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MY Cucumbers! Cucumbers and Cassie, Indiana Veggie Gardener!

MY cucumbers! Cassie lives in Indiana and usually has dirt under her fingernails.

Some people LOVE Cucumbers! Dice ’em or slice ’em, put slices on your eyes, make a soothing skin cream, hair tonic! Sulphur in cucumbers helps stimulate the growth of hair and makes it thick and healthy. Although less nutritious than most fruit, cukes are delicious and good for your health in many ways. 

  • Magnesium, potassium, and the mineral silicon in Cucumbers keep your skin beautiful! The juice cleans your pores by removing dirt, bacteria and excess oil. Cucumbers have a natural cooling effect and reduce the redness, inflammation of blemishes. Their Vitamin E fights free radicals and heals scars. They treat bad breath, so you will look and smell good!
  • Cucumbers will help heal stomach ulcers. Drinking two glasses of cucumber juice every day can cure heartburn. Cukes help reduce your blood pressure. And they lower blood sugars, helping with diabetes.
  • Cucumber contains polyphenols called lignans, and phytonutrients called cucurbitacins. They help prevent the growth of breast, uterus, and prostate cancers.
  • They help get rid of excess uric acid in the body and help maintain healthy kidneys and bladder conditions, even prevent the formation of kidney stones. They also help digestion and reduce constipation!
  • Vitamin B and electrolytes in the cucumber will be useful to help relieve headaches.
  • Weight loss! Cucumbers are 95% water and low calorie! They will help keep you hydrated and delay hunger, as well as improve your joint health and reduce bad cholesterol!

Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes squashes (including pumpkins), luffas, melons, and watermelons. Cucumbers grew wild in India over 4000 years ago and have since traveled worldwide! They have been traded by empires, eaten every day by emperors, brought to Haiti by Columbus in 1494, banned as deadly at times! In 2010 worldwide cucumber production was 57.5 million tons, with majority of the world’s production and export being located in China (40.7 million tons)! As of a 2013 article, In the United States, consumption of pickles has been slowing, while consumption of fresh cucumbers is rising!

Huge Selection of Extraordinary Varieties!

Cucumber Melothria Scabra Mouse Melon TreatsSizes from itsy tiny watermelon-like heirloom Mexican Sour Gherkin AKA Mouse Melons, sandia de raton, to small bumpy pickling types, substantial juicy slicers, to longs like wonderful Chinese Suyos!

Cucumbers can be green, white, golden orange, healthy bitter red orange spiky Gaks, up to 3 meter long brown Kigelias, brilliant red Dragon’s Eggs! You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried a few exotics!

The different shapes are a treat! Mouse Melons, round lemon cucumbers, the standard long shapes, fat Hmongs, African Horned Cucumbers!

You can get big viners, or bush type patio container types with smaller leaves at shorter intervals. Compact yet lots of production!

Now we have varieties producing all female flowers (gynoecious types) that produce seedless fruit earlier have more concentrated production, a longer shelf life. No bees are needed. In experimental trials the following varieties have produced high yields and have resistance or tolerance to common diseases: Burpee Hybrid, Comet A II, Dasher II, Marketmore 80, Slice Master, Sprint 440 II, and Victory!

Disease Resistant Varieties

Read the notes about these varieties! These are features you want to see when picking varieties!

Long Green Slicing

Burpless (hybrid – 62 days to harvest; the original sweet, long, Chinese-type hybrid; does well on a trellis
Marketmore 76 – 68 days; very uniform, dark green, straight fruit; multiple disease resistance
Straight 8 – 58 days; AAS winner; long-time favorite; excellent flavor; evenly dark green fruit

Long Green Slicing (compact plant)

Bush Crop – 55 days to harvest; delicious; 6-8 inch fruit on dwarf, bushy plants
Fanfare – hybrid – 63 days; AAS winner; great taste; high yield; extended harvest; disease resistant
Salad Bush – hybrid – 57 days; AAS winner; uniform 8 inch fruit on compact plants; tolerant to a wide variety of diseases
Marketmore 97 – 55 days. One of the best early northern cucumbers producing long dark green fruit, non bitter. This excellent slicing cucumber variety is tolerant of powdery mildew, cucumber mosaic virus and resistant to scab, providing a good crop under adverse conditions. Very dark green, looks thick skinned, bumpy.

Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties like AAS winner gynoecious and parthenocarpic Diva!

Early Varieties

Marketmore 80
BETH ALPHA – 58 days Heirloom. The original Middle-East type. Often a parent for the wonderful high-end Slicing hybrid cucumbers. Probably the best all round cuke. Early, productive over long season, mild. Thin skin, wonderful taste with no ‘bitter ends’.
Dasher II  Early, dark green; concentrated set
Very early:   Lightning, Speedway, Thunder

Heat/Cold, Drought Tolerant Varieties

If your area has short cool summers, go for early, cold tolerant, smaller fruited varieties, container types. In hot areas, enjoy those big slicers and Japanese longs! Sometimes heat and drought go together, or you would just like to save water. Here’s a great page at SFGate that lists six heat tolerant varieties with all their details! Little Leaf H-19 (parthenocarpic) and Suyo Longs are terrific! Ashley withstands heat and has good downy mildew resistance.

Choosing Companion Plants

Your climate, soil and many, many other factors determine how well plants grow together. I’ve seen gardeners make exact opposite claims with the pictures to prove it. Bottom line is try things for yourself!

Companion plants enhance each other’s growth, repel pests! Adding companion plants adds a whole new dimension to planning your garden! Spacing changes. Locations change. Your plants are healthier, there is more production, your growing season is extended. By intermingling companion plants, biodiversity happens naturally. For example, rather than having a separate herb area, spread them throughout your garden. Put those herbs to work beside veggie plants they help and favor! Plant 4 or 5 plants with an herb at the hub of the wheel! The herb will serve all those plants at once!

Cucumbers & Dill! This is a companion combo based on timing and usage! Plant Dill at the same time as your cukes, and with your cucumbers so they will mature at the same time for pickling, probiotics, and you have convenience of harvest! Another natural combination is basil and tomatoes!

A super spatial combo is trellising Cucumbers below, letting pole beans grow up, through and above the cukes!

RADISHES get the gold star award! They repel a variety of beetles, including the nasty disease carrying Cucumber Beetle! Plant Radishes, followed by Cucumbers so the radishes will be up and running when your cucumbers need them! Let the radishes grow out. It’s not like you are planting a crop of radishes there. You want them to mingle among your cukes. You won’t need very many radishes to do this. If you didn’t get them in before planting time, get them up and growing ASAP!

Other helpers! Basil or summer savory, and dwarf marigolds, can mask cucumbers from cucumber pests like striped or spotted cucumbers beetles. 

INCOMPATIBLE Plants

Potato, super aromatic herbs like Sage.

Planting for Pleasure!

Long Cucumbers hanging from Overhead Trellis!

First decide how you will grow your Cukes! On the ground, trellising or overhead?!

That determines how you layout your garden! Overhead may require separate additional space, or you might install it over your patio but not so tall that you can’t reach to harvest! Unique! Trellises will make varying kinds of shade depending on what kind of trellis you use. You might like some shade for summer lettuces. A simple vertical trellis still makes shade, but less if you install it along the direction of the summer sun’s path! If you have already planted other plants and don’t want to shade them, you might choose smaller varieties of cucumbers that will grow to less heights, have smaller leaves.

Small pickling cucumbers are easy on a vertical trellis. If you are growing heavy slicers, a vertical trellis is still good. If you are growing a LOT of long cukes, you might grow them on an overhead, let them hang for easy harvesting. Cucumbers up on trellises will ripen all the way around while ground growing might leave an unripened yellow area on their down side.

Choose trellis shapes that give you easy picking access and that will give ample space for the variety of cucumber you choose!
Arch Trellis Squash Melon CucumbersTrellis Cucumber Slanting

Getting your cucumbers off the ground keeps them out of the nibbling insect zone, but it is a little cooler up there and may delay growth a bit. If you are in a cool windy coastal area, you might decide to grow low shrub porous windbreaks to shelter an area, and leave your cukes on the ground. Mulch with only an inch layer of straw to keep them off the ground and the insects happy under the mulch. The thin straw layer allows aeration and some light through to keep the soil warm.

Sun, Soil, Spacing

Full summer sun! Cucumber is not a ‘winter’ plant, they grow best at 81 F to 101! They will do alright at 60 degrees at night, and above 70 degrees during the day. If you are coastal cool, if possible, find a SHELTERED spot for them so they can be good and warm! In the garden plant them on the sunny side of corn, beans or tomatoes. Look for a light colored wall, west facing, with no chilling wind that whips by. A light, sandy loam soil works well for early production. Cucumbers thrive in well drained, fertile soil and need a pH above 6.0.

Some northern gardeners prepare their cukes, melons, squash, peppers and tomato soil well in advance, in fall for spring! They compost in place – pile on manure, chopped leaves and grass, sprinkle on coffee grounds and kitchen scraps, wood ashes from winter fires, etc. In spring dig a foot square hole, fill with your luscious compost, plant your seed right in that compost! Lasts all season if you live in a short season area, and no compost is wasted where no plant is planted! As long as you get that compost out to just beyond the feeder root area your mature plant will have, it’s good.

Incorporate a layer of worm castings at the top of your planting area if you are planting seeds. Castings improve and speed germination, improve water holding capacity to keep your seedlings moist longer!

