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Posts Tagged ‘September’

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

We have been having a bit of an extended heatwave along with the drought, so things are different this September. Even the nurseries are affected.

Santa Barbara Area Fall Transplants Nursery Report:

  • La Sumida – no veggies now, their vender went out of business (drought?), waiting to see what happens with possible new vendor
  • ACE/Home Improvement – Same as La Sumida, only two veggies in stock currently while inventorying
  • Terra Sol – tooooo hot, won’t get fall transplants for another 2 to 3 weeks
  • Island Seed and Feed – They grow their own, but too hot, need cool nights. Not even planting this month. Will start early October.

So the answer is, plant your own from seed, but not quite yet! Gardeners planting from seed now are reporting good germination, but the seedlings are dying from the heat, shaded or not. Gardeners are clearing their summer plants that are finished, and instead of planting, are doing soil prep and mulching deeply to protect the new soil beds. And it’s still way too hot to plant green manure mixes.

Tomatoes are doing well, but even they aren’t flowering or keeping their fruit in these hot temps. Eggplants are sporting some great purple fruits! Some bush beans are thriving. My Rattlesnake pole beans are doing as they are supposed to, making beans in up to 100 degree weather. I’m saving a lot of their seeds, so if you would like a few, come to the Jan 31, 2016 Seed Swap!

It’s time to get heat and drought tolerant seeds and plants like from Florida, Texas and other southern states!

Labor Day Weekend fall planting may be doable in your location! That, in the past, has been a favored planting time, with the weather cooling as it gets on into September. For those of us in hotter SoCal areas, you may try planting another round of summer plants. But, it’s weird. Plants started late summer often just don’t thrive, nothing like as they do planted in Spring days getting longer and warmer! I think late plantings get confused. Even though it is hot, the days are getting shorter. Scrambles their circuits. The soil is somewhat spent from heavy summer use, and amendments added to hot dryish soil don’t seem as helpful. This is a time when gardeners who have somewhat shaded gardens might do better than usual and better than others in full sun!

With this hot weather planting beans and tomatoes will still be ok. That’s about it. If you could find lettuce transplants, some would do well. One that did really well for me in this summer’s heat was the Nevada – a Green Crisp/Batavian! It grew BIG, didn’t bolt, and was totally crispy! Check out this page at Johnny’s Seeds!

If you didn’t order this fall’s seeds last winter, or you want to try some new ones that nurseries don’t stock, rummage around online and see what you can order up that they still have in stock! If you do plant fall seeds, plant them a tad deeper than you would in spring. The soil is moister and cooler an extra inch or two down. You know you have to KEEP THEM MOIST, not swimming, but moist. Water daily for sure…even twice a day on the hottest days. Plant on the sunny side of taller plants, but devise some shade for the seedlings. Immediately put down slug & snail bait. Mulch well.

If it cools down later in September, it is so easy to sprout peas! Spray a paper towel to moisten it. Put the seeds on it a bit apart, fold the towel over them. Keep them moist a few days until the seeds sprout little tails! Put up your trellis, ASAP pop your sprouted seedlings into the garden early AM or evening when it is cooler. Once they get started they grow fast! If it is still hotish, devise some shade for them.
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Plant Sweet Peas for spicy scented Christmas bloom! Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays! 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.

Bagrada Bugs are happening now at Pilgrim Terrace. So wait until October cooler weather to plant any Brassicas. Brassicas are their favorite and it only takes minutes for them to kill a seedling. They can kill a 2′ tall plant in 2 to 3 days. Brassicas are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collards, turnip.If you don’t have Bagrada Bugs, also in later cooler days, plant sprinters – arugula, mustard, turnips, and crispy red radishes that are ready to pick in little more than a month. Pretty Asian greens, such as tatsoi or mizuna, grow so fast you will have baby plants to add to stir-fries and soups just three weeks after sowing. For a quick payback on your table, select the earliest maturing varieties available. Go ahead and plant spinach, lettuces and chard since they are not favored by the Bagrada Bugs.

Pest and Disease Prevention If you are so lucky as to get in some September planting days, drench young plants, seedlings getting their 3rd and 4th leaves, and ones you just transplanted, with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start! One regular Aspirin, 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts their immune system. Do this on planting day or the next day! Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains.

Harvest reminders! In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons, big squashes and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when their stem is brown and dry, or 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. When you can’t push your fingernail in it, it’s ready.Keep letting your strawberry runners grow for Oct harvest.

Tend your precious soil. Clear away finished summer plants. Make compost. It will finish faster in the heat. Add compost, worm castings and manure to your soil. Get the best compost you can buy if you don’t make your own. Get the ones with worm castings, mycorrhizal fungi, etc. Get manure blends to get the best results, especially mixes that include cow (not steer) manure. Big winter plants like brocs, collards, cauliflower and chard, and small plants like leaf after leaf lettuces are heavy producers, need plenty of rich soil food!

The exceptions are peas and carrots. If a bed is a little tired, add some food for the peas, otherwise, they, legumes, gather their own! No manure for carrots, and give them regular watering, though not too much, to prevent them being hairy and splitting.

If you don’t have Bagrada Bugs, leave your mulches down, add more if it’s thin. Mulch your new planting beds deeply, and keep your remaining summer plants well watered out to their drip line where the tiny feeder roots gather water and nutrition. If you have Bagrada Bugs, remove any habitat like mulches.

Save Seeds! If plants are still going strong, let them. Let plants bolt, bloom and seed! I just gathered radish and more celery seeds. The carrots have made mega seed heads, Arugula has flowered and seeded. My basil is strong, big leaved and dark green, so I will soon let it flower and seed. If you have lettuces that have bolted, snip off the little seed heads when they are ready. See how to process tomato seeds below. Peppers are easy. Let cucumbers yellow on the vine and fully nourish the seeds before you collect and dry them. Let your biggest bean pods get fat as can be, dry on the vine, then pop them from their pods. As always, seeds are your second harvest.

