Cerena writes to help new gardeners get started,
remind experienced gardeners to plant at the best times, inspire us to try new techniques!  Being outdoors gardening is healthy
for our bodies and spirits, provides the most nutritious organic veggies right on your table with no food miles at all! 

Green Bean Connection

Here's to a Lovely Green New Year!

February, Very First Spring Planting!
Chard, an Elegant Colorful Pleasure!
Everyday Gardening - Free Therapy & Lots of Healing
Seeds@City Urban Farm, San Diego City College! 
Events!  Earth Day!

Dear Pilgrim Terrace Gardeners, Garden Friends,

The Seed Swap was a huge success! In a total downpour, it was buns to buns standing room only at times! All the seeds and cuttings were taken, there were generous sharings! My talk was well attended, I got the Romanesco Zucchini seeds I was hoping to find, along with some other treats including cilantro seeds I was out of, and a locally grown loofa! A lot of people were from out of town, so good to see gardener friends ~ the music was great! Congratulations to Oscar Carmona for his Seed Savers Hero Award! Happy planting to you all!

A big Thank You to Tim Cunningham, Plot 38, for clearing away the dangerous debris at the gate left from the tree fall! 

After the recent rains, baby everything is coming up, including baby weeds! A hula hoe was made for the job of removing them while they are small. It's light work, fast, also loosens the top layer so water can't wick up and evaporate! Do it 2, 3 times a few days apart and you will be weed free! Perfect time to do our pathways!

January rainy Garden Images and more!

If you or a friend would enjoy gardening at a community garden, please join us! Get going right now - February is a super month to get started! 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

February, Very First Spring Planting!

Radish Sprouts looking at the Sky!
Radish Sprouts looking at the Sky!
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

This year my summer strategy is to plant tall in the West to filter sunlight, give shorter plants respite from the hot afternoon sun, keep them a bit cooler, keep the soil a bit cooler, more moist. Last summer, record HOT, our crops were done in July and we had so much heat, fall planting wasn't successful until the end of October. Hopefully my strategy will give a longer growing period this year.
  • Plan to put indeterminate tomatoes and pole beans in vertical cages or on sturdy trellises on the western border. Indeterminate tomatoes are an excellent choice! They are water savers since no time is lost starting more determinate/bush tomato varieties, having periods of no crop while waiting for them to fruit. Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of dandelions!
  • Next, intermingle mid height plants, bush beans, determinate tomatoes - good choice for canning, tall peppers like Big Jim Anaheim or Polanos, zucchini - try the prolific heirloom, star shaped Costata Romanesco! Potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs. Radish with cukes & zukes to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Leave a broccoli or two, that will get taller, on the West side, for salad side shoots.
  • Leave a couple kale that will get taller on the West side. They will produce all summer long. Plant lettuces on the sunny side under your brocs and kale.
  • Plan to put cucumbers up on mini trellises to keep them disease free and clean, and so they ripen evenly all the way around. 
  • Scatter the 'littles' among them on the sunny side. Some of them will be done before the bigger plants leaf out. When the bigger plant leaves start shading out the ones below, harvest strategic large lower leaves.
  • Lower plants like eggplant, like a little humidity, so snuggle them among, in front of tall chards, maybe some curly leaf kale behind the chard. Radishes with eggplants/cucumbers as a trap plant for flea beetles.
  • Leave room for some arugula, cilantro, chamomile, a carrot or two, and a celery to go to flower to bring bees and beneficials! Besides being beautiful and having lovely scents, let them seed out for seeds for next plantings. Carrots love being with cilantro and chamomile!
  • If you love cabbages, plant a few more, but they take up a fair footprint for what they produce and they take quite awhile to do it. Plant quick maturing varieties. You can do better by planting drought tolerant prolific producers! These are the top 5: Indeterminate tomatoes, pole beans, Zucchini Dark Star, Giant Fordhook chard and Thousand Headed Kale!
  • In the East put in your shorties. Beets and carrots there and among the big plants. Bunch onions away from beans. Strawberries and lettuces. Radish.
  • Pumpkin, melon, winter squash vines require some thoughtfulness. Pumpkin and winter squash vine leaves get as huge as zucchini leaves, easily a foot wide! Mini melons have dainty 2" wide little leaves, can be trellised, are definitely low to the ground, can be quite smaller than strawberries! A healthy winter squash vine can easily be 3' to 4' wide, 30' long plus side vines, and produce a major supply of squash! You can use them as a border, as a backdrop along a fenceline. In SoCal, unless you are a squash lover, or won't be gardening in winter, there is question as to why you would grow winter squash at all. Greens of all kinds grow prolifically here all winter long, giving a fresh and beautiful supply of Vitamin A.  
Planning now is important because not all these plants are installed at the same time. Planting in the right places now makes a difference. Zucchini, cool tolerant tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and corn can be started now, by seed, in the ground. March is a little warmer and early variety plants get a better start. April is most everything - cucumber, pepper, squash, beans, more tomatoes, watermelon. May is the true heat lovers, cantaloupe, okra (June may be better yet), eggplant. Some gardeners wait to plant tomatoes until May and June to avoid the soil fungi of earlier months. I hold that space by planting something temporary there in March. 

