape the first round.

  • PLANTING TIPS  I highly suggest biodiversity, interplanting – that’s mixing it up,eveninterplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccoli), rather thanmonoculturing – a row of a single kind of plant. With rows of a single plant, the pest or disease simply goes plant to plant and you lose the whole row. This also stops leafminers (typical on soft leaved chard & beets) from going plant to plant. Slows them way down.

    Plant so mature plant leaves don’t touch! Stop the ease of transmission. If you can’t help yourself, and go monoculture, plant too close, clip back, harvest, the between leaves so they don’t touch. More is not always better. Dense plantings can literally starve plants that get root bound, that have less access to a healthy allotment of soil food and soil organisms that tickle their roots. Jammed together leaves are not able to get the sun power they need, so there are smaller leaves and less fruits. Snails successfully hide out; mildew and leaf miners can ruin the crop. There are so many reasons to give your plants ample space to live and breathe.

    Unfortunately, Brassicas don’t mingle with mycorrhizae fungi. With other plants the fungi network linking your plants is proven that when one plant gets a disease or pest, it warns the neighbor plant. That plant then boosts its own defenses!

    You could wait and plant your Brassicas late, from transplants, in October, when the weather has cooled. Bagradas thrive at sustained temps 85 degrees and above.

Here is the link to some additional really excellent information at UC IPM (Integrated Pest Management) published Jan 2014.

You have choices!

  1. Persevere, plant and do what you can. Pray for survival.
  2. Wait until the weather cools, plant late, October works well.
  3. Mix it up! Plant a few Brassicas/mustard/radishes now, some more later. Succession plantings are a wise gardener technique! If a first planting fails, plant another round when conditions have changed. If both plantings succeed, YES, you have a continuous fresh table supply!
  4. Don’t plant over winter; rest your soil, or plant soil restoring cover crops!
  5. Only plant what Bagradas don’t care for and doesn’t attract them for now; plant your Brassicas later when it’s cooler. Greens are super healthy ~ just don’t plant cruciferaes (plants with four-petal flowers/cross) like Mizuna, mustard or turnips. Better not to get those mixed mesclun 6 packs at this time.

Good luck, Dear Gardeners, be fearless and strong!

See the entire September 2014 Newsletter!

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Some start fall plantings from seed the last week of July. Now through September, early October is great time too, though the later you get it will go faster with transplants as the days get shorter, the weather cools! Varieties can make all the difference! If you are buying from the nursery, you get what they have got. Planting from seed gives you so many more choices!

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

Brassicas! That’s biggies like our broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, and ‘littles’ like arugula, mustard greens, Mizuna, radish.

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

  • Broccoli! My personal favorite varieties are All Season F1, even though it doesn’t come in purple, and Green Comet! They are short varieties about a foot and a half tall, produce a big main head followed by large 3″ diameter side heads, and later on a plentiful supply of smaller ones! They continue to grow side branches, so the plant needs room to expand. The most radically different than those varieties I ever grew was 5′ tall with trillions of little 1″ side shoots that I got really tired cutting and finally took the plant down. These days I cut side shoots off down the stem several leaves below, to the second to lowest producing junction, which slows things down so I have time to eat what I got before the next harvest is ready. Please see Broccoli, the Queen of Brassicas for more varieties!

    Research has shown there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together! Buy mixed 6 packs of brocs when they are available if you like the varieties in it, or plant a mix of seeds of varieties you like. At least plant two different kinds, one of each in one place, then in other places. This keeps diseases and pests from spreading one plant to another. UC study explains

    If you like the taste, in SoCal, 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! If that cilantro taste isn’t for you, it is such an excellent companion, grow it anyway! I like the scent, it’s pretty and when it blooms it brings pollinators, then seeds for next year!