Make notes on how your plants did, which varieties were the most successful. These seeds are adapted to you and your locality. Each year keep your best! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings. Bag or put in a snazzy little jar, with label and ribbon to give as gifts to other gardeners, at any event that makes them happy! Any extra bag up to take to the January Seed Swap!

Of course, some seeds are edible! Cilantro is coriander. Fennel is good in rice dishes. Peanuts and sunflower seeds are a protein source. Roast or toast pumpkin seed snacks. Hard beans get added to soups and stews, cooked and et. Celery seed in pickling, potato salad and coleslaw. Corn for popcorn!

REST and RESTORE an AREA

  1. When it gets a lot cooler, plant some hefty favas or a vetch mix for green manures to boost soil Nitrogen. Plant them where you had summer’s heavy feeders like corn, eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes and/or where you will plant heavy feeders next summer. The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell/fava beans, plus oats that break up the soil (they have deep roots). Favas are big, produce one of the highest rates of compostable organic material per square foot! If you change your mind, you can eat them! 🙂
  2. Or, if you don’t have Bagrada Bugs, cover an area you won’t be winter planting with a good 6″ to a foot deep of mulch/straw and simply let the herds of soil organisms do their work over winter. That’s called sheet composting or composting in place – no turning or having to move it when it’s finished. If you are vermicomposting, have worms, add a few handfuls to speed up and enrich the process. Next spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Build some lovely new raised beds. Install gopher barriers! Do a little terracing. If you are gardening at home, put in a gray water system and put in a rainwater capture system plus bioswales for water to flow from your rain gutters to water your fruit trees and veggie garden! Slow, spread, sink your water!



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!

See the entire September GBC Newsletter! Mulching – When, With What, How Much; Bagrada Bugs and Brassicas, Blossom Sustainable Community Garden Pawtucket RI, Fermentation Festival, National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA, Seed Swap in January!

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Veggies growing in homemade compost!

Veggies growing in homemade compost! Photo by Rod Zimmer

Compost is the single most best thing you can do for your soil! It feeds your plants, adds water holding capacity, and much more! 

Anytime we have a season change, compost becomes more important. In summer most of us are thinking how can I do it all?! Harvesting takes more time than waiting for the plants to produce. There’s more watering to do in summer. Yet, fall is soon upon us and though making compost takes a wee bit more time, it is so needed to give our plants a good start! In winter, making compost is essential for spring planting!

Here are some possibilities!

There are 3 basic kinds of compost, cold and hot and composting in place.

Of the cold kind….

The kind that finishes the quickest is the kitchen veggie waste that gets chopped vigorously with the shovel every few days, turned and turned again. Small bits decompose faster. The pile is kept moist. The dry brown material in the pile isn’t usually  straw. Straw is hard to chop and takes a long time to decompose. It’s more like leaves, some already chopped, partially decomposed mulch type stuff. The right leaves have nutrient value. See more. With only a couple of turns, this whole process might take two weeks, usually less – even in cooler weather! It’s quick. For quick results it’s also best to put your compost in full sun. Shaded compost usually ends up untened. It’s in an out-of-the-way place, processes so slowly a lot of gardeners forget they ever made the pile. Neglected, the pile literally dies.

In a community garden or a small garden area you might not have space for such a pile. But if it’s a priority you probably will make the space! If you do, and if you want to keep it a bit contained, instead, make a shallow pit and put your ‘pile’ in there. Toss a thin layer of healthy soil over it and turn that in to inoculate your compost with soil organisms. They will speed the decomposition process. A thin layer of soil also keeps flies away and you have no smell. Cover it with a light layer of straw or plastic to keep it from being unsightly to visitors while it is in process. A wire cover over straw lets rain in, so I use a couple plastic bags left from manure. I put a light weight board over my cover and a concrete stepping stone on the board to keep it from blowing away. If it rains, the cover keeps your processing compost from getting too wet. If it’s dry weather, covering keeps it moist. It will decompose better rather than off gas the Nitrogen, dry and die. The cover is instantaneous to remove, then you can have at that pile with gusto! With that kind of pile, you have a fairly steady supply of compost. Most of the time some of it is ready to put here and there.

I am very grateful to three neighbors who give me their green kitchen waste. Since I also grow worms, I ask them to give me only what they imagine a worm could eat. Worms!

Compost Sifting‘Every day I fill the wheelbarrow with rich screened compost. It really smells quite delicious; nutty with a spicy note.’ Sifting your compost is a piece of cake! Grab your wheelbarrow or bucket, get a piece of hardware cloth/hogwire or a nursery plant flat with a smaller weave to it, like in the image, and sift away! You can build a lovely framed sifter or buy great rolling devices. Choose the size opening you want. Or, don’t sift at all. I like a little texture to my compost. 

Have your compost pile handy, nearby, warm in the sun for speedy decomposition! Keep it moist, cover it when it needs it – in hot/dry or rainy weather, turn it! Compost that gets turned regularly often gets raided before it’s completely finished. You can still make out some of what the stuff is that’s there. That works just fine because it finishes quickly, in the ground, at home with all the lovely soil organisms.

If there comes a time when you compost has been sadly neglected, spread the stuff out as a mulch and start over, or let it go and just buy what you need. No shame in that.

Hot Compost is PDF, pretty darn fast!

