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Seed Sprouting! Life!

Photo: USDA Flickr

Starting seeds yourself has fabulous advantages! Seeds are cheaper than transplants, and you can grow far more varieties of veggies than you can buy at the local nursery! You can buy the best and order the latest they may not have heard about yet. You can experiment and see for yourself. You can touch and taste these special varieties! You can even do a little research and hybridize some of your own! And you can grow them when you want them!

The two main ways to work with seeds are to plant indoors or outdoors!

STARTING YOUR SEEDS OUTDOORS IN THE GROUND

Just like in Mother Nature, outdoor starts are blessed with whole nutrition from their very beginning and they don’t need transplanting!

Before you sow your seeds, amend your soil surface with worm castings! Castings speed germination and strengthen seedling immunity. Keep that planting space and those castings moist until you are ready to plant. A couple days before planting, water the soil so it is for sure semi moist on planting day.

Plant large hard seeds and seeds that are planted an inch deep before a rain. Wait until after the rain to plant little seeds that could be washed away or buried too deeply. Same for seeds that rot easily like bean seeds.

Prevent pests! Put down what you use to end slugs and snails before you sow your seeds!

While you are waiting for planting day, make tags. I put three things on my tags. 1) I put the planting date on the tag so I’ll know by when I should be seeing seedlings. 2) The name of the plant helps so you will know what they are and not a weed! If you are new to planting seeds, don’t worry, you will learn to recognize the little guys. If in doubt, let them grow a bit before you ‘weed’ them out. Look online for baby pictures! 3) The days to maturity cues me to when I should be expecting fruit and how well my plants did. And that varies per time of year, temps, weather, your soil, how well you cared for them.

Mark your planted areas as you go! When I plant the seeds I put a stick at the ends of the row, a triangle of sticks when there is a single area where the seeds are planted. Since I do a lot of interplanting with understories, companion planting special plants where they will do the most good, that keeps me from stepping on or disturbing the seeds.

Some seeds are big and fat like beans, others, like poppies and purslane, are so tiny if you dropped them you would never find them!

After how far apart should I plant my seeds, probably the most iffy thing about planting seeds is how deep do they need to be planted? Most seed packs have that info on them.

Chopsticks can be used in a couple helpful ways.

Mark one of them at 1/4, 1/2, and 1″ on the stick. That way you can get your seeds at the right planting depth. Using your marked stick keeps you mindful; planting goes fun and faster with less wondering and worrying!

If you are installing delicate sprouts, make a planting hole, and if you are good with chopsticks, grasp the sprout gently, carefully place it. Cover and smooth the soil, water gently. Check out Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips & Ideas!

Teensy seeds are a challenge in so many ways!

First it’s a question of not dropping them. Hold the package over a dish? Something smooth and not wet or sticky. And keep your hands and that package dry! And don’t plant those tiny feathery seeds on a windy day!

Second is how to distribute them the right distance apart. Very carefully. Be careful not to crush or damage them by rolling them or squishing them between your fingers! Use a tiny spoon.

Since most tiny light seeds aren’t supposed to be buried, in nature they wouldn’t be, simply very lightly hand pat them to the soil.

Third is how to keep them from washing away when you water. You can make a tiny ‘trench’ or depression with mild slopes. Sometimes I just hand pat a little depression area with my fingers. Instead of the hose, use your watering can with nozzle that has fine holes. No flooding or standing water. Just moisten. Moisten them maybe 2 or 3 times so the soil gets moist a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep. Moisten once, water something else, come back and moisten again so the water can soak in a wee bit deeper. Repeat.

When you are weeding, have you noticed how many seeds come up by the edge of a pathway board, a plot border or a stepping stone? Put down a mini board, wide stick, where you want tiny seeds to grow, preferably in a slightly lower area, a depression that will hold a bit of moisture. Sprinkle the seeds around the board, along the stick. They will have the moisture and shelter they need to get started right at the side of the board or stick! Once they are started, remove the board, transplant some of them if you like.

It may be easier to plant a group of seeds in one place to get them started. That can be their nursery. Plant them far enough apart that you can get a small trowel in there to collect them to transplant. Transplant them where they are needed or to their permanent place when they get their second set of leaves.

Delicate seeds like Marigold need to be carefully laid down and cover the complete seed, but no more than 1/4″. The ‘tail’ of the seed acts like a wick to deliver moisture to the seed. Unprocessed home saved carrot seeds are fuzzy with wicks. They germinate much sooner than the processed naked ones in seed packs!

Lettuce seeds are planted on the surface OR 1/4″ deep depending on the variety. Read your seed pack!

Harder seeds like Cilantro can be exciting to handle since they roll around and jump for it any time they can! They often come up as nearby volunteers! That rolling about can make spacing a challenge. But you can see them and they are big enough to move where you want them. Radish are not exactly round, but they can be unpredictable too! If spacing means a lot to you, you can make or buy seed strips!

If you aren’t overplanting for greens from thinning, spacing does mean a lot! Plants too closely seeded and not thinned, get rootbound, root plants like radish, beets, carrots can’t make, won’t form their roots. Too closely planting lessens growth and production, weakens your plants since your plants are literally starving. Plants along the edge of a clump can reach out. Ones at the center can’t get their roots through to food.

Beet seeds are unique because each ‘seed,’ corm, is a cluster of three to four seeds! There is no escaping needing to thin them. OR, you can gently hand separate them to get four healthy plants! I separated beets I got from a nursery. When I finished 3 of the 6-pack compartments I had planted out 36 beets!

Big seeds are easy, but if you aren’t naturally a good measurer, it’s easy enough to plant too deep or not deep enough! Where are those chopsticks? If the seeds are an inch deep, you usually won’t wash them away when you water. Some seeds can be planted too deep make it, just rot and become compost. With others a little deep means it just takes longer to come up. Too shallow may not keep those seeds moist enough. 

Some batches of seeds are mixed sizes – maybe your green manure or living mulch mix. Some say broadcasting them is all you need to do – they are light germinating seeds. But soil contact and moisture is important. If you plant during a hot spell, get your soil as level as possible. Fling, toss, drizzle your seeds about. Lay a board or a piece of plywood on the soil to press them down for that contact. Immediately cover with bird net or aviary wire or many will be gone overnight, and birds will take tiny tasty tender seedlings that sprout! Gently water your seeds to keep them moist. In hot weather that may be two times a day. You can bury your seeds, but way fewer seeds make it. You only get a thin stand.

Protect your seeds! After your seeds are in, cover with bird netting or aviary wire. Birds love seeds and fresh seedlings! Animals like plowing through your soil looking for insects and seeds. Aviary wire is best for that, or an easily removed wire border so you have access for tending. You can use cloches for small spot plantings. When you can use them, they are excellent because wicked slugs and cut worms can’t get through!

Seedlings Transplants Cover Protection Birds Shade

Successive planting in summer heat has its own challenges, but it is doable! Set up shade cloth, use upturned flower pots or laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, or lightweight fabric held aloft with hoops. Shade cloth comes in different densities. You can water through it and it keeps birds and predator insects away. Remove it when your plants are up and strong. This image has lettuce, but you can start mixtures of other plants this way too. Use it as a nursery then transplant plants where you want them.

STARTING SEEDS INDOORS or IN YOUR COLD FRAME or GREENHOUSE

Seedlings Indoors Grow Lights

Starting seeds in a Container is a whole different territory! Your main advantage is getting a SIX WEEK headstart on planting! That’s food on your table a month and a half sooner!

It can be as simple as putting a few containers or 6 packs in your kitchen window or on top of the warm fridge, or doing something costly, elaborate and sophisticated! If you like starting seeds, choosing a permanent space, then installing lighting, warmth, and setting up a special overhead watering system on a timer may intrigue you. You might put up a greenhouse! You can install a wonderful bought or homemade cold frame on the sun facing hillside.

You can make your own special seed starter mix; it’s not too hard. But if you don’t want the mess, or don’t have time for that, you just buy a great mix at the nursery! While you are there, get a bag of vermiculite, or when you are at the grocery outlet, get a big container of cinnamon. Read on below….

Starting seeds indoors means there are no predator pests. Yay! Rain doesn’t matter. No drying or damaging winds. No hot scorching sun. No soil pre preps – yet.

