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Posts Tagged ‘PreSoak’

Perennial Sweet Peas Seeds need Cold Stratification to Germinate!

Some seeds, like Pansies or perennial Sweet Peas, need special treatment to be able to break dormancy and germinate! If you have wondered why you have never had luck germinating some plants from perfectly fresh seed, cold stratification may be what is needed!

Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, says stratification sequences may vary: ‘Some seeds require a warm and moist treatment, while others require a cool and wet treatment. Even still, other seeds require a combination of both warm and cool treatments followed by a warm treatment, or a combination of warm and cool moist followed by a dry cycle and warm period to germinate. Knowing what seeds require to break dormancy is critical before beginning any seed stratification project.’ Also some plants require stratification from heat, like from fires, to help expose the seed to air and moisture.

The main requirements of Cold stratification are cold and moist. Depending on where you live, it is best to plant when winter is here to stay. If you plant when it is too warm, the seed coat can break down and you may have little germination.

But if you are starting in early season, soak your seeds 12 to 24 hours and put them in a plastic bag or sealable container with sand, peat, or equal amounts of sand and peat. Date and label. Check frequently to see if they are sprouting. Some seeds require a longer period; some need to be in the freezer!’

Pinetree Garden Seeds says: ‘Soaking them in cold water for 6-12 hours before starting the process can help cut down on the total stratification time needed. This also helps the seed absorb some of the moisture it requires for the chemical changes that will take place.’

There are different methods, but mainly two.

In the Ground!

1) If your plant reseeds, as soon as it seeds, you can simply broadcast your seed if it doesn’t matter where they come up. Any rowdy ones that come up not in accordance with your garden plan can be transplanted where you might decide you want them, you could give them away, or last resort, eat if appropriate, or compost. I use the broadcast method for Breadseed Poppies. But sometimes you may reroute your garden plan to accomodate what you think will become a lovely display of beauty!

If you have a seed packet, in fall, a more formal version is to decide where you want them, prep that soil, scratch in your seeds. Mark the spot, date and label with a tag. Keep them moist; they will come up when they are ready.

The dangers of these two plans may be floods or wildly fluctuating weather, ie cold, HOT, cold. Keep some backup seeds just in case you need them. Then you go to the #2 methods, or you can do both a 1 and a 2 of your choice just in case…

Seed Cold Stratification Paper Towel

In the Fridge or Freezer!

2) You can use the paper towel method. Moisten the towel, put seeds on one side, fold the towel over on them. Put the towel in a plastic bag, zip it closed. Put it in the fridge and wait. Some say to check every 2 to 3 days, remove any that mold. Others say check in 10 days. Some say it may take up to a month or two. If they get brown spots around them or smell musty, they are rotting and should be tossed. But mainly is to keep that towel moist!

If you have a seed packet, here is the lazy gardener’s choice offered by myseedneeds for poppies! ‘We recommend a short cold stratification period of 6 to 12 weeks, though simply storing your seed packets in your crisper drawer for a couple of months is a trick used by gardeners who don’t want to mess with damp paper towels and plastic baggies.’

Seed Cold Stratification in Sand, Peat, Worm CastingsOr…you can presoak your seeds. Pot up sand or peat, or equal sand and peat; add worm castings to help germination. Put in your seeds. Put the pot or container in the fridge, or put the pot ON the ground in a sheltered place or sink it up to the top of the pot on the colder north side of your building! Be sure to keep those seeds moist.

Important Sustainability point from Harold and the Cats of Alchemy: ‘Seeds…won’t come up all at the same time, like the seeds of most cultivated plants are bred to do. Seeds that use cold to germinate are closer to the wild and so have a good reason to stagger their germination – more are likely to survive that way, and you will get more genetic variation. That means there will be a greater likelihood of getting plants that will survive and prosper in your conditions.’

Plants that can prosper from Cold Stratification treatment

Terms like “self-sowing”, “perennial”, “cold hardy”, or “cold stratification” on a seed packet are indicators your seeds may need cold treatment.

Many Common Domestic Flowers, important companion plants: Bachelor Buttons, BreadSeed Poppy, Cosmos and Pansies, Johnny Jump Ups and Violets (edible petals), Sweet Peas, Zinnia are a few.

Wildflowers! Here’s a terrific MAP to select native wildflowers that need cold stratification before planting in spring for your area! American Meadows! Native wildflowers are terrific companion plants that attract native bees! They need to be in your fridge 4 to 5 weeks, so be sure to start early enough for planting time. Your seeds will germinate quicker and grow well. Don’t forget native Milkweed for Monarchs!

Many Common herbs, perennials, also important veggie companion plants and provide food for pollinators: Calendula, Lavender, Rosemary and Sage

Seed Cold Stratification Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Be sure to look up each plant individually to see it’s specific needs, ie length of time and temp. Here’s an example at SFGate for Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale), a perennial. Some poppies grow readily but the Oriental poppies need special treatment!

  1. Place 2 tablespoons perlite or sand in a plastic bag. Moisten it slightly with water, but don’t allow it to become soggy.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to the bag and mix the seeds with the perlite or sand.
  3. Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for two weeks. Check it occasionally and provide more water if necessary to keep it slightly moist. Do not allow it to dry out.
  4. Remove the bag from the refrigerator and store it in a cool, dry location for one week. Place the bag back in the refrigerator for two more weeks.
  5. Repeat this cycle of cold and thaw for six weeks to up to three months. Sprinkle the stratified poppy seeds on moist soil in early spring. They will germinate within two weeks when the soil temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. [So start your process in plenty of time!]
Cold Stratification is a simple technique that may take a little dedication, but it really pays off!

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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

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Seed Sprouting! Life!

Photo: USDA Flickr

Starting seeds yourself has two fabulous advantages! Seeds are a lot cheaper than transplants, and you can grow far more varieties of veggies than you can buy at the local nursery! You can buy the best and order the latest they may not have heard about yet. You can experiment and see for yourself. You can touch and taste these special varieties! You can even do a little research and hybridize some of your own!

Some seeds need special treatment before planting. Some need hot or cold treatments or both, some need scarification, slight damage to open the seed. Some of this is easy to do, some has to be done very carefully and can be a tedious labor of love! See Cold Stratification

Plant at the right temps! Seeds are soil temp sensitive. That’s how they know when to come up in nature! The winds may howl one day and the sun be hot the next day, but the soil keeps a more even temp. Seeds know what the temp is they want and after a certain number of days at the right temp, they shake their little booty, break dormancy and germinate!

