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

Happy Valentine's Day!! 

FEBRUARY, the Verge of Spring!
Soil for Seed Starting - DIY, Pre-made   
Courting Solitary Bees!  
Community Garden Art!  
Events!  Garden Crafts, Year 'Round Edibles, Community Gardens Bike Tour, EARTH DAY, Permaculture Course!

Dear Pilgrim Terrace Gardeners, Garden Friends,

Santa Barbara area gardeners, did you enjoy the Seed Swap?! If you didn't make it this year, save some of your best seeds and bring them next year! They will be so appreciated. Thanks for attending my Intro to Seed Saving, and welcome to you newcomers to the GBC list! Let me know if I may be of service!

Pilgrim Terrace Gardeners: The refurbished Greenhouse is ready for spring use! Starts begun February will be ready for late March, April plantings! The exception is peppers. Start them now to plant in May! “I have great faith in a seed.”  THOMAS JEFFERSON

See some chilly and beautiful January images around the garden!

If you or a friend would enjoy gardening at a community garden, get going right now - FEBRUARY is a super month for planting quick growers like lettuces, crispy eat-off-the-vine snap peas, super nutritious kales and more! A 10 X 20 spot is only $64/year! YES! Go directly to the Louise Lowry Davis Center, Parks & Recreation office, to sign up. That's at 1232 De La Vina St, Santa Barbara. We will be delighted to meet you and share friendship, sunshine, and garden craft!

February, the Verge of Spring!

Soil Sprout
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Capture water! Grow organic!

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

Santa Barbara's average last frost date is January 22, so I planted seeds! They are in the Greenhouse! Soonest, start peppers from seed! Peppers often take their time, much longer than other plants. If you planted some Zucchini in the ground, I did, there could still be another frost and you will have to replant. Know that 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.

Start eggplants and tomatoes seeds! Go for gorgeous Heirloom tomatoes if you have disease free soil. If your soil has wilts, choose wilt resistant varieties. If you have space, at the same time, plant indeterminate/vining varieties for all season long production! They take a little longer to produce, but once they start, they don't stop! 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.

If you get in-the-ground planting fever, put in small fruited varieties and cherry toms to start your tomato season. Plant patio and determinate, early varieties for soonest production and/or if you have little space. But you can better use that area for quick grown plants for their leaves, until it's the right time to plant toms. Planted at the right time, plants thrive, grow faster, and produce naturally. Waiting and waiting for fruits to ripen, or plants than are off their cycles and don't produce fruits at all, loses nutritious gardening time and spends your soil with no return. Plants grown for their leaves produce continuously and can be removed when you want the space, and you shall have had lush harvests. 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 Pobanos or Big Jim Anaheims, and tomatoes among them. If you do that, keep the understory plants on the sunny side of where your tall plants will be.

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.

Transplant artichoke and asparagus crowns and rhubarb rhizomes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, horseradish, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, and spinach. It's the best time to plant strawberries, so they can grow well before the weather warms and they put out blossoms. Be mindful to ask your nursery for bolt resistant/slow bolt and drought tolerant varieties! 

Summer Garden Design

  • Install pathways, berms
  • Waffle Garden, basins & windbreaks, Water Garden
  • Gather cages & trellises
  • Terrace slopes
  • Build raised beds, Hugelkultur
  • Get new containers, pallets
  • Organize straw bales
  • Setup Compost areas

With your summer garden layout in mind, get SEEDS if you haven't already! Start them indoors NOW! Check your 2015 seed catalogs for drought and heat tolerant varieties or look in southern states or world areas that have desert low-water-needs plants and order up! The seeds of these types may need to be planted deeper and earlier for moisture they need. They may mature earlier. Be prepared to do second plantings and use a little water.

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 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.
  • 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 soil warm up. 
  • Water your prepped areas when you water your other veggies. Moist, not flooded soil is rampant with life! 

You could choose to put in 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. 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! Whack it down, chop and turn under as soon as it begins to flower. It's more tender to chop then. Taller is not better.

Standard Veggie Care

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 new transplants, sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around immediately to keep snails and slugs from seriously damaging them while they are small. Before you anticipate your seedlings coming up, sprinkle some pellets around the plant, along both sides of rows. That keeps the creatures from mowing them overnight, making you think they never came up! Do this a few times, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for a while. 
  • Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers make on chard and beet leaves. Hose aphids off kale and brocs. Keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed. Remove any yellowing leaves that attract white fly. 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.  
  • 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.

Glance at beet roots, turnips, in general, for low soil, especially after rains. Maybe you aren't quite planting your seeds deeply enough or maybe you are watering in a way that washes the soil away? Anyway, cover up beet, carrot, radish and turnip shoulders to keep them from drying and getting rough looking and tough.