Level starting medium is pretty easy to achieve. Gentle watering is still needed. Seeds and seedlings need to be kept moist.

Making tags is very useful, especially if you put different plants in the 6 pack compartments! You have a start date and you know when they should be up. And you can use the tags when you transplant the babies in the soil outdoors.

When the true leaves come on, the ones after the first two, the seedlings will need to be fed. Spritzing with a liquid feed is the usual answer.

Cinnamon for Seedling Damping Off Disease Prevention!

The nemesis is Damping off disease, a sad foe of seedlings. The baby just topples overnight and it’s over. A 2005 North Carolina State University study found it’s not the mixture but what’s on top of the soil that counts most. Damping off differences almost disappeared between commercial organic seed-starting mixtures and various homemade mixtures after all of the seeds were covered with vermiculite instead of a planting medium. Simple fix!

The super simplest prevention is Cinnamon! Just sprinkle it on the soil! Sprinkle on plant injuries and they will heal. It is a rooting hormone. And it repels ants! Mildew, mold, fungal diseases? Mix 4 tablespoons cinnamon in a half gallon warm water, shake it vigorously, steep overnight. Strain through a sieve or coffee filter and put it in a spray bottle. Add ¼ teaspoon liquid dish soap as a surfactant, lightly spritz your plants, undersides and tops of leaves!

You do need to harden off seedlings. They need to be taken outside to get used to cooler temps, a bit of breeze to build their standing up muscles! The author of ‘Grocery Gardening’, Jean Ann Van Krevelen says, “Take your seedlings to a protected location outside for one hour for the first day.” She said, “Do this each day for a week. Add one hour for each day of the process. By the end of the week, you’ll be at 7 hours and the plants will be ready to be transplanted.” She doesn’t recommend direct sunlight or wind. Don’t take they out if it is windy and your seedlings could be broken. Just do it the next day where you left off. Keep your seedlings evenly moist.

Schlepping them back and forth may be a challenge, but doable. But if you grow them on a cart with wheels in the garage or near the patio, you can easily roll them out and back in each day.

Both indoor and outdoor planting have their necessities, special techniques, disadvantages and advantages! There’s no reason why you can’t do BOTH! Getting a healthy start in the ground is terrific! Others would never make it in cold or extreme heat and indoor babying is just right. Preseason indoor starting gets you there that six weeks sooner!

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Mother’s Day is May 8! Here are some wonderful ideas for green and loving gifts! Get living gifts started now! Click here

The Green Bean Connection newsletter 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!

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Seeds Exotic Unusual Rare Amazing!

The beauty of planting from seeds is you can get perfect varieties, the rare and unusual!  

You went to the Seed Swap, have gotten your seeds from the catalog or nursery, and are itching for the right temps to plant!

Planning now is important because not all spring/summer plants are installed at the same timePlanting in the right places now makes a difference. Bold Souls will be planting Zucchini, cool tolerant tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and corn! They can be started now from seed, in the ground. March is a little warmer and early variety plants get a better start. April is most everything – cucumber, pepper, squash, beans, more tomatoes, watermelon. May is the true heat lovers, cantaloupe, okra (June may be better yet), eggplant. Some gardeners wait to plant tomatoes until May and June to avoid the more moist soil fungi of earlier months. I hold that space by planting something temporary there in March. June is good for okra, eggplant and long beans!

Summer garden planning tips emphasizing needing less water! Companions!

PLANT PLANTS THAT REPEL PESTS IN ADVANCE SO THEY WILL BE UP AND WORKING WHEN YOUR SEEDLINGS COME UP OR YOU INSTALL YOUR TRANSPLANTS!

  • If you are not going to be canning, indeterminate tomatoes are the excellent choice! These are the vining tomatoes that produce all summer! This saves time and water because determinate, bush tomatoes produce quickly, all at once – great for canning, then you have to replant and wait for more production. However, determinate toms do produce sooner, so for earlier table production, plant them to hold you until your indeterminates are producing. Also, for earlier production, plant cherry tomatoes! Yum! Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of dandelions!
  • Choose more prolific plants and varieties of them so you get more production for less water.
  • Plant tall plants to the North unless you anticipate a scorching summer. If you think it will be HOT, plant tall to the west to shade shorter plants, keep your soil cooler, use less water.
  • Plan to put cucumbers up on trellises to keep them disease and pest free, are clean, and so they ripen evenly all the way around. Co-plant with beans! Beans above, cukes below. Japanese Long cukes give a generous supply per water used! Suyos are a great choice – give them plenty of room.
  • Next, intermingle mid height plants, bush beans, determinate tomatoes, tall peppers like Big Jim Anaheim or Poblanos, zucchini! Potatoes with zucchini to repel squash bugs. Plant Radish ahead of cukes & zukes to repel cucumber beetles. Eat a few, but let several grow up by and through the plants you are protecting.
  • Leave a winter broccoli or two for salad side shoots. Mulch deeply under your brocs right now! We want to keep these cool loving plants cool. If you don’t have enough trellis space, plant cukes under your brocs! Broccoli helps repel cucumber beetles, so push the mulch back on the sunny side, make your special cucumber planting mound/basin and plant cucumbers underneath those brocs! The mulch does double duty. It keeps the cukes off the soil, clean and insect free above the bug zone!
  • Leave a couple of winter kale to provide over summer. Heat tolerant 1000 Headed Kale is a prolific choice that harbors less aphids on its FLAT leaves. Plant lettuces on the sunny side under your brocs and kale.
  • Eggplant likes it hot! Plant them where they will be sheltered from prevailing winds. Radishes with eggplants and cucumbers. Radishes are a trap plant for flea beetles. If your area is a little cool, plant the long skinny Ichiban Japanese eggies rather than the bulbous Black Beauties. Ichiban’s are prolific and quite tasty.
  • Lowest are the ‘littles’ or fillers! Being mindful of companions, scatter beets and carrots, lettuce, radish, here and there among, alongside, under larger plants on their sunny sides. Bunch onions away from beans. Some littles will be done before the bigger plants leaf out. For those still growing, remove or harvest lower leaves of the big plant when they start shading the littles. There isn’t really a need to allot separate space for littles except strawberries! They need a separate patch with more acidic soil to keep them healthy and be prolific producers!
  • If you love cabbages, plant a few more, but they take up a fair footprint for what they produce and they take quite a while to do it. In spring and summer choose quick maturing mini varieties.
  • SEED SAVING SPACE! Leave room for some arugula, cilantro, chamomile, a carrot or two, and a celery to go to flower to bring bees and beneficial insects! Besides being beautiful and having lovely scents, let them seed out for seeds for next plantings. Carrots love being with cilantro, marigold and chamomile, and chamomile improves the flavor of any neighboring herb! Chamomile flowers make a lovely scent and the tea is sweet.
  • Pumpkin, melon, winter squash vines require some thoughtfulness. Pumpkin and winter squash vine leaves get as huge as healthy zucchini leaves, easily a foot wide! Mini melons have dainty 2″ wide little leaves, can be trellised, but they may do better on bare hot ground. Comparatively, it’s cool up on those trellises. A healthy winter squash vine can easily be 3′ to 4′ wide, 30′ long plus side vines, and produce a major supply of squash! You can use them as a border, as a backdrop along a fence line. In SoCal, unless you are a squash lover, or won’t be gardening in winter, there is question as to why you would grow winter squash at all. Greens of all kinds grow prolifically here all winter long, giving a fresh and beautiful supply of Vitamin A for less calories and no storage space!

Super use of your space! As winter plants finish, that space might be planted right away. Other space may need to be held for later. For example if you plan to plant okra in June, grow quick prolific producers there until it’s the right time to plant those heat lovers! Leafy plants produce continuously, and can be harvested whole body when you want the space. You will have lush harvests while you are waiting. Think of kales, chard, lettuce, beets, even mini dwarf cabbages. Perhaps you will leave some of them as understory plants and plant taller peppers like Poblanos or Big Jim Anaheims, and tomatoes among them. When the larger plants overtake the understory, either harvest the smaller plants, or remove or harvest lower leaves of larger plants to let the smaller ones get enough sun to keep producing abundantly. And you can always plant a quick growing legume, green manure, aka living mulch, to feed your soil!

