Green Bean Connection
Happy December Gardening & Happy Holidays!
December Winter Garden Harvests!
Magnificent Cabbages are Easy to Grow!
Grow Your Own Garden Worms, Harvest Valuable Castings!
Wonderful Gardener Style Holiday Gifts!
Other Community Gardens - Lower Sioux Indian Community Garden
Events! January 29 Santa Barbara 9th Annual SEED SWAP!
Dear Community Gardeners, Garden Friends,
It's 21 days to Winter Solstice! Happy Yule to those of you who celebrate it! Again, 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 November garden images!
Hasn't this rain been lovely?! Still, though, please WATER before 10:30 AM and after 4 PM. Use a watering sprinkler head or wand with a shutoff valve. Water at ground level rather than overhead watering other than to clean dusty plants. Berms need to go to the dripline of your plant so tiny subsurface feeder roots can fully supply your plant with water and nutrients it needs.
Plot Availability! As of Nov 28 we have 16 plots open at Yanonali Garden, 7 plots at Pilgrim Terrace, there is a waiting list of three for Rancheria ~ and they are worth waiting for! this is a perfect time to start, to get your soil ready for spring planting! Several people are asking me where Rancheria Community Garden is! Here is the map and directions.
If you or a friend would enjoy gardening at a community garden, please join us! December is great for planting two month plants and green manure so you will be ready for earliest spring planting starting in March! A 10 X 20 spot is only $65/year! YES! Go directly to the Westside Community Center, weekdays 10 to 4, to sign up. That's at 423 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara. We will be delighted to meet you, share friendship, the great outdoors, and garden craft!
Across-the-Plot Gardening Tips
December, Winter Garden Harvests!
Superb winter basket of favorites at Farmscape Gardens!
December is winter's June!
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 to 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. You might choose to pop in some beautiful chard or a potato patch in large open spots that become available. Some cabbages, especially the mini and early varieties, are headed tightly and ready to eat - slaw, steamed, dropped into soups.
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 are spicey! Carrots are splendid to eat at the garden, share with your pup, shred into salads, add to winter soups and stews, slice/chop/stick and freeze for later! Turnips are so unique a flavor you might want to eat them separately.
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!
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. 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. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings. An excellent way to get feeds to the roots is to push in a spade fork 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! Slow release is a wise consideration. Worm castings, though not food, work wonders with immunity and help germination!
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. 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 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. Uncovered shoulders look dry, are tough, sometimes bitter, and need peeling before cooking. Uncovered carrot shoulders don't ripen but stay green. Exposed parts of potatoes turn green. The green on potatoes is slightly poisonous, but not enough to do harm and it doesn't look good.
is important even in cool weather. Also, some plants simply like being moist ie chard, lettuce and short rooted peas. No swimming, just moist. Finger check your soil after rains to see if your soil is moist deeply enough. 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. 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. 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, chard and strawberries to keep mud splash off the leaves and berries. Also, it's good to remove pest habitat, let the soil dry a bit between rains to kill off wilts fungi, let Bagrada bug eggs die. Bag up, or pile and cover, clean uninfested summer straw, mulches, for compost pile layers during winter. Do not keep straw from areas where there have been infestations.
When you put in seeds, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs
from vanishing upcoming seedlings overnight, making you think they never came up! No, they didn't let you down. Killing off the creatures ahead of time saves the babies. It stops new transplants from being seriously damaged or entirely 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Chard and beets gets 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, remove infested leaves immediately! Beets are not a permanent crop, so they are planted closely. Simply harvest them at their leaves' prime.
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!
Do not compost diseased or infested leaves or plants.
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) become part of the soil organism community. If you do plant them, better to get transplants if you can, and shave six weeks of their needed gowing time to maturity.
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 turnips, Daikon winter radishes, and Napa cabbage. Otherwise, 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!!!
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.
Remember your winter companion planting
- Carrots enhance peas, onion family stunts peas
- Carrots thrive when Cilantro, Chamomile, Marigold are planted with them.
- Onions, leeks and chives help repel the carrot root fly. But remember you can't put the onion family near peas!
- Lettuces repel cabbage butterflies
- 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, dog and chickens), asparagus, and horseradish. Artichoke pups
need 3’ to 4’ space! 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!
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 plant you get per square foot 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. Those 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 29
, very soon! Get your seeds ready to share, and prepare your 'shopping' list!
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
. 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. 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 turn under, let 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!
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 a quick choice, here is the UCDavis Quick Guide to Fruits & Vegetables Storage:
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!
Happy December Gardening!
The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara's community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!
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Magnificent Cabbages are Easy to Grow!
Gorgeous Cabbage, Rancheria Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA Nov 27 after the rain.
