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May is for Melons! Goldfarb & Page-Mann Regional Fruition Seeds - Juicy Watermelon!

Matthew Goldfarb & Petra Page-Mann of Fruition Seeds, Canandaigua NY

We have had crazy April weather in Santa Barbara! Night temps were low for the longest, then we have had HOT days followed by more cool evenings and now we are back to hot. My kale and cabbages bolted. Early varieties of tomatoes have done well and corn and hot pepper plants, but few have risked planting bell peppers yet. They like warm evenings and soil.

Recent night air temps have still been in the late 40s, up to as much as 58. Soil temps in the sun are now 60 to 68. Peppers especially need warmer temps, nighttime temps above 55°F, some say 60, and soil temps above 65°F. If planted too soon, sometimes they miss their natural sequence of production, and never produce. Best Planting Temps Per Veggie!

May is generally the super month for more heat lovers, but many here haven’t planted their first rounds yet. If your area has been behaving, space permitting, do plant your second rounds this month! Start some more, different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant! The special planting treat of May is CANTALOUPES!

Start from seeds, transplants or both! Add different varieties with different maturity dates for a steady supply, a palate pleasing assortment! Some people just remember when they planted what. Others make an ID plant tag with the plant date and name on it and the # of days to maturity. A quick glance will tell you if that set of plants is ready for another round to be planted. Or, just jot it in your calendar so you be sure to plant another round in 6 to 8 weeks.

If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, transplants are fine! Eggplant, limas, all melons, all peppers, pumpkins and squash! Many wait until even June to plant tomatoes to avoid fungal problems, but if your garden is fungus free, plant away! Ideally you would wait until the soil has warmed to 70°F before sowing squash and melon seeds, but if you can’t wait, and who can?, get nursery transplants and pop them in the ground!

Some gardeners do wait until JUNE to plant southern heat lover okra. Choose faster maturing varieties for coastal SoCal. If YOU anticipate a HOT summer, plant a tad earlier, but be prepared to deal with it if summer is overcast as often is the case after all.

Long beans are spectacular and love heat. Late May, June is the best time to start them. They grow quickly from seed. They will last longer than other beans, hitting their stride toward the end of summer. Certain varieties of them don’t get mildew either! Their unique flavor keeps your table interesting.

Right now, in addition to the plants listed above, sow and/or transplant more asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, parsley, peanuts, white potatoes repel squash bugs, radishes (with cukes to repel cuke beetles, and with eggplant, potatoes and arugula to repel flea beetles), and spinach.

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

See last month’s chat on Tomato and Cucumber specifics, especially if your soil has Fusarium and Verticillium wilts as ours does at Pilgrim Terrace and Rancheria Community Gardens. Mainly, keep those babies’ leaves off the ground! Remove lower leaves, get them UP in a cage or trellis and lay down a loose 1″ deep straw mulch blanket. Too much straw keeps the soil moist, which is good for some plants, not for others. Under maters and cukes, we want some air circulation and a bit of soil drying. The main purpose of mulch is to keep your plant’s leaves from being water splashed or in contact with soil, which is the main way they get fungi/blight diseases.

Tomatoes! Heirlooms are particularly susceptible to the wilts, Fusarium and Verticillium. Instead, get varieties that have VFN or VF on the tag at the nursery. The V is for Verticillium, the F Fusarium wilt, N nematodes. Ace, Early Girl, Champion, Celebrity, are some that are wilt resistant/tolerant. In Santa Barbara area continued drought conditions, consider getting only indeterminates that produce all season long rather than getting determinates that need start up time every time you replant, that need water during no production periods. If you are canning, then by all means, get determinates. In the Mother Earth News tomato survey, they found gardeners chose heirlooms over hybrids if their soil is wilt/blight free. Otherwise, the longer the gardener has gardened, they more they chose wilt resistant toms if their soil has fungi. La Sumida has the largest tomato selection in the Santa Barbara area! See Special Planting and growing tips for your Tomatoes and Cucumbers! 

With our warming temp trends, get bolt resistant/slow bolt varieties, and especially heat and drought tolerant varieties. Heat tolerant tomatoes and beans (Rattlesnake) keep right on producing when temps get up to and above 85.

Problem temps for tomatoes:

High daytime temperatures (above 85 F)
High Nighttime Temperatures (above 70 F)
Low Nighttime Temperatures (below 55 F)

Check out this nifty page of heat tolerant varieties at Bonnie Plant! If your plant is not heat tolerant, wait. When things cool down, it will start making flowers and setting fruit again.

Companion planting is more than saying Howdy! Certain combos enhance growth, others repel pests, some invite beneficial insects! Strengthen your garden! Plan your Companions! Keep the biodiversity rolling! Plant pest deterring plants first so they will be up and working when you put in your or seeds or transplants!

  • Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of culinary dandelions! It is thought to repel white flies, mosquitoes, tomato hornworms, aphids, houseflies, and asparagus beetles. Smells great and tastes great!
  • Beans, Cukes, Dill, Radish Combo! Cukes and Beans are great on the trellis, one high, one low. Dill goes with your pickling cukes. Radishes to deter Cucumber beetles.
  • WHITE Potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs.
  • Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes act as trap plants for flea beetles and to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Carrots love being with cilantro and chamomile, and chamomile improves the flavor of any neighboring herb!
  • Calendula traps aphids, whiteflies, and thrips!
  • Marigolds are brilliant and called the workhorse of pest deterrents!

Put in ‘licious fast growers like lettuce, beets, turnips, arugula, in space being held for subsequent plantings. To use your space super productively, put these veggies on the sunny sides under any large plants. If needed, remove lower leaves that would shade out the ‘littles.’ If you anticipate unusually hot summer weather, grow the littles on the east side of larger plants to protect them from the afternoon sun.

Put in borders of slow but low growers like carrots, mini cabbages, in more permanent placements, like on what will become the morning side of taller backdrop plants like peppers and eggplant.

