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4th July US Flag Woman Garden Seeds Independence

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.  –  Henry David Thoreau

Important Habitat!

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Let a carrot or two, a celery, and some cilantro bloom out! The blooms will be food for and bring beneficial insect pollinators. Birds will have seeds for food and scour your plants for juicy cabbage worms, whiteflies, aphids, earwigs, grasshoppers, cucumber beetles and grubs fresh for their hatchlings! Chickadees even eat ants!

Planting!

Some planting is always doable in July, and very last rounds of summer favorites! Transplant basil, celery, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, leeks, summer 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 seen tomato transplants and bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops into October!

Fall transplants need babying! 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 unless you have Bagrada Bugs.

At the end of the month, sow carrots (they do best from seed), celery and, if no Bagrada Bugs, Brassicas. If you have the Bugs, wait until it cools in October. Brassicas are arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, pac choi, radish, rutabaga, turnip. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time.

Harvest and Storage Tips!

Pluck those tasty veggies when they mature.

String Beans Harvest just about daily. If they bulge with seeds and start to dry, your plant thinks it’s done and stops producing. Pick, pick, pick!
Corn When the silks turn brown and you push your fingernail in a kernel and it squirts milky juice, it’s ready! It holds its sweetness only 2 to 5 days! Harvest early in the day, make time to your fridge or the barbie because the sugars turn to starch very quickly!
Cucumbers – no storing on the vine. Your plant thinks it’s done. Cut, clip or carefully twist off while carefully holding the vine.
Melons Harvest sooner by placing ripening melons on upside down aluminum pie pans or cans to keep them off the damp soil. The reflected heat and light will help them ripen evenly and sooner than when they are shaded by foliage.
Okra! If your summer has been hot enough you got some! It must be harvested before it gets tough. Letting it get bigger simply doesn’t pay. So look carefully for mature fruits and take ’em! I grow the burgundy and ruby types, slice them fresh over my salads. Pretty little stars. 
Peppers
– depends on the pepper. Let them stay on the plant if you planted ones for pretty colors. Cut or clip them off so not to damage your plant. Quick-freeze ones you won’t be using right away! Slice, dice, and freeze in baggies in the amounts you anticipate using in a stir fry or stew.
Potatoes are ready for digging when the plant flowers. Wet up the soil and dig about for the biggest ones, leaving the others to get sizable for another later harvest.
Tomatoes when they are the color you chose. Bend cherry toms back so you get the cap and stem. This keeps them from splitting open. O’ course, if they split, you absolutely must eat them on the spot so they don’t spoil! No problem freezing toms whole! Just remove the stem core. You can blanch them and remove the skins first, or not…your choice.
Zucchini  Harvest in self defense! They get BIG, FAST! Some of you came from big families and like baking them and would never think of harvesting them until they are huge, lotsa bang for your buck! Others have a family of 1, can’t possibly eat all that zuke, so harvest them quite small, fresh salad slicing size. The ridged types make pretty little star shaped slices!

Strawberries are a little different. Quickly as possible, store fresh picked berries in a container lined with a paper towel in the coldest part of your fridge. They will last about a week, but it’s more fun to eat them sooner!

If you don’t need or want any strawberry runner babies, pinch off the runners so your plant’s energy goes to fruiting. If you want to start a new November bed, let the runners grow now to the size you want, put pots nearby, anchor the runner in place, let them root in the pot, container. When they are doing well on their own, clip the connection to the Mother plant. The babies nearest the Mother are the strongest. Clip off the ones further away. Start your new bed with them or give them away.

Your SECOND HARVEST is SEEDS! As July goes on or in August, when you or your plant are ready, let your very best plants produce but don’t harvest the fruits. Beans get lumpy with seeds and will dry completely. Let them dry on the vine for full nutrition from the mother plant. Let a cucumber yellow and dry. Let the corn cob dry and the kernels get hard. Cukes, peppers, melons, okra and squash are easy. Just remove the seeds and let them dry. Uh, do label the drying trays! Tomatoes are a tiny bit of a process but not hard at all. See more!

Save enough seeds for your own planting, for several rounds of planting across the next season, for replanting when there are losses, and some to give away or share at a seed swap. Keep the race going.

Keep up with Sidedressing and Watering

Compost and worm castings are important for more than as soil builders. Compost has super water holding capacity, and as some of us get tired toward the end of summer, and it is hotter, our soil needs compost more than ever, especially if you want to extend production time.