In spaces needing to be held for later, ie if you are planting okra in June, grow plants that are quick and prolific producers grown for their leaves. They produce continuously, and can be removed when you want the space. You will have lush harvests while you are waiting. Think of kales, chard, lettuce, beets, even mini dwarf cabbages. Perhaps you will leave some of them as understory plants and plant taller peppers like Poblanos or Big Jim Anaheims, and tomatoes among them. When the larger plants overtake the understory, either harvest the smaller plants, or remove or harvest lower leaves of larger plants and let the smaller ones get enough sun to keep producing. Super use of your space.

The weather is warming rapidly, January ground temp at Pilgrim Terrace is 51-55 degrees, and likely we will have another HOT summer, so our planting times may be earlier, but, again, remember, day length is still important. No matter how early you plant some plants, they still won't produce fruit until they have enough hours of sun, and for some, warmth including day and/or night and/or ground temps. If they miss their window, they may never produce at all.... Keep growing those leafy producers - lettuce, chard, kale - in that space and plant the right plants at the right good time! See Best Soil Temps

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

Right now, from seed, sow beets, caraway, celery, carrots, chard, chervil, chives, collards, cilantro (coriander), dill, endive, fennel, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, mustards, green onions, bulb onion sets, flat-leafed parsley, peas - mildew resistant varieties, white potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, and turnips. With our temp changes, get bolt resistant/slow bolt varieties, and especially drought tolerant varieties. 
Along with deciding plant locations, get ready for Summer Gardening!
  • Install pathways, berms. You may have to do some rearranging if you decide to plant tall West.
  • Waffle Garden, basins & windbreaks, Water Garden. Excellent drought choices.
  • Gather cages & trellises
  • Terrace slopes - prevents water runoff and topsoil loss
  • Build raised beds, Hugelkultur
  • Get new containers, pallets, boards, wire for bird protection
  • Organize where you will keep straw bales for summer mulch 
  • Setup Compost areas - enclosures, area to compost in place
Spring planting soil prep!   
  • Add compost & amendments to your soil all at the same time.
  • Add well aged manure as appropriate. Less in spring because you want fruit production, not leaf, unless it is a plant grown for its leaves, like lettuce, kale or cabbage! None for carrots, peas or beans.
  • Add 25% worm castings. As little as 10% works. They are potent, help with plant immunities to disease.
  • Adding guanos high in P, Phosphorus, at planting time helps your plants continue to bloom LATE in the season! Jamaican bat is high P phosphorus (blooms) 1-10-0.2.
  • Sprinkle with a tad of coffee grounds to reduce wilts fungi.
  • Don't cover with mulch unless you need it for erosion control. Covered soil is cooler. Let your winter cool soil warm up. 
  • Water your prepped areas when you water your other veggies. Moist, not flooded soil is rampant with life!
One more round of green manure is doable. Grow it where you will grow heavy summer feeders like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, chilis, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and corn; hungry stalk vegetables like celery, fennel, rhubarb, and artichokes; or continually producing green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard. Green manure can be beautiful favas, bell beans, or a vetch mix to boost soil Nitrogen. Favas are big and you get a lot of green manure per square foot. With our warming weather, longer days, your green manure will grow quickly! As soon as it begins to flower, whack it down, chop into small bits and turn under. It's more tender to chop then. Taller is not better. Wait two to three weeks and plant, plant, plant!

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


  • 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.
  • Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make on chard and beet leaves. Remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest the bigger outer lower leaves more often to stay ahead of the miners. Water a tad less so leaves are less soft and inviting.
  • Hose APHIDS off chard, kale and brocs. Keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed. 

