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Posts Tagged ‘plants’

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

Keep ’em coming! That means almost daily harvesting of beans, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes to get them while tender and at max flavor! If you don’t harvest, for example, storing on the vine, your plant thinks it has done its job and slows down, may even quit producing. Fruits left too long are less juicy, get tough sometimes, may have an off flavor, and may get seedy. No greedy thinking like ‘I wonder how big it would grow? I want more bigger.’ Nope, that confuses your plant.

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

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

Keep your heavy producers well fed with two exceptions. Eggplant like only a little chow at a time but throughout their growing time, and beans make their own Nitrogen from outta the air, so toward the end of their season, a light feeding helps them maintain their vigor. Manure can be applied as a mulch directly onto globe artichokes, asparagus, cabbages and other cole crops, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn, and squash–but don’t let it touch the stems or foliage, as it will burn them. Keep high-nitrogen fertilizers away from beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or there’ll be more foliage than fruit.

Big plants need a lot of water!  Tomatoes and other large plants may need about one inch of water every three days of hot dry weather. Rinse the undersides of leaves with water to discourage spider mites. Water and fertilize melons deeply once a week for juicy, fleshy fruits. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate.

While all the rest is happening, replenish straw mulches that have thinned and shrunk down. Be sure any exposed roots or carrot or beet tops are covered with soil. Fall can be hot. Knock back what weeds have come along. Keep the compost humming, especially use any disease free summer plants when they are done, and seed free weeds! Keep your compost covered to keep it moist and active. Layer it just like lasagna – 2″ dry (straw), 1″ wet – that’s fresh pulled green plants and/or kitchen scraps.

Protect vine crop fruits like melons and squash from snails and slugs by lifting the fruits or vegetables onto cans, berry baskets, or boards.  Metal cans speed ripening and sweetening of melons by concentrating the sun’s warmth and transferring it to the melons.  Place ripening melons onto 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.

Want more tomatoes?! When you walk by, whap the central stems, or the cage they are in, sharply, a quick whap or two or three. That shakes up the pollen and more flowers are pollinated! Around 11 AM is the best time!

Though you are busy as a skunk on a log keeping up with harvesting, feeding, watering, in your shadow thoughts, your mind is already thinking where and when your fall plantings will start happening. Late July, August, are prime time to start fall plants for warm weather fast growth and earlier fall harvests that will last throughout winter. At the end of July, get the earliest start possible on your fall plants! Sow carrots (they do best from seed), celery and cole crops–broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time. If you don’t make these earlier plantings, don’t miss Labor Day weekend!

Where the big fall anchor plants, broccoli, cabbages, kales, will go is what your plans will need to hinge on. Some of your summer plants got planted later and need more time for their run. Some are your favorites and you want them to keep producing. A few of your very best you will want to let seed out and that takes more time and their space. As late season plants finish off, start removing some of the lower leaves for sunshine space to plant those fall babies. The fall kids can come up while your late summer plants are finishing up. The babies might not mind a little protection.

First, second week or so of July, start your fall soil preps. Get some not quite finished compost into those fall planting spots. Put in 25% worm castings, add some of Island Seed & Feed’s super landscape mix, a handful of bone meal and powdered milk. A tad of chicken manure is good for all except where the peas will go, and none for your strawberries. They don’t like the salts. Keep onions and peas away from each other.

SEEDS!  Get your fall plant seeds if you don’t already have them, and get them started! SAVE seeds of your best plants for spring planting!

Canning and Probiotic food storage are all-year long blessed second benefits of bountiful production. Good reasons to baby your plants and harvest on time.

If you are gardening at home, put up some fine raised beds, including gopher protection. If the soil in the beds is dead, spent, toss it out. Use it as mulch somewhere else. Replace it for late summer and lusty fall plantings.

May the juices of morning fruits run down your chin, cool midday salads refresh your palate, flavorful veggies adorn your evening platter! Stand tall, Love deep, Live well!