Hardly anyone can resist planting early tomatoes! In this early cooler time, plant your lettuce leafies to the sunny side of where the toms will be planted. Pop your tomato seeds in when soil temps are good, or put your transplants in as you get them. That way you have table food soonest and your heart is happy too! Here are a couple tips from James M Stephens at Florida University Extension: Tomato plants 4–5 weeks old grow and yield better than older transplants.

He also says when setting your transplant into the soil, do not compress the soil around the roots. √ Gently pour water into the hole to settle the soil around the roots. After the transplanting water has dried a bit, cover the wet spot with dry soil to reduce evaporation. 

See Tomatoes at Cornell! Here are special instructions for planting and tending tomatoes and cucumbers where the soil is known to have verticillium or fusarium wilts fungi. All our Santa Barbara City community gardens have them. Some gardeners plant toms in May to avoid moist soils.

Choose early cold tolerant varieties. Ones with northern names, in SoCal that could be Oregon Spring, or Siberian. Stupice from Czechoslovakia is very early! Bellstar, from Ontario Canada, is larger and earlier than other plum tomatoes. Early Girl is a favorite! And SunGold cherry tomatoes are almost always a winner! Cherry toms are small and will ripen when other tomatoes just stay green until the 4th of July!

Soil Temperature ThermometerSoil temp matters. Though the soil may become fairly warm quickly in days to come, day length is still important. No matter how early you plant some plants, they still won’t produce fruit until they have enough hours of sun, and for some, warmth including day and/or night and/or ground temps. If they miss their window, they may never produce at all…better to pull and replant. Keep growing those leafy producers – lettuce, chard, kale – in that space and plant the right plants at the right good time! See Best Soil Temps

Start seedlings indoors now for March/April plantings. If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, just wait, get transplants and pop them right in the ground per their right times!

Right now, from seed in the ground, sow beets, caraway, celery, carrots, chard, chervil, chives, collards, cilantro (coriander), dill, endive, fennel, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, mustards, green onions, bulb onion sets, flat-leafed parsley, peas – mildew resistant varieties, white potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, and turnips. Get bolt resistant/slow bolt varieties, and especially heat and drought tolerant varieties.

Along with deciding plant locations, get ready for Summer Gardening!

  • Install gopher barriers.
  • Get netting or bendable wire like aviary for bird protection.
  • Install or repair pathways, berms. Lay in straw, boards, pallets, stepping stones.
  • Waffle Garden, basins & windbreaks, Water Garden. Excellent drought choices.
  • Gather cages & trellises
  • Terrace slopes to prevent water runoff and topsoil loss. Mulch, secure the mulch. Plant with living mulch.
  • Build raised beds, Hugelkultur
  • Get new containers
  • Setup Compost areas – enclosures, area to compost in place
  • Organize where you will keep straw bales for summer mulch, compost layers

Spring planting soil prep! Save time by adding all your amendments at the same time! See more

  • Compost! The amount of compost to use varies, depending on your soil’s condition, plant selection, compost quality, and availability. A guideline offered by Cornell University (veggies – bottom of Pg 4) says use 3 inches over the surface worked into the top 3-6 inches of soil!
  • Add well aged manure as appropriate. Less in spring because you want fruit production, not leaf, unless it is a plant grown for its leaves, like lettuce, kale or cabbage! None for carrots, peas or beans.
  • Add 25% worm castings. As little as 10% works. They are potent – increase germination, faster seedling growth, help with plant immunities to disease.
  • Adding guanos high in P, Phosphorus, at planting time helps your plants continue to bloom LATE in the season! Jamaican bat is high P phosphorus (blooms) 1-10-0.2.
  • Sprinkle with a tad of coffee grounds to reduce fungal rots and wilts!! Grounds are more potent than they have a right to be! 0.5%, that’s 1/2 a %, or less is all that is needed or wanted!
  • Don’t cover with mulch unless you need it for erosion control. Covered soil is cooler. Let your winter cool soil warm up. Do mulch under broccoli and kale you will be keeping over summer. They do best with cool conditions.
  • Water your prepped areas when you water your other veggies. Moist, not flooded, soil is rampant with soil organisms enriching your soil for free!

Keep COMPOSTING! You are going to need it for summer plants! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost keeps your soil aerated, has great water holding capacity, soil organisms flourish, it’s nutrients are released in perfect timing! And if you made it, you know what’s in it! Make it HOT, Cold, or In Place!  Dry is dead, so be sure it is always slightly moist. See more

One more round of green manure is doable where you will plant late April, May. Grow it where you will grow heavy summer feeders like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, chilis, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and corn; hungry stalk vegetables like celery, fennel, rhubarb, and artichokes; or continually producing green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard. Green manure can be beautiful favas, bell beans, or a legume mix to boost soil Nitrogen. Favas are big and you get a lot of green manure per square foot. With our warming weather, longer days, your green manure will grow quickly! As soon as it begins to flower, whack it down, chop into small bits. Let it lay on the soil 2 days to 2 weeks, then turn under. Wait two to three weeks then plant, plant, plant! It’s more tender to chop while it’s smaller. Taller is not better. Depending on which plants you choose, the process takes about 3 1/2 months.

Sidedressing! Hard working plants need fuel and water. As broccoli starts to head, give it a fish/kelp tonic or compost/casting/manure tea! After the main head is cut, your side shoots will flourish!

Pests!

When you put in seeds, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs from vanishing upcoming seedlings overnight, making you think they never came up! No, they didn’t let you down. Killing off the creatures ahead of time saves the babies. It stops new transplants from being seriously damaged or entirely mowed while they are small. Do this a few times, to knock off the generations, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for a while.

Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make on chard and beet leaves. Remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners. I believe sometimes the leafminers come when the beet needs to be harvested, when the foliage is just past prime. Rather than row planting, letting the leafminers go from plant to plant, interplant, a few here, a few there. Water a tad less so leaves are less soft and inviting.

Aphids Watch for leaves unnaturally curled along the length of the leaf, particularly broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages. Check at the center where the tiny new leaves are beginning. Hose aphids off chard, kale and brocs. Keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed. After that, water them a little less.

  • For hard to get at places, down the centers of chard, crinkly kale leaves, get out that spray bottle! Treat once, wait a couple days, treat again for the ones that got away and newborns.
  • I tried it, it WORKS! The simplest is to spray with 2 Parts alcohol, 2 parts water, 1 part soap. DO NOT use on seedlings, it will kill some of them. Spritz lightly rather than drenching or you may kill your bigger plant too!
  • Ants nest near water and don’t like cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon around the base of your plant but not on the stem. Repeat if necessary after watering.

Whiteflies Flush away, especially under leaves. Remove any yellowing leaves, especially on your Brassicas, that attract whiteflies. Again, a little less water.

Prevention  A frustrating typical disease is Powdery mildew. It’s common on Curly Leaf kales, peas. 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 crushed and dissolved, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a half 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! See Aspirin Solution.

Do not compost diseased or infested leaves or plants.

Soil Checks! Especially after recent rains, check your root crops – beets, carrots, radish, potatoes, turnips, in general, for low soil. Soil naturally compacts with watering. Some of these veggies naturally push right up above ground as they grow. Planting their seeds deeper doesn’t compensate. It’s the nature of the veggie! Never hurts to put a handy little pile of extra soil near where you plant them. Cover their exposed shoulders to keep them from drying, getting tough, sometimes bitter, needing peeling, losing the nutrients in their skins. Uncovered carrot shoulders don’t ripen but stay green. Same with potatoes.
Grass in Flower, soon to Seed

Watering & Weeding is important after rains. Winds dry soil quickly and roots of short rooted plants like peas, or seedlings need to be kept moist. Some rains wet only 1/4″ deep or less. Poke your finger into the soil and see if it is moist deep enough to reach the roots of your plants.