    For hard to get at places, down the centers of chard, crinkly kale leaves, get out that spray bottle! Treat once, wait a couple days, treat the ones that got away and newborns.

    I tried it, it WORKS! The simplest is to spray with 2 Parts alcohol, 2 parts water, 1 part  soap. DO NOT use on seedlings, it will kill some of them. Spritz lightly rather than drenching or you may kill your bigger plant too!

    Lemon Spray
    It kills the aphids on contact. Grate the rind of a large lemon. Boil it in enough water to fill a garden spray bottle. Let the mixture sit overnight. Strain the liquid into the garden spray bottle. Spray the aphids and larvae directly. It's over for them.

    Vinegar Spray
    Get out a spray bottle and fill it 1/3 of the way with distilled white vinegar and the rest of the way with water. This will kill the aphids and larvae on contact. Some plants react badly to the vinegar. It's important know which plants you can and cannot use this method with. Test it on a small area of your plant before doing a large area. 

    Calcium Powder
    Sprinkling calcium powder around the base of the plants is another natural aphid repellent. The aphids do not like the calcium and will generally stay away from it.

    Banana Peels?!
    Burying shredded banana peels around the base of plants is an odd, but effective remedy. It has been around for ages and many gardeners will swear by it. I'm gonna try it.
  • Remove any yellowing leaves that attract white fly
  • Gophers You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after  the rains. If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.

Prevention  A frustrating typical disease is Powdery mildew. It's common on Curly Leaf kales. Plant leaving plenty of space for air circulation. Apply your baking soda mix. Drench under and upper sides of the foliage of young plants to get them off to a great start! Do this the same or next day if transplanting. A super combo is 1 regular Aspirin dissolved, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains. Not only is prevention so much better than after mildew has set in, but this mix stimulates your plant's growth! See Aspirin Solution.

Do not compost diseased or infested leaves or plants.

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

Thin any plants you intentionally over planted - carrots, beets, turnips, kale, chard, mustard. If you planted too close together, take out the shorter, weaker plants. They are all great in your salads along with small tender Brassica leaves.

Grass in FlowerWatering & Weeding is important after rains. Winds dry soil quickly and short rooted plants like peas, or seedlings, need to be kept moist. 

 Mulching, cultivation, is perfec to break up the soil surface. That keeps the water from wicking to the surface and evaporating. If you use a hula hoe you do two things at once! Just a half to one inch depth cuts off weed sprouts. Indeed, it turns the soil a tad, all that's needed. More weeds will follow, but it's quick and easy to repeat the process. Two, three times, a few days apart, and there will be little weeds after that for awhile. Get 'em while they are small and easy to do. Smart gardening. 

When grass has those frilly little green tops, it is blooming and seeding! Remove it ASAP. Better yet is to remove weeds before they seed! If at the seeding stage, gently pull, don't shake the soil loose from the roots and spread seeds all over, if possible, and don't put them in your compost!

Keep COMPOSTING! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost keeps your soil aerated, has great water holding capacity, feeds just perfectly! And if you made it, you know what's in it! Make it HOT, Cold, or In place!  Dry is dead, so be sure it is always slightly moist. Giving back to Mama Earth is nature's natural way! And, like Will Allen says ....there is something very Spiritual about touching the soil, that's where life begins.

Have a wonderful February! May your seedlings grow well! 

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Chard! An Elegant, Colorful, Nutritious Pleasure! 

Chard in the Garden
Chard is the bouquet of the Garden! Plant it for pretty!
Plant it as a centerpiece, at the front, by the entrance.
Contrast it with frillys like carrots or dill.

Chard is fabulous in containers on the balcony, mingled with ornamentals in your landscape, and brightens any veggie garden, especially in Mediterranean winter gardens! Whether it is all green, a white stemmed Fordhook Giant, or Bright Lights/Neon from white to neon pink, bright oranges and reds, brilliant yellow, it is glorious! 

And it’s not just another pretty face, it’s a prodigious producer, Cut-&-Come-Again, and again, and again! In our SoCal clime, it acts as a perennial, sometimes living for several venerable years!  Low calorie, only 35 calories per cup, it is packed with vitamins K, A, C, E, and B6, a valuable food for maintaining strong bones. Chard is also very good source of copper, calcium, phosphorus, and a good source of thiamin, zinc, niacin, folate and selenium!