Spacing depends on which varieties you plant and whether you trellis or not. For trailing cucumbers on the ground, plant 3 to 4 seeds in hills, spacing the hills 3 to 4 feet apart in the row and space rows 5 feet apart. If you plan to trellis your cucumbers, space the hills 2 feet apart in the row and thin to one plant per hill. If you use a vertical trellis, as your plants grow, be prepared to gently weave them up the trellis or tie them in place. Cukes are not like beans or peas that do it by themselves and bend easily.

Hilling or Basins?! If you live in a wet summer rainy area, hilling is great for drainage, though sometimes toward the end of summer, salts accumulate on the top of the soil and water simply runs off. Or the hill flattens from watering, roots are exposed, you need to replenish the soil. Laying on compost mulch covered with a straw mulch will help that. In hot Mediterranean summer dry areas like SoCal, a dripline-wide basin corrals the water right where your plant needs it. Put a stake in the center of the basin so you know where to water. If your soil is infected with wilts or blights, make a hill, put the basin on top, with the bottom of the basin above the regular soil level. This waters your plant, allows drainage and some drying, reducing the fungi. Mulch with only 1″ of straw to allow airflow, but to keep leaves from touching soil. 

Germination

Cucumbers are frost tender. Wait to plant until the soil has warmed up to 65° degrees or above.

Pre sprouting is smart! Soak your seeds in water for 5 to 10 hours, drain. Put them on damp paper towels wrapped loosely in an unsealed plastic bag and put in a warm spot. 70-85 degrees is optimum. Check the bags every day – keep the towels moist. The seeds will sprout in a few days. It saves time and guarantees you will have a plants in every space! You won’t waste time waiting for failed seeds in the ground. Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips Plant your sproutlings very gently. 
 
Transplant Technique Separating Lemon Cucumbers - John Kohler

Selecting Transplants to save money! Not everyone wants to plant from seed! Not everyone wants to spend a ton of bucks on transplants either! Ok, so do it John Kohler style! See this video of him separating out ELEVEN lemon cucumbers from one 4″ container he purchased for $1.79 – those were the days, ha, ha! I didn’t believe it, but he did it easy! And I’ll bet they all grew! You can use this technique with many plants. 

Tag your seedlings and transplants with the date planted, variety name, # of days to maturity. Having your plant date and days to maturity tells you at a glance how well they are doing per how long they have been in the ground. If your seeds don’t germinate, you know your seed is compromised or too old. If there are no fruits when expected, are you over fertilizing and your plant is going to leaf and no fruit, or are they slow due to cooler weather than usual? When the season is done, how did that variety do for you? Should you save some seeds? Put a note in your records of what to do better next year, for selecting next year’s purchases, how many to plant. Also, jot down where you got that transplant or the seeds. 

If you are planting non gynoecious types, all female flowers, not to worry if first flowers don’t make baby cukes! Male blossoms come first so they can fertilize the female blooms unless you have an all female no pollination needed gynoecious and parthenocarpic variety. Cucumber vines will produce the greatest amount of female flowers when day length shortens to approximately 11 hours per day. Plant a round at the time you can hit that window!

Successive Planting

If you have poor or fungi infected soil, two plantings may make sense. The first planting may not last long depending on whether you planted a resistant variety or not. A later second planting, when the soil has heated and dried, may be more successful. To help keep the soil drier, use an open mulch like straw, only 1″ is best, for airflow. 

Planting smaller shorter fruited varieties is good early on. A month or two later you might plant long varieties that need good heat to make those big babies! 

Watering/Mulch  Compost   Fertilizer  Sidedressing

Cucumbers have short roots and need consistent water, kept moist, to never dry out. Pick first, water afterwards. Avoid wetting the plants and water in AMs if possible to avoid mildew. Plant mildew resistant varieties like Diva. Apply your baking soda mix to alkalize the leaves.Some say most granular fertilizers leach from the soil rather quickly due to watering. That is why the instructions say you should reapply periodically through the season, even once a week. Time release pellets do better. But adding organic material, compost, to your soil not only adds nutrients, it loosens the soil, attracts worms and other soil building critters and helps your soil retain moisture and nutrients.

Feed your cukes when they first begin to run (form vines and sprawl); again when blossoms set. A big vined short rooted, long fruited variety of cucumber, in a long summer is a heavy feeder, so some gardeners recommend to fertilize once a week! A small fruited, small leaved patio type container cucumber may need little to no feeding.

Since Cucumbers are short rooted, be very careful if you dig in fertilizer or compost. Dig only on one side so as not to break off all the tiny surface feeder roots. Better to add a 1″ layer of compost, some worm castings if you have them, in the planting basin, cover with straw and water well. Foliar feeding mixed teas feeds the whole plant with no harm to the roots at all! Do both the compost and foliar!

Fruits will be aborted during dry spells and very hot weather. Keep your plants watered, moist, regularly, and don’t worry if your plant temporarily stops flowering and producing. When the weather cools, you will be back in business!

Common Diseases

Mildew is #1. Plant leaving plenty of space for air circulation. Apply your baking soda mix. Drench under and upper sides of the foliage of young plants to get them off to a great start! Do this the same or next day if transplanting. A super combo is 1 regular Aspirin dissolved, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains. Not only is prevention so much better than after mildew has set in, but this mix stimulates your plant’s growth! IPM on Powdery mildew

Common Pests

Cucumber Beetle Western Striped SpottedStriped/Spotted Cucumber Beetles are the nemesis of Cucumbers. Squish. Cucumber Beetles get in cucumber, squash and melon blossoms. They aren’t picky. They are yellow greenish with black stripes or dots about the size and shape of a Ladybug. They are cute but are the very worst garden pest. They carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus, deadly to cukes. Radish repels them, is a champion plant, a hero of the garden! Plant enough radish for you to eat and to let others just grow, be there permanently or at least until the beetles are done, gone. IPM data

Squash Bugs like your Zucchini and other squash, cucumber and melons. Plant WHITE potatoes among these plants to repel the bugs. You will get two crops instead of just one! IPM info

Whitefly infestations leave a parasitic fungus called black sooty mold, and that attracts aphids/ants and aphids add to the black problem. Hose ‘em, several days in a row to get rid of them, being sure to get under the leaves! Sprinkle the ground with cinnamon to repel aphid-tending ants. Remove any yellowing leaves throughout your garden that attract whiteflies. Water a tad less. Remove unhealthy leaves that may lay on the ground and harbor pests or diseases. Thin some leaves away to improve air circulation. IPM on Whiteflies
 
Bill Finch has written a detailed, educated and humorous account about using summer horticultural oil on whiteflies! It’s worth the read.

Maturity

Most cucumber varieties will start to bloom in about 60 to 65 days after they germinate. They have male and female blooms on the same plant. Only the female bloom produces fruit. Insects are necessary for cross pollination. Grow lots of bee food! If it is necessary to apply insecticides it is best to apply them as late in the afternoon as possible, when bees are less active. Parthenocarpic varieties having all female flowers, don’t need bees. 

Harvest & Storage

Cucumber Pickles And Dill Jars

Mexican Gherkins/Mouse Melons, are ripe when they fall to the ground! Lemon cukes are best eaten while still young and pale green. Other Cucumbers mature rapidly and once in production check every other day for ones ready to harvest. No storing on the vine or your plant thinks it’s done and stops producing. Cut, clip or carefully twist off while holding the vine. Cukes are old if they are large, puffy, dull and yellow. Use care not to step on vines during harvest. 
 
Pickles are the only real way of storing cukes, and there are the cuke varieties that are specific for that purpose! Probiotic pickling is the healthiest way of doing it. 

Cucumbers are another room temp veggie. University of California, Davis, says cukes are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F. They thrive and last longer at room temp. However, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days if they are used soon after removal from the refrigerator.

Seed Harvest, SeedSaving, Inbreeding Depression.  When, Seed Saving Process, Viability

If you are in a short summer cool climate, don’t have a long enough summer to save seed, buying seed may be your only option.

Parthenocarpic means your plant produces without pollination, makes NO seeds. Like with hybrids, saving seeds is not an option. However, there are reports of saving seeds from parthenocarpic plants! Some flowers do get pollinated. Soak the seed like usual, keep only the sinkers that look the most like your original seed! You might not get many, but probably enough!

If you have non parthenocarpic varieties and want to save cucumber seed, plant only one variety! They cross breed like crazy! Experienced home seed savers can grow more than one variety at a time in a single garden by using hand pollinating techniques. If you don’t hand pollinate, separate two different cucumber varieties by at least 1/2 mile to ensure purity. Inbreeding Depression, reduced vigor due to breeding related plants, is not usually noticeable in cucumbers. Seeds should be saved from at least 6 cucumbers on 6 different plants.

You may ask what if I plant non and Parthenocarpic varieties together? Parthenocarpic cucumbers grow fruits without pollination, developed for commercial greenhouse production – no bees. As a home gardener, if pollinated they will have seeds. If you don’t mind seeds, then interplanting is not a problem. But these seeds will be hybrids. Experimenting can be fun, or disappointing if you want what you had before.

Saving the seeds of Cukes, Eggplant, Melon, Pepper, Squash, Tomatoes, and Zukes is super easy.

Leave the best or last of your cukes to get old on the vine to reap all they can from the Mother plant. Leave them at least 5 weeks after the eating stage, until they have turned a golden color. Now is the time we want those old large, puffy, dull and yellow ones! In northern areas the first, light frost of the season will blacken vines and make cucumbers easier to find. Undamaged fruits can be stored in cool, dry place for several weeks to finish ripening. 

Slice your cucumbers lengthwise and scrape seeds out with spoon. Put them in warm water no more than two days. Scrape any scum off. Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Viable seeds, sinkers, are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the strainer onto paper towel or piece of newspaper. Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two). Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label with date and variety, store in a packet or plastic bag. Check them in a week or two to be sure there is no mold or any insect infestations.