Cabbages have high fiber content, low calories! They have terrific disease-fighting compounds
- cancer prevention, are high in Vitamins C and K, and have a host of minerals. They are not a cut and come again veggie like local chard or super Vitamin A kale or purslane with its Omega 3s. But they will grow back in mini foursomes or up to six if you cut the head off close to the bottom of the head, leaving the lower leaves. Work some rich manure into the first inch of soil, then treat your plant like you normally would! The new heads are always smaller. Perhaps it's better to remove and compost larger lower leaves, restore the soil and plant something new. But if your growing season is too short for multiple crops, this is a way of getting just a little more cabbage, and it is super tender!
We love that cabbage makes those super heads in a glorious profusion of amazing leaves! It has its own unique crunchy texture. Consider that they do take up a fair footprint for a one time crop. Some say cabbage is cheap, why grow it? Cause it's organic and it tastes terrific right from the ground! To some its sulfurous scent while cooking is overpowering (see below for ways to reduce that); to others it is heaven, what their family has always done! If you love it, you love it, and you might even get used to it!
Cabbage is in the cruciferous family, genus Brassica. The word "brassica" translates in Latin as "cabbage." Other brassicas are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens.
Tantalizing Startlingly Different Cabbage VARIETIES!
As climate changes, look for heat and drought tolerant
varieties if you will be growing them over summer.
Basic gorgeous greens
cabbage by far outdoes other cabbages in its cancer prevention properties. They have a concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which contribute to red cabbage containing significantly more protective phytonutrients than green cabbage. Interest in anthocyanin pigments continues to intensify because of their health benefits as dietary antioxidants, as an anti-inflammatory, and their potentially protective, preventative, and therapeutic roles in a number of human diseases.
Early Maturing Minis or HUGE!
Plant what you and your family can eat. Plant earlys for soonest treats, and longer maturing larger varieties to come in later. A couple delightful minis that can also be grown in containers are green Pixie Baby, and Red Express - 2 to 4 lb head, relatively split tolerant, only 63 days!
Huge varieties you can grow easily are Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage, Stein's Early Flat Dutch - 8 inch and larger heads weighing 10-12 pounds, a favored variety for kraut. If you really do want to grow giants, 80 lbs!, try Flatpol, Northern Giant, Giant Russian, OS Cross or Megaton!
Earthy tasting bumpy Savoys or Super Smooth leaved...
Savoy cabbage in particular—turns out to be an especially good source of sinigrin. Sinigrin is one of the cabbage glucosinolates that has received special attention in bladder, colon, and prostate cancer prevention research. Savoys are quite frost tolerant.
are the most recent historically, appearing on our tables by 1785. Really, they are mini cabbages conveniently along a stem! Santa Barbara weather generally doesn't get frosty enough to make B Sprouts happy, the sprouts are quite small. But if you don't mind the harvest time per the return, and you just love them, may they grace your table!
are another Brassica, but are not cabbages though they sure look like it! Napa cabbage is SO elegant! Very beautiful, all those long, pale leaves with ruffled edges. Or try the beautiful red, Scarlette F1shown above! Bok Choy, or pak choi
, is another leafy upright cabbageish plant eaten fresh in salads or steamed delicately. A lot of cabbage lovers love these plants too!
GROWING Your Cabbages!
Cabbages are easy to grow. Those seeds are so tiny you can hardly believe that great big plant came from one! Full sun and fat soil make them happy. In acidic soil, Red cabbage
leaves grow more reddish, in neutral soils they will grow purple, while an alkaline soil will produce rather greenish-yellow colored cabbages!
Select your planting area to accommodate your cabbages and
We have lots of tasty choices!
- Plant lettuces among your cabbages on the sunny side. Lettuces repel cabbage moths.
- Tomatoes and celery repel cabbage worms, but many sites say not to plant cabbies with toms.
- Nasturtium (attracts snails), onions, garlic, dill and borage act as an insect trap or repel harmful insects.
- Mustard greens among cabbage establishes a "trap" for moths and leafwebbers.
- Cabbage is not happy with Strawberries.
- Plant mint near peas, cabbage or tomatoes to improve their health and flavor, and mint oil repels insects, Plant the mint in a container! It's invasive.
- Chamomile attracts hoverflies and wasps, both pollinators and predators that feed on aphids and other pest insects.
- Cilantro repels aphids, potato beetles, and spider mites and makes cabbages/Brassicas grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller!
NOTE: Dying parts of the brassica family of plants, includes cabbages, produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing. Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce
, are especially affected by the brassica poison, so use transplants among your cabbages. A professor at the University of Connecticut said brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.
