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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Winter 2015 in Review

My second catalog this season!  I talked myself into buying three
packets of lettuce seed, which I suppose I could live without,
but that 3 packets of seed turned into a $32.00 order
somehow! They got me pegged!

It's seed catalog time – I've got two already. Seed Savers Exchange was out yesterday (first one of my crowd to get it!) and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange came today. I will probably get a few seeds from each one – they have different varieties that entice. This last month, a friend of mine took a squash I had bought and turned it into two delicious pumpkin pies. I see the seeds for that squash (pumpkin) sold by Seed Savers Exchange and so Winter Luxury Pie will be added to my seeds sown this summer – I've already seen a lettuce I cannot live without, but I'll spend time over them, learning and dreaming of the next year's garden which is always sure to be double better than any I've grown before!

A recap of what has been grown is a great place to start to figure out what you'll grow this year! From my notes, this is what a past winter season looked like in the garden.

Artichoke: We had a great harvest last year of artichokes – mostly Green Globe Improved. They all produced big beautiful chokes with abandon. We had respectable harvest from Violetto which I love, but it wasn't nearly as productive, the chokes are smaller and not nearly as meaty. We are working with a plant breeder to work out some bugs in his purple artichokes, which he has named Winnetka Purple, but so far we've not seen really good-size chokes off his either.

Beets: Burpee's Golden and Chioggia - both are dynamite and steady producers year in and year out and both are usually from Pinetree Garden Seeds although I have been known to get seed from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply too. These are two old standby varieties that form the bulk of my beet growing – Burpee's Golden has a lower than usual rate of germination but it's well worth it and is more difficult as a harvest crop, but it worth it in my book – besides fabulous pickles, they don't stain your hands or clothing!

Broccoli: Nutribud is an OP of respectable performance; earliness is right up there with the hybrids and the size is comparable. As the name suggests, it is reported to have a higher percentage of glutamine. DeCicco is a smaller, faster and more home garden friendly than some of the older varieties. All the other tight headed broccoli are hybrids. There are loose headed broccoli like Romanesco and Calabrese, but they take a lot more time. With these two varieties, you can harvest the main head and have more than a month of the sideshoots which can be more worthwhile than the main head.

Brussels sprouts: Between cabbage and broccoli, I get enough of this family to skip Brussels sprouts. OP Brussels sprouts include Long Island Improved which is the standard. The problem I have is aphids get into each and every sprout and they are labor intensive to clean before eating – if you get a decent crop, grill them! I love them like that.

Cabbage: A good year for cabbage for us. Danish Ball Head, one of my favorite OP heirlooms performed good after we actually got some seedlings started. Winningstadt is a pointy head cabbage that yielded 10 pound heads that were delicious. Both were huge solid heads and we ate and ate and finally learned how to ferment cabbage to be able to eat it the rest of the year. And then I was sick of cabbage.

Carrots: How wonderful, if you decide to plant some of the different color carrots, you'll be able to grow open pollinated seeds! Because carrots didn't become uniformly orange until the last 50 years or so (because of marketing needs), the different colored carrots are all OP. In the orange department you'll find Nantes and Red Cored Chantenay as your big producers. In containers, try Paris Market and other small, 'one-bite' carrots.

Cauliflower: Mark Twain is supposed to have said that 'cauliflower was cabbage that had gone to college' and I can't afford the tuition, so I stick to cabbage. Cabbage is easier to preserve and broccoli will give successive cuttings from one plant. Cauliflower is more work and less results. But, if you must, Early Snowball is the best OP cauliflower available and it is 'self-blanching,' which means its own leaves cover the white curds keeping them from the sun. If the curds are exposed to the sun, they will not stay white but begin to turn greenish, a detracting trait according to the Regents.

Celeriac: First year with this and I like it. I don't grow celery because it's a hard plant to grow and home grown celery has always tasted bitter to me. Celeriac, on the other hand, was easy to grow and produced well. You can't smear a hunk with cream cheese or peanut butter and have the same delightful appetizer, but it does a marvelous ballet in soups. Large Prague was our selection and I've not had experience with anything else.

