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Cilantro - persnickety, smelly and lovely!!

Cilantro is persnickety but lovely and valuable! Maybe it is even temperamental. You see, it needs everything just so. Cool weather is its favorite time to grow in SoCal!

Cilantro even tolerates a light frost, but has a short life. It simply grows right up and quits. No, you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s not that you just don’t have a way with it. With the best conditions Cilantro will last about 8-10 weeks before flowering. It’s doing what it does. It has a unique taste, so if you love it, save seeds and keep right on planting, again and again and again for a steady supply! That’s called succession planting!

I let a plant fall down after it died last summer, forgot about it. Now I have a quite dense sizeable thriving cilantro patch! Do what nature did! Plant densely, just broadcast the seed, better without fancy rows, contrived spacing. Planting tightly shades the ground, keeps your soil moist and cooler. Mulch well around the perimeter of the patch! It is not the heat of the air that causes cilantro to bolt, but rather the heat of the soil. If you are attempting a spring or summer planting, warmer days, read bolting coming, especially do this.

If you are in a hurry and want more surety of germination, soak the seeds 24 hours before planting. Put them in a half a glass of water, soak, lay them out on a paper towel and pat them dry. Plant a half inch deep in a 2″ deep trench with low sloping sides. The low slope keeps the soil from filling in the trench, burying the seeds too deeply when you water. Firm the soil well so there is good contact and they will stay moist after watered. If your weather is unseasonably hot and dry, plant just a tad deeper so the seeds stay moist. Happy cilantro is not picky about soil pH, but it likes well composted soil, well drained though they do like to stay moist.

Baby cilantros don’t take to transplanting because their little taproot goes deep quickly. These babies are vibrantly fresh, have powerful flavor. It happens, for my taste, just one in a salad or a stew is ample. I cut it up, toss it in, roots and all. The roots look like little tiny white carrots. In fact, carrot, celery, cilantro, dill, parsley and parsnips are all in the Carrot Family, Apiaceae or Umbelliferae.

Usually you start harvesting the outer leaves when they are about 6″ tall. Harvest frequently, take the central stems immediately! This may slow down your plant’s demise, but only for awhile. Once it starts to flower, the leaves lose their flavor, but you do have edible flowers! Sprinkle fresh to taste on salads, bean dishes, and cold vegetable dishes.

Because your plantings are going to be closely spaced, you can see liquid fertilizers, fish/kelp types, are going to be the ones to use so they will trickle down into the soil. A little goes a long way. This is a Mediterranean native used to harsh infertile conditions. Over fertilize and you lose the flavor. However, they do like to be kept moist, not swimming, but consistently moist. But they don’t like humidity!!! Like I said, they are persnickety.

I love cilantro in all its stages. As a mature plant, before it bolts (makes a central stalk) flowers and seeds. It smells so lovely Cilantro flowers and seedswhen you walk by. It bolts when weather warms, even if only a few days. You can see, why in summer, it’s best to plant so it gets morning sun, afternoon shade. Also it wants to be sheltered from wind. Ok, ok. You definitely want to get slow bolting, bolt resistant varieties. Four varieties of cilantro currently dominate Central California Coast commercial production: Santos, Long Standing, Slo Bolt, and Leisure. All four are used for spring, summer, and fall production, while Santos is the most common variety grown during the winter months.

The tiny white blooms are beautiful, perfect for bees and beneficial insects, especially those little parasitic wasps and predatory flies! Plant some just for them! The feathery leaves don’t make too much shade, so plant cilantro throughout your veggies, under your fruit trees, any place you can fit them in.

Cilantro makes tons of little brown round seeds, no more than an eighth of an inch across, very easy to harvest for next year’s plantings. I scatter them to fill empty places or along the border of my garden. Along the border is nice ‘cz that way all I have to do is stoop a bit as I walk by, to enjoy their scent and those bright little ferny leaves. But make it count more by planting generous patches among your Brassicas like broccoli, cauliflowers and kales because it repels APHIDS!