The drier the seeds, the longer they will store ~ about 5 years for cucumbers, 2 – 10 maybe. 


Cucumbers are easy to eat! 

Cucumber Open Sandwich Dill Garnish

Some cucumbers simply never make it home from the garden. Next best fresh is in a tasty greens salad!

Eat cukes and yogurt! Raita, an Indian dish, is pretty and a very nice cooling summer dish. It can also be used as a sauce over falafels, as a veggie dip or salad dressing! Chicken, lettuce & cucumber slice sands!

Make a pale green egg salad with fresh minced basil, green onions, and crunchy cucumbers. Tuck it into pita pockets. Mmm…..

In Asia cucumbers are often stir-fried and are quite tasty. Give it a try! Toss cold noodles with sauce, cucumber, and scallion or coriander. Sprinkle noodles with sesame seeds.

How about a delicious Pineapple Cucumber Smoothie?! Add blueberries for blue, Strawberries for pink! Or do Cucumber, Apple & MInt! With Kale. Watermelon! Do a flavor a day – just add Cucumber!

  1. Add cucumber, pineapple, frozen banana, light coconut milk, water, lime zest, lime juice, greens, and ice cubes to a blender and blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
  2. For a thicker smoothie, add more ice. For a thinner smoothie, add more liquid of choice. …

Pickles are prime! Do probiotics for the very best nutrition! Add carrot sticks, hot peppers, garlic, dill, whatever tickles your tastebuds!

FYI the inside of a cucumber can be up to twenty degrees cooler than the outside temperature! This is where the saying cool as a cucumber came from.

Stay cool!

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

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Broccoli, the Queen of Brassicas! Rancheria Community Garden Dec 2016

Radiant Calabrese Broccoli, Rancheria Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA Dec 2016!

Broccoli may be the most nutritious of all the cole crops, which are among the most nutritious of all vegetables. Researchers have reported that cruciferous vegetables contain potent natural anti-cancer agents if eaten rawThese nutrients typically are more concentrated in flower buds than in leaves, and that makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other cole crops.

Recent studies have shown that broccoli sprouts may be even higher in important antioxidants than the mature broccoli heads. Other research has suggested that the compounds in broccoli and other Brassicas can protect the eyes against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people. If you choose to eat broccoli leaves, you will find that there is significantly more vitamin A (16,000 IU per 100 grams) versus flower clusters – the heads (3,000 IU per 100 grams) or the stalks (400 IU per 100 grams).

They are also high in vitamin C, which may protect against atherosclerosis.  Four ounces of RAW broccoli contains twice the vitamin C in an equivalent amount of reconstituted orange juice. Cooking halves the amount of this vitamin.

Vegetarians rely heavily on broccoli because it’s high in calcium.

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli, English HeirloomVARIETIES

Broccoli varieties vary considerably, tall, short, more heat tolerant or cold tolerant, have small heads, large heads, some make tons of side shoots, others less! For smaller heads, grow quick maturing varieties. They come in Green or purple! Purples turn green or blue when cooked. At left is an Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli, a beautiful English Heirloom producing like crazy!

Besides regular brocs, there are fancies like Romanesco that grows in a spiral! It’s taste is mild and more like cauliflower than broccoli. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Broccoli Raab, aka Rapini, is fast-growing, also known as turnip broccoli, forms multiple small heads and tends to branch out.

Some favorite varieties:

DeCicco 48-65 days – Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, considered a spring variety.  Early, so smaller main heads.
Packman 53 days – early hybrid, 9” head! Excellent side-shoot production.
Green Comet 55 days – early; hybrid, 6” diameter head, very tolerant of diseases and weather stress. Heat tolerant.
Nutribud 55-70 days – is unusually high in free glutamine which is one of the building blocks of protein, a primary energy source of the brain and a major healing nutrient! Purple broccoli, in addition to this, contains anthocyanins which give it its colour. These have antioxidant effects, which are thought to lower the risk of some cancers and maintain a healthy urinary tract as well.
Cruiser 58 days – tolerant of dry conditions
Calabrese 58-90 days – Italian, large heads, many side shoots. Loves cool weather. Disease resistant.
Green Goliath 60 days – heavy producer, tolerant of extremes. Prefers cool weather, considered a spring variety.
Waltham 29  85 days – medium heads, late, cold resistant, prefers fall weather but has tolerance for late summer heat.

Broccoli is notorious for uneven maturity, so you will often see a range of days to maturity, like Calabrese above. So don’t expect clockwork. The advantage is they don’t come in all at once and you have table supply for an extended period, especially if you plant different varieties at the same time. After the main head is harvested, you will have an abundant supply of side shoots which will further extend your harvest time. Some varieties even produce mini side shoots at the same time as the main head!

Companion Plants Broccoli Lettuce repel Cabbage MothTasty image from GrowVeg!

COMPANIONS

Plant Lettuce amongst the Brassicas to repel cabbage moths. In hot summer, big brocs shelter and shade delicate lettuces. When it isn’t hot, put smaller companions on the sunny side of your brocs. Cut lower foliage off so they get sun. Mint nearby deters cabbage moths from laying eggs. Since mint is invasive, plant it in containers.

Cilantro makes broccoli grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!

To deter pests plant Onion family, plant Chamomile, Aromatic herbs, especially Catmint, Hyssop, Mint, Dill, Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Lemon Balm. Plant your herbs in containers so they can be moved around during the year to help specific seasonal plants.

Generally brocs are happy with Basil, Beans, Beets, Celery, Chard, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Nasturtium, Onion, Potato,  Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Tomato

Not happy with Tomatoes?, strawberry, lettuce?!, bush & pole beans.

In summer, plant cucumbers under them to reduce the attraction of striped cucumber beetles to the cukes.

Radish reduces green peach aphids.

Be advised! Dying parts of the Brassica family of plants produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing.  Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce, are especially affected by the Brassica poison, so plant lettuces from transplants under them. A professor at the University of Connecticut says Brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.

PLANTING

Brocs prefer full sun, though partial shade helps prevent bolting, but if they don’t get enough sun they will just grow tall. More sun helps make a tougher plant less attractive to aphids.

Broccoli plants will grow in almost any soil but prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability. Well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal for broccoli plants and especially early plantings of broccoli. They LOVE recently manured ground.

If you will be planting by seed, per Cornell, best germination temperature is 45 F to 85 F, but will germinate at soil temps as low as 40 F.

Though those are best temps, in SoCal, if there are no Bagrada Bugs, fall plantings are started late July. While there is little space for big winter plants, small nursery patches can be planted. Leave enough room between seedlings so you can get your trowel in to lift them out to transplant later when space becomes available. If seeds and nurseries aren’t your thing, wait until your local nursery has transplants! If we aren’t having a heatwave, late August they might start trickling in. Labor Day weekend is a favorite planting time for some gardeners. October is just fine too!

Successive plantings may be done all winter long. If brocs are a favorite, the last round is usually planted in January because spring brings the interest in summer plants and we need room for them! We need space to amend soil for the next plantings, and time to let it settle and for the soil organisms to establish and flourish. The weather shifts, our body shifts with the seasons and we are looking forward to those summer treats again!

Seedlings should be 8″-10″ apart with 30″-36″ between the rows. Broccoli yields and the size of broccoli heads are affected by plant spacing. The tighter the spacing the better the yields, but the broccoli heads will be smaller. If you intend to keep your plants for side shoots, plant taller varieties to the northmost so they won’t shade shorter summer plants you will plant later on. Plant for plenty of air circulation to help avoid mildew.

The number of plants you choose to grow depends on your needs. If Broccoli is a staple for you, plant plenty so after the main heads are taken, you will get enough side shoots. When you need space for summer crops, and as other crops come in, you may decide to keep only 1 or 2 plants for side shoots to garnish your summer salads.

Cool weather is essential once the flower heads start to form. It keeps growth steady.

MAINTENANCE, IRRIGATION/MULCH

For year ’round growers, mulch early in spring to keep the ground cool and moist as well as reduce weed competition. In cool moist areas, forget the mulch. It brings slugs.

An even moisture supply is needed for broccoli transplants to become well established and to produce good heads. Never let the seedbed dry out. In sandy soils this may require two to three waterings per day. When they get up to about a foot tall, lay back on the water so the leaves aren’t too soft, attract aphids.

Compost/Fertilizer Put a ring of granular nitrogen around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants for bigger heads.

The trick to producing excellent broccoli heads is to keep the broccoli plants growing at a steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost or manure tea; or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest.

PESTS & DISEASES

Pests

Research shows there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together! The plants mature at different rates. Aphids usually mean too soft a plant. Less feeding, less water. Immediately check curled leaves. Spray them away with a vigorous stream of water every day until gone, taking special care where new leaves are forming. Check the undersides of the leaves too. If the aphids have infested side shoots, remove the shoots. Some recommend sprinkling cinnamon on the ground to dissuade the ants that tend the aphids.

Cutworms, Flea Beetles, and Diamond Back Moth.

The nemesis is the green looper! This cabbage caterpillar makes your plants holey faster than thou can believe! Get Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis. It is sold in nurseries as Thuricide, Dipel, Bactus, Biological Worm Control, Leptox, SOK, Novabac or Tribacture.

Diseases

Club Root, Black Rot, Black Leg, Wirestem, Alternaria Leaf Spot, and Downy Mildew

Immediately when you plant your transplants, treat for mildew. Apply your baking soda mix. Drench under and upper sides of the foliage of young plants to get them off to a great start! A super combo is 1 regular Aspirin dissolved, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains. Prevention is so much better than after mildew has set in. See Aspirin Solution.