Chard: (I'm dispensing with the 'Swiss' part, feel free to join me, after all, is it really Swiss?) We had seed from Seed Savers Exchange of Five Color Silverbeet, (silverbeet is Australian for chard, God only knows why) and seed of Pinetree's Orange Fantasia. Both were incredibly productive – although I've never known chard to be unproductive, so I'm not sure that's saying a lot. Someone gave us a few plants of Fordhook Giant, large leaves with a tremendous white rib down the center, and that one has spectacular production. While the colorful chards are show stopper, sometimes we skip on Fordhook Giant, but those huge, beautiful, dark-green leaves are loaded with nutrition and flavor.

Cilantro: Let it go to seed and you'll have cilantro returning to your garden annually! I wish we could have it when tomatoes are ripe, then I'd grow a bundle of it, but no. It grows in our winter here. Plant any old cilantro – I have noticed no difference between Slo-Bolt and normal – one good blast of a hot Santa Ana wind it goes directly to seed and dies.

Collards: I'm not a huge fan and I've only had experience growing the old standard Vates. Collards, like some other winter crops like broccoli, are long term producers and that is a wonderful trait. Collards, a major part of the southern cuisine, became popular as one of the few crops that could remediate salty soil – like soil that had been inundated with ocean water from storms. As the slaves of the South worked with collards, they made them into stars of their now famous cuisine!

Fava beans: Windsor is my favorite and we get pounds of beans from each plant. I'm growing fewer peas preferring to grow more favas, garbanzos and lentils. Favas, of all of them, are the most productive – once you find recipes for them and are used to using them, they are really prolific! There are some less known favas that are quite beautiful.
Garlic: I love Spanish Roja and Music - hardnecks are supposed to not like warm climates, but I have great luck with them. Last year, the crows got to them. They don't eat the garlic, but they pull them out of the ground. After three or four go rounds of this (they pull, I replant, repeat), the cloves were hopelessly intermixed so which one was the better producer is anyone's guess. But even without crows, you will find yourself buying fresh seed garlic every year – especially when you grow hard neck garlic which won't keep from one harvest to the next planting.

Kale: Redbor has worked well for me. I had some plants of Dwarf Blue, but felt like that was a very stupid idea – same footprint for half the plant. What WAS I thinking? Lacinato, or Dinosaur Kale gets a lot of press - and the cooks seem to love it the best. From my northern friends I have heard that kale needs a frost to really bring out its flavor – in some years, we might get to find if that's true.

Leeks: King Richard is my usual dependable producer but last year was a really so-so harvest. I think I ignored it too much. You could also try Carantan or Giant Musselburgh.

Lettuce: I'm one of those who can't get through the lettuce section of a seed catalog without ordering four or five more packets! I could supply a large army with lettuce if I were given the land to do it. Marvel of the Four Seasons (Merveille des Quatre Saisons), Drunken Woman Frizzy-head (I kid you not!), Red Winter, Deer Tongue, Buttercrunch, and on and on and on. All delicious and all OP! Please note that the butter heads for which you pay so dearly in the store, are not hard to grow at all (their priciness is in the shipping) and they are actually more heat resistant than most other lettuces.

Onions: I usually buy plants from a local organic farm supply, but they sold out so I had to learn how to grow them from seed. Worked out fine, except that it takes a very long time. I like to grow Italian Red Torpedo – a delicious onion that is absolutely stellar on the grill. The seed I found was called 'Red Long of Tropea,' and they looked and tasted exactly like Red Torpedo, so that would explain why it's called 'torpedo' when it really doesn't look any more like a torpedo than a zeppelin. Onions, unlike almost every other veggie we grow is 'day sensitive.' Most onions offered in the States will not bulb in LA because they are 'long day' plants and we need to grow 'short day' varieties. Folks from the rest of the US are not able to comprehend our experiences and the catalogs rarely indicate short or long day. Onions grown in most of Italy and Texas are usually short-day onions.

Parsnips: Coming back in popularity, parsnips were overlooked for decades. The white roots have the earthiness of beets with the crunch of carrots and are a sweet treat from the earth. I've only grown Hollow Crown, but I hear a lot of good words on Harris Model. Their seeds, like carrots do not last long even under really good conditions, so buy fresh annually on both.
Peas: I remember as a child getting fresh baby peas and potatoes from the garden for one of the finest meals we ever had. Nowadays, there are more pea varieties than you can shake a spoon at! For snap peas, Sugar Daddy, Sugar snap are two reliable performers and for shelling, Little Marvel and Wando – I grow fewer peas than I used to, mainly because I like to plant other winter crops in the same space. Peas get ripe and in nano-seconds go to over ripe. Pick them thoroughly and often.