Watering Tips

  • In these drought times, water before 10:30 AM if at all possible. The earlier the better. Make your basins large enough to accommodate your plants water needs out to the dripline. Water at the base of your plant. If your plants are dusty, you are near a road or there has been a wind, give them a bath. Dusty plants are habitat for White Flies. Keep a lookout, and hose away ants.
  • The general rule of thumb is 1 inch per week. In very hot or windy weather, water as needed, even as much as twice a day!
  • Water beans, cukes, lettuces and short rooted varieties of strawberries more frequently – 2 to 3 times a week, daily in very hot or windy weather. They are all workhorses producing fast and repeatedly, cukes making a watery fruit even. Lettuces need to put on growth fast to stay sweet.
  • Garlic, bulb onions, and shallots naturally begin to dry this month. When the foliage begins to dry it’s time to stop watering. Dry outer layers needed for long storage will form on the bulbs. When about half of the foliage slumps to the ground, bend the rest to initiate this maturing. The bulbs will be ready for harvest when the foliage is thoroughly dry and crisp.
  • Please always be building compost and adding it, especially near short rooted plants and plants that like being moist. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • Good quality organic MULCH feeds your soil, keeps your soil cooler, moister, less water needed and prevents light germinating seeds from starting – less weeds!
  • Pat on Mycorrhiza fungi right on the roots of all your transplants except Brassicas, when you put them in the ground. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Ask for it bulk at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.
  • If you garden in a windy area, put up porous windbreaks to slow soil drying, and you will have less dusty conditions that bring White Flies.
  • Use a water device with an easy to use shut off valve.

It’s Mulch time! Compost is fine and fluffyish, intended to feed your plants, goes IN your soil. Mulch has larger pieces, and is meant to cover the surface to keep your soil cooler and moist. If it is put in the soil, larger pieces use your soil Nitrogen as they break down, depleting the Nitrogen your plants need. Straw is probably the cheapest and cleanest organic mulch. Some don’t like it that you do have to pull grasses that come up. Others don’t mind at all, they just tuck it under the mulch and it feeds the soil too! Otherwise, get good quality bags of undyed mulch.

  • If you are an organic gardener, it’s up to you if you choose to use City mulches. They are made from street side green waste recycle containers that can include diseased plants, non organic chemical treatment residues, toxic plastics etc.
  • Living mulch is when you plant an area densely enough that the leaves of the plants shade your soil and keep it moist. Lettuce does a good job. But also know that makes a moist habitat for slugs and snails, so put down some organic bait two or three times to kill off the generations. Get the store brand of Sluggo. It’s non toxic to pets and kids!
  • Peppers are the last plants you mulch. They like soil temps above 65. Mulch keeps the soil cooler, so use your soil thermometer to see if the mulch is cooling it too much for your peppers.
  • Any Brassicas – broccoli, kale – you are over summering need good deep mulch, 4 to 6 inches. They like cool soil.

Natural Disease & Pest Prevention!

Choosing excellent and appropriate plant varieties, using companion plants in wise combinations, making super soil, regularly applying prevention formulas more details and all the recipes, sidedressing and keeping up on maintenance are the things that keep your plants in top form! They will be less likely to have diseases, but pests adore tasty healthy plants just like we do, as well as them cleaning up plants that are weak or on their way out. Often when you plants are being munched, you have missed the prime harvest time. See more in the April Newsletter

The usual May culprits!

  • Cucumber Beetles get in cucumber, squash and melon blossoms. They aren’t picky. They are yellow greenish with black stripes or dots about the size and shape of a Ladybug. They are cute but are the very worst garden pest. They carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus, deadly to cukes. Radish repels them, is a champion plant, a hero of the garden! Plant enough radish for you to eat and to let others just grow, be there permanently or at least until the beetles are done, gone. IPM data
  • Flea Beetles look like large black fleas and do hop mightily! They seem harmless enough, make tiny little holes in the leaves of eggplant, potatoes, arugula. But, those tiny holes add up. As the beetles suck out the juice of your plant they disrupt your plant’s flow of nutrients, open the leaves to disease, your plant is in a constant state of recovery, there is little production. Your plant looks dryish, lacks vitality. The trap plant for them, one that they like best, is radish! Thank goodness radish grow fast! Better yet, plant it ASAP when you put seeds and transplants in. IPM notes
  • Squash Bugs like your Zucchini and other squash, cucumber and melons. Plant WHITE potatoes amongst them to repel the bugs. You will get two crops instead of just one! IPM info
  • Whiteflies do the honeydew thing like aphids, leaving a nasty sticky black sooty mold or white fibers all over your plant’s leaves. The honeydew attracts ants, which interfere with the activities of Whitefly natural enemies. They are hard to get rid of, so keep a close watch on the undersides of leaves, especially if you see little white insects flying away when you jostle your plant. Whiteflies develop rapidly in warm weather, in many parts of California, they breed all year. Prevent dusty conditions. Keep ants out of your plants. Hose them away immediately. See more

Please plant Bee Food, Herbs and Flowers! Sow or transplant basil, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. Be mindful where you plant them… Mediterranean herbs from southern France, like lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme, do well in hot summer sun and poor but well-drained soil with minimal fertilizer. On the other hand, basil, chives, coriander (cilantro), and parsley thrive in richer soil with more frequent watering. Wise planters put chives where you need to repel Bagrada Bugs, by your broccoli, kale, but away from peas if you are still growing some. Cilantro, a carrot family workhorse, discourages harmful insects such as aphids, potato beetles and spider mites, attracts beneficial insects when in bloom. Dill is a natural right next to the cucumbers since you will use the dill if you make pickles. They mature about the same time. Let some of your arugula, carrots, lettuces, cilantro bloom! Bees, and insect eating birds and beneficial insects love them and you will get some seeds – some for the birds, some for you, some to swap! Grow beauty – cosmos, marigolds, white sweet alyssum – all benefit your garden in their own way!

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.
–  Alice B. Toklas

See the complete April Green Bean Connection for more great veggie gardening tips! Since we had such a cool April in Santa Barbara area, see April for more of what we can plant now in May!

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See the entire May Newsletter! (Sign up for it if you like!)

MAY – Plant More Exciting Heat Lovers!
Teas! Compost, Manure, Worm Castings Brews!
The Magic of Melons ~ Cantaloupe, Honeydew
Other Community Gardens – Inspiration Farm, Bellingham, WA

Events! International Permaculture Day, Fairview Gardens – Farm to Table & Farm Camp, Permaculture Course at Quail Springs!