Small or no heads? Weather can be the culprit. Per Bonnie Plants, “If transplants sit exposed to cold below 40 degrees for a week or two, the chilling injury triggers heads to form way too early.” A small head on a small plant means you won’t get a large head. A head may not form If the growing tip is injured by rough handling, insects or weather. Your broc is considered to have gone ‘blind.’ If you have enough growing season time left, start over with a transplant if possible.

HARVEST

Potentially you have five kinds of harvests! Leaves, heads, side shoots, flowers, seeds! Leaves are edible, same as collards!

The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. Harvest the main head while the buds are tight!  Broccoli heads should not have any yellow petals. Cut about 5” down the stem so fat side branches and larger side shoots will form. Cut at an angle so water will run off, not settle in the center and rot the central stalk.

Side heads will develop rapidly in some varieties after the main head has been harvested, some even before! Harvesting of the broccoli side heads may continue for several weeks or all summer! Side shoot heads are 1 to 3″ in diameter. Sidedressing with fertilizer can increase yields and size of these sprout shoots.

Broccoli is highly perishable. The respiration rate of freshly harvested broccoli is very high. Harvest it last, and get it into the fridge asap before it goes limp! Broccoli should not be stored with apples or pears, which produce substantial quantities of ethylene, because this gas accelerates yellowing of the buds. Freeze what you won’t use right away.

If you didn’t harvest your side shoots and your broccoli has gone to flower, harvest the flowers and sprinkle them over your salad, toss them in your stir fry for a little peppery flavor! Hold the stalk with one hand, zip your other hand along the stalk to gather the beautiful flowers! Clip off stalks you don’t need and you will likely get more side shoots!

Broccoli Seed SaveSAVING SEEDS

All varieties in this large species will cross with each other. Separate different varieties at least 1000 feet for satisfactory results or at least 1 mile for purity. Caging with introduced pollinators or alternate day caging is also recommended in small gardens. Because Brassicas are biennial, two year plants, plants to be left for seed production, if in cold climates, should be mulched in the fall or carefully dug, trimmed and stored for the winter in a humid area with temperatures between 35-40° F. In SoCal they can be left in the ground to overwinter. Flowering plants can reach 4′ in height and need at least 2′ to 3′ spacing, depending on the size of the variety, for good seed production.

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi grown for seed should not be trimmed for consumption. Brussels sprouts, collards and kale can be lightly trimmed for eating without affecting quality seed production. If small amounts of seeds are wanted, allow the fine little pods to dry to a light brown color before picking and opening by hand. Lower pods dry first followed by those progressively higher on the plant. Watch daily to get them before the birds do, or cover the plant with bird netting! For larger amounts of seeds pull the entire plant after a majority of pods have dried. Green pods rarely produce viable seeds even if allowed to dry after the plant is pulled.

Crush unopened pods in a cloth bag with a mallet or by walking on them. Chaff can be winnowed. Remove the seeds so no moisture will remain to rot them.

Viability  2 – 3 years, but up to 5 years in good cool and dry storage conditions.

CULINARY TREATS!

Broccoli is a popular raw hors d’œuvre vegetable for good reason! That is when it is most nutritious! Light and quick steaming is second best.

All Brassica leaves can be eaten the same as collard leaves! Steamed over rice, or toss in a wok with oil, sprinkled with soy sauce or a sauce of your choice. Dr. Amy Simmone, University of Florida Food Safety Specialist and native of Thailand, states that in her country broccoli leaves are stir-fried or sautéed with garlic and oyster sauce and served with rice. She says that broccoli leaves taste a bit like young tender collard greens.

Use to top pastas or even pizzas! Broccoli along with almonds makes a delish creamy soup. Cheese and Broccoli Quiche!

Broccoli Bright Beautiful Edible FlowersThe top portion of broccoli is actually flower buds. Given time each will burst into a bright beautiful yellow flower, which is why they are called florets. The small yellow edible flowers have a mild spiciness, mild broccoli flavor. They are quite pretty and terrific sprinkled on salads, and are delicious in a stir-fry or steamer.

Tarladalal of India says: Combine broccoli, baby corn, spinach and other vegetables of your choice, cook in a thick creamy white sauce or red sauce. Pour in a baking dish, garnish with cheese and bake to make au gratins. You can also use as lasagna sheets in this recipe.

Broccoli has been with us in the US since 1923, when two Italian brothers planted the first crop near San Jose, California. John Evans, of Palmer, Alaska, holds the 1993 world’s record for his 35 lb (no typo) broc!  He uses organic methods, including mycorrhizal fungi!  And, yes, moose eat broccoli!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

Read Full Post »

Diplomat Broccoli seedlings grown by Robin Follette at her Maine Homestead
Diplomat Broccoli Seedlings grown by Robin Follette, Outdoorswoman & Homesteader! Robin & her husband Steve Follette homestead in the rural woods of Maine.

We’ve had a generally mild summer and no Bagrada Bugs, so fall/winter plantings started in September, lots more in October. September lettuces may already be eaten, plant more! Kale leaves are or soon will be ready to start harvesting. Broccoli and Cauliflower will be tasty! Cabbages will take a bit longer as they pack those leaves on tightly. You can harvest them when they are small, or if you want more food, let them get still bigger!

Plant more rounds of everything in space you have reserved, or as plants finish. At this cooler time when plants are growing slower, it’s time to plant from transplantsSeeds are fine, and seeds of the same plants, if planted at the same time as the transplants, give an automatic equivalent of a second round of planting!

Space your plants well. Think of the footprint of your mature plant. Crowded plants can shade each other out. They don’t get their full productive size or produce as productively, both size or quantity. Smaller plants too close together can get rootbound, suffer from lack of nutrition. The remedy is simple! Thin when young and eat these luscious little plants! Rather than planting so closely, keep some of those seeds back for another later planting, or deliberately over plant for tender additions to your salad! If they come crowded in a nursery six pack, gently separate the little plants, plant separately. Give away your extras! Plant to allow air flow so your plants will harden up a bit, and don’t over water, inviting sucking pests like aphids and white flies that easily feed on soft tissue. Especially true for beets and chard that get leaf miners. Ideally with chard, a ‘permanent’ plant, the leaves won’t touch another chard.

If you like Broccoli a lot, try these varieties!

  1. Arcadia is somewhat heat tolerant with excellent side shoot production.
  2. All Season F1 Hybrid is low growing, doesn’t shade out other plants, and makes the largest side shoots I’ve ever seen!
  3. Cruiser 58 days to harvest, is tolerant of dry conditions.
  4. If you can’t wait, DeCicco is only 48 to 65 days to maturity. It is an Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, but considered to be a spring variety.  Since it is early, the main heads are smaller.
  5. Nutribud, per Island Seed & Feed, is the most nutritious per studies, having significant amounts of glutamine, one of the energy sources for our brains!
  6. Purple broccoli, in addition to this, contains anthocyanins which give it its color. These have antioxidant effects, which are thought to lower the risk of some cancers and maintain a healthy urinary tract as well.

Brassica/Broccoli Pest Strategies

  • Research shows the more broccoli varieties you plant, mixing them up, alternating the varieties in the row, not planting in rows at all, the less aphids you will have! Biodiversity means to mix up your plantings to stop diseases and pests from spreading down a row or throughout a patch. Monoculture can be costly in time spent and crop losses. Plant different varieties of the same plant with different maturity dates. Pests and diseases are only attracted at certain stages of your plants’ growth and their own life cycle stages.
  • Another tip is keep your Brassicas cleaned of yellowing leaves that attract White flies.
  • Cilantro repels aphids on Brassicas – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts! Said to make them grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener! Plant generous mini patches here and there. Harvest some, let others flower for bees and beneficial insects. Then share some seeds with the birds, collect some seeds for next plantings.
  • Heading winter lettuces like plenty of water to stay sweet, grow quickly, stay in high production. Put them in a low spot or near the spigot, on the sunny side of taller celery. Lettuces repel cabbage moths. Put a few of them between the cabbages. Lettuces you want under Brassicas, plant from transplants because dying parts of Brassicas put out a poison that prevents some seeds, like tiny lettuce seeds, from growing. As the Brassicas get bigger, remove lower leaves that would shade the lettuces.

See Super Fall Veggies Varieties, Smart Companion Plantings!

Brocs LOVE recently manured ground.  Well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal. Feed up your soil out to where you anticipate your plant’s drip line will be. The trick to producing excellent broccoli heads is to keep the broccoli plants growing at a strong steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost or manure tea; or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest! John Evans, of Palmer, Alaska, holds the world’s record for his 1993 35 lb (no typo) broc! He uses organic methods, including mycorrhizal fungi! And, yes, moose eat broccoli!

Huge Cabbages grown by the Cunningham Family at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden 2016!
The Pilgrim Terrace April 2016 Cunningham Family monster Cabbages make the Lacinato Kale behind them look small!

Plant your bareroot strawberries as soon as you can get them, or plant the ones you chilled in your fridge Nov 5 to 10. If you miss this window, January could be even better for bareroots! The days will be getting longer, soon warming. Your strawberries will come along quickly! Before planting in January, put in some acidic compost at the same time you chop down and turn under your green manure. Strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil. I highly recommend UCSB locally bred bareroot Seascapes! They are Strawberry spot resistant, grow big berries with great flavor, and have a great shelf life! Plant along borders or in places for easy access picking!

