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Cucurbit Hand Pollination with Brush

In optimal conditions insects, mainly bees, pollinate our veggies. Wind works for some plants. Other times due to weather or stresses, humans help!

Wind-pollinated veggies

such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, are fertilized by the beating of Bumblebees’ and other insects’ wings, at exactly the right frequency! More pollen is released and pollination is more efficient. It’s called BUZZ POLLINATION! About 11 AM, when the male flower anthers (they hold the pollen) are most open, you can improve your tomato, eggplant and pepper production by giving the cages they are in or the main stems of your plants a few sharp raps, or gently shake the stems, to help the flowers self pollinate. Or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen.

Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, or other Solanaceae, so build solitary bee condos for native bees. Native bees, per Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth, are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are more plentiful than previously thought and not as prone to the headline-catching colony collapse disorder that has decimated honeybee populations. A Jan 2019 UK study says pollination by wild bees yields larger strawberries than pollination by honey bees! This led them to say it’s worth it to make habitat for them!

The very best Solanaceae pollinator is a Bumblebee!!! See more! Bumblebees fly earlier in spring and bring in our first spring crops! And they don’t sting!


Video Produced by Joshua Cassidy

Please click on the image or here to see the video!

And, did you know Flowers can hear buzzing bees—and it makes their nectar sweeter!

While you are helping your tomatoes pollinate, if you are growing them in cages, also very gently help them up through the cages. Remove any bottom leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water. Remove any diseased leaves ASAP!

Pollination Cucurbits Male Female Flowers     Pollination by Hand Cucurbits Male Stamen to Female Stigma

Pollination of Cucurbits by hand. In left image, male flower on left, female right.

Squashes, melons and monoecious cucumbers

can easily be hand pollinated. Cukes are notorious for needing help being fertilized! Cucurbits have male and female blooms on the same plant. If there are not enough pollinators about, we need to help. Also, multiple visits from the bees are required for good fruit set and properly shaped cucumbers. Male flowers open in the morning and pollen is only viable during that day. Hand pollinate during the morning hours, using only freshly opened flowers. You can use a small pointy paint brush, a cotton swab, Q-tip, your finger, and move pollen from the male stamen to the center of the female flower. Or the best, most complete method is to take the male flower off the plant, pull the petals off, and gently roll the male flower anther around and over the female stigma in the center of the female flower. The pollen is sticky, so it may take some time. One male anther can pollinate several females. Repeat. Female blooms will simply drop off the plant if they are not pollinated. So when your cukes are in production, you need to do this daily.

Don’t be confused by the little fruit forming under the female flowers and think pollination has already happened. The flower needs to be fertilized, and adequately, or the flower and fruit just fall off. Flowers not pollinated enough, that don’t abort, make misshapen fruits. That goes for corn having irregular to lacking kernels. Misshapen Strawberries are called cat-faced. Squash and cucumbers can be deformed. On an unwindy day, tilt the stalk so the corn tassels are over the silks and tap the stalk. You will see a shower of pollen fall on the silks. You may need to do it from one plant to another so you don’t break the stalk trying to get the pollen to fall on silks on the same plant.

Planting a lot of plants close together stresses plants. At higher densities, plants compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight, and the resulting stress can lead to a higher proportion of male flowers, less female flowers, the ones that produce. If you really want more fruit, give them room to be fruitful. The same goes for other stresses – damage from insects or blowing soil, low light intensities, or water stress – less female flowers are produced.

Weather affects pollination. Sometimes cool overcast days or rain, when bees don’t fly, there is no pollination. Rain washes pollen away. High humidity makes pollen sticky and it won’t fall. Drought is a problem for corn pollination. Too high nighttime temps, day temps 86°F and above, will keep your tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables from making pollen or setting fruit unless they are high temp tolerant varieties. Too windy and the pollen is blown away.

If it is your cucumbers that are not pollinating well each year, try parthenocarpic varieties. Parthenocarpic varieties produce only female flowers and do not need pollination to produce fruit. This type of cucumber is also seedless. Try a few varieties and see if you like them.

Pollinator Habitat is crucial! Most important of all is to plant flowers for every season possible in your area, near or right beside your plants, make those bee homes for wild bees! From Cornell: Native bees are two to three times more effective than honeybees! However, if weather isn’t with you or other stressful conditions occur, hand pollinating is the answer.

May your Veggie Basket be overflowing!

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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!

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

 

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June Garden Wedding Lyons Farmette CO

What’s a garden for? Fertility and good living! Bridgette and Hoyt got married on a supermoon evening at Lyons Farmette & River Bend, Lyons CO! 

June is Midsummer Magic month! Divine small Faery beings will be celebrating your garden! June 21, 24, 25 or a date close to the Summer Solstice, any day June 19–24, is celebrated as Midsummer Night; June 24 is Faery Day! In Santa Barbara Summer Solstice festival and parade weekend is June 21-23rd!

Abundance is flowing, harvests are happening!

Tomato Indigo Rose Purple Anthocyanins

Tomatoes are coloring up nicely, their sidekick basil is potent delish, golden zucchini and lettuces of all kinds are being eaten, purple pole beans are being harvested by adults and children! I’ve seen some big fat full size cukes and humongous Seascape strawberries! Be careful with some of your harvests. Clip rather than break away and damage or pull your plant up.

Cherry tomatoes come in first. Fertilize your toms with a slow release fertilizer once the fruiting begins.
This year three of us at Rancheria Garden are trying Blue Berries Tomatoes! Baker Creek says: Here’s a small cherry variety from Brad Gates, Wild Boar Farms. Very dark purple color, which means it’s super-rich in anthocyanins. Unripe, the fruit is a glowing amethyst purple. At maturity it turns deep red where the fruit was shaded; the areas that received intense sunshine are a purple so deep it’s almost black! The flavor is intensely fruity and sugar-sweet! Plants are very productive, yielding all season in elongated clusters that look so beautiful.Reviewer Rebecca of Old Mosses Secret Garden said: I bought this selection for my whimsical choice. My experiences were similar to others opinion, they are abundant, vigorous and salad enhancing, plus they make a wonderful antioxidant jam spread. What I wanted to share about the blue berry tomatoes is that they are top of the menu choices for BATS. Bats were not on our urban radar, four years later five thousand bats have moved in and troll the garden where the fence lines are abundant with these little tasty gems, which get devoured . This plant is the greatest organic gardening boon ever sprouted. For fair reveal though I have hundreds of evergreen spruce that also get bat vacuumed for more meaty choices, so Thank you Baker seed, your diligence to excel is my secret weapon for a fantastic garden.

Harvest at your veggie’s peak delicious moment! Juicy, crunchy, that certain squish in your mouth, sweet, full bodied flavor, radiant, vitamin and mineral rich! Besides being delicious and beautiful, it keeps your plant in production. Left on the plant, fruits start to dry and your plant stops production, goes into seeding mode. The fruit toughens or withers, maybe rots, sometimes brings cleanup insect pests that spread to other plants. Keep beans picked, no storing cucumbers on the vine. Give away or store what you can’t eat. Freezing is the simplest storage method. Cut veggies to the sizes you will use, put the quantity you will use in baggies, seal and freeze. Whole tomatoes, chopped peppers and beans, diced onions. Probiotic pickle your cukes. Enjoy your sumptuous meals! Sing a song of gratitude and glory!

Plant more! Try some new ones too!

In those empty spots you have been saving, plant more rounds of your favorites! Check your lettuce supply. Put in more bolt resistant, heat and drought tolerant varieties now. Some heat tolerant lettuce varieties are Sierra, Nevada, Jericho, Black Seeded Simpson. That ruffly little beauty queen Green Star has excellent tolerance to hot weather, bolting, and tipburn. Rattlesnake beans keep right on producing when temps get up to 100 degrees! Plant more of everything except winter squash, big melons, pumpkins, unless you live in the hot foothills.

Put in plants that like it hotter! Long beans grow quickly from seed now. They grow later in the season when your other beans are finished. They make those enormously long beans in the ample late summer heat. Keep watch on them, in spite of their size they grow quickly, harvest promptly, usually daily! Certain varieties of them don’t get mildew either! Their unique flavor keeps your table interesting. Plant Okra now, it grows quickly in this warmer weather! More eggplant and also tomatoes you have been waiting to put in the now drier fungi free ground. Plant mini melons like Sugar Baby watermelons!

For those of you that are plagued with fungi diseases in your soil, the drier soil now makes this a better time to plant. Select wilt and blight resistant Tomatoes. Remember, when you plant your tomatoes and cukes, build a mound and make a basin whose bottom is higher than the surrounding soil. You want drainage and a wee bit of drying to reduce the potential of fungi – verticillium and fusarium wilts, blights. More Special Planting and growing tips for your Tomatoes and Cucumbers!

Plant WHITE potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs, radishes with cukes and Zucchini to repel cuke beetles, and radishes with eggplant, potatoes and arugula to repel flea beetles.

If you have more space or you lost a plant here or there, think on putting in some perfect companion plants! One of the Three Cs are super!

  1. Calendula – so many medicinal uses, bright flowers, and traps aphids, whiteflies, and thrips! Yep. Plant Calendula by tomatoes and asparagus.
  2. Chamomile –  is called the Plant Dr! It heals neighboring plants and improves the flavor of any neighboring herb! The flowers make a lovely scent and the tea is sweet.
  3. Comfrey – aka Knitbone, is an amazing medicinal herb, a super nutritious compost speeder upper! Plant it by your compost area.

Tasty herbs – chives, parsley, or more permanent perennials like rosemary, oregano (invasive), thyme are flavorful choices.