You can help your seeds by pre-soaking them! There are a lot of important pre-soaking techniques to consider. And it varies a lot seed to seed so check it out for the specific seeds you will be planting. Pre Soaking and Sprouting!

The two main ways to work with seeds are to plant indoors or outdoors! One of the main deciding points is how long your growing season is. If you have a short season, little sun, if possible, do those indoor starts because they give you a six weeks head start! Otherwise, it’s early fast maturing varieties for you!

STARTING YOUR SEEDS OUTDOORS IN THE GROUND

Just like in Mother Nature, outdoor starts are blessed with whole nutrition from their very beginning and they don’t need transplanting! It’s called Direct Sowing when gardeners start their seeds in the ground.

Some plants don’t transplant well, direct sowing is best! In general, root crops and tap root veggies don’t transplant well. Some little plants grow amazing tap roots very quickly. If that main root is damaged, it’s all over. Plants with delicate roots can be damaged in the transplant process. Seeds that favor direct sowing are arugula, beans (short roots need continuous connection with their soil), especially beets and carrots because they have tap roots, cilantro (delicate tap root), dill, melons, peas, radish for sure (they grow too fast to be worth it to move them!), spinach, squashes, turnips, zucchini. Seeds that like being started in trays are basil, celery, eggplant, collards, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, leeks, onion, peppers, scallions, tomato, tomatillo! Now you can bet gardeners disagree on this. I just started some scallions in the ground and they came up quickly and prolifically! But I can sure agree, carrots are better started right where they are going to live! Some plants on the in-the-ground list can be transplanted if transplanted early enough and handled very carefully.

Before you sow your seeds, amend your soil, up to two inches deep, depending on the depth your seed needs, with worm castings! Castings speed germination and strengthen seedling immunity. Keep that planting space and those castings moist until you are ready to plant. A couple days before planting, water the soil so it is for sure semi moist on planting day.

Plant large hard seeds and seeds that are planted an inch deep before a rain. Wait until after the rain to plant little seeds that could be washed away or buried too deeply. Same for seeds that rot easily like bean seeds.

Prevent pests! Put down what you use to end slugs and snails a few days before you sow your seeds!

While you are waiting for planting day, make tags. I put four things on my tages. 1) I put the planting date on the tag so I know when the plant started! 2) I put the germination date on the tag so I’ll know by when I should be seeing seedlings. That might look like 14-21 DG – 14-21 days to germinate 3) The name of the plant helps so you will know what they are and not a weed! If you are new to planting seeds, don’t worry, you will learn to recognize the little guys. If in doubt, let them grow a bit before you ‘weed’ them out. Look online for baby pictures! 4) The days to maturity cues me to when I should be expecting fruit and how well my plants did. And that varies per time of year, weather, your soil, how well you cared for them.

Mark your planted areas as you go! When I plant the seeds I put a stick at the ends of the row, a triangle of sticks when there is a single area where the seeds are planted. Since I do a lot of interplanting with understories, companion planting special plants where they will do the most good, the sticks keep me from stepping on or disturbing the seeds.

Some seeds are big and fat like beans, others, like poppies and purslane, are so tiny if you dropped them you would never find them!

After how far apart should I plant my seeds, probably the most iffy thing about planting seeds is how deep do they need to be planted? General rule is no more than double the width or diameter of the seed, but I can tell you that can vary significantly! Most seed packs have that info on them. Do read it!

Chopsticks can be used in a couple helpful ways.

Mark one of your wooden sticks at 1/4, 1/2, and 1″ from the small tip. That way you can get your seeds at the right planting depth. Using your marked stick keeps you mindful; planting goes fun and faster with less wondering and worrying!

If you are installing delicate sprouts, make a planting hole, and if you are good with chopsticks, grasp the sprout gently, carefully place it the way you want it. Cover and smooth the soil, water, sprinkle gently. Check out Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips & Ideas!

Teensy seeds are a challenge in so many ways!

First it’s a question of not dropping them. Hold the package over a dish? Something smooth and not wet or sticky. And keep your hands and that package dry! And don’t plant those tiny feathery seeds on a windy day!

Second is how to distribute them the right distance apart. Very carefully. Be careful not to crush or damage them by rolling them or squishing them between your fingers! Use a tiny spoon.

Since most tiny light seeds aren’t supposed to be buried, in nature they wouldn’t be, simply very lightly hand pat them to the soil or sprinkle the barest amount of fine soil over them, just enough to anchor them.

Third is how to keep them from washing away when you water. You can make a tiny ‘trench’ or depression with mild slopes. Sometimes I just hand pat a little depression area with my fingers. Instead of the hose, use your watering can with nozzle that has fine holes. No flooding or standing water. Just moisten. Moisten them maybe 2 or 3 times so the soil gets moist a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep. Moisten once, water something else, come back and moisten again so the water can soak in a wee bit deeper. Repeat.

When you are weeding, have you noticed how many seeds come up by the edge of a pathway board, a plot border or a stepping stone? Put down a mini board, wide stick, where you want tiny seeds to grow, preferably in a slightly lower area, a depression that will hold a bit of moisture. Sprinkle the seeds around the board, along the stick. They will have the moisture and shelter they need to get started right at the side of the board or stick! Once they are started, remove the board, transplant some of them if you like.

It may be easier to plant a group of seeds in one place to get them started. That can be their nursery. Plant them far enough apart that you can get a small trowel in there to collect them to transplant. Transplant them where they are needed or to their permanent place when they get their second set of leaves.

Delicate seeds like Marigold need to be carefully laid down and cover the complete seed, but no more than 1/4″. The ‘tail’ of the seed acts like a wick to deliver moisture to the seed. Unprocessed home saved carrot seeds are fuzzy with wicks. They germinate much sooner than the processed naked ones in seed packs!

Lettuce seeds are planted on the surface OR 1/4″ deep depending on the variety. Read your seed pack!

Harder seeds like Cilantro can be exciting to handle since they roll around and jump for it any time they can! They often come up as nearby volunteers! That rolling about can make spacing a challenge. But you can see them and they are big enough to move where you want them. Radish are not exactly round, but they can be unpredictable too! If spacing means a lot to you, you can easily make or buy seed strips!