Worm castings help our plants uptake soil nutrients and boost your plant’s immune system. When your plant is taxed producing fruit in great summer conditions, it also is peaking out for the season and fighting pests and diseases are harder for it. And, sometimes a plant is just done. No amount of coaxing will have effect. It worked hard. Thank it and take it to the compost altar.

Manures are great for all but beans, beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or there’ll be more foliage than fruit!
Give your peppers and solanaceaes, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, Epsom Salt/Magnesium treatments.
Every couple of weeks your strawberries would love a light fish emulsion/kelp drench.

Don’t be fooled by Temporary High Temps! Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, stop flowering and fruiting when temps rise above 85 to 90 degrees F (depending on humidity) for an extended time. Humidity causes pollen to stick and not fall to pollinate. Dry heat causes the pollen to fall and not stick! When weather cools, you will have blooms again and be back in production. Rattlesnake beans, on the other hand, keep right on producing at 100 degree temps! So choose heat tolerant veggie varieties, like Heatmaster and Solar Fire tomatoes, from locales with hot weather. They are out there!

Wise Watering  Keep up with even watering so fruits have their right shapes. Though June has the longest days of summer, July through September can be the hottest in SoCal. Be aware if you are overwatering. Plants vary in their needs and as temps vary. You can save 20 to 30% and have healthier plants!

Water being critical due to the drought, needs to be thoughtfully managed, just like for our lawns and landscapes. To mimic the Santa Barbara Stage 3 Drought Regs, see if you can apply these ideas to your garden. For example, build berms to keep water exactly where it does the most good. Berms need to go to the dripline of your plant so tiny feeder roots can fully supply your plant with water and nutrients as it needs.

  • Routinely check your irrigation system if you have one.
  • Hoses must be equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle when in use. We can do that by using water wands with easy-to-use thumb valve shutoffs.
  • Irrigation with potable water is prohibited between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. for automatic systems. If manually operated, such irrigation is prohibited between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Irrigation with potable water that causes runoff onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or parking structures is prohibited.
  • Any excessive, unnecessary or unwarranted use of water is prohibited.
  • All leaks must be repaired as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Irrigation during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall is prohibited.

If you garden at home, please look into water capture and gray water systems, super attractive bioswale catchments. In Santa Barbara County there are rebates available! Do it now to be ready for winter rain. Also there are FREE landscape workshops! And we have FREE water system checkups. Call (805) 564-5460 to schedule today! Just in June 23 in LA, Elmer Ave retrofit!

Fall Soil Preparation & Planting

Make compost with your finishing summer plants that are pest and disease free. Recycle that green gold! Make mini layers with that and veggie kitchen scraps that you and your friends save for you alternated with dry brown layers of straw or dried leaves. 1/2″ layers are the very best, 1″ layers are fine too. It goes one part wet/green to two parts dry/brown. The thinner the layers the faster your pile decomposes.

Soil Prep As your summer plants finish, spaces become available for fall planting prep. Amend your soil with what is needed for what you will plant there. Unless there are Bagrada Bugs, mulch the soil to protect what you have created, keep it moist. Remove mulch if Bagrada Bugs appear. They lay eggs in the soil and mulched soil is lovely safe habitat for them. Unless you have seen them in action, I can’t impress on you how quickly prolific they are.

Container and raised bed gardeners remove spent soil. Toss it out or use it as mulch somewhere else. Replace it and add tasty amendments – compost, manures, worm castings – for late summer and lusty fall plantings. The water warmer raised beds need washes nutrients away. How many times have you seen sunken dried up raised beds with only straggly plants remaining? If you decide to have a raised bed, you need to make the commitment. They are isolated from the natural daily goings on in ground level soil, so you have to help them. Ground level soils need amending, sometimes replacing, but much less than raised beds and containers.

Starting a Nursery Patch  It’s time to get seeds if you don’t already have them! While there is little space for big winter plants, small nursery patches can be planted. Leave enough room between seedlings so you can get your trowel in to lift them out to transplant later when space becomes available! If seeds and nurseries aren’t your thing, wait until your local nursery starts having the transplants that make you happy! August they might start trickling in. Labor Day weekend is a favorite planting time for some gardeners. October is just fine too!

Clean up funky pest habitat that the little buggers can overwinter in or while it is still hot they will multiply in.

