UC Master Gardeners of Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties
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UC Master Gardeners of Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties

Posts Tagged: vegetable gardening

Revised - What to Plant in August

Last week's planting guide was more appropriate for the southwest than our Central California climate. So here, for your reading pleasure, is a planting guide for August for Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. This information comes from a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication entitled "Vegetable Garden Planting Guide for Santa Cruz County."

Summer squash. Photo © Leora Worthington.
Crop Selected Varieties Seeds or Transplants?
Artichoke Green Globe Transplants
Basil Genovese, Lemon, Red Opal, Siam Queen Seeds
Beets Detroit Dark Red, Chioggia, Golden, Little Ball Seeds
Broccoli Green Goliath, Packman, Premium Crop, Waltham Transplants
Cabbage Early Jersey Wakefield, Express Red, Savoy Transplants
Carrots Chantenay, Nantes Types Seeds
Cauliflower Snowball Types Transplants
Edible Flowers Calendula, Johnny Jump Ups, Nasturtiums Seeds
Endive Batavian, Curled Types Seeds
Kohlrabi Early Purple Vienna, Early White Vienna Seeds
Leeks American Flag, Titan Seeds
Lettuce - Leaf       Black Seeded Simpson, Little Gem, Mesclun, Salad Bowl Seeds

 

Crop Selected Varieties Seeds or Transplants?
Mustard  Mizuna, Others Seeds
Parsnips  Hollow Crown Seeds
Peas, Garden Maestro, Lincoln Seeds
Peas, Snap Sugar Snap, Sugar Ann Seeds
Radishes Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, White Globe                  Seeds
Spinach Bloomsdale, Melody, Popeye Seeds
Squash - Summer Scallop, Yellow, Zucchini Seeds
Swiss Chard Bright Lights, Fordhook Giant, Rhubarb Seeds
Turnips Purple Top White Globe Seeds

 

Bell and sweet peppers. Photo © Leora Worthington.

Visit the California Garden Web for basic vegetable gardening information including planning your garden, preparing for planting, caring for your vegetable crops, and much much more! Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries!

Posted on Monday, July 31, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Time to Bale

Straw bale image courtesy Mother Earth News.
We have a FREE class coming up about straw bale and hugelkulture gardening. Visit our website to read more about the class and sign up to reserve your space!

Straw bale gardening is a container gardening technique that allows productive herb, flower and vegetable gardens even for people with the worst soil conditions. It involves conditioning straw bales, the kind used for large animal bedding you get at the feed store, to make them soft and semi decomposed for direct planting. 

Benefits – As mentioned, straw bale gardens are for people with very poor soil and over time, the bale itself can improve the soil beneath it. It's a good method for people with limited mobility or difficulty bending over and it's much less labor intensive than turning soil. As with all container gardening, it's good for renters or people with limited yard space. Harvesting is easy—harvest potatoes by knocking over the bale at the end of the season. There's virtually no weeding required with straw bale gardening and straw bales are inexpensive, about $7-12 each. You can build a raised bed with 4 bales, fill the center with planting mix and plant in the soil as well as the straw.

How To

Cardboard mulch under the straw bale garden. Photo courtesy of www.lensgarden.com.au.
Day 1 - Place the bale

When you go shopping make sure you get a STRAW bale and not a HAY bale. Straw is a stalk, usually a waste product of a grain crop, that's used as bedding for barnyard animals. I prefer rice straw if I can get it but other straw works just as well. Hay—typically alfalfa or a grass—is used as animal feed and may contain seeds.

Choose a clear sunny spot and cover the soil with cardboard, weed cloth or wood chips to suppress weeds around the bale. Position the bale narrow side up so the strings hold the bale together over time. Check both narrow sides—one side the straw will be folded over, one side will be cut. Place with the cut side up to draw moisture better. Sometimes the most challenging part can be getting straw bales home from the feed store; you may need to enlist the aid of a friend with a truck or large trunk space to get them home and arranged where you want them. Some feed stores deliver. A hand truck is very helpful for moving the ~75 lb. bales around the yard.

Day 1-14 - Condition the bale

Day 1-3 You need the bale to begin to decompose before planting which will begin as soon as water hits it. Water the bale thoroughly for 3 days (or wait for rain to do that for you).