  • Thinning is a form of weeding! Thin plants that need it, like beets whose seeds start in foursomes! Thin plants you intentionally over planted – carrots, beets, turnips, kale, chard, mustard, radish! If you planted too close together, take out shorter, smaller weaker plants. They are all great in your salads along with small tender Brassica leaves. If you don’t thin, plants grown for their roots don’t have room or nutrition to grow that root. They literally starve each other out. So thin sooner than later. If you miss the window, thin or not, you won’t get your root.
  • Dust Mulching, cultivation, breaks up the soil surface, keeps water from wicking to the surface and evaporating. If you use a hula hoe you do two things at once! Just a half to one inch depth cuts off weed sprouts. Indeed, it turns the soil a tad, all that’s needed. More weeds will follow, but it’s quick and easy to repeat the process. Two, three times, a few days apart, and there will be few weeds after that for a while. Get ’em while they are small and easy to do. Smart gardening.

When you are weeding, remove blooming or seeding plants first!!! When grass has those pretty frilly little green tops, it is blooming and seeding! Remove it ASAP. Better yet is to remove weeds before they seed! If at the seeding stage, gently pull, don’t shake the soil loose from the roots spreading seeds all over, and don’t put them in your compost!

Love it up this February! Looking forward to a fine spring season! 

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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!

I’m so grateful for having all you garden friends in my life! I love sharing, gardening, learning, being outdoors in all kinds of weather together! Please enjoy some lovely Pilgrim Terrace January images!

See the entire February 2018 GBC Newsletter!

February Soil Preps, Very First Spring Planting!

Tomato Varieties! Humble to Humongous and More!
Soil for Seed Starting! DIY, Pre-made
German Chamomile: Easy to Grow, Easy to Use!

Upcoming Gardener Events! 48th Annual EARTH DAY Santa Barbara!

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

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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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Heirloom Golden Detroit Beet 55 Days

Heirloom Golden Detroit Beet at Dust Bowl Seeds: High yield large orange round beet, non-bleeding, good bolt resistance, 55 days.

Beets are what I call a Two for One crop! The leaves are low cal and nutritious; the roots are a sweet treat with excellent benefits of their own!

Companion Plants Beets, with their quick growing flat dense foliage are almost more a living mulch plant than a companion per se. If you don’t eat the leaves, 25% magnesium, add them to your compost! They help bush beans, but stunt pole beans and pole beans stunt them! Grow them with lettuce, onions, Brassicas – especially kohlrabi, and at the foot of peas. Garlic and mints help beets, garlic improving their flavor, speeding their growth. Rather than growing invasive mint with them, grow your mint in a container elsewhere, chop up bits of it and sprinkle it around your beetroots.

Cylindra BeetVARIETIES, CHOICES ABOUND

Winter beets

Like long winter radishes, Daikons, Danish heirloom Cylindra are their beet equivalent. There are orange ones like in the image at left, or that gorgeous crimson red that beets are known for! It is a perfect uniform slicing beet, aka “Butter Slicer”! The flesh is very tender, easy to peel if you want to, is sweet with wonderful texture. The root grows up to 6″ long but many harvest at 3-4″ for fresh eating. 55-60 days These seeds are at Urban Farmer, non GMO.

Mini & Monsters

  • Little Ball (50 days; very uniform, small size; good shape; very tender; grows quickly to form smooth roots)
  • Red Mammoth Mangels are monsters, grow up to 20 lbs and 2′ long! Though generally used to feed stock, harvested small, they are delicious. Read this funny story and see a winning Mangel at Tales from Swallow Farm!

Colors

  • Standard deep reds, scarlets! Ruby Queen is an AAS winner! Early; round, tender, sweet, fine-grained, attractive, uniform roots, 60 days. If you are growing for the color of the leaves, Bull’s Blood has amazing dark, dark red leaves! Pick early and there is no oxalic acid taste at all.
  • Gourmet goldens stay tender-fleshed and particularly sweet and mild in taste, whether pulled very young or allowed to size up. 55 days. If you steam them with rice, the rice will look golden, like you cooked it with Saffron!
  • Striped di Chioggia is a beautiful scarlet-red Italian heirloom with interior rings of reddish-pink and white. It germinates strongly, matures quickly, 50 days, and does not get woody with age!

GREENS There are varieties that produce an abundance of greens, but why not just grow Chard for greens?! What’s different about beets is they make those fine fat roots! If you keep cutting the greens you slow their production. When you harvest your beets, then eat those greens!

Planting 

Beets are closely related to Swiss chard and spinach. The seeds look so much alike you can’t tell them apart! Avoid following these crops in rotation. Grow beets in full sun; beets for greens can be grown in partial shade if you must. Beets tolerate average to low fertility soil, but love tasty fertile soil. However, too much Nitrogen and you get more leaves than beets or no beets at all! They grow best in loose soil so they can swell easily. Add well-aged fluffy compost to the planting beds and keep beds free of clods, stones, and plant debris. Beets like well-drained soil, but keep them moist. If all your seeds don’t germinate, pop in some more right away, not too deep – about a 1/2″ to an inch, a tad deeper in hotter weather. Give cool weather plantings a  bit more time to come up.

Up to one third of the tasty beet greens can be harvested without damaging your plant, but if you want those beet roots, use less leaves, let your beets get their nutrition and grow quickly!

Beet seeds are clusters of seeds in a single fruit.Soak seeds overnight or presprout! Seedlings are established more easily under cool, moist conditions. Start successive plantings at 3 to 4 week intervals until midsummer for a continuous supply. The beet “seed” is actually a cluster of seeds in a dried fruit. Several seedlings may grow from each fruit. See the sprouts at left? Two from one seed is no surprise. Some seed companies are now singulating the seed for precision planting, by dividing the fruit. Plant seeds about 1/2 inch deep and one inch apart. Allow 12 to 18 inches between rows.

Poor stands are often the result of planting too deeply or soil crusting after a heavy rain. In fact, some gardeners don’t bury the seeds at all, but broadcast, throw them over an area, and let them do as and when they will. And they do! Seedlings may emerge at different times, making a stand of different sizes and ages of seedlings. It works as an automatic succession strategy! If you have slugs, an emerging stand can vanish overnight! You thought they never came up. So. Prepare the planting area by putting down a sluggo type stuff before you plant!!! Do it twice, a few days apart, to get two generations. If you forgot, or that didn’t happen, put down the sluggo type stuff right when you plant, then religiously about a week later if you found any dead slugs. You need to kill off the generations.

You can tell when seedlings are up because the tiny stems are red if you planted red beets, yellow if you planted goldens!

Beet - Red SeedlingsBeet - Gourmet Golden Seedlings

Planting Time Beets are a cool-season crop. Sow beets in the garden as early as 4 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. Succession crops can be planted every 2 weeks for a continuous harvest. In warm-summer regions, do not plant beets from mid-spring through mid-summer. Sow beets for fall harvest about 8 weeks before the average first frost date in fall. In mild-winter regions, beets can be sown until late autumn and can be left in the ground for harvest through the winter.  Avoid seeding during daytime temperatures of 80 degrees F, wait until it is cooler.

Storage beets need to be planted early in the season to give them plenty of time to make full size. But, you know you could start a second crop of early maturing smaller beets just for fresh fall eating!

Care  Do thin your beets! The most frequent cause for beet plants failing to develop beets is overcrowding. If you are using unseparated seed clusters to plant from, your beet seedlings commonly emerge in clusters. Hand thinning is always necessary. When the first true leaves form, thin with small scissors leaving the strongest seedling. Cut or pinch so you don’t disturb the roots of nearby seedlings Definitely thin at 5″ tall or less! At 4 to 5″ tall you get to eat those little seedlings in your salad! Thin 1″ up to 5″ apart depending of the size of the beet you want to grow.

Weeding is important because tiny beets have only that little tap root that becomes the fat root. Clearly, deep, or just about any, cultivation is a no, no. Weeds rob beets of nutrients, moisture, and flavor. Keep beets evenly moist for quick growth and best flavor.

Mulch is perfect in summer to conserve soil moisture, prevent soil compaction and help suppress weed growth. In hot weather install shade cloth to keep your beets from bolting. Mulch in winter keeps soil cool, and growth is slowed down.

Beets are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized at planting time, as well as a month later. A fertilizer with the analysis of 5-10-10 can be applied when you plant your seeds, and again when the plants are about three inches high.