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

  • Brussels Sprouts are iffy in our 1 mile-from-the-coast climate. They like colder. If you don’t mind small 1″ fruits, go for it. But in 2018 it wasn’t colder and local gardeners got fine fat crops! They certainly are tasty, like mini cabbages! Buy local varieties recommended by your neighbors or nursery. Look for varieties that tolerate warmer temps!
  • Cabbages grow huge, depending on the variety, an easy 2′ to 3′ footprint, but slowly. If you love cabbage but can’t eat a huge head, select varieties that mature sooner, harvest when smaller or grow minis! Mini Pixie Baby is a white; Red Acre Express is a red, both tasty! Plant any variety cabbage you like, though red and savoy types, resist frost better! It is said lettuces repel cabbage moths. Put a few of them between the cabbages. Plant lettuces from transplants because dying parts of Brassicas put out a poison that prevents some seeds, like tiny lettuce seeds, from growing. Red cabbage shreds are pretty in winter salads. If you are making probiotic sauerkraut, let the heads get very firm so your sauerkraut is good and crunchy! See growing magnificent cabbages!
  • Cauliflower comes in traditional white, also yellow, green and purple! It comes in the traditional head shapes, and also the castle green spiral variant, Romanesco! It’s a visual choice! The colors do have varying antioxidant qualities if that is a factor for you. Once that main head is cut, unlike broccoli, cauliflower doesn’t make side shoots. Unless you eat the greens, your plant is done. It’s compost time. Amend that soil if it needs it, and replant for a second crop or plant something else there!
  • Kale, the Queen of Nutrition! Kale’s attractive greenery packs over ten times the vitamin A as the same amount of iceberg lettuce, has more vitamin C per weight than orange juice! Kale’s calcium content is in the most bioavailable form – we absorb almost twice as much calcium from kale than we do from milk! Also, kale is one of the foods that lowers blood pressure naturally.

    There are several varieties! Dense curly leaf, a looser curly leaf, Lacinato – Elephant/Dinosaur long curved bumpy leaf, Red Russian flat leaf, Red Bor a medium curly leaf, and Red Chidori, an edible ornamental kale! And there are more amazing choices! Plants with more blue green leaves are more cold hardy and drought tolerant! See more about Kale!

    Aphids and whitefly love Kale, and other Brassicas, so along with that Cilantro, plant garlic and chives among your Brassicas! Their strong scent repels aphids. You might want to choose Kale varieties without those dense leaf convolutions that make it difficult to get the aphids out of. But for the footprint per return, curly leaf kale can’t be beat. Keep watch. Spray those little devils away. Get rid of the ants, water and fertilize a bit less so the plant is less soft. Remove yellowing leaves immediately. White flies are attracted to yellow. Take a look at this Mother Earth page for some good practical thinking and doing!

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

Peas and Carrots, NO onions, onion family, within several feet. Onions stunt peas. Carrots enhance peas!!! Carrots grow down, peas grow up, perfect! The frilly carrot foliage is lovely living mulch. Be sure your soil is soft for carrot growth, but not manured or they get hairy and sometimes fork. Peas make their own Nitrogen, and carrots get hairy if overfed. Peas need water, but over watering causes carrots to split. Plant the peas on a little lower ground than the carrots, like make a little trench right at the base of the trellis if you are doing pole peas.

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

Peas come in three main kinds!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Bagrada Bug Stages

Brassicas are their favorite, and Brassicas are THE SoCal winter garden plant! I’ve seen them here and there lately, but this morning found infested mulch! YUK and bummer!