Potatoes: We gathered leftovers from bachelor friends (they sprout in the pantry and we just plant them) - I don't know the varieties but we had a good harvest. I've yet to meet a potato I don't like. You can get seed potatoes – if you like the red, the purple, the gold or any other potato, you can find seed potatoes for them.

Radishes: I often forget to mention radishes – they are not one of my favorites (they really seem like a waste of space), but if you gotta have them, French Breakfast is one the standards and nowadays you can get Watermelon (outside white, inside red) Sparkler (little red ones) and others that are delightfully colored.

Shallots: Wow! I had never grown shallots before, but I have found they are easier to grow than onions and more productive! I planted seed from Pinetree and I was impressed, I'm back for more! Olympus and Bonilla were both good performers. And if you lack the patience or missed ordering the seeds, get some seed stock shallots from a reputable seed house – you can find a bag of them in an Orchard Supply Hardware store or a local nursery.

Turnips: I used to ignore all other turnips besides Purple Top White Globe which I grew up with and is the only one sold by Seed Savers Exchange. Amber Globe and Scarlet Ohno turnips need to be trialed – and there is still time this winter!

We had some good harvests this last year and this year we are looking for way more – we have Spanish Roja garlic in the ground along with Yellow Dutch Shallots up in the garden, little pokey green things that are very cute! We have just seeded more beets than I have grow since 2008 (when I led a high school class making pickled beets!).

From seeds in the garden right now we have all these plants. Most of them, on the coast like we are can still be planted!

Start These In Containers
Start These In The Ground
Move to the Ground from Containers
I would not start anything in containers – but direct sow
Beets
Fava beans
Cabbage family members
Fava beans

Garbanzos and lentils


Garlic


Lettuce and Other greens
Turnips

Since last month's list, I've removed carrots, parsnips and other long season crops. On the coast, we might get crops in from them, but it gets riskier as the warmer days approach. Remember, the 75 day fava bean, in a cold season will take 90 days or more – you might have time to get a picking or two, but the harvest you could have had will be lost by your lateness.

SEED HOUSE SUGGESTIONS

BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS; www.rareseeds.com 2278 Baker Creek Road Mansfield, MO 65704; 417.924.8917 What a catalog! Beautiful pictures of the produce – vegetable porn for sure. Anyone who works this hard in putting out a beautiful seed catalog is working with a great deal of love. Drooling is hardly optional here. They have a really comprehensive selection as well.

BOTANICAL INTERESTS; www.botanicalinterests.com 660 Compton Street, Broomfield, CO 80020; 720.880.7293. I 'have been dealing with these folks for only a couple of years - I have seen their seeds on seed racks here and there, but I really got to know them for the quantity of seeds they donate to Venice High School and other educational programs. Good seed.  Clean.  Good variety and a good price. Great packaging!

BOUNTIFUL GARDENS;
www.bountifulgardens.org 18001 Shafer Ranch Road; Willits, CA 95490; 707.459.6410 Organic seed; open-pollinated. A part of the work done by John Jeavons, a proud and active member of the population of organic and open-pollinated gardeners.

PEACEFUL VALLEY FARM SUPPLY; www.groworganic.com PO Box 2209; Grass Valley, CA 95945; 916.272.4769 I have purchased many seeds (and a lot of other things!) from Peaceful Valley – I love their catalog. They have an excellent selection of cover crop seeds as well as a lot of organic gardening supplies and tools. I have used their catalog to teach organic gardening because they clearly explain their products and how to use them.

PINETREE GARDEN SEEDS; www.superseeds.com PO Box 300, Rt. 100; New Gloucester, ME 04260; 207.926.3400 Probably the best for a home gardener – small packets of very current seed, a very good value. The smaller packets mean a smaller price so a person can order a lot more varieties and experiment. I have been a customer for many years.

SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE; www.seedsavers.org Rt. 3 Box 239; Decorah, Iowa 52101; 563.382.5990 Membership fees $50. Free brochure. Organic, and ALL open-pollinated. There are two ways to save seeds: one is to collect them all and keep them in a huge building that protects them from everything up to (and including) nuclear holocaust. The other way is to grow 'em. You can find the chance to grow them here. I have been a member for about 10 years and believe in their work.