When you put them in the ground, pat Mycorrhiza fungi right on the roots of all your transplants except Brassicas. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Ask for it bulk at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.

Here’s your tending list for Beauty and Bounty!

Summer Solstice Sunflower

Water regularly so everyone is moist the way they like it! Seeds and seedlings daily. Peppers like moist, so as they need it. Others not so water critical on average need an inch a week; water beans, cukes, lettuces and short rooted varieties of strawberries more frequently – lettuces could be daily on hot windy days. To double check use the old finger test or push your shovel in and wedge the soil open enough so you can see if it is moist as deep as it needs to be. Watering at ground level, rather than overhead watering, keeps your plant dry. That means less mildew, less fungal diseases, especially for fuzzy leaved plants like toms and eggplant.

If at all possible, water in the AM before 10:30 to let leaves dry before evening to prevent mildew – beans and cucumbers are especially susceptible. Plant fewer beans further apart for air flow. If your plants are near a street or there has been a dusty wind storm, wash the dust off your plants so they can breathe, and to make them less attractive to Whiteflies.

In spite of below average May temps in Santa Barbara area, the ground has heated up. Finally. if you haven’t yet, it’s time to mulch! MULCH and replenish tired mulch. No more than an inch of straw mulch with toms and cukes. They need airflow so the soil can dry a bit and reduce harmful fungi. Otherwise, put on 4 to 6 inches minimum to keep light germinating seeds from sprouting. Mulch any Brassicas you are over summering – broccoli, kale – 4 to 6 inches deep for them too. They need cool soil. Melons need heat! They are the exception – no mulch for them if you are coastal. Yes, they will need more water, so be sure their basin is in good condition and big enough so they get water out to their feeder roots. Put a stake in the center of the basin so you know where to water when the leaves get big. The only place for straw for them is right under the melons.

Keep a sharp eye on tomatoes. Remove leaves touching the ground or will touch the ground if weighted with water! Trim so neighboring plants don’t touch and spread diseases like the wilts or blights. Remember, the wilts are spread by wind as well as water, so neighboring plants are very likely to give it to one another. Try planting other plants between. You can still do rows, just mix up the plants! Your healthier tomatoes will produce more and longer.

POLLINATION is vital & easy to do!

Pollination Cucurbits Male Female Flowers Pollination by Hand Cucurbits Male Stamen to Female Stigma

Pollination of Cucurbits by hand. In left image, male flower on left, female right.

Improve your tomato, eggplant and pepper production by giving the cages or the main stems a few sharp raps, or gently shake the stems, to help the flowers self pollinate. Midday is the best time. Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, or other Solanaceae, so build solitary bee condos for native bees. Native bees, per Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth, are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are more plentiful than previously thought and not as prone to the headline-catching colony collapse disorder that has decimated honeybee populations. The very best Solanaceae pollinator is a Bumblebee!!! See more! Plant plenty of favorite bee foods!

While you are helping your tomatoes pollinate, if you are growing them in cages, also very gently help them up through the cages. Remove any bottom leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water. Remove any diseased leaves ASAP!

Squashes, melons and monoecious cucumbers can easily be hand pollinated. Cukes are notorious for needing help being fertilized! Cucurbits have male and female blooms on the same plant. If there are not enough pollinators about, we need to help. Also, multiple visits from the bees are required for good fruit set and properly shaped cucumbers. Male flowers open in the morning and pollen is only viable during that day. Hand pollinate during the morning hours, using only freshly opened flowers. You can use a small pointy paint brush, a cotton swab, Q-tip, your finger, and move pollen from the male stamen to the center of the female flower. Or the best, most complete method is to take the male flower off the plant, pull the petals off, and gently roll the male flower anther around and over the female stigma in the center of the female flower. The pollen is sticky, so it may take some time. One male anther can pollinate several females. Repeat. Female blooms will simply drop off the plant if they are not pollinated or not pollinated adequately. So when your cukes are in production, you need to do this daily for more fruits.

Don’t be confused by the little fruit forming under the female flowers and think pollination has already happened. The flower needs to be fertilized, and adequately, or the fruit just falls off. Flowers not pollinated enough, that don’t abort, make misshapen fruits. That goes for corn having irregular to lacking kernels. Strawberries are called cat-faced. Squash and cucumbers can be deformed. On an unwindy day, tilt the stalk so the corn tassels are over the silks and tap the stalk. You will see a shower of pollen fall on the silks. You may need to do it from one plant to another so you don’t break the stalk trying to get the pollen to fall on silks on the same plant.

Planting a lot of plants close together stresses the plants. At higher densities, plants compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight, and the resulting stress can lead to a higher proportion of male flowers, less female flowers, the ones that produce. If you really want more fruit, give them room to be fruitful. The same goes for other stresses – damage from insects or blowing soil, low light intensities, or water stress – less female flowers are produced.

Weather affects pollination. Sometimes cool overcast days or rain, when bees don’t fly, there is no pollination. High humidity makes pollen sticky and it won’t fall. Drought is a problem for corn pollination. Too high nighttime temps, day temps 86°F and above, will keep your tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables from setting fruit unless they are high temp tolerant varieties. Too windy and the pollen is blown away.

If it is your cucumbers that are not pollinating well each year, try parthenocarpic varieties. Parthenocarpic varieties produce only female flowers and do not need pollination to produce fruit. This type of cucumber is also seedless. Try a few varieties and see if you like them.

Did you know? Flowers can hear buzzing bees—and it makes their nectar sweeter!

SIDEDRESSING! This IS the time! Feeding when your plants start to bloom and produce is a pretty standard recommendation. But if your baby is looking peaked, has pale or yellowing leaves, an emergency measure could be blood meal. Foliar feeding a diluted fish emulsion/kelp is easy for your plant to uptake. Foliar feeding a tea mix per what each plant might need, is the ultimate feed and it’s not hard to make tea mixes! Your lettuces love it if you scratch in some chicken manure, but no manure in a tea on leaves you will be eating! Pull your mulch back, top with a 1/2″ of compost and some tasty worm castings! If you prefer organic granulated fertilizer, easy to apply, sprinkle it around evenly. But remember, that has to be repeatedly applied. Recover with your mulch, straw, then water well and gently so things stay in place. That’s like making compost and worm tea in place!

Face up to pests! It’s easier to deal with them when there are only a few rather than losing your whole plant or a row of plants. I have already seen Cucumber beetles foraging Zucchini flowers. They are deadly to cucumbers because they transmit bacterial wilt and squash mosaic virus and cucumbers are the most susceptible to the wilts than any other garden veggie. Squish those beetlesSee more Here are tips for Beetle prevention for organic gardeners:

  • If possible plant unattractive-to-cucumber beetle varieties. In 2012 U of Rhode Island trials, best pickling choices are Salt and Pepper and H-19 Little LeafMarketmore 76 was tops for slicing cukes. If you find more current research on best varieties, please let me know!
  • Plant from transplants! The youngest plants are the most susceptible.
  • Interplant! No row planting so beetles go from one plant to another.
  • Delay planting! In our case, most of us already having planted cucumbers, can plant another round late June or when you no longer see the beetles. Start from seeds at home now since transplants may no longer be available in nurseries later on.
  • Plant repellent companion plants BEFORE you plant your cukes. Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes act as trap plants for flea beetles and to repel cucumber beetles. Radish are the fastest growers, so get them in ASAP if you didn’t before.
  • Natural predators are Wolf Spiders, daddy long legs and Ground Beetles! Let them live! They eat beetle eggs and larvae. And there is a tachinid fly and a braconid parasitoid wasp that parasitize striped cucumber beetle, and both sometimes have large impacts on striped cucumber beetles. When you see a dark hairy fly, don’t swat it! It is doing important garden business!
  • Here is a super important reason to use straw mulch! Per UC IPM ‘Straw mulch can help reduce cucumber beetle problems in at least 3 different ways. First, mulch might directly slow beetle movement from one plant to another. Second, the mulch provides refuge for wolf spiders and other predators from hot and dry conditions, helping predator conservation. Third, the straw mulch is food for springtails and other insects that eat decaying plant material; these decomposers are important non-pest prey for spiders, helping to further build spider numbers. It is important that straw mulch does not contain weed seeds and to make certain that it does not contain herbicide residues which can take years to fully break down.’
  • Organic mulches foster diverse populations of beneficial soil microorganisms that trigger the plant’s internal defenses.
  • At the end of the season or when your plants are done, remove garden trash, tired mulch and other debris shortly after harvest to reduce overwintering sites.

If you are by a road or in a dusty windswept area, rinse off the leaves to make your plants less attractive to whiteflies. Also, asap remove yellowing leaves that attract whiteflies. Pests adore tasty healthy plants just like we do. They also make us see which plants are weak or on their way out. Give those plants more care or remove them. Replace them with a different kind of plant that will do well now and produce in time before the season is over. Don’t put the same kind of plant there unless you have changed the conditions – enhanced your soil, installed a favorable companion plant, protected from wind, terraced a slope so it holds moisture, opened the area to more sun. Be sure you are planting the right plant at the right time! Remove mulch from under plants that were diseased and replace with clean mulch. Do not compost that mulch or put it in green waste. Trash it.

Please always be building compost and adding it, especially near short rooted plants and plants that like being moist. Compost increases your soil’s water holding capacity.

Reduce your carbon footprint! Grow local!

Summer Garden Mary Alice Ramsey in her North Carolina backyard
Mary Alice Ramsey in her North Carolina backyard. Photo by Hector Manuel Sanchez

May You enjoy a super beautiful, bountiful and juicy June!
 