July is a month to keep all your balls in the air! Planting, harvesting, caretaking, preparations! The payoff will be delicious harvests, and the promise of winter crops starting early in the season. Remember to leave space for second and third rounds for steady table supply. Plant quickly maturing veggies like lettuces and beets to have production in those waiting spaces until you are ready to plant those later rounds.

Think on when you want those October pumpkins and what you want on your table for ThanksGiving, maybe sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie! And at Christmas time, maybe a sauce over some of those delicious frozen beans or some fresh butterhead lettuce salad topped with cranberries. Plan for it!

May your table be bountiful and your Spirit radiant with exceptional health!

See the entire July GBC Newsletter! How to make super compost, Zucchini Fritters, and info about the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA!


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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In Santa Barbara area, today, this weekend, is the time to plant your bareroot strawberries you have had chilling in the fridge! If you just can’t do it now, do it before the 10th at the latest!  If you miss this window, wait until next spring, then plant transplants.

8 medium-sized strawberries contain 140% of the U.S. RDA for Vitamin C.  Bet our fresh organic ones have more!

Here is what some people think about bare root:  Bare root in simple terms, means a savings to the consumer of 40 to 60 percent, and in many cases a more vigorous specimen. With bare root planting, roots grow directly into native soil – the same soil they will remain in during the plant’s life-span. Hence, no transition, and no dissimilar soils. Containerized soil is sometimes too adverse for its to-be-planted environment. Roots may refuse to absorb moisture from surrounding soil. These adversities can cause death or slow root growth.  And they don’t use a plastic container.

However, most of the commercial literature online leans toward planting from ‘plugs.’  Advantages of plugs:  not exposed to plant pathogens, earlier fruits, need less water to get started, it’s not critical to get your plants in the ground the same day or ASAP.

It’s best to buy varieties that are known to do well here locally.  Our local nurseries carry those.  Planting time is critical. Studies by UC Ag Extension paid for by growers, have proved that berries planted between Nov 1 to 10 get winter chill at the precise moment in their growing schedule to trigger fruit  production rather than foliage.  When planted at the wrong time, they put out runners but little if any fruit.  Our local (Santa Barbara) growers plant Nov 1 – 5.  If that changes due to weather patterns, plant when they plant.

3 Types of Strawberries

Deciding on whether to plant June Bearing, Everbearing, or Day Neutral strawberries depends on your available space, size of preferred strawberries and how much work you want to put into the strawberries.

  • Everbearing (spring, summer, fall) and Day Neutral (unaffected by day length and will fruit whenever temperatures are high enough to maintain growth) are sweet. They will not need much space and both are great for plant hangers. If you choose to plant them in the garden, be prepared to spend time weeding and fertilizing the plants.  Everbearing:   Sequoia, medium, heavy producer   Day Neutral/Everbearing:  Seascape, large
  • June Bearing, mid June, strawberries produce a nice, large and sweet berry. Because they only produce for 2 to 3 weeks, there is not so much work to take care of them. You do, however, need space because of the many runners they produce.  They are classified into early, mid-season and late varieties.  Chandler, large, high yield, large quantities of small fruit later in season.  Short day, Camarosa is large. It can be picked when fully red though it isn’t ripe yet – good for commercial shipping, and still have a ‘long shelf life.’ This variety represents almost half of California’s current commercial acreage.  Short day, Oso Grande is a firm, large berry, with a steadier production period than Chandler.

Do not plant strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant have been grown in the past four years, because these crops carry the root rot fungus Verticillium which also attacks strawberries.

Pine needles are perfect mulch for strawberries, since they like their soil slightly acidic.  The short needle type is easier to place among your plants if you didn’t lay it on before you planted.

Though strawberries like well manured and composted soil, no overfeeding!  You will get magnificent leaves, lots of runners, less or no fruit.  If you unknowingly make that mistake, water like crazy, maybe a good 45 minutes, 2, 3 times over the period of a week.  Rain and watering leach Nitrogen from the soil.

It is said to get the most berries, remove the flowers the first year, letting the plants get established.  The second year plants produce the most, third year production tapers off.  I don’t know anyone who removes the first year flowers!  It is just too tempting to simply eat the berries!   Commercial growers replace their plants each year.

And how many seeds does the average strawberry have?  200!  And can you plant them?  You betcha!  Strawberries are kinda like natural seedballs.  The easiest way to plant them is to just throw the bug-eaten or overripe ones where you think you would like a plant to grow and let them lay right there on the ground.  Nature takes over.  One day when you have forgotten all about it, there’s a strawberry plant!