Prepare your soil well in advance if you are in cold challenged areas. Often soil prep is done in fall rather than losing time getting ready in spring if you have a short summer. In Alaska, long 20 hour days compensate for their very short growing season! In SoCal, you can plant cabbages year round - just select the right varieties for each season. They do better in cooler fall/winter weather though.
Cabbies are heavy feeders producing all those leaves! They like rich soil and steady attention! Composted manure, Chicken manure, timed-release vegetable ferts are terrific. Cabbages need steady weather and regular watering for steady growth. Too much N (Nitrogen), too much water, makes the plant tender and weak - susceptible to pests. 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week does the job if it doesn’t rain. But an Alaskan planter says her cabbages will take a gallon of water on a long hot day when fully growing. Depends on where you are and how big your plant is. She grows giants.
Here's her cabbage soil planting hole recipe! Peat moss (holds water), a pail of sand (if soil is heavy remove some before mixing), 2 cups bone meal, 4-6 cups of composted steer manure, 2 cups wood ashes, a couple heaping tablespoons of Epsom salt (Magnesium) & powdered milk (calcium), maybe a little lime (to raise pH to deter clubroot). Your soil is likely different and you aren't likely growing giants, so do your own formula, but if you are raising giants, be generous, they are going to need it plus feedings!
After she plants... When its all watered and settled sprinkle a good cup of wood ashes around the new stem and nearby. This helps with bugs early when plants are at first weaker. Then I sprinkle Blood meal around in the moat off and on all summer, as its a quick nitrogen fix. I also use a little composted manure soaked in the water can and generous amount of fish emulsion in the summer watering. Fish is a slower acting fertilizer but cabbages seem to love it!
Here's a tip from UK giant grower David Thomas: Water lodging in the base of the leaf?
Rather than removing a huge leaf that contributes to your plant's growth, his way around this is to simply poke a hole in the lowest part of the leaf to let the water drain away (not through the main vein).
If you are planting minis, 2' spacing is good. If you are going for giants, 8' spacing is needed! If you want maximum size, give them plenty of room. Crowding stunts plants as they shade each other out. Depending on the variety you plant, done right, in 82 days (3 months) you can get a 30 to 50 lb cabbage! In 2012, Scott Robb of Palmer, Alaska, broke the world record for heaviest cabbage at 138.25 lbs!
He holds five current world records for his large vegetables.
Select your seeds
. Remember, AAS, All America Selections
winners are prime! 2016's cabbage winner is Katarina F1,
an early maturing green 4" mini, container variety - but you can plant it in the ground too!
from your local nursery. Locals are better than box stores because they select varieties that do well in your area and they want your success and repeat business means a lot to them. Transplanting tips from David Thomas: I tear off all of the roots that are swirling around in the shape of the pot, this sounds a bit drastic and I would never treat a pumpkin plant in this way but on a cabbage it actually increases root growth. I plant the cabbage up to the base of the lowest leaf, the buried stem will also send out roots.
Plant smart! Succession!
Plant seeds and transplants of minis and bigger longer maturers at the same time to have a grand succession of fresh cabbages for your table.
, less if it rains. But, too much watering makes for a soft plant that invites sucking pests like those aphids
. Keep a look out for any curling leaves. Get in there and look, front and back of leaves, and in the new leaf zone in the center. Hose them away immediately and keep doing it day after day until they are gone. If you see ants about tending the aphids sprinkle cinnamon around. Aphids can totally runt your plants, they often don't recover, so don't ignore them and just hope they will go away. See all about them UC - IPM
- Pick off any yellowing leaves that attract whiteflies that get into your other plants. UC - IPM Worm castings work well against whiteflies.
- Slugs love getting into the lower leaves of cabbage heads. The slugs are so protected in there. Grrrr.... Early on lay on a Sluggo like pellet to stop them before they get started! When your cabbage head is right around its maturity date and the head is good and firm, harvest it! When a plant is past its prime, diseases, pests and birds start doing their own harvesting.
- Holes in cabbage’s leaves are a sure sign that cabbage worms or cabbage loopers may be attacking your plant. Look for these camouflaged green pests on the underside of leaves and pick them off.
- Tiny holes? Flea beetles - Dust with wood ash or flour dust.
If you think they need it, give your cabbies a feed when they start to head up. It may be that if you put a ring of granular nitrogen around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, you will be able to grow bigger heads of vegetables than you would without the nitrogen. Usually though, your soil will be ample.
I put the plant date and days to maturity on my plant id tags so I can check to see when to expect mature heads. The squeeze test tells you if it is firm and ready. Storing them on the plant a short time is okay, but otherwise the slugs, etc., get to them, the leaves start losing their verve, the head dries a bit and doesn't have that bursting fresh feel! If you wait too long, the head may crack or split. If it cracks, take it immediately and salvage what you can. Cut the heads off, don't bruise them by pulling them.