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Veggies and Sweet Pea Fever! Please enjoy these lively spring to summer images at two of Santa Barbara CA’s community gardens, Pilgrim Terrace and Rancheria! Happy gardening!

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!

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

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Amendment Biochar Applying

Charcoal-like biochar improves soil hydration and enhances agricultural production while it curtails nutrient leaching, increases nitrogen available to plants and reduces the release of gas pollutants. A new study by researchers at Rice University and North Dakota State University gathers current and potential sources of government support to promote the production and use of biochar. Credit: Ghasideh Pourhashem, from the January 11, 2019, Rice University post. Read more Biochar holds promise for sequestering carbon and cleansing polluted air.

Fans rave about its virtues. Some are skeptical but want to learn more. So, wanting to learn, possibly use, I typed in ‘2018 2019 Biochar pros cons’…carefully read the latest noncommercial posts and their comments threads.

A few years ago a knowledgeable gardener I know raved about biochar. Now, some years later, recently a friend sent an article that turned the tables enough to make me want to check it out. One is how it was compared with natural soil that is replenished with biochar by forest fires. Two is how Biochar has several soil sustainable features, but foremost is how it keeps Carbon in our soil hundreds, maybe even 1000s of years! And that is to say nothing of its water holding capacity! Carbon is the foundation of our soil ecosystem. Three: Also, I recalled how amazingly my winter and summer garden plants grew last year. It started with a collusion of happenstance. I planted quite late, Dec 10, 2018 during the Thomas Fire ash fall. The ground was literally solid white with ash and chunks. But this winter my plants didn’t do nearly as well. Hmm… Granted, the ash is not biochar, but it’s a relative – it came from the high heat of a forest fire.

Right now, planet wide, by many, Biochar is considered crucial to our planet’s sustainability. Using it is a regenerative practice that will help our plants not only weather extreme conditions, but thrive!  

BIOCHAR RESEARCH

There are technical discussions, both pro and con, in a language all their own, to simple explanations for the home gardener. The main research is in consideration of farmers with vast tracts of land that could have significant impact on climate change.

CONSIDERATIONS

Nov 29, 2018 From a field day presentation at California State University-Fresno, here are some points from Suduan Gao, a research soil scientist with the USDA San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier. She talked of the potential of applying a biochar amendment to help in water and nutrient management.

Biochar is charcoal used as a soil amendment. It is made from biomass through thermal decomposition [fire]. Gao said it increases water use efficiency and nitrogen retention, reduces leaching, cuts nitrous oxide emissions and reduces ammonia emissions.

Gao said nitrogen dynamics are influenced by biochar and are highly affected by irrigation levels.

She said ammonia volatilization loss was substantially higher when fertilizer was applied only a few times in a larger amount than when it was applied more frequently in smaller amounts.

“Soil accumulates more nitrogen at lower irrigation levels than at higher irrigation levels,” Gao said. “The accumulated nitrogen, however, can be all leached during the rain system.” [Fertilizing after rains is more better!]

She said there were no significant biochar effects on ammonia, nitrous oxide and soil nitrate concentration, but there was a significant interaction between biochar and irrigation.

PROBLEMS WITH BIOCHAR? Fabulous or Fantasy? Is it too good to be true? There are extensive rebuttals to its use, even warnings that it’s not all the fans say, can even cause harm!

Nov 18, 2010 DR MAE-WAN HO said ‘Turning bioenergy crops into buried charcoal to sequester carbon does not work, and could plunge the earth into an oxygen crisis towards mass extinction.’ She further says: …implementing the biochar initiative could be dangerous, basically because saving the climate turns out to be not just about curbing the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere that can be achieved by burying carbon in the soil, it is also about keeping oxygen (O2) levels up. Keeping O2 levels up is what only green plants on land and phytoplankton at sea can do, by splitting water to regenerate O2 while fixing CO2 to feed the rest of the biosphere.’

  1. She cites: A ten-year trial in Swedish forests showed that buried charcoal appear to promote the breakdown of humus, the decomposing plant matter on the forest floor, thus completely offsetting the carbon sequestered in the charcoal.
  2. She discusses examples of the stability of biochar stating that it isn’t always stable. [In a 2012 Mother Earth News post, Editor Dr. Kehres (Journal “Humus and Agriculture“) summed up a symposium: “Biochar appears over-rated — the biochar claim to 1,000 year stability is revised downwards to 10 to 100 years, roughly the same as compost.”]
  3. She warns that things that happen so fast now that we have the internet and huge commercial organizations, a lot goes on without public awareness or understanding and no testing. Since this one expressly claimed climate change remediation, it was touted to be necessary immediately. Some fads are found to be faulty later.
  4. She gets into comparisons of interest to gardeners, stating that Biochar effects on soil fertility are not always positive. Field trials were conducted on cleared secondary forest with 15 different amendment combinations of chicken manure (CM), compost (CO), forest litter, chemical fertilizer (F), and charcoal (CC) applied once on rice and sorghum, and followed over four cropping cycles. Chicken manure gave by far the highest yield over the four cycles (12.4 tonne/ha). Compost application came second at about half the yield, but was still four times higher than chemical fertilizer. The control, leaf litter (burnt and fresh), and charcoal treatments gave no grain yields after the second season, and were discontinued. Further, in combination with compost, charcoal amendment decreased yield by about 40 percent compared to compost alone, and only improved yield in combination with chemical fertilizer.

Read the comments on this page for rebuttals and further information. It is suggested Biochar is not THE answer, but part of a complex mix of possibilities.

This 2013 Mother Earth News post Biochar: Not All It’s Ground Up to Be? states the appropriate use of Biochar depends first on soil type. Some soils retain nutrients very well without any amendments like biochar. Tim Crews says: ‘If you’re cropping on soil types other than Ultisols or Oxisols and you manage your organic matter (residues, manure, compost, etc.) well, you don’t need biochar. It won’t do anything for your fertility.’

Second, a ‘situation in which biochar could provide benefits is on very sandy soils in arid climates, because of its ability to improve such soils’ water-holding capacity, reducing drought stress on plants. But making biochar requires large quantities of bulk plant material, and the biochar factory needs to be close to the source of that material; therefore, the product would have to be manufactured in or around highly productive lands or on vast areas of unproductive lands, and then be hauled long distances to the arid environments where it’s to be applied.’ Not only is the available quantity of crop residue per acre too small, but to haul residues off of cropland to a biochar plant would be to further rob the soil of organic matter, while paying a price in energy and other resources as well. After all that, some ‘studies that found yield increases with such heavy application found that after a few years, soil carbon was no higher in biochar-treated plots than in control plots.’

Biochar has been under discussion for years! When you are doing your own questing about it online, look for current posts and research. Note whether the post is on a commercial site, a university, posted by a farmer, if the poster is knowledgeable, what their credentials are or aren’t, if they have experience. Remember that universities make money from research grants on popular topics and sometimes the donation is made by a company. Go to permaculture sites for a look at possible long term possibilities, concerns. Look for pros and cons.

In 2018, the agriculture application segment accounted for 71.1% of the total biochar demand. That makes sense because they have the biggest land holdings. [But it also means 28.9% is used by others, including home gardeners! That’s a big % considering the sizes of their small gardens!] Quoted from a Biochar fan, he says ‘However, a large number of farmers still lack in knowledge about the product and its benefits.’ My question back to him was ‘Do you know what % of farmers use biochar?’

Amendment BioChar and Compost + Manure Yields Great Results!

Some say Biochar alone added to poor soil has little benefit to plants, but when used in combination with compost and organic fertilizers, it can dramatically improve plant growth while helping retain nutrients in the soil.

When would you, a home veggie gardener, use biochar?

First, are wood ash and biochar the same thing? Yes and no. Biochar is made at 450 °C/842 degrees F with low oxygen and wood ash is made at 870 °C from the same mixed hardwood. What about BBQ charcoal? Not the same thing as wood ash or biochar! Not recommended for garden use.

How do you even know if you need Biochar? Was there a forest fire ever there and you already have it? They say biochar comes from such fires and lasts 100 to 1000 years, or 10 to 100 depending on where you read… That translates to the question whether Biochar is considered to be stable or not and under what circumstances.

Have you been applying wood ash from your fireplace regularly? Some gardeners say Yes, used it for years, readily absorbed, amazing crops! Great substitute for lime to raise pH. Others say it’s grey death. It has a high pH that throws off the balance of your compost/soil, can kill off the microbes that are producing your compost. Poster Mr Bill says: ‘Charcoal chemically functions like a sponge, absorbing many organic compounds. When placed in nutrient rich soil, it absorbs the excess nutrients and traps them in the soil. As the carbon in the charcoal is annexed by fungal colonies, those nutrients are released over time. By tying these nutrients up in the soil with charcoal, they resist erosion and release at regular intervals, rather than the feast or famine spikes in levels that occur with manual fertilization by humans.

However, ‘…added to poor soil, or soil deficient in even one nutrient (which may not be obvious), the charcoal’s sponge-like absorption can compete with the roots of plants for the nutrients, leading to increased disease susceptibility or irregular growth hazardous to the plant.’ So it’s good with good soil, bad with deficient soil.

Lord knows even a 10X20′ community garden plot has varying soil content within the plot for many reasons. In my case, I trench in kitchen waste given to me by neighbors. One eats lots of bananas, hence peels. One is a super juicer, greens, carrots, etc. + lettuce and avocado. Another is a senior tea drinker, so little bags along with old snacking grapes, a few eggshells, a bit of coffee and citrus peels, etc. I get them when they have enough. They put them in a bucket outside my door. I take them to the garden and trench them in where compost is needed most. Sometimes a certain kind of plant never thrives in one area no matter what I do. It would take a lot of soil testing to sort out these small areas. I do my own remediation by adding store bought fluffy compost, and chicken manure in general. Most of the time it works fine.