In a sense, Chard, Beta vulgaris, is a relatively new vegetable that is thought to have first been described in the mid-18th century. It is also known as Swiss chard, silverbeet, spinach beet, and even spinach in different parts of the world. It is in the same family as beets, but doesn't make a bulb like they do.

Chard, an all season plant in SoCal, is one of the top 5 veggie producers per square foot! It is a fast prolific crop maturing in only 55 days! It tolerates poor soil, inattention, and withstands frost and mild freezes. Besides being a beauty, having a blazing array of colors, leaf after leaf it feeds a family! Though the colorful hybrids are stunning, and your shopping list is delighted with their magical names, the older green forms tend to outproduce them and are more tolerant of both cold and heat. The mammoth white stemmed Fordhook Giant can't be beat! It grows up to and more than 2' tall and feeds an army, with heavy yields even in hot weather! 

Varieties Cornell lists 49 chard entries! 

Five Star ratings go to Burpee's Rhubarb Chard, Verte a Carde Blanche and Verde da Taglio.
Bright Lights is an All America Selection winner!
Umania is a Japanese chard that tolerates heat and cold, is slow bolting.

Flat leaved or bumpy?! Bumpy, called Savoyed, leaves give more chard per square inch, but they can also hide aphids. Narrow or wide ribs. Green, crimson or purple leaves! Rib colors galore, from white to neon to the darkest reds! Do you like that purple one with the yellow rib?! The beauty on the right is Prima Rossa! The cooler the weather the deeper the color!

Chard Purple Leave, Gold Rib, SavoyedChard Variety of Colors Leaves and Ribs

You can see why chard is frequently used in flower gardens! Check out Nan Ondra's post! She grows a designer quality garden in Pennsylvania! Nan says 'As the season progresses, the leaves of some of the orange- to red-stemmed chards darken to bronzy green or even a deep purple-red.'

Chard Perpetual Spinach Scottish heirloom MacGregor
Perpetual Spinach varieties and container sorts make leaf after leaf, and behave themselves. Maybe you would like some with red leaves and red ribs! Try Scottish heirloom MacGregor Swiss Chard! It does not get colossal, is more tender than other chards. Pot of Gold is a charming dwarf variety!

Grow It!

28 Days for tender little leaves, only 55 days or so to maturity.

Chard likes a rich sandy loam soil – well manured and composted with worm castings added. It is sensitive to soil acidity. A low soil pH results in stunted growth. Consistent water, full sun, and plenty of space! A healthy chard, will take a 2' to 3' footprint, more if it is a Fordhook Giant! At 28” tall, it makes a shadow, so plant accordingly! 

Soak seeds overnight or presprout! Direct seed into the garden 3-5 weeks before the last frost date, or you can start seedlings indoors around the same time. Transplant seedlings after your last frost. Chard seeds germinate best in soil temps around 75°F-85°F (not air temps) but 50°-55° degrees will do, and is practical. Avoid seeding during daytime air temps of 80°F or more. In SoCal, one of the best times to plant is mid August for production all winter long. Plant then in the shade, on the north or east sides, of taller plants that will be replaced by fall plants or will finish soon. Chard seeds don't mind those hot August soil temps, but Chard plants here do best in cool weather, wilting pitifully midday in hot summer temps. Check your soil to see your plant really needs water or is reacting to the heat.

Germination will take 5-16 days. Chard seeds are actually a cluster of seeds and will produce more than one plant. Spacing will determine the size of the plants. Space plants at 4"-6' apart within rows spaced at 18"-24" apart. When the young plants are 4 inches high, thin them to stand 8 inches apart. If you are pest and disease conscious, keep right on thinning so adult leaves don't touch each other! 

Depending on your space and needs/wants, avoid planting in rows, plant far enough apart that mature leaves don't touch leaves of another chard plant. Plant here and there. That way Leafminers, aphids and diseases can't go plant to plant. if you have space, you can broadcast your seeds in sections of the garden to create a bed of tender leaves and thinned to 4 inches apart as they mature. Otherwise, plant your seeds 1/4-3/4 in. deep. That will give you a steady table supply of tasty little greens!

Mulch in summer keeps roots cool and moist. In So Cal winters it keeps rain from splashing soil up onto the leaves.

Water Chard, like Lettuce, likes plenty of water regularly to keep it sweet. It's putting up big leaves again and again. Weed early and often! 