Next week:  Herbs and Your Winter Veggies

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Sunflowers at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA

The Next Three Months….

August is keeping your soil water absorbent, sidedressing, harvesting, plant a last round of summer favorites, start cool-season seedlings, time to preserve your abundance for winter eating, to take stock and make notes for next year’s summer planting!

September is exciting because it is the first month to plant fall veggies!  Do your final harvesting, preserving, clean up, chop and compost, and plant on Labor Day weekend!

October is considered by many to be the best planting month of the year!!  Time to take up strawberry daughters (runners) for November planting, clean up to break pest and disease cycles, plant your winter veggies, plant more veggies if you started in September!

…but specially in August:

Plant another round of your summer favs if you want, but keep in mind that Sep/Oct are the best fall planting months, so check those dates to maturity!  The sooner you start your winter plants, the faster start they have, the sooner you have winter veggies.  Things get slower as it gets cooler, so a head start makes sense.  And, heat lovers started now will have a shorter harvest period.  Just saying.

Watering:  Keep your veggies well watered, daily on extra hot days.  Seedlings may need water 2 to 3 times a day!  Keep strawberries moist or they will stop producing.  It tomatoes dry out, they drop their blossoms.  Water short rooted plants, beans, lettuces, cukes, more frequently.  They like lots of water, steady water! 

Mulch short rooted plants, beans, cukes, lettuces and strawberries, and deeper rooted chard, to keep them cool and moist.  More about summer mulching.

Feeding:  Get out your fish emulsion, get some manures, and feed your plants!  Foliar feed with compost, manure, worm casting tea.  Epsom salts your peppers.  Seabird guano (NOT bat guano) keeps plants flowering and producing!  See about aspirin in my upcoming 8.11.11 post!

Harvest like crazy!  Be thorough to keep your crop coming, and be gentle to keep your plants undamaged so they aren’t open to pests and diseases.  Be specially careful around your trellised or caged cuke’s brittle leaves.  You can hear them snap if you push against them too much or accidentally back into them.

Save seeds from your very best plants!

Pests and Diseases:  Stay with your prevention programs, and clear away debris, spent or unhealthy plants.  Mini tip:  Keep a 5 gal bucket, or wheel barrow, near you to collect debris as you work.

Prep your fall beds!

  • Start making compost for fall planting.  Chop into small pieces for faster decomposition.
  • Set safe spots aside for seedling nurseries.
  • Install gopher wire barriers in your new planting beds, redo an old bed.
  • Incorporate manures, worm castings, and already-made compost into your soil.
  • Top with mulch, maybe straw mixed with nitrogen rich alfalfa, to keep feeding your soil and keep the under layer moist.

Get the best varieties of seeds for starts now for Sep/Oct planting, or to put in the ground then!

Let strawberry runners grow now.

Enjoy your harvests!  Preserve or Give Away your bounty!

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Strawberry Tips for Tasty Super Berries!

  • Strawberries are in the Rose family.
  • The average berry has 200 seeds, the only fruit whose seeds are on its exterior surface!  The seeds are really the fruit!
  • Usually grown from runner daughters, they will grow from seed.  Just throw down caps you bit the berry from.  Sooner or later, you will have a plant you didn’t ‘plant.’  Strawberry seed saving is simple.
  • Eight out of 10 strawberries grown in the U.S. are grown in California!
  • Strawberries came in second to blueberries in the USDA’s analysis of antioxidant capacity of 40 fruits and vegetables. They are also rich in dietary fiber and manganese, and contain more vitamin C than any other berry.

Image courtesy of StrawberryPlants.org

When do I plant strawberries?  Not now, NOVEMBER 1 to 10!  Yes, it’s that specific for winter chill at the perfect time!  They start producing runners now, but cut them off until early July!  Then let them grow, and cut off the new baby plants mid October for November planting.  Or, just let them grow to fill spots where, for one reason or another, a plant has gone missing, needs replacing, and/or another could fit in.  When those needs are taken care of, cut off the rest of the runners.  These runner plant babies will grow so fast you will be getting berries from them late summer and fall if you have everbearers/day neutral types!!

My plant isn’t producing….  