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.

COMPOST always! Soil building is the single-most important thing you can do for your garden. Compost is easy to make. Added to your soil, it increases water holding capacity, is nutritious, soil organisms flourish, your soil breathes! Make a compost pile, put clean green waste/kitchen trim in alternate layers with straw/leaves in a bin, trench in kitchen trim, lay layers on top of your garden with a light covering of soil so all the nutrients are contained and it doesn't draw flies! The soil organisms will work at the top as well as from the ground soil up. Throw on some red wriggler worms to speed the process and enrich with castings! Giving back to Mama Earth is nature's natural way! Ask neighbors or kin to save non-predator type kitchen veggie scraps for you. Go lightly on coffee grounds.

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, in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, so 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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Soil for Seed Starting! DIY, Pre-made

Seed Starting Soil Mix

Starting Seedlings is a sacred art all its own! It starts with the 'soil' they are planted in.

Number 1 is in the Earth herself!

Whether as is, or amended, planting in the ground, in good loose loamy soil, is just about as nutritious as it gets! The soil organisms, mycorrhizal fungi, oxygen, moisture, bird, animal poop and worm castings, and decayed leaves/plants, minerals, create a rich humus. Humus holds water. Tiny roots find their way through and a thriving plant is born.

DIY Seed Starting Mixes

For early planting, start your seedlings 6 to 8 weeks ahead of anticipated safe temps, indoor or in Greenhouses.

Start with peat moss or coir. Blend it with treated compost, that has been heated to 150 degrees to kill off pathogens/weed seeds. Add worm castings, no more than 10% by volume.

Damping off, kinda like crib death, is a sad foe of seedlings. No fix, no cure. The baby just topples overnight and it's over. A 2005 North Carolina State University study found it’s not the mixture but what’s on top of the soil that counts most. Damping off differences almost disappeared between commercial organic seed-starting mixtures and various homemade mixtures after all of the seeds were covered with vermiculite instead of a planting medium.

What is Vermiculite?! It is composed of two natural minerals, absorbs and retains several times its own weight in moisture while still holding some oxygen.

Rodale's April Johnson says seedlings need a loose, well-drained fine medium. D
on’t use potting soil - often, it’s too rich, doesn't drain well enough. April, who has experimented many years, prefers this mix:

4 parts screened compost  
1 part perlite
1 part vermiculite
2 parts coir

Barb Fick, consumer horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, explains that our typical backyard soil is too compacted, full of weed seeds and it is not pasteurized, causing seedling diseases and death, often doesn't drain as well as seedling mixes. It can develop a crust that prevents seedlings from pushing through the soil.Barb’s recipe is

one-third pasteurized soil or finished compost
one-third sand, vermiculite or perlite
one-third peat moss

Or, just use half peat moss and half perlite, vermiculite or sand.

You can see from this last combination, that soil or compost is not needed to get a seed started! However, if you don't use compost, when your seedling gets true leaves (the first two after the cotyledons), it gets hungry as the nutrition in the seed is used up! Give it a spritz of half strength fish emulsion. Some nurseries lace their planting mixes with those little tiny fertilizer pellets. Your baby plant gets nutrition when it needs it.

Before planting, clean your pots, trays and flats. Rinse them in one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water solution to kill plant disease microorganisms that could weaken or kill your tender young seedlings.

Wet your soil before you plant. Keep adding your starter mix until you get the level you want. Leave enough room to add a thin layer of vermiculite on top after you plant your seeds.

Chopsticks can be used in a couple helpful ways. Mark one of them at 1/4, 1/2, and 1" on the stick. That way you can get your seeds at the right planting depth. Using your marked stick keeps you mindful; planting goes faster with less wondering! 

If you are installing delicate sprouts, make a planting hole, and if you are good with chopsticks, grasp the sprout gently, carefully place it. Smooth the soil, water gently. Check out  Seed Soaking/Presprouting Tips & Ideas! 

Rather than top watering, causing your seeds to be washed to the side or seedlings to be damaged, you can put your planting containers in a tray with water in it and let the water wick up into your seedling mix. Wicking is good; all the soil gets wetted. Keep a spray bottle handy for any top watering you think they need.

Here are another couple recipes!

