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Posts Tagged ‘Seed Strips’

Delicious Summer Veggies Harvest

Some of you gardeners may be a wee bit tired of picking prodigious batches of green beans, but keep up with harvesting, it keeps your plants producing! I hope you have been canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying!

There are HOT August days, and ones that have a hint of fall. Days are a tad shorter; shadows in different places now. It is the time of the turn of the seasons here in coastal SoCal! Though crazy busy with harvests, gardeners are making their first fall plantings mid August, especially from seed! Often they are made in semi shaded ‘nursery’ areas to be transplanted as they get bigger and space becomes available. Plant your seeds far enough apart to get your trowel in to pick your little plants up to move them one by one to their new home. Some are planted under finishing plants to take the finishing plant’s place, like peas under beans. Pop in some kale between the tomatoes and peppers. Safe in a greenhouse is wonderful too!

Already, get your seed packs for celery, chard, mustard greens, parsley, peas, winter radish varieties, and Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, turnips. See below for help on choosing the very best varieties! Winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler, and you will have a much earlier crop.

Make your own Seed Strips! They are great for radish, carrots, any seeds that are small and hard to handle. It’s an easy, satisfying evening activity that saves your back, and seeds, when you are planting!

If seeds don’t work for you, don’t have time to do the extra watering, you will be away at the critical time, keep harvesting, do your soil preps, and wait for September or October transplanting. Labor Day weekend is the big planting time for many gardeners, and that’s only a month away now!

Summer plants you can still plant for early fall harvests, are beans and early maturing tomatoes and corn. Corn is more disease prone at this time though.

Tuck in your year-round fillers, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, radish, to keep a colorful variety for your table.

Plant sweet potato slips in late summer for harvest around Christmas.  Jenny Knowles, then at Plot 16, harvested these tasty beauties Dec 28, 2011!  She let sprouted taters grow into plants while on her kitchen window sill. She planted them in August/Sep, on the sunny side of her black composter. Clearly, between the super compost nutrition, and the heat of the composter, both from the black color and the warmth of the decomposing compost, she succeeded! She got several smaller pups before she took the main plant and the large central potatoes. I was lucky to witness this fine harvest!

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

Give your heavy producers a good feed.  Eggplants have a large fruit, beans put out a ton of beans, tomatoes are big and working hard, peppers can be profuse!  They like a tad of chicken manures scratched in, bunny poop and straw (pick up at Animal Shelters), well aged horse manure and compost makes them dance with the faeries in the night time!  Fertilizers highest in P, Phosphorus, keeps blooming and fruiting at an optimum.

Keep your watering steady to avoid slowing or stopping production or misshapen fruits – that’s curled beans, odd shaped peppers, catfaced strawberries. In hot late summer weather water short rooted high production plants like beans, cucumbers, lettuces and strawberries more frequently.  Keep them well mulched, especially the cucumbers.  Keep them off the ground to protect them from suffering from the wilts fungi. I put down straw a good 3″ deep.

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

Design Your Fall Garden! Move plants from the nursery area as space becomes available. But have a plan too. Tall plants, trellises, to the North or on the shady side, then plants of graduated sizes to the South or sunniest areas. Peas need a string or wire trellis for their tiny tendrils. They aren’t like beans that twine anything. Few winter plants need support, but big brocs, tall kales sometimes need staking. If they ‘lay down,’ if you have the room and want more plants, they will grow baby plants along their stems! Otherwise, put your plants back up and stake them securely. Build your new raised beds. Install gopher barriers!

Think soil, soil, soil! When an area is done, clear away insect hiding places. Remove and throw away any mulches from under where diseased plants were.  If your soil is high for the area, plants there were diseased, and you have a plentiful compost stash, maybe remove the couple top inches of soil and generously lay on some of that tasty new compost!  Dig it into the top 4 to 6 inches. Amend your soils per the plant that will be grown in the area per your design.

Keep turning your fall compost pile, start one if you haven’t! This warmer weather will help the pile decompose faster, and your plants will be blessed when you give the compost to them! If you aren’t hot composting, remember, thin layers and smaller bits decompose faster. The ratio is 1 wet/green to 2 dry/brown. Throw in whatever kitchen trim, torn tea bags, coffee filters/grounds, crushed eggshells – anything worms can eat will decompose faster. I’m talking faster because starting now is a little late, so this is what you do to ‘catch up!’ Sprinkle with a handful or two of living moist soil to inoculate your pile, and some red wriggler worms here and there to make your pile jump up! Turn it as often as you can to aerate and keep things humming. Once a day if possible, but do what you can. Compost improves your soil’s water holding capacity and adds and stabilizes N, Nitrogen!  Yes!

SeedSaving! Allow your healthiest top producers to seed. Seeds are your second harvest! Each year keep your best! Scatter some about if they would grow successfully now! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings.  Remember, these seeds are adapted to you and your locality. If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank!  While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out!

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

See the entire August 2014 Newsletter!

