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Posts Tagged ‘planting’

Soil No Till Lasagna Compost in Place, Sheet Mulching,

No Till Gardening aka Lasagna Gardening… Beds are finished. Push aside grass clippings to plant seeds or seedlings. Read the story, get the details! Start making living soil asap! 

Grow Green Manure – legumes for Nitrogen, oats to loosen the soil down deep. It takes two to three months. When it starts to bloom, chop it down and chop it up, turn it under. If you have heavy clay soil, add Sphagnum Peat Moss to both loosen your soil and increase water holding capacity if you are in a drought or dry, windy area. Let it sit until you no longer see the green ingredients. Keep it moist so the soil organisms will work all the way to the top.

Make Compost!

No time for Green Manure? First week of January might be the latest time you want to start growing your green manure so you can plant earliest late March, first two weeks of April. So if you won’t be planting by then, add your home grown organic compost or the best you can buy that has worm castings, mycorrhizal fungi for spring planting, some peat to help make humus to keep your soil loose.

Some nurseries, especially locals that depend on your business, are quite trustworthy about what they stock for you. Box stores, nurseries that sell for volume, may just want you and it out the door. Really take a good look at that ingredients list. If there is no list, you likely aren’t getting a very whole food for your veggies. Look at what is in that compost bag when you open it. If there are chunks of recognizable materials, you need to find out if the compost has been nitrogen stabilized – they’ve added enough nitrogen to balance the carbon. Otherwise, Nitrogen required for decomposition is robbed from your plants. No ammonia smell that indicates immature compost that might damage your plants. The only smell you want coming from that bag is for it to be like the forest floor, sweet and earthy.

In these SoCal drought times, compost is the single most thing you can do for your soil to add water holding capacity! Sphagnum Peat Moss can be added, but not too much because it can make your soil slightly acidic.

Compost is totally easy to make. There are many methods, but the simplest, is making layers, 1″ green/wet to 2″ brown/dry. You can turn it or not. Research shows not turning it has more Nitrogen. There are many different compost devices. You can use one or just make a pile wherever it makes sense, but do put it in the sun and keep it slightly moist so it stays active and you actually get some compost! Compost making methods!

Tasty soil is loaded with nutrients! What you put in your compost makes a difference. High quality organic kitchen scraps sure beats cardboard. Same thing with your worms. Newspaper isn’t exactly food, doesn’t occur in nature. As is said, ‘You are what your food eats.’ Give your compost the best you have or can get. Prevail on your neighbors or family to save their waste for your compost or to feed your worms. Make it easy for them to do the process. Some will deliver it to you because they believe in it and want to help. You may have to make a pickup from others.

No till, no dig, gardening a.k.a. Lasagna Gardening ~ Another way to Compost!

You can do this on top of your lawn, or do a raised bed in the garden you already have! A word to the wise! First, install gopher protection.

If you have the time and materials, composting in place, sheet mulching, has the single most advantage of not having to haul anything anywhere once done! It’s already right where you want it! Lay down your compost materials. Put the ones that would act like tea at the top so when the pile is watered that good stuff drizzles down. The smaller the bits, the faster the decomposition.

Depending on your materials you may choose to turn the pile a couple times to blend and mix the materials in the layers. Rather than using a shovel, a spade fork or pitchfork might work, better. If you have them, put in some worms that will add their castings for you! If you decide to turn the pile, add worms afterwards so they won’t be injured. Possibly, ‘inoculate’ your pile with a wee bit of already processing compost or top rate soil that has working soil organisms in it. Know that an 18″ pile will soon become a 9″ pile, so don’t be afraid to build high!

If you want it sooner, cover and ‘cook’ it with black plastic for 6 weeks results when temps are high enough. Worms will be ok. They will go to the bottom of the pile. Depending on availability and preferences, what you layer on may vary from someone else’s project, but your garden bed is made! Now you wait. Let it sit. The hard work is at the front, the rest is ‘low maintenance!’ Done ‘right’ you have less weeds and it needs less water! Read the story that goes with the image above – get more ideas and all the details!

Another terrific way to make a sustainable pile is to do it Hugelkultur style! Your pile starts with logs! The logs and branches soak up water and hold it, so less water to none is needed after the first year. The right hardwood logs will give your plants steady nutrition for 20 or more years! You can do this with many variables depending on materials available and your needs – from containers to the hill method! See more and see how!

Add Manure

Cow manure is better than steer manure if you can get it. Chicken manure is good. Less of it does more. Be careful of free horse manure. It can be salty, and if the stalls have been sprayed to repel flies, you’ve got toxins. All manures need to be very well composted, except bunny poo, which you can sometimes get free at shelters. Bird guanos do different things. See more soil tips and about quanos.

Worm Castings! 

In nature, worms are a natural part of soil. In addition to soil nutrients, it’s smart to add worm castings. They speed germination of your seeds, seedlings grow faster. Worm castings help your plant’s immune system, and you have measurably more produce! Plants like strawberries, that tend to attract fungal spores will also benefit. Castings contain anti-fungal chemicals that help kill the spores of black spot and powdery mildew! Growing your own worms and harvesting vibrant fresh castings is ideal, but if you don’t have time, simply buy the best organic castings you can get, local if possible! More about growing worms!

The ideal ratio, depending on your soil, is 25% castings. You can see that is a lot of castings if you have a 10X20 foot area. Use your precious castings wisely. Use them in seed beds, planting holes, around ailing plants, or heavy producers.

The worms used for making castings are surface feeders, red wigglers. If you trench your compost, add some worms. If you do sheet composting – composting in place, set up a no-dig Lasagna Garden, install some worms! Add a handful of worms to your compost pile and keep the pile moist. In dry times cover composting ground areas with mulch so the compost will be dark and moist, safe from birds.

