Happy December Gardening and Blessed Holidays to You!
December, short days, but 2012 is being really mild!
Rainy Day Tactics for Spectacular Veggies!
Installing a Gopher Barrier!
Cilantro/Coriander - Persnickety but Lovely & Valuable
Master Gardener Classes, Holiday SALES, Apprentice Program, Seed School!
Dear Pilgrim Terrace Gardeners, Garden Friends,
Holiday Greetings to you all!
Gratitude to new gardener Steve Thomson
for spreading the manure and alfalfa under the orange tree! Those leaves should be greening up soon now! And thanks to Celestina Mitchell
for watering, weeding, and trimming our community herb beds! The herbs are growing well!
Mini 'housekeeping' reminders!
Congratulations to Tim & Christine Cunningham on their adorable twins' first birthday!
Store tubs upside down so creatures don't get trapped in them.
Clean soil off tools when you put them away. It's easy to clean them when you have just used them, much harder to get dried caked clay off later! Thanks!
The rains have softened our pathways - this is good time to weed them out.
Across-the-Plot Gardening Tips
December, short days, but 2012 is being really mild!
This year, December really is SoCal's Winter's June! We are having such mild weather our gardens still have tomatoes, corn and beans! Those of us who planted our broccoli and cauliflower in September, have gotten a lot of huge healthy plants, but no fruit! I'm sharing their leaves/greens with others! You can eat them just as you would collards and kale - steam, chop up for stews and stir frys! Lettuces are spectacular! Pluck those lower leaves and let them keep producing. Snap peas are not making it home, devoured at the garden, or en route.
Keep watch on your chard and beet leaves.
Pull away those blotchy sections the leafminers
make; remove whole leaves that are too funky for rescue. Harvest outer lower leaves more frequently to stay ahead of the miners. Water a tad less so the leaf is less soft and inviting.
Those of you who planted jicama
must be totally enjoying them! I didn't plant them this year, and am missing that fresh crisp juicy crunch in my salads. Store bought is just no comparison.
Carrots and cabbages take their time,
you know. If you planted your carrots
densely, start harvesting the tiny ones for tender salad toppers! Cover with soil any tops/shoulders that have gotten exposed by the rains. No feeding them or overwatering - that causes them to fork, split, be hairy! Since cabbages
are making leaf after leaf dense heads, feed them lightly now and then, and let them take the time they need. I always plant some in full sun, others in partial shade so they will come in at different times rather than all at once. They do keep well, but I like 'em as fresh as they can be! Do sprinkle a bit of Sluggo type stuff around to keep snails and slugs from moving in. Do this a few times, and there will be no tiny vegetarian predators for awhile.
Your peas and favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, feeding themselves, so little to no feeding is needed for them.
Kales are a powerful favorite of many, providing excellent nutrition. They are highest in bioavailable Calcium. Culinary dandelions are highest in Vitamin A! Garden Purslane, the upright kind, is highest in Omega 3s!
Truly, plant more rounds. If the 'winter' remains mild, they will grow quickly. Start a new garden with or put in successive rounds of artichoke (give them 3’ to 4’ space), arugula, asparagus – Pat Welsh (Southern California Gardening) recommends UC-157, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes, and turnips! As soon as one is done, plant another!
Put in bunch onion patches here and there, especially among your broccolis and cauliflower to repel the Bagrada bugs in the spring, but not by your peas! And chards I have planted near onions don't do well as neighbors either. Remove the onions. Plant a pretty little Italian red bunch onion border – highlight your salad! How about some garlic chives? Smell good.... Or some great monster leeks for leek & potato soup! Mmm….
For you Garlic aficionados - Remember, this is THE time to be planting your largest garlic cloves – give them super rich soil and lots of water. If you are so inspired, many plant on Winter Solstice day, Dec 21! Plant skins on, or for more mojo, quicker sprouting, here is the way to prep your cloves Bob Anderson style:
Soak in water and baking soda for 16-24 hours before planting. Soak separate strains separately. (One T soda to 1 gallon water, or a half teaspoon in a cup of water). Remove the skins – start at the bottom being careful not to damage the growing tip OR the bottom, because that’s where the roots grow from!
Just before planting soak nude cloves in rubbing alcohol for 3-5 minutes and plant immediately.
SideDressing – that's feeding your plant during its growing time! Liquid fertilizer like fish/kelp is easy for them to uptake in cooler weather. Sprinkle fertilizer around your plants or down a row, and dig it in a little, especially before a rain! Water it in. Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings. Rabbit manure can be put down directly with no composting. Pretty box mixes are fine! Plants love a fish/kelp mix. Lay in some of your fat compost in the top 3 to 6 inches of your soil. If you haven’t been a fertilizing mid season person before, think about how hard your plant is working. Worm castings, though not food, work wonders! Big brocs, for example. When they start to head, when plants start to produce, that’s your cue to help them along.