Keep young roots covered with soil. When you water or it rains, the soil sinks, exposing part of the root. Add soil or the root may not bulb. Planting the seed deeper doesn’t help. The seedling still needs to be able to get up. Planting beets on lower soil rather than on a higher area, a mound, is better. Soil then has a chance to collect down around the roots rather than leaving them exposed. But always do check the roots anyway. Further drainage can wash that soil away. You might need to install a berm.

Beets, carrots, radish and turnips naturally Keep Beet shoulders covered with Soil!push right up above the ground! Plant in low sloped walled mini trenches. That way the seeds stay more moist longer, germination per cent is better. When the beet root starts to get above the soil level pull the sides of the trench onto the beet root shoulders! Avoid planting on a slope where normal watering washes the soil away. You can see in the image how crowding, not thinning, adds to the problem. Exposed areas toughen and have to be peeled, losing nutrients packed in the skin. Harvest sooner and a bit smaller for fresh tender roots! I have grown big 4-5″ beets though, and they are still tender! Just keep them moist and let them grow fast!

If you’re planning to serve your tender baby beets whole and unpeeled, try hilling the soil around their shoulders as they grow. This will keep the skin from hardening over and losing its smooth, red appearance.

Pests & Diseases

Flea beetles, leaf miners, aphids and Cercospora leaf spot are the usual. Regular inspection of your plants can help deter a major pest infestation. If you have the patience, the use of floating row covers will offer nearly 100% protection.

Biodiversity You almost always see beets planted in rows. The damage from leafminers is, uh, downright ugly. Rather than letting them walk right down the row, plant to plant, try planting your beets in small clusters here and there among your other plants. Another simple remedy, if you have the space, is plant so no plant leaves touch another’s when they are mature. The tastiest remedy is to deliberately overplant then harvest the tiny tasties between, and keep thinning as they get larger! If they still touch, harvest the between leaves first! Remove infested leaves ASAP! Water a tad less so the leaves aren’t quite so soft and inviting.

Flea beetles have a season. If your plant is healthy and growing fast, it will probably be bitten temporarily, then do ok. There will just be a lotta tiny holes in those leaves.

Aphids. Keep watch, spray ’em away before they get out of control. Remove badly infested leaves. Check for ants, water a tad less.

See more on these pests!

Disease - Cercospora Leaf Spot on Chard, Spinach & Beet leavesBeets, Chard and Spinach get Cercospora leaf spot – like the Chard at left. Sadly, no resistant cultivars of table beet are known. Late fall or early spring plantings are most likely to be affected. Late summer when conditions are favorable (high temperatures 75-85˚F, high humidity, long leaf wetness periods at night) is the worst. Beet roots fail to grow to full size when disease is severe. Successive plantings made close together can allow disease to move from one planting into the next. It grows on infected crop residues, so immediately remove leaves that collapse on the ground. It is spread by rain splash, wind, irrigation water, insects, workers, and equipment. This is one case where AM watering really makes sense to reduce humidity. UMASS Amherst recommends to ‘Avoid overhead irrigation if it will result in prolonged leaf wetness periods (e.g., through the night); irrigate mid-day when leaves will dry fully or use drip irrigation.’ If all that fails, use foliar fungicides. Plant less densely for more airflow, thinnings are tasty! In general, harvest more frequently so leaves don’t surpass their prime health. Planting only every 3 years in the same spot isn’t possible if there is too little garden space, so cultivating, turning and drying the soil between plantings is good. See more

Harvest & Storage 

Roots! Most varieties will mature within 55 to 70 days, but can be harvested at any time in their growth cycle. Young roots 1 1/2″ diameter can be harvested about 60 days after sowing. If you like them bigger, it won’t take much longer! After 3″, though, some can get tough if they weren’t kept moist so they could grow fast.

Best color and flavor develop under cool conditions and bright sun. When beets mature in warm weather, they are lighter colored, have less sugar and have more pronounced color zoning in the roots. Fluctuating weather conditions produce white zone rings in roots. Lift spring beets before daytime temperatures average greater than 70°F. Start the fall harvest when daytime temperatures are consistently in the 50s. If you live in cold climes, Pull up the last of your beets before the ground freezes.

Cut the tops off the beets one inch above the roots, to retain moisture and nutrients avoid bleeding during cooking. Greens quickly draw moisture from the root greatly reducing flavor and the beets become shriveled. Beets store best at 32°F and 95 percent humidity for about a week, three weeks in an airtight bag. Do not allow them to freeze. Use beets while they are still firm and fresh. Or, store some as naturally fermented pickled beets, whole or sliced!

For longer storage, don’t wash the dirt off your root crops. Just let it dry, then brush it off as much as possible. Keep at temperatures near freezing and with high humidity to prevent wilting. If you can’t eat all those beet greens, tops, right away, freeze them and use them in soup stocks!

Greens are best fresh in salads when four to six inches tall, but mature sized leaves are plenty tasty steamed over rice. Add them to stews. Stir fry with olive oil and a tad of garlic! Remember, they will wilt with cooking, so gather a few extra!

SAVING SEEDS

Beet Seeds drying on plant

Beets are biennials. Normally, they produce an enlarged root during their first season. Then after overwintering they produce a flower stalk. If they experience two to three weeks of temperatures below 45 F after they have formed several true leaves during their first season, a flower stalk may grow prematurely. If you are a seed saver, that is a lucky opportunity! Saving beet seeds is generally a two-year project because this biennial doesn’t flower and produce its seed clusters until the next growing season.

Tie the stalks to stakes when they become floppy, look for blossoms in June and July, harvest the seeds in August. if you want to speed the process a little, cut 4′ tall tops just above the root when the majority of flowering clusters have turned brown. Tops can be stored in cool, dry locations for 2-3 weeks to encourage further seed ripening. Strip off the seeds. When the seed clusters are thoroughly dry and brittle, they can be gently rolled to break them open. This will release the seed, usually 3 to 5 per cluster. LABEL the seed pack with name and year because beet & chard seeds look virtually the same! Beet seed will remain viable for about six years. Do a moonlight dance in gratitude!

Only let a single variety of beet, or chard, go to flower when you will be saving seeds. Beet seeds, being wind pollinated, have a talent for cross-pollination over distances of a mile or more. Many recommend a 2 mile separation distance. If you are in a community garden or and urban neighborhood, that means track your fellow gardeners to make sure they don’t have flowering beets or chard when you do.

Important tips per Everwilde Farms: ‘Beet plants must weather the winter in order to produce seed; in warmer climates, simply mulch the plants. In cooler climates, dig up the roots and store them in sand, without the roots touching, in a cool and humid location; plant them in early spring. In the spring, the plants will go to seed; wait until the seed heads are fully grown and dry before removing them. The seeds will readily come off the stems after they are completely dry. Store the seed in a cool, dry place for up to five years.’ You can see it is a lengthy, but worthy, process.

Fall Beets! Fistful of Tasty Happiness!A Fistul of Nutrition and Benefits!

Beets have my admiration! Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours, boost your exercise time by 16%! Beets have betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s an anti-inflammatory, protects internal organs, improves vascular risk factors, enhances performance, and likely helps prevent numerous chronic diseases. Beets have phytonutrients that help ward off cancer. Beet powder reduces cholesterol. Check out more details at whFoods.com.

Beets are high in folate and manganese. Folate is a B9 vitamin that helps strengthen neural tubes, reduces the risk of neural defects in babies, and can help prevent gray hair! Manganese helps your body with blood-clotting factors, sex hormones, bones and connective tissue. It helps with calcium absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, blood sugar regulation, and that your brain and nerves function at optimal levels. Manganese is an integral part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, that helps combat free radicals.

What makes beet greens unique is they are high in calcium and provide 25% of the daily magnesium we need, higher than turnip and mustard greens. Calcium is good for our bones, a gentle temperament, pain reduction. Magnesium is a mineral that maintains normal muscle and nerve function, keeps a healthy immune system, maintains heart rhythm, and builds strong bones.

Like other greens, they excel in Vitamins K and A. A is significant for eye health, prevents night blindness, strengthens your immune system, stimulating production of antibodies and white blood cells. The beta-carotene in vitamin A is a known antioxidant that fights free radicals, cancer and heart disease. Vitamin K has blood clotting properties, helps wards off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach! And they are low in fat and cholesterol!