Compost Tea Bu's Brew Biodynamic Malibu BagTeas offer increased nutrient availability!

Why wait until your plants are in the ground to add teas?! Start feeding your soil soonest! Mix ’em up. Put compost, manure/fish emulsion, castings, chopped nutritious comfrey/borage/tansy leaves all in a bucket together – adding one volume of compost to 4-10 volumes of water. Let them sit overnight, a couple of days, stir a couple times, when you think of it. Get a spade fork, the kind with the short wide tines. Push it all the way into the soil, wiggle it back and forth to make holes, lift it straight up back out. Pour in your tea. Push soil in the holes. Your plants will thrive!

If you are foliar feeding, put your ingredients in a stocking, sock, or bag. Let the ingredients settle or strain it so it won’t clog up your gear. Use a watering can with a head that rotates so you can spray both on and under leaves, wetting the whole plant.

About that comfrey. It is especially nutritious! Mash it in a mortar & pestle. That makes it easier to stuff into a stocking, sock or bag, and speeds decomposition. Put the comfrey in loosely, not too firmly, so the water can circulate around it.

Here’s another recipe and instructions from Shelle

  1. 2 cups worm castings [or your choice of ingredients]
  2. 2 tablespoons corn syrup or molasses. Molasses feeds the bacterial growth in the brew and also contributes trace elements of iron, manganese, copper and potassium.
  3. 5 gallon bucket
  4. Old sock or pantyhose (no holes), a bag
  5. Water (rainwater is best or let it sit out overnight to allow chemicals to dissipate)
  • Put the castings (etc) in the sock and tie it closed
  • Submerge the stocking in water
  • Add the corn syrup and soak for 24 hours, stirring every few hours. Your mix should never be stinky. Like good compost, it should smell earthy.
  • Dilute to a 3 to 1 ratio, use within 48 hours

There are many tea making methods, from the simplest like above, to technical and elaborate with plenty of debate over different ways. Aerobic brewed teas have much higher microbe population densities than extracted teas and for this reason are the teas of choice. A good head of foam and scum on top signifies healthy microbe action! Try out different methods for youself if you have the time and the gear, and love researching. Whichever you choose, your soil will come alive again as the organisms start thriving. Your soil will have greater water holding capacity, a resiliency, the aeration it needs from the burrowing of soil creatures.

If you have your plant placements in mind, be sure to invest your teas out to the anticipated dripline so feeder roots will get some.

Teas are perfect for container gardens, right?! You can buy ready made tea bags. No digging, just feeding.

Soil pH

Most veggies do best with slightly alkaline soil. Acidic soil lovers are strawberries, blueberries, cranberries. Composts for camellias, azaleas, are perfect!

Do or Buy!

Three of the main components of top grade soil are ones you can grow/make on your own – green manure, compost, worm castings. Teas you can make from compost and castings. For most urban gardeners it is a trip to the nursery for manures, but you can certainly make your own tea with it! Compost and castings are totally available, some from organic local venders. I emphasize doing your own when possible. You will know what’s in it and it’s 100% fresh and alive!

There is some good ready made stuff you can get. There’s heroic satisfaction in toting those bags on your shoulder or filling the wheelbarrow and rolling it in, almost spilling the load on the way… Digging in your valuable ingredients gives you a feeling of worthiness, contributing. And oh how your garden grows!!!

At the same time, lay on your compost, manure, and Sphagnum, any other favorite amendments, and turn it in all at once, blending it with your soil. Castings are usually added separately unless you have enough for the whole area. Reserve some of your castings, compost and manure to make teas. Where you run out of materials, use the tea to help that soil.

A few more tips!

If you have had rain, wait until your soil is not so wet that it sticks to your shovel. If you are digging your amendments in, do minimal digging; leave clumps when you can to maintain soil structure. Disturb soil organisms, worms, the least possible. We want to leave their air and water channels intact so your soil stays aerated and moist. Make beds in your garden that are comfortably reachable without stepping on your soil. Make pathways, either with boards that distribute your weight or lay down straw or other organic material to make a pathway that will decompose and become rich soil for next year’s plantings when you move the path! In other words, don’t compact and crush your fluffy healthy soil!

Soil Building and Care is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden.

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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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Lettuces Tasty Varieties with Edible Flowers
Delicious lettuce varieties with edible flowers from GrowVeg!
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

Temps are up, day lengths are still short. Night air temps steadily above 50 and soil temps 60 to 65 are what we are looking for. Peppers, especially need these warmer temps. They do best with nighttime temps above 55°F and soil temps above 65°F.  Average March night temps are in the mid 40s. At Pilgrim Terrace the soil temp now is +/-  55-57°F . 

MARCH through June Planting Timing  Start MORE seedlings indoors NOW for April/May plantings. Sow seeds. If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, get transplants and pop them in the ground per their right times! Plant Winter squash now so it will have a long enough season to harden for harvest and be done in time for early fall planting. APRIL is true heat lovers time! Eggplant, limas, melons (wait until MAY for cantaloupe), peppers, pumpkins and squash! Many wait until April, even May, to plant tomatoes. Wait until the soil has warmed to 70°F before planting squash and melons. Some gardeners wait until JUNE to plant okra. It really likes heat and grows quickly when happy. 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.

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

Right now plant pepper transplants and cold tolerating quick maturing tomatoes – start with small fruited varieties and cherry toms. Plant patio and determinate, early varieties for soonest production and/or if you have little space. The moist soil at Pilgrim Terrace has residues of Verticillium and Fusarium wilts, so some gardeners will wait until drier June soil to plant tomatoes and other veggies that are wilts susceptible.