STORE your cabbies
in the fridge! Anthony Reyes at FarmScape Gardens says: Remove any loose surrounding leaves and keep just the compact head. It is important to note that the quality of the stem diminishes after being stored and tends to get slightly woodier the longer it is stored. Therefore, if you would like to eat the stem (which is delicious!) do so before freezing/storing for prolonged periods (it will still be good to eat, just a little bit woodier and sometimes stringy). Place in a paper or plastic bag with some holes in it to let moisture escape. This is important as you want to keep an aerobic environment to prevent excess moisture, condensation from transpiration, and mold from forming.
Cabbage must be kept separated from other cole crops by a mile to prevent cross-pollination. That is impossible in a community garden. Better there to buy new seed each year. Another factor to consider is cabbages are mostly self-infertile. For seedsaving purposes they need to be planted in groups of at least 10 or more. For most of us that isn't going to happen. Then, you need two years to do it! Cabbages, like all the Brassicas - broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts - are biennials
. So unless you have some extreme weather shifts, and they flower early, you wait overwinter. A week of hot weather and these cabbages below quickly bolted from no heads yet to flowering stalks. If you have had the opportunity to save seeds, lucky you! They are viable 2 - 4 years.
In normal conditions, after overwintering, in spring, new cabbage shoots burst strangely out of the unharvested cabbage heads, flower stalks form, then seeds are made in their second year. The seeds are easy to harvest, but get them before the birds do! Collect the dry seed pods. In a baggie, rub them between your hands to pop them open to save them. Leave any green ones in the pod tips.
DELICIOUS WAYS TO EAT CABBAGE!
In one recent study (post undated), short-cooked and raw cabbage were the only types of cabbage to show cancer-preventive benefits - long-cooked cabbage failed to demonstrate measurable benefits.
Fresh Cole Slaw
is best! Make it your way! You might mix red cabbage, pepper, shredded carrots, onion, grated cheese, pineapple, or apple. Your dressing could be a vinaigrette, mayonnaise, sour cream or cream with celery seed added. Slaw shapes are different - finely minced pieces, shredded strips, or even small squares! Buttermilk coleslaw is a southern United States treat!
If you don't like that sulfur smell, do it quick! Cut into thin 1/4" slices or wedges, drop into boiling water, simmer 10 to 15 minutes until just tender ~ or steam. Drain and serve right now! Or if you don't need it right away, chill in ice water, drain, wrap for later. The European Sour version is to cook your cabbage in apple juice, cider, white wine or water and wine vinegar, using just enough liquid to cover the cabbage. You let the liquid cook away leaving tender richly flavored cabbage! When cooking red cabbage it will normally turn blue. To retain that marvelous red color add vinegar or acidic fruit.
Put chunks in Soups & Stews, Stuff Leaves filled with whatever your heart desires, pickle, do classic Sauerkraut or super healthy Probiotics!
I love the subtleties of cabbage. Their colors. Writer Edna Ferber
says '...always, to her, red and green cabbages were to be jade and burgundy, chrysoprase and porphyry.' Cabbages more or less 'sit' compared to other veggies, collecting power from the ground up, expanding slowly and quietly from the inside - called 'hearting up.' They are working astonishingly hard making so many leaves!
Each leaf harmonizes completely with the leaf next to it so the head is firm.
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Grow Your Own Garden Worms, Harvest Castings!
Since 1990, City Farmer and the City of Vancouver have held worm composting workshops for City of Vancouver residents who live in apartments. For $25 participants get a worm bin, 500 worms (1 lb), Mary Appelhof’s book “Worms Eat My Garbage”, a trowel, bedding and a one-hour class. Now that’s a deal!
Worm Castings are true BLACK GOLD to your garden soil, and high quality store-bought castings are just about as expensive! For good reasons. Worm castings are literally living! Worm castings host ten to twenty times as much microbial activity than plain soil! They cause seeds to germinate more quickly, seedlings to grow faster, leaves grow bigger, more flowers, fruits and vegetables are produced. Castings contain 5 times the available nitrogen, 7 times the available potash and 1 1/2 times more calcium than that found in 12" of topsoil. These nutrients are also water-soluble and immediately available to the plant. Most potting soils have a nutrient life for 2 to 5 days, where worm castings will last up to 6 times as long.
Vermicompost suppresses several diseases on cucumbers, radishes, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes and peppers, according to research from Ohio State extension entomologist Clive Edwards. It also significantly reduced parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealy bugs and mites. These effects are greatest when a smaller amount of vermicompost is used—just 10-40% of the total volume of the plant growth medium is all that is needed, 25% is ideal!