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE SEED EXCHANGE; www.southernexposure.com P.O. Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117, 540.894.9480 (Fax: 540.894.9481) A commercial venture that is somewhat similar to Seed Savers Exchange, but really isn't an exchange. They do carry seed saving supplies - nice to have if you are going to save seed. And they have varieties that I've found nowhere else.

And speaking of beets! Yum!

BALSAMIC-GLAZED BEETS

3½ pounds beets (4 pounds with green attached, reserving greens for another use), scrubbed and trimmed, leaving about 1 inch of stems attached
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves

In a large saucepan cover beets with salted water by 1 inch Simmer beets, covered, 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender, and drain in a colander. Cool beets until they can be handled and slip off skins and stems. Cut beets lengthwise into wedges.

Beets may be prepared up to this point 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring beets to room temperature before proceeding.

In a large skillet stir together vinegar, syrup or honey, and oil and add beets. Cook beet mixture with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring, until heated through and coated well. Sprinkle about half of thyme over beets and toss gently.

Serve beets sprinkled with remaining thyme.

david


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Excepted for November

Handout for November

Before we get to end our year, do some reflecting about what went right and what went wrong.  Honestly ask yourself what you think your big successes were and note where you ran off the rails.

Check the water on your plants if we get Santa Ana winds!  
Keep all your seeds moist.
Keep all your freshly transplanted seeds moist as well.
If temperatures get really hot, cover lettuces and other sensitive plants with                      something to shade them  in the hottest parts of the day – I've used an old                        screen someone threw away just resting on 18” stakes!  

Continue to plant seeds of all cabbage family plants.  
Experiment with favas, lentils and garbanzo plants, or just plant seeds in the ground.  
Even if you don't end up with a great harvest, you've been adding to your soil and you get a blue ribbon.
Keep an eye on your root crops – will you need more than you thought or do you have it all in hand? 

Look at last year's notes and decide on what you're thinking about for spring – already! Yes!  Catalogs are arriving and we'll be wanting to think about last Summer's garden while it's still somewhat fresh.  Grab a catalog, schedule some down time, and dream your way through all the listings of the stuff you can grow!  With a couple of pieces of paper, make a list of what you like and on the other draw out your garden.  Quickly you'll see you're over ordering and that should give you a pause, but it probably won't and like the rest of us, you'll order enough seeds for the entire community!



Start These In Containers         Start These In The Ground        Move to the Ground from                                                                                                            Containers
More of the cabbage family!          Fava beans                           Cabbage family members 
        Garbanzos                            Beets                                       from early September
  Leafy salad veggies                     Carrots                                          Fava beans
  Lettuce                                       Cilantro                                            Leeks
  Peas                                            Fava beans
                                                     Garlic 
                                                     Lettuce
                                                    Onions (from sets)
                                              Other green leafy vegetables
                                                       Peas
                                                      Turnips

Refer to the text for exact dates.



Grilled Cabbage Wedges with Spicy Lime Dressing

This is a delightful way to return to your grill on a cooler California evening.  The limes are not seasonal, but everything else fresh is – cabbage and cilantro – or soon will be.  It's not your everyday cabbage, that's for sure!   

¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon sugar
1 head of cabbage – you might try mixing green with purple 
Good olive  oil

Preheat grill.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the lime juice, olive oil, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, salt, cayenne and sugar and pulse or blend until the sauce is pale orange color in color.  Set aside.

Remove the loosest, toughest outer leaves from the cabbage; cut into 8 evenly sized wedges.  Do not remove the stalk or inner core.  Lightly brush the wedges with canola oil.

Place the wedges on the grill and cover.  Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the edges of each layer are blackened and the cabbage is beginning to soften.  Flip each wedge over, cover the grill, and cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes on the other side.  Remove the cabbage when it is beginning to wilt, but is still firm in the middle.  If necessary, turn the heat down or move the wedges to a cooler part of the grill so they don't burn.  Don't be afraid of the blackened edges; you want a lot of grill and char marks on the cabbage.

Take the cabbage off the grill and place on a serving plate.  Pour the dressing over the top of the cabbage and serve immediately with wedges of lime.  

david

Monday, October 31, 2016

MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKPEAS & CHARD

NB - To prepare this dish for a class of 25 required much multiplication and calculations.  I think I might have gotten off track in all that with the result that this recipe should be a trifle more zingy than what I served yesterday.  YMMV 

Now is the time when leafy greens such as chard are tender and delicious. Chard can be prepared in many different ways, and in this respect it closely resembles its cousin, spinach. One of the ways that chard shines is in braises and stews.