If you aren’t over planting for greens for thinning, spacing does mean a lot! Plants too closely seeded and not thinned, get rootbound, root plants like radish, beets, carrots can’t make, won’t form their roots. Too closely planting lessens growth and production, weakens your plants since your plants are literally starving. Plants along the edge of a clump can reach out. Ones at the center can’t get their roots through to food. They are more susceptible to disease and being too close makes it easy for disease to spread.

Beet seeds are unique because each ‘seed,’ corm, is a cluster of three to four seeds! There is no escaping needing to thin them. OR, you can gently hand separate them to get four healthy plants! I separated beets I got from a nursery. When I finished 3 of the 6-pack compartments I had planted out 36 beets!

Big seeds are easy, but if you aren’t naturally a good measurer, it’s easy enough to plant too deep or not deep enough! Where are those chopsticks? If the seeds are an inch deep, you usually won’t wash them away when you water. Some seeds can be planted too deep make it, just rot and become compost. With others a little deep means it just takes longer to come up. Too shallow may not keep those seeds moist enough. 

Some batches of seeds are mixed sizes – maybe your green manure or living mulch mix. Some say broadcasting them is all you need to do – they are light germinating seeds. But soil contact and moisture is important. If you plant during a hot spell, get your soil as level as possible. Fling, toss, drizzle your seeds about. Lay a board or a piece of plywood on the soil to press them down for that contact. Immediately cover with bird net or aviary wire or many will be gone overnight, and birds will take tiny tasty tender seedlings that sprout! Gently water your seeds to keep them moist. In hot weather that may be two times a day. You can bury your seeds, but way fewer seeds make it. You only get a thin stand.

Protect your seeds! After your seeds are in, cover with bird netting or aviary wire. Birds love seeds and fresh seedlings! Animals like plowing through your soil looking for insects and seeds. Aviary wire is best for that, or an easily removed wire border so you have access for tending. You can use cloches for small spot plantings. When you can use them, they are excellent because wicked slugs and cut worms can’t get through!

Seedlings Transplants Cover Protection Birds Shade

Successive planting in summer heat has its own challenges, but it is doable! Set up shade cloth, use upturned flower pots or laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, or lightweight fabric held aloft with hoops. Shade cloth comes in different densities. You can water through it and it keeps birds and predator insects away. Remove it when your plants are up and strong, especially when pollinators need access. This image has lettuce, but you can start mixtures of other plants this way too. Use it as a nursery then transplant plants where you want them.

STARTING SEEDS INDOORS or IN YOUR COLD FRAME or GREENHOUSE

Seedlings Indoors Grow Lights

Starting seeds in a Container is a whole different territory! Your main advantage is getting a SIX WEEK head start on planting! That’s food on your table a month and a half sooner!

It can be as simple as putting a few containers or 6 packs in your kitchen window or on top of the warm fridge, or doing something costly, elaborate and sophisticated! If you like starting seeds, choosing a permanent space, then installing lighting, warmth, and setting up a special overhead watering system on a timer may intrigue you. You might put up a greenhouse! You can install a wonderful bought or homemade cold frame on the sun facing hillside.

You can make your own special seed starter mix; it’s not too hard. But if you don’t want the mess, or don’t have time for that, you just buy a great mix at the nursery! While you are there, get a bag of vermiculite, or when you are at the grocery outlet, get a big container of cinnamon. Read on below….

Starting seeds indoors means there are no predator pests. Yay! Rain doesn’t matter. No drying or damaging winds. No hot scorching sun. No soil pre preps – yet.

Level starting medium is pretty easy to achieve. Gentle watering is still needed. Seeds and seedlings need to be kept moist.

Making tags is very useful, especially if you put different plants in the 6 pack compartments! You have a start date and you know when they should be up. And you can use the tags when you transplant the babies in the soil outdoors.

When the true leaves come on, the ones after the first two (cotyledons), the seedlings will need to be fed. Spritzing with a liquid feed is the usual answer.

Cinnamon for Seedling Damping Off Disease Prevention!

The nemesis is Damping off disease, a sad foe of seedlings. The baby just topples overnight and it’s over. A 2005 North Carolina State University study found it’s not the mixture but what’s on top of the soil that counts most. Damping off differences almost disappeared between commercial organic seed-starting mixtures and various homemade mixtures after all of the seeds were covered with vermiculite instead of a planting medium. Simple fix!

The super simplest prevention is Cinnamon! Just sprinkle it on the soil! Sprinkle on plant injuries and they will heal. It is a rooting hormone. And it repels ants! Mildew, mold, fungal diseases? Mix 4 tablespoons cinnamon in a half gallon warm water, shake it vigorously, steep overnight. Strain through a sieve or coffee filter and put it in a spray bottle. Add ¼ teaspoon liquid dish soap as a surfactant, lightly spritz your plants, undersides and tops of leaves!

You do need to harden off seedlings. They need to be taken outside to get used to cooler temps, a bit of breeze to build their standing up muscles! The author of ‘Grocery Gardening’, Jean Ann Van Krevelen says, “Take your seedlings to a protected location outside for one hour for the first day.” She said, “Do this each day for a week. Add one hour for each day of the process. By the end of the week, you’ll be at 7 hours and the plants will be ready to be transplanted.” She doesn’t recommend direct sunlight or wind. Don’t take they out if it is windy and your seedlings could be broken. Just do it the next day where you left off. Keep your seedlings evenly moist.

Schlepping them back and forth may be a challenge, but doable. But if you grow them on a cart with wheels in the garage or near the patio, you can easily roll them out and back in each day.

Both indoor and outdoor planting have their necessities, special techniques, disadvantages and advantages! There’s no reason why you can’t do BOTH! Getting a healthy start in the ground is terrific! Others would never make it in cold or extreme heat and indoor babying is just right. Preseason indoor starting gets you there that six weeks sooner! And transplants can be put in ground that is too cold for seeds!

Have a terrific good time! Blessings on your all your Seeds!

Updated annually

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Mother’s Day 2020 is May 10! Here are some wonderful ideas for green and loving gifts! Get living gifts started now! Click here

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

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Trellis Squash Melon Cucumbers

Get those fruits off the ground! An arched trellis saves space and is magical! You can build one easily yourself. It will make shade when covered! Keep it narrow? Read more!

You have wonderful choices! Many kinds of squashies!

SUMMER: Zucchini, crookneck, Pattypan/scalloped, loofah.

Zucchini Squash Costata Romanesco Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

 

 

Select heat tolerant Moschata type varieties or super productive types like Costata Romanesco! In the image at left, you can see that Italian variety makes a zucchini at every leaf!

