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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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Fine Bright Lights Chard

To start, especially tomatoes, 4 things!

  • First, throw a big handful of bone meal in your planting hole and mix it in with your soil.  Bone meal is high in Phosphorous (for blooming) and takes 6 to 8 weeks before it starts working – perfect timing!  It is also high in calcium, which helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes.  Water regularly or it won’t help.  Fine ground bone meal releases quicker, coarse ground lasts longer.
  • Second, throw in a handful of nonfat powdered milk!  It’s also high in calcium, that your plant can uptake right away, but more importantly, it is a natural germicide, and boosts your plant’s immune system!!!
  • And what about tossing in some worm castings?  They have special plant-growth hormones in the humic acids of the castings.
  • This is indirect, but makes sense.  Sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi ON the roots of your transplants when you plant them!  To live, the fungi need the sugars the roots give.  The fungi, in turn, make a wonderful web of filaments, mycelium, that work in harmony with your plant, increasing its uptake of nutrients and water, reducing transplant shock, and helps with disease and pathogen suppression!  One of the great things mycorrhiza does is assist Phosphorus uptake.  Of the NPK on fertilizers, P is Phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop.  Buy them fresh at Island Seed & Feed.  Ask them, they will weigh out whatever amount you want.  A quarter pound would be $4.99 (2-24-11/Matt).  Mycorrhiza & Farmers video

When your plants start blooming

  • Sidedress them with seabird quano (NOT bat guano) that is high in phosphorus, stimulates blooms, more blooms!  More blooms, more tomatoes!
  • Foliar drench or spray with Epsom Salt mix – 1 Tablespoon/watering can.  Fastest way to feed plant, and often the most efficient, is to foliar feed it.  Epsom Salt, right from your grocery store or pharmacy, is high in magnesium sulfate.  Peppers love it too.  It really gives your plants a boost, and fruits are bigger, peppers are thicker walled.  I drench all my Solanaceaes – toms, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tomatillos – with Epsom salt.  Some say apply 1 tablespoon of granules around each transplant, or spray a solution of 1 tablespoon Epsom salt per gallon of water at transplanting, first flowering, and fruit set.

Fish/kelp mixes are for light feeding, are well balanced, but stinky, even when the fish emulsion is deodorized.  If you want a more potent mix, use the hydrolyzed powder.  Maxicrop is great stuff!

Along the way, if leaves start yellowing, green ‘em up quick with emergency doctoring!  Bloodmeal!  It’s very high in quickly usable Nitrogen (N).  Dig it lightly into the top soil, water well.  Be aware, it and fish/kelp mixes are stinky and bring predators.

Give everybody a little manure, dig into the top 6” of soil, but only on two sides of your plant.  We want most of the near-the-surface roots to be undisturbed. Steer manure is cheap.   Chicken stores in less space per what it can do, but it can be hot (burn your plants’ roots), so go lightly with it.  Lettuces like manures.  Compost is good stuff but sometimes not strong enough on N.  Sometimes you can get FREE compost from the city.

Again, indirect, but organic mulch not only keeps your soil cool, moist and weed free, but feeds your soil as it decomposes.  Apply coarse mulch that decomposes slowly so it doesn’t use up your plants’ Nitrogen in the decomposition process.

Well fed and maintained plants are more disease and pest resistant, are lusty and productive – they pay back with abundant  larger tasty fruits and potent seeds for the next generation!

“Earth turns to Gold in the hands of the Wise” Rumi

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Mesa Harmony Garden could use your VOTE!

They are in line for a $10,000 award from RainBird, to install water wise systems in their 3-phase Food Forest installation! It’s an awesome project in Santa Barbara CA, turning unused land into a model garden, to produce food for the Food Bank – the highest % of that goes to seniors and kids.  You can vote every day if you are willing, and it is sure appreciated!  http://www.iuowawards.com/Projects.aspx#search  Blessings!

November things to know about your veggies!

PEAS, if you please!   