Day 4-10 For the next 6 days continue watering daily and add some liquid or soluble nitrogen fertilizer to aid decomposition. I sprinkle blood meal on top, fish emulsion or chicken manure tea. There's no prescribed amount of fertilizer to add but for reference, I use about 1 cup of blood meal per bale on day 4 and another ½ cup on day 7.

Day 10- 14 Continue watering the bale daily. The process of decomposition produces heat, like hot compost, so wait until the internal temperature of the bale is ambient temperature. You can use a compost thermometer for this or just dig in with your hand.

The speed of this conditioning stage will take longer if you are relying on rainfall to do all the watering, especially in California. The process takes 10-14 days if water is supplied consistently, otherwise, you'll be looking for the straw to darken in color and be yielding and easy to dig into from the top with a trowel. You may see mushrooms sprout from the bale; this is a normal part of decomposition. You can remove the mushrooms or leave them be.

Planting

Soil trench for planting in the top of the bale.
Most plants do well in straw bales unless they are so tall they fall over and pull the bale apart. Last summer I had a bumper harvest of basil and hot peppers. You can grow tall or vining plants like peas, beans, corn and tomatoes if you build a trellis from them over the bale. Metal fence posts at either end with wire strung between make an easy growing trellis. I arrange my bales in a square and fill the center with potting soil then plant root crops in the center (daikon, garlic, shallots, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, etc.) and leaf and cole crops in the bales along the edges.

How to plant in straw

Use a trowel to remove straw to form a hole that is as deep as the root ball of your plant. Place the plant in the hole and add some quality potting soil around it for stability. Mulch the top with some of the straw you removed and water well. You can do successive plantings and as time passes, you'll find the straw becomes easier and softer to dig into as the bale decomposes.

Peppers growing in straw bale.
Maintenance

It's essential to fertilize regularly since straw doesn't contain all the nutrients good soil does. I usually mix an organic all-purpose fertilizer powder with the potting soil when I plant. I supplement with liquid fertilizer over the growing season. Once the bales are fully saturated through conditioning you will be amazed at how well they retain water. Keep them watered either by overhead hand watering or drip line. I hand water and even in the peak of summer heat I only watered 2-3 times a week. Never let the bales fully dry out or all is lost.

Lifespan of a hay bale garden

Over time your hay bale will get shorter and shorter as it decomposes. You can do successive plantings 3-4 seasons in a row until your bale is little more than a mound. At that point you may dig the spent straw into the moist, softened soil below to begin an in-ground garden bed or use the straw as mulch in other parts of the garden and start a new bale. Straw bale gardening is a great way to replace a lawn with a veggie garden!

To learn more about straw bale gardening and hugelkulture, sign up for our FREE workshop on July 22nd here

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries!

Posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 3:00 PM
  • Author: Delise Weir

Plant Profiles: Red Kuri Squash

Red kuri squash. Picture from seedaholic.com.
Red kuri squash, also known as uchiki kuri squash or orange Hokkaido squash, is an early maturing winter squash that can be grown in a garden or large container. The flavor is described as smooth, sweet and nutty, far superior to pumpkin or butternut squash.

The site:

Kuri squash likes rich, fertile soil and plenty of water while growing on a raised mound to provide drainage. Each plant needs about 4 square feet to spread out and avoid competing with other plants.

Sowing:

Sow seeds indoors from April to June or direct sow from mid-May to the end of June or as soon as soil temperatures exceed 65 oF. Germination takes 10-14 days and seedlings are particularly attractive to snails and slugs (as the author has discovered. A healthy dose of Sluggo or rigorous picking off of critters is recommended). Each plant should bear three to five 3-10 pound teardrop shaped squashes.

Cultivation:

Keep weeds down and do not let plants dry out. Plenty of water is necessary when plants are in flower and early fruiting. Apply mulch around the plants to conserve soil moisture. Feed regularly in sandy soil. Plant some pollinator-attracting flowers nearby to increase pollination of the squash flowers.

Pests & Diseases:

Common insects include spotted and striped cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Seedlings are also susceptible to damping off. Use row covers or insecticidal soaps to treat. For more information, see the following resources:

Harvesting:

80 to 95 days. Harvest once the rind of the vegetable has hardened and the stem is about 2 inches long. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to sever the fruit from the plant.