Super Vibrant Crookneck Squash!

 

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Besides different varieties of squashes, there are different sized plants! Zucchini, for example comes in the traditional vining type that will easily take up to 15′ in length, and in container or dwarf varieties that travel very little. Both do get good 1’+ wide leaves, so you still need to allot ample space!

Fig Leaf Squash, Chilacayote ~ Cucurbita ficifolia, a Mexican cuisine favorite!

Smooth South of the Border summer squash Chilacayote, aka Malabar or Fig Gourd, Cucurbita ficifolia grows 10-15 pound fruits, the vines are 50-70 feet and can produce 50 fruits. The fruits can be eaten young and tender or harvested at full maturity like the one in the image at left. See more!

Japanese Winter Squash Black Futsu


WINTER 
squash favorites are grown in summer but harden for winter storage! Winter squash, aka Waltham or butternut, also Acorn and Pumpkins. Pumpkins are cosmic Beings, of course. There are tons of other exotic colors and forms including warty Hogwarts types like this Japanese Black Futsu Squash!

Amazing Italian Squash Tromboncino Zucchetta both summer and winter squash!
Summer AND Winter!

When trellised or grown on an archway (the trellis needs to be big and strong), amazing Italian heirloom Cucurbita moschata Tromboncino, aka Zucchetta, are proud plentiful producers per square foot! Vines can be 20′ long! Give that good thought before choosing to plant them! Fruits get up to 4 feet long. Keep them high up on a trellis and they will grow straight! If they touch the ground, or something else as they ramble, they look more like French horns! The bulbous ends contain most of the seeds, while the necks are solid and smooth. The neck stays a consistent width which is great for cutting into same size slices!

It’s a two for one plant! For the preferred soft summer fruits, harvest from 3 to 4″ to about 2′ long, while the flesh is still a tad green. It is sweeter than Zucchini, less watery. For winter squash let it grow until it hardens like a Butternut. The skin will become a solid beige color. Then it tastes a bit more like Butternut squash to which it is more closely related to than Zucchini. Nice thing about them is you don’t have to panic to harvest them! If you miss harvesting the small summer size, they simply become a winter squash! Tromboncino has excellent resistance to powdery mildew and tolerates the vine borer, a bug that goes after other squash.

Plan for Companions!

Plant white potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugsRadish with cukes & zukes to trap flea beetles and repel cucumber beetles.

Preplant the companions so they will be up to do their jobs when your seedlings are starting and especially before your squash (and cucumbers) start blooming.

Planting!

Get your seed from a reputable seed house. Bad seeds can carry Mosaic Virus. If transplants at the nursery have yellowing leaves, don’t buy them.

Start planting from seed in a SoCal warm winter in January after average last frost dates for your area. Seedlings are frost sensitive, so keep your seeds handy just in case you need to replant after a late frost. Squashes grow best in full sun, days at least 70° and soil temps 60°. Just in case you get tempted, they don’t like cold soil and seeds won’t germinate or are sometimes stunted if they do. Planting in the ground is best, but there certainly are nursery starts that are started with those terrific heating pads or you can start them yourself! You can start those early and take your chances. SFGate says ‘If temperatures are forecast to dip below 65 F, you can cover plants with floating row covers to prevent chilling injury, which can cause zucchinis to have pitted skin.’ If your plants don’t do well, replant! By that time temps will be warmer anyway.

They like a slightly acidic to neutral soil. You might decide to do a soil test – deficiencies in manganese, sulfur and iron cause yellowing in the younger leaves of the plant first, before progressing to more established leaves. They do well in rich well-drained soil, high in organic matter, and require a high level of feeding. Zucchini, in particular, produce a lot and get hungry sooner than you think!

PreSoak your seeds overnight 8 to 10 hours.

Almost 20' Long Squash Hoop Trellis


Click the image or here
for much larger version to see the details of this almost 20′ long 3 hoop system! There are Red Kuri Squash and Butternuts vining side by side. The end of the vines have been turned back upon themselves on the left end! This was the 2019 champion feat at our community garden, and all the gardeners were quite impressed!
 

Spacing depends on what kind of squash you are planting, whether it will be going up a trellis. A trellis, a series of hoops, or a tall arch can all save a lot of space! Hoops are unique in that you can plant plants needing a little shade under them. If you install your hoops along the sun’s path, they will have shade all day. If your hoops are at right angles or diagonal to the sun’s path, plants under them will get some morning and some afternoon sun.

If you are in a drought area, make a basin as big as the anticipated feeder root growth area expected. Make the basin lower than the surrounding soil level so moisture is retained. Put in a 5′ tall stake where your plant’s main stem is so you know where to water when the leaves get big and obscure the area. Water only there unless your plant’s leaves get dusty. If they need a bath, preferably spritz them in the morning so they are dry by evening. In early season, leave the soil uncovered to let the soil warm up. When it is hot and drier, Mulch the basin well. Maintain the basin walls and replenish your mulch time to time as needed.

In a hot summer, trellising works well. In a cool summer some squashes like Butternuts – Walthams, do better on the ground where it is warmer than up in breezy cooling air on a trellis. Same for cucumbers. If you don’t trellis your butternuts, put an aluminum pie tin upside down underneath them. The tin reflects light and heat up to the squash, and keeps it off the ground so it won’t be nibbled or damaged. Or put straw under the fruits to keep them up out of the insect zone.

Pollination! A squash may form, but if the flower isn’t pollinated the flower will abort, fruit will wither and die or a partially pollinated deformed fruit will grow. Hand pollination isn’t hard to do, and it’s a necessity if you use row covers while your plants are blooming. A long term solution is to continuously be growing seasonal pollinator habitat near or right beside your plants, even make bee homes for wild bees! However, if weather isn’t with you or other stressful conditions occur, hand pollinating is the answer.

Pests & Diseases are often linked

The mighty pests of squashes are squash bugs and cucumber beetles. The beetles are a serious threat because they may also spread cucumber mosaic virus or wilts in cucurbits. Plant potatoes, insect repelling herbs, and radish among your squash. Let them grow up through the squash plant leaves wafting their scents adrift through warm foliage discouraging the pests. Radish with cukes & zukes to trap flea beetles and repel cucumber beetles. Check out this great IPM page.

