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

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

Santa Barbara Area Fall Transplants Nursery Report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If it cools down later in September, it is so easy to sprout peas! Spray a paper towel to moisten it. Put the seeds on it a bit apart, fold the towel over them. Keep them moist a few days until the seeds sprout little tails! Put up your trellis, ASAP pop your sprouted seedlings into the garden early AM or evening when it is cooler. Once they get started they grow fast! If it is still hotish, devise some shade for them.
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Plant Sweet Peas for spicy scented Christmas bloom! Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays! Onions For the biggest, sweetest harvests, late summer and early fall are the prime times to sow seeds of short- or intermediate-day onions. Fall-sown short- and intermediate-day onions tend to yield more and are larger and sweeter than those seeded or transplanted in early spring.

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

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

Harvest reminders! In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons, big squashes and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when their stem is brown and dry, or they ‘slip’ off the vine. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate. Harvest okra while it is small and tender – bigger is NOT better! Let your winter squash harden. When you can’t push your fingernail in it, it’s ready.Keep letting your strawberry runners grow for Oct harvest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

REST and RESTORE an AREA

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

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



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

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

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Happy Winter Solstice/Yule, Dec 21st!

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

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

December is winter’s June, harvest time! 

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

Lettuces are thriving, keep plucking the lower leaves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garlic LOVERS, if your garlic plants haven’t been as vibrant and robust as these in the image, really amend your soil, put them in full sun, feed them!  Sometimes add a tad boron and zinc to give them great taste!  Give them ample drainage and 24” deep watering.

Garlic is in the genes, I mean, the lily family, related to chives and onions.  So pretty!  Did you know roses make more pungent perfume, and more perfume, when interplanted with garlic and onions?!  Tuck some garlic in among your other flowers and veggies, but NOT with your legumes!  Like onions, garlic stunts peas and beans.

Research indicates garlic aids in lowering cholesterol, reducing cardiovascular disease, cancer prevention, relieving cold and flu symptoms.

Planting in the November/December will produce bigger cloves, but you can also plant garlic in the early spring – who can resist more fresh garlic?!  Gilroy CA, 30 miles south of San Jose, just up the road from Santa Barbara, is called The Garlic Capital of the World!  Gilroy’s Christopher Ranch was, and remains, the largest shipper of garlic in the world!  Take note that the 2012 Gilroy Garlic Festival will be July 27, 28, and 29th!  So their prime festival garlic roses had to be growing all winter and spring!  Count that backwards 7 months, and you have a Dec planting!  That means they have more daylight growing time after Winter Solstice as the days lengthen, and more growing time during warmer months!  Makes sense, yes?!  Garlic takes time – a long growing season and plenty of sun.  Be warned that overcast coastal weather may not go well with your garlic aspirations.  Also, pause, do you want to tie up that sunny land that long for such a small return?  Less insects, no vampires?  Ok, read on.  Some traditionally plant, not in late October, early November, but on Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, for harvest on the longest day of the year, Summer Solstice, or in July!  Your garlic will grow slowly all ‘winter,’ making huge bulbs!  It likes the cooler moist weather, and freezes are good for it!  You just have to be willing to feed them fat, and wait for them!

Here in SoCal, why not plant some in all the fall months?! That’s three rounds, Oct, Nov, Dec! See what works best in your microniche. If some fail, you will have others!

The garlic most of us are familiar with, commonly found in our grocery stores, are the soft-necked varieties, Artichoke and Silverskin, grown in milder climates with longer days.

California Early and California Late varieties need cold exposure of around 6 weeks below an average of about 40F for proper bulbing and clove development. It is the classic, white skinned ‘artichoke garlic’ of the supermarkets.  Continental garlic is more of a generic term covering various white or purple striped hard neck types adapted to more Mediterranean growing conditions.  That’s us.

Garlic needs choice generously amended nutritious soil, to be watered deeply, 24”, in fact!  Garlic World, at Gilroy CA, says garlic needs twice as much fertilizer as other veggies! And they need feeding during growing.  Visualize those hungry bulbs underground.  Heavy soil restricts their growth, so you want rich, loose – not water-logged, fertile!  When you drive through garlic growing country you can SMELL them!  That’s how alive they need to be!