  • What some of the local organic farmers are doing is planting mustards as a trap plant. Giant red mustards give them plenty to munch on. If you find mustard transplants at your nursery, buy them without delay! The Bagradas prefer them, so they go there rather than your brocs.
  • Mind you, you still have to remove the Bagadas by whatever means you prefer, or the brocs are next. Bagradas are fast reproducers, make virtual swarms, and when they suck juices from your plant toxic disease producing stuff gets in your plant. In hot temps, I’ve seen a 1 1/2 foot tall plant go down in 3 days.
  • I highly suggest biodiversity, interplanting – that’s mixing it up, even interplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccolis), rather than monoculturing – a row of a single kind of plant. With rows of a single plant, the pest or disease simply goes plant to plant and you lose the whole row. This also stops leafminers (typical on soft leaved chard & beets) from going plant to plant. Slows them way down.
  • Plant so mature plant leaves don’t touch! Stop the ease of transmission. If you can’t help yourself, and go monoculture, plant too close, clip back the between leaves so they don’t touch.
  • Remove infested or diseased leaves immediately. Hold a bucket underneath the area you are going to clip. Bagradas drop to the ground the moment you disturb the plant. The bucket catches them and the leaves. DO NOT lay the leaves or trim on the ground. Eggs you might not see hatch quickly, defeating your clipping. Tie them in a plastic bag, and take them to the TRASH, not in compost or green waste. Simply moving Bagradas doesn’t work. They fly.
  • Don’t lay down mulch, instead, remove any mulch you see them in, and from around infested or susceptible plants until the Bagrada season is OVER. They hide out in the mulch, mate like crazy, then climb back up on the plant when you are gone. I’ve seen it. Stand very still and wait…sure enough, there they come. That’s your second chance to remove, euphemism for kill, some more.
  • For plants other than Brassicas, use mycorrhizae fungi when you plant. The fungi network linking your plants is proven that when one plant gets a disease or pest, it warns the neighbor plant. That plant then boosts its own defenses!

Here is the link to some additional really excellent information at UC IPM (Integrated Pest Management) published Jan 2014.

Good luck, Dear Gardeners. Let us know your stories.

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Vegetable Gardening Gone Vertical - Trellis of beans and cucumbers!It seems like there is never enough space for Summer Veggies! Depending on how and where you go Vertical, plan ahead, think it through! Your water source, and how water will be delivered. Will electricity be available for a timer, will you set up a self watering system, or is it you and your hose? What about sun and shade, rain and wind? How much space will each mature plant take?

Beautifully done bean and cucumber container combo from digginfood!  On the ground, use a bigger trellis and weave those cukes up on the trellis, get them off the ground, and/or lay in deep straw mulch, to avoid wilts and have clean harvests.  Plant radishes in front to deter Cucumber beetles!

When choosing your materials, details to know:

  • Peas have tiny tendrils that grab onto things, even other plants that grow upright. Beans have no such constraints! The entire vine will grow around and through openings. If you want something that serves for both kinds of plants, choose something wiry and small so the peas can live there too!  Peas are SoCal winter plants; beans are summer.
  • Oh, and think about harvest – can you get that cucumber through the opening? A lot of wire fencing just doesn’t have openings a size you can conveniently get your hands through to tend your plant.  Think remesh.

Trellises & Cages! The old fashioned standards! Stick them in the ground or in your container, or across several containers! Anchor well, plant beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, even melons, to your happiness! Cucumbers below, beans growing through them to the remaining trellis space above! Trellises can be A-framed, or bent to an inverted U shape – run your melons up and over it, plant summer lettuces in the shade underneath! Cages can give a lot of support to big plants like indeterminate tomatoes. And you can buy them pretty now, in vibrant colors! Or, buy 2 panels of 4′ X 7′ remesh and bind them together lengthwise into a 2′ diameter cylinder. Or stagger and bind them together to make a taller trellis lengthwise.  Those will hold a lot of plant, one huge indeterminate tomato or a passel of pole beans or peas, so anchor them well in case of a major wind.

Fences – a sunny openwork fence is the next best thing to a trellis, and you don’t even have to anchor it; it’s already up! If the fence is not openwork, use some ‘S’ hooks and hang some remesh or wire fencing for your plants to climb. When the season is done, carry the remesh or whatever you got as a climbing frame, over to the compost pile and remove the finished plants. Put that wire right back up and plant again!

Arches & Arbors These are lovely, providing cooling shade over your patio or deck, or adorn the entrance to your home or garden area. Grapes are classic and oh, so, tasty! But you can do all kinds of fancy, pretty, specialty gourds as well. Add a couple of climbing roses for scent and beauty! A scarlet runner bean or two are superb accents!