Zucchini Fruit Diseased with Squash Mosaic VirusAphids and whiteflies may put in appearances. Keep check on the undersides of leaves and the developing center of your plant. Immediately hose away! Aphids can transmit the deadly Cucumber Mosaic Virus to Zucchini. The first signs are patches of yellowing on the leaves, especially along the veins. They very bad news is your plant is a gonner, NO CURE. Remove immediately so other plants aren’t infected and your soil as little as possible. Bad seed carries the virus. Buy from a reputable seed house. The virus often causes stunted growth and poor fruit development – lumpy and with color breaking like in the image. Sprinkle the ground with cinnamon to repel aphid-tending ants. Always promptly remove any yellowing leaves throughout your garden because yellow attracts Whiteflies. Water less. Remove unhealthy leaves that may lay on the ground and harbor pests or diseases. Thin some leaves away to improve air circulation. Most of all, immediately REMOVE THE SOIL at least a foot deep, out past the drip line where your plant was. Do Not put that soil anywhere you will be growing vegetables.

Another pest, Spider Mites, is most common in hot, dry conditions. Tiny little red guys on the bottoms of Zucchini leaves can cause Chlorosis, yellowing leaves. You can hardly see them with the naked eye. Hold a paper underneath, shake the leaf gently. If you get pepper-like specks, you got ’em. Since they are in the spider family, you may see tiny webs. At first they make small yellow or brown spots on the leaves. They suck the sap from the leaves, leaving many small yellow stipples along the leaf, eventually the entire leaf turning yellow. Get after them with insecticidal soap, thoroughly, both top and undersides of the leaves. 

Planet Natural says: Chemical pesticide use actually encourages the spread of spider mites by killing the beneficial insects that prey on them. Mites are also known to develop quick resistance to various pesticides. For these reasons, it’s important to control mites with effective natural and organic methods. See more at their site!

Squash vine borers are found throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Remove by hand and destroy, but they can be a difficult pest to deal with. Check online for information specific to your area, especially university info!

Lay down some Sluggo or the like house brand to stop snails and slugs. Two or three times and the generations of those pests will be gone.

Remove pest attracting weed habitat. Clear up debris at the end of each season. If it is infected, trash it – do not compost it or put in the green waste.

Diseases

Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties:
  • Yellow Summer Squash: Success, Sunray, Sunglo
  • Zucchini: Ambassador, Wildcat
  • Pumpkin: 18 Karat Gold, Gladiator

Otherwise, when you install transplants or your seedlings get about 4 to 6″ tall, treat them with your baking soda, powdered milk, aspirin foliar feed as prevention!  Water the soil not the leaves or blossoms. Avoid harvesting plants while they are wet. Water in the morning so plants can dry before damp evenings.

Equisetum (Horsetail), Chamomile tea and garlic teas are also used to fight mildew on cucumbers and squash. Spray on the soil as well as plant. . Compost tea inoculates your plants with a culture of beneficial microorganisms. A simple home damping-off remedy is to sprinkle seedlings and their sprouting medium with cinnamon. No mold on the top of the soil, no damping off. Another option: A 2005 North Carolina State University damping-off study found it’s not the mixture but what’s on top of the soil that counts most. Damping-off differences almost disappeared between commercial organic seed-starting mixtures and various homemade mixtures after all of the seeds were covered with vermiculite instead of a planting medium. No brewing, spraying or sprinkling. Simple fix!

Blossom End Rot just makes you cry! You have a great little zuke growing then the fruit withers some, the tip turns black and it’s all over. UC IPM says: results from a low level of calcium in the fruit and water balance in the plant. It is aggravated by high soil salt content or low soil moisture and is more common on sandier soils. To reduce rot, monitor soil moisture to make sure that the root zone neither dries out nor remains saturated. Follow recommended rates for fertilizers. Some varieties are more affected than others.

Harvest

With zucchini, check your plant frequently and look carefully! Overnight a monster can occur! Wait three days, and….OMG!!! Harvest when the fruits are small if you know you won’t be able to keep up and you have already given so many away people stay away from you now!

Store your Veggies under the bed!Storage

Winter squash and pumpkins, potatoes prefer room temp! Store them in clear containers so you can see what’s in ’em! Tasty veggies all winter long!

There is in-your-fridge storage, can’t wait to eat it! Extra summer squash love hanging out in the fridge, but not for long! They are more soft than carrots or peppers, so give away what you won’t use asap.

SAVING SEEDS!

Squashes from different species can be grown next to each other. Separate different squash varieties in the same species by at least 1/2 mile to ensure purity. Experienced, home, seed savers grow more than one variety in a single garden by using hand pollinating techniques. Squash flowers are large and relatively easy to hand pollinate.

Squash must be fully mature before harvested for seed production. This means that summer squashes must be left on the vine until the outer shell hardens. Allow to cure 3-4 additional weeks after harvest to encourage further seed ripening. Chop open hard-shelled fruits and scoop out seeds. Rinse clean in wire strainer with warm, running water. Dry with towel and spread on board or cookie sheet to complete drying. Their viability is 5-6 years.

Special Health note about Zucchini and Yellow Crookneck Squash! Summer squashes include an unusual amount of pectin—a special polysaccharide linked to protection against diabetes and better regulation of insulin. Summer squash contains an unusual amount of other antioxidants that are very helpful in protecting your eyes against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Yellow is the best choice. One caution: Squash fruits can lower blood pressure to a dangerous level, so people with hypotension should avoid consuming it. Other than that, it has great vitamins and minerals!

Culinary Treats!

Nutrition varies considerably from a green summer zucchini to a butternut winter squash! Calories, vitamins, etc. Here is undated information from a noncommercial site that may get you thinking.

Asian Winter Squash Kabocha Stew BowlKabocha Squash, aka Japanese pumpkin, are considered an aphrodisiac in some cultures! It makes a lovely Asian Winter Stew Bowl!

One of the most unusual squash foods is Squash Blossoms! Delicious fried or stuffed! Zucchini flowers are a great source of folic acid and are often “prescribed” for those who are lethargic, anemic or pregnant! You may be given a choice of male or female flowers. Both are edible but you’ll find that the femalesZucchini Squash Zoodles Kale Pesto Edamame Recipe are slightly more robust (with larger innards and a little zucchini for a stem) which just means they’ll need to cook a little longer. If you have the universal problem of more zucchini than friends who will accept them, then harvest the females! Tromboncino, Italian for Little Trumpet, summer squash make excellent squash blossoms for stuffing!

Pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie! Make Tasty Zucchini Chips. Stuff anything and everything! Broiled, Zuke-Cilantro soup, cornbread, fritters, rollups, pancakes, kabobs! Sticks, pickled, lasagna! Crispy fresh slices in salads! Simply steaming squashes is one of the all-time summer garden favorites! Drizzle a little olive oil over them, squeeze a tad of lemon juice or a splash with a dash of Bragg Cider Vinegar, toss and enjoy!

‘Long about late June, July, gardeners are starting to seek new ways to enjoy their Zucchini! Get a spiralizer and try ZOODLES and Pesto! Here are 28 cool summer recipes on how to deliciously enjoy this common veggie in unique ways!

Summer Squash Pattypan Green and Yellow

One way or another, Squashies just keep you smiling! 

Updated annually

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

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fabulous varieties!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diseases

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

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

Maturity, When and How to Harvest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mexican Fruit Salad with Chili Powder

Recipe Mexican Fruit Salad with Chili Powder

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

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

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

May your life be sweet and spicy!

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

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Carrots Rainbow! Rose, Classic Orange, Purple Sun, White Satin
Carrot Rainbow! Rose, Classic Orange, Purple Sun, White Satin

Colorful carrots brighten your table any time of year! Their pretty ferny foliage is lovely in your garden. It is so much fun pulling gorgeous fat, long, colorful carrots! Downright satisfying. What a beautiful fragrance…. Tops can be eaten too, or are prime in your compost.

Varieties Galore! Thumbelinas – fun for the kids to grow, stubbies, conical, to long, long pointy skinnys. If you are hungry sooner, choose early maturing shorter varieties. Plant different kinds for the fun of it! With mixed seed packs you never know which color you will pull up! Danvers is an excellent choice for cooking. It has a higher fiber content than Nantes sorts. It grows well in heavier soils and stores well in the soil at maturity. Super juicing carrots are Healthmaster or Danvers. Autumn King and Scarlet Nantes are excellent cold tolerant varieties.

If you would like some tender little snacking carrots, quick growers to show the kids, or minis for your pup, try early Adelaides from Johnny’s Selected Seeds! They say ‘True baby carrots. Unlike most “baby carrots,” which are harvested at an immature stage before properly filling out, Adelaide is a true baby, meaning it has an early maturity and forms a blunt root tip at 3–4″ long.’ Only 50 days!

Carrot French Heirloom ParisianAt left is the French heirloom Parisian, an early orange-red carrot that grows almost more like the shape of a large radish. It excels in clay or rocky soil where other carrots have problems developing properly.

Carrots are scrumptious companions! Planted a little too closely and not thinned, they twist together in the garden, but better yet, from a Pea lover’s point of view, is they enhance Peas while the Peas are growing! They grow way slower than Peas, lasting while pole peas are getting their full height. They are quite faster than cabbage, so perfect to grow among cabbages until the cabbages would finally shade them out! Onions, leeks and chives help repel the carrot root fly. Carrots thrive when Cilantro, Chamomile, Marigold are planted with them.

Colorful and dramatic Recipe! Roasted whole Carrots, Green Tahini Sauce, Pomegranate Seeds!Skinny carrots for roasting are a treat! The Tiny Farm blog says: Sprint, a new Amsterdam forcing variety (good for growing in challenging conditions) matures long and slender in a listed 42 days. That’s fast, over two weeks ahead of the quickest regular carrot we grow (the fabulous Nelson).

SOIL Stone/rock free loose soil is best for those long rooted champions! But they are smart enough to wind their way around a stone or two if you ask them to grow there. They like steadily moist soil. If the soil gets dry and you give them a big soak, they are likely to split, and that’s not pretty. NO manure! It makes them hairy and they fork.

Their favorite season in SoCal is winter when the soil is usually more continuously moist. Best germination soil temps are 50 F to 75 F, but they will germinate at as low as 40 F.

Plant from seed. Soaking seeds, and preSprouting makes a lot of sense. Advantages of seed soaking are a speedier garden – your seeds germinate sooner, and you get  more complete germination of all seeds planted! Be sure your seed is fresh to get a high % of germination! The seeds are hard, so if you don’t at least presoak, figure on 14 to 21 days of keeping them moist in the garden before they germinate

PreSoaking is easy. Pop the number of seeds you want to grow, with few extra for whatever might happen to them, in a cup of warm water, soak over night. On a raised edge plate, lay them on one side of half a folded paper towel. Lay the other half over and pat dry. Easy peasy! Weather tip: Don’t soak your seeds the night before a rain is expected. Wait for good planting conditions. Rain compacts the soil, making it harder for tiny sprouts to break through, and seeds might be washed away or tiny sprouts broken if sprouting seeds are shifted in wet soil.

PreSprouting is devilishly clever! Sprouted seed will grow in soils too cool for germination! You take only the sprouted seed to plant into the garden – that’s a form of 100% germination! Grab a raised edge plate, lay a paper towel on it. Spread your seeds out a 1/2 to an inch apart, so ther is room for their sprouts. Spritz them with good water. Lay another paper towel over them and dampen it too. Put the plate in a plastic bag, tie it, keep moist until they germinate!

Just before planting time, put them on a dry paper towel and let them drain if needed. Grab some tweezers and plant very carefully immediately. The sprout is the root, so it goes down. Not to worry if they just plop in the planting hole any which way. They know what to do and will find their way, but the seed itself needs to be at the right planting depth so the little leaves can get up. Since many carrot seeds are tiny, this reduces waste of your seeds, and no time is lost later thinning these tiny plants!

If you don’t presprout ~ Carrot seeds are very small, and it is difficult to obtain a stand if the soil is crusty. Try mixing carrot seed with dry sand to get even distribution. Then, instead of covering with soil, cover the seed 1/8-inch deep with sawdust, vermiculite or manufactured potting soil. Water the row soon after planting is complete. This method will allow the seeds to stay wet and prevent crusting.

Plant at the spacing they need at their maturity. For broad carrot shoulders like Chantenay, plant as much as 3″ apart. For baby carrots, for you or for doggie treats, plant closely, a half inch or slightly less apart. If you overplant, thin the carrots when they are 1 to 2 inches tall. Best to cut off with tiny scissors rather than pull and disturb or damage the remaining plants’ roots.

Keeping the seeds moist is a commitment that must be kept. Do put down Sluggo or the like, before the seedlings come up because seedlings can be mowed overnight. Weeding is an important delicate operation. Carefully clip little weeds away rather than pulling and disturbing or breaking tiny carrot roots.