Winter is not a time for mulching. Its purpose in summer is to keep the soil, plant roots, cool, and retain moisture. In winter, we pull the mulch back to let the soil warm up during the short days. Also, it's good to remove habitat, let the soil dry out between rains, to kill off the wilts fungi, and let Bagrada bug eggs die. I use straw mulch, so I box it up and use it in my compost pile during winter. Only if your garden is on a slope do you want to mulch, to prevent soil erosion.
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.
Aphids? Watch for leaves curled along the length of the leaf, particularly broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages. Squish or wash any or the colony away immediately.
White flies. Flush away, especially under the leaves. They are attracted to yellow, so keep yellowing, yellowed leaves removed. Probably need a little less watering.
Slimy Slugs, Snails. Sluggo, or the like, before they even get started, right when your seedlings begin to show, immediately when you put your transplants in! Once stopped, there will be intervals when there are none at all. If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another round.
Any time is a good time to start COMPOSTing! Pile, in a bin, trench, layers on top of your garden! Giving back to Mama Earth is nature's natural way!
Make Organic, Sustainable Holiday Garden Gifts! Plants themselves make wonderful gifts!
Start perusing seed catalogs for your Spring planting!
Back to top
Rainy Day Tactics for Spectacular Veggies!
When you build your garden, make raised beds, mounds, berms for water capture. Install channels to help with drainage issues. Remember, slow, spread, sink. Keep every drop on your property for trees and to improve our water table.
During a rainy period….
Make ‘permanent’ pathways with boards, stepping stones, straw bedding, so you won’t be compacting your planting area soil when it is wet or dry!
Set up to harvest rainwater for later use! Mulch sloped areas to hold water in place to soak in, and keep soil from eroding.
Way ahead of time, plant for air circulation so foliage dries quickly. Plants too closely spaced, make a warmer micro environment, mildew easier. Choose mildew resistant varieties!
Make like Franklin, keep a Weather Watch!
Lay down fertilizer before a rain so the fertilizer will soak in.
Dig in compost and castings in the top few inches of your soil. When the rain comes, it's like making compost and worm tea all at once in place. The compost improves your soil's water holding capacity.
Take the cover off your compost to let it get wet. Or cover it to keep it dry and warm and in steady decomposition.
Tie or stake plants that may topple from wind or water weight.
If you didn’t before, get out there in your rain gear and add some manure or fertilizer! Great excuse to play in the rain!
After the rain! YES!
Check frequently to see how your plants are doing. Secure any tall plants, trellises that need it.
If a plant is too low and in standing water, raise it. Put your shovel deep under it, so not to harm the roots, put some filler soil underneath the shovel!
Add more mulch to sloped areas if it has shifted or wasn’t quite deep enough.
Be sure your wormbox worms are not doing the backstroke! I cover mine with plastic INSIDE the worm box. Any water either runs down the sides and out the bottom or puddles on the plastic. Easy to remove.
If the compost heap is wet enough now, cover it.
Rebuild any drainage channel that has weakened, clear if clogged. Rebuild water capture berms that have slumped. Level out areas that puddle.
Make sure all your rain harvest system is working well. Kudos to you for harvesting!
Practice arm-chair gardening! Read garden books, magazines, browse web sites, buy some seeds from mail-order catalogs, design your new garden layout!
Get some seeds, soilless potting mix, gather containers with, or make, drainage holes. Start some seeds!
If the rain is prolonged, uh, do an aphid, snail and slug check as frequently as you can. Sluggo works on snails and slugs even when it is wet. Hard to believe, but, yes, it does.
If the rain is prolonged, do harvest your fresh and crunchy produce! Lettuces will flourish! Check on fast maturing broccoli and cauliflower heads to cut at peak maturity! Gather your luscious strawberries. Keep your peas picked to keep them coming!
Do some thinning for air circulation as makes sense. Often there is a growth spurt, and you can see where thinning is needed.
Repair areas where soil has washed away exposing roots.
Do what you do about snails and slugs. Keep checking for aphids – blast them away with water or remove infested leaves.
There is often more gopher activity after rain has softened the soil, so be ready! Here's all about gophers and how to set Macabee traps! OR, now that the soil is softened, install a 1/2" hardware cloth wire barrier! Tips on Installing your Barrier!
Harvest first, water second! That’s the rule to keep from spreading diseases spread by moisture.
