Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


(NB:  As of 26 July 2016, this is not yet complete! From February on, the harvest notes are not finished.)

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

In 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):
Brussels Sprouts
Fava beans
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 gigantic squash that are 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 dried beans.

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.

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.

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 off one harvest.

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.

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.

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.

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). No it's time to sow peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, all squash.

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 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.
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, eggplant, 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.

Plant in the ground: all the above; you can still get a crop, but it might not live to it's 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 slimey.

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

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.

Garden Tools For Garden Jobs.

The most important tools you use are the different parts of your body – your hands, your skin, your back, your knees and your legs. Chemical sunblock may be bad for your body, but it most certainly does nature no good once you've washed it off. A long-sleeved cotton shirt and cotton pants are cool and, if you can find organic cotton that costs less than the US Military budget, you are doing Gaia a good deal. Wear a hat (it's stylish anyway!) and comfortable shoes. Get gloves that will stand to the work you are doing – digging with shovels almost always means a heavy glove, gardening in containers is a piece of cake with cotton gloves or some of the new plasticized gloves. Get more than one type.
Have on hand muscle rub (I use stuff with arnica in it) and hand creams if you worry about callouses grossing you – or someone else out. Do some stretches to prevent injuries.

A. Stand up gardening/Mulch, Compost moving
  1. Double digger, aka broadfork
  2. Spading fork
  3. Compost fork
  4. Grain Shovel (aka Grain scoop)
  5. Spade
  6. Round point shovel
  7. Poachers spade
  8. Leaf rake
  9. Broom for clean up if needed
  10. Long handle vs. short handle
    1. Long handles – more leverage (easier to break), better for tall people
    2. Short handles – easier to fit into smaller spaces and more appropriate for short people
  11. Wheel barrow/gardeners cart
  12. Tarps (either the blue plastic or burlap) to make clean up easier 
  13. Mattock 

B. Kneeling gardening
  1. Trowel
  2. Hand fork
  3. Weeders
  4. Japanese hori-hori knife can be used as a trowel and a weeder
  5. The Stick tool (my 'invention')
  6. Scissors
  7. Kneeling pad or a small stool
  8. Dibbles
  9. Wire brush
  10. Sharp serrated knives
  11. Watering can or hose
  12. Tape measure
  13. I include a radio with my kit

C. Container gardening
  1. Trowel
  2. Hand fork
  3. Weeders
  4. Kneeling pad (?)
  5. Tarp
  6. Watering can or hose
  7. Machete
  8. Pot brush
  9. Container knife

  1. Seeding
      1. Widget
      2. Seeding tool
      3. Swiss Army Knife
      4. Pencil
      5. Marker
      6. Plastic tags
      7. Flats
      8. Newspapers
      9. Containers
      10. Journal or notebook!
      11. Chopsticks
      12. Soft nozzle for the hose or a Haws watering can

E. Harvesting
  1. Knives
  2. Scissors
  3. Pruners
  4. Containers – baskets, bags, dishpan – to wash and clean produce (as needed)

F. Pruning
  1. Pruners that fit your hand
  2. Folding saw
  3. Loppers
  4. Pole Pruner
  5. Large saw
  6. Sharp knife
  7. Specialty gloves if needed

G. Tool care
  1. Linseed oil for wood
  2. Any oil for metal
  3. Rags
  4. Sharpening devices
  5. Sandpaper in different grades
  6. Listerine to sterilize your tools

H. Almost all kits have
  1. Knife or knives
  2. Screwdrivers
  3. Pliers
  4. Measuring tape of some kind  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Soil Bibliography

Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil; ©1992 University of California Press, Hillel, Daniel. Hillel has written one of the most beautiful books on soil that has ever been published. This book introduces a little of soil science to the reader, but more than that, it fosters a love of the soil and an understanding about the magnitude and gravity of misuse and degradation; civilizations have paid little heed to the soil underfoot and it has cost them dearly. A delightful read!

Soils and Men, Yearbook of Agriculture 1938, © 1938, United States Department of Agriculture, The Committee on Soils. A government publication, no sane person will read from beginning to end! It is referenced here because it clearly shows the US government knew about the soil food web in 1938 and chose to ignore that information in favor of more commerce in chemical based fertilizers. We are at a point where ignoring the soil food web is too costly to continue.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition, © 2010 Timber Press, Lowenfels, Jeff and Lewis, Wayne. This is the second edition of the book that blew my eyes open on the biology of the soil and how we cannot ignore that biology plays at least as big a part of soil fertility as chemistry. We ignore biology to our own detriment and destroy our soils.