If you are planting in fall, and there are still some hot days, plant your peas and carrots separately in 2 to 3″ deep slight trenches with low sloping sides so when you water, soil doesn’t wash down and cover the seeds too deep. Cover with aviary wire so the birds don’t pluck the pea seeds or seedlings of either away. Before expected hot days, cover the wire with boards to protect the pea seeds from being baked, the peas stay moist. Raise one side of the board enough for a little airflow underneath, so the seeds can be moist, yet not so moist they will rot.

Shoulders, hilling. Carrots naturally push up and grow above the soil line. Planting seeds deeper doesn’t compensate. Instead, have extra soil handy to hill over those shoulders. Uncovered shoulders turn green and need to be cut away.

Harvest when their orange color is bright, when their flavor and texture are optimum. Water well prior to harvest to ensure the roots have absorbed their maximum capacity of water and are easy to pull. Don’t harvest carrots too soon, sugars are formed relatively late.

STORAGE Remove the foliage right away. It takes moisture from the carrot, causing it to wilt. Put them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. Research shows the especially valuable (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer is well-retained in carrots stored properly. Store away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.

Seedsaving is SO easy! Just clip the seedhead off and store it. If you want to, remove the seeds from the head for less bulky storage. But do leave the fuzz on the seeds. Seeds in packets come with no fuzz, but the fuzz wicks water to the seeds when planted. They stay moist, germinate a good week sooner!

Carrots, Daucus carota subsp. sativus, are in the Umbelliferae family, make these magical flower heads, then seeds! Every season let one or two grow up and make beauty in your garden – flower food for the pollinators/beneficial insects, then seeds for you and the birds!

Carrot Umbels - Buds to Seeds

On the same plant at the same time, green buds, white flowers, and ready-for-harvest brown seeds! …at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA

Culinary Carrots! Eat them rinsed and raw right at the garden. Many a carrot never makes it to the kitchen! Pare into thick strips, flowerettes. Diagonally chop, ripple slice, dice. Make lengthy Julienne quarters. Freshly shred into green salads, add as garnish on top! Make traditional carrot & raisin salad. Carrots, celery and greens juices, smoothies. Steamed & stewed. Roasted, grilled on the summer barbie. Add as nutritious and delicious Carrot Winter Cake, muffins, cookies, pancakes and waffles, cheesecake! Spicylicious Carrot jam. Carrot ice cream ~ See these images, with recipe links, that will positively make you drool!

Nutrition?! Oh, yes! Peel your carrots? Old grocery store carrots may have bitter skins, but not likely straight from the ground from your organic garden! Clean is better and keep the skin! Or pare and give the skins to your compost! But here is where ORGANIC counts! Organic produce isn’t sprayed with pesticides that collect in the skin, the plant’s natural filter against foreign bodies – probably why non organic carrot skins are bitter…. “Organic Authority” magazine reports that carrots contain a high degree of phytonutrients, many of which are found in the skin or immediately beneath it. Consuming phytonutrients leads to a number of health benefits, including lessening your risk of cancer and boosting your immune response. The benefit carrots have always been known for is their high beta carotene content, which improves eye and skin health and also boosts your immune system.

If you must ‘peel,’ here is a tip from kc girl online: I use one of those white scouring cloths used for non-stick pans (instead of the brush). Hold it in your palm, wrap it around the carrot, and run it up and down with a little twisting action while under running water. It kind of “sands” the carrot and takes off just a little of the skin.

Purple Carrots! The ORIGINAL wild carrot was white or purple! The domestic carrot we eat today has been bred for size, a less woody core and sweetness! Purple carrots have even more beta carotene (good vision) than their orange cousins! Like blueberries, they get their purple pigment from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect key cell components. They grab and hold harmful free radicals in the body, help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting, and are anti-inflammatory (arthritis). So, they are cheaper than blueberries, higher in beta carotene, and you can grow them just about anywhere!

Safety note! Carrots are generally very sweet. If you have diabetes or are at risk for developing the condition, read this info from the UK World Carrot Museum!

Carrots are one of the ten most economically important vegetables crops in the world, China, Russia and the US producing the most. California produces over 85 percent of all car­rots grown in the United States, Kern County the most. That has probably changed with the drought…. However, the week long Holtville CA Annual Carrot Festival was good to go in 2016, and the 73rd Carrot Festival and Street Fair is coming January 31 – February 9, 2020!

Carrots have true Fans!  There are carrot events worldwide!

Mazel tov! To your very excellent health!

Carrot Juice! Mazel tov!

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Updated 9.27.19


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

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Tomato flowers - Pest & Disease Free, Well Fed Veggies!

Feeding your plants for continued sassy growth and production makes sense, sure, as they use up soil nutrients.  And we think a healthy plant resists pests and diseases.  That may be true for diseases, but not necessarily so for pests!  They love a healthy plant, just like we do!

Most gardeners think of putting food on or in the ground for their plants, but in some instances, plants actually have more uptake through their leaves!  There is tons more surface, especially if you spray under the leaves as well as wetting them down.  Uptake is faster and more intense.  So foliar feeding and treating is best!

  • All kinds of teas are great – manure, worm, compost, fish emulsion/kelp mix
  • Epsom Salts for Solanaceae – peppers especially, but also tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillo, eggplant, chayote!  Tablespoon/gallon.

Pest prevention and strong bodies begins when your plant is a baby!  When you put those transplants in, that’s when their care needs to start.  You can apply Powdered Milk, Baking soda and Aspirin together.

  • Powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts their immune systems.  Use especially on your young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant.  1/4 Cup/gallon.
  • Baking Soda makes the leaves alkaline and inhibits fungal spores!  Apply every 5 to 10 days, or after significant rains, as the plant grows, because these new plant tissues are not yet protected by your fungicide.  A heaping Tablespoon/gallon, with a 1/2 Teaspoon of a surfactant – insecticidal or dish soap or salad oil, does the job.
  • Salicylic acid, in aspirin, triggers a defense response in tomatoes and other plants as well, and stimulates growth!  One regular strength dissolved/gallon.
  • Hydrogen peroxide (from your drug store) adds Oxygen. Oxygen allows even more uptake of nutrients! It is speculated your plants will then need only a half to a third of other regular fertilizers you use! Your plants will be healthier, stronger, last longer, look great!  Spray it right on the roots when you transplant, and spray the planting hole.  Wet them good.  Katrina Savell says:  Many disease causing organisms, pests, algae, fungus and spores are killed by oxygen, which is why the additional oxygen in H2O2 is so handy in the garden.  Important details

One step earlier, you can start with your seeds, presoaking, presprouting!  From the web:

  • OKRA is one hard seed!!!!   I presoak my okra seed in 1 pint of warm water containing 1 tablespoon of household bleach to pre-soften the seed for 24 hours before planting.  [Some soak them 48 hours!]
  • I would never use bleach in the soaking solution. If you are worried about contamination, try soaking in chamomile tea or 3% hydrogen peroxide instead. If the seed is purchased, I wouldn’t bother.
  • Hydrogen peroxide, both in soak and rinse solutions:  1 oz. of  3% H²O² to 1 pint of water.  Sprouts come up faster.  Some people have reported 3/4″ sprouts in 24 hours.  Last year I soaked my bean seeds in a kelp solution before planting and they sprouted in about 2 days.  [Caution – bean seeds need very little soaking or laying in dampened paper towels.  They decompose quickly.]

You can see the contrasts of thinking.  Find your own way that you enjoy.  And, of course, seeds vary, so you might use one soaking/presprouting technique for one, and something else for another.  See more

Dramm Watering Can - Long Reach, Turnable Rose

To make your work easier, have a watering can that does the job.  A long spout with a rose that turns up so you can get under the leaves is perfect!  These Dramm cans are the best for the price, under $20!  Big accessible opening to easily add ingredients to your mix.  And they come in colors to suit your happiness!  Yes!

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Starting Seedlings is just plain fun!The general rule is to start seedlings 6 weeks before the last time frost is likely. In Santa Barbara the average Last Frost (spring) date is January 22, First Frost (fall) date is December 19. With planetary weather pattern changes those dates may be different now.

Plants have different needs for ground and air temps. Planting Chart  Check to be sure you aren’t starting your seedlings too soon or too late! It’s always a dance trying to beat the timing, get veggies sooner. But there is a cost if you are wrong, though it might not be more than a quick trip to the nursery. But. If you are growing plants the nursery doesn’t carry, you might want to plant more than one round of seedlings. Plant a batch, wait a week or two, then plant another batch.

Get the best! All America Selections are truly winners. Get disease resistant, slow bolting, heat/cold tolerant per season, seeds with the proper day length! If you want to harvest seeds from your best plants, for next year’s sowing or to donate to a seedbank, pick seeds that produce plants that will produce viable seeds.

There are two schools of thought on SEED SOAKING.

1. When seeds take up water too quickly, their outer coverings cracks. This allows nutrients to leak out, and disease organisms to enter. Beans are especially prone to this problem.

2. Seed soaking is the cat’s meow! Properly soaked seeds germinate so much faster! If you let them sprout, you plant only those, for ‘100%’ germination, no empty spots in the row!

If you decide to soak seeds, use the solution that appeals to you. Scope out the correct length of time to soak per the kind of plant seed it is. Beans are not even an overnight soaker. And soaking may not be your choice. Wet paper towels kept damp with a sprayer are easy. If you do it that way, you can check for sprouting if you decide to take it that far. Seed Soaking details!

Once you start the process, you can’t let the seeds dry out. That is the same as death. The process of germination stops. Period.

If you don’t want to do any soaking, fine!

If you are starting your seedlings indoors or in the greenhouse, just pick out a good potting soil medium at your favorite nursery. Plop some into your container that has drainage holes or slits. That can be a six pack from plants you got at the nursery, a repurposed cottage cheese or yogurt container, homemade rolled up newspaper containers your kids made, whatever makes you happy. Just be sure it is disease free. Carefully plant your seeds per the instructions on the seed packet, not too deep, ok? For better germination, spray aspirin on your seeds before planting! Not quite done – label with your planting date and what each is!

Since potting mix doesn’t have nutrients, when the seedlings get up and the first two true leaves, after the cotyledons, have formed, start them on a very light half strength fish emulsion feed once a week, the first three to four weeks. Then give full strength every week, or two.. This liquid nutrient is easy for them to take up.

Damping off tips! Give your seedlings good air circulation, cool temperatures, ample sunlight, and good drainage. There are various symptoms that show signs of damping off fungus. There can be stem lesions at ground level, stems may become thin and tough (‘wire-stem’), leaf spotting, grey mold growth on stems and leaves, roots may rot, or the little one just becomes a stump. So sad when they had just been doing so well. Make a strong chamomile tea by steeping three teaspoons in six cups of boiling water until it cools. Water the seedlings with this tea for two or three times in place of plain water until all signs of damping-off have vanished. Good luck.

Again, follow the seed packet instructions, and get your babies into the ground as soon as you can. The ground has so many nutritional advantages, and your little guys will love the sunshine! Hardening off your seedlings is a process to prepare your seedlings to go out into the world! Put them out in the warmest shady area a few days, then in the sun a few days. Then go to, oh boy, out all night too a few days! Then they are ready for the ground. Don’t forget to sprinkle some mycorrhizal fungi ON the roots when you transplant. Be sure your babies are safe from slugs and snails, bird predators, animals digging them up, and your dog’s waggy tail!

If you are planting directly in the ground, be sure ground and air temps are warm enough per each plant. Some plants do better with direct planting, don’t transplant well. Establish pathways, mark out and protect the seedbed so you, your children, pets, don’t step on the planted area, damaging seedlings just coming up, or compress the soil, push your seeds too deep.

When I plant seed or transplant, I lay down Sluggo or the cheaper store brand equivalent, none of the pellets touching the plant. If you don’t, it may appear that your seeds never sprouted, or if you transplant, there may be no plant there the next morning. If you have birds that pull up your seedlings, cover the seedlings with bell jars or netting. If you use bell jars, leave the tops off, or religiously remove the jars during the heat of the day. When it’s cold, they can give your plants a greenhouse effect and grow faster, but if it’s hot…. Always plant a few extra plants for possible losses to the Universe, and to giveaway if you are so inspired!

Be gentle with all seedlings: handle the little plants by their root clumps or leaves rather than stems, and never squeeze them tightly. They will grow new leaves and roots, but can’t develop new stems.

Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden? ~Robert Brault Whether stretching your gardening dollars or watching the precious miracle of life unfolding, starting seedlings is a truly satisfying adventure! Plus, they’re cute!

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