The right kind of worms are RED WIGGLERS! They forage on debris at the surface. They are smaller than earthworms that live IN the earth. Fishermen use them for bait. Ask your fellow gardeners to give you a handful to get started, go to the bait shack, ask at the farmers market, or support your local organic worm dealer! The little guys live 1 to 2 years. My clew (colony) has been going strong for 15 years now.
Worms are easy to raise or you can use a complex system. You can start them anytime, indoors or out depending on temps. Here in SoCal Santa Barbara mine live outside all year in full sun, brief freezes. They are more active when they are warmer. Soy inked newspaper is often used for bedding to start a clew. Worms are 90% water, so keep the bedding moist. My worms get all the moisture they need from the juicy kitchen bits I feed them and I cover them with their black plastic blankie inside the container to keep them moist! If your bin is stinky, you may be overfeeding or watering too much. Maybe increase the size of the air openings or put your bin where there is more circulation, or out of the shade into a sunny area.
Housing! This bin is great for at home gardeners or children's school projects! The worms are safe from predators, access is easy, any liquid, leachate, worm tea, drains into the lid below. I use a longer bin about the same height.
Since Red Wigglers, Eisenia Foetida, are surface foragers, these worms need width, not depth. Mine live in a low 4′ by 2′ opaque dark grey storage container. I put holes in the bottom to allow the leachate to drain out and from time to time I move the bin to another location to enrich the soil, each area getting some of that good stuff! I put holes about 6 to 8" apart along the sides near the top. The wormies get air flow and on hot days hot air vents out. Inside the container I cover them with a large black plastic bag to keep it moist and dark for them. They feed all the way to the top because they feel safe in the dark where no birds can see them!
I do have a shaped-to-the-base piece of 1/4" hardware cloth, a wire mesh, around the bottom of my box to prevent mice or rats from gnawing into the holes in the bottom of the box. Worms are gourmet for them! Sprinkle cinnamon about if you have ants.
How to Start! Select your container or system.
- If you choose a container, get one made of opaque material, a dark color if it is available. Worms like dark, just like under the leaves, in the topsoil, in nature. Make 1/4" or less diameter holes in the bottom and near the top of the sides or as needed. If you put holes in the container lid, rainwater will go in, perhaps flooding your worms. A hot stove flame heated very large screwdriver blade is quick and perfect for making holes in plastic containers. Push the screwdriver in and twist. If your container will be indoors, you will need a tray underneath to collect drippings.
- Put in 4 to 6" of moist shredded soy ink newspaper bedding, no bleached office papers. Soak the paper overnight, then wring it out so it is moist like a wrung out sponge, fluff it up. Add some leaves if you have them, and what kitchen trim you might have been saving. If the kitchen stuff is a little funky that's best because your worms feed on bacteria!
- Add your worms!
- Feed your worms slowly at first. As your worms multiply, give them more chow. Bury food scraps to keep fruit flies away.
- Your worms want dark and moist. Cover them with cardboard or another material so they will feed to the top. I tuck them in with a large black plastic garbage bag to keep them moist.
- Mist the paper as needed to keep it from drying out.
They like decomposing kitchen waste with the exceptions of spicy, salty, acidic citrus, sulfuric onion, dairy makes the bin smell, oils and meats (too tough). No junk food. Coffee filters, grounds in moderation, lightly ripped teabags are good - the nylon kind don't decompose, but not too many of those because they are acidic, and veggies like things a tad alkaline. Things cut into smaller pieces decompose faster. Harder or tougher items take a long time. No grape stems, corn cobs, avo or mango pits. They do love the avo shells though and nest in them. Crushed egg shells keep the pH neutral. Cooked rice, bread, pastas and pizzas. Go wild with potato and carrot peelings, carrot tops, funky lettuce, squash, and, a favorite, melon rinds for dessert. Fridge clean outs are perfect for your worms! If you have doubt about an item, don't.
You can easily see when they have run out of food. Feed them sooner than that, or they might be hungry a few days, even die. They eat the bacteria on what you give them. They can’t eat raw food until it decomposes a bit, so feeding them sooner is crucial.
Once your bin is started, there is absolutely no reason to continue to feed them newspaper or cardboard. The quality of what you feed your worms is the health of your worms and the quality of your castings. Real nutrients - kitchen scraps, plant trimmings - like the organic wastes of nature, give you excellent castings in return.
Worms will eat non nutritious cardboard and lots of other things, but why? Better to recycle that in other ways.
If you are an indoor gardener, keep your clew small. If you are an outdoor gardener, you may be hard pressed to produce enough castings! Hit up your friends that juice and make smoothies for a steady supply of high quality fresh organic veg and fruit trims and bits. I have dedicated recycle friends who bring plastic bags and wide mouth containers of veggie trim. They tie bags loosely so it's easy for me to open and feed to the kids. I, in turn, share veggies when I have extra, sometimes planting a little more, or one of their favorites for them.