Comparison of Kale to Beet Greens. The comparison isn’t complete, so compare carefully to what is written here. Variety is good.

Practical CautionsBeet greens contain unusually high levels of oxalic acid though far less than Spinach and Purslane. Oxalic acid is a chelating compound that binds to minerals like calcium, phosphorous, etc which are then expelled unused from the body. Oxalic crystals can cause kidney stones when eaten in large quantities for very long periods. Use with caution and keep your water intake up.

Because of the greens’ high vitamin K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid these greens. Beets tops increase K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are attempting to lower.

Since beetroots have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, sugar beets are second only to sugarcane in sugar production, eat your beetroots in moderation! Two to three times a week is fine. Though beets are a veggie, see sugary fruits for how to best eat your beets if you need to keep your body alkaline! If you are making a salad with beets, check out the alkaline dressing recipes at the bottom of Virtuous Veggies!

Due to that sugar, candida overgrowth can be a problem, but beets are abundant in nitrates; great for your heart. They can increase exercise endurance, allowing people to exercise for 16% longer periods of time without tiring. The trick is to ferment them, drink them juiced with fiber! See the details at Body Ecology!

Fermented Beet KrautCulinary Treats! When preparing your beets for cooking, wash them carefully to avoid breaking the skin. Breaks and tears allow color and nutritional value to escape. They can be cooked whole, then sliced or diced. Shred fresh or cooked and cooled into salads. Ferment/probiotic. Beets are high in natural sugar and roasting brings out the natural sweetness. Borscht is a popular beet soup which can be served hot in winter and cold in summer. Beet Salsa! Cut your beets up into small bits, add sweet onion, apple cider vinegar, a touch of honey and some water. Pop the whole mix in the fridge and add to salads or eat alone as a tangy treat, dip! Make beet smoothies! Substitute the leaves for spinach. Put greens in soups, drinks, ravioli, pasta, on sandwiches, pizza, in omelets, stuffed in bread and puffs!

May your beets be sweet, beautifuland plentiful!

Updated Nov 26, 2018

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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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SeedSaving - Advocates and Laws
Peasant seeds – the pillar of food production – are under attack everywhere. Under corporate pressure, laws in many countries increasingly limit what farmers can do with their seeds. Seed saving, which has been the basis of farming for thousands of years, is quickly being criminalised. What you can do.

It’s a New Year! Some of you will make serious gardening resolutions, others will take it as it comes, one day at a time as usual. But I do recommend you secure your seeds for the year ahead! Some are now less plentiful with droughts and storms, GMO threats, new laws. Recently much needed seed banks, libraries have sprung up. We want to use our seeds with reverence and seed save our best as they adapt to different conditions, assure their goodness for future generations. At Seed Swaps, take only what you need. If many people grow them, there will be more adapted to our localities. Before there were seed shops, seeds were often used as money. They are precious today as they have always been, maybe even more so.

Santa Barbara’s average last frost date is January 22 – and that is measured at the Airport! This isn’t to say there might not be another frost after that… With early plantings, know that you are taking your chances. If you lose ’em just replant! Guarantee your success by starting another round of seeds in two weeks to a month or so, both for backup and succession planting. Find out the frost dates for your California Zip Code! See the details – Protect Your Veggies from Freezing!

Just in case, have old sheets, light blankets, old towels handy. If a freeze is predicted, for small plants, like tender lettuces, just lay tomato cages on their sides and put your coverings over them. Secure them well so wind doesn’t blow them around and damage your plants. Remove them when the sun comes out! No cooking your plants before their time!

Planting early isn’t always a gain. Even if the plant lives, some won’t produce fruit until they have enough hours of sun, and for some, warmth including day/night and/or ground temps. And some plants set in too early will never produce. That waiting time for enough sun, enough warmth, interrupts the plant’s natural cycle and the production window is lost.

While others are dancing with glee at their new plants so soon, don’t worry if you wait a bit for a more sure thing! You can use that area for quick plants, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, grown for their leaves, until it’s the right time to plant heat lovers. These plants can be removed at any time and you still shall have had lush harvests. However, hardly anyone can resist planting early tomatoes! Another strategy is don’t remove your leaf producers; instead plant tomatoes here and there among them! Remove lower leaves on the sunny side of taller plants and put in some little transplants there. That way you have table food and your heart is happy too!

Choose early cold tolerant varieties. Ones with northern names, in SoCal that could be Oregon Spring, or Siberian. Stupice from Czechoslovakia is very early! Bellstar, from Ontario Canada, is larger and earlier than other plum tomatoes. Early Girl is a favorite! And SunGold cherry tomatoes are almost always a winner! Cherry toms are small and will ripen when other tomatoes just stay green for the longest!

We may or may not have El Niño here in Santa Barbara, SoCal. If it happens, if you haven’t gotten your land ready, be prepared to scramble to get your beds and berms up and secure. Have a good source of mulch, a kind that doesn’t wash away, in mind to quickly prevent erosion. Quickly install trenches to hold the rainwater, and do some terracing if you are on a slope! Our water goals have changed in recent years. Now we hope to keep every drop of water ON our land. Let the earth filter it, restore our water tables, let only clean water get to our ocean. The ocean provides food too ~ fishes, mineral rich seaweeds. Let’s give them a clean environment. See Rainy Day Tactics for Spectacular Veggies!

With your summer garden layout in mind, get SEEDS! Start them indoors NOW to be planted in March! After a HOT summer and fall that had even the heat lovers groaning, we have had a coolish November and December. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have another hot summer. Check your 2016 seed catalogs for drought and heat tolerant varieties or look in southern states or world areas that have desert low water needs plants and order up! The seeds of these types may need to be planted deeper and earlier than more local plants for moisture they need. They may mature earlier. Be prepared to do second plantings and use a little water.

This is THE time to start peppers from seed! Peppers take their time, much longer than other plants. They are super persnickety about soil temps – they need 60 degrees + for happiness. Soil Temps are critical for root function. Peppers will sit for agonizing months if they are too cool. When that happens they rarely take hold, never produce. Better not to plant at all, or pull and replant. A gardeners’ soil thermometer is an inexpensive handy little tool to own.

Check out  Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips & Ideas! If seeds and tending seedlings aren’t for you, wait and get transplants and pop them right in the ground per their right times! No fuss, no muss.

If you love your winter crops, and aren’t necessarily in a rush to do spring/summer, amend your soil immediately and plant one more round, from transplants if you can get them or have starts of your own. In cooler January weather, plantings will mature slowly, but they will mature faster than usual as days get longer, temps are warmer. Most January plantings will be coming in March, April. That’s still in good time for soil preps in April for the first spring plantings in April/May.

Continue to make the most of winter companion planting! Carrots enhance peas, onion family stunts peas. Cilantro enhances Brassicas and repels aphids on them! Lettuce repels Cabbage moths. Onions, leeks and chives help repel the carrot root fly. Carrots thrive when Cilantro, Chamomile, Marigold are planted with them. Companion planting is also a size strategy. Keep planting smaller plants, especially lettuce, on the sunny under sides of Brassicas! Take off a couple lower leaves to make room.

For us SoCal gardeners, besides beautiful bareroot roses, this month is bareroot veggies time! They don’t have soil on their roots, so plant immediately or keep them moist! Grape vines; artichokes; short-day (sweet) globe onions; strawberries; cane berries such as raspberries (get low-chill types); low-chill blueberries; and rhubarb, asparagus, and horseradish. Bare root planting is strictly a January thing. February is too late.

Plant MORE of these delicious morsels now! Arugula, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts if you get winter chill, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, culinary dandelions, garden purslane, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, Mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes – especially daikons, and turnips!

When you put in new transplants, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs from seriously damaging or disappearing them while they are small. Before you anticipate your seedlings coming up, sprinkle some pellets around the plant, along both sides of rows. That keeps the creatures from mowing them overnight, making you think they never came up! Do this a few times, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for a while.

Prevention  A typical disease is Powdery mildew. 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. Prevention is so much better than after mildew has set in. See Aspirin Solution.

If you need more robust soil, do something absolutely yummy with it! This is perfect timing to put in some green manure where you will plant heavy summer feeders – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, chilis, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and corn; hungry stalk vegetables like celery, fennel, rhubarb, and artichokes; or continually producing green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard. Or you can ‘rest’ an area by covering it with a good 6″ to a foot deep of mulch/straw! That will flatten down in no time at all! 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. Come spring you will have rich nutritious soil for no work at all!