It can heat up to amazing temps, so hot it makes ash and you cannot put your hands in it without getting burned. You can see it steaming on a winter morning! The point is to kill diseases, pests, weed seeds. Well that almost gets done, because, you see, the heat is in the middle of the pile. So they say turn it so the hot part goes to the outside and the cool part to the inside. That, my friends, is easier said than done. But, at least some of it happens.

Two interesting points here. My cold compost pile gets that hot! Yep, it does. A well-built pile with thin layers will cook quite happily no matter your intention. It’s nature. The other thing is I don’t put diseased plants or seeding weeds in my pile, so I don’t need it to get hot. Sure, some pest eggs probably make it. However, what happens most is veggie seeds sprout when I put the compost in to amend my soil! I swear, I can’t see those seeds when it is compost. It all looks dark and yummy. But lots of times I’m glad that happens! The plants get a terrific start and I get surprises! This year I enjoyed two elegant celery plants that came up about a foot and a half from each other and everyone complimented how beautiful they were, robust, with gorgeous long dark green stalks!

Whether you do hot or cold compost is your choice. I’ve tried it both ways. Sincerely. Got a long thermometer, built cubic yard piles and turned them. Now I have cold compost and turn it. No way around that turning if you want results sooner than later. It doesn’t matter what size I build it. I’ve seen 1 cubic foot piles heat up just fine! If it gets hot, it’s hot. If it doesn’t that’s fine with me. Taking care of it, turning, keeping it moist, making thin layers gets the job done. The layers are more a measuring device – 1 dry to 2 wet. Once they are in, mix up the material so the straw is moistened and the wet just doesn’t make a mass. My friend who chops and turns his with vigor gets much faster results, and I may take that up too.

Composting in place

No dig composting in place is an age old technique more recently called Lasagna Gardening. It takes some prep time, that is often done with a group of friends, but once that is done, you’re home free! There’s no turning, no carrying finished compost about because it is already where you want it! Materials may take longer to decompose. It is a cold pile, but if your pile is directly on the earth, soil organisms happily munching makes things happen quickly. It takes a lot of materials to start depending on the size you want your garden to be. You can start with a small area, add more later.

The beauty is it can be done on top of a lawn to form a raised bed, with or without a box border. If you have lawn where you want to plant, peel back the lawn or not, lay down cardboard or newspaper to kill off the lawn, prevent it growing back, up into your bed. If you choose cardboard, water a LOT to soak that cardboard. Layer to your heart’s content until you run out of materials. You can make beds 18″ high to start. They will settle a lot. That 18″ can easily become 9″ in two or three days in warm weather! You can plant instantly! Just pull back a planting hole, add some ready or nursery-bought compost and any other amendments right for your plant, and plant! Your amazing ‘lasagna’ will decompose and make beautiful soil without you doing a thing more! Add more materials as you acquire them to any spots you want to build up or if you want more compost or a bigger or another bed!

If you are doing composting in place while gardening, you just put on the layers, between the plants or down a row, with the materials you have on hand until you run out. The smaller the chop, the pieces, the faster the decomp. Keep them moist so they will decompose faster.

Trench it and forget it! Trenching has always been the simplest technique of all! It’s a super simple way of putting chopped veggie kitchen wastes to work. Dig, pull back a 6″ trench, no deeper. Soil organisms live at the top. Put your kitchen waste in the trench, grab the shovel and vigorously chop the waste into fine pieces. If you don’t feel like chopping it, don’t! Put in the stuff, cover with some of the soil you pulled back. Turn that a couple times to mix in soil organisms to speed the decomp process, cover with the remaining soil and forget it. Period. Done. A week later you can dig in that area and find no trace of it. Soil organisms are intelligent and born hungry.

I combine trenching and a pit. If I have a spot needing compost, I trench it there. If there are no spots needing it right now, I put it in the pit and hold it until a spot needs it or a plant needs sidedressing (feeding mid season). In that case, in summer I also at a bit of manure or if it’s SoCal winter time, a little fish emulsion for easy and quick uptake.

NOTE! Compost you make isn’t the same as manure, nor nursery bought bagged compost. When you trench, you can add those at the same time if you wish. Manure is good ole down home stinky poopy stuff high in Nitrogen. You can also plant cover crops, living mulch, green manure for Nitrogen. You plant different areas to restore your soil, or in SoCal winter to make good soil for spring planting. Your soil also needs water holding capacity from bulk – what is called forest materials in nursery compost bags. Bagged nursery compost is fluffy. Air space. Your soil needs that too. Kitchen waste compost doesn’t have that. I buy bags of nursery compost – bulk and chicken manure – Nitrogen, as well and add them, sometimes to an area, definitely to my planting holes. Plants uptake a lot of their nutrition from tiny lateral feeder roots that often grow beyond the dripline of your plant, so if you can, do a whole area. Add special amendments to your planting hole. Make that planting hole a bit larger than you have been doing? Sometimes it depends on your budget how much materials you have available. Planting cover crops is cheaper, but it takes longer…

If you have massive amounts of stuff to compost, the fastest way of all, record time, is to use maggots! Cities use them and sell the compost! See all about it!

Hugelkultur Sepp Holzer Diagram Cross Section

Hugelkultur is a long term choice. Hugelkultur, hill mound, is the quintessential sustainable variation of ‘composting’ in place. It can be above and/or below ground and takes a lot more energy to start but what a payoff! Get some big logs, branches. If you are doing it above ground, lay two logs closely side by side, put a lot of bigger to smaller branches between them, then go for it! Woods that work best are alders, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, willow (make sure it is dead or it will sprout). Add leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available. Add some red wiggler casting worms if you have them. As possible add your materials in thin 1/2 to 1″ layers, dry, wet, dry, wet until the area is filled. Lay a third log on top of them and if you have sod you peeled up, lay it on top of the whole pile upside down and do it again! Top the turf with grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, straw, green leaves, mulch, etc. Top that with soil and plant your veggies! If you did it right, you end up with a steep sided tall pyramid pile and veggies planted at easy picking heights. See a LOT more and example variations at permaculture, practical solutions for self-reliance.