If you reserved space for strawberry beds, plant it to 2 month crops, like lettuce that matures quickly, arugula, mustard, turnips, and crispy red radishes that are ready to pick in little more than a month. Arugula, spinach, 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. Or, pop in a green manure mix to restore your soil. Island Seed & Feed has the wonderful Harmony Four green manure seed mix and the inoculant that goes with it. Chard grows quickly, but it is a cut and come again plant that needs a permanent location.

Celery is lovely, fragrant! It is a cut and come again. Feed it from time to time, it’s working hard. Plant it by the water spigot. If you have room, you can let celery, and carrots, flower and seed too!

Peas on a trellis, in a cage, take up less space, and are easier to harvest. Make a note to plant carrots on the sunny side of peas to enhance the growth of your peas! Baby Little Fingers make small carrots quicker than most, only 57 days to maturity! Put some beets behind the peas. They will get light through the frilly carrot leaves and the peas will go up. Peas and beets don’t mind a fair bit of water, but carrots will split if overwatered. Plant the peas a little lower and the carrots a little further away and water them a tad less once they are up. The onion family stunts peas, so no onions, bunch onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, chives nearby. See Best Varieties of PEAS and Why!

1st half of Nov: Plant seeds of globe onions for slicing. Grano, Granex, Crystal Wax.

GARLIC! Hmm…usually I would encourage you to grow garlic but with these general overall warmer times, some garlic lovers are reporting they aren’t growing it here anymore. Garlic likes chill, so even in our regular winters we don’t get the big cloves like up in Gilroy, the Garlic Capital, Ca. If you don’t mind smaller bulbs, plant away. Plant rounds of your fattest garlic cloves now through Dec 21, Winter Solstice, for June/July harvests! See a LOT about GARLIC!

Divide your artichokes! Give new babies plenty of room to grow big and make pups of their own or give them to friends! Remember, they have a huge 6′ footprint when they thrive and are at full maturity. Plant bareroot artichoke now or in Feb, or in March from pony packs. They have a 10 year life expectancy!

Shade  If you want a lower profile or space is limited, get dwarf varieties. That allows more flexibility when you choose how to place your plants or are filling in a spot where a plant has finished. Plant your Tall plants in zig zag ‘rows’ so you can plant them closer together. In the inside of a zig zag, on the sunny side in front of the ‘back’ plant, put in your fillers – medium height plants and shorties. A mix of Bok Choy, mustards, longer winter radishes – Daikon, kohlrabi, rutabagas and turnips would be exciting and give winter variety on your table!

Soil & Feeding

With the majority of fall crops, the main harvest is leaves! Cut and come again means a long harvest, and a very hungry plant! So, plant in super soil to get a good start! Add composts, manures, worm castings. In the planting hole, mix in a handful of nonfat powdered milk in for immediate uptake as a natural germicide and to boost their immune system. For bloomers, brocs and caulis, throw in a handful of bone meal for later uptake at bloom time. If you have other treats you like to favor your plants with, give them some of that too! Go lightly on incorporating coffee grounds either in your compost or soil. Studies found coffee grounds work well at only 0.5 percent of the compost mix. That’s only 1/2 a percent! See more details about soil building! The exception is carrots! Too much good soil makes them hairy, fork, and too much water makes them split.

Also at transplant time, sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi directly on transplant roots! Pat it on gently so it stays there. Direct contact is needed. Brassicas don’t mingle with the fungi and peas may have low need for it, so no need to use it on them.

Winter plants need additional feeding, and steady adequate moisture to stay healthy and able in such demanding constant production. Give them yummy compost to keep their soil fluffy with oxygen, the water holding capacity up to par. Be careful not to damage main roots. Get a spade fork if you don’t have one. Make holes in your soil instead, then, if you don’t have skunks or other digging predators, pour them a fish/kelp emulsion cocktail! Or compost, manure, or worm cast tea down the holes. Your plants will thrive, soil organisms will party down!

Winter Water! An inch a week is the general rule, but certain areas and plants may require more or less water. Don’t let light rains fool you. Do the old finger test to see if the top 2” of soil are moist. If you are managing a landscape or larger veggie garden, slow, spread and sink incoming water. Install berms or do some terracing. Direct special channels to water your precious fruit trees. Use gray water as much as possible. Carrying buckets of water builds character, but a gray water system is ace! See Santa Barbara Rebates for both residential and commercial assistance.

Wonderful Sloggers Rain Garden Muck Boots WomenSecurely stake tall or top heavy plants before predicted winds. Tie your peas to their trellis or plant them inside well-staked remesh round cages. Check on everything the morning after. Some areas may need more shelter and you could create a straw bale border, or even better, a permeable windbreak of low growing bushes, like maybe blueberries! Lay down seedless straw, a board, or stepping stone pathways so your footwear doesn’t get muddy. Treat yourself to some fab muck boots! (Sloggers)

Mulch? The purpose for mulch in summer is to keep your soil cool and moist. If you live where it snows, deep mulch may keep your soil from freezing so soon. But when SoCal  temps start to cool, days are shorter, it’s time to remove mulch, especially if it is a moist pest or disease habitat, and let what Sun there is heat up the soil as it can. When it is rainy, mulch slopes with mulch that won’t blow or float away. If needed, cover it – garden staple down some scrap pieces of hardware cloth, cut-to-fit wire fencing or that green plastic poultry fencing. Or do a little quick sandbag terracing. The mulch exception is low to the ground leaf crops like lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choy and chard. They need protection from mud splash. Lay down some straw before predicted storms. If you live in a windy area, lay something over the straw, like maybe rebar pieces, to hold the straw in place.

Pest and Disease Prevention 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. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains.

RESTORE OR REST an area. Decide where you will plant your tomatoes, heavy feeders, next summer and plant your Green Manure there! Plant some hefty favas or a vetch mix for green manures to boost soil Nitrogen. The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell beans that feed the soil, and oats that have deep roots to break up the soil. When they start flowering, chop them down into small pieces and turn them under. Wait 2 or more weeks, plant! Favas only are good and big, you get a lot of green manure 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. This is called Lasagna gardening, 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. Keep it slightly moist. Next spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

BEE FOOD! Plant wildflowers now from seed for early spring flowers! Germination in cooler weather takes longer, so don’t let the bed dry out.

Layer up, enjoy these crisp days. Let the wind clear your Spirit, the rain cleanse and soften your Soul.

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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 November 2016 GBC Newsletter!

November Crisp & Refreshing Veggie Gardening!
Onion, Garlic, Leeks, Chives – Delicious SoCal Alliums!
Rainy Day Tips for Spectacular Veggies!
Wonderful Gardener Style Holiday Gifts! 
Other Community Gardens – Meet the Composters on Bikes! 

Events! January 29 Santa Barbara 9th Annual SEED SWAP!

See the wonderful October images at Rancheria Community Garden!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Carrots Rainbow! Rose, Classic Orange, Purple Sun, White Satin
Carrot Rainbow! Rose, Classic Orange, Purple Sun, White Satin

Colorful carrots brighten your table any time of year! Their pretty ferny foliage is lovely in your garden. It is so much fun pulling gorgeous fat, long, colorful carrots! Downright satisfying. What a beautiful fragrance…. Tops can be eaten too, or are prime in your compost.

Varieties Galore! Thumbelinas – fun for the kids to grow, stubbies, conical, to long, long pointy skinnys. If you are hungry sooner, choose early maturing shorter varieties. Plant different kinds for the fun of it! With mixed seed packs you never know which color you will pull up! Danvers is an excellent choice for cooking. It has a higher fiber content than Nantes sorts. It grows well in heavier soils and stores well in the soil at maturity. Super juicing carrots are Healthmaster or Danvers. Autumn King and Scarlet Nantes are excellent cold tolerant varieties.

Carrot French Heirloom ParisianAt left is the French heirloom Parisian, an early orange-red carrot that grows almost more like the shape of a large radish. It excels in clay or rocky soil where other carrots have problems developing properly.

Carrots are scrumptious companions! Planted a little too closely and not thinned, they twist together in the garden, but better yet, is they enhance peas while they are growing! They grow way slower than peas, lasting while pole peas are getting their full height. They are quite faster than cabbage, so perfect to grow among cabbages until the cabbages would finally shade them out! Onions, leeks and chives help repel the carrot root fly. Carrots thrive when Cilantro, Chamomile, Marigold are planted with them.

Colorful and dramatic Recipe! Roasted whole Carrots, Green Tahini Sauce, Pomegranate Seeds!Skinny carrots for roasting are a treat! The Tiny Farm blog says: Sprint, a new Amsterdam forcing variety (good for growing in challenging conditions) matures long and slender in a listed 42 days. That’s fast, over two weeks ahead of the quickest regular carrot we grow (the fabulous Nelson).

SOIL Stone/rock free loose soil is best for those long rooted champions! But they are smart enough to wind their way around a stone or two if you ask them to grow there. They like steadily moist soil. If the soil gets dry and you give them a big soak, they are likely to split, and that’s not pretty. NO manure! It makes them hairy and they fork.

Their favorite season in SoCal is winter. The soil is usually more continuously moist, except in this drought. Best germination soil temps are 50 F to 75 F, but they will germinate at as low as 40 F.

Plant from seed. Soaking seeds, and preSprouting makes a lot of sense. Advantages of seed soaking are a speedier garden – your seeds germinate sooner, and you get  more complete germination of all seeds planted! Be sure your seed is fresh to get a high % of germination! The seeds are hard, so if you don’t at least presoak, figure on 14 to 21 days of keeping them moist in the garden before they germinate

PreSoaking is easy. Pop the number of seeds you want to grow, with few extra for whatever might happen to them, in a cup of warm water, soak over night. On a raised edge plate, lay them on one side of half a folded paper towel. Lay the other half over and pat dry. Easy peasy! Weather tip: Don’t soak your seeds the night before a rain is expected. Wait for good planting conditions. Rain compacts the soil, making it harder for tiny sprouts to break through, and seeds might be washed away or tiny sprouts broken if sprouting seeds are shifted in wet soil.