4 parts fine compost
2 parts coir or peat moss
1 part vermiculite
1/2 part perlite

If you don't want to sift compost:

3 parts peat moss or coir
1 part vermiculite
1/2 part perlite
1/4 tsp lime/gallon peat moss (don’t add if using coir)

Readymade Seed Starting Mix

Pre-made mixes have advantages! First, mainly that they are premade! Just go get 'em! They come in small or large bags. The mix is pasteurized. Some of them have wetting agents. Yes! Others have lime for pH balance to stop damping off. Instead of buying all kinds of bags, then storing all the extra leftover stuff, you use what you use, store the one bag, and that's it! Unless you have a large scale operation and have specific needs, premade mixes are perfect!

Courting Solitary Bees!

(Several excerpts from the UC California Agriculture Urban Bee Study)

California has 1600 native species of bees! Santa Barbara County has 5 families, 19 genera, 67 species! Solitary bees deserve a sweet space in our gardens and in our hearts! 

Solitary Bee, Insect Hotel, small on Post
Plant what they eat!

In an urban bee study by UC California Agriculture, California plants that got high counts of visits were easily accessible plants, cosmos (Cosmos spp.), lavender (Lavandula spp.) and catnip mint (Nepeta spp.), partly due to their long flowering periods. Of native bees throughout California, the two most attractive plant families to bees were Asteraceae (which provide pollen and nectar) and Lamiaceae (which provide nectar).

Bumble bees (Bombus spp.), small sweat bees (Halictidae) and honey bees all enjoy California Poppy. Honey bees and large carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) love palo verde (parkinsonia aculeata), wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and autumn sage (Salvia greggii/microphylla/cvs.). Digger bees (Anthophora edwardsii) forage faithfully on manzanita flowers (Arctostaphylos).

Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) and sunflower (Heianthus an-nuus) attract long-horn bees (Melissodes spp.) and honey bees.

Already you have learned the names of some of your bees, plus what they like to dine on! Plant different kinds of plants to bring more bee diversity! 

Some 60 to 80 species were identified in each city; the ultra-green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) was among the most common. Top, a female on bidens (Bidens ferulifolia); above, a male on sea daisy (Erigeron glaucus).Some 60 to 80 species were identified in each city where study counts were done; the ultra-green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) was among the most common. Top, a female on bidens (Bidens ferulifolia); below, a male on sea daisy (Erigeron glaucus). Many bees lived here before urbanization; they and others have adapted. For example, honey bees (Apis mellifera), alfalfa leafcutting bees (Megachile ro-tundata), Megachile apicalis and Hylaeus punctatus. Megachile ro-tundata is a commercially important leafcutting bee. Honey bees, the most common yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii), the large carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex) and the ultra-green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) live throughout California.

Severely wet winters and springs are hard on bees. They prefer warm, sunny mornings with little or no wind.

And, they need safe living quarters! Bee hotels, a pollinator's paradise, are small to large, simple to elaborate! Pollinators' housing needs are hugely diverse! Bare soil, hollow twigs, big holes in trees, little holes of only a certain depth.

Solitary (nonsocial) bees will nest in a variety of substrates in urban gardens. The digger bee(Anthophora edwardsii) nests in bare dirt. About 70% of solitary bees nest in the ground! Solitary means a male and a female bee mate, and the female constructs a nest and lays an egg in each single cell she creates, with 3 to 10 cells per nest depending on space; there is no hive, division of labor or social structure as in the social honey bees and bumble bees.

Many of these solitary bees prefer to construct their nests in soils with specific characteristics, such as composition, texture, compaction, slope and exposure. Nesting habitat can be provided for these bees in gardens by leaving bare soil and providing areas of specially prepared soil, from sand to heavy clay to adobe blocks. Make a Miner bee nest! Excessive mulching with wood chips will greatly discourage ground-nesting bees, which need bare soil or a thin layer of natural leaf litter. 

Solitary bee, Miner Bee nests in soilIf you see soil like this, DO NOT WALK ON IT, rope it off so others don't either. The Miner bee nests in colonies of separate tunnels excavated into hard clay. Females construct the nest, softening the hard clay with regurgitated water and removing clay particles with their mandibles. 

Other bees nest in pre-existing cavities. Honey bees nest in large tree cavities, underground and in human structures such as the spaces between walls, chimneys and water-meter boxes. Bumble bees commonly nest in abandoned rodent burrows and sometimes in bird nest boxes. Most cavity-nesting solitary bees such as Hylaeus (Colletidae), and most leafcutting bees and mason bees (Osmia [Megachilidae]) prefer beetle burrows in wood or hollow plant stems. Nest habitats for these bees can be supplemented by drilling holes of various diameters (especially 3/16 to 5/16 inches) in scrap lumber or fence posts, or by making and setting out special wooden domiciles in the garden. Once occupied by bees, these cavities must be protected from sun and water exposure until the following year, when adult bees emerge to start new generations. Neglecting to protect drilled cavities occupied by bees can lead to bee mortality. Some people tuck them back in old mailboxes. You will find some excellent bee care tips at Wings in Flight!