Raised bed Hugelkultur Lasagna Combo Buckman StyleIf you are starting a raised Hugelkultur bed, dig down about a foot or more, lay in the big logs, big branches around them, smaller branches on top, layer as above to the height you want, allowing for settling. The difference is that this is a flat top raised bed. You can also dig deeper and make the top of the bed flush with your soil! Also, you can do terracing with a Hugelkultur substructure.

Container gardeners you can do your own mini Hugelkultur version as well. A 1/2 beer barrel, a five gallon can, kid’s swimming pool, whatever you have, can be repurposed! Just be sure there are drainage holes. Double purpose your container by making it a self-watering system as well!

Hugelkultur is an excellent long term sustainable choice!

~ The heat from decomposition gives your plants a terrific early start or extends your growing season. You do need to be careful of freezes if you live in a cold area.
~ The right hardwood logs will give your plants steady nutrition for 20 or more years!
~ If you do the above ground version, you have more planting space because it is tall and vertical!
~ Nearby fruit trees are also fed.
~ The logs and branches soak up water and hold it, so less water to none is needed after the first year.

More clever tips!

  1. At intervals, near the center of your compost pile, place handfuls of old compost or fresh rich soil, as an infusion, an inoculant of soil making organisms.
  2. In dry SoCal, I cover my compost pile to keep it from drying out, and I never need to water it.
  3. When cold composting and composting in place, add red wriggler worms to chomp up materials. They add worm castings that help your plants’ immune systems and uptake of nutrients. If you will be turning the compost, kindly use a pitchfork so there will be the least damage to your worms.
  4. Be smart, add herbs! Penny Woodward says: ‘Regular handfuls of chamomile, dandelion and yarrow leaves and flowers will all speed up decomposition of the compost with YARROW being the most effective. Yarrow also adds copper, nitrates, phosphates and potash while chamomile adds calcium and ‘sweetens’ the mixture. Dandelions contribute copper, iron and potash. Nettles are problem weeds but they actually improve the quality of the soil they are growing in and when added to the compost they contribute iron and nitrogen. Tansy adds potassium, which is very important for plant growth while Valerian increases the phosphorus content so essential for good flowers and fruits [but is invasive!]. The most nutritious compost plant is COMFREY and it grows most of the year in SoCal coastal climate. The leaves are rich in potassium, nitrogen, calcium and phosphates. I keep a clump growing next to the compost. It grows like crazy, and I layer on a handful of leaves whenever I throw in kitchen scraps.
Stemilt's World Famous compost!

Fine finished Stemilt World’s Famous Compost!

Mix it up! Do any version or combo of compost versions that work for you or as you have the materials available to do what you want! Do more than one method at the same time! Super soil is the Number 1 thing you can do for your garden and compost makes the difference! When your compost smells great and you could just about eat it, you know you made it right!

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All that said, there are tons of composting devices available. Some work more or less, some work for one person but not another, for various reasons. Google for pros and cons of each one before you purchase. See if you think you will tend it as it needs to be tended, if it suits your needs, your location. Will you need additional tools. Imagine doing the process it requires. Would that really work for you. Worst is you buy and it fails. You can resell it, give it to someone who would be dedicated to the process it needs, donate it to a charity sale, or an organization that needs one. It’s ok.

All that said, if building your own compost isn’t your choice, support your local nursery and get the best from them! Otherwise, have a good dirty time of it!

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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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Pea Flowers Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA
Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!

Many of us SoCal veggie gardeners have been delayed by Bagrada bugs, so it is definitely planting from transplants time, with a side o seedlings! The lovely gain from that is two successive plantings at once! The transplants have a 6 week head start on the seedlings. There will be two harvests, a third if you plant from transplants again in November!

Lettuces are bounding up! Any non Bagrada fall crops are great to plant now! Beets, chard, peas!

Shape your land! Put in bioswales, drainage, Hugelkultur, terraces, whatever your land calls for or is capable of. Remember, Slow, Spread, Sink your water. Keep that precious resource on your property to water your trees, your garden, improve our water table. Set up grey water and water capture systems. We will pray for rain! If you do raised beds, make your soil Rosina’s way!

Install gopher barrier perimeters or make baskets. Plant happily, sleep fearlessly and peacefully.

Prep your Soil for fat growth!

  • Clear away weeds, debris, spent or unhealthy plants, habitat for overwintering pests/diseases.
  • Most winter plants are heavy feeders. Brocs, caulis, kale, cabbages are big plants making lots of huge leaves! Chard, cabbages and lettuces are nothing but leaves! So now is the time to lay in that compost you have been making, and some worm castings – castings are most effective when a smaller amount is used—just 10-40 percent of the total volume of the plant growth medium that you put it in!  Add some manure to your lettuce, parsley and garlic beds, Brassica areas.
  • Peas and carrots are the exceptions. Peas are legumes and make their own Nitrogen, but sometimes they can do with a tad more if that soil is depleted. Too good a soil makes carrots hairy and they fork. Depending on how you use your carrots, some of us don’t mind those two for one forked carrots! Over watering, irregular watering, however, can make them split and that opens them to diseases.
  • Establish your pathways, put up your trellises or cages for peas.
  • Plant, plant, plant!
It’s Transplant Time!  Put in cabbage and artichokes. Cilantro loves cool weather and is said to repel aphids on Coles/Brassicas – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts!  
  • From Seeds:  MORE arugula, beets, brocs, carrots, celery, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, parsley (keep moist 20 days unless you presoaked your seed), radish. Fall marks the end of the season for small red radishes and the beginning of the season for larger daikon-type radishes.
  • Potatoes?! Oh, yes!  Reds, fingerlings, Yukon Gold – your favorites! 
  • Check those lettuce packets for seed planting depth.  Some you spread on the ground and simply pat in, water very gently. Others go in 1/4″ deep. True. 
  • Did you already plant fall veggies in August, Sept, or both? Excellent! Plant another round!