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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. 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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How to Harvest & Store Summer Veggies Abundance

HARVEST! Harvest at your veggie’s peak delicious moment! Juicy, crunchy, that certain squish in your mouth, sweet, full bodied flavor, vibrant texture, radiant, vitamin and mineral rich! Besides being delicious and beautiful, it keeps your plant in production. Left on the plant, fruits start to dry and your plant stops production, goes into seeding mode. The fruit toughens, withers, loses flavor, maybe rots, sometimes brings insect scavenger pests that clean up, but spread to other plants. So, harvest right on time and let that radiance fill you!

Tomatoes can be harvested when they are green or when they get 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 fridging! Keep toms at room temp. Pink tomatoes ripen to a better taste and red color if they are left at room temperature. They do not turn red in the refrigerator, and red tomatoes kept in the refrigerator lose their flavor. If you want a tom to ripen, place it in a paper bag with an apple. No problem freezing toms whole! Just remove the stem core. You can blanch them and remove the skins first, or not…your choice.

Cucumbers – no storing on the vine. Your plant thinks it’s done and stops producing. Cut, clip or carefully twist off while holding the vine. Probiotic pickle your cukes. Cucumbers are another room temp veggie. University of California, Davis, says cukes are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F. They thrive and last longer at room temp. However, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days if they are used soon after removal from the refrigerator.

Sweet 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. Only wash them right before you plan on eating them; wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool area, or only 1 to 3 days in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of refrigerator, separate from fruit. Green peppers will usually stay fresh longer than orange or red peppers. 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.

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! Get them to the fridge vegetable drawer. If you have too many at once or want some for after season use, cut them to bite size pieces or freeze whole! Put as many per bag as you will use for the kind of meal you will use them for. If for a stew you will feast on for several days, you may want a larger quantity bag.

Carrots Check the shoulders of your carrots to see if they are the size you are wanting. A big carrot is not necessarily tough and woody. If you want tender snacking types, pull while they are smaller. Water well the day before pulling, dig down beside them to loosen them if necessary so they don’t break off in the ground. Carrots go limp if you leave them lying about. Cut the tops off to keep them fresh longer. Get them cooled off in the fridge veggie drawer in a closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days if they’re stored that long. Be creative with your cuts if you freeze some. Go diagonal, rippled, cubed, curled, sticks, or even whole!

Summer Squash, Zucchini Harvest in self defense! They get BIG, FAST! Some of you came from big families and like stuffing and 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! They like hanging out in the fridge, but not for long! They are more soft than carrots or peppers. Give away what you won’t use asap.

Lettuce can be harvested at just about any size, but definitely needs to be harvested before it bolts, puts up a stalk, or immediately after. It can be harvested several ways. Eat the thinnings of a group you may have deliberately overplanted! If it is at a size you like, pick lower leaves and take them to the kitchen immediately. Wash, spin dry if you have a spinner, put them in a bag in the fridge veggie drawer. Feast daily until they are gone, go harvest some more. If harvesting a bit at a time drives you nutty, give it a whack about 2 ” above the ground and leave the root there. Take that lovely beauty home and process as usual. Good chance the root in the ground will regrow more lettuce if you keep the area moist! It won’t likely be as big as the original plant, but you will have more lettuce. Or pull that root and toss it in the compost. Plant more lettuce! Your choice. If your plant has bolted, take the whole plant and the leaves that are still good.

Sweet Corn When the silks turn brown and you push your fingernail in a kernel and it squirts milky juice, it’s ready for harvest! 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! If you can’t eat them right away, pop them in the freezer, husks on!

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. Watermelons lose their flavor and deep red color if they are stored for longer than 3 days in the refrigerator. If you can’t eat them big ones fast enough, plant smaller size varieties, like container types, or harvest as soon as possible. Uncut, store in a cool dry place, out of the sun up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge, an open container is fine. In general, melons prefer your countertop. Really, no storing melons. Just eat ’em!

OR! Make melon sorbet! Simplest recipe: one melon, juice of one lime, a few squirts of honey (some ppl use sugar) blend and freeze. Tasty and healthy on a hot day! Use an ice cream machine if you like. Variations might be a dusting of salt, syrup steeped with mint. Serve with fresh blackberries, blueberries, raspberries. Mmm…..

Potatoes are ready for digging when the plant flowers and after. Wet up the soil until muddy, feel about for the biggest ones, leaving the others to get sizable for another harvest later. Store garlic, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes in a well ventilated area in the pantry. Protect potatoes from light to avoid greening; a paper bag works well.

Okra! If your summer has been hot enough you got some! They must be harvested before they get tough. Letting them 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. Okra really is best fresh. Very fresh. Eat okra within a few days of buying it. Store okra loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge veggie drawer.

Strawberries Pick them when they are red! Don’t let them hang out on the plant where soil creatures or birds will nibble on them. Storing them is a little different. Quickly as possible, store fresh picked berries in a container lined with a paper towel or in a paper bag in the coldest part of your fridge. They will last about a week, but it’s more fun to eat them sooner!

The counter storage area should be away from direct sunlight to prevent produce from becoming too warm. And don’t put them in sealed plastic bags that don’t let them ripen and increase decay.

Per UC Davis: Refrigerated fruits and vegetables should be kept in perforated plastic bags in the produce drawers of the refrigerator. You can either purchase perforated plastic bags or make small holes with a sharp object in unperforated bags (about 20 pin holes per medium-size bag). Separate fruits from vegetables (use one drawer for each group) to minimize the detrimental effects of ethylene produced by the fruits on the vegetables. Use all refrigerated fruits and vegetables within a few days since longer storage results in loss of freshness and flavor.

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. Label the drying containers with year and name! Tomatoes are a tiny bit of a process but not hard at all. See more!

Save enough seeds from your best plants 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.

Give away or store what you can’t eat. Freezing is the simplest storage method. Cut veggies to the sizes you will use, put the quantity you will use in baggies, seal and freeze. Whole tomatoes, chopped peppers, beans, onions. If you need more than your freezer can hold, get into canning! Learn about it from a pro and do it right! Probiotic pickle your cukes and cabbages and anything else you want to! That is a super healthy option!

See also Simple & Easy Storage Ideas for your Harvest Bounty! Nothing wasted, inexpensively made, thankfully eaten!

Enjoy your sumptuous meals! Sing a song of gratitude and glory!

Here’s a quickie convenient reference graphic from UC Davis!