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Beautiful Eggplant Variety Rosa Bianca

Meet Rosa Bianca, an Eggplant…and her photographer, Kim Grove, who Designs Gardens for People with Dementia.

And you thought your eggplant were just being temperamental! Well that’s exactly right! TEMPeramental! Eggplant fruit set is best when night temps are 60 degrees or more. Our coastal Santa Barbara night temps are still in the 50s. BUT if you read an Oregon site, they say night temps for Solanaceae, toms, peppers, eggplant, fruit set need to be 50 or above. Since we have lots of tomatoes at 1 to 2″ diameters at our community garden right now, and our night temps have been in the 50s, I would say they are right! So you lucky gardeners with blooming eggies, are going to be having eggplant babies! The warmer the weather the deeper the purple color!

First plantings are usually in March; June is fine for last rounds of smaller fruited varieties. There are several types of eggplants, the big fat pear shaped Black Beauties, slender chic Japanese longs, and many new different colored varieties and shapes on the market. If you have a short growing season, or a cool location, choose early-ripening eggplant varieties and start with large transplants. My favorite is Japanese longs because I can cut them in perfect strips to layer my lasagna!

Blue Marble Hybrid and Millionaire Hybrid are best for container gardening or for closer spacing. Ichiban produces abundant, tender, sweet, purple-skinned fruit 4 to 6 inches long, is easy to grow. And there is a “tomato-fruited” variety! More fun by the minute!

Special care! Remember, eggies like humidity! Since they like humid, you can understand they don’t like wind. A little shelter is lovely. That’s why closer spacing or more closely planted among, between, other plants works well. Early mulches can be dark colored to bring heat. When it gets hot, lay on some reflective straw that when moistened makes a sauna effect, keeps soil cool, but is humid topside!

Soil  These beauties love well drained rich organic soil, well composted, as well as super organic fertilizer like blood meal, well-rotted manure, cottonseed meal or bat guano. Be sure to use the ‘right’ bat guano. They will root to a depth of 3 to 4 feet, so a barrier free (no rocks) sandy or silt loam is ideal.

Eggplants are hungry. They like to be fed, but small amounts spread over summer. Otherwise it’s all leaf and no fruit. Seabird guano, slow to breakdown to be available to your plants, is great to add at planting time for later blooming! Feed them for sure after your first fruits are harvested.

Oh, and they like lots of water too. To avoid flower and fruit drop, water deeply and regularly, especially during long, dry periods. For that fine eggplant taste, just like with lettuce, we want rapid growth and fruit maturity.

Healthy, generously producing eggplants often need support while they have those heavy fruits. Put small tomato cages over them when they are little plants for support later on. Also, some growers remove lower leaves and flowers so fruits can’t touch the ground and get fruit rot. Another reason to use cages. No slouching eggplants! Also remove those lover leaves to slow down the Verticillium wilt. Though the wilt is also wind borne, the main way it is taken up by your plant is from infected soil contact.

Disease, Eggplant Varieties Verticillium wilt is the main disease in eggplants. Sadly, there’s not much we can do about it. Leaves brown and die. All varieties are susceptible, some more than others. Oregon varieties that thrive in their cooler weather, are Dusky, Epic, Bambino (round), Cloud Nine, Black Bell, Calliope, Burpee Hybrid, Millionaire, (elongated), Megal, Bride, Orient Express. All of these varieties have shown tolerance to verticillium.

Pests Pest prevention can be rotating your crop every other year or so, if you have space. Keep pest habitat to a minimum. That means weed regularly and remove debris. Row covers help keep pests away. Plant trap crops the pests like better, like radish for flea beetles. Use insecticidal soaps to get rid of those frustrating pests if there are too many. Flea beetles may be tiny, but the little devils suck the life out of your plant, interrupt your plant’s life, lower it’s general health and definitely production. Boo. Other Pests are aphids, lace bugs, whiteflies, and red spider mites. See UC Davis Eggplant problems diagnosed.