A mighty threesome is your Brassicas, with cilantro to repel aphids, and lettuce to repel Cabbage butterflies! Not only does cilantro repel aphids, but it enhances the growth of Brassicas! It makes them grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener! With that and edible flowers and seeds it truly is a worthy plant.

Harvesting seed is an easy affair! As Birgit Bradtke at Tropical Permaculture says:

Cilantro Coriander Seeds…cut the stalk, stick the whole thing upside down in a big paper bag and leave it in a dry spot for a couple of weeks. (Most people recommend to hang it up. In my place it just lies around somewhere…) After a couple of weeks you take the bag and shake it and bash it and all the coriander seeds should fall off and you can pull out the bare stalk. Keep your coriander seeds in a cool dry place. (Most people recommend an airtight container. In my place they just stay in that bag…) And now you should have enough coriander seed to cook with and still have plenty left to throw around your garden next year!

So here it is, quite a list, but you can do it!

  • Cool season is best
  • Select afternoon shade when in warming conditions
  • Plant closely to keep soil cool, reduce & delay bolting
  • Keep moist but avoid humid locations
  • Plenty of airflow but sheltered from wind!
  • Harvest frequently, especially & immediately the central stems – sure thing!

Cilantro is the Spanish word for Coriander. We know the seeds only as Coriander. They are used in pickling and sausages. Cilantro comes from the Middle East, and is used in many ways in other parts of the world. It is a proven antibacterial, is used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The uniquely flavored leaves are high in Vitamin C, and it concentrates Calcium – good for older women! Cilantro is a crucial part of salsa, gazpacho, chimichurri sauce, veggie burgers, steamed with rice, and more. We like it in cocktails, pesto and Indian snacks, too. It is an ingredient in Belgian wheat beers!

Ahem. Keep in mind that many people are not Cilantro lovers like you and I, so go easy on it at that dinner party – leave it out of the salad. One in 6 have taste buds that find it bitter. It’s a genetic trait! Ha! More for us!

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Veggie Gardening for NO $ at All!

Pest Prevention and taking care of your plants during pest cycles is a natural part of gardening!
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There are times in our lives when being frugal may be a necessity. If this is one of those times, read on! Or if some of these ideas work for you just because they are good, go for it! If you are just starting your veggie garden check out Start Growing Your Own Organic Veggies! for general ideas first!

Pick a space that thrills you! Backyard, front yard, street strip, a cheerful sunny spot where you can put a bench or a comfortable outdoor chair. Put your garden near a water source.

Tools A shovel and trowel will get you started! A pitchfork is handy for turning compost. Check Craigs free, see if a neighbor or friends have extras they are not using.

If you want raised beds, they can be simple frameless mounds, or frame them with reused lumber, logs, a natural stone border, cement blocks, use old kiddie swimming pools – get creative!

Prepare your soil! The least work is making a mound on the ground! It starts with twigs, straw (not hay), stuff that allows air flow. Then, compost in place! Layer on dry brown stuff first, then green wet stuff,  2 to 3 dry to 1 wet ratio, repeat, repeat, repeat in 1/2 to 1″ layers! The smaller the bits the faster the decomposition. This is the same as sheet composting, literally making soil in place, often called lasagna gardening. Same, same. If you have a raised bed system, build your ‘pile’ right in the bed! No digging, no moving compost! Greens might be your neighbor’s grass clippings. Your straw might come from your local feed store; usually they will let you sweep it up for free! During the fall, after pumpkin events, outdoor events or displays, straw bales are often given away for the taking! These already-starting-to-decompose bales are perfect for gardening! If you get really adventurous, check out Hugelkultur! See Composting Methods, Make it Your Way!

You can plant immediately by opening up a hole, putting already made compost, some manure, and if you have them, some worm castings, and plant!

Scout for free manures. Check Craig’s list, free items. Make sure no pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers have been used, stalls not sprayed to kill flies, and animals not fed hormones and the animals themselves are healthy. All you need are trash cans or buckets or big strong trash bags to carry stuff in. If you don’t have a car, do small loads on/by bus, or invite a friend who has a car/van/truck on an adventure with you; repay them with some of your harvest!