The Rodale Book of Composting, ©1992 Rodale Press, Martin, Deborah and Gershuny, Grace Editors. This is the only book to read on composting. Everything else is compostable. Only.

The Soul of Soil; A Guide to Ecological Soil Management, 2nd Edition, ©1986; Gaia Services, Gershuny, Grace. This fabulous and passionate book is injured by being targeted to farmers (only) and therefore all recommendations are written in “pound per acre,” when we need ounces per 100 square feet. When I used this book, I wrote up a formula in Excel to convert all these into a usable figure.

The Worst Hard Time, The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dustbowl © 2006; Mariner Reprint Edition, Egan, Timothy. Not strictly a soils book, but a real eye opener that shows how we are repeating many of the same mistakes today as what lead to the disaster we call the Dustbowl. This book is gripping reading and is not fiction. It really happened and it happened on a scale unprecedented in modern times. We can do it again if we fail to heed these words. A VERY good read on soils and man's relationship to them.

The Soil Triangle and It's Use

Taking soil samples for any kind of garden analysis should be done in a manner that will net you the results you need to make your garden more congenial to that part of the plant that lives in the soil – the roots. Roots for most of the plants in our gardens, live about 4 to 18 inches beneath the surface of the soil. Exceptions to this include most drought resistant plants (with roots that range some distance out and down) and other notoriously strong rooted plant – mention just about any weed and it will fall into that category. You want to take your sample around nine inches down. This method of taking a soil sample is effective for the soil triangle tests and is the preferred technique for soil samples sent to labs for testing.

What to do and How to do it

Follow these steps to determine the name of your soil texture:
1.Place the edge of a ruler at the point along the base of the triangle that represents the percent of sand in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.
2.Place the edge of a second ruler at the point along the right side of the triangle that represents the percent of silt in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.
3.Place the point of a pencil or water soluble marker at the point where the two rulers meet. Place the top edge of one of the rulers on the mark, and hold the ruler parallel to the horizontal lines. The number on the left should be the percent of clay in the sample.

4.The descriptive name of the soil sample is written in the shaded area where the mark is located. If the mark should fall directly on a line between two descriptions, record both names.

  • Remove as much surface organic matter as possible before taking your soil sample.
  • Put approximately one cup of soil into a straight-sided quart jar with lid.
  • Add approximately one tablespoon of alum or Calgon bath beads – this is a surfactant to help the particles separate from one another.
  • Fill the jar with water almost to the top.
  • Shake vigorously for several minutes to get all the soil moistened. 
  • Let the jar stand undisturbed for at least one hour, separation continues for as long as 24 hours with some soils.
  • The soil mix will separate into layers. The longer it sits, the more distinct the layers will appear.
    Determine soil type by comparing percentages with soil triangle. Follow arrows, for example—15% sand, 70% silt, and 15% clay—to merge at silty loam category.

    Practice Exercises:

    Use the following numbers to determine the soil texture name using the textural triangle. When a number is missing, fill in the blanks (note: the sum of %sand, silt and clay should always add up to 100%):

    % SAND
    75 10 15 sandy loam
    10 83 7



    52 21

    35 50

    30 55



    5 70



    45 10

    Sand will feel "gritty", while silt will feel like powder or flour.
    Clay will feel "sticky" and hard to squeeze, and will probably stick to your hand.
    Looking at the textural triangle, try to estimate how much sand, silt, or clay is in the sample.  
    Find the name of the texture to which this soil corresponds; that will be the descriptive name of your soil.
  • Understanding soil type will help you know how to properly amend, fertilize, water, and plant so that you will have healthy, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant plants.
  • Figure out the percentages of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter in the water – do not measure the water itself. The sand will be the bottom layer. Silt will be the next layer, followed by clay; the combination of these three should add up to 100%. Organic matter will float on top of the water and does not figure in the total of percentages.
All of your figures, clay + sand + silt will equal 100% or you have done something wrong. Remember, this simple knowledge of your soil will enable you to predict how it will interact with your plants and will determine a great deal about how you need to interact with your soil.

Contents of this site, text and photography, are copyrighted 2009 through 2017 by David King - permission to use must be requested and given in writing.