Harvest Eggplants take about 11 weeks to make those beautiful fruits. Long skinny varieties take a little more time, and the small Easter egg types, less. To get them soonest, at planting time lay in some black plastic ground cover, or cover with a spun fabric row cover. As they grow, the row cover will also protect them from pests like flea beetles. As your eggplant grow, you can cover them with a cloche. Make your own cloche or hot cap by cutting out the bottom of a gallon plastic milk jug. Cover your plants until the first hot stretch of summer. Remember to uncover them during hot midday.

Harvest on time to keep them coming. When that fruit is firm and shiny, pick it! No storing on the plant. FYI Depending on the market and plant vigor, some commercial growers cut eggplants back to 18 inches for a second harvest in fall.

A common error is harvesting too late. Firm, vibrant and glossy is good. Dull is not. Depending on the variety, the calyx, the part holding the eggplant, should be green, not brown and drying. If it is brown and the fruit is spongy, the fruit is past peak, already drying internally, possibly bitter with hard seeds. With white and light-colored varieties yellow means they are over mature, compost. To keep your plant producing, cut off over mature fruit and see if it will produce any further. If you are done for the season, use over-ripe fruits for seed saving.

Seed Saving! Save seeds from your very best plant! It’s easy to do. Let the last one rot until very stinky. Oh, boy. Here is the Southern Agrarian, Stephen Clay McGehee’s way of doing it.

Eggplant Seed Saving

Storage They don’t store well, 14 days max depending on the variety. They get chilling injury in the fridge. 50 to 54 Degrees is best, and not with ethylene-producing fruits, apples, bananas, melons or tomatoes.

Burpee tip! ‘When eggplants are plentiful, make up a bunch of casseroles in foil pans and freeze them [for when the snow is blowing].’ They can be roasted, grilled, baked, stewed, stuffed, dried, braised, mashed, pickled, pureed, or breaded and fried!

China and India produce the most in the world; in the US, it’s Florida, with California being #3. If you want to, go to the Loomis CA Eggplant Festival! 2014

According to the American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening — Vegetables, “A 5th Century Chinese book contains one of the oldest references to eggplant. A black dye was made from the plant, and ladies of fashion used it to stain their teeth – which, when polished, gleamed like metal.” How strange and wonderful.

 

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Tomato Tree Epcot Disney Holds World Production Record
Disney’s Epcot Greenhouse Tomato Tree, Lycopersicon esculentum, originally engineered by Chinese scientists, yielded a total of 32,000 tomatoes by the time it reached 16 months! They won a Guinness World Record for the most tomatoes harvested from a single plant in a single year. Hope they taste as good as they look! Buy seeds, plant!

Night air temps are now 50+ degrees if you live coastal SoCal! At Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, we are about a mile inland. Temps vary if you garden further inland or are in the foothills or quite south of Santa Barbara. Check your soil temps too – 60 to 65°F is good. Master Gardener Yvonne Savio says ‘Planting them into the soil when air temperatures are still cool results in growth stress which is difficult for the plants to overcome. Peppers, especially, will just “sulk” if their roots are chilled, and they won’t recuperate quickly [if ever] – best to just wait till the soil has warmed before planting them.’ Peppers especially need nighttime temps above 55°F and soil temps above 65°F. Word.

First week of March get ’em in the ground! Seeds and transplants! If you plant transplants, put in seeds at the same time. They will be coming along 6 to 8 weeks behind your transplants so you have a steady supply of yummy veggies! Succession planting makes such good sense. If tending seedlings isn’t your cup of tea, just leave space and put in more transplants in 6 to 8 weeks from now.

Choose drought and heat tolerant varieties as possible. If our summer is hotter than usual, good chance of that, enjoy planting plants that need more heat than our coastal veggie gardens usually support. That would be melons, pumpkins, large eggplants, okra!

Timing is important! 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 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 and be prepared to deal with it if summer is overcast as often is the case after all.

Right now plant cold tolerating quick maturing tomatoes, and pepper transplants. 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, spinaches, 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.

  • 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 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 Cucumbers, eggplants, melons, squash and sweet potatoes.

Plant some lovely chamomile, cosmos, marigold and yarrow to make habitat and bring our beneficial good friends,  hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps.