FYI! If you are using or opt to use wood ash as an amendment, DO NOT mix the wood ash with nitrogen fertilizer; a reaction can occur releasing ammonia gas.

Be careful with your choice to use biochar. Is your garden flourishing because it is high on temporary soil amendments that will be spent this season? Is one area doing great, another adjacent area not doing so well; great for one plant but not another? Does your summer or winter garden do well and the other season doesn’t? Plus, all Biochar is not created equal. Its pH and ash content vary depending on the temp it was created at and the feedstock (what was burned) used, whether that was contaminated or not. In general Biochar raises soil pH. You need to use the right amounts. In a community garden 10X20′ plot, where the soil pH varies within the plot, you don’t have room to test/experiment. The increase in soil pH with alkaline biochar will be higher in acid soils than in originally alkaline soils. However! If a biochar has less ash content it will decrease soil pH because of the organic matter content.

Clearly, fireplace ash that is added every season or spring, doesn’t function the same as biochar that lasts 100 to 1000 years. It is either used up or leached away by watering, otherwise, your garden would have the highest pH in history! If biochar can’t be removed from your soil, and lasts for 100 to 1000 years, and your soil is unfavorably balanced, you may need to adjust your soil for a long time. Ironically, it works best where you already have a super flourishing garden!

Note, the type of fire makes another difference. There is increased growth after a forest fire, but slash and burn techniques have a long term bad effect in just a few years. Definitely not sustainable. Wildfires get much hotter, average over 1600°F, than farmer-made controlled burn fires kept under 1000°F to clear a field. Wood burns differently at different temps; the coals have a different structure. Forest fires burn hot at the center with low oxygen and you get Biochar. Big difference. All fires are not equal.

Mr Bill made a convenient list for us home gardeners!

• Use on rich soil with no deficiencies
• Use to correct acidic soils, or amend the pH of the char before application
• Never use on acid loving plants like blueberries [strawberries, celery, beans]
• Add to compost after composting has finished, not during composting. The recommendation for application is about ½ cup per cubic foot of finished compost. [That’s not a lot!]
• Use in moderation
• Never use char from pressure-treated or painted wood.
• Don’t use petroleum based fire starters or fluids if you intend to use the ash.
• Fires started with alcohol or non-paraffin wax are acceptable for garden use.
• Be mindful of your nutrient levels and pH when using char, test regularly for best results.
• Not all char is equal, refuse from wood gasifiers or efficient wood stoves is preferable to that from your campfire, fireplace or grill, but all are acceptable for use given the correct use of your discretion.

Making Your Own Biochar Amendment in Place!

HOW to MAKE OUR OWN BIOCHAR?! 

Though it’s been many years since the Biochar cure has been offered and raved about, using biochar on a mass basis has not been implemented to an extent that is making a planet wide difference. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use it individually. The simplest way to do it is right where you will use it, just like the Amazon Indians did 2000 years ago.

First check your legal situation before you go for it! Per the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District where I live: A burn permit is required for all outdoor burning activity except recreational (campfires) and cooking (BBQ). This includes: Agricultural Burning (see definition) … Residential backyard burning (permitted only in the unincorporated areas of the Santa Ynez Valley)

Highly flammable gases are released during pyrolysis, so make it outside, well away from buildings, animals and people!

Barbara Pleasant, famed author of 5 garden books, throws in her two cents! ‘Last year, I committed one of the great sins of gardening: I let weeds go to seed. Cleaning up in fall, I faced down a ton of seed-bearing foxtail, burdock and crabgrass. Sure, I could compost it hot to steam the weed seeds to death, but instead I decided to try something different. I dug a ditch, added the weeds and lots of woody prunings, and burned it, thus making biochar. It was my new way to improve soil—except the technique is at least 3,000 years old.’

Barbara words the process more simply… What’s biochar? Basically, it’s organic matter that is burned slowly, with a restricted flow of oxygen, and then the fire is stopped when the material reaches the charcoal stage. Unlike tiny tidbits of ash, coarse lumps of charcoal are full of crevices and holes, which help them serve as life rafts to soil microorganisms. The carbon compounds in charcoal form loose chemical bonds with soluble plant nutrients so they are not as readily washed away by rain and irrigation. Biochar alone added to poor soil has little benefit to plants, but when used in combination with compost and organic fertilizers, it can dramatically improve plant growth while helping retain nutrients in the soil.

She speaks of the Amazonian ‘dark earths,’ terra preta, that ‘hold plant nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium, much more efficiently than unimproved soil. Even after 500 years of tropical temperatures and rainfall that averages 80 inches a year, the dark earths remain remarkably fertile…’ They were produced this very way, burning. …composts and other soil-enriching forms of organic matter last longer. …increased productivity by making nutrients already present in the soil better available to plants. …organically enriched soil retains nutrients for decades rather than for a couple of seasons. This charcoal releases its carbon 10 to 100 times slower than rotting organic matter. See the details  See Twin Oaks Forge for making charcoal in a barrel!

Why buy commercial Biochar? 

Jeremy Menefee says, first, because they use more advanced tools and techniques than the home producer can easily acquire, commercially-produced biochar is usually more consistent in composition and charred under ideal temperatures.

Second, they are able to produce inoculant tailored to specific uses. Vermont Biochar, for example, produces (by hand) several versions ideally suited for either leafy annuals, root crops, or shrub or woody perennials. Each uses a different composition of inoculant to tailor it for the specific application.

Experienced permaculturist Jeremy also says to Biocharge your Biochar! Even commercial biochar producers say their products benefit from being biocharged again once it’s on your property, to tailor it to your site conditions. Here are two easy methods he recommends.

1) Compost charging Even if you buy inoculated biochar, rather than producing it on-site, it will be improved by maturing in your compost. You can use as much biochar as you want, up to about an even 1:1 ratio with the compost, so don’t worry too much about overdoing it. The Biochar doesn’t break down in the process. You may have shorter compost times! Some experts recommend adding both manure and bones.

Quick tip: If you have time, a great way to get the most out of your biochar is to spread it an inch thick or less into your farm animal bedding. Then, when the bedding is spent, add it to the compost pile. [LOL Black Sheep?!] The biochar is essentially ‘double-charged’ in this way. Also, in addition to stacking functions of your animal bedding, this can help reduce odors. Anecdotal evidence suggests it can also reduce illness among your animals!

2) Rapid Charging! The other way to inoculate your biochar is a bit more labor-intensive, but you can complete the process in hours or days, not months. First, fill a 55 gallon (210 litre) drum with fresh water and biochar. If you are using municipal treated water, let it sit for a couple days to remove any chlorine. Then add compost tea or worm castings and leachate to the barrel with some soil from the area where you will use the finished biochar. For example, if you are going to apply the biochar to your fruit orchard, add some soil from around a robust and healthy tree in that orchard. This will help charge the biochar with the ideal microbiology for your specific orchard.

Once everything is well mixed, insert a long tube such as a length of PVC pipe into the barrel and direct air from a blower into the tube, or use a pond aerator and air stones. Aeration supercharges the inoculant and gives the beneficial microbes a massive head start, and helps them adhere to the biochar. Continue this for 12-24 hours.

Safety when applying Biochar amendmentBe careful when applying dry Biochar!

Wear a dust mask such as the 3M™ 8511 Particulate Respirator – N95 to protect your lungs. Moistening biochar can help a lot with dust control. Some Biochar is shipped with about 30% moisture content to help with dust control. Protective eyewear will reduce the chance of getting dust in your eyes. Wear gloves! Wear rubber boots that can be cleaned easily! Apply evenly on a dry, windless day. Mix thoroughly into the soil before planting.

How much do you apply? Doing it right depends on what kind of soil you have and it’s tested content, its pH, how much you want to raise the pH if at all. And, of course, none, if you don’t need it or your situation isn’t right for it!

There are different answers!

  • A company says: From everything we have seen in our own use and through the research of others a good “rule of thumb” is 10% of the planting area should be biochar. If your soil is absolutely horrible you should probably start with a 50/50 mix of biochar and compost and apply about 1/4 lb per square foot.
  • Typically home gardeners use 5-10% biochar in the top 6 inches of their soil.
  • A gardener says: If bought, follow the instructions on the bags, but I would suggest 50/50 with soil and the same for containers, and see your results the first season before you adjust quantities.
  • Farmer Jeremy Menefee says: It takes about 10 pounds of biochar to properly cover 100 square feet. For potted plants, use pure biochar at a ratio of about 1:16 with your potting soil – about ½ cup per gallon of soil. This ratio is good for raised beds as well, one gallon of biochar per 16 gallons of soil. If you inoculated your biochar in compost (at ratios up to 1:1), just apply compost as normal – the presence of biochar doesn’t change the amount of compost used.

How to apply? Simple!

  1. Made your own in place? Just add amendments of your choice, especially compost, and till it in.
  2. Purchased, preferably inoculated? Lay on about 1/4″, amendments and till it in. If you don’t have much, spread it out and add more each time you amend.
  3. If you’re not able to till, spread out your inoculated Biochar, cover with mulch to hold it in place, let Nature do the work for you.

Coast of Maine Biochar Amendment raised bed mix

Biochar IS big business. There is university research devoted to it for sustainable reasons. They make huge grant monies from it. Yale and Cornell, Ames Iowa, Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota, Rice U in Houston Tx to name just a few schools. Government is in on it too, for example the USDA’s Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans. There are subsequent conferences, magazines, books, products at your nursery.