Outdoors sow or transplant beets, carrots, celery, chard, herbs, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, green onions, bulb onion seed and sets (be sure to get summer- maturing varieties), parsley, peas, peanuts, potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, strawberries, and turnips. Transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi seedlings. Time for heat-resistant, bolt-resistant lettuces of all kinds! Sierra, Nevada, Jericho, Black Seeded Simpson are some. Tips for super Successful Transplanting!

  • Beans, Cukes, Dill, Radish Combo! Depending on ground temps, tuck in some bean seeds where the peas are finishing, intermingled with cucumber seeds that will grow low along the trellis, below the beans, plus a few dill to go with the cukes! Plant radishes with the cukes to deter the Cucumber beetles.
  • Tomato Tips:  La Sumida has the largest tomato selection in the Santa Barbara area! Ask for Judi to help you with your veggie questions. 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 these drought conditions, consider getting only indeterminates.
  • This is the LAST MONTH to transplant artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale; also strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry roots so they’ll bear fruit well this year.
  • Indoors, sow eggplant, peppers, and more tomatoes for transplanting into the garden in late April or early May. Also sow cucumbers, squash and sweet potatoes.

Succession planting makes such good sense. Put your seeds and transplants in at the same time. Seedlings will come along 6 to 8 weeks behind your transplants so you have a steady supply of yummy veggies! But if tending seedlings isn’t your cup of tea, just leave space and put in more transplants in 6 to 8 weeks after your first planting.

It is perfect to put in fast growers like lettuce, beets, turnips, arugula, to hold space until you are ready to plant bigger plants. When it’s time for the bigger ones, clear a space/harvest, pop in your seeds or transplants and let them grow up among the littles. As the bigger plants start to shade out the littles, remove lower leaves so the littles get light too! If you anticipate a HOT summer, plant littles on the morning side of larger plants.

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

There is still time. Some gardeners will put in another round of green manure to enrich their soil Nitrogen. In warming weather, the cover crop will be ready to turn under in about two months. Give it two to three weeks to decompose and integrate with your soil, and the area will be ready to plant. Or, dig your planting holes, put in some fine compost, your other favorite amendments, like worm castings, bone meal, a mineral mix, and plant! The rest of the area will take care of itself!

Consider not growing kale or chard over summer. Kale gets tough, has smaller leaves on a spindly stalk, and lacks that cool weather vibrance. Fertilizing, watering don’t really do the job. It thrives in cooler weather. Chard suffers. It droops, recovers, droops, recovers. That’s hard on a plant. Hardly seems like the time to harvest when it is trying to stay alive.

Broccoli, on the other hand, depending on the variety, produces side shoots like crazy all summer long! Just be sure to stake them up as the plant gets large and top heavy!

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. Strengthen your garden by planting these companion combinations!

♦ Tall: Indeterminate tomatoes in cages, pole beans in cages or on trellises. Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of culinary dandelions! Tall broccoli you keep for summer side shoots.

Cucumbers are great on the trellis below the beans. Cucumber is super susceptible to soil fungi wilts diseases. Keep them up off the ground immediately, no leaves touching the ground, straw mulch at least if you let them grow on the ground. The cucumbers ripen all the way around if they are up on a trellis rather than laying on the ground or straw. They need moist feet, so up on a hill with a basin on top. The low point of the basin needs to be higher than the surrounding ground for good drainage. Put a stake in the middle of the basin so you know where to water when the leaves get dense. Water below the leaves at ground level. Keep those leaves dry. Radishes with cucs as a trap plant for flea beetles.

♦ Middle height: Determinate tomatoes, bush beans, okra, tall peppers like Big Jim Anaheim or Poblanos, zucchini – Costata Romanesco is prolific. Potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugsRadish with cukes & zukes to repel flea beetles and cucumber beetles. Large Winter Squash vines and pumpkins are middle height, while some mini melons would fall to the lower mid height zone. Put in zucchini and vines to take up space if you don’t want to do a lot of tending. But do know, you much keep those zucchini picked! If your zucchini is dense, an unpicked zuke can become a 6″ diameter monster in as little as 3 days!

Lower plants like eggplant, like a lot of heat and a little humidity, so snuggle them among/between other plants. Put them on the sunny side, slightly in front of every other slightly taller plant. Grow radishes with eggplants/cucumbers as a trap plant for flea beetles.

Leave a couple kale that will get taller on the West side. But, if they are leafless stalks with pom pom tops, they aren’t going to give any shade, so they could be left anywhere actually. Plant lettuces or leafy plants around their base as a living mulch and keep the soil there moist and cooler. Or grow the heat tolerant flat leaf kale like Thousand Headed Kale! It has many growing points instead of just one!

♦ Shorties: A lot of shorties will be in front of other taller plants, in some instances a living mulch, so your shorties area may not be very large. When the bigger plant leaves start shading out the ones below, harvest strategic large lower leaves.

Put beets and carrots in the short zone and among the big plants. Bunch onions away from beans, great with other short rooted plants like lettuces that need to be kept moist. Summer small bulbed variety radishes give great spike flavor to a cool summer salad! Some delicious mini melons are quite small leaved and low to the ground.

♦ Here and There: Let arugula, cilantro, chamomile, a carrot or two, and a celery to go to flower to bring bees and beneficial insects! Besides being beautiful and having lovely scents, let them seed out for seeds for next plantings, to share at the seed swap. Carrots love being with cilantro and chamomile!

While you are thinking where to put things, don’t forget herbs, flowers and edible flowers! Cilantro is both tasty and has lovely feathery leaves and flowers in breeze, great bee food. Chamomile is downright heady scented on a warm morning. Comfrey, Knitbone, is both healing (arthritis/bones) and speeds your compost, is high in soil nutrition. Poppies are beautiful; humble Sweet Alyssum is dainty and attracts beneficial insects. Marigolds are brilliant and called the workhorse of pest deterrents! Cosmos is cosmic!