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Harvest Basket - Rainshadow Organics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What some of the local organic farmers are doing is planting mustards as a trap plant.  The Bagradas prefer them, so they go there rather than your brocs.  Mind you, you still have to remove them by whatever means you prefer, or the brocs are next.  Bagradas are fast reproducers, make virtual swarms, and when they suck juices from your plant toxic disease producing stuff gets in your plant.  In hot days, I’ve seen a plant go down in 3 days.
  • I highly suggest biodiversity, interplanting – that’s mixing it up, even interplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccolis), rather than monoculturing – a row of a single kind of plant.  With rows of a single plant, the pest or disease simply goes plant to plant and you lose the whole row.  This also stops leafminers (typical on soft leaved chard & beets) from going plant to plant.  Slows them way down.
  • Plant so mature plant leaves don’t touch!  Stop the ease of transmission.  If you can’t help yourself, and go monoculture, remove infested or diseased leaves immediately.
  • Don’t lay down any mulch until the Bagrada season is OVER.  They hide out in the mulch then climb back up on the plant when you are gone.  I’ve seen it.  Stand very still and wait…sure enough, there they come.
  • Use mycorrhizae fungi when you plant.  The fungi network linking your plants is proven that when one plant gets a disease or pest, it warns the neighbor plant.  That plant then boosts its own defenses!

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

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Seed Strip - Newsprint Flour Paste Dots

Seeds are your second harvest!

Some of your plants will be finishing in July while others you will still be planting, eking out the last possible summer tasties!  For you SEED SAVERS, note which of your favorite plants gave prolific harvests, the most quality veggies.  They are perfect seed saving candidates!  Tag them, tie a colorful ribbon on them, and let them seed.  Let an arugula, a radish or two, a couple carrots, cilantro, favorite lettuces seed out.  Let them get tall and pretty with flowers, bring the bees, complete their cycle by creating their seeds and turning lovely tans and browns.  These amazing reliable local performers are known as landraces or “folk varieties.”

Making your own Seed Strips is wonderful for so many reasons!

  • Size matters!  Big seeds like beans, favas, corn, peas, squash, are easy to handle, to count out per planting space, you can see where you put them and find them if you drop them.  Radish seeds are small, so rolly polly, and have the power to become practically invisible!  Lord help you if you spill them.  Carrot seeds can be clumpy, and odd shaped, so tangle and are hard to distribute evenly.  Seed strips put ’em right where you want ’em, no losses, no wasted seeds!
  • If your hands are damp, the little buggers stick to your fingers.  Doesn’t happen with your seed strip.
  • Save your back!  At planting time, just lay down that seed strip, cover, water, and you’re done!  And, no more of that over planting thinning!  It is a painstaking, time taking, pain in the patootie!
  • The plants you want are not always available on seed strips for purchase, whether it is the variety you prefer, or it’s out of stock.
  • If you only have a certain number of seeds or they are expensive and you simply don’t want to waste them, seed strips are the way to go!

The only disadvantage of seed tapes is if a seed doesn’t germinate, you have an empty spot.  At which point, plant a seed there asap, or just let it go.  Using viable seeds in the first place helps a lot.  Know that you are taking a chance if you use too old seeds.

Here’s the simplicity of it!  All you need is seeds, strip material, sticky stuff.

1)  Your strip material can be no color ink newspaper 1″ wide or, 2″ wide recycled, unbleached bathroom tissue (the quickest biodegradable) or paper towels – no color ink.  Lay them out on cookie sheets for easy clean up later and so they don’t stick to anything else when they are drying.  If you are doing mesclun, use paper towel squares!

2)  Sticky stuff can be dots of Elmer’s glue, or mix a paste of 1/4 cup flour with 2 tablespoons warm water.  Make your dots about 1″ apart or as you wish.  Place your seeds on the dots.  Tweezers?  A toothpick helps to poke them in.  If you are using paper towels, apply your dots to one side, then fold the towel over them so you end up with a 1″ wide strip.  One inch apart spacing for radish and carrots.  With lettuce, if you don’t mind a bit of thinning, plant closer than usual.  Thin a few times as they get bigger, ending up with your final plants, doing cut and come again on those.

Seed Strip - Toilet Paper Double Row Different Plants!You can get creative!  Use a toilet paper wide strip.  Put slow growers like carrots along with quick growers like radish.  Or put a more ‘permanent’ cut and come again plant like lettuce, with a quick and gone plant like radish.  The lettuce will fill out, covering the space where the radish was before.     3)  Gifts!  Let the strips dry, label with date and name, roll up loosely and gently.  If a gift, add a color paper around each roll to identify them. Green for lettuce, orange for carrots, red for radish.  Store in an airtight container or in a bag in a cool, dry place, with their seed packet.  Add a little salt to keep the seeds dry.  Make an instruction sheet cover for gift tins.

4)  Plant your strips seed side up, the right depth per plant.  Plant in rows or any creative pattern that suits your fancy!  Newspaper and paper towels biodegrade quickly and help hold moisture so your seeds will germinate well.

Wonderful way to spend an evening, great project to do with kids!

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