Please see Drought Choices info before you choose your varieties.

Happy March planting!

See the entire March GBC Newsletter!

 

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Winter_Garden_Beauty - A Sunset Magazine example of a Keyhole garden layout.

Winter Garden Beauty ala Sunset Magazine!
Peas at back, tall to low, beautiful color, contrasts! Do it!

November, though cooler, is a rich planting time!  Your composting is really paying off now! If you have more compost available, incorporate it with the soil in your new planting places, and plant another round! Keep ‘em coming!

Transplants:  MORE brocs, planting different varieties alternately in your patch to confuse pests.  Cilantro is said to make it grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!  Collard greens are terrific nutrition steamed or chopped in winter stews.  Plant Brussels sprouts only if it gets cold enough where you are planting.  Do plant mixed varieties of cabbages, the big whites, and lycopene and anthocyanins rich reds. These powerful antioxidants help keep your heart healthy and prevent prostate cancer.  Try some purple or orange cauliflowers!  Celery thrives in crispy weather.  Healthy parsleys almost glow, and turnips are good for their greens too!  Plant nutritious low-cal chard bouquets of all colors! Chop chard for salads, stir fries, to toss into stews.  Sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi directly on the roots of your transplants when you put them in the ground!  Ask for it at Island Seed & Feed.  You won’t need much, and they will measure it out for you.  Or spray on the liquid variety.  Get your planties off to a good start!  

Seeds:  MORE beets, for greens and bulbs of many magic colors!  Kales are practically a flower – lovely Red Russians and beautiful curly leafs!  Kohlrabi is just fun looking!   Plant cool season lettuces where they are easy to reach to harvest; they are more likely to head when it’s cool.  Spunky mustard greens, like the giant reds, are not only tasty, but are a trap plant for Bagrada Bugs.  Grow regular radish, and those long icicle radishes and the larger daikons now. And more spinach, turnips and parsley.  Companion planting tip:  Carrots enhance the growth of peas; onions stunt peas!  Plant the Allium family, onions, leeks, chives, at least 3′ away from your peas.  Further is better.

We had Halloween, and if you didn’t plant in late Oct, now is still a great time for GARLIC!  Oh, yes, all kinds of that fine stinky garlic!  Plant your fattest garlic cloves now through Dec 21, Winter Solstice, for June/July harvests!  See a LOT about GARLIC!

Plant your bareroot Strawberries NOW!  NOV 1 to 5  Yes, the Santa Barbara dates are that specific!  June bearers are Chandlers. Everbearers are Sequoias. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries even more than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, or experiment!

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

Bareroot Artichoke now or in Feb, or in March from pony packs. Try some of the new varieties.

If you planted back in Aug, Sep, it’s time to Sidedress!  That is cultivating in some yummy compost, well aged manures, could be throwing on some bunny poop, or laying in some worm castings!  This would be especially true for crops grown for leaf, like lettuces, chard and kales, and celery.  Just know that castings are not high in Nitrogen, food, but are for boosting your plants’ immune systems, plant-growth hormones. The humus in castings improves your soil’s capacity to hold water. Castings suppress several diseases and significantly reduce parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealy bugs and mites.  Do not enrich soil by your carrots.  In over rich soil they fork and get hairy!  Not too much water, or growth is too fast and they split.

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

When you do garden cleanup, turn the soil to expose the Verticillium and Fusarium Wilts fungi that so affects our tomatoes, and other plants, so the fungi dries and dies! Weed and clear pathways. Lay down seedless straw, a board, or stepping stones so your footwear doesn’t get muddy.

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

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

See the entire November newsletter – November Veggie Gardening, Kale, Mycorrhizae Fungi, Green Friday, Henry Ford Greenhouse!

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

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Harvest Basket - Rainshadow Organics

July is ripe with harvests!  Harvest beans, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes at least every other day to keep them coming.  It’s your summer religion!