The bigger the seed/clove, the bigger and healthier your plant will become, so plant the huge cloves, reserve the smaller ones for eating and seasoning!  Divide them just before planting.  Plant pointy end up, 2” deep, 4” apart.  Some people plant them 6” deep, others plant them just under the surface.  I’ve had them grow both ways, but to keep the bulbs moist and happy, it makes sense to give them at least that 2” depth.

When the tops start to fall over, stop watering, let the smelly little guys dry a week or two, still in the ground.  Clever harvesting means to carefully loosen the soil with a spade fork, and not bruise the bulb when you remove it.  Let it dry some more in a shady airy place 2 to 3 weeks.

RECIPES?  Fries, ice cream, pasta, sauces, soups, salsa, dips, bread, gift braids, pickled, jellied, roasted, cheese, dressings, potatoes, hummus, powdered.  Garlic cookies?!  At your pleasure.  Confessions of a Garlic Festival Food Judge  If you both love garlic, know that a couple can celebrate their anniversary by sharing the Forty Clove Garlic Chicken at The Stinking Rose in San Francisco or Beverly Hills!

Next Week:  Delicious December, Winter’s June!

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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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Select the best varieties of these 3 popular winter plants – Chard, Broccoli, Peas! 

Be gathering up your seeds now, start them mid August!  Your transplants will go in the ground late September or October.

1) Chard is a super producer per square foot, also highly nutritious, and low, low calorie!  Select early maturing varieties for eating sooner!  It’s a cut-and-come-again plant.  Keep taking the lower older leaves as they mature to the size you prefer!

    Fordhook Giant is a mega producer, and is truly Giant!

    Bright Lights/Neon Lights makes a winter garden brilliant with color!  Better than flowers!

Make-you-hungry image from Harvest Wizard!

Simple Mucho Delicious Sautéed Chard Recipe!

Melt butter and olive oil together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and onion, and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the chard stems and the white wine. Simmer until the stems begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, and cook until wilted. Finally, drizzle with lemon juice, sprinkle with Parmesan or your favorite grated cheese, or throw in fish or chicken pieces, or bacon bits, or pine nuts and cranberries, and toss!  Salt or not to taste.  Oh, yes.

2)  Broccoli is super nutritious, a great antioxidant, and easy to grow. 

Considered to be all season:

    Cruiser (58 days to harvest; uniform, high yield; tolerant of dry conditions)

    Green Comet (55 days; early; heat tolerant)

    All Season F1 Hybrid is my current fav!  The side shoots are abundant and big, easier and faster harvesting!  The plants are low, they don’t shade out other plants, and compact, a very efficient footprint!

Sprouting Varieties:

    Calabrese:  Italian, large heads, many side shoots. Loves cool weather. Does best when transplanted outside mid-spring or late summer.  Considered a spring variety (matures in spring).  Disease resistant.  58 – 80 days

    DeCicco:  Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, considered a spring variety.  Early, so smaller main heads.  48 to 65 days

    Green Goliath:  Early heavy producer, tolerant of extremes.  Prefers cool weather, considered a spring variety.  53-60 days

    Waltham 29  Cold resistant, prefers fall weather but has tolerance for late summer heat.  Late 85 days.

    Green Comet:  Early-maturing (58 days) hybrid produces a 6-inch-diameter head and is very tolerant of diseases, heat tolerant.

    Packman:  Hybrid that produces a 9-inch-diameter main head in 53 days. Excellent side-shoot production.

3)  PEAS are because you love them!  They come in zillions of varieties.  Plant LOTS!  I plant some of each, the English shelling peas in a pod, snow or Chinese flat-pod peas, and the snap peas that are fat podded crisp snacks that usually don’t make it home from the garden!  Snow and snaps are great in salads.  Well, so are shelled peas!  Snow peas can be steamed with any veggie dish or alone.  Fresh English peas require the time and patience to hull them, but are SO tasty who cares?!