Storing:

Cure the squash before storing by allowing them to remain in the sunshine for about 10 days. Store in a dark, cool area of less than 65% humidity after curing and they will last for several months.

Seed & Information Sources:

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Posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Hold the Tomatoes!

Jazmin Lopez wrote this post for us a year ago but a visit to a big box store yesterday as well as some online shopping reminded me that it's time for a reminder! As much as we all want to plant them, it's a bit too early for tomatoes just yet.

A Master Gardener plants tomatoes. In May!
Spring is finally upon us and the weather has been absolutely gorgeous. All this sunshine & spring showers have me thinking about my vegetable garden. I already have some seeds in the ground, but I want to keep planting more.

The other day while strolling through the local garden center my eyes happened upon some beautiful tomato and pepper transplants. I watched as my hands started loading them into the shopping cart, I could already taste the fresh summer salsa they would be making their grand appearance in. Then it dawned on me, it's only March! We are getting to the end of the month, but it's still too early.

Yes the days have been warmer, but remember seasonal temperatures are very important in determining when to plant a crop. You'll have more success with your garden if you wait for the right time to plant. 

  • Average monthly temperatures for cool-season crops during their growing period: 60-65F. This includes, carrots, parsnips, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and garlic to name a few.
  • Average monthly temperatures for warm season crops during their growing period: 65-80F. This includes melons, corn, eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

Also remember when planting your seeds to plant them at a depth of twice the diameter of the seed and to thin the emerged plants according to the directions on the seed packet. Or if you are planting transplants, make sure to space them accordingly.

Tomatoes on the vine.
The following table is a wonderful reference for recommended planting dates and planting requirements such as distance between plants in rows. For our area (Monterey, Santa Cruz, & San Benito Counties) you'll want to look at the “North and North Coast” column: Vegetable Gardening at a Glance: How to Plant and Store.

So if you're wondering what I ended up doing with those tomato and pepper transplants at the garden center, I put them right back where they were. I'm going to resist my planting urges until May so that I'll have healthier plants and a more bountiful harvest.

Source: California Master Gardener Handbook, Home Vegetable Gardening, Pages 342-352. University of California.

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries! 

Posted on Monday, March 27, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Hold the Tomatoes!

Cherry tomato plants
Spring is finally upon us and the weather has been absolutely gorgeous. All this sunshine & spring showers have me thinking about my vegetable garden. I already have some seeds in the ground, but I want to keep planting more.

The other day while strolling through the local garden center my eyes happened upon some beautiful tomato and pepper transplants. I watched as my hands started loading them into the shopping cart, I could already taste the fresh summer salsa they would be making their grand appearance in. Then it dawned on me, it's only March! We are getting to the end of the month, but it's still too early.

Yes the days have been warmer, but remember seasonal temperatures are very important in determining when to plant a crop. You'll have more success with your garden if you wait for the right time to plant. 

  • Average monthly temperatures for cool-season crops during their growing period: 60-65F. This includes, carrots, parsnips, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and garlic to name a few.
  • Average monthly temperatures for warm season crops during their growing period: 65-80F. This includes melons, corn, eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

Also remember when planting your seeds to plant them at a depth of twice the diameter of the seed and to thin the emerged plants according to the directions on the seed packet. Or if you are planting transplants, make sure to space them accordingly.

The following table is a wonderful reference for recommended planting dates and planting requirements such as distance between plants in rows. For our area (Monterey, Santa Cruz, & San Benito Counties) you'll want to look at the “North and North Coast” column: Vegetable Gardening at a Glance: How to Plant and Store.

So if you're wondering what I ended up doing with those tomato and pepper transplants at the garden center, I put them right back where they were. I'm going to resist my planting urges until May so that I'll have healthier plants and a more bountiful harvest.

Source: California Master Gardener Handbook, Home Vegetable Gardening, Pages 342-352. University of California.

The photo “Cherry tomato plants” is (c) 2012 by Rowena and made available under a CreativeCommons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Posted on Monday, March 21, 2016 at 4:00 PM
  • Author: Jazmin Lopez, UCMGMB Class of 2012
 
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