Hot as it is, it is a garden transition time.  You are already noticing the shorter day lengths.  Get and start seeds for your first fall plantings in August.  Build your new raised beds, make compost, install gopher barriers!  As plants finish, prepare your soils.  Add compost, worm castings, as appropriate for what you will be planting there next. Many think we will be having a long summer that some call an Indian Summer.  It has other names in other places.  St Martin’s Summer in Britain, Old Ladies’ Summer or Crone’s Summer in Belgium, Hungary & Lithuania (Norse origins); in China, this period is called “qiū lǎohǔ” (秋老虎), which literally means ‘a tiger in autumn’.  So, if you have particular summer favorites, it is likely worth the chance to plants just a few more!  🙂

Transplant basil, celery, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, leeks, summer-maturing lettuce, green onions, white potatoes, summer savory, New Zealand spinach.  In our hot foothills and further south, go for more melons, okra, pumpkins, summer & winter squash.  Corn is an exception – late plantings often develop smut.  I’ve tomato transplants and seen bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops into October!  See what’s growing at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden right now!  (Santa Barbara CA)

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

At the end of the month, sow carrots (they do best from seed), celery and cole crops–broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time.

Get better germination during summer’s heat.

  • Sow seeds thickly in flats or beds.
  • Mulch the seeds thinly with sifted compost instead of heavy soil, which easily crusts over.
  • Frequently sprinkle the flat or bed to keep it moist, or leave a mister on for several hours each day.
  • Shield the bed with a piece of burlap or plywood–this will keep the seeds cooler than the air temperature, give them the moisture they need, and keep the soil surface from crusting.
  • Remove the shade board or burlap after one-fourth of the seeds have germinated. Continue keeping the bed moist until most of the seedlings are up.
  • If flats are used, place them in an area with less than full-day sun, and pay close attention to keeping them moist.
  • Transplant the seedlings when the second set of true leaves develops. These are the ones that look like miniature versions of the mature plant.

Carrots, parsley, and other slow-comers need to be kept moist.  Sow seed on the north side of a furrow, or right in the bottom of the furrow where it’s most moist.  Make the sides of the furrow low sloping, and sprinkle with water so you don’t degrade the sides of the furrow.  Cover the seeds lightly with potting soil or fine compost, and shade with cheesecloth, windowscreening, or slats of wood until they start to come up.

Still producing plants are hungry!  Manure can be applied as a mulch directly onto globe artichokes, asparagus, cabbages and other cole crops, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn, and squash–but don’t let it touch the stems or foliage, as it will burn them. Keep high-nitrogen fertilizers away from beans, beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or there’ll be more foliage than fruit.

Big plants need a lot of water!  Tomatoes and other large plants may need about one inch of water every three days of hot dry weather. Rinse the undersides of leaves with water to discourage spider mites.  Water and fertilize melons deeply once a week for juicy, fleshy fruits. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate.

Protect vine crop fruits like melons and squash from snails and slugs by lifting the fruits or vegetables onto cans, berry baskets, or boards.  Metal cans speed ripening and sweetening of melons by concentrating the sun’s warmth and transferring it to the melons.  Place ripening melons onto 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.

To your health and happiness!

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Mycorrhizal Fungi increases nutrient uptake and allows plants to communicate with each other!

Many of you know I am a staunch fan of mycorrhizae!  Studies have shown that mycorrhizal root systems increase the absorptive area of roots 10 to 1000 times thereby greatly improving the ability of the plants to utilize the soil resources.  We talk to our plants, but now we know that Plants Talk to Each Other Through Mycorrhizae, warning each other when they have been attacked by insects like aphids!

The new study, carried out by researchers from the University of Aberdeen, the James Hutton Institute and Rothamsted Research, demonstrates plants’ ability to send warnings about incoming aphids to other plants connected to their network. Plants send out a chemical signal that repels aphids and attracts predatory wasps, who then attack the aphids. However, plants that were not found to be connected to the fungal network did not send out warnings to other plants after being attacked.  Previous findings that have shown plants communicate with similar chemical warnings through the air. Plants in the research network were covered with bags to ensure they were not sending signals through the air.