  • Go vertical!  Set up a trellis.  
  • Get your peas.  There are 3 kinds of peas – English shelling peas, Chinese snow peas, fat crunchy eat-‘em-off-the-vine snap peas!  I plant and enjoy them all!  Stringless is nice.  Mildew resistant is great!
  • At this time of year, plant from transplants.  Or.  Put in some from transplants at the same time as you put in some seeds.  That is equivalent to about a 6 week succession planting pattern.  Now through February, plant peas every month for continuous crop.
  • Inoculate your seeds if you haven’t grown peas there for the last 3 years.  If you had an area where peas grew well last year, grab some handfuls of that soil and put it where you are planting this year!  Rhizobia makes for abundant production.  Just sprinkle it on the seeds when you plant!  At Island Seed & Feed, one T of inoculant for 6 LBS of pea seeds is only $2!  It’s where the bulk seeds are. 
  • No manure, or very lightly, for peas, they make their own N (Nitrogen).  That’s what legumes do!
  • Peas germinate well at 40 to 75 degrees F, but the colder, the slower.  Pre-sprouting is fair, in fact, makes sense!  Sprouted seed will grow in soils too cool for germination.  YES!  Don’t you love it?!  Easy peasy has true meaning here.  Wet a paper towel on a plate, arrange your seeds on one half of the towel, not touching each other, fold the other half over.  Put them in a zip plastic bag, seal.  Put on a spot that maintains about 70 degrees.  Check those pups daily, add a wee bit of water, spray the paper towel, if needed.  Your peas will sprout in 4 or 5 days!  Soon as they sprout, put them carefully into the garden, right below the soil level.  Gently firm the soil so they have good contact.  If any fail, start another round to fill the gaps.
  • Space your pea babies about 2 inches apart.  If you are putting in seeds, put them in about an inch apart, then thin when they are of a likely height that looks like their survival is assured.
  • Birds?  If those walk-abouts are a bother, get some of that garden netting, or lay or prop those narrow patterned plastic plant flats over them.  When you aren’t using the netting on your peas, in spring & summer use it to cover your strawberries.
  • Water.  They like it.  Every day until seeds are germinated, then once a week deeply.  
  • Now we are back to the trellis.  When your plants are 1 foot to 1 ½ feet high, start weaving twine through/around them to secure them against winds and rain-heavy weight.  Those cute little tendrils just aren’t enough to hold them.  Before wind, rains, are predicted, check everybody to be sure all is secure. 

Stinky Onions?!  You bet!  Onions are sensitive to temperature and day length, photothermoperiodic!  Whew!  They start bulbing only after enough daylight for a certain number of days.  To avoid bolting, in SoCal we need to plant seeds of short day onions in fall, or intermediate varieties in late winter.  Most sets are long-day types and won’t work.  Plant Grano, Granex, & Crystal Wax seeds in the ground Nov 1, today, to Nov 10, or bare root in January.  Granex stores a little better, all of them are sweet like Vidalia and Maui.  If you miss this window, plant intermediate onions in Feb.  Onion seeds sprout very easily! 

Garlic is so easy – separate the cloves, plant in full sun, about 1 to 2 inches deep in rich humusy soil, points up, 4 inches apart.  That’s it!  Water and wait, water and wait…. 

Strawberries Anytime! But which kind?  There are 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 and petite. 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 runners.  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, 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 

Commercial growers replace their plants each year.  FOR THE BIGGEST AND MOST ABUNDANT STRAWBERRIES, REPLACE PLANTS EACH YEAR…

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Fat Pumpkins & Fun Hay Rides, Lane Farms, Goleta CA

 Happy Halloween! 

  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites!
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 
  • Pumpkins are used for feed for animals.
  • Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • The name ‘pumpkin’ originated from ‘pepon,’ the Greek word for ‘large melon.’
  • Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
  • As of Oct 2009, the largest pumpkin ever grown weighted 1,725 pounds!
     

DollarWise – From Grocery to Garden!

Adapted from Pat Veretto’s article…. 

Beans, Garlic, Tomatoes and more

Beans being beans, you can plant the ones that come from the grocery store. Eat half the beans, plant the rest! Beans are seeds and seeds grow.  So do whole peas, raw peanuts, popcorn, wheat berries, raw untreated spice seed (celery, anise, sesame, etc.)… well, you get the idea. Vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and fruits like watermelon, have seeds in them that will grow. Eat the food, then plant the seeds of the food you like!  