Since Chard is a prolific producer, it needs feeding from time to time. In summer it can use a little compost and a tad of manure. Some worm castings would make it even happier! Late summer spread a little compost over the root zone, drench with a water-soluble organic fertilizer. They will make a strong comeback early fall. In winter a light feed of fish emulsion is easy to apply, and easy for it to uptake. 
Pests & Diseases

Hose APHIDS off Chard, kale and brocs. Keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed. 

For hard to get at places, down the centers of chard and in crinkly kale leaf crevices, get out that spray bottle! Treat once, wait a couple days, treat the ones that got away and newborns.

I tried it, it WORKS! The simplest is to spray with 2 Parts alcohol, 2 parts water, 1 part  soap. DO NOT use on seedlings, it will kill some of them. Spritz lightly rather than drenching or you may kill your bigger plant too! If the aphids are totally out of control and you can't get to them down in the center of the plant, if you are very brave, cut the whole plant off a couple inches above the crown, let it produce new leaves. 

Leafminers are the bane of chard, spinach and beets, going from plant to plant. These are not plants to row crop! You know you have leafminers when you see their trails or brown patches on the leaves as the miners burrow between the leaf’s layers. Remove those sections and badly infested leaves immediately. Keep your chard harvested and well watered to keep it growing and producing fast, sometimes outgrowing the leafminers. Some say soft fast growth is perfect habitat for the miners, but chard is meant to be a fast grower with plenty of water to keep it sweet! So if you can’t eat it all, find a friend or two who would appreciate some and share your bounty! Or remove plants until you have what you can keep up with.  Plant something else delicious in your new free space! 

Details from U of Illinois Extension:  Spinach and Swiss chard leafminer flies are 1/2 inch long and gray with black bristles. This leaf miner lay eggs on the underside of the leaves side by side singly or in batches up to five.  One larva may feed on more than one leaf.  After feeding for about two weeks, the larvae drop from the leaves onto the ground where it pupates and overwinters in the soil as pupae. In spring, they appear from mid April to May and they cause serious damage compared to the other generations that appear later. The life cycle is only 2 weeks long, and they can have five to ten generations per year!  That’s why you immediately want to remove infected parts of your plant, to stop the cycle! Cornell Cooperative Extension  UC - IPM

Slugs & snails are chard’s other not best friends. Irregular holes in the leaves, that’s the clue. Remove by hand, checking the undersides of leaves and down in the center area where new leaves are coming. I chuck snails and slugs where our crows gourmet on them. Or use Sluggo or the cheaper store brand in the cardboard box of the same stuff. Lay down Sluggo two or three times to kill the generations then you won't need to do it again for quite awhile.

Beets, Chard and Spinach get Cercospora leaf spot, light brown patches surrounded by purple halos. Promptly remove infected leaves. Late fall or early spring plantings are most likely to be affected. Late summer when conditions are favorable (high temperatures, high humidity, long leaf wetness periods at night) is the worst. It grows on infected crop residues, so immediately remove leaves that collapse on the ground. It is carried by wind or rain to host leaves. This is one case where AM watering really makes sense to reduce humidity. Plant less densely for more airflow, thinnings are tasty! Planting only every 3 years in the same spot often isn’t possible if there is too little garden space, so cultivating, turning and drying the soil between plantings is good. See more

Harvest & Storage  Cut or twist off stems of outer leaves while still tender, 1-2 inches above the soil surface. Leaves are of best quality just when fully expanded or slightly smaller. Chard loses water very quickly after harvest, so give it a rinse, shake off excess water, pack loosely in a plastic bag, get it into the fridge. Use ASAP, 3-4 days! Do not store with fruits, like apples, and vegetables that produce ethylene gas. Blanch and freeze leaves if you like; use in soups and stews later. 

Chard Seeds look exactly like Beet Seeds!Seed Saving is easy! Like other biennial plants, chard produces flowers and seeds in the spring of its second year, after it has been through winter. Let your favorite chard make a flowering stalk, seed and dry. The seed is super easy to harvest. Just hold your fingers close to the stalk, zip them along the stalk and put the seed in an airtight container. Label it right then and there because you can't tell chard seed from beet seed! Same family. If you want that variety of colors, and don't have room or the time to let all of them seed out, just get a packet at your local nursery or online from your favorite seed house. Keep your seeds cool and dry, viability 3+ years. Harvest plenty for you, gifts for friends, seed swaps!