Trap plants or not?! Trap plants attract Bagrada bugs! If you do decide to plant trap plants, interplant plenty of mustard every couple of weeks. Fast grower Giant Red is a good choice. Plant some among your lettuces to keep them off it. Don’t be surprised to find them on your Arugula too, another Brassica. Or don’t plant Brassicas – that’s all the Coles, broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, nor Mizuna, mustard, radish, arugula or turnips until the weather cools.

Green Manure  Each year choose an area or two to let your soil rest, be restored.  Decide where you will put your tomatoes next summer and plant a patch of favas there! Buy the organic seeds at your natural foods store bulk bins!  Presprout your favas! Presprouting equals 100% germination and mucho time saved since favas have a notoriously low germination rate! It’s a no-brainer since it is so easy to do! Just be gentle when you plant the babies. If fava is too tall and would shade out other plants, put in a vetch green manure ground cover mix. It gets only 4-5′ tall. In Santa Barbara get it bulk at Island Seed & Feed. Be sure to get a packet of inoculant for the beans, peas and vetch.

FIRST GARLIC? Indeed. It’s Vampire Time! Plant late October through Winter Solstice day. That’s at least two rounds, why not make it three?!  See a LOT about GARLIC! for tasty planting information. 

Harvest any lingering seeds.  Special notes about your Winter Squash:  Harvest and Curing – Fruit should be left until the vines are brown and withered, but should be harvested before frost or they will not store well. Optimum is when the stem is drying and the squash is well-matured, the rind hard and not easily broken with the thumbnail. With pruning shears, cut from the vine leaving 2 to 3″ of stem, and cure for 10 days in the field, or indoors in a cool place if frost is likely. Undamaged, they will keep for several months if stored in a cool dry place. Dampness is bad.

Cut your strawberry runners Oct 10 to 15 to put in fridge to chill at least 20 days until you plant them bareroot Nov 1 through 5! 

Those of you with container gardens, dump out that old spent summer soil, pop in some tasty new mix, install a trellis for the peas, anchor that pot! Get going – put in your seeds, baby transplants! You will soon be having holiday table treats, like crisp lettuces, bunch onions, colorful chard, nutritious kale!

Give your babies a boost! Drench young plants with Aspirin Solution, + 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, to get them off to a great start! Do this immediately for transplants!

Winter’s plants are incredibly productive! Cut and Come Again! Kale, collards, lettuces, leaf by leaf. Cut bunch/table onions 1 to 2” above ground. They will come back 3 to 4 times – you will be amazed how fast! After you cut the main broccoli head off, let the side sprouts grow. Snip for salads/steaming.

Enjoy the beautiful fall weather and nutritious feasting!

See the entire October 2014 Newsletter!

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Fall Crop Bountiful Basket
Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!

Bountiful fall crops are on their way! Labor Day weekend is the favorite fall planting time for many gardeners. Some like it even more than spring planting! Fall is cooler, slower paced, quieter. When and where there isn’t a drought, there is less watering.

If you want specific varieties, not standard fare at the nursery, you plant from seed. Plant them in a ‘nursery’ area in the shade of finishing summer plants, in 6 packs, under the grow lights, in the greenhouse! Plant your fall seeds outdoors a tad deeper than you would in spring; soil is moister and cooler an extra inch or two down. It’s the law to keep them moist. If you plant successively for steady fresh table supply, plant a batch in September, again in October. Days will shorten and start cooling, but you are taking advantage of a fast start because your plants will grow quickly in the warmer weather now than later on. Sep plant from seeds, Oct from transplants.

Tasty morsels to plant!

  • If you have plenty of space to accommodate a bad weather ‘error,’ and anticipate an Indian Summer, you can chance plant bush beans, summer squash, container type varieties of small tomatoes. At least plant earliest in Sep .
  • Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, are a big yes! And carrots, celery, leeks!
  • Colorful Chard is the ‘flower’ of your winter garden! Mid-August is one of the best times, Sep certainly is good too! Marigold don’t mind cool days; lovely on a dark day.
  • Plant more heat tolerant lettuces.
  • It is so easy to sprout peas! Dampen the paper towel; spray the towel to keep it moist. Pop them into the garden by the trellis – if it is hot, devise some shade for them.
  • 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.

I like what Better Homes & Gardens has to say – Sown in September, sprinters such as arugula, mustard, spinach, turnips, and crispy red radishes are ready to pick in little more than a month. Also try pretty Asian greens, such as tatsoi or mizuna, which grow so fast that you will have baby plants to add to stir-fries and soups just three weeks after sowing. If you would enjoy a quick payback on your table, select the earliest maturing varieties available.

Plant Sweet Peas for Christmas bloom! Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays! 

Keep letting your strawberry runners grow for Oct harvest. Get your pallet ready if  you want a strawberry pallet that sweet first week in November!