For more varieties info, click here

F
is Fusarium resistant, AAS is All America Selection, PM is Powdery Mildew resistant

China, snow, or sugar

F   Dwarf Grey Sugar

F   Mammoth Melting Sugar

Snap (thick, edible pods)

AAS, PM   Sugar Ann (dwarf)

PM   Sweet Snap (semi-dwarf)

PM   Sugar Rae (dwarf)

PM   Sugar Daddy (stringless, dwarf)

AAS   Sugar Snap

Whether you get these exact varieties or not, mainly, I’m hoping you will think about how different varieties are, of any kind of plant, whether that plant is suitable for your needs, if it has disease resistance/tolerance, heat/frost tolerance, if it is an All America Selection, what its days to maturity are.  A few extra moments carefully looking at that tag or seed pack can be well worth it.

Next week:  August in Your Garden! 

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I used to be a total mulcher, covered my whole veggie garden. I’ve adjusted my coastal SoCal mulch* thinking to match the plant! Same goes for composting in place. That’s a good idea for some areas of your garden, other areas not at all!

If you are coastal SoCal, in the marine layer zone, your mulch, or composting in place, may be slowing things down a lot more than you realize. The best melons I’ve ever seen grown at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden were on bare hot dry soil in a plot that had a lower soil level than most of the other plots. The perimeter boards diverted any wind right over the top of the area, the soil got hot!  It was like an oven! So, let it be bare! No mulch under melons, your winter squash, pumpkins except under the fruits to keep them off the ground, clean, above soil level insects.

For more heat, put up a low wind barrier – straw bales, a perimeter of densely foliated plants, a big downed log, be creative. Permeable shrubs are the most effective wind barriers. Let your peppers and jicama get hot! Eggplant are Mediterranean heat lovers! Okra is Southern, hot.

Tomatoes need dryer soil to avoid the verticillium and fusarium wilt fungi, no more than an inch of loose straw to allow airflow at soil level but keep heat down. Let ‘em dry nearby; water a foot or more away from the central stem. Let that tap-root do its job, get the water below the fungi, wilt/blight zone, the top 6 to 8 inches. Drier soil is not comfy for slugs.

Get cucumbers up on a trellis, then you won’t need mulch to keep the cukes clean and bug free, but rather because they have short roots. Preplant radish to repel cucumber beetles when your cukes bloom. The radish will provide a living mulch as their leaves shade the cuke roots. Eat a few radish, but let the rest grow out to keep repelling the beetles. In time you can gather their seeds. Plant heat tolerant lettuces at their feet to act as living mulch. They both like plenty of water to keep them growing fast and sweet, so they are great companions. Slugs and snails like peas and lettuce. You will need to use a little Sluggo or its equivalent if you feel comfortable to use it.

Clearly, no mulch, more heat, equals more water needed. In drought areas, plant in basins below the main soil level. Use your long low flow water wand to water only in the basin at the roots of your plant. Fuzzy leaved plants, tomatoes and eggplant, prefer not being watered on their leaves anyway. Since there is no raised mound, there is no maintenance needed for berms surrounding the basin, but you will need to keep the basin from filling in. Plant companion littles and fillers in the basin around the base of bigger plants. They will enjoy the cooler damper soil and provide living mulch to keep that soil more cool!

LIVING MULCH  is triple productive! It mulches, provides companion plant advantages, and is a crop all at the same time! Closely planted beets, carrots, garden purslane, radish, turnips act as living mulch to themselves and bigger companion plants you plant them by. The dense canopy their leaves make lets little light in, keeps things moist. Cucumbers under broccoli are living mulch while the brocs repel cucumber beetles! If you cage or trellis your beans, most of the plant is up getting air circulation, keeping them dryer, more mildew free, if you don’t plant too densely. They, cucumbers and strawberries, also have short feet that need to stay moist, so do mulch them – your beans and cukes with clean chop and drop, straw or purchased mulch.

Zucchini, doesn’t care. They are a huge leaved plant, greedy sun lovers, that are self mulching. But, you can feed their vine up through the largest tomato cages, cut off the lower leaves and plant a family of lettuces, carrots, onions, salad bowl fixin’s or basil on the sunny side underneath! Especially preplant radish to repel cucumber beetles! All of them like plenty of water, so everyone is happy.