USBI Biochar 2019 – is the largest event in North America dedicated to advancing the sustainable production and use of biochar through scientific and engineering research, policy development, field practice, and technology transfer. It will focus on bridging scientific, industrial, practitioner, and policy gaps in biomass utilization for biochar and bioenergy production. June 30 – July 3 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins Colorado.

BIOMASS Magazine – Beyond the Hype

Check out the BioChar Journal …we want our readers to be confident that what is written in the Biochar Journal is based on sound science and practicality.

Local gardeners might see various products at their nursery. A blend in snowy Maine might be quite different than in SW SoCal droughty areas. Before you order up online, take this into consideration. When buying locally, look on the package to see where it was made, then check out those ingredients. The bag shown here is definitely intended as a pH raiser; it has biochar and lime!

For those of us gardening at community gardens, we need to think of what the next gardener’s soil needs might be after you leave. What if they primarily want to plant acid loving plants, those blueberries, strawberries, celery or beans? In keeping with rotating crops, planting in a different place each year, to avoid soil diseases various plants are susceptible to, we may need to stay flexible – amend each season or year with regular or acidic compost per patch as we go.

If you have a good size parcel of land for veg gardening, that you plan to keep for many years, soil test different areas. You might coordinate your Biochar choices with the land’s own natural flow, plant accordingly. Some sites say it takes about a year for the Biochar/soil relationship to be fully established. If you are planting in raised beds/containers, where soil is leached of nutrients due to higher soil temps, drying, in those structures and frequent watering to compensate, replacing spent soil/compost each year, Biochar isn’t going to work for you.

Making your own Biochar is cheap, but a lengthy process you hope you do right. Probably wise to have someone experienced with you when you do your first processes. First there is gathering the right materials, selecting the right place and technique for the kind of results you want, doing the burning. Then there is the biocharging process for it to do its best work. Buying Biochar can be pricey if you get the best, inoculated. If you put it where it can be used to best advantage, that is worth the one-time expense.

Your final decision to use or not use Biochar may be based on your instinct. You may decide not to use it at your current location or in a specific area of your garden. You might move, or be visiting in another gardener’s location and feel it is the right choice for that place. Maybe you will decide to wait and see. Honor your feelings. You might not save the planet today, or maybe you will by using succinct educated choices.

Bless you for being a garden guardian, a caring Earth Steward.

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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!

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

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Super LoCal Nutritious Lacinato Kale aka Tuscan, Black or Dinosaur

Elegant, nutritious Nero di Toscana Lacinato Kale aka Tuscan, Black or Dinosaur. 

Delicious winter garden harvests continue! You may not feel like eating as many salads in this cooler time, but veggie soups and stews are super nutritious and great for sharing!

Keep an eye on weather reports! We are still in the frost – freeze time in Santa Barbara until the last average frost date January 22 – measured at the airport. 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 coverings well so wind doesn’t blow them around and damage your plants or leave them uncovered. Remove them when the sun comes out! No cooking your plants before their time! Dates vary from the coastal areas to the foothills, and our climate is changing generally to warmer, so these dates may not be viable guides much longer, if even now. Find out the frost dates for your Zip Code! See the details – Protect Your Veggies from Freezing!

Be sure your caged, trellised and tall plants are secure before winds and rains. Afterwards, stake any plants that have toppled, check your trellised plants. Harvest what can’t be saved.

After rains there are weeds! It’s time for that Hula hoe! Weed, weed, weed! Do it before the roots get bigger and you lose your soil when you pull them out. Weed before taproots get deep and hard to remove. Get those clover roots out all the way down and before grass makes its frilly little seed heads. FIRST, remove any weed that is flowering, making seeds soon! Anything that is not seeding, healthy and not pest infested, may be cold composted, or you can use them as mulch where there is bare ground not in your garden.

Time to check beds and berms! Install trenches to capture rainwater. Mulch to prevent erosion and soil splash on leafy greens. Add soil on carrot, turnip and beet shoulders and exposed potato bodies. See Rainy Day Tactics for Spectacular Veggies! After a rain, do the finger-in-the-soil check to be sure your plants are getting enough water. A light rain may not be nearly enough…

Once the weeds are out, you have choices to make. Plant very last rounds of winter plants or start making soil for spring planting!

January Plantings 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 the starts you have begun on your own, seeds if you must. See December for tips on what to plant. In cooler January weather, plantings will start slowly, but they will mature faster than usual as days get longer. Most January plantings will be coming in March, April. That’s still in good time for soil preps in April for April/May plantings. In April/May there is less fungi in the soil, so plants that are fungi susceptible get a better start – mainly that would be wilt susceptible tomatoes.

Plant MORE of these delicious morsels now! Arugula, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts if you get winter chill (there are some new purple ones on the market!!!), bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, culinary dandelions, garden purslane, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, Mesclun, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes – especially daikons, and turnips!

If you would like some tender little snacking carrots, quick growers to show the kids, or minis for your pup, try early Adelaides from Johnny’s Selected Seeds! They say ‘True baby carrots. Unlike most “baby carrots,” which are harvested at an immature stage before properly filling out, Adelaide is a true baby, meaning it has an early maturity and forms a blunt root tip at 3–4″ long.’ Only 50 days! See all about Carrots!

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. Many bareroot veggies are highly sought after, so keep checking their arrival date, then when they arrive, drop everything and go get them!

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 let more sunlight in. Under Brassicas, plant lettuce from transplants since Brassicas are a bit allelopathic, makes biochemicals that inhibit small seeds like lettuce from germinating.

Planting summer crops 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. If you take that chance and it doesn’t work, pull and replant. No amount of waiting will do the job.

Peppers are a classic example. For some gardeners peppers take forever…………. For others the standard couple of weeks and seeds are seedlings! If you have experience, you probably know which it is for you. A lot of Latinos start their peppers in January and let them grow slowly until April. If you plant from transplants, I would not try for an early start. Peppers just don’t like cold feet. Whenever you start, plant two rounds, two to three weeks apart. That way you have a better chance of hitting the magic window! Soil Temps are critical for root function. Peppers need 60 degrees + for happiness. A gardeners’ soil thermometer is an inexpensive handy little tool to own.

You can use area that becomes open for temporary plants. Put in quickie leaf crops like lettuces, arugula, bok choy, spinach, chard, kale, until it’s the right time to plant heat lovers. These quickie plants can be removed at any time and you still shall have had lush harvests. Hardly anyone can resist planting early tomatoes, February, March! Another strategy is plant your leafies to one side, leaving room to plant your toms where the toms would be planted if the leafy plants weren’t there. Plant tomatoes on the sunny sides of the leafies so the baby transplants/seedlings, get plenty of sun for a good start! When your big plants get big enough, remove lower leaves that shade your leafies. That way you have table food and your heart is happy too! Depending on how big your open area is, you can also plant your leafies in zig zags then add the permanent heat lovers inside the ‘V’ areas. As soon as possible plant companion plants for the heat lovers you will be growing in each area.

Choose early cold tolerant tomato 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!

Summer Garden Design is important right now! You can do diagrams on paper or just give it a good think to see if there are any changes this year, and carry it in your head. That layout is what you need to make your seed list! Seeds from catalogs, seeds from the Santa Barbara Jan 27 Seed Swap! The Seed Swap is free, fun and random, a good way to try plants you might have never considered, and they are adapted to your area! Catalogs give you the best selection and of plants your nursery doesn’t carry or isn’t able to get. Check for drought and heat tolerant varieties or look in dry or humid southern states that match your eco niche or world areas that have heat tolerant 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 if needed and use a little water. See Choosing Seeds: Catalogs to Seed Swaps!

Before you opt out of planting tomatoes and/or cucumbers due to Fusarium and Verticillium wilts, check out this special guide for successful results! Get resistant varieties and there are special planting and care techniques that work!

Later January is time to sow seeds indoors for mid to late March early plantings. If you will be doing succession plantings, sow your seeds in succession, like every 2, 3, 4 weeks depending on which plant it is and how many you need. If those fail, it’s to the nursery you go for transplants! Avoid box stores that bring plants from elsewhere that may not be timely for your area, may be infested or sick. Check them carefully. This is very important in a community garden where pests and diseases can spread quickly. Select local nurseries that order conscientiously for local timing and try to get quality plants for us. You may pay a tad more, but it is worth it. Local people live here and they have your interests at heart since they want your repeat business. Also, they can answer your questions. Establish a good relationship. At the Farmers Market, check with local farmers to see what they plant when. Some feed stores are agriculturally inclined.

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.

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 half 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.

Standard Winter Garden 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. Check the new growth tiny leaves at center top. power spray to remove any aphids there. Remove hopelessly infested leaves. After that, water less and give it less food 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. Gently and shallowly dig in an inch or so of worm castings out to the drip line. Disturb as few of the surface area feeder roots as possible.
  • 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. If necessary, thin crowded plants. Water and feed just a little less to make those leaves less inviting. Plant so mature leaves don’t touch or deliberately over plant then thin for earlier eating and more crop! Rather than row plant, interplant here and there. Biodiversity.
  • Slugs, Snails BEFORE you put in new transplants, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around to keep snails and slugs from seriously damaging or disappearing tiny seedlings or transplants while they are small. Do it twice to kill off the generations. That keeps the creatures from mowing seedlings overnight, making you think they never came up! If you notice tiny children snails or slime trails, lay down another couple rounds.