Variety
 – If it is an everbearer, day neutral, variety it will produce almost all year.  June/spring bearers put out a prolific batch in June, then it’s over.  No amount of care or feeding is going to make that plant have berries after June.  Sorry.  Best to get the varieties your local nursery carries.  Or talk with them about special ordering well in advance, so they can get the ones you want.
Temps – cold weather slows down pollinators.
Shaded – believe me, strawberries like all-day sun!  If you are going to tuck them in among other plants, be sure to put them on the sunny side!
Hungry – think about it!  A strawberry plant is often pumping out several berries at a time!  They are using up soil nutrition, so feed them!  Try a light solution of fish emulsion/kelp every other week over some sprinkled seabird guano or a well aged manure.  Give your strawberries a little fertilizer in the 0-10-10 proportions; that’s lots of phosphorus and potassium for strong roots and uptake of nutrients, blooms and fruits!
Water – don’t let them dry out, they will stop producing.  This month they tend to grow more leaves, send out runners.  Clip off the runners for now, so they don’t take your plant’s energy away from producing berries, unless you want more plants right away.
Mulching is good.  They love pine needle mulch, if you have some about, because they prefer slightly acidic soil.  Drape your berries over pine cones to keep them off the ground, out of the slug zone.
Age – First year plants and 3rd year plants don’t produce as well.

My berries are really tiny! 
Strawberry varieties vary from mammoth chocolatiers, to midget but mighty tasty alpines.  If it isn’t a variety issue, it may be diseased.  See below please.

Misshapen berries or split in two sections with a hole in the center 
Irregular watering  Your berry grows fast when it has water, then is restricted when it doesn’t….
Western Tarnished Plant Bugs,
feed on the flowers and developing surface seeds that stimulate growth causing misshapen berries, hard clusters of yellow seeds on the tip of the fruit.  Clean up debris.  Once you see this, you are too late to prevent it any further.  Bummer.  UC Davis IPM Integrated Pest Management on Lygus Hesperus.  Image of typical cat-faced berries.
Pollination Strawberry flowers are usually open and attractive to bees only a day or less.  Temperatures below 60F, low night temperatures, & high humidity result in inadequate pollination, low yields of small or misshapen fruit.  Strawberries require multiple pollination for perfect fruit formation. Generally, as the number of pollinator visits increases, there will be an increase in fruit set, number of seed per fruit, fruit shape, and fruit weight.  ABOUT BEES:  per NCSU ‘Bees rarely fly when the temperature is below 55°F. Flights seldom intensify until the temperature reaches 70°F. Wind speed beyond 15 miles per hour seriously slows bee activity. Cool, cloudy weather and threatening storms greatly reduce bee flights. In poor weather, bees foraging at more distant locations will remain in the hive, and only those that have been foraging nearby will be active.  Pumpkin, squash, and watermelon flowers normally open around daybreak and close by noon; whereas, cucumbers, strawberries, and muskmelons generally remain open the entire day.’  So if the weather isn’t right THE DAY OR MORNING your flower opens…..

Whole plant has yellow leaves.  The most common cause is nutrient deficiencies due to overwatering.  Overwatering causes poor root growth making it difficult to move enough water to the leaves during hot weather.  Lay back on watering; give your babies some Nitrogen –fish emulsion/kelp.

Strawberry Pests
Pecked   If birds are pecking your berries, put bird netting or a wire dome over them.

Rebecca & David Barker, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Plot 41, staked the chicken wire in place, push it up to harvest, down to just the right height when done!

Holes in them, Chewed  Silvery slime trails are the giveaway!  Use the pine cones to drape your berries over to keep them off the ground.  Put down some Sluggo or the like, to kill off night-time nibblers, slugs, snails.  Harvest regularly before the berry gets soft and smelly, just before the buglets are attracted!  Those little black pointy worms?  I’m trying to find out what they are.  If you know, let me know, ok?!
Uprooted  Sad to say, that sounds like ‘possums, raccoon, or skunk.  They are looking for your earth worms or grubs.  Just like bunnies, these critters won’t jump a low barrier.  They just go around it.  So install a foot tall perimeter of wire pieces, black plastic plant flats, old trellis parts, whatever you have around, or go get something that looks good to you so you will be happy.  Relocating the critters is a good choice because, they do have children, that have children, that…

Strawberry Diseases  StrawberryPlants.org for full list of diseases.  Here’s a link to the 3 Most common leaf diseases with images.