Cooler crops, over summering Broccoli, Kale, Chard like moist and cooler, so mulch deeply very early in spring.

Pallet Garden Strawberries Boards as MulchBoards as mulch! Your strawberries like slightly acidic soil, and acidic mulch – redwood or pine needles. Also, you can lay down boards between mini rows of strawberries to keep the soil moist under the boards, the soil between the rows that the berry roots have access to. It’s a variation on pallet gardening. The advantages of using boards are you can space or remove your boards so you can easily access the soil to add amendments, you can add or remove boards to make a bigger or smaller patch, you can make the boards the length you need or want, space them as needed per the plant. Planting between boards can be used for lots of other plants too if you won’t be planting an understory! As for your strawberries, as they leaf out and get bigger, in addition to the boards, they will be living mulch for themselves!

If you are going to mulch, do it justice. Besides wanting to cool your soil, keep moisture in, prevent erosion, keep your crop off the soil and away from bugs, and in the long-term, feed your soil, mulching is also to prevent light germinating weed seeds from sprouting. Put on 4 to 6 inches minimum, tomatoes being the exception. Less than that may be pretty, but simply make great habitat for those little grass and weed seeds! Mulch makes moist soil, where a rich multitude of soil organisms can thrive, including great fat vigorous earthworms! You see them, you know your soil is well aerated, balanced, doing great!

Mulching is double good on slopes and hillsides. Make rock lined water-slowing ‘S’ terrace walk ways snaking along down the hillside. Cover your berms well and deeply to prevent erosion and to hold moisture when there are drying winds. Be sure to anchor your mulch in windy areas -biodegradable anchor stakes are available.  has some clever ideas on how to keep your mulch on a slope. Plant fruit trees, your veggies on the sunny side under them, on the uphill side of your berms. Make your terrace wide enough so you don’t degrade the berms by walking on them when you harvest.

If you mulch, make it count!  Mulch with an organic degradable mulch. Chop and drop disease and pest free plants to compost in place, spread dry leaves. Spread very well aged manures. When you water, it’s like compost or manure tea to the ground underneath. Lay out some seed free straw – some feed stores will let you sweep it up for free! If you don’t like the look of that, cover it with some pretty purchased mulch you like. Use redwood fiber only in areas you want to be slightly acidic, like for strawberries or blueberries.

COMPOSTING IN PLACE  Build soil right where you need it. Tuck green kitchen waste out of sight under your mulch, where you will plant next. Sprinkle with a little soil if you have some to spare, that inoculates your pile with soil organisms; pour on some compost tea to add some more! Throw on some red wriggler surface feeder worms. Grow yarrow or Russian comfrey (Syphytum x uplandicum) near your compost area so you can conveniently add a few sprigs to your pile to speed decomposition. It will compost quickly, no smells, feeding your soil excellently! If you keep doing it in one place, a nice raised bed will be built there with little effort!

Mulch Straw Plant Now!

You don’t have to wait to plant! Pull back a planting space, add compost you have on hand or purchased, maybe mix in a little aged manure mix, worm castings, your favorite plant specific amendments. Sprinkle some mycorrhizal fungi on your transplant’s roots (exception is Brassicas), and plant! Yes!

*Mulch is when you can see distinct pieces of the original materials. Finished compost is when there are no distinct pieces left, the material is black and fluffy and smells good.

Mulch is magic when done right!

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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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Carpenter Bee - Male, AKA Teddy Bear Bee!

April 15, 2011 I had my first encounter with a huge male carpenter bee – see image! Awesome! They are all fuzzy and yellow (not all black like the females), sometimes called Teddy Bear Bees, and I could totally see why! They hover closely and look you right in the eye, buzz off and come back for another look! They are the largest bees found in California, don’t sting. What a pollinator!

Magic May, Mama Earth’s Bounty Month, It’s Cantaloupe Time!!