Finish your Summer Gardening preparations!

  • Install pathways, berms. You may have to do some rearranging if you decide to plant tall West.
  • Waffle Garden, basins & windbreaks, Water Garden. Excellent drought choices.
  • Gather cages & trellises
  • Terrace slopes – capture water runoff, prevent topsoil loss
  • Build raised beds, Hugelkultur
  • Get new containers, pallets, boards, wire for bird protection
  • Organize where you will keep straw bales for summer mulch
  • Setup Compost areas – enclosures, area to compost in place

Complete your Soil Prep! 

  • Add compost, only 5 to 10%, & amendments to your soil all at the same time.
  • Add well aged manure as appropriate. Less in spring because you want fruit production, not leaf, unless it is a plant grown for its leaves, like lettuce, kale or cabbage! None for carrots, peas or beans.
  • Add 25% worm castings. As little as 10% works. They are potent, help with plant immunities to disease.
  • Adding Jamaican guano high in P, Phosphorus, at planting time helps your plants continue to bloom LATE in the season! Its NPK ratio is 1-10-0.2, takes 4 months to become available to your plants.
  • Sprinkle with a tad of coffee grounds to reduce wilts fungi. Add only a ½ a % to your soil or compost. A tiny bit goes a long way!
  • Don’t cover with mulch unless you need it for erosion control. Covered soil is cooler. Let your winter cool soil warm up.
  • Water your prepped areas when you water your other veggies. Moist, not flooded soil is rampant with life!

Sidedressing! Hard working plants need fuel and water. As broccoli starts to head, give it a fish/kelp tonic! After the main head is cut, your side shoots will flourish!


Pests Reminders and Home Remedies!

  • When you put in seeds, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs from vanishing upcoming seedlings overnight, making you think they never came up! No, they didn’t let you down. Killing off the creatures ahead of time saves the babies. It stops new transplants from being seriously damaged or entirely eaten while they are small. Do this a few times, to knock off the generations, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for a while.
  • Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make on chard and beet leaves. Remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners. Water a tad less so leaves are less soft and inviting.
  • Hose APHIDS off chard, kale and brocs. Keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed.For hard to get at places, down the centers of chard, crinkly kale leaves, get out that spray bottle! Treat once, wait a couple days, treat the ones that got away and newborns.

    I tried it, it WORKS! The simplest is to spray with 2 Parts alcohol, 2 parts water, 1 part  soap. DO NOT use on seedlings, it will kill some of them. Spritz lightly rather than drenching or you may kill your bigger plant too! However. If the infestation is just over the top, with chard you can cut off the whole plant about 1 1/2″ above ground and simply let it regrow. Hose away any reappearing or lingering aphids post haste!

    Lemon Spray kills the aphids on contact. Grate the rind of a large lemon. Boil it in enough water to fill a garden spray bottle. Let the mixture sit overnight. Strain the liquid into the garden spray bottle. Spray the aphids and larvae directly. It’s over for them.

    Vinegar Spray Get out a spray bottle and fill it 1/3 of the way with distilled white vinegar and the rest of the way with water. This will kill the aphids and larvae on contact. Some plants react badly to the vinegar. It’s important know which plants you can and cannot use this method with. Test it on a small area of your plant before doing a large area.

    Calcium Powder Sprinkling calcium powder around the base of the plants is another natural aphid repellent. The aphids do not like the calcium and will generally stay away from it.

    Banana Peels?! Burying shredded banana peels around the base of plants is an odd, but effective remedy. It has been around for ages and many gardeners will swear by it. I’m gonna try it.

  • Remove any yellowing leaves that attract white fly.
  • Gophers You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after  the rains. If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.

Prevention A frustrating typical disease is Powdery mildew. It’s common on Curly Leaf kales. Plant leaving plenty of space for air circulation. Apply your baking soda mix. Drench under and upper sides of the foliage of young plants to get them off to a great start! Do this the same or next day if transplanting. A super combo is 1 regular Aspirin dissolved, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains. Not only is prevention so much better than after mildew has set in, but this mix stimulates your plant’s growth! See Aspirin Solution.

Do not compost diseased or infested leaves or plants.

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

Watering & Weeding Wind and sun dry soil quickly and short rooted plants like peas, or seedlings, need to be kept moist.

Dust Mulching, cultivation, is perfect to break up the soil surface. That keeps the water from wicking to the surface and evaporating. If you use a hula hoe you do two things at once! Just a half to one inch depth cuts off weed sprouts. Indeed, it turns the soil a tad, all that’s Grass in Flower, soon to Seedneeded. More weeds will follow, but it’s quick and easy to repeat the process. Two, three times, a few days apart, and there will be little weeds after that for awhile. Get ’em while they are small and easy to do. Smart gardening.

When grass has those frilly little green tops, it is blooming and seeding! Remove it ASAP. Better yet is to remove weeds before they seed! If at the seeding stage, gently pull, don’t shake the soil loose from the roots and spread seeds all over, if possible, and don’t put them in your compost!

Keep COMPOSTING! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost keeps your soil aerated, has great water holding capacity, feeds just perfectly! And if you made it, you know what’s in it! Make it HOT, Cold, or In place!  Dry is dead, so be sure it is always slightly moist. Giving back to Mama Earth is nature’s natural way! And, like Will Allen says ….there is something very Spiritual about touching the soil, that’s where life begins.

The good work you do now will pay off with abundant summer harvests! 

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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 March GBC Newsletter:

Grow Garden Worms, Harvest Castings!
Soil Care Seasonal Timing Guide
Mouthwatering Mesclun Dressing Recipes!
Glass Factory in Shenzhen China 
Events!  SB Botanic Garden Spring Plant Sale, Earth Day!