It’s often warmer after a rain, and it is the warmth that mildew loves! Drench mildew susceptible plants with your mildew mix immediately, early in the day so your plants can dry. If you prune mildewed areas off, remove those prunings, wash your hands and pruners before you go on to other plants. Water less frequently and at ground level, not overhead.
Easy homemade MIX for mildew prevention and abatement. It works for certain other diseases as well!
Heaping tablespoon of baking soda
1/4 cup of nonfat (so it won’t rot and stink) powdered milk
In a large watering can of water
Remember, here in SoCal, a light rain may not begin to wet your soil, not even a 1/4" deep! Always do the old finger test to see what's what. Sometimes you need to water after a rain!
Somehow, rainwater seems different than hose water! Plants just jump right out of the ground! Enjoy!
Installing a Gopher Barrier!
You can use this system any time! A planted area or unplanted…read on!
Three to four days ahead of time, water deeply where you will be digging your trench. If the water tends to wander, dig a small 2” trench to focus the water where you want the soil below to be softened for digging. It should be like cutting through butter when you dig. Softer soil is infinitely faster to dig.
Get or borrow a 4" trencher shovel. These shovels are specially made, in different widths and lengths. The blades are at about a 45 degree angle so when your trench is deep, the soil you are removing doesn’t fall off the shovel as you lift it up out of the trench! You really don’t need anything wider than a 4” shovel. It’s less soil to remove, less work. And you will be surprised how big that pile of soil will be! It seems like it would be so little.
Use ½” hardware cloth wire; ¼” is not necessary. Chicken wire is way too big; gophers can easily go through it. Aviary wire is ok, but gnawable and decomposes faster.
Depending on where you will put the soil you remove, you may need to lay down some heavy plastic, weed matting, or a tarp or two, to keep the area clean after your project is finished. Leaving a bunch of soil may make for a muddy area later on.
Believe me, this is a two or more party job. If you are doing a 10’ X 20’ area, that’s 60’ of digging. It gets tougher the longer and deeper you dig. Conversation helps you stay with it. Be prepared that it might take one day, if you are young and healthy, to 3 or more days if you are senior. It’s ok. It takes the time it takes. You can do it in sections if necessary. Just be sure the joins are secure and gopher proof!
Bring a yardstick or grab a stick and mark it for your 18” deep or however deep you want your trench to be. 18” deep with 6” of wire above ground, has worked well for me with no need to lay wire underneath the entire area, though some must do the whole area. Seems to depend on your location, perhaps whether there is other nearby food readily available.
When possible, dig your trench around the exterior perimeter of the area you want to enclose, because weeds that grow and get tangled in it are easier to get at from outside your planting area. And you don’t want them to multiply inside your planting area. It's a pain in the patootie getting them out from inside. If the area is already planted, it’s a no-brainer to install outside so not to damage any plants, roots. But do it as is safe, and clearly, in the bed in the image above, the safe aesthetic choice is inside the border.
I did my 60’ bed with one piece of wire I had specially cut to length at a local builders supply. I got two extra feet so there would be a substantial overlap. I didn’t want gophers to nudge their way through. We joined it by bending the wires around each other with pliers, and put large pieces of flat concrete, bricks and rocks along the join from bottom to top.
Oh, yes, it is possible to trap a gopher inside when you do your installation. That happened when we installed the wire around the second area. Sigh. Ok, so back to trapping temporarily. Rule #1 for trapping is the very minute you suspect gopher activity, is to immediately search for tunnels, poke a skinny stick in the ground until you find the place it gives when you push it down, and set your traps immediately. That’s the least heartache, most satisfaction formula.
Digging the trench is the most labor intensive. Refilling goes a lot faster because you don't have to keep measuring to see if it's deep enough or be careful lifting soil out with the trencher. If you take a couple of days to do it, gophers may come along, disturb the soil and some falls into the trench. Yes, you have to remove that soil again. Best if you can do it all in one day. Probably better to have two intense people do it. Plus, your pathways will be available sooner and everyone will be safe.
If you borrowed a trencher, clean it up, return it in a timely fashion with a love note of thanks! If friends helped you, it's treat time! That was hard work for all!
Congratulations! You did it!
Back to top
Cilantro/Coriander - Persnickety but Lovely & Valuable
Maybe it is even temperamental. You see, it needs everything just so. And this is its favorite time to grow in SoCal!
Cilantro loves cool weather, even tolerates a light frost, but has a short life. It simply grows right up and quits. No, you didn't do anything wrong, and it's not that you just don't have a way with it. With the best conditions Cilantro will last about 8-10 weeks before flowering. It's doing what it does. It has a unique taste, so if you love it, save seeds and keep right on planting, again and again and again for a steady supply!