This dish might seem to have daunting ingredient list. But don’t be put off; enough of the ingredients will already be lurking in your kitchen. And, if you leave out any one of the spices, it will probably still turn out well. In contrast to some meat Tagines, which take hours to prepare and cook, this dish can be made from start to finish on a weeknight. And the flavor is a lovely mélange of spices, slight sweetness from the raisins, and savory flavors from the chickpeas. Serve with rice or quinoa for hearty vegetarian dinner.

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ sweet onion, minced
• 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked, according to preference)
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon turmeric
• ¼ teaspoon thyme
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ cup golden raisins
• 1 tablespoon organic tomato paste
• 1 bunch chard (about 8 ounces) washed, center ribs removed, and chopped
• 1 cup cooked chickpeas plus 1 ¼ cups of their cooking liquid, or 1 can organic chickpeas with liquid plus ½ cup water
• 1 teaspoon hot sauce or ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Add the olive oil, onion, and garlic to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or 3-4 quart pot, and turn the heat to medium. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then add the paprika, cumin, turmeric, thyme, salt, and cinnamon. Stir together and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low.

Be sure to stir every 3-5 minutes to ensure that the bottom does not burn and that your ingredients are evenly combined. You can add a tablespoon of rice flour if you like your stew thicker. Remove from the heat after 20 minutes. Enjoy!


d

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Best Practices for Toxic Urban Soils



Build your garden away from existing roads and railways, or build a hedge or fence to reduce windblown contamination from mobile sources and busy streets.

Cover existing soil and walkways with mulch, landscape fabric, stones, or bricks.

Use mulch in your garden beds to reduce dust and soil splash, reduce weed establishment, regulate soil temperature and moisture, and add organic matter.

Use soil amendments to maintain neutral pH, add organic matter, and improve soil structure.
Add topsoil or clean fill from certified soil sources. Your state or local environmental program, extension service, or nursery may be able to recommended safe sources for soil and fill.

Build raised beds or container gardens. Raised beds can be made by simply mounding soil into windrows or by building containers. Sided beds can be made from wood, synthetic wood, stone, concrete block, brick, or naturally rot-resistant woods such as cedar and redwood.

Your state or local city agency may recommend using a water-permeable fabric cover or geotextile as the bottom layer of your raised beds to further reduce exposure to soils of concern.

Practice good habits:

  • Wear gloves, and wash hands after gardening and before eating.
  • Take care not to track dirt from the garden into the house.
  • Wash produce before storing or eating, and teach kids to do so, too.
  • Peel root crops, and remove outer leaves of leafy vegetables.


For Your Records

Climate data for Los Angeles (LAX), 1981–2010 normal, extremes 1944–present
Month
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Year
Record high, °F (°C)
91
(33)
92
(33)
95
(35)
95
(35)
91
(33)
94
(34)
93
(34)
98
(37)
106
(41)
101
(38)
101
(38)
94
(34)
106
(41)
Average high, °F (°C)
64.6
(18.1)
64.3
(17.9)
64.4
(18)
66.4
(19.1)
68.1
(20.1)
70.6
(21.4)
73.8
(23.2)
74.9
(23.8)
74.6
(23.7)
72.5
(22.5)
68.9
(20.5)
64.6
(18.1)
69.0
(20.6)
Daily mean, °F (°C)
56.7
(13.7)
57.1
(13.9)
58.0
(14.4)
60.1
(15.6)
62.7
(17.1)
65.5
(18.6)
68.8
(20.4)
69.6
(20.9)
68.9
(20.5)
65.9
(18.8)
61.1
(16.2)
56.6
(13.7)
62.6
(17)
Average low, °F (°C)
48.8
(9.3)
50.0
(10)
51.7
(10.9)
53.8
(12.1)
57.3
(14.1)
60.5
(15.8)
63.7
(17.6)
64.3
(17.9)
63.2
(17.3)
59.3
(15.2)
53.2
(11.8)
48.7
(9.3)
56.2
(13.4)
Record low, °F (°C)
27
(−3)
34
(1)
35
(2)
42
(6)
45
(7)
48
(9)
52
(11)
51
(11)
47
(8)
43
(6)
38
(3)
32
(0)
27
(−3)
Average rainfall, inches (mm)
2.71
(68.8)
3.25
(82.6)
1.85
(47)
0.70
(17.8)
0.22
(5.6)
0.08
(2)
0.03
(0.8)
0.05
(1.3)
0.21
(5.3)
0.56
(14.2)
1.11
(28.2)
2.05
(52.1)
12.82
(325.6)
Average rainy (≥ 0.01 in) days
6.0
6.6
5.8
2.8
1.2
0.6
0.5
0.3
1.0
2.3
3.4
5.2
35.7
Average relative humidity, %
63.4
67.9
70.5
71.0
74.0
75.9
76.6
76.6
74.2
70.5
65.5
62.9
70.8
Source: NOAA (relative humidity 1961–1990)[64][69][70]