Keep planting your summer veggies and year-arounds! If you haven’t put in the summer heat lovers, do it NOW! That’s peppers, eggplant, okra, melons. Absolutely get winter squash in now. It takes time to mature and harden. Beans, beets, carrots, chayote, corn, cucs, summer lettuce varieties, pumpkins, radish, zuchs, chard, tomatoes, more tomatoes, turnips! Omigod, I’m hungry!

Harvesting is like pruning, no? So eat! Keep your plant producing by steady picking and plucking, no storing on the vine! Otherwise, it thinks it did its job, made those seeds, and folds up camp! Keep your broccoli harvested. If you see flower stalks, cut them off ASAP, back to where new shoots can come. If you are getting too many sprouts, cut them back further to slow them down. Eat those bitty zuchs, flowers and all! Use those herbs you planted – basils, thyme, sage, oregano. Just a few of their leaves rubbed, mashed, steeped, chopped, can add luscious flavors! Make pretty bouquet garni for giveaways! Parsley is SO good for you, and beautiful in your garden! Its second year it goes to seed, a biennial. Pull and cook the tasty roots in your soup, or let a plant or two go to seed to feed beneficial insects and reseed your patch.

Oh yes, and, of course, plant cosmos, marigolds, petunias, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, your favorite summer flowers!

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Now IS still a good time to start your seeds, especially your true heat lovers – eggplant, limas, melons, okra, peppers and pumpkins, and for you SoCal coastal marine layer gardeners, tomatoes!

Beautiful Scarlet Runner Bean Seeds

When you start them, for your sanity, label your seedlings with their name and date!   

Hmph.  How hard could it be, soaking seeds?!  It isn’t, but it turns out there are lots of options and some specifics for better results!

Whether you only soak your seeds, or go on to presprouting, is your choice.  For me, I found once they started sprouting, growth was rapid!  At that stage, they can’t dry out or be too wet and rot, so you have to be ready to plant!  Also, it is more difficult to very carefully plant sprouted seeds.  They are delicate!  So if you are at all bull-in-the-China-shop like I am, it may pay to only presoak!

The main arguments for seed soaking are not only for a speedier garden [Sprouted seed will grow in soils too cool for germination, YES!, but also for more complete germination of all seeds planted. You can get germination results in 3 to 4 days, while without pre-soaking it may take 2 weeks of unfavorable germinating conditions, and you may get none.  Whether you plant directly in the ground, or for those of you at Pilgrim Terrace planning on using the greenhouse, here is some very useful info on seed soaking!

The Harrowsmith Country Life Book of Garden Secrets, by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent & Diane E. Bilberback:

The seed coat that surrounds the living seed sometimes does more than just protect it. The seed coats of many plants contain chemicals that inhibit germination of the seeds. This keeps them from germinating too early or when only briefly exposed to moisture. Some gardeners who are interested in rapid germination soak and wash their seeds to get around these germination inhibitors.

Some types of peppers, such as jalapenos, may germinate more rapidly if soaked in a couple of changes of lukewarm water before planting.

Beet and chard seeds also have a germination inhibitor; these strange-looking lumpy “seeds” are not really seeds at all but dried-up fruits of the plant, each of which contains several seeds. (That’s why beets and chard always need to be thinned.) The hard fruit covering contains a germination inhibitor, but if you soak the seed (fruit) overnight, it will absorb too much water, and you will still have poor germination.Seed coats play other important roles in the lives of plants. They regulate how much oxygen, water, and light the seeds receive.

You may have planted beans or corn in soil that was very moist but cool and were dismayed by subsequent poor germination. The seed coats of these crops can allow water to rush into the seeds too quickly, as with beets. This rapid water uptake can damage the tender cell membranes, permanently harming a young seedling so it grows slowly or preventing germination altogether. This process has been termed imbibitional shock, or soaking injury. Soaking injury can occur at any time with some crops, but cold temperatures make it worse.To avoid soaking injury, you can allow the seeds of sensitive crops such as beans, beets, and corn to soak up water gradually before planting them in the garden. This method is called seed moisturization.