Angular Leaf Spot – exactly that.  Spotted leaves.  A cosmetic problem until it isn’t.  Your plant will produce, but it won’t thrive.  Spread by water, harvest before you water, water under the leaves, remove badly spotted leaves, don’t use them as mulch, wash your hands before going on to another plant.
Strawberry Blight – the fungus is often confused with angular leaf spot, overwinters in old leaves, remove them.  Remove old leaves from runner plants before setting.  All day sun, well-drained soil, in an area with circulation, equals less fungus.  For good air circulation, plant far enough apart, remove weeds, remove, replant and/or give away runner baby sets.  Plant resistant varieties for your area of your state.  Discussion of SoCal varieties.  When you buy new plants be sure they are certified from a disease-free nursery.  If you use a fungicide, spray the underside of leaves as well as the tops.

Successful SoCal varieties!

Chandler is the most widely commercially grown strawberry in California.  High yield, early producer, large southern berry.  It’s a June bearer, so if you want year round supply, this is not your berry.
Seascape is an ever-bearing, big day neutral, all year strawberry, harvests are more abundant in late spring. High yield, resistant to most diseases except leaf spot.  Reliable producer in fall, performs well in hot, dry climates.  Berry is bright red inside and out!
Oso Grande Another June bearer, high yield big berry, good in warm climates.

Eat your red  plump strawberries!  Fresh from your garden, strawberry Sundae, strawberry sauce, strawberry pie, cake, bread, strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, yoghurt, cream cheese, cheesecake, strawberry shake, chocolate dipped, strawberry lemonade, strawberry Syrah, and, as always, the traditional, Strawberry Shortcake!! 

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Strawberry!

It’s Mid October, just the right time, so I am posting this reminder!

Strawberry Runners!  Mid Oct cut off runners, gently dig up if they have rooted, shake the soil off.  Clip all but two or three leaves off, tie ‘em together in loose bunches. Plastic bag them and put in the back of your fridge for 20 days.  Plant them Nov 5 to 10! 

Prechilling your plants makes them think they had a cold winter.  When days get longer and warmer, they will produce fruit, not as much vegetative growth.  You can then either keep your plants that produced this year, or remove and compost them, start fresh with new plants!  Online you will read to pluck the flowers from first year plants, letting them get well established, then getting a great 2nd year crop.  Commercial growers plant new plants every year and harvest those first year plants. 

Can you plant strawberries from seed?  Sure!  When I eat strawberries at the garden, I leave a little flesh on my strawberry tops, toss them into a dampish spot in the garden.  When the birds or bugs have gotten to one too much for me to eat, or I missed it under leaves, and it is too past its prime, I push back the soil right at the surface, pop the strawberry in, leaving the top of it just barely covered.  Just like planting tiny lettuce seeds, just barely covered.  The decaying fruit is a perfect medium for growth!   Here and there, later on, I find new plants starting that didn’t come from runners!  The more deliberate way of doing this might be to take a package of strawberries you didn’t eat in time, slice ’em, if they are still sliceable, and plant them. 

Or, just buy a pack of seeds at the nursery and go for it, September and April being the best times of year to plant them!  First, put them in the fridge or freezer for 2 weeks.  This will improve the percentage of seeds that will germinate, when you plant them. Freezing stimulates the natural process of the seed going through the winter months and will help jump start the strawberry seeds when you plant them.  Since the seeds are tiny, and sprouts will be very tiny, be sure to mark off that area so you will water very gently there, with your sprinkler can, so you don’t wash them away.  No flooding, ok?  Just keep them moist.

How many seeds are on the average strawberry?  200!  Save your own!  J Smith says:  ‘Looking at a strawberry, you can see on average about 200 “seeds” per strawberry, which sit in its skin around the outside. To a botanist, however, these are not seeds but tiny individual fruits. Still, the strawberry is not considered to be a true berry because it does not have its seeds on the inside, like other berries do.’

Transplants are easier and more sure; seeds are less expensive.  Either way, happy eating – strawberries are low in calories, high in Vitamin C!

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Happy October, Month of Magic!

The next months…so you can plan ahead!       

October  Transplants of all fall crops, but specially of cabbages and artichokes.  Cut Strawberry runners off to chill for Nov planting.
November  Seeds of onions for slicing.  Wildflowers from seed (don’t let the bed dry out).  Strawberries in no later than Nov 5.  More transplants of winter veggies.
December is winter’s June!  Crops are starting to come in, it’s maintenance time!      

My campaign this fall is for garden cleanup, and turning the soil to expose the fungi that affects our tomatoes, and other plants, so the fungi dries and dies!     