Storage - Which veggies to Refrigerate or Counter top Fruits Vegetables

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

See the entire July 2016 GBC Newsletter!

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May is for Cantaloupe & more Melons! Honeydew Fruit Bowl Flowers

Melons are total beauty queens! Their outsides are marvelous, no two alike! You can grow minis to monsters! The insides are beautiful colors! If you couldn’t see in color, their tastes would make up for it! Textures are plentiful! Some of them slither, others crunch! Warm and drizzly down your chin at the garden, ice cold on a hot day! Fruit salsa! You can cut them in a thousand ways, from cubes to balls, slices, astonishing intricate veggie art! They can be eaten with your fingers, put in smoothies, as part of creamy ambrosia. Sprinkle with spices, toss with mint. Add coconut or walnuts!

Besides all these delightful features, Melons are good for you!
CANTALOUPE (American) – 100% of Vitamin A, and 24% of Vitamin C
HONEYDEW – 53% of Vitamin C

Melons, like pumpkins, need heat! Melons are native to Africa, and the trick to getting the best-quality fruit in cooler climates is to duplicate the continent’s hot sun and sandy soil as best you can. Light, fluffy soils warm faster than do clay ones, and melons love loose, well-drained dirt! Amend with compost or leaf mold. Ideally, you would wait to sow seed until the soil has warmed to 70°F before planting squash and melons, but SoCal hits 60+ degree soil in April and you can plant transplants successfully then! Start seedlings indoors to get the soonest start, but don’t start the seedlings too soon! They grow quickly!

You in cooler coastal areas really need the heat. Naked unmulched soil heated by hot sun does the job!

Put your melons in an area where they are sheltered or there is a windbreak so they get good and hot! Remember the tricks about windbreaks. A porous windbreak works best. In a cooler climate, a wall, maybe of berry producing shrubs with dwarf fruit trees behind, can reduce cooling and drying winds, allowing the warmth of a food forest!Windbreak Effectiveness Diagram Porous

Use clear or black plastic to heat up the ground. They absorb heat, warm the soil early, conserve moisture, control weeds, keep some pests and diseases away, and make harvesting a whole lot easier and cleaner. Or, use black landscape cloth instead of black plastic! The cloth allows the soil to breathe and water to pass through. Combine that with spun polyester row covers over transplants to give them a fast start. They increase the temperature by 5 to 8 degrees, and conserve moisture. Spun polyester is also handy because you can water straight through it. Or you can use a clear plastic film over seeds or young plants to generate more heat, and late melons can be ripened under plastic, too. Row covers must be removed when plants start to bloom so pollinating insects can reach the flowers.

If you choose the black plastic, and you don’t garden over winter, lay it over the future melon garden in late winter to start warming the soil. Weigh down the edges so it doesn’t take flight. When you are ready to plant, make five-inch, x-line cuts at least four feet apart on 6 to 8 foot centers depending on the size of the melon you are growing – if you are growing several plants in rows. If you commingle edibles and ornamentals, allow at least three feet in all directions around the cut-plastic x. Pull the plastic back and create a hill of soil (amended with lots of organic matter).

Green plastic film mulch For your consideration, green mulch is to melons, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins and squash what red plastic film mulch is to tomatoes. According to reports of research trials in the Northeast and Oregon, cooler areas, it stimulates earlier and heavier yields of fruits. One person reported the green film was very thin. As a deterrent to weeds, it didn’t come close to black plastic. And at the end of the season it wasn’t reusable, so they had to discard it. Maybe things have changed since then or it comes in different weights.

If you have super good heat, keep your melons off the ground with super thick mulch and even then, put them up on sturdy upside down containers. You want them out of the munching bug and soil diseases zone. They will color up more evenly, consistently, and you can save space, if grown on trellises, making little slings to hold the fruits up. But if your area doesn’t get super hot, on the ground is better than up on a cooling wind exposed trellis.

If you mulch, put a stake where the center of the planting basin is so when you water, the water goes where the central roots are. Save water by not watering the rest of the area that doesn’t need it and that would cool the ground. Make your basin large enough that tiny lateral feeder roots get water too. Melons like to be kept moist.

Fabulous varieties!

In cooler coastal areas consider growing mini melons that don’t take as long to mature, or early melons, container varieties, that mature in 85 days or less. Consider growing spicy sweet Green Nutmeg, which has been around more than 150 years. Jenny Lind is another green-fleshed cantaloupe that weighs about a pound, 70 days. Early varieties have compact foliage. Vines and the distance between leaves (nodes) are shorter than larger, long-season melons. They flower early and have smaller fruits.

Heat and drought tolerant varieties per Southern Exposure Seed Exchange are:

Melons: Top Mark, Sweet Passion, and Kansas all have extra disease and/or pest tolerances. Edisto 47 is particularly recommended for hot, humid summers where fungal disease is an issue. Missouri Gold produces well through droughty conditions. [If you live in SoCal coastal foothills, plant away. If you are in the cooler beach areas, if you think we will have a HOT summer, take a chance, plant if you have room! It’s recommended to wait until May to plant cantaloupe.]

Watermelon: Crimson Sweet and Strawberry watermelon are good choices where heat and humidity make fungal diseases a problem.

A clever strategy for instant succession planting, if you have space, is to plant melons that mature at different times. Growing small fast maturing melons AND late large melons = 2 harvests!

Soil  Slightly acid light, sandy loam with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5 is preferred. You might guess melons are very heavy feeders, they are making a lot of plant and a large fruit! Before planting, add in a little extra compost, and leaf mold, some well rotted manure, cow manure if you can get it.

Water! You are going to see a lot of recommendations to plant on mounds. Here in California, and other places, we are in drought conditions so I am recommending to plant in basins like the Zuni desert waffle gardens techniques. All the water goes to your plant, less is lost to evaporative wind across a mound top, less water is needed. If in a cooler coastal area, your plant is sheltered from cooling wind, produces more in the heat.

Melons need plenty of water to support quick vine growth in early summer! The rule of thumb is a minimum of 1-inch of water a week, 2 inches is likely better. If you use plastic mulch, it will retain moisture so check the soil under the plastic to see when watering is really required. Once the first fruit ripens, stop all watering. Too much water at ripening time dilutes the fruit’s sugars and ruins the sweet flavor. The melons don’t need the water because they develop a deep root system soon after they start to flower.