Containers! Tons of options!
  • Put tall plantings in raised pots behind medium and short plants in graduated sizes in front.
  • Railings of balconies or decks are terrific for those specialty boxes made to fit. Concerns are water rotting the wood, or what the water drips on. You could put flowering herbs there, Mediterranean plants that need less water. Keep them trimmed by using them frequently, for yourself, and for gifts.
  • Traditional hanging container gardens – baskets, pots, boxes, but nowadays, reused plastic bottles too! Be sure they are wind secure, won’t damage any nearby structures. Know where the water is coming from and where it is going! Put water lover plants under the hanging containers to receive overflow from above. Water more frequently due to drying out sooner. Anticipate that a large plant will shade others when it grows bigger….
  • Vertical grow columns! These come in many forms. Be sure they are well anchored. Install your water and feeding system, soil, plants, and grow, grow, grow! Great for lettuces and strawberries.

BioWalls! In a manner of speaking, a wall garden is nothing more than a fancy container garden! Make your structure with openings the size to accommodate your plants’ containers. Set in your water and feeding system. Put in containers that fit into the openings! Add your planting mix, and plant! Voila, a vertical wall garden! You can take containers out to conveniently tend your plant, exchange for another. Clearly, there needs to be enough space between plants so they don’t damage each other when you take them out, return them. Make them your height so you can easily reach them to tend them. If your biowall is going to be a feature, know it will need a little more tending to keep it attractively vibrant.

Shelves are simple! No saggies! Use adequate support and use materials that won’t endanger your plants by sagging half way through the season. Instead of using one wide board, lay on 3 to 5 narrow boards side by side, on edge if possible, about an inch apart – that’s for drainage and drying so your wood doesn’t warp and rot out. Or, tilt the shelf/shelves slightly, down in front, away from the wall of your house if you are doing the shelves against your home, so the water drains off and away from your home. Leave a little airspace between the shelf and your home for air circulation. Wire racks, like old refrigerator shelves, make terrific shelving. Drier conditions keep mildews, molds, bacteria and fungi from forming. Keep your plants disease and pest free for successful harvests.

Untreated pallets! What fun! Usually you can get them for free! Stand them on edge, throw in some peat and soil, maybe some straw, plant both sides! Put them where you want them. Move them anytime, per season, or not at all! True space savers.

Roof! How vertical can you get?! Be safe. Water is heavy. Can the structure support it? Is it ok with the owner. Where will excess water go? Anchor plants well – no flying plants!

As one blogger says, ‘…believe me, with a little love plants can grow just about anywhere and on anything.’ Tis true.

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Transplants' roots need to be healthy, no girdling, white, not tan! Choosing healthy Transplants!  When at the nursery, check if a plant is root bound.  Carefully pop the plant right out of the container!  You want white lively roots with plenty of space between them; no girdling, no tan color like the ones at the left in the image.  A girdled plant will never be quite as healthy as one that has had normal growth.  If they are tan they are old and may have disease.

If your soil is poor, or you have only asphalt or concrete, consider raised beds or straw bale gardening!

Nowhere in nature will you find row furrows.  Plant for biodiversity!  In fact, California entomologists compared plantings of all one variety of broccoli to mixed plantings of four cultivars. They found that the combination crops had fewer cabbage aphids. So merely mixing varieties in a monocultural planting may help reduce pest problems.

Lettuces can be kept from bolting, producing a stalk, by regularly picking the outer leaves, keeping them from maturing properly.  This ‘cut and come again’ approach to harvesting can extend the time they produce for up to 10 weeks!

Vermicompost, Worm Castings, causes seeds to germinate more quickly, seedlings to grow faster, leaves grow bigger, and more flowers, fruits or vegetables are produced. These effects are greatest when a smaller amount of vermicompost is used—just 10-40 percent of the total volume of the plant growth medium in which it is incorporated.

Intercrop, Interplant for better space usage!

  • fast and slow growing plants in the same space, like radishes and carrots or spinach and peas
  • small plants next to large like cantaloupe and corn or spinach and Brussels sprouts
  • deep and shallow plants like potatoes and cabbage or turnips and lettuce
  • heavy and light feeders like broccoli and carrots or corn and beans

To avoid mildew, space your plantings enough for air circulation and, especially if your area is shady and/or if you water evenings.  Better to water at ground level, not overhead, in the AMs if possible.  It’s good to rinse off leaves from time to time, so your plant can fully photosynthesize for fat harvests!  Too much dust and dirt can hinder that process.