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Heads Up!



.DAY ONE... TODAY

A STORM SYSTEM WILL BRING MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN TO THE REGION
BEGINNING LATE TODAY IN NORTHERN AREAS AND BY LATE TONIGHT ACROSS
THE SOUTH. THERE IS A SLIGHT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS TONIGHT.
RAINFALL RATES MAY BE HIGH ENOUGH LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND TONIGHT
TO CAUSE MUD AND DEBRIS FLOWS IN AND BELOW RECENT BURN AREAS.

* FLOOD WATCH................SEE WGUS66 KLOX - FFALOX FOR DETAILS *

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN... FRIDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY

RAIN WILL TURN TO SHOWERS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH ON FRIDAY. THERE IS A
SLIGHT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS IN THE MORNING. RAINFALL RATES MAY BE
HIGH ENOUGH IN THE MORNING TO CAUSE MUD AND DEBRIS FLOWS IN AND
BELOW RECENT BURN AREAS.

* FLOOD WATCH.

This was on my weather watch this AM -mind you, this is their best guess at the moment.
And things change.  It will be nice to get showers.

Remember - shower or no shower - class goes on.  We have enough to keep us busy
rain or shine!  

david

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The SECOND CHEAT SHEET


Being a Primer on What To Do and When To Do It
The best fertilizer is the farmer's shadow. 

AUGUST
Keep existing garden hydrated

Harvest tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, okra, squashes, beans and other summer crop

Keep basil pinched to ensure production and prevent the plants from setting seed and dying

Weed as required – keep yourself hydrated and sunburn free.

Try to water only in the evening or early morning

At the beginning of the month, begin to contemplate the Winter garden and look online for seeds to purchase. Remember that soon you'll be able to plant garlic, onions and potatoes so don't overdo it on seeds!

Late in the month, you may start with seeds of cool season crops out of full sun (indoors under lights works too):
Broccoli
Cabbage
Brussels Sprouts
Kale
Collards
Cauliflower
Chard
Lettuce
Fava beans
Peas
Leeks
Onions (they are easier from purchased 'sets' or transplants)

Add 3” of mulch to your garden which should cut down on weeding and watering in the coming months. It will also allow the ground to hold water when (if) it rains.

All things being equal, in August, you will be harvesting tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, corn, melons, squashes. Keep the squashes picked or you will have a gigantic squash that is mostly inedible. Pinch the tips of basil back to keep the plant from going to seed and use the pinchings in salads or cooked dishes. Green peppers will become red, purple or yellow if you leave them on the plant until they mature. For my taste, I'll wait until they change color, but many folks like green peppers as much as the mature ones. Beans should be kept picked unless you are growing soup beans, which stay on the plant until the plant has died and is crispy. The pods should shatter easily when harvesting dry beans.

SEPTEMBER
Continue picking summer fruit, learn how to dry, freeze, pickle, jam or can some of the garden's bounty and share with family and neighbors. The summer garden will produce through November in mild years, but is over by the end of September or October in most. As you see plants coming to the end of their productivity, pull the plants and begin to replace them with winter plants or seeds of winter plants. In fact, it often is not even necessary to pull the plant immediately – you can leave the okra or pepper in place and simply begin to sow around it. If you sow too close, you may find you will need to cut the summer plant off, leaving the roots, if pulling them out begins to affect your seedlings. If you leave the roots in the ground, they will rot and become food for the microbiology of the soil and once rotted, channels will remain for water to infiltrate the soil.