PreSprouting is devilishly clever! Sprouted seed will grow in soils too cool for germination! You take only the sprouted seed to plant into the garden – that’s a form of 100% germination! Grab a raised edge plate, lay a paper towel on it. Spread your seeds out a 1/2 to an inch apart, so ther is room for their sprouts. Spritz them with good water. Lay another paper towel over them and dampen it too. Put the plate in a plastic bag, tie it, keep moist until they germinate!

Just before planting time, put them on a dry paper towel and let them drain if needed. Grab some tweezers and plant very carefully immediately. The sprout is the root, so it goes down. Not to worry if they just plop in the planting hole any which way. They know what to do and will find their way, but the seed itself needs to be at the right planting depth so the little leaves can get up. Since many carrot seeds are tiny, this reduces waste of your seeds, and no time is lost later thinning these tiny plants!

If you don’t presprout ~ Carrot seeds are very small, and it is difficult to obtain a stand if the soil is crusty. Try mixing carrot seed with dry sand to get even distribution. Then, instead of covering with soil, cover the seed 1/8-inch deep with sawdust, vermiculite or manufactured potting soil. Water the row soon after planting is complete. This method will allow the seeds to stay wet and prevent crusting.

Plant at the spacing they need at their maturity. For broad carrot shoulders like Chantenay, plant as much as 3″ apart. For baby carrots, plant closely, a half inch or slightly less apart. If you overplant, thin the carrots when they are 1 to 2 inches tall. Best to cut off with tiny scissors rather than pull and disturb or damage the remaining plants’ roots.

Keeping the seeds moist is a commitment that must be kept. Do put down Sluggo or the like, before the seedlings come up because seedlings can be mowed overnight. Weeding is an important delicate operation. Carefully clip little weeds away rather than pulling and disturbing or breaking tiny carrot roots.

Shoulders, hilling. Carrots naturally push up and grow above the soil line. Planting seeds deeper doesn’t compensate. Instead, have extra soil handy to hill over those shoulders. Uncovered shoulders turn green and need to be cut away.

Harvest when their orange color is bright, when their flavor and texture are optimum. Water well prior to harvest to ensure the roots have absorbed their maximum capacity of water and are easy to pull. Don’t harvest carrots too soon, sugars are formed relatively late.

STORAGE Remove the foliage right away. It takes moisture from the carrot, causing it to wilt. Put them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. Research shows the especially valuable (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer is well-retained in carrots stored properly. Store away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.

Culinary Carrots! Eat them rinsed and raw right at the garden. Many a carrot never makes it to the kitchen! Pare into thick strips, flowerettes. Diagonally chop, ripple slice, dice. Make lengthy Julienne quarters. Freshly shred into green salads, add as garnish on top! Make traditional carrot & raisin salad. Carrots, celery and greens juices, smoothies. Steamed & stewed. Roasted, grilled on the summer barbie. Add as nutritious and delicious Carrot Winter Cake, muffins, cookies, pancakes and waffles, cheesecake! Spicylicious Carrot jam. Carrot ice cream ~ See these images, with recipe links, that will positively make you drool!

Nutrition?! Oh, yes! Peel your carrots? Old grocery store carrots may have bitter skins, but not likely straight from the ground from your organic garden! Clean is better and keep the skin! Or pare and give the skins to your compost! But here is where ORGANIC counts! Organic produce isn’t sprayed with pesticides that collect in the skin, the plant’s natural filter against foreign bodies – probably why non organic carrot skins are bitter…. “Organic Authority” magazine reports that carrots contain a high degree of phytonutrients, many of which are found in the skin or immediately beneath it. Consuming phytonutrients leads to a number of health benefits, including lessening your risk of cancer and boosting your immune response. The benefit carrots have always been known for is their high beta carotene content, which improves eye and skin health and also boosts your immune system.

If you must ‘peel,’ here is a tip from kc girl online: I use one of those white scouring cloths used for non-stick pans (instead of the brush). Hold it in your palm, wrap it around the carrot, and run it up and down with a little twisting action while under running water. It kind of “sands” the carrot and takes off just a little of the skin.

Purple Carrots! The ORIGINAL wild carrot was white or purple! The domestic carrot we eat today has been bred for size, a less woody core and sweetness! Purple carrots have even more beta carotene (good vision) than their orange cousins! Like blueberries, they get their purple pigment from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect key cell components. They grab and hold harmful free radicals in the body, help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting, and are anti-inflammatory (arthritis). So, they are cheaper than blueberries, higher in beta carotene, and you can grow them just about anywhere!

Safety note! If you have diabetes or are at risk for developing the condition, read this info from the UK World Carrot Museum!

Carrot Umbels - Buds to Seeds
Green buds, white flowers, brown seeds!

Carrots, Daucus carota subsp. sativus, are in the Umbelliferae family, make these magical flower heads, then seeds! Every season let one or two grow up and make beauty in your garden – flower food for the pollinators/beneficial insects, then seeds for you and the birds!

Carrots are one of the ten most economically important vegetables crops in the world, China, Russia and the US producing the most. California produces over 85 percent of all car­rots grown in the United States, Kern County the most. That has probably changed with the drought…. However, the week long Holtville Annual Carrot Festival is good to go January 30 to February 7 in 2016!

Carrots have true Fans!  There are carrot events worldwide!

Mazel tov! To your very excellent health!

Carrot Juice! Mazel tov!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are 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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Cauliflower Purple Leaf
Purple cauliflower has flavonoid compounds called anthocyanin, antioxidants. Steaming retains the most nutrition. Mark Twain once said, “Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.”

Got some favorite old Italian heirloom Violetta Italia caulies at Terra Sol Nursery and a Cheddar, abundant with carotenoids, at ACE! Terra Sol had Cosmic Purple carrots too!
I’m trying Arcadia Broccoli because it is somewhat heat tolerant with excellent side shoot production.
Island Seed & Feed has the wonderful Harmony Four green manure seed mix and the inoculant that goes with it, plus a goodly batch of winter transplants including celery and some interesting peas!
Sad to report, no bare root strawberries anywhere. La Sumida usually has them when they reopen in January after the holidays. Sure hope so this year too!

Finally the SoCal HEAT is over!? Many of us at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden didn’t plant until the very end of October, and even then we had record high temps. Very delayed start this year. There will be fewer rounds of planting. Instead of leaving space available for a second round, this year I planted all the space right away. I’ll fill in as space becomes available ~ when the cabbage and cauliflower heads are harvested. I’m planting more kale and chard than I used to so I’ll have a quick supply of greens while waiting for the others. This late, plant transplants for sure. Seeds are fine, and seeds of the same plants, if planted at the same time as the transplants, give an automatic equivalent of a second round of planting!

Winter light is less, so your placement strategies are more critical. Remember, tall to the North and shaded areas, graduating down in size to the shorties South and sunny. For example, if your garden gets only morning sun, plant tall to the west, shorties on the east. Tall means at their mature height.

Tall
  • Pole peas on a trellis might be your backdrop, against a wall, along a fence. Plant carrots on the sunny side of peas to enhance the growth of your peas! I plant beets behind the peas because the beets are fast broadleaved growers that would shade out young peas or slow growing carrots. Peas like a lot of water, so though carrots from seed need to be kept moist, after that, too much water makes carrots split. So plant your carrots far enough from the peas so your carrots don’t get as much water as the peas do.
  • Brocs get tallest, some up to 5 feet+ unless you are planting dwarf/patio varieties.
  • Kales can get that tall and taller if you let them grow pom pom style. Even dwarf kales will do that! Given time, dwarfts revert to their natural size.
  • Cauliflower, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, Rapini are about 3′ tall
  • Plant your Tall plants in zig zag ‘rows’ so you can plant them closer together. In the inside of a zig zag, on the sunny side in front of the ‘back’ plant, put in your medium and shorties. Some gardeners call them fillers; I call some of them ‘littles.’
Medium
  • Chards are next, different varieties at varying heights, Fordhook Giants the tallest.
  • Bush peas – carrots on the sunny side
  • Leeks (away from the peas)
  • Cilantro repels aphids on Brassicas – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts! Said to make them grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener! Plant generous mini patches here and there. Harvest some, let others flower for bees and beneficial insects. Then share some seeds with the birds, collect some seeds for next plantings.
  • Celery by the water spigot. If you have room, you can let celery flower and seed too!
Shorties, Fillers, ‘Littles’
  • Bareroot Strawberries, transplant strawberry runner daughters first/second week of November if possible. They need ACIDIC compost mixed into their soil! Put them in spots for easy picking, lovely along borders. Keep them moist. When they start to fruit in spring, cover with aviary wire to keep out birds.
  • Heading winter lettuces like plenty of water to stay sweet, grow quickly, stay in high production. Put them in a low spot or near the spigot, on the sunny side of taller celery. Also, lettuces repel cabbage moths. Put a few of them between the cabbages and other Brassicas. Plant lettuces you want under Brassicas from transplants because dying parts of Brassicas put out a poison that prevents some seeds, like tiny lettuce seeds, from growing. Compost fallen Brassica leaves right away. In fact, remove yellowing leaves ASAP! Yellow attracts whiteflies.
  • Bunch onions away from peas
  • Arugula, Bok Choy, Mizuna, mustards, spinach, the longer winter radishes
  • Kohlrabi, rutabagas and turnips
  • Have fun with beets & carrots! They come in different shapes and lots of different colors. Try Danish heirloom Cylindra beets! Special tip from Hole’s: ‘Nearly two thirds of the length of the root will grow above ground, so some gardeners like to hill up soil around each plant as the root emerges. This will keep the skins of the root very tender and protect them from insects.’ True for any beet and a bit for carrots! Hilling up the soil keeps carrots from having those green shoulders.
  • Plant carrots, slow growers, on the sunny side of faster growing flat leaved plants like beets so the carrots won’t be shaded out. Colorful carrots brighten your winter stews! Baby Little Fingers make small carrots quicker than most, only 57 days to maturity! Put in multi colored Circus Circus!