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Cauliflower Minuteman Early Hybrid White

Minuteman, a self-blanching cauliflower. The leaves curl close to cover the pure white, high domed heads, protecting them from sun discoloration and cold. It has good heat tolerance, but prefers cooler weather, 57-68 degrees. It’s a vigorous early hybrid, only 51 days! Cooler north country takes longer. 

October Santa Barbara Area Fall Transplants Nursery Report:
  • La Sumida – Has a great selection of fall veggies including Violet Cauliflower and purple carrots, plus bunches of different kinds of lettuces & Kales!
  • Terra Sol – Their fall veggies include Rainbow Chard, Red Acre Express – a fast mini cabbage, Beets and favas as well as delicious regulars!

I asked for F1 All Season broccoli at both nurseries! It is a high production heat tolerant broccoli that makes large 3″ side shoots once the main head is cut. Planted last November, mine is prolifically producing sweet tasting 1 to 2″ mini side shoots in this very hot weather! All Season is a true name for it!

We still aren’t out of the heat. Rig up shade for transplants in sunny open areas and keep them consistently moist. Especially the peas!

Please support your local nurseries!

Plant Nutritious Fall Brassica Greens

  • Small – Salad fixins like Arugula, Bok Choy, Mizuna, Mustards, young leaves of Kohlrabi, rutabagas and Turnips
  • Medium – All kinds of Kales. The standard, curly leaf, to Red Bor beauty.
  • Large – Collard Greens, Brussels sprouts, Rapini
Anti Cancer Broccoli – plant several varieties for maturity at different times and to confuse pests. Pests are attracted at certain stages of maturity. They may bother one plant but leave others entirely alone depending on temps and the pest’s cycle!
Cabbage – mini to huge, green or red or both!
Vari Colored Cauliflower – white, green, yellow, purple! Rapini. Spirals!
Littles – long Winter radish. Radishes come in white, red, pink, yellow, watermelon!

Non Brassicas! Carrots & Peas together, plant onion family separately, chard, heading winter lettuces, spinach

See Super Fall Veggies Varieties, Smart Companion Plantings!

Plant in super soil to get a good start! Add composts, manures, worm castings. Mix a handful of nonfat powdered milk in for immediate uptake as a natural germicide and to boost their immune system. Throw in a handful of bone meal for uptake at bloom time. If you have other treats you like to favor your plants with, give them some of that too! Go lightly on incorporating coffee grounds either in your compost or soil. In studies, what was found to work well was coffee grounds at only 0.5 percent of the compost mix. That’s only 1/2 a percent! See more details about soil building!

With the majority of fall crops, the main harvest is leaves! Cut and come again means a long harvest, and a very hungry plant! They need additional feeding, and steady adequate moisture to stay healthy and able in such demanding constant production.

Strawberry runner daughters can be stored in the fridge for planting Nov 5ish. Remove any diseased soil where your beds will be; prep your beds with acidic compost like an Azalea mix. Commercial growers replace their plants every year. Some gardeners let them have two years. If you let them have two years, generously replenish the soil between the berries with acidic compost. Last year I laid down boards between the rows where my berries would be planted. The boards kept the soil moist underneath. I planted the berries just far enough apart that they self mulched (shaded the soil). Worked beautifully. I got the idea for the boards from a pallet gardener. This year I will lift the boards and incorporate fresh acidic compost there.

Fall pests & Diseases  It’s too cool now for Bagrada Bugs, plant away!

  • Brassicas, Peas  – Mildews, White Fly, Aphids/Ants. Right away when you have the 3rd, 4th leaves on seedlings or when you plant transplants, give your plants a bath. It’s a combo of disease prevention, boosting the immune system, and stimulating growth! The basic mix is 1 regular Aspirin, 1/4 c nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon Baking Soda, and a teaspoon of dish soap. Even old tired plants will perk right up! If White flies and aphids/ants come along, give them a bath too! Get a good grip on your hose and wash them away when you first see them. Be sure to get hideaways under the leaves and in crevices!
  • Chard, Lettuces, Spinach – Slugs and snails are the bane of so many crops, but these especially. Lay down something like Sluggo immediately. Then do it again in a week or so. Kill the parents, kill the children. After about 3 times you rarely need it again anytime soon.
  • Biodiversity In general, avoid row planting where disease and pests wipe the plants out from one to the next to the next. Instead, plant in several different spots. If you can’t help yourself, because your family always planted in rows or that’s the way farm pictures show plantings, remember, this is YOUR garden! Also, leave room so mature plants’ leaves don’t touch. Give them room to breathe, get good big leaves that get plenty of sun and produce lots more big leaves and big fruits! Stunted crowded rootbound plants just don’t perform as well and are disease and pest susceptible.

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

While we’re in one season, gardeners are always planning for the next. Where will the permanent plants be put both now and next season? What seeds will be needed for spring planting? Which areas will be rested or restored – green manure patches to be planted? Where will next season’s compost pile be rotated to do the most good, to feed the soil where it lives?

Enjoy the crisp chill, the fresh crunchy textures of Fall, a little bit of clearing wind, enjoy those spectacular sunsets! Get ready for holiday sharing!

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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 October GBC Newsletter:

Save Those Tomato Seeds – Ferment or Not!
The Best Dressed Gardener
High Mowing: Organic Non-GMO Seed Company 

Events!  Village Building Convergence, SOIL, AVO Fest, Growing Edible Education Symposium, Master Gardener Training, Seed Swap!

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Bagrada Bug Stages
California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas gardeners alert!

June 2016 note: We were so fortunate last summer. We had hot weather but not for an extended time, so no Bagradas. The word from hot San Diego community gardens is they are simply not allowed to plant any Brassicas.