Days get shorter and hopefully cooler

Direct seed into the garden larger seeds – peas, fava beans, lentils and garbanzo beans

Direct sow beets, turnips all month long – you can continue to sow beets until late March – you can continue to sow turnips until April – although most folks are rather sick of turnips by that time.

Late in the month, sow seeds of radishes, carrots and parsnips – you can continue to sow carrots and parsnips until January. Sow your first spinach and you may continue sowing short rows of it until mid-February if you wish.

Direct sow any lettuces or other 'salad greens' now through March – and even beyond if you're willing to take the chance! These larger leafy things really do not do well in the heat – oftentimes, even if you get a harvest, they will not be the sweet leaves you were hoping for but instead will be bitter and not at all something you would want to eat.

Set out plants started in sheltered locations.

Use shade as required on young seedlings – nursery flats and a stick.

Continue to sow broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower as in August. You CAN sow Brussels Sprouts, but your harvest will be truncated by the end of cool weather and there is no more reason to plant kale and collards as they will produce on into summer.


OCTOBER
Now there are significant short days and almost any winter crop is OK to seed or set out including:
Onions (buy transplants if you can)
Garlic and shallots (plant from bulbs)
Potatoes – white, red, blue, bakers and mashers – all of them, cut into chunks with at least one eye per chunk, allow to 'scab' over for a few days or dust with sulfur to help prevent soil born bacteria from attacking the open surfaces.
You can still direct seed any of the Legumes (fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans), if you haven't yet
You continue with broccoli and other cabbage family members.

Be warned, there are often Santa Ana winds in October – they dry you and your plants out, keep an eye on the water in your garden if that happens.

By now, most of the summer harvest is in, perhaps you have a few of the Winter Squash still finishing up or some areas of drying beans. In open locations, start planting the winter crops. Try to keep the garden filled with producing plants. If you started lettuce in the shade back in August, you are able to harvest the outer leaves from some plants.

Have you ever heard of celeriac? Related to celery, this root crop has the flavor, but lacks the pizzazz of celery. It is useful in soups, but not for an appetizer tray because there is no channel for cream cheese or peanut butter. And it looks a little 'rooty.' Sow seed in a row directly even though the seed is really small. The root balls get about six inches in diameter if they are happy.

Now is when you can start using the planting stick – this invention makes easy work of succession sowing. Put your planting stick on edge and make a depression in the soil. Sow your seeds in the depression. All other seeds, cover with a small amount of garden soil and water well. Carrots are the exception. Do not cover carrot seed with soil, use vermiculite to cover them. All seeds should be moistened daily until they sprout – this is especially true with carrots. Follow a program of sowing carrots, beets and other root crops every week to get fresh roots all through the season.

NOVEMBER
In November, things begin to slow down significantly. You can continue to sow all cool weather crops with a shorter life expectancy. While in September you could sow cabbages that take three or four months (the big kraut or storage cabbages), now it's time to begin to limit yourself to the smaller, non-storage, cabbages which take up less space.

This is really your last chance to sow any garlic or shallots – after this, they won't have enough time to mature to fullness before the heat of summer. You can still sow those veggies that don't take so long to mature. I'm still willing to bet on carrots, but not parsnips which take much longer. Beets and turnips are sowable now through April or so.

You may have some harvesting to do, but the garden can be a little bare this time of year. All the summer crops are gone and winter crops are just babies – except turnips and radishes, which take from four weeks to 8 weeks from seed to harvest. Broccoli. Broccoli does not need much succession planting and is a star in the winter garden. Cut the main head of the broccoli to eat, and begin to watch for the side shoots. Keep them picked and you'll have a whole ton of broccoli to eat over the coming weeks. This is not true with cabbage or cauliflower, which only give one harvest.

DECEMBER
You almost have to have a good flashlight to garden! Really, if you can find time do a little here and there – if no rain, take up the slack with the hose. You can still sow carrots (and that'll be the last ones for this year); beets, turnips and radishes are all still on the sow list. If you have broccoli plants to put in, this would be about the last month I'd do that; cauliflowers aren't usually that tasty when they mature in the heat. Start seeds of cabbages (the smaller ones) and begin to think about where things will go in the garden for summer. Keep small lettuce plants on hand and every time something comes out of the garden, pop a lettuce in its place – lettuce is pretty, edible and fast! You can't have enough lettuce!