Culinary Satisfaction

When preparing your chard, if you are eating it for the Vitamin A, trim the leaf from the rib. You can eat the rib, it just takes a little longer to cook unless you chop it up into little pieces. Colorful ribs have healing factors all their own! Here's a surprise - use stems like celery! Stuff and serve! Or pickle them, or the crisp ribs can be steamed or grilled like asparagus!

Small leaves in salad, drizzle with a sauce or dressing of your choice. Larger leaves chopped, steamed over rice or in stews. Toss with olive oil and stir fry with your favorite veggies and protein. Layer in lasagna or a casserole of scalloped potatoes or turnips. Everyone has their favorites! Deb Elliott of Helena AL loves hers in chard soup, beginning with chicken bouillon, Italian sausage, onions and little red potatoes. Chopped chard leaves are added toward the end, as it only takes a few minutes for them to cook.  

Chard can be used as a substitute for spinach in most dishes and goes well with roasted meats, cream sauces, nutty cheeses, and tomatoes. Try adding chard to au gratin or serving it alongside Jamaican Jerk chicken with red beans and rice. Squeeze out excess water, and use the cooked chard in casseroles, quiches, or as a succulent side dish.  

Happy growing, happy eating!

Everyday Gardening - Free Therapy & Lots of Healing

Gardening Healing Therapy Everyday
Veterans Henry John Henry, left, and Jaffery Hart plant new plants May 28, 2015, at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Hart, who served in the Marines, said he has found a sense of purpose and peace at the botanic garden. The horticultural therapy program is a partnership between the garden and Thresholds, a mental health services agency.

Sunshine, fresh air, friendship, soil on your fingers, seeing life unfold. So many times I lose track of time at the garden. We connect to the plants, their living, living needs. I totally find the state of the garden is the state of the gardener. It's totally free garden therapy if you are able to see it and consciously address it. It's all about your knees, LOL. Surrender with dignity. Take time for self scrutiny. Get help if it makes sense. It takes the time it takes. 

Besides nutrition and medicinal healing, gardening heals your heart and Soul, and educates your brain, LOL! Sharing garden space with 30 to 50 other community gardeners over 15 years, making presentations, I have seen a lot and changed a lot myself.

Getting started. Some gardeners just can't and don't or won't for many reasons. It may be just bad timing, fear of failure, or plain rebellion. You even paid for garden space at a community garden, but that makes no difference. Along with that are issues of not giving up if a faint hope is held, so you hang onto an unplanted space. There is a wanting to, but not quite being able. This can go on for years. I've seen plots go unplanted 3 years or more. No matter if others could have used it. Personal feelings trump the needs of others and logic does not prevail.

Maybe you discover you didn't really want to garden at all. It's ok to let go. Gardening isn't really for everybody, and not at every time of your life. Illness may keep your body from wanting to garden. It tells you. Time outs decrease your stress. Be good to yourself.

Soil preparation may be symbolic of how you set the stage for things in your life. How rich is the foundation of your life? Are you depleted, asked to support too much? Were people in your life let to be used up? Take a deep breath. Stand with your feet gently placed. Add goodness to your soil so it can support you!
Planting times need your attention. Are your distracted, overwhelmed, and your timing off? Read the weather for upcoming conditions. Be present for the people in your life in a timely way. Set up your times in advance and take good care of yourself. Stock your fridge when you know you won't have time to do it all. Do you prepare or repair? Get a friend or a helper to keep you on track.

Even the plants you choose to grow tell part of your story! Are they big hot and spicy, or diminutive cool and calming? What are you about, why you are here? Sometimes we plant something we never use. What tradition was that planted for, who told you that you should plant it? Or they did and so do you. It's not uncommon to plant way too many! We have fear about our ability to provide for ourselves, or we had poverty as a child and the thoughts linger into adulthood. What happened then can be adjusted to now by a simple trip to the store!

Maintenance sounds like a lot of hard work to some of us! Yet once you get to it, it is surprisingly not as difficult as expected. In fact, you actually kinda like doing it and it takes less time than you thought it would! Some think sidedressing or foliar feeding would be too hard to do, take forever. And, yes, you do have to gather up the stuff to do it, and it takes a few times to get the knack of it. That it is too hard to learn, fear of failure, often stop us, but practice at the garden, then transfer that into the rest of your life.