The extended Santa Barbara area hot spell at the end of August 2014 brought Bagrada Bugs. Ugh. They were sighted on radish, broccoli and kale at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. Bagradas thrive at sustained temps 85 degrees and above. They are small, less than a 1/4 inch length, but deadly. Other than seeing them, the first sign is your plant leaves have whitened areas at the leaf edges and the leaf starts to wilt.

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 have a license to use.

Brassicas are their favorite food, and Brassicas, that’s broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kales, Brussels Sprouts, cabbages, are THE SoCal winter garden plant! Last year, 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.
  • If you are planting Brassicas from seed, immediately securely cover with a floating row cover or the baby plants will be eaten.
  • Some gardeners plant mustard and radish as trap plants, the Bugs go there first. But, believe me, they quickly mow those and it’s on to your other Brassicas and more! The big CON of trap plants is they BRING Bagradas! The best course of action, to prevent egg laying and further infestation, this year and next, is to harvest, then remove any Cruciferous plants – mustard types, radish, all Brassicas, until the weather cools. Then, plant whatever you want!

Insect - Bagrada Bug infestation on Bell Peppers
Bagrada Bug infestation on Bell Peppers

Removing Bagradas from your plants just isn’t feasible. Not only do they move FAST and instantly drop to the ground when the plant is disturbed, but are fast growers and reproducers. They 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 1 to 3 days. White patches start on the leaves, they wilt and the plant dies.

PLEASE Remove infested or diseased plants immediately. You can’t even sneak up on Bagradas to cover the plant with a plastic bag. The moment the plant is disturbed, the bugs instantly drop to the ground, skittering off in the blink of an eye. Squish or stomp any bugs you see. DO NOT lay the leaves or trim of infested plants on the ground. Bagradas lay eggs both on your plant and in the ground. Eggs you might not see, hatch quickly, defeating your clipping. If possible, securely tie plant 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 shaking Bagradas off doesn’t work. They also fly. When you try to remove them, 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, them. But, like I say, better to immediately harvest anything you can, then remove the plant.

Don’t lay down mulch; do REMOVE mulch habitat from around infested or susceptible plants until the Bagrada season is OVER. They hide out in mulch, mate like crazy, lay eggs in the ground.

The sooner you remove infested diseased plants and mulch habitat, the fewer eggs will be laid in your soil, the fewer Bagrada Bugs you will have next year if we have another sustained period of high temps.

PLANTING TIPS

  • I highly suggest biodiversity, interplanting – that’s mixing it up, even interplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccoli), 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 overwatered 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 or plant too close, thin out plants as they mature, 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 and smaller fruits. Slugs and snails successfully hide out. Mildew and leaf miners spread easily and 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! No such luck with Brassicas.
  • Wait to plant your Brassicas from transplants in October when the weather has cooled.

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

You have choices!

  1. For now, plant what Bagradas don’t care for. Wait until the weather cools, plant Brassicas from transplants in October. Greens are super healthy ~ just don’t plant cruciferous plants (plants with four-petal flowers/cross) like Mizuna, mustard or turnips. Better not to get those mixed mesclun 6 packs at this time.
  2. Take a chance, mix it up! Plant a few Brassicas/mustard/radishes here and there now. If these plantings fail, plant another round when conditions have changed. Succession plantings are a wise gardener technique!
  3. Don’t plant over winter; rest your soil, or plant soil restoring cover crops!

Keep a good watch. Steady yourself. Make calm decisions. What you do is especially important if you have neighbor gardeners who have plants that may become infested.



9.1.2014 Post revised and updated from experience 

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Harvest Basket - Rainshadow Organics

August is the last of your big harvests!  Harvesting keeps your plant producing.  For some of you, it means canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying.  When you decide all is done to your satisfaction, decide which plants were your healthiest top producers and allow them to seed.  Seeds are your second harvest! 

We generally have heat, so keep up with watering, especially your short rooted plants like lettuces, beans, cukes, strawberries.  They are all in high production and need it!

In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when they ‘slip’ off the vine.  Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate. Harvest okra while it is small and tender – bigger is NOT better!  Let your winter squash harden.

Give last feeds to plants you are keeping in production through August, September.  Often summer favorites are kept into October.  Consider, though, that winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler, and you will have a much earlier crop.  One clever trick, to have it both ways, is to plant baby winter plants beside, among, still producing summer plants!  When your summer plant is done, carefully remove it, not damaging the baby.  Put peas below finishing beans.  Pop some kale between the tomatoes and peppers.

When an area is done, clear away insect hiding places. Remove any mulches from under where diseased plants were.  If your soil is high for the area, plants there were diseased, and you have a plentiful compost stash, maybe remove the couple top inches of soil and generously lay on some of that tasty compost!  Dig it into the top 4 to 6 inches.  Design your fall layout, and amend your soils for fall planting per the plant that will be grown in that area.  Build your new raised beds, make more compost, install gopher barriers!

Time to select more cool temp hardy veggie seeds, especially lettuces.  Lettuces that head prosper in cooler weathers.  ASAP start seeds for transplants in Sep.  Greenhouse style works, or even put in seedling nursery areas in your garden for later transplanting as space becomes available.  Plant your seeds far enough apart to get your trowel in to pick your little plants up to move them one by one to their new home.

Yes, some summer plants thrive right into fall and you can plant last rounds, best in early August.  I’ve seen tomato transplants and bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops late September, October!  That will be especially true if we have warm temps.