Try to go to holiday parties and enjoy a social life – the garden will still be there in January.

You can harvest radishes, turnips, maybe some lettuces and other greens. Perhaps you have a head or two of broccoli that will float your boat. Early cabbages might be ready to harvest soon, but the bigger kraut cabbages will take longer. The root crops (except radishes and turnips) will not be ready. If you have been reading the seed packets, you will note that my commentary disagrees with most of them. Because we sow in Fall, unlike the rest of the US, our days are getting shorter and cooler, meaning our crops take longer than the packet says they will, which was written for Spring and longer/warmer days.

JANUARY
Keep planting in the ground: lettuce, short season carrots, beets, potatoes, celeriac, radishes, spinach,

Start in containers: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, (these last two can be started now, but their production will be reduced by the coming warmer weather, both will last into the summer, but the flavor of kale grown in the heat is not the sweetness you expect, they are more bitter), peas, fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans

Seed catalogs are in the mail! Most gardeners are now looking longingly and drooling to figure out which tomatoes, peppers, beans and other summer crops you will be planting. You will order too many seeds despite promises to yourself to not do it this year. You'll do the same thing next year...

You are eating good by now. You've got broccoli, lettuce, peas, fava beans coming in – maybe a few baby beets and turnips, you are about sick of radishes which have been coming for months.


FEBRUARY
In the garden, you can still direct sow lettuce (and other salad greens), beets, radishes, spinach, and the first of the summer plantings: purple beans.

Start in your six packs early tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, summer squash – I usually try to do this around Valentine's Day.

Otherwise: If you haven't over-ordered your seeds for summer yet, get busy. You're not playing by the rules.


MARCH
Continue to purple beans, lettuce, radishes, beets, radishes, spinach, You can begin to set out plants of basil, early tomatoes, later in the month, if you have space, sow early sweet corn (the exhortation for space comes from the fact that corn is a wind pollinated plant and there must be plants in a block large enough to ensure pollination between the plants – do not plant individual rows of corn, plant in a block).

Continue to sow seeds of tomatoes and basil if you need to do succession plantings of these (each plant should produce for several weeks, if not two months). Now it's time to sow peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, all squash.


APRIL
You can now put out beans of all colors, lettuce and still some radishes, beets, spinach if you love them. For summer, though, you can set out plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, you can start planting all corn now, if you have the space.

Add three more inches of mulch to your garden, whether it seems to need it or not.

You can still start more tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons and squash and okra, Note that cucumbers, melons and squashes tend to get powdery mildew in our part of the country and a good strategy is to plant a second follow on set of plants. When the first planting gives up, the second planting takes over. You cannot do this with melons or winter squashes which must remain on the plant until they are fully ripened before picking.


MAY
Step back from your garden and take a look. It's really getting powered up about new – soon your neighbors will be getting tired of all the great vegetables you are sharing with them!

You can continue to set our plants of basil, eggplant, all melons and all squash and cucumbers. Begin to plant your main crop of green and yellow beans and all the dried beans, which will be left in the garden to dry on the plant. If you have room, plant more corn too.

Continue to sow as you did in April, but it's getting late – peppers, eggplants and basil are still OK to start, but will not have a lot of time to produce as they would had you gotten to them earlier.


JUNE
Plant in the ground: all the above; you can still get a crop, but it might not live to its full term – furthermore, setting them out in June is hard on them – the heat can be problematic. If you do, you might have to supply some shade on extremely warm days.

Earlier tomatoes, cucumbers and beans are a part of your diet by now. I'm sick of zucchini already, how about you? Peppers are getting ripe, you can see the okra coming on – get it while it's small and don't over cook it! That keeps it from being slimy.

Start your pumpkin seeds in 4” pots to get them going, then take a nap, with my permission.


JULY
Plant in the ground only out of extreme necessity – you will have to water almost daily until they are established. Do not plant without mulching. Water as needed, early in the day or in the evening.

For starting seeds this month, I recommend you continue napping.

Now it's already time to begin to think about your cool season seeds. Get out your catalogs and prepare to over-order those like we did at the beginning of the year or get online. Try not to buy your seeds locally -you get fresher seed online or by ordering directly from the seed company by phone – your seeds are in perfect climate conditions until they begin to pull your order.

If you do tomatoes right, by now you have enough to open your own Italian eatery.


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