Repeat! Excellent Winter Garden Practices:

Thin any plants you intentionally over planted – carrots, beets, turnips, kale, chard, mustard. If you planted too close together, take out the shorter, weaker plants. Keep thinning beets as they get bigger, taking small ones from between the ones getting larger. Thinnings are great in your salads along with small tender Brassica leaves.

Sidedressing is like snacking. Some of your heavy leaf producers and big bodied Brassicas, may need a feeding now and again. Heading is your cue to help them along. If they slow down, or just don’t look perky, slip them a liquid feed that quickly waters into the root zone. Stinky fish/kelp is easy for them to uptake in cooler weather. Get your nozzle under low cabbage leaves and feed/water out to the drip line. Lettuces love manures. Compost and manure teas, fish emulsion (when there are no digging predators), pretty powdered box ferts, are all good. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings. Slow release is a wise consideration. Worm castings, though not food, work wonders! Also, be careful of ‘too much’ fertilizer, too much water, that makes for an aphid tasty soft plant. That said, another way to get goodness to the roots is push in a spade fork vertically, wiggle it back and forth, remove the fork, pour your foods into the holes, close ’em back up. Soil organisms will get right to work, your plant will stay healthy and be quite productive!

Especially feed your cabbages, lightly, time to time, because they are making leaf after leaf, dense heads, working hard. I often see kales lose their perk. You would too if someone kept pulling your leaves off and never fed you. Feed them too, please, while feeding your cabbages.Don’t feed carrots, they will fork and grow hairy! Overwatering makes them split. Your peas and favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, feeding themselves, so little to no feeding is needed for them.

Check beets, carrots, radish, potatoes, turnips, in general, for low soil, especially after rains. Soil naturally compacts with watering. Some of these veggies naturally push right up above ground as they grow. Planting their seeds deeper doesn’t compensate. It’s the nature of the veggie! Never hurts to put a handy little pile of extra soil near where you plant them. Cover their exposed shoulders to keep them from drying, getting tough, needing peeling, losing the nutrients in their skins. Uncovered carrot shoulders don’t ripen but stay green. Same with potatoes.

In SoCal, winter is not a time for mulching except for erosion control. Its purpose in summer is to keep the soil and plant roots cool, and retain moisture. In winter, we pull the mulch back to let the soil warm up during the short days. Also, it’s good to remove pest habitat, let the soil dry a bit between rains to kill off the wilts fungi, and let Bagrada bug eggs die. Do not keep straw from areas where there have been infestations. Bag up clean summer straw, mulches, for compost pile layers during winter or lay the straw under the boards in pathways to feed the soil there. Later, move the pathway over, left or right, and plant in that fertile soil that is now under the boards!

Do water! Watering is important even in cool weather. Also, some plants simply like being moist ie chard and lettuce, strawberries. No swimming, just moist.

Standard Veggie Predators Keep a keen watch for pests and diseases and take quick action!

  • 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 leaves unnaturally curled along the length of the leaf, particularly broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages. Squish or wash any or the colony away immediately, and keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed. After that, water less so plant leaves will be less tender and inviting.
  • White flies  Flush away, especially under the leaves. They are attracted to yellow, so keep  those Brassica yellowing, yellowed leaves removed pronto. Again, a little less water.
  • Leafminers  Keep watch on your chard and beet leaves. Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make; immediately remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners, especially the leaves that touch another plant. Water and feed just a little less to make those leaves less inviting. Plant so mature leaves don’t touch. Rather than row plant, interplant here and there.
  • Slugs, Snails  Lay down Sluggo, or the like, before seedlings even get started, immediately 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 couple rounds.

COMPOST always! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost is easy to make, and if you make it, you know what’s in it! Added to your soil, made or purchased, it increases water holding capacity, is nutritious, soil organisms flourish, your soil lives and breathes! It feeds just perfectly! Make it HOT, Cold, or In place!  Dry is dead, so be sure it is always slightly moist.

Again, get your summer garden layout in mind NOW for January/February SEED SWAPS! Peruse seed catalogs and order up. Later on, many seeds will no longer be available, so wisely get your entire year’s supply now!

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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!

Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Capture water. Grow organic!

December Garden Images! Western Bluebirds, the Fallen Tree, surprises!

See the entire January GBC Newsletter:

ALL About Beets, So Sweet!
Soil Care for Spring Planting
HEAL Community Garden for Sydney Children

Events!  January 31, 2016 Santa Barbara Seed Swap!

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Red Russian Kale leaves and raindrops at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara Ca Jan 6, 2016

Raindrops on Red Russian Kale leaves at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

Skillful Preparation

When you build your garden, make raised beds, mounds, berms for water capture. Install channels to help with drainage issues.

Mulch sloped areas to hold water in place to soak in, and keep soil from eroding. Anchor the mulch in some way to keep it from washing away. Bark chips are not a good choice. Keep every drop of rain on your property to water your trees and to improve our water table. Remember, slow, spread, sink

Make ‘permanent’ pathways with boards, stepping stones, straw bedding, so you won’t be compacting your planting area soil when it is wet or dry! Best is to lay down straw then put a board or two side by side on top. This holds the straw in place, in case of winds, and the straw will feed your soil for good spring planting.

Set up to harvest rainwater for later use, even if it is just putting out containers and buckets here and there!

Way ahead of time, plant for air circulation so foliage dries quickly. Plants too closely spaced, make a warmer micro environment, mildew easier. Choose mildew resistant varieties!

Keep a Weather Watch! 

  • Mulch! Lay down some straw to avoid mud splatter on lettuce leaves, keep fruits clean, up off soggy ground, above the insect soil level zone. Insects stay safe below the mulch, don’t venture above where predators and birds can get them.
  • Lay down fertilizer – manure, compost before a rain so the fertilizer will soak in. Perfect time to sidedress established plants! Be sure there are berms to keep it where you want it and it won’t wash away.
  • Dig in compost and castings in the top few inches of your soil.  When the rain comes, it’s like making compost and worm tea all at once in place.  They improve your soil’s water holding capacity.
  • Take the cover off your compost to let it get wet.  Or cover it to keep it just moist and warm and in steady decomposition.
  • Tie or stake plants that may topple from wind or water weight. Stake cages, trellises that might get blown over. Secure plants growing on trellises to the trellises.
  • Planting! For planting seeds, it depends on whether it matters where they will end up. For example, a green manure cover crop needs no formal rows or placements. If you want a plant where you put it, might be good to wait until after the rain. Near-the-surface seeds, or small seeds, ones not so hard or heavy, can be uncovered or buried, washed away or likely rot if they get in a puddle. Bean seeds can rot, virtually dissolve, in a couple days. Plant delicate transplants ASAP just after rain. If it’s expected to be a heavy rain, wait, so your plants don’t literally drown. Plant just after the rain. The sun will warm up the soil and off they will go! 

During a rainy period….

  • If you didn’t before, if it’s a light rain, get out there in your rain gear and add some compost, manure or fertilizer! Great excuse to play in the rain! Otherwise, no digging in saturated soil. It destroys soil structure that soil organisms make and need, stops oxygen flow the soil needs.
  • Check frequently to see how your plants are doing. Secure any tall plants, trellises that need it.
  • If a plant is too low and in standing water, raise it. Put your shovel deep under it, so not to harm the roots, push some filler soil underneath the shovel!
  • Add more mulch to sloped areas if it has shifted or isn’t quite deep enough.
  • Be sure your wormbox worms are not doing the backstroke! I cover mine with plastic INSIDE the worm box.  Any water either runs down the sides and out the bottom or puddles on the plastic. Easy to remove.
  • If the compost heap is wet enough now, cover it.
  • Rebuild any drainage channel that has weakened, clear if clogged. Rebuild water capture berms that have slumped. Level out areas that puddle.
  • Make sure all your rain harvest system is working well. Kudos to you for harvesting!
  • Practice arm-chair gardening! Read garden books, magazines, browse web sites, buy some seeds from mail-order catalogs, design your new garden layout!
  • Get some seeds, soilless potting mix, gather containers with, or make, drainage holes. Start some seeds indoors!
  • If the rain is prolonged, uh, do an aphid, snail and slug check as frequently as you can. Sluggo works on snails and slugs even when it is wet. Hard to believe, but, yes, it does.
  • If the rain is prolonged, do harvest your fresh and crunchy produce! Lettuces will flourish!
  • Check on fast maturing broccoli and cauliflower heads to cut at peak maturity! Gather your luscious strawberries. Keep your peas/beans picked to keep them coming!