Harvest the bumpy like little castings - they look like fluffy coffee grounds. You've seen them, often after a rain...earthworms push them up in little piles. I use an old coffee container with a handle. Take the ‘blanket’ off your worms. Give them about 5 minutes to dive out of the light. Gather the castings at the top. Wait a few more minutes for them to dive again, then gather some more. Only the castings are taken; the worms are the workers!
Oh, are you spooked because worms are 'slimy?' Get some thin rubber gloves. No problem.
At times you will see little yellow eggs, cocoons among the castings. Each holds 4-6 1/2" long teensy baby worms and hatches in about 23 days. It's crazy to try to separate them all out. Nevermind. Some of them will hatch in your garden and you will have a small population of red wigglers there too! Do they mate? Yep, they have to so they can make eggs. Lucky for us, they are hermaphroditic and can mate with any other worm they meet!
Feeding Your Plants ~ Optimum growth is in a soil ratio of 1:4, that’s 25% castings, 75% soil. However it has been shown that even 10% of wormcast shows significant difference in plant growth. Using over 40% castings, plant growth performance is stunted and may even appear worse off than having no wormcast at all. A wise gardener knows more is not always better. And, your precious castings will go further.
I walk about my garden to see who might need some castings, or where I plan to plant next. Scratch out a shallow area on one side of your plant, leaving as many tiny surface feeder roots intact as possible. Most veggie annuals do all their root growing in the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. Spread some castings in, cover them with the soil you dug out. After you have used all the castings, water the areas lightly so the castings stay covered and moist. It's like making and giving them worm tea in place! Remember, 25% is the ideal ratio.
How Castings Work! Castings are not exactly a fertilizer, ie their available N, Nitrogen, content is only 1.80 – 2.05 %, yet their NPK value is much higher than soil! NPK are the main minerals your plants need. The NPK in castings is locked in the cast, and slowly released as micro-organisms break it down. This is much better for plants, because it takes time for them to uptake nutrients. They can’t do it all at once. What they do uptake, they can do easily and immediately.
Vermicompost nutrients and minerals are significantly higher (with Nitrates up to 9 times higher) than garden soil. This creates electro-conductivity, in turn creating more salts in vermicompost. When there is too much salt in soil, it sucks water from plant roots resulting in the ‘burning’ of plants. Although there aren’t enough salts in vermicompost to do that (it is much more common in chemical fertilizers), using too much wormcast can stunt plant growth.
Worm castings have much higher percentages of humus than either soil or compost, which helps the castings hold more water and stay aerated, while also providing binding sites for micronutrients that would otherwise wash out of soil during heavy rains. Mineral clusters that castings form combine in such a way that they can withstand water erosion and compaction, and, increase water retention! Castings hold 2 to 3 times their weight in water! If you are in a drought area, especially add them when you add compost or Sphagnum peat moss. All three increase water holding capacity. In summer, mulching keeps your soil moist also!
A clever gardener will make a drain at one end of the worm box and collect the worm tea! Check out Bentley’s post for some of the finer details to consider and how to process your leachate for maximum results. If you aren’t doing worm tea, move your worm box from time to time so that juice can drip into your soil, making it rich and nutritious at each location. Plants will grow like crazy in those spots!
Here's another way ~ Per Rodale, 'One excellent use of castings is in a liquid plant tonic. Put 1 pint/2 cups of castings in a bucket. Add a gallon of warm water and a spoonful of molasses. Stir this well, and stir it frequently over the course of 24 to 48 hours. Dilute the resulting liquid at the ratio of 1 part tea to 4 parts water and use it to water container plants and fruit trees. You can use it in your vegetable beds, but they should already be well nourished by compost and thus don't need it as much. It’s best to use all of your worm tea in a week or so.' Another simple way is 1 cup Worm Castings for every gallon of water and wait 1 week.
A good tip! If you enjoy making worm castings, compost, fish/kelp tea mixes, and want to feed your plants but minimize damage to their roots and soil structure, get yourself a spade fork, or if you have a lot of territory, a broad fork like in the image! Push it down into the soil, rock it back and forth slightly to make holes, pour in your soup! You will hear the soil organisms dancing!
Plant recovery testimonial! L.A. Times, 5/27/00, Julie Bawden Davis: “Convinced that nothing could help a whitefly infested hibiscus in my garden that had been struggling for two years, I spread a one inch layer of worm castings around the plant. A month later I noticed that the whitefly population had dwindled. Three weeks later there were absolutely no whiteflies on the plant. It’s now back to its healthy self and producing lots of blooms.”