Why do people like to water their garden so much? And maybe at the 'wrong' time of day. For some it is that much needed wind down at the end of the day, time to be by yourself at last. For others, the need to nurture is so strong it is tantamount to smother love, a form of hanging on. It may be simple rebellion, the freedom to do what you want when you want! Or you just love seeing the plants refreshed and the hummingbirds swooping into the water for a drink or a bath! There is lots to consider here. Get some more beauty in your life, take a prettier bath, be mindful of drought and be at peace with the times. Let your life flow, you through yours and others through theirs. 

Succession Planting Beginners often err here. They plant the entire space at once. More sense would be to plant a bit now, in a few weeks, some more, a third batch later. Then when the first batch is done, plant again. Crops like fast growing lettuces, radish, are good examples. Another way of thinking of this is to plant what you can eat rather than a row because it's a row! Calls for flexibility. True, there is the consuming joy of watching plants grow, lots of plants, as many as you can put in the space, to fullness and overspilling plenty! The test is using time and space wisely. It calls for self discipline and trust that things will grow. Those are big ones in our lives. Staying with it, seeing things through feels good. 

Pests & Disease It took a long time before I could get down and look at those. I didn't know what they were, I didn't know what to do, I was afraid. I wasn't exactly in denial, more, I ignored. As I wrote about them and talked with gardeners, I gradually got able to handle the discomfort. There are gardeners that don't deal with gophers. Diseased or infested plants suffer in their garden. Sometimes they claim the soil isn't good, or other things, but they don't do anything. Talk with people who are understanding and experienced. Their encouragement and ideas can help you. And so it is with life out of the garden too. 

Harvest  Often gardeners are criticized for not harvesting. We could write a book on it! Some like that rush of new growth at the beginning of a season, but after that.... Is there a nagging feeling that they don't think they are worth the rewards. Maybe they are a starter, not a finisher? Sometimes a plant has reached its peak and declining, and the gardener is just plain tired after a flush summer of lots of work! Harvest is too time and labor intensive for some crops. Beans and cherry tomatoes fall in this category. Plant less, take on less in your life! And there are times an infected plant declines then with summer heat, the fungi dies, the plant recovers! When harvest is neglected, not done in a timely fashion, it can be ignorance on the part of a new gardener missing a window, but if it happens repeatedly, then there is a question. Would you like some help to finish up? Are there other things in your life, like not calling customers back in a timely fashion? Is there some self sabotage going on? If you really don’t like that veggie that much, don't plant it again and again because someone you loved grew it! 
Storing & Eating your Harvest Hey, it's one thing to harvest, another yet to treat it right, get it into the fridge, prepare and eat it! No, no, guilty again you put that wasted stuff in the compost. What about your time? don't pick and let them sit. Pick when you also have time to process and store. Do you allow enough time in your life to get the whole job done? Are you always late? Your attention span is short? What about those recipes, are you b o r e d?! Why fix it if you won't eat it anyway.... Set your good priorities, give them and yourself more time. Be timely and on time! Perhaps get some spices! If your recipe is too time consuming or intimidating, try new preparations, take a cooking class! 
Flowers  It is said that people in Tibet seek healing from physical and emotional wounds in a unique way. They sit downwind from flowers. It is a therapy that has been carried on for centuries, based not on superstition but on natural medicine. Sitting downwind from flowers, one can be dusted with the pollen from new blossoms, pollen that some say carries certain healing qualities. Do put more beauty accents in your life. Flowers feed the beneficial insects, bees, fill the land with lovely scents, uplift a bleak Spirit, make us want to see.

Unseen Spirits?  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…. Let magic flow in your life, 'coincidences' to be more frequent, 'miracles' to happen every day.

Research! This article is by Robyn Francis, one of Australia’s top permaculturists.  She’s also a pioneer in rethinking international aid.

“While mental health experts warn about depression as a global epidemic, other researchers are discovering ways we trigger our natural  production of happy chemicals that keep depression at bay, with surprising results. All you need to do is get your fingers dirty and harvest your own food. “In recent years I’ve come across two completely independent bits of research that identified key environmental triggers for two important chemicals that boost our immune system and keep us happy – serotonin and dopamine.  What fascinated me as a permaculturist and gardener were that the environmental triggers happen in the garden when you handle the soil and harvest your crops…”

When I first started garden writing, some of the topics amazed me, like how to plant seeds, how to make compost, when and how to harvest, how to store your harvest. I found that simply not knowing something was often the reason why gardeners didn't do it. Often they didn't know they didn't know. That's why I write on so many garden topics in as much detail as I can think of. Once you start hearing about it, the change starts happening. If you find yourself slow on the uptake of a certain topic, there is one of your weak spots.  