If you don’t have a yard area, containers are kosher! Any container will do as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom, or along the side if you are setting up a self-watering system. It can be a 5 gallon bucket to a lovely 1/2 wine barrel! Anything that will hold soil will do! Hang it on the fence, the balcony railing, the wall. Grow plants in the window! Get up on the roof (be sure that is safe for the weight including when watered)!

Get thee to the Foodbank for free seeds!  Seeds there that are donated by local gardeners are adapted to our local climate niche! Seed Swaps are terrific! Some seed houses, like Baker Creek Heirlooms don’t charge shipping!

Great good stuff from your organic grocery store! Eat some, use the rest in your garden! Get fava, lentil and beans seeds by the pound, unradiated potatoes for slips and eyes, mini onions for onion sets. Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers for seeds. Excellent seeds from the farmer’s best plants!

Scout for trellising materials for your winter peas and summer beans. Peas have small tendrils, so wire type materials work well for them, or a string system. Old tomato cages will do if that’s all you have available. Beans don’t have tendrils, so any trellis will do.

Get free mulch for pathways at the Transfer Station, or call your local arborist for free delivery of chipped trees. Ask for the kind of tree you want and size of chips you want.  Tell them it is for a veggie garden and you want disease, pesticide and herbicide free materials. They are happy to save the dump fee. Be there when they are to deliver so you be sure you get what you asked for.

Check Craigs free list for garden goodies and plant giveaways. Be sure the goods are clean and the plants are disease and pest free. When in doubt, don’t.

Learn how to do Cut & Come Again! You can do that with almost all greens crops! Rather than cutting the plant down, like the whole head of lettuce or a stalk of celery, harvest the outer leaves/stalks while they are young, tender and in good shape!! Let more grow from the center, harvest again! You don’t need as many plants and you don’t need to keep buying seeds or continually replant.

  • Be careful with beet and turnip greens. Leave enough for the plant to produce the bulb!
  • Cut bunch onions/leeks about 2″ above the soil; they will grow back! If conditions are right, Spring onions will grow more around the parent plant!
  • Keep peas and beans harvested so the plant doesn’t quit producing!
  • After cutting the main head off broccoli, let the side shoots grow to form many small heads on all sides of the stem!
  • MSU’s Gretchen Voyle says fennel may have several small plants growing around its green, bulbous base where it comes out of the ground. Remove the big one and let the small ones grow larger. Same with artichokes!
  • I also like this that she says! ‘It is similar to planting a big row of beets and thinning them so the remaining beets can grow bigger. Instead of throwing away the thinned ones like some gardeners do, wash and cook them for greens and tiny beets. Oh, let’s call that “double-duty cuties” and make it new and fun, too.’

Trouble?! One of the simplest ways to prevent trouble is to use companion planting. The companion plant is usually also edible! See this page for summer and winter companion lists! For Mildew, a common disease, use this home remedy mix for prevention – see Pest/Disease Free, Well Fed Veggies! If you do run into trouble, there are many homemade remedies you can make with what you already have at home. An important one is for Wilts diseases: Wilts & Cucumber Beetles, Tomatoes & Cukes!


Canning, drying, freezing and storage
extend your rewards! Unless you have a windfall gift, there are the initial expenses of cans and cooking gear, a drying machine maybe. You can sun dry some veggies and fruits. Dry your herbs for seasonings! Give as gifts! Freezing requires secure storage bags. In cool country, growing winter squashes is a no brainer for nutritious long lasting cold season food! Store winter squashes and sweet potatoes in clear storage containers under your bed! The containers are a one time expense unless you have some around. Other than that, you are supplied for a time to come at no further cost.

Save seeds to keep it going! Save some for seasonings, like cilantro/coriander! And if you have extra, please give some back to the Foodbank seed library or share at the next Seed Swap. There are many who will be grateful.

If you go to your local nursery and can’t help yourself, remember, that $3 tomato plant will make pounds and pounds of tomatoes over a season! A $3.99  6 pack of kale or chard will feed a family all year long! A few strawberry plants will produce tons of delicious berries for your breakfasts or healthy snacking!

Frugal Gardening is literally its own reward!

Last updated 5.10.2020

 


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 started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

 

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