Brassica (that’s your broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, B-sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collards, turnips) Companions are aromatic plants like sage, dill, chamomile. Carrots, chard, beets, peppermint, rosemary, celery, onions, potatoes, spinach, dwarf zinnias. Brassicas are helped by geraniums, dill, alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, etc), rosemary, nasturtium, borage. Dill attracts a wasp to control cabbage moth. Zinnias attract lady bugs to protect plants. Avoid nightshades and strawberries.  Notice there are contradictions – potatoes are in the nightshade family. And usually we would avoid mustards, but now we have Bagrada bugs, we use the mustards as a trap plant for the Bagradas.

COMPANIONS!  Cabbage babies need to be planted 12 to 28″ apart.  A healthy plant will take up much closer to that 28″! They take a long while to grow, head, head tight. Plant carrots, or other fillers, that mature sooner, in the space between them. You can do this at home amongst your ornamentals, and/or in containers too! Fillers can be beets, or onion/chive types to repel Bagrada Bugs. Short quickest growing winter radishes can be among the long slower growing carrots among the slowest growing, your cabbages.

Brassica pests!

  • Brassicas are the very favorite of Bagrada Bugs.  Keep a keen watch for them especially when temps are above 75°F. Bagrada bugs tend to be most active and visible during the warmer parts of the day, so that’s when to look for them. Bagradas make white spots on the leaves as they suck the juices out of your plant. They carry diseases and overnight the leaves start to wilt. If you don’t get rid of them ASAP, you lose your plant in short order. And that’s when they are polite. A plant can be so infested it is swarmed and it looks like the plant is moving.Per UC IPM, as an alternative to greenhouses, screened tunnels or floating row cover fabric can provide plant protection in gardens. The mesh of the screening material must be fine enough to exclude the Bagrada bug nymphs and should be elevated so that it does not touch the plants because the bugs can feed through these coverings. The edges of protective covers must also be buried to prevent the bugs from crawling underneath to the plants, and they must be applied before Bagrada bugs get into the crop.
  • Lots of ants and lengthwise curling leaves are the giveaways for aphids. Aphids carry viruses. Aphids come in fat gray or small black. Avoid over watering that makes for soft plants, tender leaves that aphids thrive on, and ant habitat. Spray the aphids away, make the ants leave. Get up under those leaves, and fervently but carefully do the tender growth tips. Do it consistently until they don’t come back.

Make your fall planting beds extra yummy – add compost, worm castings, manures.  We want rich soil for those big plants.  We want lots of those marvelous leaves for greens.  Winter plants like brocs, collards, cauliflower, chard, are heavy producers, need plenty of food.

BUT NOT CARROTS!  Too good a soil makes them hairy and they fork.  And over watering, irregular watering, can make them split. Build your beds up so they drain well, are above the coldest air that settles low down. PEAS, the winter legume, make their own Nitrogen, so feed only lightly if at all.

Keep your water steady for plants still in production. Remove mulch habitat in areas where Bagrada bugs have been seen.

Build your new raised beds. Install gopher barriers! Put up a greenhouse.

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

Pest and Disease Prevention  Drench young plants, ones you just transplanted, with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start! One regular Aspirin, 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system.

September is Seed Saving time! Make notes on how your plants did, which varieties were the most successful. These seeds are adapted to you and your locality. Each year keep your best! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings.

See the entire September 2014 Newsletter!

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Labor Day Weekend is upon us! Perfect time for fall planting!

Companion Planting - Carrots with Cabbage

Planting faster growing carrots among slow growing cabbages is pure genius!
Beautiful image – From Dirt to Dinner, Julianne Idleman

Take a look at this DigitalSeed Vegetable Planting Schedule – This table lists the recommended times to sow vegetable seeds for the typical Southern California climate (Zones 23-24). When buying transplants, remember to adjust for the age of the plant (about 1-2 months).

Notice August is not their favorite planting time, yet many consider that to be the first SoCal plant-from-seed fall planting month.  Others say it is just too hot and there is often a hot time at the end of August and Labor Day weekend!  If you want specific varieties, you plant from seed.  Plant them in a ‘nursery’ area in the shade of finishing summer plants, and it’s the law to keep them moist.  If you plant successively, and started in August, to keep fresh table supply, a batch every month or so, then do your second planting now in September!  Likely days will start cooling, but you are taking advantage of a fast start because your plants will grow quickly in the warmer weather than later on.  Notice, in the list above, the big difference between Sep and Oct!  Oct is when to plant from transplants – hopefully you started your favorites you can’t get from the nursery from seed!  If not, then get what you get from the nursery – try special ordering if they don’t have what you want on hand.

My thinking on the DigitalSeed list:

  • Unless you are in a hot spot, and have plenty of space to accomodate a bad weather ‘error,’ planting even bush beans, summer squash, is chancy in Sep.  At least plant earliest in Sep, hope for an Indian Summer.
  • Beets, Broccoli, Brussell’s Sprouts, are a big yes!  And carrots, celery, leeks!
  • Colorful Chard is the ‘flower’ of your winter garden!  Mid August is one of the best times, Sep certainly is good too!  Marigold don’t mind cool days; lovely on a dark day.
  • Plant more heat tolerant lettuces.
  • It is so easy to sprout peas! Dampen the paper towel, spray the towel to keep it moist.  Pop them into the garden by the trellis – if it is hot, devise some shade for them.

September is Seed Saving time!  Keep watch so the birds don’t get them all first!
Make notes on how your plants did, which varieties were the most successful.
Make your fall planting beds extra yummy – add compost, worm castings, manures.  We want rich soil for those big plants.  We want lots of those marvelous leaves for greens.  Winter plants like brocs, collards, cauliflower, chard, are heavy producers, need plenty of food.  BUT NOT CARROTS!  Too good a soil makes them hairy and they fork.  And, over watering, irregular watering, can make them split.
Build your beds up so they drain well, are above the coldest air that settles low down.
Plant your September seeds outdoors a tad deeper than you would in spring; soil is moister and cooler an extra inch or two down.
Keep letting your strawberry runners grow for Oct harvest.
Plant Sweet Peas for Christmas bloom!  Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays!