Start from seed  Brassicas/Coles:  Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collards, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), turnips and kohlrabi.  The leaves of all of them can be used for greens!  Start peas, bunch onions, lettuces.  Lettuces grow slower in cooler temps, so plant a few more for the same supply as you had in summer, unless you eat less salads in ‘winter.’  If you need to feed an army, plant Fordhook Giant chard!  They grow prolifically and huge, and are a super healthy food to eat!  Culinary dandelions are the highest in Vitamin A!  Beets come in lovely colors and are doubly valuable because the leaves are an edible green too.  Use small young leaves in salads, steam the bigger ones as you would any green.  Celery is crunchy tasty and great stew flavoring.  And what about some carrots?!  Plant a triple row!  Lay in some radish, carrots and kales all together.  The radish grow fast and shallow, the carrots take their time and grow deep.  The kales will be your forever crop!  In SoCal, it is essentially a perennial.  Keep carrot and parsley seeds plenty moist until they come up.  Parsley doesn’t like being transplanted, so put them right where you want them to remain.

Make your  own Seed Strips!  It’s easy, a satisfying evening activity, that saves your back, and seeds, when you are planting!

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

A word about Bagrada Bugs.  They like Brassicas, and Brassicas are THE SoCal winter garden plant!

  • What some of the local organic farmers are doing is planting mustards as a trap plant.  The Bagradas prefer them, so they go there rather than your brocs.  Mind you, you still have to remove them 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 days, I’ve seen a 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, remove infested or diseased leaves immediately.
  • Don’t lay down any mulch until the Bagrada season is OVER.  They hide out in the mulch 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.
  • 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!

If you have just a small area or are container gardening, select compact varieties known for excellent production.  For example, broccolis are a cut and come again plant!  When the main head is mature, still in tight formation, cut it off the main stem below the head diagonally, let side shoots grow.  There are low growing varieties that make huge 3″ side shoots.  These are a terrific veggie investment!

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Happy New Year, JANUARY 2013!
To Your Outstanding Health!

January – Lots of rain, and, Baby, it’s been cold outside! 

Frosty Lettuce Winter Solstice 2012 - Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

Here are some images I took on our frosty Winter Solstice morning!  And these were taken Christmas morning when I went over to see how the frosted plants had done!  Frost Watch! This is the time to look at your weather predictions, even daily! Down near 32 degrees, grab your cheap sheets you got at the thrift shop, spare beach towels, old blankies, and cover your plants mid afternoon if possible! For things to know about cold weather and plants, and more tips on how to save your plants, click here!

With all the rains we have had, I hope Santa brought you some pretty or good hardworking garden boots! How nice to be able to step out of them at your door, rinse them off, leave the mud outside, then jump back in them again!  Great Rain Tips!  Please click here!  Mulch your lettuces lightly to keep them from getting mud splattered.  When the rain is done, pull the mulch back so the sun will warm the ground up.

Forgive me.  Both November and December I forgot to remind you to start your pepper seeds.  Super oops.  If you didn’t then, start your pepper seeds NOW to get them in the ground in March!  Believe it!  That’s what commercial growers do. Peppers are slow little devils. They teach you patience. Nature is.

This is bare root time – plants without soil on their roots! For us SoCal gardeners that’s cane berry bushes, deciduous fruit trees, strawberries, artichokes, asparagus, short day onions. Think twice about horseradish. It’s invasive as all get out! If you do it, confine it to a raised bed or an area where it will run out of water. Rhubarb, though totally tasty in several combinations, ie strawberry/rhubarb pie, has poisonous leaves! That means to dogs, small children and unknowing people. Either fence it off, or don’t grow it. I don’t recommend it in community gardens because we can’t assure people’s/children’s safety. Bare root planting is strictly a January thing. February is too late.

It’s Lettuce month! It germinates quicker at theses cooler temps! Grow special ones you can’t get at the store, or even the Farmers’ Market! They like a soil mix of well aged compost, organic veggie fertilizers, chicken manure. Pay special attention to what the seed packet says about planting depth.  Either they go right on at soil surface, barely covered 1/8 inch, pat them in, OR 1/4 inch deep.  That small difference is life or death for them.  Water gently with a watering can, or use the mist setting on your sprayer. Keep the bed moist. That might mean watering even twice daily! If it is going to rain heavily, cover the bed so the seeds don’t wash away or get buried too deeply. Slug and snail cocktails (Sluggo or cheaper store brand products) make sense or your seedlings may vanish overnight. If your seeds just don’t germinate, be sure your seed is fresh. Feed the bed once a week – fish & kelp works wonders, quick uptake. Fast growth keeps your lettuce sweet; slow growth is bitter! Eat the younglings you thin from the patch, or transplant them. Pluck those larger lower leaves for robust winter salads! Plant another patch in 2 weeks to a month to keep a steady supply!

As you harvest your winter veggies, keep planting, from seeds or transplants. Transplants will speed things up by a good 6 weeks if you can find them. Your winter veggies are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, parsley, peas, chard. Seeds of beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radish, turnips, do well. Pop in some short-day onions.  Choose varieties with less days to maturity, so you will have room for upcoming spring planting.

Remember, harvest your cabbages by cutting them off close to the bottom of the head, leaving the bottom leaves. New smaller cabbages will grow from those axils at the stem/leaf junctions. You might get as many as four babies! Do the same with lettuces! Once you harvest your main broccoli head, let the side shoots form mini broccolettes! The further down the stalk you cut, the fewer but fatter your side branches.

The SideDress Dance continues – if you harvest, you fertilize. That’s a good rule of thumb. Sprinkle some fertilizer or drizzle your favorite liquid mix, especially before a rain. Dig it in lightly, but not in a circle. You don’t want to break all the tiny rootlets that spread out at the surface from your plant. So do it on a couple sides max. Dig it in a bit so the N (Nitrogen) doesn’t just float away into the air…. Use half strength of summer feedings to avoid a lot of tender growth a frost would take.