If your soil is crusty or hard and ‘heavy,’ it’s hungry.  It needs humus, more compost.  Compost keeps your soil soft and friable, increases its water holding capacity, adds nutrients.  Yes!

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Harvest, Replant, Maintenance, Spring Preps, SEEDS! 

Keep harvesting!  Plant consideringly.  That means, summer planting starts in March.  January, February are generally cold, so slow growth though day length is getting longer.  Keep in mind what space you want available in March for the March starts.  If you are a winter plant lover gardener, one way to do this is to plant another round of your favorite winter plants, then in March designate a ‘nursery’ area, and start your summer seeds there.  Transplant the babies to their permanent locations as the spaces become available.  That in mind, plant more broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, kale, kohlrabi, potatoes.  Plant an understory of all year favorites – beets, carrots, parsley, radish, and turnips, on the sunny sides of taller plants.  And LETTUCES!  They love January!

January IS bareroot month!  Start bareroot artichokes, short day globe onions, strawberries (if you missed November), asparagus, horseradish (Be warned! Invasive).  Depending on the weather, strawberry flowers may appear shortly after planting.  Remove them so more energy goes into root development.  Seascape, developed by UC Davis, is an everbearer strawberry that produces well in our moderate coastal climate most of the year. Sequoia is an large berried everbearer; Chandler is a June bearer – produces May/June, then done.  For those of you at home, plant bareroot cane berries, blueberries, roses, deciduous fruit trees!  Visit Bay Laurel Nursery in Atascadero!

Clear overwintering pest habitat, debris; weed.  Turn top soil to aerate and let the bad fungi die, pray for the good ones.  Sidedress your producing plants lightly – add some fish emulsion with kelp.  Sprinkle and lightly dig in cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal or fish meal.  Keep a weather watch; keep those old sheets and coverings about in case of hard freezes.  Farmers’ Almanac on Frost   Weather.com Frost Map  Make this one your home page during cold winter months.  No mulch this time of year; it keeps the soil cold.  Rain Tips!  Secure peas and tall plants.

If you have been growing favas, time to secure them from winds, rain.  Pop in a few stakes and tie them with that green stretchy stuff, or some twine.  If they have too much shade, water or fertilizer, they will go to leaf and no bean pods.  If that happens, pinch off the growing tips.  Take ‘em straight to your kitchen for steaming or stir fry!  Back at your garden, side-dress with a sprinkly organic box fertilizer or fish emulsion with kelp, or whatever your choice is, water well!  Takes about a week for the beans to appear.  Let them get 5 to 8 inches, filled with beans, and their yours – tasty and high in protein!  If you are growing for seed, let the pods blacken and dry.  Black?  Yep, I know, counter intuitive.

Make compost, start preparing your soil for spring planting.  Make raised beds.  Plan your spring garden; get seeds, wait until March to start planting your summer veggies.  Wait for it.  Plants planted out of season struggle with weather, day length, temps, and are susceptible to pests and diseases they aren’t naturally able to fend off.  Now, if you have a greenhouse….

No greenhouse?  Start Seeds Indoors – we are now the prerequisite six to eight weeks away from March!  Start tomatoes, marigolds, peppers, cosmos, zucchini, impatiens, salvia, basil, and others.  Especially start peppers!  They take longer than other veggies.  Otherwise, wait until all chance of freezing temperatures have passed and buy transplants at your favorite nursery.  I’ve seen zucchini started in the ground in January thrive.  If it doesn’t come up, no problem!  Put some more seeds in soon again!  Keep planting.  I haven’t seen it work with tomatoes, but Marshall Chrostowski of Pacifica Institute’s Garden starts his toms in January for late March picking!  He uses heat transmitting black row covers on the ground, and floating row covers above.  That’s clear plastic with holes over hoops.  They make the soil 15 degrees warmer, with 15-20% warmer air!  You can buy floating row covers at your nursery.  Give it a try! Eating garden fresh organic tomatoes late March?! Yum! Row covers will speed up your notorious slow-grower peppers too! Not only do floating row covers warm things up, but they keep flying pests away from your plants! Check out Digital Seed’s Planting Schedule!

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