After the rain! YES!

  • Be ready to weed! Do some dust mulching. It 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. It’s commonly done by dry farmers. A hula hoe does a great job in pathways, over wide areas! Those little 3 prong hand held or long handled stand up cultivators are great among your plants.
  • Do some thinning for air circulation as makes sense. Often there is a growth spurt, and you can see where thinning is needed.
  • Repair areas where soil has washed away exposing roots, carrot, beet, radish, parsnip or turnip shoulders.
  • Repair any berms or terracing, level out high/low spots. Clear clogged drains.
  • ASAP do what you do about snails and slugs. Keep checking for aphids – blast them away with water or remove infested leaves.
  • There is often more gopher activity after rain has softened the soil, so be ready! Here’s all about gophers and how to set Macabee traps! OR, now that the soil is softened, install a 1/2″ grid hardware cloth wire barrier basket under your entire garden area!
  • Harvest first, water second at ground level! That’s the rule to keep from spreading diseases spread by moisture.
  • It’s often warmer after a rain, and it is the warmth that mildew loves! Drench mildew susceptible plants with your mildew mix immediately. Apply it preferably before sunrise so it has time to be absorbed before it dries. Absorption can be in as quick as an hour! If you can’t do the sunrise schedule, do it early in the day while your plants are still shaded, and early enough so your plants can dry. If you prune mildewed areas off, remove those prunings, wash your hands and pruners before you go on to other plants. Water less frequently and at ground level, not overhead.

Easy homemade MIX for mildew prevention and abatementIt works for certain other diseases too! Be sure to spray up under leaves as well.

  • Heaping tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of nonfat (so it won’t rot and stink) powdered milk
  • One mashed regular 325 mg Aspirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dish soap
  • In a large watering can of water, preferably with a long spout so you can get in to the plant’s central leaves too.

Remember, here in SoCal, a light rain may not begin to wet your soil, not even a 1/4″ deep! Always do the old finger test to see what’s what. Sometimes you need to water after a rain!

I swear, Rainwater IS different than hose water! Plants just jump right out of the ground! Enjoy!

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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!

Read Full Post »

15 Super Tips for a Productive Summer Veggie Patch!

Asymmetrical Design

Whether you are tucking things into niches between ornamental landscape plants, planting a patio patch like in the image, setting up a first time summer garden patch, or replanning your annual garden, here are some great ideas to increase your production!

1. If you have space, and are creating a back, or front, yard food forest, always start with your tree placements first! Determine which veggies grow well with each kind of tree. Santa Barbara Mediterranean Food Forests

2. Keep in mind veggies need sun! 6 to 8 hours, preferably 8! They are making fruit, and often many! That takes energy.

3.  Put tall plants to the north (see image below), so they won’t shade the shorties. If there is a partially shaded area, plant your tallest plants on the shaded side so they can reach up to get some sun; put the shorter plants in decreasing heights, in front of them so all get as much light as they can. When you are planting rounds, another batch every few weeks, start in the north or the ‘back’ – the shaded area, and work your way forward.

4. Trellises and tall cages are terrific space savers and keep your plants off the ground out of harm’s way – pests, diseases, damage. Your veggies will be clean, and have more even ripening. Cucumbers, beans, tomatoes. Squashes and melons can be trellised if you provide support for heavy fruits. Even Zucchini can be grown up through cages leaving a lot of ground space for underplantings. Harvesting is a lot easier and certain when those fast growing zuchs are up where you can see them!

Inefficient Single Row Planting

5. There are rows and there are rows! Single row planting wastes space! Compare the images. If you do rows, plant 2 or 3 different plants in side by side rows, then have your walk way, then another 2 or 3 plants together. Whether you do 2 or 3, or even 4, depends on plant size, your reach, and ease of tending and harvest. Plant taller or medium size plants, like peppers and eggplant, by twos so you can reach in to harvest. Plant shorter smaller plants like lettuces, spinach, strawberries together since they are easy to reach across to harvest. If plants in the rows are the same size, plant the second row plants on the diagonal to the first row plants. That way your rows can be closer together and you can plant more plants!

Attractive Multi-row Veggie Amphitheatre around the Eden Project restaurant!

6. Rather than rows, biodiversity, mixing things up, confuses pests, stops diseases in their tracks, because they can’t just go from the same plant to the same plant down a row. Since we are not using tractors, there is no need for rows at all, but they can be lovely. The curved rows in the image are behind the Eden Project restaurant outdoor seating! Truly garden to table!

7. If you need only a few plants, rather than designating a separate space for lettuces and littles like radishes, tuck them in here and there on the sunny side under bigger plants! When it gets big enough, remove the sunny side lower leaves of the larger plant to let light in.

8. Plant what you like, and will really eat along with some extra nutritious chards, kales.

9. Plants with the same water needs are good together. Like a salad patch – lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choy, bunch onions, radish, chards. Putting the things together that you will harvest together saves time! Put carrots at the foot of pole beans.

10. Overplanting can take the fun out of things. Too many zucchini in hot summers, and you are going crazy trying to give away the over large ones you didn’t harvest soon enough. Too many green beans are labor intensive harvesting, takes forever. Planting green beans too close together is hard to harvest, and they mildew more with low air circulation. Overplanting is delicious when you plant lots of lettuces, carrots then harvest what you thin out! That’s baby kales, chard, mini carrots. These are the eat-on-the-spot-in-the-garden types!

11. Traditionally, and if you lived in the North with cold winters, you planted the garden all at once in spring! If your parents did that, you are unthinkingly likely to do it as well. In our SoCal Mediterranean climate, we plant all year though there are warmer and cooler veggie seasons. But each of these seasons are longer, and overlap! It is easy to get 3 plantings in succession IN EACH SEASON! Some plants will grow all year, mostly the ‘winter’ plants in our coastal gardens, for example, beets, broccoli, onions and cabbages. It takes strength to leave open space for successive rounds. But you can do it. Mark that space off, plant temporary fast growers, nitrogen-fixing fava, or lay down some soil feeding mulch like seedless straw. That space will be super productive when its turn comes.

12. Pole plants, have a lot longer production period than bush, like beans! Indeterminate tomatoes are true vines, can last all season long, but are susceptible to Fusarium and Verticillium wilts/fungi diseases. Might be better to plant determinates, limited growth varieties, in succession. That’s plant a few, then in a few weeks a few more, and so on. Let the determinates produce like crazy all at once, pull them when they show signs of the wilts. If you have only a small space available, or want to do canning, then bush plants are for you!

13. Plants that act as perennials in our climate are smart money plants! Broccoli’s for their side shoots, continuous kales and chards.

14. Special needs or companions!

  • Eggplants, though heat lovers, love humidity, but not overhead watering. Put them among other medium height plants.
  • Basils are great on the sunny sides of tomatoes, and go to table together.
  • Corn needs colonies – plant in patches versus rows! Every silk needs pollination because each produces a kernel! The best pollination occurs in clusters or blocks of plants. Consider that each plant only produces 2 to 3 ears, usually 2 good ones. How many can you eat a once? Will you freeze them? The ears pretty much mature within a few days of each other! So, if you are a fresh corn lover, plant successively only in quantities you can eat.

15. Consider herbs for corner, border, or hanging plants. They add a beautiful texture to your garden, are wonderfully aromatic, repel pests! Remember, some of them are invasive, like oregano, culinary thyme. Sage has unique lovely leaves. Choose the right type of rosemary for the space and look you want.

Please be CREATIVE! You don’t have to plant in rows, though that may be right for you. Check out this Squidoo Vegetable Garden Layout page! Check out the Grow Planner for Ipad from Mother Earth News! They may make you very happy! This is a perfectly acceptable way to play with your food.

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