Plant! Seed soaking and presprouting definitely speed up germination! Plant three to five seeds two inches apart and about one inch deep. Keep them moist and watch them grow! Once the vines have two sets of true leaves, thin out the smaller or weaker vines, leaving the two strongest to grow on.

Valuable Companions  At the same time you plant your melons, put in radish, marigold, maybe nasturtium to repel Cucumber and flea beetles, squash bugs. Nasturtium harbors snails, so you are warned….

Male flowers come first so they can pollinate the females when they arrive! Not to worry if you don’t get fruit set at first.

Sidedressing Melons are a lot of plant and hungry! Fertilize every two to three weeks before blooming starts, using an all-purpose 5-5-5 fertilizer. In the root zone, put some spade fork holes around your plant. If you are using mulch, pull it back and add several inches of compost to root areas monthly. Put the mulch back and water it in. It’s like giving your plant compost tea as the water and compost drizzle down in the holes! Especially sidedress melons when blooming starts and every 6 weeks after.

Diseases

  • Fungus diseases, include Alternaria leaf spot, powdery mildew, anthracnose, and downy mildew.
  • Water melons in the morning, ideally at soil level, so leaves dry before evening, preventing fungal diseases.
  • Apply the home remedy Mildew mix! As soon as your little plants are up about 3″ or you put transplants in the ground, mix a heaping tablespoon of Baking Soda, 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk, 1 regular aspirin, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap in a watering can. Apply foliarly, both under and on top of leaves. The main ingredient is the bicarbonate of soda! It makes the leaf surface alkaline and this inhibits the germination of fungal spores. Baking soda prevents and reduces Powdery Mildew, and many other diseases on veggies, roses, and other plants! It kills PM within minutes. It can be used on roses every 3 to 4 days, but do your veggie plants every 5 to 10 days, or after significant rains, as the plant grows, because new plant tissues are not yet protected by your fungicide. See more details!
  • To prevent powdery mildew, spray the leaves with wettable sulphur during late summer when the nights begin to cool down.
  • At the first sign of disease, remove infected parts; remove and discard the mulch around the plant and replace it with fresh, clean mulch.

Pests  Spun polyester row covers are excellent for controlling cucumber beetles and vine borers. Vine borers are the worst melon pest in some states, but not in California. Additional practical info on vine borers from U of Georgia. Though written with squash in mind, just think melon, another cucurbit, as you read it. Remember, row covers must be removed when plants start to bloom so pollinating insects can reach the flowers. Once the row covers are removed, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the leaves to protect the plants from cucumber beetles. Plant Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes, and melons to repel wilt-carrying striped cucumber beetles.

Maturity, When and How to Harvest

On very hot days melons can over ripen on the vine, giving them a waterlogged appearance. Most summer melons are fragrant when ripe. Sniff the skin; if you smell the flavor of the melon (the senses of smell and taste are interrelated), it is ripe for the picking. Another indicator for ripeness is when the stem separates (slips) easily where the vine attaches to the fruit. Cantaloupes are mature when the rind changes from green to tan-yellow between the veins.

Honeydew, crenshaw, and other winter melons are ready to harvest when they turn completely white or yellow, and the blossom end is slightly soft to touch. Since they do not slip, cut the melons from the vine. They will continue to ripen for several days at room temperature once they are picked.

The sweetest and most flavorful melons are those picked ripe from the vine and eaten right away. They may not be icy cold, but the fresh flavor and perfume more than make up for the temperature difference. Go ahead, open a melon and eat it right in the garden—without utensils—and let the sweet nectar run down your chin. That’s the true taste of summer!

Poor Flavor? It may be the weather: cloudy during ripening, too hot, too much or too little water, it rained a lot before harvest, or a combination of factors.

Saving Seeds is easy! When you save and store seeds, you help to continue the genetic line of plant varieties, leading to greater biodiversity in garden plants and preventing extinction of different varieties. A word to the wise! Like other cucurbits, melons easily crossbreed, so allow a ½ mile for reliable distance isolation between different types or cultivars. To be completely safe from any accidental cross-pollination, keep them away from other family members including cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins.

  • Pick melons for seed saving when the tendril nearest the melon is completely dried, then store the harvested melon intact for another 3 weeks before removing and cleaning the seeds. Scoop out the seeds, put them into a wire mesh sieve, then with running water over the seeds rub them gently against the mesh, using it to loosen and remove the stringy fibers. The final test: Healthy seeds will sink to the bottom of a bowl of water, while dead seeds and most of the pulp will float. Get your seeds as clean as possible to keep them from sticking to whatever surface you dry them on.
  • Drain them in a strainer. Pat the bottom of the strainer with a cloth towel to pull extra water from the seeds after they have drained. Spread them on a piece of glass or a shiny ceramic plate to dry (they will stick to paper, even waxed paper). Place the glass or ceramic plate in a cool, dry shady spot for several days. After the seeds are dry, they can be carefully removed from the glass or plate and final-dried before being stored in jars.
  • Your seeds will keep for up to 5 years if stored in a cool dry place, however, the shorter the storage time, the better. Date and Name your seed jar. Dry seeds well to avoid mildew. Fluctuation in temperature or moisture levels of stored seeds lowers their longevity significantly. Prevent insect infestations by adding diatomaceous earth, it’s non toxic, to the stored seeds in their jars. Add a few pinches to the seeds in a bowl and gently stir to thoroughly cover each seed.

All melons are flavorful enough on their own, yet you can enhance them with a sprinkle of ginger or salt. A squirt of lemon or lime juice will bring out the melon’s sweetness.

A popular treat offered by Los Angeles push cart vendors is fresh fruit sprinkled with salt, chili powder and a squeeze of fresh lime juice! it makes a quick, healthy snack or a vibrant side for a barbecue! 

Mexican Fruit Salad with Chili Powder

Recipe Mexican Fruit Salad with Chili Powder

Choose 1, 2, 3 or more fruits and/or vegetables—here are some that work well:

  • mango
  • pineapple
  • watermelon
  • cantaloupe or other melon
  • cucumber or fresh pickles
  • jicama

lime juice
chili powder
salt, to taste or not at all! If you use salt, assemble your salad at the last minute—the salt begins leeching juice from the fruit right away.