Note: Green beans of any kind, or peas in the pod bought at the produce counter, will not grow. They’re “green” – immature seed.  

If you don’t know the general planting rules for a vegetable, read seed packet at the nursery, or check online.  Easy.  

  In addition to seeds, the grocery store is a source of tubers like potatoes, yams and fresh ginger, sprouting plants like garlic and onions, and plants you can sometimes regrow, like celery, cabbage and carrots (carrot tops only, for edible greens – you won’t get another carrot).  

If you’d like to save tomato seeds to plant, first remember that tomatoes from the grocery are hybrids, unless you get heirlooms. Hybrids  mean the plant and tomato you get may not be what you expect (but it will be a tomato!). Scoop the seeds from a cut tomato and save with the liquid surrounding them, or mash a whole tomato and let it set at room temperature two or three days, then rinse gently and dry for storage, or plant them right away.  

Peppers, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, and eggplant should be allowed to mature before using the seed, as the seed matures along with the vegetable. Planting these can be an adventure, as it’s not possible to know with what or if they’ve been cross pollinated, but try it anyway.  

Garlic will grow happily in a container on your windowsill or in the ground. Buy fresh garlic and use the largest cloves to plant. Put the unpeeled clove, pointed side up, in light soil with the tip just showing. Keep the soil damp and in a few days you should see a green shoot. You can eat this top, but if you let it grow, it will eventually turn brown and dry up. That means the garlic is “done” – you can dig it up and you should have a whole bulb of garlic, from which you can choose the largest clove and start the process again. If you plant garlic outside, you can leave it over winter for a spring harvest, or plant in the spring for a late summer or early autumn harvest.  

Root Crops from the Produce Department

Did you ever sort through one of those tubs of “onion sets” looking for ones that looked alive? Then you know what a bonus buying onions that are already growing can be! Green onions, the kind packaged or rubber banded and ready to eat, can be put back in the ground and grown to full size onions. Look for onions that have a round bulb because flat or thin bulbs may be another type of onion that never grows any larger, like a winter or spring onion. Set the onions upright in two or three inches of water for a couple of hours before planting, then keep the soil damp until the roots have been reestablished. 

  Most full sized onions will regrow if you cut the root end off along with an inch or so of onion. Plant the root in good ground, and keep it watered. It will begin to sprout within a few days and you’ll have green onion shoots, and sometimes a new onion bulb.  

About the only difference between “seed potatoes” and the eating kind of potatoes from the grocery store is the size – government specifications are between 1 ½ and 3 ¼ inches diameter. Other than that, the rules are that they can’t be affected by nematode injury, freezing or various rots, soil or other damages… I truly hope that the potatoes we buy to eat are of such high quality.  

Some potatoes are treated to keep them from sprouting – you’ll want the ones that sprout. Look out for the radiation symbol on the package. Irradiated potatoes are dead – they won’t grow.  

Most sprouting potatoes can be cut to get more than one plant. Just be sure to keep enough of the potato flesh to nurture the sprout until it can develop roots. Plant potatoes when the weather is still cool, barely below ground in light, sandy or straw filled soil.  

  Is it cost effective to buy groceries to garden with? Well, you’ll usually get enough seed from one squash to plant 15 to 20 hills. One potato is enough for three to four plants each of which should produce at least a meal’s worth in a poor season. And remember the “seed quality” beans? How much does it cost for a whole pound of beans?  Buy local – farmers market, roadside stands – for seeds adapted to our area.  Buy organic for untreated seeds!  Once you grow your own, harvest the seed of your best plants, specifically adapted to your very own garden! 

Creative Home & Garden ideas says ‘If you buy some foods, such as horseradish, with the tops (or at least part of the top still attached), you can cut off the top, plant it in the ground, and it will reproduce another horseradish root just like the one you bought. The next year it will divide, and soon from only one top you will have an entire patch of horseradish.

And that’s a bargain. When was the last time you bought something, ate it, and still had 200 of them left over?

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