I let a plant fall down after it died last summer. Now I have a cilantro patch, sizeable. It's fast growing, so I'm pulling small plants to thin them to about 4" apart and keep them from shadowing other little guys just getting started. In summer they specially like this close planting to keep each other's feet cool, along with mulching. They don't take to transplanting because of their little taproot that goes deep quickly. These babies are vibrantly fresh, have powerful flavor. It happens, for my taste, just one in a salad or a stew is ample. I cut it up, toss it in, roots and all. The roots look little tiny white carrots. Because your plantings are going to be closely spaced, you can see liquid fertilizers, fish/kelp types, are going to be the ones to use so they will trickle down into the soil. A little goes a long way. This is a Mediterranean native used to harsh infertile conditions. Over fertilize and you lose the flavor. Usually you start harvesting the outer leaves when they are about 6" tall.
I love cilantro in all its stages. As a mature plant, before it bolts (makes a central stalk) and flowers, its smells so lovely when I walk by. It bolts when weather warms, even if only a few days. You can see, why in summer, it's best to plant it to get morning sun, afternoon shade. Also it wants to be sheltered from wind. Ok, ok. You definitely want to get slow bolting varieties. Four varieties of cilantro currently dominate Central Coast production: Santos, Long Standing, Slo Bolt, and Leisure. All four are used for spring, summer, and fall production, while Santos is the most common variety grown during the winter months.
The tiny white blooms are beautiful and the bees come! It makes tons of little brown round seeds, no more than an eighth of an inch across, very easy to harvest. I scatter them to fill empty places or along the border of my garden. Along the border is nice 'cz that way all I have to do is stoop a bit as I walk by, to enjoy their scent and those bright little ferny leaves. Make it count by planting it among your broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbages because it repels APHIDS! If you are in a hurry and want more surety of germination, soak the seeds 24 hours before planting them a half inch deep in a 2" deep trench with low sloping sides. The low slope keeps the soil from filling in the trench, burying the seeds too deeply when you water. Firm the soil well so there is good contact and they will stay moist after watered. Happy cilantro is not picky about soil pH, but it likes well composted soil, well drained though they like to stay moist.
The Seeds have their own name. Coriander. We know it used in pickling and sausages. It comes from the Middle East, and is used in many ways in other parts of the world. It is a proven antibacterial, is used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The leaves are high in Vitamin C, and it concentrates Calcium - good for older women! It is an ingredient in Belgian wheat beers!
Ahem. Keep in mind that many people are not Cilantro lovers like you and I, so go easy on it at that dinner party. One in 6 have taste buds that find it bitter. Genetic trait! Ha! More for us!
Exciting Upcoming Garden Events!
There is still time to sign up to become a Master Gardener!
Training takes place mid-February through mid-June and is adapted to local needs and the local environment. See more.
This is a very satisfying program and you will meet many like-minded new friends, work productively together in our community.
Terra Sol Garden Center, Landscape Plant SALE between Christmas and New Year!
8:30 to 5 Daily!
Go early! 5320 Overpass Road Santa Barbara, CA 93111 Call (805) 964-7811
Get on their email list for events notifications! They love
Jan 2, 2013 La Sumida Nursery-Garden Center RE-OPENS, will have BAREROOT plants! Roses, FRUIT TREES, BERRIES, asparagus, grapes, STRAWBERRIES!
Mon - Sat 8 - 5, Sunday 10 - 4 at 165 South Patterson Avenue Santa Barbara, CA 93111 Call (805) 964-9944 Check their site page for upcoming events and subscribe for email notices!
Locally! What better than ON A WORKING FARM?!?!
The Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens Apprenticeship Program BEGINS JANUARY 2013! It provides a hands-on direct experience in organic farming, sustainable food systems, and agricultural education. Apprentices work as a close team to develop an introductory understanding of organic farming as well as an understanding of the broader food systems in which farming is embedded. Topics covered include propagation, irrigation, marketing, harvesting, caring for farm animals, plant ecology, soil systems, integrated pest management, food systems, farm finance, and farmers markets. READ MORE!
February 17 – 22
Join NATIVE SEEDS SEARCH, Executive Director Bill McDorman, Joy Hought MSc and special guests for a 6-day Seed School
session at Fairview Gardens in Goleta, California. Seed School is for gardeners, farmers, herbalists, nurseries, CSAs, non-profits, government agencies and everyone concerned with regional, sustainable and diverse agriculture. Proceeds benefit NATIVE SEEDS / SEARCH.
To learn more about this groundbreaking course and to register, go to the NATIVE SEEDS / SEARCH website
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….
Be good to each other, and Mother Earth! Thank you all for your love and support!
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