One way to do this is to place them in moist vermiculite for eight to sixteen hours before planting. An easier method for most home gardeners is to place damp paper towels on a sheet of wax paper, sprinkle on the seeds you want to hydrate, and roll up the towels with the wax paper on the outside. Leave the seeds inside the paper for eight to sixteen hours at room temperature. Don’t let them sit for more than nineteen hours, or the delicate seedling root may begin to penetrate the seed coat, and you could damage it during planting.

Things to know plucked from the web….  

Start with viable seed.  Check the date on the seed pack to see when it was packaged for.

It won’t do you a bit of good, for example, to presoak lettuce seeds and expect them to germinate in a soil temp of 87 degrees, as they prefer a cooler-temperature. So start your pre-soaked seeds at the temperature and time you generally plant. Pre-soaking just gives you faster performance under normal conditions.

There are huge variations in the length of time people soak their seeds!

  1. Tomato and Pepper seeds are soaked 6 hours, no more that because they can suffocate from lack of air.
  2. overnight in tepid water. That is water that is warm, but not hot. I make sure that the seeds are covered at least twice their size with water. I don’t add anything to the water, but when planting them, I do water them in with manure tea.
  3. Soak them for 12 hours in compost tea, then rinse & drain. Rinse & drain each day, keeps the seeds moist until you have roots.  With beans, the roots emerge from the scar.  Plant the seed endwise, the root pointing down.  Plant roots and shoots at the soil surface, the bulk of the seed below the soil mix surface.  Keep moist.
  4. Soaked in tepid well water for six hours. The water was then poured off and the seeds were rinsed a couple times a day with some misting in between. The seeds were planted once they had visible roots.
  5. 12 hours in water, then drain and leave for 12 hours, then keep repeating the process until they split their skins and start showing a root. It normally only takes 2 or 3 days and then I plant out.
  6. Bean seeds may split if soaked for more than an hour or two. However, even this short soak will speed up germination
  7. When legume (peas/beans) seed coats split, the seeds may lose vital nutrients and fall prey to disease fungi when planted.  Drain them after they have been submerged for an hour.
  8. I do think I’ve oversoaked bean and pea seeds in the past, almost to the point where they are falling apart, and that it has weakened them. The soak time would depend on the size of the seed I would think, but never more than a few hours.
  9. I let them soak ‘til they are big and full, or ‘til they start to sprout a small root. Corn, beans, peas, squash (some) and pumpkins. Then I gently place them in the ground.  [Tweezers, please?!]
  10. OKRA !!!! (48 hours)  Or… I presoak my okra seed in 1 pint of warm water containing 1 tablespoon of household bleach to pre-soften the seed for 24 hours before planting.
  11. Cucurbita (cucs, luffas, melons, squash) seeds only needs to be soaked to loosen up the shell. Gourd seeds in particular are very tough and some people even scratch the sides of tips (scarify) to make it easier to germinate. I soaked them a little and also wrap them in wet toilet tissue before planting. This will help to keep them moist.

The soaking solution varies…see compost tea, manure tea above.  And what about worm tea?!

  1. Last year I soaked my bean seeds in a kelp solution before planting and they sprouted in about 2 days.
  2. I would never use bleach in the soaking solution. If you are worried about contamination, try soaking in chamomile tea or 3% hydrogen peroxide instead. If the seed is purchased, I wouldn’t bother.
  3. Hydrogen peroxide, both in soak and rinse solutions:1 oz. of  3% H²O² to 1 pint of water.  Sprouts come up faster.  Some people have reported 3/4″ sprouts in 24 hours.   

When you plant the seedlings dig the hole and spray it with peroxide. Wet it good and then wet the roots of the seedlings or small plant.   

The vegetable that gave me a problem was the cabbage. I was determined to conquer the cabbageworm. Years ago I sprayed the cabbage plants with peroxide to no avail. This year I soaked the cabbage seeds before planting them. There were no signs of the bug until the cabbage plants were almost full grown, then I poured about a quarter of cup of 8% peroxide over the cabbage, letting it flow down into the layers of the leaves. That stopped the cabbage bugs. 

Please see more tips… Part 2!  Scarifying  your seed, how to plant wet seed, better hot weather germination, water tricks!

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