To my delight, visitors often wonder if I have named my worms! We all laugh and I show them more worms! Oh, and how do you get more worms?! Worms are hermaphrodites, meaning each worm has both male and female reproductive parts. The worm does have to mate in order to reproduce, but, every worm they meet is a potential mate. When a worm gets to be about six weeks old it forms a white band around its head, called a clitellum, this is where their reproductive organs are located.
Under ideal circumstances, worm populations can double in a month. They begin breeding at 2 months old, are capable of producing 96 babies each month. Worms have a brain and five hearts. Worms breathe through their skin. They have neither eyes nor ears but are extremely aware of vibrations such as thumps or banging on the composter. Please try not to disturb them unnecessarily. Worms are odorless and free from disease.
Keep the depth of your clew between 6 and 8 inches. If you reach capacity, give some to friends starting vermicomposting, feed some to the chickens, or just turn 'em loose in nature. But, another way to put your worms to work is to add handfuls to areas where you are composting in place or right into your composter! I keep my compost pile covered with thick opaque plastic amendments bags so the worms will work at the top of the pile too! Them and compost speeding herbs like comfrey and yarrow will perk your compost right up. Just keep the pile or area moist.
Those little yellow lemon-shaped beads are worm cocoons. Your worms are happy and breeding. Decomposers - mites, pot worms and tiny black beetles - may join the family. That's good. They’re all doing the same work, and the worms don’t mind the company.
Vacation?! Feed them well, and add fresh bedding if they need it. That will hold them for a couple weeks.
Worm Economics and Education! Vermiculture has become common practice. Private Worm Farms abound! Universities and schools have educational programs, cities have programs, zoos, private organizations proudly tell their story. Websites assist you about raising your own or starting your own business.
Buying Castings! No time for one more thing to do?! Get your castings from a reputable organic seller, support local worm cast sellers. There are many great companies with high quality castings today. Don’t confuse an amendment with castings in the ingredient list, with a bag or bucket of pure castings. Remember, a little bit of the right stuff goes a long way. Give them to your indoor plants too.
Whether for prevention, abundant growth, recovery or economics, worm castings are fabulous. Worms work for free, and are permaculture sustainable! They can consume about 1/2 of their weight each day, turning our food waste into a high quality powerful garden amendment!
I love Anna de la Vega's site name, The Urban Worm! The name reminds us everyone can raise worms, whether at your garden or in a special system in your kitchen! Castings can be used outdoors or in your favorite indoor container plantings! Your plants will be healthier, blooms prolific!
I was more than surprised to find myself raising worms! But the rewards are wonderful and I have come to cherish the amazing little creatures! If you have hovered over the thought of becoming a worm steward, perhaps now is a good time to start!
Names or not, love your worms!
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11.26.16 Revised and expanded from 5.17.14 post
Wonderful Gardener-Style Holiday Gifts!
Whether you make it or buy it, silly to sensible, it will be so appreciated! If you shop, Shop Green! Support your local businesses, nurseries and events as much as possible. Have fun, make new good friends!
Keep these lists handy for the holidays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, birthdays, Summer Solstice, any special occasion! It’s wonderful and rewarding to share for a good green cause!
Gifts From Your Garden, Heart to Heart!
Fresh holiday table veggies ie Sweet Potatoes!
A fresh gathered Bouquet Garni tied with a bright ribbon
Seeds! Grow transplants as gifts ~
Plants, with a bow on the container, a cut-and-come-again lettuce bowl
Canned or dehydrated favorites, dated and labeled
Colorful super tasty organic preserves make them want more!
Herbal seasonings, teas, dusting powders, salves
Herbal shampoo – sage darkens your hair, chamomile lightens
Herbal pillows, sachets
Selection of scented candles, lovely herbal soaps
Herbed vinegars & oils are simple to make, and beautiful! In white wine or rice vinegars:
- Lavender is rose red
- Nasturtium flowers release neon orange
- Sage in flower & purple basil are magenta!
Classic spicy Orange Pomander balls
Lovely Winter Wreath, a fall dried bouquet
Special gift for a really busy person who wants to eat right! Fresh organic salad in a Mason jar? Yum!
Gifts To Your Favorite Gardener with Love!
- A Gift Certificate offering your precious time weeding, turning in amendments, planting edible flowers, offer to haul that straw bale – you must kneel down and do as you are told! Just kidding! But it could be a lot of fun….
- Local services, like an hour of time on something that takes a little more doing than one person would like to do alone, or a consult with your local sustainable landscaper! Hey, it’s a win/win! It’s sustainable and makes you all happy! Trifecta!
- A Gift Certificate to a garden supply house, favorite nursery!