May your life be sweet and spicy!

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

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May Companion Planting
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

MAY/June Planting Timing  Plant as you would in April, but in addition, now is perfect time for cantaloupes! Keep a steady table supply coming by planting second and third rounds now, seeds or transplants or both! Add different varieties with different maturity dates for a steady supply, a palate pleasing assortment! Some people just remember when they planted what. Others make an ID plant tag with the plant date and name on it and the # of days to maturity. A quick glance will tell you if that set of plants is ready for another round to be planted. Or, just jot it in your calendar so you be sure to plant another round in 6 to 8 weeks.

If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, transplants are fine! Eggplant, limas, all melons, peppers, pumpkins and squash! Many wait until even June, to plant tomatoes to avoid fungal problems, but if your garden is fungus free, plant away! Ideally you would wait until the soil has warmed to 70°F before sowing squash and melon seeds, but if you can’t wait, and who can?, get nursery transplants and pop them in the ground! Some gardeners do wait until JUNE to plant southern heat lover okra. Choose faster maturing varieties for coastal SoCal. If YOU anticipate a HOT summer, plant a tad earlier, but be prepared to deal with it if summer is overcast as often is the case after all.

Long beans are spectacular and love heat. Late May, though usually in June is best to start them. They grow quickly from seed. They will last longer than other beans, hitting their stride toward the end of summer. Certain varieties of them don’t get mildew either! Their unique flavor keeps your table interesting.

Right now, in addition to the plants listed above, sow and/or transplant more asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, parsley, peanuts, white potatoes repel squash bugs, radishes (with cukes to repel cuke beetles, and with eggplant, potatoes and arugula to repel flea beetles), and spinach.

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

See last month’s chat on Tomato and Cucumber specifics, especially if your soil has Fusarium and Verticillium wilts as ours does at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. Mainly, keep those babies’ leaves off the ground! Remove lower leaves, get them UP a cage or trellis and lay down a loose 1″ deep straw mulch blanket. Too much straw keeps the soil moist, which is good for some plants, not for others. Under maters and cukes, we want some air circulation and a bit of soil drying. The main purpose of mulch is to keep your plant’s leaves from being water splashed or in contact with soil, the main way they get fungi/blight diseases.

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

Companion planting is more than just saying Howdy! Certain combos enhance growth, others repel pests, some invite beneficial insects!

  • Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of culinary dandelions! Basil is thought to repel white flies, mosquitoes, tomato hornworms, aphids, houseflies, and asparagus beetles. Smells great and tastes great!
  • Beans, Cukes, Dill, Radish Combo! Cukes and Beans are great on the trellis, one high, one low. Dill goes with your pickling cukes. Radishes deter Cucumber beetles.
  • White potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs.
  • Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes as trap plants for flea beetles and to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Carrots love being with cilantro and chamomile!

Put in ‘licious fast growers like lettuce, beets, turnips, arugula, in space being held for subsequent plantings. To use your space super productively, put these veggies on the sunny sides under any large plants. If needed, remove lower leaves that would shade out the ‘littles.’ If you anticipate unusually hot summer weather, grow the littles on the east side of larger plants to protect them from the afternoon sun.

Put in borders of slow but low growers like carrots, mini cabbages, in more permanent placements, like on what will become the morning side of taller backdrop plants like peppers and eggplant.

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

Watering Tips

  • Garlic, bulb onions, and shallots naturally begin to dry this month. When the foliage begins to dry it’s time to stop irrigating. Dry outer layers needed for long storage will form on the bulbs. When about half of the foliage slumps to the ground, bend the rest to initiate this maturing. The bulbs will be ready for harvest when the foliage is thoroughly dry and crisp.
  • In these drought times, water before 10:30 AM if at all possible. The earlier the better. Water at the base of your plant to the dripline. If your plants are dusty, you are near a road or there has been a wind, give them a bath. Dusty plants are habitat for White Flies. Keep a lookout, and hose away ants. Use a water device with a shut off valve.
  • Water beans, cukes, lettuces and short rooted varieties of strawberries more frequently. They are all workhorses producing fast and repeatedly, cukes making a watery fruit even. Lettuces need to put on growth fast to stay sweet.
  • Please always be building compost and adding it, especially near short rooted plants and plants that like being moist. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • Soil feeding organic MULCH feeds your soil, keeps your soil cooler, moister, less water needed and prevents light germinating seeds from starting – less weeds!
  • Pat on Mycorrhiza fungi right on the roots of all your transplants except Brassicas, when you put them in the ground. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Ask for it bulk at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.
  • If you garden in a windy area, put up porous windbreaks to slow soil drying, and you will have less dusty conditions that bring White Flies.

When your plants start to bloom, sidedress, give them a feed. Maybe a little compost, some well aged manure, a drink of tea or fish emulsion! For a deeper feed, push your spade fork in and wiggle it back and forth. Pour in your teas. Or above the holes, dig in compost, manure, worm castings. Water well and that will act like a tea! Some gardeners avoid any digging at all. They simply lay on about an inch of compost or manure, cover with thick mulch, water away! Strawberries do well with fish emulsion every couple of weeks.

Natural Disease & Pest Prevention!

Choosing excellent and appropriate plant varieties, using companion plants in wise combinations, making super soil, regularly applying prevention formulas more details and all the recipes, sidedressing and keeping up on maintenance are the things that keep your plants in top form! They will be less likely to have diseases, but pests adore tasty healthy plants just like we do, as well as them cleaning up plants that are weak or on their way out. See more in the April Newsletter

The usual May culprits!