If you need more robust soil, do something absolutely yummy with it! This is perfect timing to put in some green manure aka cover crop for April plantings. Depending on the type of plants you choose for your green manure, allow +/- 3.5 months for the process. If you want the earliest planting time for spring, plant ASAP! See Living Mulch! Put it 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! Keep it moist and it 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, sheet mulching 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!

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, it helps with immunity, 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.

Sidedressing Hardworking leaf producers and big bodied Brassicas, may need a feeding now. 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 like skunks), pretty powdered box ferts, are all good. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings. Slow release alfalfa pellets are 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 about 6″ or less deep, 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.

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, fires and floods, 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 climate change 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 as precious today as they have always been, maybe even more so.

Happy New Year Gardening and Feasting!

 


See the entire January Newsletter:x

January ~ Winter Harvests, Soil, Planning Your New Year! 

Borage, StarFlower, is Such a Winter Spring Beauty!
Soil for Seed Starting! In the Ground, DIY, Pre-made
Make Soil for Spring Planting – Amendments, Castings, Teas!.
Upcoming Gardener
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Events! Not to miss the January Santa Barbara Seed Swap! Permaculture Design Course at SBCC, US Compost Council Annual Conference, Earth Day, the International Permaculture Conference, IPC 2020 Argentina!
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Subscribe to Green Bean Connection Monthly Newsletter!

2019 Might bring some new tools into your garden life! Take a mosey through these images of exciting events, seasonal changes, tools of the times! Some are pretty plain, some are delightful, exciting, heroic, some useful, some give insights. The Tools images are informative and in situ from April 2011 to current time at Pilgrim Terrace and Rancheria Community Gardens, Santa Barbara CA. Tools of the Trade images

December images! Last of 2018 images at two of Santa Barbara’s community gardens, Rancheria and Pilgrim Terrace. See lovely flowers, cheddar cauliflower, a handsome potato fork!
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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Read Full Post »

Veggie Seed Catalogs 2019

Stop drooling…. Seeds of Change, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange & Park Seeds are favorites for many! Others you may favor are High Mowing, Southern Exposure, Johnny’s, Annie’s, Renee’s, Seeds of Change, Territorial, Peaceful Valley & Baker Creek! And there are more!

December, January is one of the happiest times of year for veggie gardeners! The holidays are when you give yourself your seeds for your whole garden for the year to come! Catalogs are out, you supplement what you seed saved yourself. If you have some old iffy seeds that may not germinate, you might want to order some fresh ones to make sure you get good germination!

Here’s a checklist of considerations:

  • Beauty – what is the first plant you look at when you go to your garden?
  • Tastes great. You don’t usually neglect that plant and you thank it when you leave.
     .
  • Footprint can be critical if you have little space or a short growing season – there are some biggies like artichokes. Kales can get pretty big and if you are where you can grow them all year, think where they will fit permanently. Plants you put on the sunny side beside/under bigger plants or that can be fillers until a plant that will get bigger slower than the smaller plant (Lettuces under and among Brassicas), need no footprint calculation at all! Since they are a companion plant that repels Cabbage butterflies, you will need a fair amount of seed! I plant a lettuce between every two Brassicas.
  • You can order your plant in patio container size or huge! For example, there is a remarkable difference in cabbage sizes – 6” to well over 1’ in diameter.
     .
  • Is it a Bush or Pole variety – peas, beans
  • If a tomato, do you want determinate for canning or indeterminate for a whole summer supply, or some of each?! Determinates come in early, especially cold tolerant varieties.
  • And what about the size of those toms? Do you want cherry snackers, saladettes, or large slicers for burgers and sandwiches?
     .
  • Does it serve multiple functions – leaves, fruit, edible flowers and seeds, medicinal, a good compost enhancing ingredient. The entire Garden Purslane plant is edible.  Beets are terrific – tasty nutritious leaves, wonderful variety of colors of the bulbs. If your soil has a higher nitrogen content, then your beets will produce more lush top growth rather than bulb production. You can plant chard if you don’t want beets!
  • Companion plant – not only to protect another plant but enhance its growth as well, and is itself tasty to boot, or has edible flowers, is medicinal?! Like tasty Cilantro enhances Brassicas!
     .
  • Do you plant it because you like it or you ‘should’ grow it or everyone always has including your grandmam or mom??
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  • Right season – summer or winter or all year
  • How long does it take to mature? Can you do several plantings in a season for a steady table supply? What about planting different varieties with differing maturity times?
     .
  • Sun/Shade
  • Soil conditions – sandy, clay, loamy, mixed
  • Needs moist soil – short rooted plants, lettuces, celery, strawberries
  • Wind tolerant
  • Heat and drought tolerant
  • Frost/freeze tolerant
  • Dust conditions if roadside or in a wind channel
  • Is a good windbreak shrub like blueberries
     .
  • Disease and Pest resistance is one of your most important choices, especially for mildew and aphids.
     .
  • Low maintenance
  • Needs frequent harvesting to keep the supply coming? Peas and beans can keep you busy much longer than you wish. If you really don’t eat them that much but still would like some, plant fewer plants. Plant what you need, and that may take a few trials to find out! Same with cucumbers, especially long varieties.

Please do support your local seed shops, organic farms, friends who save seeds. When buying from catalogs, always consider where their company is located and where their seed trials are conducted. If drought and heat tolerance are needed, buy seeds from sellers that know those problems as part of the years of their growing. Their seeds are developed from those years and there may be special growing tips you need to know. Be careful about high and low humidity differences too. Be sure the catalog companies you choose are well respected among gardeners, have a tried and true reputation. If it makes a difference to you, see who owns the company or contributes seeds to it. 4 Ways to keep Monsanto out of your garden! (2015) Are they organic, heirloom, non-GMO?

How many seeds?! Allow a generous non-touching footprint between plants, that lets your plants thrive, produce more, and cuts down on disease and pest spread. Choose enough seeds for as many rounds (successive) of plantings you hope for. Depending on weather, you may get more rounds in, other years things go slowly. Get enough to cover losses. Those could be an erratic heat wave or a frost/freeze. Could be pests from slugs/snails, birds pecking out seedlings, to the local skunk or racoon uprooting your planting. Highly recommended to cover baby plants until they are up and strong, and BEFORE you install your seeds sprinkle something like Sluggo around your planting area at least twice (to kill the generations) .

Mother Earth News and Cornell University do wonderful studies on the this and thats of gardening. Do consult their articles. Usually quite complete, thorough with details. Mother Earth News, located in Topeka KS is a huge organization, so their studies include conscientious gardeners from many parts of the country and gardeners with varied experience from beginner to forever. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, caters to farmers and home gardeners! Universities advise farmers, so what they recommend is crucial to financial success of the farmers. Also check out permaculture writings online. They have some very clever insights about multitudes of gardening matters that save you tons of time and increase your production and happiness, even in a small garden! If you are in California and have never been to the Santa Rosa National Heirloom Festival, don’t miss it! It’s every SEPTEMBER and low cost! Seeds galore! Life changing experience! Children very welcome!

Seed swaps, or the like, usually have seed shares at the end of January in southern locations like SoCal. In northern areas it may be later. Seed swaps are exciting and wonderful, and are a random event! There may be seeds there you want, there may not be. They may be old non-viable seeds or fresh as they need to be! Guaranteed you will come home with some you want to try! Use Seed Swaps as fun backups to your seed catalog orders. Reliable seed companies have a reputation to uphold. You know what the seed is, how old it is. If you wait until after the Seed Swap, seed companies may be sold out of rare seeds or seeds that they only were able to get a few of due to weather last year and such. However, Seed Swaps ARE LOCAL – seeds of plants that grew well near you! Free seeds are frugal and enjoyable! Meet other gardeners, learn lots! If you are a beginner, you will get great tips to help you get started. Continue the race of super plants, especially heirlooms, adapted to your area! Consider online seed exchanges. You can get amazing rare seeds!

For further help making your decisions see:

Veggie Seed Saving Plant by Plant!
SeedSaving! An Easy Annual Ritual & Celebration!

Choosing Seeds: Catalogs to Seed Swaps!

Smart Design for Your Spring & Summer Garden, Seed Selection!
See also some of the bigger long term Permaculture choices for planning and designing your garden.

Do always be sure to support your local nurseries who answer your questions with good down to earth local experience! In Santa Barbara area Island Seed & Feed features several organic seed companies’ seeds and seeds from local growers by the teaspoon if that’s all you need! Find out who the veggie seed buyer is at your nursery, and who is also a grower up on new things too, and not afraid to make suggestions. If you have a special seed request, they may be able to help you! Talk with growers who supply your local farmers market!

All this said, do make a couple of experiments, try something just for the sheer fun of it and don’t look back!

Enjoy your seeds, happy planting, enjoy the most fresh delicious veggies!

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. In 2018 they lasted into September and October! Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Read Full Post »

Dec Winter Veggies Colander Flowers Dan Boekelheide

A misty morning at the garden….

Well, there are several important events in December, LOL.

  1. First is being sure everyone who knows you knows what is on your holiday garden wish list!
  2. Plan your spring garden, get catalogs, and order seeds NOW!
  3. Maintain your garden, keep up with SoCal winter harvesting, enjoy your bounty, try some new recipes!
  4. If you wish, plant your last round of winter plants – know that if they come in late they may interfere with earliest spring planting space. Place them carefully so tall early spring plants can be installed on time. Or leave those spots open.