Strawberries! Here’s the word on sidedressing from a grower: Fertilizer [like manures] should be applied at least three times each year; apply the first time when new growth starts (late January or early February, or early April), the second in mid-May and final application in mid-July to mid-September. Nitrogen applications should be heaviest in autumn to encourage the production of large crowns, and lowest in spring as nitrogen has adverse effects on fruit quality. Avoid heavy nitrogen applications just before or during the heavy fruiting period.  You want fruit, not just leaves!

If you tossed wildflower seeds, keep their beds moist.

Start a garden journal, especially enter your genius thoughts! Domestic harmony? Clean up your shed/working space, or build one. Build a greenhouse!  Build your raised beds – that’s with frames if you want frames.  As plants finish, start souping up your soil for bountiful spring planting for abundant summer harvests! Lay in the compost, manures.  And, as always, install gopher barriers, especially now with the rain softened soil!

Plan your spread – where will your taller plants go, the big tomatoes? Will your shorter crops go under the tall ones or have their own separate beds?

Go crazy, order seeds! Order fall seeds now too so they won’t be sold out later on.  If you have any spare ground, plant some jicamas there! Start looking for those seeds now – check with your Latino gardener friends. Fresh jicama is amazing! Delicately crisp and super juicy! No comparison to store bought.  Planning on trying tomato grafting for three times the growth?!  Don’t forget to get your Maxifort tomato seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and some Japanese grafting pins!

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Time to start compost for spring planting!   

Did you make rich fall soil?  If so, your bin and sheet composting is really paying off now!  If you have more compost available now, incorporate it with the soil in your new planting places, and plant another round!  Keep ‘em coming!  Now it is time to start the cycle again for your spring garden – start some more fat compost!  SOIL!  I’m always talking with you about soil because it’s the legs of your horse!  Can’t run without it!

When you restore, recondition soil, you can imagine how much the ground must be welcoming you, screaming up to you in its own way, how grateful it is to be so lovingly fed, organically to boot!!!  You are going to have wonderful soil, and very soon!  Just the act of planting adds life, the plant roots busting through, little creaturelets thriving!

There are so many ways to build wonderful soil!

  • Tuck kitchen trim in the top 6” of your soil, where the microbes and buglets are hard at work!
  • Make piles and fill bins with compost from kitchen trim, cuttings, leaves, straw for aeration.  Whack it up!  Smaller pieces, thinner layers decompose faster and fluffier.  Dry brown on the bottom, then up and up, alternating layers.  1 green wet, 2 dry brown, 1 green wet….
  • Sheet composting – build your compost in place, no moving later!  Lay down straw, cover with green and wet waste like kitchen trim, cover with straw.  That would be the simplest of all.  If you can, keep layering, up to 18” deep if you are starting raised beds, because you know that stuff is gonna sink down!  2 brown dry to 1 green wet is the formula.  Inoculate it with soil microorganisms by flinging a few handfuls of nearby soil onto it every couple of layers.  If you have them, put some red wriggler surface feeding worms in there.  They will chomp about and add their castings for free!  If you are seaside, chop up some seaweed for trace minerals!
  • Plant Nitrogen fixers – fava, peas, beans, clovers and other ground cover legumes.  At home plant Leucaena trees!  Not only do they fix N, and are drought tolerant, but the young pods are edible!  Be warned though, they grow FAST, and can be invasive – if you aren’t ready for that, like burning them for firewood, not a good choice.
  • Let your local livestock, goats, chickens, bunnies add their part!  Horse manure has more N than cow manure.  For excellent info and fun reading, check out the scoop on poop, Manure Matters! by Marion Owen, Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul.

Margaret Frane, President of the California Rare Fruit Growers, reminds us, ‘FEED THE SOIL, AND THE PLANT!  When planting a garden, especially a fruit garden, don’t just focus on individual plants; remember the importance of looking after your soil.’  She further says, ‘…let the soil provide the nutrients. Don’t fertilize your plant; feed the soil and the soil will feed the plant. And for the most part, everything you need to feed your soil is already on your property!’

Frane says:  Trees benefit most from the nutrients available in their own leaves. Most leaves beat manure for mineral content; when incorporated into the soil, they add nutrients, improve aeration and soil structure and encourage earthworms. So don’t rake leaves up and throw them away! Leaves are not garbage, they are an important food for your soil!

Planting immediately and directly in your sheet composting, lasagna layers?  Of course!

Are you doing seeds? Ok, a little preparation is needed.  Time for a little potting soil.  It’s good to get the seedlings started – it has the water holding capacity they need – just like the little transplants you get at the nursery, which they feed, probably daily, kelp, fish emulsion mix, other concoctions.  After that, seedlings have to hit something with real nutrition in it, like a mix of compost and soil.  Most seeds are planted directly in soil, just like Mother Nature does the job.  That’s where they immediately get the most nutrition.  I would get a deep bowl, a bucket, put in ½ soil, then compost, mix it up.  Put the mix in the planting hole, make a little hole for the potting soil, and put your seeds in that.  No more potting soil than if you were filling up one of the little transplant containers.  Obviously, not a lot would be needed.  To keep the soil from falling through the lasagna layers below, you could line the hole with two or three sheets of newspaper, saturate them.  That will keep things where you want them until it all decomposes together, the newspaper, the lasagna.  It won’t hurt your drainage, and little roots will poke right through!  And you are only going to lightly sprinkle, water, your seeded areas, right?  You don’t want your seeds to wash away, get buried too deep or uncovered.  It’s a good thing to check seedlings after a rain.  Recover or rebury anyone who needs it.  If you are doing transplants, you just won’t need any potting soil.  Make your compost/soil mix and pop your cute little transplant right in there!

In the biggest sense, “We are part of the earth and it is part of us … What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.” — Chief Seattle, 1852

Take good care of yourself…and your soil.

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