I like what Better Homes & Gardens has to say – ‘Sown in September, sprinters such as arugula, mustard, spinach, turnips, and crispy red radishes are ready to pick in little more than a month.  Also try pretty Asian greens, such as tatsoi or mizuna, which grow so fast that you will have baby plants to add to stir-fries and soups just three weeks after sowing.’  If you would enjoy a quick payback on your table, select the earliest maturing varieties available.

Brassica Companions (that’s your broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, B-sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collards, turnips):  Aromatic plants like sage, dill, chamomile.  Carrots, chard, beets, peppermint, rosemary, celery, onions, potatoes, spinach, dwarf zinnias.  Brassicas are helped by geraniums, dill, alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, etc), rosemary, nasturtium, borage.  Dill attracts a wasp to control cabbage moth.  Zinnias attract lady bugs to protect plants.  Avoid mustards, nightshades, strawberries.  Notice there are contradictions – potatoes are in the nightshade family.

COMPANIONS!  Cabbage babies need to be planted 12 to 28″ apart!  A healthy plant will take up much closer to that 28″.  They take a long while to grow, head, head tight!  Plant carrots, or other fillers, that mature sooner, in the space between them. You can do this at home amongst your ornamentals, and/or in containers too!  Fillers can be onion/chive types to repel Bagrada Bugs, beets.  Short quickest growing winter radishes can be among the long slower growing carrots among the slowest growing, your cabbages.

Brassicas are the very favorite of Bagrada Bugs.  Keep a keen watch for them and for aphids.  Lengthwise curling leaves, and lots of ants, are the giveaways for aphids.  They come in fat gray or small black.  Avoid over watering that makes for soft plants, tender leaves that aphids thrive on.  Spray the aphids away.  Get up under those leaves, and fervently do the tender growth tips.  Do it consistently until they don’t come back.

Favas?  Oh, yes!  They are a legume and put Nitrogen in your soil.  Plant them where you had summer’s heavy feeders like corn, eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes or where you will plant heavy feeders next summer.  Delicious favas are loCal, high in protein, iron and fiber. The tender tops are a wonderful steamed green. They become green manure when you chop them when they first flower, and till them into your soil. They are a great winter cover crop, producing one of the highest rates of compostable organic material per square foot!

Pests and Diseases  Drench young plants, ones you just transplanted, with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start!  Add a quarter cup non-fat powdered milk to the mix too!

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Its’ Tomato Time!

July Gardening is Red Hot! Tomatoes and Peppers!

Fine image from TheGardenersEden.com

Relax in the hot summer sun, get a big basket, line it with a light kitchen towel, grab a container for berries, mosey on out to the garden and fill that puppy with your finest! Beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, a couple peppers, zucchini, strawberries, some cooking herbs. Before you leave, top off your basket with some lettuces, chard if you still have it, garden purslane. Last, gather your corn, and hustle to the fridge, or cook it right up, so it doesn’t go to starch.

Gather your seeds before the birds get them all, but leave some for them too, if you can spare them, and don’t mind a dry brown plant for a few days. Brown and dry has its own beauty.

Do some watering, give yourself a splash or two, stay hydrated. Make sure any seed/seedling beds don’t go dry. I often weed as I water, checking soil tilth as I go. Add some compost where needed. Maybe mix in some well aged manures. If you have some worm castings, add them too. Summer is for sidedressing – that’s feeding your producing plants. They are working hard! Put on fertilizers high in P, Phosphorus to keep your plants flowering and fruiting. SEE June 15 post on how to fertilize each of your plants!  Lay down some more mulch on thin spots, and especially under your tomatoes and cucumbers, but not on eggplant, peppers, melons or winter squash that need all the heat they can get here on the coast. Only exception might be those eggplants. They like humid. A nest of straw might be like a little local sauna for them if you keep it moist.

You can still plant most of your very favorite heat lovers – tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, zucchini. Transplants are best now. Too late for winter squash that needs to harden. And, as always, plant your year-rounds, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, radish, to keep a steady supply.

The Great Jicama Hunt!  When your jicamas flower, designate which plants you intend to save seeds from, then cut the flowering stalks off the rest, so the energy goes to that lovely tuber forming underground!

Start thinking about your upcoming fall plantings – where are you going to put things? If you love winter crops, get a head start! If you are going to start cool season SEEDS in the ground mid month August, – celery, Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kales, improve your soil now as plants finish, areas become available.  Start seedlings now for your first August plantings!  Or, if you love summer plants more and want to eke out those last harvests, you can wait and do September transplants, Labor Day Weekend is perfect! Another option is to start your fall plants in a safe designated small nursery area and transplant as space becomes available…. Just plant them far enough apart so they don’t get damaged in transplanting and you can take them complete with their growing soil around them. That way there is no damage to their roots, no interruption in their growth! Happy babies, happy gardener!