  • Cucumber Beetles get in cucumber, squash and melon blossoms. They are yellow greenish with black stripes or dots about the size and shape of a Ladybug. They are cute but oh so awful. They carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus, deadly to cukes. Radish repels them, is a champion plant, a hero of the garden! Plant enough for you to eat, let others just grow, be there permanently or at least until the beetles are done, gone. IPM data
  • Flea Beetles look like large black fleas and do hop mightily! They seem harmless enough, make tiny little holes in the leaves of eggplant, potatoes, arugula. But, those tiny holes add up. As the beetles suck out the juice of your plant they disrupt your plant’s flow of nutrients, open the leaves to disease, your plant is in a constant state of recovery, there is little production. Your plant looks dryish, lacks vitality. The trap plant for them, one that they like best, is radish! Thank goodness radish grow fast! Better yet, plant it ASAP when you put seeds and transplants in. IPM notes
  • Squash Bugs like your Zucchini and other squash, cucumber and melons. Plant white potatoes amongst them to repel the bugs. You will get two crops instead of just one! IPM info
  • Whiteflies do the honeydew thing like aphids, leaving a nasty sticky black sooty mold over your plant’s leaves. The honeydew attracts ants, which interfere with the activities of Whitefly natural enemies. They are hard to get rid of, so keep a close watch on the undersides of leaves, especially if you see little white insects flying away when your plant is disturbed. Whiteflies develop rapidly in warm weather, in many parts of California, they breed all year. Prevent dusty conditions. Keep ants out of your plants. Hose them away immediately. See more

Plant Bee Food, Herbs and Flowers! Sow or transplant basil, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. Be mindful where you plant them… Mediterranean herbs from southern France, like lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme, do well in hot summer sun and poor but well-drained soil with minimal fertilizer. On the other hand, basil, chives, coriander (cilantro), and parsley thrive in richer soil with more frequent watering. Wise planting puts chives where you need to repel Bagrada Bugs, by your broccoli, kale, but away from peas if you are still growing some. Cilantro, a carrot family workhorse, discourages harmful insects such as aphids, potato beetles and spider mites, attracts beneficial insects when in bloom. Dill is a natural right next to the cucumbers since you will use the dill if you make pickles. They mature about the same time. Let some of your arugula, carrots, lettuces, cilantro bloom! Bees, and insect eating birds and beneficial insects love them and you will get some seeds – some for the birds, some for you, some to swap! Grow beauty – cosmos, marigolds, white sweet alyssum – all benefit your garden in their own way!

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.
–  Alice B. Toklas

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

April brought a LOT of wonderful flowers and veggies to Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden in Santa Barbara! See what we are planting, get some great ideas!

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

See the entire May GBC Newsletter:

May is for More!
The Magic of Melons ~ Cantaloupe, Honeydew
About Pulse Crops!
Urban Agriculture in India 
Events! International Permaculture Day, Dr. Rafter Sass Ferguson on Permaculture, Santa Barbara City College Annual Plant Sale, Fairview Farm – Farm to Table Dinner, Farm Camp!

 

 

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Read this carefully and see what new ideas you can use here in SoCal! I’ve added a few comments in brackets for our local gardeners….

WHAT TO GROW THROUGH VERY HOT SUMMERS by Lisa Dermer

“Heat-tolerant” and “drought-tolerant” are phrases to look for when selecting the best varieties to grow where summers are very hot. Humidity, especially warm, humid nights, leads to fungal diseases, so it’s also good to look for fungal disease resistance.

Some plants continue producing even during periods of extreme heat and humidity or heat and drought. Here are some of our recommendations:

Heat Lovers Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Dermer

Beans: If you want green beans and shelling beans throughout the summer, it’s best to expand your repertoire to a few different species. The common green bean, Phaseola vulgaris, doesn’t handle drought or high temperatures. But lots of classic Southern beans love our high-heat summers! Try growing Southern Peas (Cowpeas) like Whippoorwill, White Acre, and Pink Eye Purple Hull. Asparagus Beans (Yard Long Beans) also love heat and humidity – they’re slightly firmer than green beans and quite a bit longer. They’re commonly used in Thai curries. Green Pod Red Seed is the classic, reliable heirloom. If you’re in the Deep South, Chinese Red Noodle takes advantage of the long season and is more heat tolerant. Lima Beans (Butterbeans) are generally very reliable in heat, humidity, and drought. [In Santa Barbara area Rattlesnake beans, aka Preacher Bean, produce fabulously in 100 degree weather!]

Tomatoes: Look for tomatoes that come from the Deep South, especially those bred by the universities. The large red slicer Tropic VFN (from the University of Florida) produces through very hot summers. Ozark Pink VF (from the University of Arkansas) is highly recommended for very hot climates. These blemish-free medium-sized tomatoes have very bright, crisp flavor. For market growers looking for reliability in heat and humidity, Neptune (also from the University of Florida) is a great choice. This medium-large red slicer recently did very well in trials conducted at the University of Georgia. [Try these, but in SoCal, cherry tomatoes are often your best choice.]

Eggplant: Take advantage of your summer heat by growing an eggplant that requires it: the flavorful French/Italian heirloom Listada de Gandia thrives in hot weather.  The better known heirloom Black Beauty is also dependable in the South. The long, narrow Asian eggplants like Ping Tung Long also produce well through intense heat. [Long eggplant does better in cool coastal areas because it takes less time to develop. Terra Sol Garden Center in Goleta has been carrying Ping Tung Longs!]

Peppers: Nematode resistant bell peppers are the best choices for Southern gardeners. Carolina Wonder and Charleston Belle are both excellent. Hot peppers generally thrive in heat and humidity. (Lots of hot places use hot peppers in their cuisines – perhaps because these plants grow so well in hot climates!) Sweet, spicy Aji Dulce peppers have an unusual, complex flavor, with just a hint of heat. They’re generally unaffected by pests and diseases, but they take a little longer to mature than most peppers.

Cucumbers:   Find out which diseases are problems in your area and use the resistance codes to help you choose what to grow. Little Leaf H-19 (from the University of Arkansas) has excellent disease resistance and is well adapted to very hot summers. It’s classified as a pickler, but it’s also very tasty sliced and in salads. Ashley is a slicer particularly recommended where disease is a problem, but my favorite choice for a heat-loving slicer is Suyo Long (the long, slender fruits are best grown on trellises). [Island Seed & Feed in Goleta is growing Suyo Longs!]

Summer Squash and Zucchini: We recommend growing Moschata type summer squash if you have trouble growing summer squash and zucchini in your hot climate. The Moschata types have better pest and disease tolerance and produce well straight through very hot summers.Tromboncino summer squash has the extra advantage of also making excellent squash blossoms for stuffing. Waltham Butternut winter squash can be harvested small (3-5”) for eating like summer squash.  (Moschata types need nights above 60 degrees F to grow well.) You might also try edible Luffa gourds. When harvested small, they’re a great summer squash alternative.