Solitary Bees have various nesting needs. Solitary Bees nesting in 4X4s and Bamboo
Hollow twigs, bamboo, various size holes drilled in logs and 4X4s.

Solitary Bee, Mason Bee Nests Solitary Bee, adult Mason bee emerging from nursery chamber, nest.
Left, sealed nursery chambers. Right, adult emerging from nest.

Large carpenter bees (Xylocopa) excavate their nest tunnels in soft wood such as redwood arbors or fences, and small carpenter bees (Ceratina) use pithy stems such as elderberry or old sunflower stalks. Partitions between the brood cells are usually composed of bits of excavated material.

Bee Solitary Farm Size Nest
How good does it get?! This is an epic weather protected, farm-size community for solitary bees that opens to both sides!

How about this Pollinator Condo?! [It needs weather protection....] Lower larger holes are for Bumblebees. Bumblebees will also nest in old bird houses.

Bee Solitary Insect House Homemade Gourd

You can buy bee homes, or if you are crafty, why not make one?! It could be big, it could be on a post, or small and decorated hung among the tomatoes! The bees will love you!

Community Garden Art!

May the Green man bless and inspire you!

Garden Art Greenman
Garage door in Croft Street alley done by Vanessa in Toronto.

Garden Art Vancouver Compost Garden Entrance
Vancouver's Compost Demonstration Garden's whimsical entrance

Garden Art Colorful Mural Grow Community
Colorful Community Garden Graffiti Mural 

Garden Art Metal Sculpture by Colin ComrieGarden Art Gate Shovels Rakes
Sculpture by Colin Comrie of                                      Do with whatcha got! 

Impressive made-from-recycled trellis lives at the Winston Smoyer Memorial Community Garden, Alhambra CA.
Impressive made-from-recycled trellis lives at the Winston Smoyer Memorial Community Garden, Alhambra CA.

Garden Art Herb Spiral Woven Border
Woven Spiral Herb Garden. Sometimes the garden is the art!

Garden Art Pergola Boston Community Garden
Clever, useful, traditional. This pergola at a large community garden in Boston was designed as a central meeting and activity space. Half of the roof is shingled for total sun and rain protection. The other half is in a traditional pergola style using purlins to provide 50% to 70% shade. Perfect for a couple of solar panels....

Garden Art Raggedy Ann Scarecrow Colony Farms
Raggedy Ann scarecrow made at Colony Farms saves the day! Posted by Master Gardener Laura Thomas, Dandelion Wrangler, Port Coquitlam BC

The Lights are ON! See what you can get into! :) Have fun!

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Upcoming Garden Events!

Walk or bike to 2015 events as possible! Heal the land, heal yourself.

Feb 17, Little Garden Club, From Your Own Garden! If you are a member of the Little Garden Club, or can come as a guest, come to see my lovely Garden Crafts presentation, a garden is more than the food you eat. Natural History Museum, 2 PM

Feb 28 brings the Master Gardeners' presentation Year Round Edibles! 2 to 4 PM Onsite at Mesa Harmony Permaculture Garden. Planting times, seasonal garden practices, and food storage! 4 Speakers presenting, I will be first! This will be a super useful gathering! Bring your notepad, digital recorder, best garden friends! Enjoy a tour of the Garden afterwards!

Saturday April 25 Santa Barbara Food & Farm Adventures! I will lead the Pilgrim Terrace Tour! 10 AM Bike Tour to Community Gardens; No Biker left behind! The Terrace will be first, then up they go to Trinity Garden! Enjoy seeing these very different gardens.

What will you be doing on Earth Day April 22?

Santa Barbara's Earth Day Festival

April 18 & 19 Alameda Park, Santa Barbara CA 

Exhibitor Registration opens February 3! Attendance is about 40,000!

Earth Day 2015 Giving Back Billion Trees

Permaculture Course Quail Springs Cuyama

Bringing beauty back to the land!

May 30 to June 15 Quail Springs’ Permaculture Design Course for International Development and Social Entrepreneurship! 

Plan ahead now for these amazing two weeks! It brings a roster of exceptional presenters and instructors from the USA and the world, with Warren Brush as our lead instructor and facilitator. It's not in a classroom, but on location with people who live the principles!  See all about it and contact info!    Quail Springs


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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….

Winter beauty and super nutrition to you!


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

Garden Design, Tall to North, Short at South
Plant tall to the North, short to the South. View the Plan!

Cerena Childress, Plot 46
elist holder Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

Green Bean Connection BLOG! 
January GBC Newsletter 
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