Purple Broccoli, Bright Lights Chard, Cauliflower, Yellow Mangetout Snow Peas, Radishes or Beets of all colors, ‘Licous Red Lettuces!

This is Southern California’s second Spring!  Time to plant your winter garden, all the Brassicas, that’s, cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kales, plus celery, chard and peas, peas, peas!  All kinds!  And what I call the ‘littles,’ the veggies you plant all year, beets, bunch onions (the ones that don’t bulb), carrots (bonemeal yes, fresh manure no), radish, spinach, arugula, and, especially, all kinds of lettuces!   Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays!  Start making holiday gifts, herbal wreaths, powdered herbs, pretty vinegars and oils, shampoos, soaps, or candles!      

Winter weather?  Bring it on!  Starting to cool down now!  Your plants will grow fast then start to slow down.  Less weeds and insects.  Aphids & White Flies are a winter crop problem (see below please).  Some people prefer the cool slower pace of winter gardening to the more phrenetic hot summer labor and work of big harvests, distribution, storage.  Harvesting cold hardy vegetables after they have been hit with a touch of frost can enhance the flavor and increase the sweetness of greens such as kale and collards.     

Extend the crop! Cut and come again!  Harvest your big greens – kale and collards, and lettuces leaf by leaf rather than cutting your plant down.  Many lettuces will ‘come back’ even if you cut them off an inch or two above ground.  Leave the stalk in the ground, see what happens!  Rather than pulling your bunch/table onions, cut them off about an inch to 2 inches above the ground.  They will come back 3 to 4 times.  Leave a potato in the ground to make more potatoes.  After you cut the main broccoli head off, let the side sprouts grow and snip them for your salads or steam them.  Cabbages?  Cut off right below the head, then let them resprout, forming several smaller heads at the leaf axils.     

Gather your last lingering seeds midday on a sunny dry day.  Dry a few seeds from your favorite tomatoes!  Sidedress continuing and producing plants.  Then cleanup!  Remove funky habitat for overwintering insect pests, fungi.       

Build wire bottomed raised beds for gopher protection.  For very useful information, please see University of California, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Pocket Gophers.     

Prepare your soil!      

  • If you are a new gardener at Pilgrim Terrace, ask other gardeners, or the previous person who had your plot, how the soil  was tended.  Some plots may need no amending, others may need a lot.  Add compost, manures, seaweeds, worm castings as needed.  Some people do the whole garden at once, others conserve valuable materials by preparing only where they will specifically plant, for example, a large plant like a broc.  If it is a lettuce bed that you will do repeated plantings in, you might opt to do the whole bed at once.
  • Since mulch keeps the soil cool, some people pull it to the side in winter, to let the sun heat the soil on cool days.
  • Simple soil test!  Test the soil by putting a drop of vinegar in a teaspoon or so. If it fizzes, it’s too alkaline. Then test it by putting in baking soda mixed with a little water. If it fizzes, it’s too acidic.

Garden Design       

  • In addition to planting your veggies, plan ahead to plant flowers, to always have some in bloom, to attract pollinators.  Borage is a lovely plant, blooms all year, has purple blue star flowers that are edible and good for you!  Toss a few on top of your salads!
  • Make habitat!  Plants for beneficial insects, poles for birds, rocks for lizards! 
  • Plant tall in the North, the mountain end of our plots; plant shorties in the South.  This is especially important in our winter gardens because of the low sun long shadows.
  • Give your big plants plenty of room to become big; plant fillers and littles (beets, bunch onions – the ones that don’t bulb, carrots, radish, spinach, arugula, lettuces) on their sunny south sides!
  • Put plants that like the same amount of water together (hydrozoning). 
  • Put plants together that will be used in the same way, for example, salad plants like lettuces, bunch onions, celery, cilantro.
  • Biodiversity.  Planting the same kind of plant in different places throughout your garden.  It can be more effective that row cropping or putting all of one plant in one place, where if disease or a pest comes, you lose them all as the disease or pest spreads from one to all.
  • Layering example:  Transplant peas at the base of any beans you still have.

How to plant!       