Get your compost started now, ASAP, for fall planting! I can’t say enough good about compost! It adds a wide variety of nutrients that are easily taken up by your plants, adds tilth to your soil, that’s loamy nutrient laden soil with excellent water holding capacity, and stabilizes Nitrogen. And it is easy to make! The simplest method is to throw stuff in a pile and wait. That takes the longest. Layering, thin layers of chopped up bits of discarded or finished green plants plus kitchen trim, crushed eggshells, torn tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, layered with straw (not hay), is much faster, especially if you turn it once a week, or every couple days! Sprinkle it with a bit of live soil every few layers, add some red wriggler worms, sprigs of yarrow or chamomile to speed composting, and you will have a fine black fluffy great smelling mix in a few months. Your plants will be singing Hallelujah!
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Follow up on Tomato Grafting! Cherokee Purple or whatever your favorite, heirlooms! Yes! I was hoping to start a tomato revolution! We may have to educate our nursery people. If we all ask for those Maxifort seeds, or the Japanese equivalent, He-Man, then they just might stock them for the profit! Turns out the Maxifort seeds are $23 for 50 seeds! Yup. Even so, to get the rightful amount of tomatoes for our efforts would be wonderful, especially those favorites! To get 3X the regular amount?! There’s a little modification on that point. It depends on the variety. Some are more invigorated than others, but all tested had greater production! Pure tomato heaven – canning galore, drying for backpacking food! There are some nurseries offering the already grafted tomatoes. Yes, they too are expensive, and more so to ship. This last info is for lucky people who might live near such a nursery or might visit family in a nearby area. A fellow Master Gardener and I have gotten our seeds (from Johnny’s), little guys now growing, grafting to happen soon! Will keep you posted.

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Happy Winter Solstice/Yule, Dec 21st!

I like this saying I found at the Old Farmers Almanac:  Old Frost, the Silversmith has come:  His crisping touch is on the weeds.  – Charles Dawson Shanly

And, bless him, his touch will soon be on our veggies!  Some will love it; kales are said to taste better after a good frost.  Basils, some peppers and other tender plants will fold and die.  Gather seeds while you still can.  It’s tuck & roll time –  ready a stack of covers in case we get some hard freezes.  Keep a diligent weather watch.  Watering the evening before an anticipated freeze will help your plants withstand damage.

December is winter’s June, harvest time! 

Brocs, cauliflowers, peas, are all coming in now, especially if you planted in August, September!

Lettuces are thriving, keep plucking the lower leaves.

Keep harvesting your chard and beet leaves to keep ahead of the leafminers.  Don’t over water making the leaves too soft and inviting.

Cabbages take time to get to the stage to form that super head of tight fitted leaves.  Don’t despair, they are working on it.  Lay down Sluggo or do slug/snail maintenance around your cabbages to keep the pests from damaging your beauties.  Can you imagine what the plant would look like if the leaves were spaced out on a stalk?!  Pretty tall.  Feed lightly during winter to make Nitrogen easily available.  It’s cooler, so uptake is slower.

Your favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, putting it into little nodules on their roots.  So are your peas, both legumes.  They do that!  Little to no feeding for them, they make their own N.

If you tuck in kitchen veggie trim, don’t be surprised if a few potatoes (they look like tomatoes, same family) pop up here and there.  If you like ‘em, let ‘em come if you have space!

If you have everbearer strawberries you may have few berries after a few warm days.  Even a single berry is such a treat!

Collards, kohlrabi and kales are very happy, providing excellent nutrition.  You can eat the leaves of all your Brassicas – brocs, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, and, of course, cabbages!

Carrots are coming!  Plant another round near your peas!  All kinds!  Mix the seeds up for surprises later!

Yes, you can still plant!  Start a new garden with or put in successive rounds of artichoke (give them 3’ to 4’ space), arugula, asparagus – Pat Welsh (Southern California Gardening) recommends UC-157, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes, and turnips!  As soon as one is done, plant another!

Put in some little bunch onion patches here and there but not by your peas!  Plant some of those little  Italian red ones – so pretty in your salad!  How about some garlic chives?  Mmm….

Remember, this is THE time to be planting your largest garlic cloves – they need twice the fertilizer, so make a super rich soil for them.  If you are so inspired, many plant on Winter Solstice day, Dec 21!  Plant skins on, or for more mojo, quicker sprouting, here is the way to prep your cloves Bob Anderson style:

  • Soak in water and baking soda for 16-24 hours before planting.  Soak separate strains separately. (One T soda to 1 gallon water, or a half teaspoon in a cup of water).  Remove the skins – start at the bottom being careful not to damage the growing tip OR the bottom, because that’s where the roots grow from!
  • Just before planting soak nude cloves in rubbing alcohol for 3-5 minutes and plant immediately.

SideDressing – seedlings up 2 to 3 inches get hungry!  Liquid fertilizer once a week is quick and easy for them to uptake.  Feed your other plants every 6 weeks.  That means, sprinkle fertilizer around your plants or down a row, and dig it in a little, especially before a rain!  Water it in.  Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings.  We don’t want a lot of tender new growth that a frost would take.  Some people love their manures, others love Island Seed & Feed’s Landscape Mix, and some love their stuff that comes in a pretty box!  Plants love a fish/kelp mix.  Try the powdered version for a little less stink.  If you decide to do foliar teas, pick a warm, dry, or breezy morning so your plants will dry well before evening.  Do what makes you and your plants happy!  If you haven’t been fertilizing, think about how hard your plant is working.  Big brocs, for example.  When it starts to head, when plants start to produce, that’s your cue to help them along.

Gophers.  You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after the rains.  If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.
Aphids?  Watch for curled leaves, squish or wash any or the colony away immediately.
White flies.  Flush away, especially under the leaves.  They are attracted to yellow, so keep yellowing, yellowed leaves removed.
Slimy Slugs, Snails.  Sluggo before they even get started, right when your seedlings begin to show, when you put your transplants in!  Once stopped, there will be intervals when there are none at all.  If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another round.

Make Organic, Sustainable Holiday Garden Gifts!  Plants themselves make wonderful gifts!  Start perusing catalogs for your Spring planting!

Happy Holidays, of all kinds, to you and yours! 
Garden Blessings, Cerena

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