GARLIC! Hmm…usually I would encourage you to grow garlic but with these general overall warmer times, some garlic lovers are reporting they aren’t growing it here anymore. Garlic likes chill, so even in our regular winters we don’t get the big cloves like up in Gilroy, the Garlic Capital, Ca. If you don’t mind smaller bulbs, plant away. Plant rounds of your fattest garlic cloves now through Dec 21, Winter Solstice, for June/July harvests! See a LOT about GARLIC!

Space your plants well. Think of the footprint of your mature plant. Crowded plants can shade each other out. They don’t get their full productive size or produce as productively, both size or quantity. Smaller plants too close together can get rootbound, suffer from lack of nutrition. The remedy is simple! Thin when young and eat these luscious little plants! Rather than planting so closely, keep some of those seeds back for another later planting. If they come that way from the nursery, gently separate the little plants, plant separately. Give away your extras! Plant to allow air flow so your plants will harden up a bit, and don’t overwater, inviting sucking pests like aphids and white flies that feed easily on soft tissue. Especially true for kales and chard that gets leaf miners. Ideally with chard the leaves won’t touch another chard.

Biodiversity Mix up your plantings to stop diseases and pests from spreading down a row or throughout a patch. Monoculture can be costly in time spent and crop losses. Plant different varieties of the same plant with different maturity dates. Pests and diseases are only attracted at certain stages of your plants’ growth.

See Super Fall Veggies Varieties, Smart Companion Plantings!

Divide your artichokes! Give new babies plenty of room to grow big and make pups of their own or give them to friends! Remember, they have a huge 6′ footprint when they thrive and are at full maturity. Plant bareroot artichoke now or in Feb, or in March from pony packs. They have a 10 year life expectancy!

Strawberry Notes!  Chandlers are June bearers. Sequoias are Everbearers. Seascapes are one of California’s own, released by the University of California breeding program in 1992. They are Day-Neutral, producing 3 months after planted no matter when you plant them! They produce spring, summer and fall, are heat tolerant and remarkably disease resistant! Seascapes, Albions and Sequoias have large berries, Albions very firm. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries more so than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, farmers grow, or experiment! 1st half of Nov: Plant seeds of globe onions for slicing. Grano, Granex, Crystal Wax.

With the majority of fall crops, the main harvest is leaves! Cut and come again means a long harvest, and a very hungry plant! So, plant in super soil to get a good start! Add composts, manures, worm castings. In the planting hole, mix in a handful of nonfat powdered milk in for immediate uptake as a natural germicide and to boost their immune system. For bloomers, brocs and caulis, throw in a handful of bone meal for later uptake at bloom time. If you have other treats you like to favor your plants with, give them some of that too! Go lightly on incorporating coffee grounds either in your compost or soil. Studies found coffee grounds work well at only 0.5 percent of the compost mix. That’s only 1/2 a percent! See more details about soil building! The exception is carrots! Too much good soil makes them hairy, fork, and too much water makes them split.

Also at transplant time, sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi directly on transplant roots! Pat it on gently so it stays there. Direct contact is needed. Brassicas don’t mingle with the fungi and peas may have low need for it, so no need to use it on them.

Immediately after transplanting, give your babies a boost! Drench young plants with Aspirin Solution, + a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can, to get them off to a great start! Do this the same or next day! Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains.

Winter plants need additional feeding, and steady adequate moisture to stay healthy and able in such demanding constant production. Give them yummy compost to keep their soil fluffy with oxygen, the water holding capacity up to par. Be careful not to damage main roots. Get a spade fork if you don’t have one. Make holes in your soil instead, then, if you don’t have skunks or other digging predators, pour them a fish/kelp emulsion cocktail! Or compost, manure, or worm cast tea down the holes. Your plants will thrive, soil organisms will party down!

RESTORE OR REST an area. Decide where you will plant your tomatoes, heavy feeders, next summer and plant your Green Manure there! Plant some hefty favas or a vetch mix for green manures to boost soil Nitrogen. The vetch mix can include Austrian peas and bell beans that feed the soil, and oats that have deep roots to break up the soil. When they start flowering, chop them down into small pieces and turn them under. Wait 2 or more weeks, plant! Favas only are good and big, you get a lot of green manure 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. This is called Lasagna gardening, 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. Keep it slightly moist. Next spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Mulch? The purpose for mulch in summer is to keep your soil cool and moist. If you live where it snows, deep mulch may keep your soil from freezing so soon. But when SoCal  temps start to cool, days are shorter, it’s time to remove mulch and let what Sun there is heat up the soil as it can. When it is rainy, mulch slopes with mulch that won’t blow or float away. If needed, cover it – garden staple down some scrap pieces of hardware cloth, cut-to-fit wire fencing or that green plastic poultry fencing. Or do a little quick sandbag terracing. Low to the ground leaf crops like lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choy, chard, need protection from mud splash. Lay down some straw before predicted storms. If you live in a windy area, lay something over the straw, like maybe rebar pieces, to hold the straw in place.

Rain Garden Muck Boots Women SloggersThis SoCal winter El Niño rain is predicted. Plant where there is good drainage. Make above ground beds. If you built berms that hold in too much water, open a low spot to let water out. At home, make water collection areas, channel the water to your fruit trees. Securely stake tall or top heavy plants before winds. Tie your peas to their trellis or plant them inside well-staked remesh round cages. Check on everything the morning after. Some areas may need more shelter and you could create a straw bale border, or even better, low growing bushes, like maybe blueberries! Lay down seedless straw, a board, or stepping stone pathways so your footwear doesn’t get muddy. Treat yourself to some fab muck boots! (Sloggers)

BEE FOOD! Plant wildflowers now from seed for early spring flowers! Germination in cooler weather takes longer, so don’t let the bed dry out. If you are a seed ball person, fling them far and wide, though not on steep slopes where they simply wash away. What is a seed ball?

Enjoy the crisp evenings, a little bit of clearing wind, enjoy these spectacular sunrises & sunsets! Plant for holiday sharing!

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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!

October Garden Images! Dragon Fruit in progress ~

See the entire November GBC Newsletter:

Love KALE! Beauty, Super Nutrition, Easy to Grow!
Cilantro Repels Aphids, Attracts Bees & Beneficial Insects!!!

Wonderful Gardener-Style Holiday Gifts!
Massachusetts Horticultural Society Garden 

Events!  Master Gardener Training, Seed Swap!

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Dry farming has been a garden practice done for centuries in arid places.  With global warming, many will be using these ancient techniques to great advantage!  In Vietnam today, beans and peanuts, that restore the soil, and sesame, are grown season to season between wet rice plantings!  Watch this Vietnamese video, No Water Required! Dry Farming In Âu Lạc Vietnam

Dry Farming Video Vietnam - Beans, Peanuts, Sesame Restore Soil!

I’m sharing this paragraph of a past post on DRY GARDENING from the Oregon Biodynamics Group.  We hear about tomatoes being dry gardened, but have you ever done it?  Here are some practical tips from people who have:

When the homesteaders planted their gardens, they needed to feed their family for much of the year. They couldn’t afford to do raised beds or to develop irrigation systems. How did they do that? Part of the answer is to give plants lots of elbowroom. Space rows widely at about 8 times what we do with intensive beds. They also hoed or cultivated to keep a “dust mulch” between the plants. This technique is quite effective at preserving water so the plants can make it through the summer with only an occasional irrigation. Most of this class is directed at intensive gardening because we have limited areas for garden plots. But if you have the room, one can produce high-quality produce without irrigation. Vegetables must be able to send down deep roots so that they can draw in the water that is stored in the soil. Plants that work are root crops, brassicas, corn, squash, and beans. Ones that don’t work are onions, celery, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, radishes, and spinach. The plants need to get well established in June [Oregon] using the natural soil moisture. Then they can carry themselves through the dry months. It helps to give 5 gallons of compost tea every 2-3 weeks during July-August. Liquid fertilizer helps with the stress of low water.

When getting started for the season, farmer David Little of Little Organic Farm explains another way of dust mulching. To help people understand how dry farming works, Little uses the example of a wet sponge covered with cellophane. Following winter and spring rains, soil is cultivated to break it up and create a moist “sponge,” then the top layer is compacted using a roller to form a dry crust (the “cellophane”). This three to four inch layer is sometimes referred to as a dust mulch, seals in water and prevents evaporation.

Clearly, our SoCal weather is different than what the Oregon homesteaders had, especially in these times of climate change. I’m translating Oregon June to SoCal May. If you are a coastal gardener, or a foothill gardener, use your judgment how you will do your gardening practice. Plant your dry crops separately from your water-needing crops.  Plant your water lovers more closely together and mulch them well. Get plants going with a little water, then cut it off after a few weeks. As usual, seeds and seedlings Tomato California Dryfarmed Early Girlmust be kept moist at startup.

Soil choice is important. Dry farming in sandy soil, through which water drains easily, doesn’t work.