  • This is the time to put your mycorrhiza fungi to work!  One of the great things mycorrhiza does is assist Phosphorus uptake.  Of the N-P-K on fertilizers, P is Phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop.  Sprinkle it on the roots of your transplants when you plant them!  More about mycorrhiza:  http://www.mycorrhizae.com/index.php?cid=468&    http://www.mastergardeners.org/newsletter/myco.html      Island Seed & Feed carries it.
  • Use vigorous fresh seeds, choose vibrant not-fruiting transplants that preferably aren’t root bound (having a solid mass of roots).  If the transplant is pretty big for the container, pop it out of the container to make sure it isn’t root bound.  If it is the only one there, and you still want it, can’t wait, see what John R. King, Jr (2 min video) has to say on how to rehabilitate your plant!
  • Lay down some Sluggo (See Slugs & Snails below) right away, even before seedlings sprout, when you put your transplants in, so your plant isn’t overnight snail and slug smorgasbord! 

Strawberry Runners!  Mid Oct cut off runners, gently dig up if they have rooted, shake the soil off.  Clip all but two or three leaves off, tie ‘em together in loose bunches. Plastic bag them and put in the back of your fridge for 20 days.  Plant them Nov 5 to 10!  Prechilling your plants makes them think they had a cold winter.  When days get longer and warmer, they will produce fruit, not as much vegetative growth.  You can then either keep your plants that produced this year, or remove and compost them, start fresh with new plants!     

Watering – Morning when you can because plants drink during the day, and we want them to dry so they don’t mildew!  Water underneath, especially late beans, and your new peas, who are especially susceptible to mildew.  Except for your short and shallow rooted plants, once a week and deeply is good unless there is a hot spell or rain.  Then, check ’em.  Poke a stick in the ground to see if the soil is moist under the surface.     

Happy playing in the dirt!

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First, let’s review the next months so you can plan ahead!

August  Depends on which you like most, summer crops or winter crops.  Plant more summer crops you can’t get enough of!  If you love winter crops, get a head start!  Improve your soil as plants finish, areas become available. Midmonth start cool season SEEDS – celery, Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kales, are good – or wait until September, Labor Day Weekend is perfect!   Make notes about your summer crops in your garden journal.
September  First fall planting month, Labor Day weekend or bust!  Seeds are fun, transplants produce sooner.  Plant Sweet Peas for Christmas bloom!
October  Transplants of all fall crops, but specially of cabbages and artichokes.  Cut Strawberry runners off to chill for Nov planting.
November  Seeds of onions for slicing.  Wildflowers from seed (don’t let the bed dry out).  Strawberries in no later than Nov 5.  Transplants of winter veggies.
December is winter’s June!  Crops are starting to come in, it’s maintenance time!

Eight Fun August Garden Projects!

  1. Save your very best summer seeds
  2. Re/design your fall garden layout, checking your garden notes from last winter
  3. Get seeds for winter planting
  4. Build raised beds with wire protection to prevent gopher losses
  5. Prepare your soil – add manures, compost, appropriate amendments
  6. Remove funky garden debris, compost healthy green waste
  7. Do greenhouse winter maintenance, build a greenhouse for winter production
  8. Make wonderful preserves, dehydrate, freeze, harvest seeds, make herbed oil & vinegar gifts, powdered herbs, pesto ‘ice’ cubes, dill pickles, candles, organic cosmetics!

Now through October is the special time to take stock of your accomplishments, jot journal entries of what worked well, didn’t, how much you want to plant next spring, reminders what you would like to do differently or try next year.  Enter a reminder on your calendar to review these notes, say next Feb/March, when you will be planning your 2011 summer garden, buying spring seeds, getting starts going in the greenhouse!

Plant more of faster growing summer crops you love, like beans – you will just have a shorter harvest time.  If you love winter crops, improve your soil as plants finish.  As areas become available, plant seeds midmonth, or wait until Labor Day weekend to plant!  If you don’t have enough room yet, establish a little nursery in an open area to plant celery, your Brassicas:  cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards cauliflower, kales – to later  transplant into other garden areas, or spread apart, late September and October.  Or start in containers for later transplanting.  If you don’t have the time to tend them, simply get transplants at the nursery when you want them.  However, the beauty of planting from seed is you can get the varieties you want, you can experiment with new varieties!  A seed catalog is a lovely and dangerous thing.

Plant peas at the base of your dying beans.  When you take your beans out, clip them off, leaving the roots, with the Nitrogen nodules legumes make, in the soil!  At the end of August, plant lettuces in shadier spots behind plants that will protect them during the September heat, but who will soon be done, allowing your lettuces full sun when it is cooler later on.  Remember, September can be HOT.

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