Every gardener has their own unique issues, and there is no orderly sequence or prescribed timing. Some don't prepare their soil. Some don't plant from seed. Some don't water or feed. Some don't listen to ideas, others ask questions but are limited in their ability to apply the information. Even the best gardeners have blind spots. And on and on. I believe it takes many lifetimes.

A community garden is an extraordinary learning and healing ground. You see failures and successes of all those gardeners. They share with you, you with them. Pilgrim Terrace has 50 plots, 30 are probably the most active, and some of us have more than one plot. I started vegetable gardening there 15 years ago this spring, so multiply that by the experience of 30 other people, some of them lifelong gardeners. I figure I have about 450 years of real time experience now, LOL! And that doesn't count the Internet!

Non gardeners have their own 'gardens' of life. Some of you are totally geared to the living garden of humans - your children, grandchildren, your students. Others have incredible careers. Some are artists, therapists, travelers, philanthropists, spiritualists. The same principles apply.

In the biggest sense, “We are part of the earth and it is part of us … What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.” Chief Seattle, 1852

Smile and be wild! Be healed.

Other Community Gardens!

Seeds@City Urban Farm, San Diego

Community Garden - Seeds@City San Diego CC

Community Garden - Seeds@City San Diego CC Main Site

In honor of seeds, human seeds, get acquainted with the exciting Seeds at City Urban Farm! The main site is located in the heart of downtown, that serves as the outdoor classroom for the Sustainable Urban Agriculture program at San Diego City College! Seeds@City was formed in June 2008 through a partnership between San Diego City College and San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project. The farm provides students with hands-on experiences necessary for learning the skills of urban farming. 
Oct 8 2015: We now have 28 students placed in jobs since last semester, 98% of which had only spent a year or less with us!!

June 6 2015: The Sustainable Urban Agriculture Program had the privilege of being part of The San Diego County Fair "Enviro Fair" today.

We also got the chance to show off some of the awesome tools our students use such as our compost tea brewer by Growing Solutions, Inc. . And the very popular vermicompost Hungry Bin's given to us by Greentools. 

May 15 2015: Students last day of service learning, rain or shine! Today students helped assemble flower arrangements for San Diego City College's Chicana Latina Graduation!

As we move into finals week we want to wish everyone the best of luck and a much deserved congratulations to all of City's graduates!

Mar 15 2015: A special tribute to the women of our farm, statistically the Sustainable Urban Agriculture program has served more female students than male. The San Diego County Farm Bureau lists "San Diego #2 in farms with women as principal operators.", on their website. While you are out and about this weekend pick up the latest issue of Edible San Diego featuring women in Ag. ...these people are serious about changing where your food comes from!
April 8 2014: We are currently undergoing further changes in the infrastructure to be able to accommodate more students as well as production processing. We are working with our cafeteria to get more of our produce to our students. We will also be planting more perennial herbs than before to attract all of those wonderful beneficials! Hopefully we can show you more progress soon! And thank you to our volunteers and students for making this possible, we look forward to serving you all in our greater capacity.

Jan 11 2012: We need to build a greenhouse—it would enhance our urban agriculture course offerings and make us more self-sufficient. 212 backers pledged $16,504 to help bring this project to life.

They do CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, bags as well!

These are a few excerpts from up and coming Ag students. Enjoy so much more at their Facebook page!

Upcoming Garden Events!

Walk or bike to events as possible! Heal the land, heal yourself.

EarthDay 2016 One World Community Environmental Council Santa Barbara CA Monarch Butterfly

Attendance is about 40,000! Mark your calendar for a weekend of live music, educational speakers, sustainable food, and hundreds of exhibitors eager to help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Our 46th annual Santa Barbara Earth Day festival theme "One World" is a reminder that we must work together as individuals, communities, and nations to keep global warming well below two degrees, the level at which scientists say climate change will have seriously detrimental effects on the human population. 

To exhibit, sponsor or volunteer, get in touch! Invite your out of state guests now! Plan to plant some trees together! Walk or ride your bike! 

Stay tuned for more details about the festival at SBEarthDay.org and Facebook.com/SBEarthDay.

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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

Radish Sprouts looking at the Sky!

Cerena Childress, Plot 46
elist holder Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

Green Bean Connection BLOG! 
January GBC Newsletter
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