Winter Squash and Pumpkins: As with summer squash, we recommend choosing moschata types when growing winter squash and pumpkins in the South. (Avoid pepo and maxima types.) Pretty much any moschata will thrive through hot summers, but particularly productive varieties are Seminole Pumpkin, Waltham Butternut, and Tan Cheese. Green-Striped Cushaw is from another type of squash altogether (argyrosperma or mixta). We know Southern gardeners who won’t grow anything but Cushaws: they’re super productive through our summers and their seeds are very large and tasty. The flesh tastes a little different than most winter squash and not as sweet, but it can be used in pies if you add extra sweetener.

Melons: Top Mark, Sweet Passion, and Kansas all have extra disease and/or pest tolerances.Edisto 47 is particularly recommended for hot, humid summers where fungal disease is an issue. Missouri Gold produces well through droughty conditions. [If you live in SoCal coastal foothills, plant away. If you are in the cooler beach areas, if you think we will have a HOT summer, take a chance, plant if you have room! It’s recommended to wait until May to plant cantaloupe.]

Watermelon: Crimson Sweet and Strawberry watermelon are good choices where heat and humidity make fungal diseases a problem.

Okra: Choose older and heirloom varieties of okra with deeper root systems. The deep roots give these plants resistance to nematodes and improved drought and heat tolerance, but these varieties also usually take longer to mature. Gold Coast is a variety particularly noted for its deep roots, but Stewart Zeebest and Beck’s Big Buck also are excellent heirlooms for the Deep South.

Greens: Lettuce is very difficult to grow outside when it’s hot, and spinach is pretty much impossible, but don’t give up on summer salads and cooked greens. [In coastal Santa Barbara we successfully grow heat tolerant Romaines – Sierra, Nevada, Jericho are some.]

For cooked greens, Swiss chard and turnip greens are the best choices in the South. These plants are biennials, which means they usually won’t bolt (go to seed) until they’ve gone through their first winter. So they stay tender and mild all summer. [In Santa Barbara the chard suffers so from the heat I can’t bear it. I compost it and plant again in the fall.] Sweet potato greens, New Zealand summer spinach, and the young leaves and shoot tips of squash can all be used for cooking greens.

For salads, buckwheat leaves add an unusual nutty flavor. Grain amaranths like Mayo Indian are very productive in high heat and humidity. Many heat-loving herbs add flavor to salads, including roselle, anise-hyssop, dill, & basil.

We strongly recommend Red Malabar summer spinach to anyone who hasn’t tried growing it yet. The crisp, slightly succulent leaves stay mild in high heat and maintain healthy growth all summer. The gorgeous red vines need to be trellised or caged, but this keeps the leaves clean. They’re excellent as cooking greens and in salad mixes.

See their Growing Guides & Library, remembering that planting times may vary from their location in Mineral VA and yours! Support them by buying seeds from them! Thank you!

I highly recommend subscribing to their blog for more super tips on growing your favorite veggies and trying some new ones!

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

See the entire April GBC Newsletter

Read Full Post »

Cantaloupe does best planted in May in SoCal!

If you didn’t plant much in April, now is the time!  Cantaloupe!  Transplants of winter squash asap so they will have time to grow and harden for harvest!  Tomatoes planted now while the soil is warmer and dryer will stand a better chance against soil fungi.  Plant 2nd rounds of late March, early April plantings.

Sow seeds of lima and snap beans, beets, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, slo-bolt cilantro, corn, WHITE radishes with cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles, radishes with eggplants as a trap plant for flea beetles, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.  At the same time put in transplants of what you can get, and you will have two successive plantings in at once!

Long beans are an exception.  I find they don’t really take off until it’s good and hot, so wait until June to plant them.  Also, they are the last bean producers, filling in at the end of summer.  At the end of summer they are crankin,’ you won’t believe how quickly they get that long!  Even better, they don’t get mildews!  Their taste and texture is slightly different than our standard green beans, but delish also!

Creature Department! Head of the L.A. master gardener program, Yvonne Savio says ‘Interplant cucumbers and beans to repel cucumbers beetles and prevent the wilt diseases they carry. Also plant Cucurbita lagenaria gourds as trap plants for cucumber beetles. Plant potatoes to repel squash bugs.’ And here’s a trick she recommends! ‘When hand-picking those hard-to-see tomato hornworms, sprinkle the plants lightly with water first. Then, as the horn-worms wiggle to shake off the water, you can easily see them and remove them.’ Doncha love it?!

Important to know this: Later this month, when foliage on garlic, bulb onions, and shallots begins to dry naturally, stop irrigating. Dry outer layers needed for long storage will form on the bulbs. When about half of the foliage slumps to the ground naturally, bend the rest to initiate this maturing. The bulbs will be ready for harvest when the foliage is thoroughly dry and crisp. Not pretty, but it’s the way it works!

Be careful with your strawberries! Give them a balanced fertilizer, like a yummy micronutrients fish/kelp mix, now and after each heavy fruit-bearing period for continued strong growth and fruit set.  One of our gardeners fed them this mix every other week and his harvests were outstanding!  However, if you have skunks, etc., don’t use fishy stinky stuff because it attracts these foragers. Avoid mulching with manure, especially chicken, that has a relatively high salt level strawberries don’t like. Even with excellent irrigation and drainage, summer heat will cause its saltiness to burn the berry plants. So what to use if you have skunks and the like? Bunny poop. Get it on Thursdays at the Animal Shelter. You are doubly warned.

Mulching? Do it in summer! Self Mulching! This is the cheapest, easiest technique! Transplant seedlings close enough so that the leaves of mature plants will shade the soil between the plants.  If you choose to do this, alternate plants that get the same diseases or pests with plants that don’t get the same diseases or pests. That’s all there is too it! Roots are cool and comfy, less water needed. Natural mulches feed your soil as they decompose. Avoid any that have been dyed. Strawberries and blueberries like loose, acid mulches – pine needles or rotted sawdust. Raspberries and blackberries enjoy SEEDLESS straw.  Plants are done?  Chop and Drop!  Mulch is just so clever! Besides the underground advantages, above ground, it keeps plant leaves off the soil where snails, other critters, soil diseases, climb onboard. It keeps leaves drier, less molds, mildew. It keeps fruits off the soil, prevents soil splash, so you have clean harvest.

See the entire May newsletter!

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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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