- Garden supplies – Easy ready-made bags or some of your genuine homemade organic compost, worms or worm castings! Special potting mixes, fertilizers, compost. Straw Bales. A composter!
- Catalogs for Organic Seeds - it's soon to be ordering time!!!
- Seeds for any SoCal season! Packets, or gather from your own garden! Put in pretty little jars – label and tie with a bright festive bow. Some may be used for seasoning, some for planting!
- Get that pretty trellis they have been eyeing!
- Garden tools - Fiskars pruning shears, a long snouted Dramm watering can? A garden tool apron, tool pail? Kneeling bench!
- A fantastic Garden Basket
- Fashionable garden garb – colorful muck boots, clogs, comfy knee pads, colorful gloves, a lovely hat!
- Lovely resting chair with umbrella, seating area furniture. Ah...and garden plates and mugs.
- That adorable scarecrow!
- The perfect lightweight but strong workhorse wheelbarrow
- Buy or build them a greenhouse!
- Take them to that out-of-town nursery or fabulous botanic garden they always wanted to visit!
- Send your friend to a green seminar or conference
- Give a magazine/ezine subscription or some wished for books – cookbooks, historic gardens, how tos, California Master Gardener Handbook!
- A garden club membership. Stand them the Community Garden fee!
So many rewarding options ~ and there are many more!
Oh, and don’t forget to leave your own garden shopping list lying about the house…. If someone tries to discourage you from buying something on the list, let them. Who knows what will show up with a bow on it?!
Garden love and support to all you givers and receivers! As Will Allen of Growing Power says….there is something very Spiritual about touching the soil, that’s where life begins. I agree. Let’s stay in touch.
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Other Community Gardens!
Lower Sioux Indian Community Garden!
NHNA Native Health News Alliance - Promoting Indigenous Health
The Lower Sioux Indian Community
is a federally-recognized Indian tribe located in south central Minnesota
in Redwood County, approximately two miles south of Morton. The Community Center is located on the southern bluffs of the Minnesota River Valley.
The garden serves as a gathering space that speaks to the interconnectedness of the Lakota people — or Mitakuye Oyasin,
a Lakota saying meaning, ‘All are related.’
When my cousin who lives next door to me does better, I’m going to do better, so when all of these people in our community eat better and take better care of themselves, it’s going to be better for all of us.
In collaboration with the American Indian Cancer Foundation
(AICAF), the Lower Sioux Indian Community is developing a sustainable food system policy to improve community health outcomes. Cancer is their leading cause of death.
The community garden is only one part of their leaders' efforts.
Chief among health issues causes are policy and environmental issues, like how health and wellness are perceived by members of the community, the kinds of foods being served at powwows and other events, and the lack of access to convenient healthy foods. Tribal members often voice challenges in finding healthy snack alternatives in particular. One thing they would love to have is more convenient access, so they can walk to the convenience store and grab fresh fruit.
In addition to asking stores to provide healthier snacks and planting a sustainable garden, other objectives guiding the advisory committee’s work include:
- Encouraging the tribal council to change policies that prioritize healthier foods at meetings, gatherings and events
- Offering healthier food and beverage options in all vending machines on the reservation
- Creating opportunities for learning by offering classes in traditional foods, gardening and harvesting
- Asking tribal members to bring healthy dishes to feasts, powwows and events
The hope is their work extends beyond the boundaries of their reservation and from one generation to the next.
These goals are a good model for us all!
Their mission: “To ensure the health, welfare, and safety of tribal members while protecting and conserving the earth’s natural resources for today’s and future generations.”
Upcoming Garden Events!
Walk or bike to events as possible! Heal the land, heal yourself.
FREE Santa Barbara 9th Annual SEED SWAP!
Start thinking of next summer's plantings. Process your seeds to share. Get some envelopes! Donate to our local Permaculturists to bring a Saturday night special speaker!
The magic of seeds, they are our past, they are our future. Please join us for the FREE 9th Annual Santa Barbara Community Seed Swap on Sunday, January 29, 2017, 11am-3pm at the downtown Santa Barbara Central Library. Come be a part of this seed saving movement, making sure that locally adapted varieties of seed & plants are passed on to future generations. More info: contact email@example.com
The last Saturday of January every year is National Seed Swap Day! This year that happens to also be Chinese New Year of the Rooster, January 28! 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!
Choosing Seeds, Catalogs to Seed Swaps!
Leave a wild place, untouched, in your garden! It’s the place the faeries and elves, the little people can hang out. When you are down on your hands and knees, they will whisper what to do. All of a sudden an idea pops in your mind….
In the garden of thy heart, plant naught but the rose of love. – Baha’U’Uah
"Earth turns to Gold in the hands of the Wise" Rumi