Dry gardening isn’t for everyone, ie, harvest is generally a tad less, or even only a third as much, or very dramatically, only 4 tons of tomatoes compared to 40 tons from watered plants. But they say the taste is superb! In fact, At Happy Boy Farms, near Santa Cruz, sales director Jen Lynne says “Once you taste a dry-farmed tomato, you’ll never want anything else!”  And people shop specifically for dry farmed tomatoes in areas where they are grown!

Useful pointers if you want to try your hand at it:

  • If it is an option, store water for summer use. Set up a grey water system.
  • Prepare your soil with well aged water-holding compost, manure, worm castings.
  • Plant out of a drying windy zone. If that’s all you have, plant subshrub barriers or build porous windbreaks.
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  • Select plants or plant varieties suited to summer, tolerate heat and being dryer.
  • Choose plants that mature more quickly so they will have the early season water.  Plant those that need less water in the latter part of the season.
  • Grow only what you need.
  • If you don’t need volume, but rather a steady supply, plant high producing dwarfs and minis, like many container varieties, that need less water for smaller leaves.
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  • Plant further apart, at least 1½ times or greater the spacing distance recommended on seed packets, 8 times further if you have been doing intensive planting practices. But, do give seeds and seedlings all the water they need until they are established
  • Make furrows and plant IN the bottoms of furrows, not on the peaks that drain/dry out.
  • Thin out seedlings on time.  No wasting water on plants you won’t use and that will slow others that need all the nutrients and water they can get.  Use scissors; don’t pull up soil causing the other plant’s roots soil to be disturbed, even expose the roots, to dry out, killing that plant too.
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  • If you don’t go the entire dry gardening route, but want to use less water, mulch deeply early on. It keeps your soil from drying out and blocks light germinating weed seeds from sprouting.
  • Self mulching:  plant in blocks, rather than rows. This creates shade for roots and reduces evaporation. If you are home gardening, maybe plant 4 to a block, put the blocks in different places to avoid disease or pest spread.
  • Dust mulching is simply soil cultivation to about 2 or 3 inches deep. Cultivation disturbs the soil surface and interrupts the wicking of soil moisture from below to the surface and losing it to evaporation.  Do it after rains or irrigating.
  • Remove water-using weeds. Don’t let them seed.
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  • When you water, do it by drip or trickle, deeply, early AM if possible, when wind is low and temps are cool. Plants drink during the day.  This is a good time to invest in a ‘hose bubbler.’  They deliver water slowly without digging up your soil.
  • Cultivate 2″ to 3″ deep before a rain to capture up to 70% of the rainfall! Cultivate afterwards if a salt crust (from manures) has built up.
  • Give your plants tasty compost tea, equal parts water and aged compost. Compost tea delivers rich soluble nutrients directly to the plant roots.
  • If water becomes critical, consider planting only a couple of containers with vegetables.
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  • Harvest on time at peak flavor and texture, using no more water than needed.
  • When your harvest is done, turn the remaining plants under, especially legumes, like beans, that feed your soil.

Amy Garrett, Small Farms Program, Oregon State University says ‘for each 1% increase in soil organic matter, soil water storage can increase by 16,000 gallons per acre-foot of applied water (Sullivan, 2002)! Many people think of grains and beans when dry farming is mentioned, however farmers in the western region of the U.S. have dry farmed many other crops including: grapes, [cucumbers,] garlic, tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, winter squash, potatoes, hay, olives, and orchard crops.’

After years of trial and error, David Little now considers himself an expert.“It’s very challenging because you have to hold the moisture for long periods of time, and you don’t know how different crops are going to react in different areas,” Little says. Much of the land he farms is rolling hills and valleys, which present additional challenges because they hold and move groundwater differently than flat land.

If you decide to dry farm all or part of your garden area, know that you and your land, your plant choices, are unique. Don’t give up, find your own way. Also you can do as David did, search for people who were known dry-farmers. He even made the rounds at local bars, asking older farmers about their experiences! He said they humbly shared their stories and gradually he picked up the important details. That’s dedication!

Be water wise, sleep well, eat hearty, share the bounty!

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Broccoli! Beautiful and valuable to your health!

Broccoli may be the most nutritious of all the cole crops, which are among the most nutritious of all vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower (and other members of the genus Brassica) contain very high levels of antioxidant and anticancer compounds. These  nutrients typically are more concentrated in flower buds than in leaves, and that makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other cole crops. Recent studies have shown that broccoli sprouts may be even higher in important antioxidants than the mature broccoli heads. Other research has suggested that the compounds in broccoli and other Brassicas can protect the eyes against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people.  If you choose to eat broccoli leaves, you will find that there is significantly more vitamin A (16,000 IU per 100 grams) versus flower clusters – the heads (3,000 IU per 100 grams) or the stalks (400 IU per 100 grams).

Vegetarians rely heavily on broccoli because it’s high in calcium.

Tasty Image from PlantGrabber.com – Bonanza Hybrid Broccoli

IN YOUR GARDEN….

  • Companions:  Cilantro makes it grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!  Lettuce amongst the Brassicas confuses Cabbage Moths which dislike Lettuce.
  • Brocs prefer full sun, though partial shade helps prevent bolting (suddenly making long flower stalks).
  • Brocs LOVE recently manured ground.  Well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal.  Broccoli plants will grow in almost any soil but prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability.
  • Seedlings should be 8″-10″ apart with 30″-36″ between the rows.  Broccoli yields and the size of broccoli heads are affected by plant spacing. The tighter the spacing the better the yields, but the broccoli heads will be smaller. If you intend to keep your plants for side shoots, plant taller varieties to the northmost so they won’t shade shorter summer plants you will soon be planting.
  • Mulch will help keep the ground cool and moist as well as reduce weed competition.
  • An even moisture supply is needed for broccoli transplants to become established and to produce good heads. Never let the seedbed dry out. In sandy soils this may require two to three waterings per day.
  • Put a ring of nitrogen around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, to grow bigger heads.
  • The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. The secondary sprouts produce heads about the size of a silver dollar. Sidedressing with fertilizer can increase yields and size your side shoots.
  • Cool weather is essential once the flower heads start to form. It keeps growth steady.

Brocs are truly susceptible to aphids.  Yuk.  Grayish greenish soft little leggy things that blend right in with the side shoot florettes.  If you snap your fingers on the side shoot, you will see the aphids go flying.  Those side shoots I remove.  If aphids are in curled leaves, I hold the leaf open and hose them away with a strong burst of water!  Then I keep my eagle eyes on them, each day, checking to get rid of them before another colony forms.

Important planting tip: There are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together!

Broccoli varieties vary considerably, tall, short, more heat tolerant or cold tolerant, some make tons of side shoots, small heads, large heads!  For smaller heads, grow quick maturing varieties.  Packman is the exception!

Cruiser 58 days to harvest; tolerant of dry conditions
Calabrese 58 – 80 days; Italian, large heads, many side shoots. Loves cool weather. Does best when transplanted outside mid-spring or late summer.  Considered a spring variety.  Disease resistant.
DeCicco 48 to 65 days; Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, considered a spring variety.  Early, so smaller main heads.
Green Comet 55 days; early; hybrid, 6” diameter head, very tolerant of diseases and weather stress. Heat tolerant.
Green Goliath 60 days; heavy producer, tolerant of extremes.  Prefers cool weather, considered a spring variety.
Nutribud, per Island Seed & Feed, is the most nutritious per studies, having significant amounts of glutamine, one of the energy sources for our brains!  Purple broccoli, in addition to this, contains anthocyanins which give it its colour. These have antioxidant effects, which are thought to lower the risk of some cancers and maintain a healthy urinary tract as well.
Packman 53 days; early hybrid, 9” head!  Excellent side-shoot production.
Waltham 29 85 days; late, cold resistant, prefers fall weather but has tolerance for late summer heat.

If you still want to plant broccoli now, January, be mindful of the days to maturity, and when you think you will be wanting space to start your spring for summer plants.  When it gets late in their season, cut lower foliage off so small summer plants can start under them while you are still harvesting your winter plants.  The days to maturity on seed packs starts with when you put the seed in the soil.  The days to maturity on transplants is from the time of transplant.  And broccoli is notorious for uneven maturity, so you will often see a range of days to maturity, like DeCicco above.  So don’t expect clockwork.

Harvest the main head while the buds are tight!  Cut about 5” down the stem so fat side branches and larger side shoots will form.  Cut at an angle so water will run off, not settle in the center and rot the central stalk.

The respiration rate of freshly harvested broccoli is very high, so get it in the fridge asap or it goes limp!  It should not be stored with fruits, such as apples or pears, which produce substantial quantities of ethylene, because this gas accelerates yellowing of the buds.

Dying parts of the Brassica family of plants produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing.  Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce, are especially affected by the Brassica poison.  A professor at the University of Connecticut says Brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.

If you didn’t harvest your side shoots and your broccoli has gone to flower, harvest the flowers and sprinkle them over your salad, toss them in your stir fry for a little peppery flavor!  You won’t get any more side shoots, but if you want seeds, leave the flowers, let the seeds come.  Fine long little pods will form.  Let them stay on the plant until dry, then harvest your seeds.  Pop the pods, remove the seeds so no moisture will remain to rot them.  This large species crosses easily though, so probably best to buy sure seeds unless you don’t mind mystery results!

The trick to producing excellent broccoli heads is to keep the broccoli plants growing at a strong steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost or manure tea; or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest!  John Evans, of Palmer, Alaska, holds the world’s record for his 1993 35 lb (no typo) broc!  He uses organic methods, including mycorrhizal fungi!  And, yes, moose eat broccoli!

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