Harvest Brassicas of all sorts! The big ones, broccoli, cauliflower and if you live in a good chill area, Brussels sprouts, have grown big enough now and your earliest varieties are producing handsomely. Harvest your brocs and caulies while the heads are still tight. If you miss that, harvest asap, even the flowers and flower stalks are edible! After you take the main broccoli head, let your plant continue to grow so it will produce smaller side shoots. Some varieties produce large 3 to 4″ mini brocs and later, smaller salad size ones right on through summer! Cauliflowers are a one time harvest though you can keep eating the greens. To replace them, you might choose to pop in some beautiful chard, a potato patch, or quick growing mini cabbages in the large open spots that become available. Some cabbages, especially the mini and early varieties, are now headed tightly and ready to eat – slaw, steamed, dropped into soups and cold weather stews. You can still replant them  with mini cabbies if you love them!

Deliciously fresh and nutritious winter heading lettuces, kale, celery, bok choy, cilantro, arugula and all manner of cut and come agains are in! Table onions scallions, chives and leeks can be snipped or cut off about 2″ above the ground and let to grow back 3 to 4 times! Do the same but at about 3″ with cilantro and arugula. Let some of your cilantro and arugula grow out for flowers to bring the bees, seeds for the birds and for you to plant more!

Winter brings a lot of tasty Root crops. Winter Cylindra Beets are colorful, and have cut and come again leaves too! Long winter radishes like Daikons are spicy! Carrots are splendid to eat at the garden, share with your pup, bunnies, shred into salads, add to winter soups and stews, slice/chop/stick and freeze for later! Grow some Parsnips too! Turnips have so unique a flavor you might want to eat them separately to just enjoy that flavor.

Harvest peas when they get to the size you want them, and be prompt with that harvesting to keep them coming! Plant more rounds if you love peas!

MAINTAINING

Sidedressing is like snacking. Some of your heavy leaf producers and big bodied Brassicas, may need a feeding now and again or just when they start to fruit. If they slow down, or just don’t look perky, slip them a liquid feed out to their dripline, or cultivate in a wee bit of blood meal. Get your long spouted watering can nozzle under those low cabbage leaves. Lettuces love manures. Compost and manure teas, fish emulsion (when there are no digging predators), powdered box ferts, are all good. Winter feeds need to be easy for your plant to take up. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings. Slow release is a wise consideration. An excellent way to get feeds to the roots is to push in a spade fork no more than 6″ deep. Push it in vertically (so as not to break the main tap roots), wiggle it back and forth just a bit, 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! Worm castings, though not food, work wonders with immunity, soil conditioning and help germination! Mix some in with your liquid feeds you pour around your plant.

The exceptions are carrots, peas and favas. Carrots get hairy and will fork with too much food! Over watering or uneven watering makes them split and misshapen. Your peas and favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, feeding themselves.

A mini task is to keep covering the shoulders of carrots, beets, radishes, parsnips and turnips. They substantially 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, or plant them in a low sloped trench. When they need covering, pull the sides of the trench down to cover them. Uncovered shoulders look dry, are tough, sometimes bitter, and need peeling before cooking. Uncovered carrot shoulders don’t ripen but stay green, just like exposed parts of potatoes turn green. The green on potatoes is slightly poisonous, not enough to do harm, but it doesn’t look good.

Watering is important even in cool weather. Also, some plants simply like being moist ie chard, lettuce and short rooted peas, beets. No swimming, just moist. Finger check your soil after rains to see if your soil is moist at least 2″ deep. Sometimes it is moistened only 1/4″ deep, needs more water! Also, be careful of too much water, that makes for an aphid tasty soft plant. Watch WEATHER reports in case of freezes, heavy winds, rain. Before weather, stake and tie plants that need support. After strong winds check everybody right away to see if any plants need help. See more about rainy days!

Santa Barbara’s average First Frost (fall) date AT THE AIRPORT is December 19, Last Frost (spring) date is (was?) January 22. That can vary from the coastal areas to the foothills, and our climate is changing generally to warmer, so these dates may not be viable guides much longer, if even now. And remember, these are average dates! See great tips – Protect Your Veggies from Freezing

Except for erosion control, in winter, we pull mulch back to let the soil warm up during the short winter days. The only areas we mulch are around lettuces and chard to keep mud splash off the leaves. Also, it’s good to remove pest habitat, let the soil dry a bit between rains to kill off wilts fungi. Bag up, or pile and cover, clean uninfested summer straw, mulches, to use as compost pile layers during winter. Do not keep straw from areas where there have been infestations.

BEFORE you put in seeds, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around at least two times (to kill the generations) 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 eaten 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.

Don’t lose your crops to birds! There is less food for them in winter, and, often, little rain, so they resort to eating tender juicy veggie leaves. Buy pre made covers, or get clever and cover seeded rows with DIY small openings wire tunnels or a patch cover bent that has sides bent to the ground to keep birds from pecking at little leaves or from plucking tiny seedlings right out of the ground! You can also use small plastic bottle sections to make mini sleeves that birds won’t go down into. Or for baby lettuces, make large plastic bottle self watering cloches though wire covers let more light in and water through! Bird netting is inexpensive, tears easily, but is good to stretch over peas on a trellis.

Pests Birds Aviary Wire Cloches
Seedlings Cover Birds Bottles WireSeedlings Baby Lettuce Plastic Bottle Cloche
Seedlings Protection Bent Wire Row Cover

Prevention and removal! Keep an eye out for pests and diseases and take quick action! A typical disease is Powdery mildew. Plant leaving plenty of space for air circulation, water early in the day so they dry before evening. For mildew apply your baking soda mix. The best combo is 1 regular Aspirin, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can. Before sunrise drench under and upper sides of the foliage of young plants to get them off to a great start! It takes only an hour for the mix to be absorbed! Do this the same or next day if transplanting. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains. Prevention is so much better than after mildew has set in. See Aspirin Solution. Hose away aphids and whiteflies, mildew. Remove yellowing Brassica leaves. Yellow attracts whiteflies. In general, plant further apart for air circulation, water and feed just a little less to let those leaves harden up a bit. Soft fat leaves are an invitation to aphids and mildew!

Chard and beets get Leafminers. Where they have eaten looks terrible but the good part of the leaves is perfectly safe to eat. Plant chard so mature leaves don’t touch, or best of all, in different places around your garden, not in rows or clusters. Thin your plants so they have room. Harvest leaves that might touch first. Remove infested leaves immediately to reduce spread! Beets are not a permanent crop, so they are planted closely. Simply harvest them at their leaves’ prime – ahead of the Leafminers.

Do not compost diseased or infested leaves or plants.

Windy days are prime time to gather leaves to add to compost or process for Leaf Mold, Mulch or Compost! Leaf Mold is low in nutrients, but makes a superb soil improver, conditioner for vegetable and flower beds. Leaf mulch is free for the making! Leaf Compost processes faster when made the right way! See more!

PLANT JUDICIOUSLY NOW

Per square foot, fast growing cut-and-come-again Lettuce, Chard and Kale are by far the top winter producers! Plant more big plants like brocs and cauliflower, but remember, with cooler weather, they will grow more slowly. That may interfere with early spring plantings in March because you will need time to let added compost, manures, worm castings and Sphagnum peat moss (increases water holding capacity) become part of the soil organism community. If you do plant them, better to get transplants if you can, and shave six weeks off their needed growing time to maturity. Select faster maturing varieties now.

As lettuces tire, and other plants like carrots and beets are removed, add more of them and any ‘littles’ you love on the sunny side and between the big plants. If they need more sun, remove large lower leaves of the big plants. Mild tasting littles include bok choy, kohlrabi, garden purslane, arugula, mizuna, watercress, young parsnips and turnips, Daikon winter radishes, and Napa cabbage. For a little more spice, go for those dark green kales, mustard, rutabaga and turnip greens! Try some culinary dandelions for super nutrition! These are plants that will take you through February, March and leave enough time to add compost and to let sit until major spring planting begins in April.

Believe me, you are going to get spring planting fever along about March, so plan ahead for it!!! Start seeds indoors the first three weeks of January for early March plantings! Choose varieties that are cold tolerant and are early maturers for the soonest table eats!

If you have enough seeds, over planting is fair game! Thin your beets, carrots, chard, kale, mustard, turnips. Take out the smaller, weaker plants. They are great in your salads along with small tender Brassica leaves. Plant patches of Mizuna and mow it!

Remember your winter companion planting tips:

  1. Carrots enhance peas, onion family stunts peas
  2. Carrots thrive when Cilantro, Chamomile, Marigold are planted with them.
  3. Onions, leeks and chives help repel the carrot root fly. But remember you can’t put the onion family near peas!
  4. Lettuces repel cabbage butterflies
  5. Cilantro enhances Brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, kale and repels aphids on them!

Besides beautiful bareroot roses, decide now where you will be buying any January bareroot veggies you want! Consider: grape vines; artichokes; short-day (sweet) globe onions; strawberries; cane berries such as raspberries (get low-chill types); low-chill blueberries; and rhubarb (be cautious where you plant it, it can be poisonous to humans – children, dogs and chickens), asparagus, and horseradish. Artichoke pups need 3’ to 4’ space, 6′ is more a reality! They are hefty growers and live 10 years! If you keep them watered, and there is enough space, they are a great street strip plant!

SPRING PREPS

Seeds for Spring & Summer planting! Perfect time to sit with seed catalogs, do online research. Get your summer garden layout in mind. First choose what is good for your excellent health! Next might be how much harvest you get per square foot your plant takes up if you have limited space and want to feed several people. Since we are in drought conditions, water could be a strong consideration ~ choose heat and drought tolerant varieties. Get some early varieties, for earliest harvests along with later maturing varieties for a continuous table supply. Earlier variety fruits are generally smaller, but Yum! Cherry tomatoes come in first. Place your order for the entire year, while seeds are still available. The Santa Barbara Seed Swap is Jan 27, very soon! Get your seeds ready to share, and prepare your ‘shopping’ list! Remember, a Seed Swap is a random affair. Get your standby favorites from those reliable catalogs. Use Seed Swaps as fun backup source and for local seeds.