John Pickett of Rothamsted Research told the BBC the discovery could lead to growers using fungi as an advance warning system for their crops. The theory, he said, is to use a sacrificial plant at a distance from crops and if it fell under attack, it would warn the others, giving them time to build a defense.  In scientific language, the amazing response is like this:  The inoculation of pathogens ‘led to increases in disease resistance and activities of the putative defensive enzymes, peroxidase, polyphenol oxidase, chitinase, b-1, 3-glucanase, phenylalanine ammonia-lyase and lipoxygenase in healthy neighboring ‘receiver’ plants.  The uninfected ‘receiver’ plants also activated six defense-related genes!’  This explains why one plant can be unhealthy and a plant right next to it thrives!

What this means for us veggie gardeners, is we now have another significant reason to sprinkle that mycorrhizae right ON our plants’ roots when we install our transplants!  You can get it in bulk at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta, and it’s worth it!  It saves money too!  You need less Nitrogen and Phosphorus.  Mycorrhiza & Farmers video

My friend says ‘WOW!!!  I guess I shouldn’t keep my plants in “solitary confinement” in pots….’  I replied, use some bigger pots and let a few plants live together; sprinkle on the mycorrhizal fungi when you move them in together!

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Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden now has ground squirrels.  Sadly, ground squirrels carry diseases, so trap and release is not even legal.  Dealing with them effectively is more involved than with gophers, and, of course, it requires carefulness not to injure or kill other animals – pets, birds.  Read all about squirrels and their management at the UCANR page.  The main thing is to trap immediately.  A smaller population is easier to deal with.

The most sure is protected beds, above and below ground.

If you have only gophers, 1/2 inch hardware cloth barriers work well.  You can put in an 18 inch to 2′ deep perimeter barrier, or dig out all the soil and install it across the entire underground area.  Just be sure to bind the overlapping areas so the gophers can’t push their way between the layers.  Immediately trap any that come in over ground.

1/2 Inch hardware cloth gopher barriers are long lasting and work well.

If you have overland travelers, ground squirrels, sometimes gophers, birds, build raised beds but don’t fill ’em with soil!  Cover them, leaving space for plants to grow tall!  It even protects from cabbage moths if you choose a small enough mesh!  From Empress of Dirt, this cover simply sits on top.  Easy to remove to tend your soil and plants.  A hinged cover is clever, but you can’t work on the side of the box where the hinges are, and eventually the hardware loosens.

Clearly, the days of long single row plantings are over.  It works better to interplant 3 types of plants closely together in blocks if you have limited covered area.  Plant no wider than you can reach to tend and harvest.

Raised garden bed with Gopher, Squirrel, Bird, and Moth protection!

The bed below has a vertical barrier, but it’s harder to remove or access your plants, and doesn’t protect from birds.  If you have strawberries, bird protection is a must!

Above ground gopher and squirrel barrier around a raised garden bed

For taller plants, try a hoop house!  The sides can be conveniently rolled up when you want to work or harvest.  Obviously, the perimeter needs to be secure at the ground when it’s down, or critters will sneak under the edge.  Hoop houses can be huge or humble, tall or low, covered with clear plastic, greenhouse film.  Be sure there is ventilation on hot days.  Hoops may be PVC, aluminum, rounded or angled, totally your preference, may depend on materials available.  Nice thing about hoop houses is they can shade your summer lettuces if you choose a shade cloth cover, or keep your summer plants warmer in fall, extend your growing season, and you can start your favorite summer plants in spring a tad sooner!

Gopher Squirrel Hoop House Garden Protection

If building isn’t in your picture book, simply make humble wire covers.  Get the size wire you want, fold it to fit your spot!  Voilà!  Instant.  OR, buy what you want ready made, a pop up with box, cover and all!  Just be sure there is easy access to tending and harvesting your plants, and ventilation.  This one is about $50, perfect for a mini lettuce patch!

Ready made pop up gopher, squirrel protection for your garden!

Bless us all, humans and creatures!

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