See Choosing Seeds: Catalogs to Seed Swaps!
See also Smart Design for Your Spring & Summer Garden, Seed Selection!

Delicious choices to consider:  Perennial  Heat & Drought Tolerant – per Southern Exposure ~

Summer Lettuce Varieties: In summer you want a stronger lettuce, heat tolerant & slow bolting! Lettuce Leaf Red Sails is a beauty. Jericho Romaine from Israel has become the classic summer romaine for warm regions. Sierra, Nevada. Parris Island is slow bolting. Green Towers Romaine tolerates moderate summer heat and has some resistance to tip burn and bolting. Black Seeded Simpson. And there are more – try several!

Definitely start building compost for spring planting. You could plant green manure 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, strawberries. Or plant it if you want a break! Just lay in some green manure seed mix – vetch, bell beans, Austrian peas and oats. In Santa Barbara area get the mix and inoculant at Island Seed & Feed. Let it grow two to three months to bloom stage. Chop down, chop up and let it lie on the surface about 2 weeks, keeping it moist. Add any amendments you want – additional manure, compost, and turn under. Let it sit two weeks to two months. Your choice. Let the herds of soil organisms do their work! I usually do about 3 weeks. OR, lay on as many layers of compost material as you can get for an up to 18″ deep area where you will be planting. Put in some surface feeding red wiggler worms. The BEST soil enhancer and you will have a raised bed!

WINTER VEGGIES STORAGE

This is such a great post by Anthony Reyes at FarmScape Gardens, here is the link! Winter Vegetable Storage, Part 2

For veggies in your kitchen, here is the UCDavis Quick Guide to Fruits & Vegetables Storage:

Storage Refrigerator Counter Fruits Vegetables

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.

Santa Barbara’s 11th Annual Seed Swap is Sunday January 27! The last Saturday of January every year is National Seed Swap Day! Look in your area for an event, and if you don’t find one, collaborate with your local garden clubs or permaculture group to get one going!

Wonderful Gardener Style Holiday Gifts!

Please be generous with your time these holidays. Rather than just serving food, maybe show someone how to grow veggies, give them seeds with instructions, give them and the kids a tour of your garden – eat carrots together!

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

Happy December Gardening!

 


See the entire December Newsletter:
x

DECEMBER ~ Harvests, Maintenance, Planning & Getting Seeds!

All about Beets, So Sweet!
Virtuous Veggies! Alkalize Your Body for Top Health!
Selecting the Right Seeds for Your Annual Plantings!
Wonderful Gardener-Style Holiday Gifts!Upcoming Gardener Events! Not to miss the January Santa Barbara Seed Swap! International Permaculture Conference, IPC 2020 Argentina!

 


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

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Read Full Post »

Lacinato Kale, aka Tuscan, Black or Dinosaur, is a zesty and nutritious grower!

Lacinato Kale, aka Tuscan, Black or Dinosaur, is a zesty and nutritious grower!

Delicious winter garden harvests continue! You may not feel like eating as many salads in this cooler time, but veggie soups and stews are super nutritious and great for sharing!

Keep an eye on weather reports! We are still in the frost – freeze time in Santa Barbara until the last average frost date January 22 – measured at the airport. 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 coverings well so wind doesn’t blow them around and damage your plants or leave them uncovered. Remove them when the sun comes out! No cooking your plants before their time! Dates vary from the coastal areas to the foothills, and our climate is changing generally to warmer, so these dates may not be viable guides much longer, if even now. Find out the frost dates for your Zip Code! See the details – Protect Your Veggies from Freezing!

No rain in sight, but there are still weeds! Weed, weed, weed! Do it before the roots get bigger and you lose your soil when you pull them out. Weed before taproots get deep and hard to remove. Get those clover roots out all the way down and before grass makes its frilly little seed heads. Remove any weed that is flowering, making seeds soon, first! Anything that is not seeding, healthy and not pest infested, may be cold composted, or you can use them as mulch where there is bare ground not in your garden.

Time to check beds and berms! Install trenches to capture rainwater. Mulch to prevent erosion and soil splash on leafy greens. Add soil on carrot, turnip and beet shoulders and exposed potato bodies. See Rainy Day Tactics for Spectacular Veggies! After a rain, do the finger-in-the-soil check to be sure your plants are getting enough water. A light rain may not be enough…

Once the weeds are out, you have choices to make. Plant very last rounds of winter plants or start making soil for spring planting!

January Plantings  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 the starts you have begun on your own, seeds if you must. See December for tips on what to plant. In cooler January weather, plantings will start slowly, but they will mature faster than usual as days get longer. Most January plantings will be coming in March, April. That’s still in good time for soil preps in April for April/May plantings. In April/May there is less fungi in the soil, so plants that are fungi susceptible get a better start.

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, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes – especially daikons, and turnips!

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.

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 more sunlight in. Under Brassicas, plant lettuce from transplants since Brassicas are a bit allelopathic, makes biochemicals that inhibit small seeds like lettuce from germinating.

Planting summer crops 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. If you take that chance and it doesn’t work, pull and replant.

Peppers are a classic example. For some gardeners peppers take forever…………. For others the standard couple of weeks and seeds are seedlings! If you have experience, you probably know which it is for you. A lot of Latinos start their peppers in January and let them grow slowly until April. If you plant from transplants, I would not try for an early start. Peppers just don’t like cold feet. Whenever you start, plant two rounds, two to three weeks apart. That way you have a better chance of hitting the magic window! Soil Temps are critical for root function. Peppers need 60 degrees + for happiness. A gardeners’ soil thermometer is an inexpensive handy little tool to own.

You can use area that becomes open for quick plants, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, crops 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 plant your leafies to one side, leaving room to plant your toms where the toms would be planted if the leafy plants weren’t there. Plant tomatoes on the sunny sides of the leafies! Remove lower leaves of taller plants that would shade the transplants. 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!

Summer Garden Design is important right now! You can do diagrams on paper or just give it a good think to see if there are any changes this year, and carry it in your head. That layout is what you need to make your seed list! Seeds from catalogs, seeds from the Jan 28 Seed Swap! Catalogs give you the best selection and of plants your nursery doesn’t carry or isn’t able to get. Check for drought and heat tolerant varieties or look in southern states or world areas that have heat tolerant 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 if needed and use a little water. See Choosing Seeds: Catalogs to Seed Swaps!

Before you opt out of planting tomatoes and/or cucumbers due to Fusarium and Verticillium wilts, check out this special guide for successful results! Get resistant varieties and there are special planting and care techniques that work!

The Seed Swap is free, fun and random, a good way to try plants you might have never considered, and they are adapted to your area!

Later January is time to sow seeds indoors for mid to late March early plantings. If you will be doing succession plantings, sow your seeds in succession, like every 2, 3, 4 weeks depending on which plant it is and how many you need. If those fail, it’s to the nursery you go for transplants! Avoid box stores that bring plants from elsewhere that may not be timely for your area, may be infested or sick. Check them carefully. This is very important in a community garden where pests and diseases can spread quickly. Select local nurseries that order conscientiously for local timing and try to get quality plants for us. You may pay a tad more, but it is worth it. Local people live here and they have your interests at heart since they want your repeat business. Also, they can answer your questions. Establish a good relationship. At the Farmers Market, check with local farmers to see what they plant when. Some feed stores are agriculturally inclined.

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.

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.

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 half 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.

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

  • Bless the birds. If they are bothering your tender plants, cover with netting or wire with small openings, cloches, in such a way you have easy access to weed and harvest.
  • Gophers  You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after the rains though we in Santa Barbara haven’t had any yet. 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. Check the new growth tiny leaves at center top. power spray to remove any aphids there. Remove hopelessly infested leaves. After that, water less and give it less food 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  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 tiny seedlings or transplants 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. If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another couple rounds.

If you need more robust soil, do something absolutely yummy with it! This is perfect timing to put in some green manure for March & April plantings. Depending on the type of plants you choose for your green manure, allow +/- 3.5 months for the process. If you want the earliest planting time for spring, plant ASAP! See Living Mulch! Put it 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, sheet mulching 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!

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, it helps with immunity, 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.

Sidedressing  Heavy leaf producers and big bodied Brassicas, may need a feeding now. 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 like skunks), 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 about 6″ or less deep, 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.

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 climate change 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 as precious today as they have always been, maybe even more so.

Santa Barbara’s 10th Annual Seed Swap is January 28! The last Saturday of January every year is National Seed Swap Day! Look in your area for an event, and if you don’t find one, collaborate with your local garden club or permaculture group to get one going!

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

Happy New Year Gardening!

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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 frosty and sometimes smokey (Thomas Fire) December images at Santa Barbara’s Pilgrim Terrace and Rancheria Community Gardens!

See the entire January 2018 GBC Newsletter!

January Winter Harvests, Planning Your New Year!
Love KALE! Beauty, Super Nutrition, Easy to Grow!
Living Mulch, Which, When, and Why!
Smart Design for Your Spring & Summer Garden, Seed Selection!

Upcoming Gardener Events! 3 January La Sumida Nursery events, 2018 Permaculture Design Course, 26th Compost Council Conference, 10th Annual Santa Barbara Seed Swap!

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

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