In the Garden
by Master Gardener Linda Rose
Growing Food in a Drought Year
- How much available water will I have for a food garden?
- How much food do I need to grow and can I grow it with available water?
- What supplemental water is available and how safe is it for edibles?
We need to educate ourselves about the water needs of various crops and stages of plant growth that require irrigation. In this regard, we should explore crops and varieties that may be new to us, but are drought-tolerant.
The Food Gardening Specialists (FGS) group are providing water-saving strategies Sonoma gardeners can employ and outlining best practices they can put in effect to retain moisture in the soil and use water efficiently as well as what planting choices may allow them to bring crops to a successful harvest. Their action plan for food gardeners is contained in these documents:
Food Gardening with Less Water
Drought-Tolerant Crops and Varieties
The following two expanded documents provide additional guidance to help Sonoma County food gardeners answer two important questions: Will I have enough available water to have a food garden this year? – AND – If I have available water, how much water does my food garden need?
A More In-Depth Look at Food Gardening With Less Water
How Much Water Does My Food Garden Need?
Free food gardening workshops are held in Sonoma County community gardens and are open to the public. The FGS are conducting new workshops this spring (commencing late March) titled - Food Gardening in a Drought. Workshops will be repeated in the fall. Check the SCMG Calendar for the dates and locations near you.
GROWING TOMATOES WITH LESS WATER
by Sonoma County Master Gardener Elaine Walter
Harvesting & Preserving Garden Bounty
By Stephanie Wrightson, Sonoma County Master Gardener
See the section below for some delicious pumpkin recipes.
Food Garden Tips
Set out fall/winter vegetable transplants later in the afternoon and use a row cover for a couple weeks to protect tender seedlings from the sun. Mulch will help with water retention and weed suppression now and protect against cooler weather in October and November. Mulch should not touch the plant stems. Stagger plantings of leafy greens and other favorite cool weather crops that can be harvested before mid-November (average frost date for Sonoma County) and root crops that will survive the winter for a continued harvest.
If you have water restrictions, realize that many fall crops are not the most water-wise. Consider these strategies: Instead of direct-seeding in the hot, dry month of August, you may want to transplant when the weather cools (and, hopefully, fall rains arrive). Check for varieties with a shorter days-to-maturity that can reach maturity before the average first frost date (mid-November in Sonoma County). This will allow you to plant later – hopefully, not in the heat of summer. Also, look for “drought-resistant” or “drought-tolerant” varieties. Note that this terminology reflects the established plant characteristics; all seed requires water to germinate.
After removing finished summer crops and before planting fall/winter crops, pep up your garden soil. We recommend adding two inches of properly composted organic matter. Other options include 3-4-3 dried chicken manure pellets OR a complete organic fertilizer (always follow the fertilizer manufacturers’ instructions).
As always: Weed. Do not let weeds go to seed! They are competing for water and light.
As the hot winter continues, pinch back flower heads and spikes on your herbs to maintain the best leaf taste, to encourage new growth and to discourage bolting.
If you split your citrus fertilization into three applications this year, make your last application this month. For mature citrus trees use 1 lb of urea or 6-10 lbs of steer manure (reduce for smaller trees). If spider mites are present, use insecticidal soap or a stream of water to wash them off. New mite generations develop rapidly and may require repeated treatments.
Applying a few drops of mineral oil with a medicine dropper to corn silks just inside each ear 3 to 5 days after silks first appear may be effective in preventing damage from corn earworm.
If there is disease in your orchard or food garden, dip your pruners in a 10-percent bleach solution after every cut so that you do not spread the infection.
Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. If you could not control corn earworm (AKA tomato fruit worm) this summer, remove or disc stalks to reduce overwintering populations and prevent migration to neighboring crops.
SWISS CHARD, Feb-Aug, C, D/T, 60-80 days to maturity
LETTUCE (heat-tolerant varieties this month), Feb-Oct, C, D/T, 50-60 days to maturity
BEETS, Mar-Aug, C, D, 55-70 days to maturity
CARROTS, Mar-Sep, C, D, 70-90 days to maturity
ONION, BUNCHING, Mar-Oct, C, D/T, 70-80 days to maturity
KALE, Mar-Nov, C, D/T, 65-75 days to maturity
BEAN, BUSH, May-Sep, W, D, 55-65 days to maturity
ARTICHOKES, May-Sep, C, D/T, 130-190 days to maturity
CARDOON, May-Sep, C, T, 180 days to maturity
BRUSSELS SPROUTS, Jul-Aug, C, T, 100-150 days to maturity
CABBAGE, Jul-Aug, C, T, 70-100 days to maturity
BROCOLI, Jul-Sep, C, T, 60-80 days to maturity
CHINESE CABBAGE, Jul-Sep, C, D/T, 70-85 days to maturity
GREENS, ASSORTED, Jul-Oct, C, D, 35-45 days to maturity
SPINACH, Jul-Oct, C, D/T, 40-50 days to maturity
RUTABAGAS, Aug, C, D, 90 days to maturity
CAULIFLOWER, Aug-Sep, C, T, 80-90 days to maturity
CHICORY & RADICCIO, Aug-Sep, C, D/T, 80-90 days to maturity
ENDIVE & ESCAROLE, Aug-Sep, C, D/T, 60-80 days to maturity
KOHLRABI, Aug-Sep, C, D, 60-70 days to maturity
ONIONS, BULB, Aug-Sep, C, D/T, 100-120 days to maturity
RADISHES, DAIKON & WINTER, Aug-Sep, C, D, 50-70 days to maturity
TURNIPS, Aug-Sep, C, D, 30-55 days to maturity
BOK CHOY, Aug-Oct, C, D/T, 40-60 days to maturity
PEAS, Aug-Oct, C, D, 60-80 days to maturity
*NOTE: Planting dates are approximate for Sonoma County; weather patterns, microclimate and other growing conditions must be considered when direct seeding and transplanting. “Days to maturity” is approximate and depends on the vegetable variety and your garden’s specific growing conditions. This information will facilitate planting dates that lead to successful production before the growing season ends.
W = warm season crops that grow best in soil temps of 65-80 degrees and air temps of 75-90 degrees and little cooling at night.
W+ = warm season crops that need extra protection to keep them warm if planted early in season.
C = cool season crops that grow best in soil temps of 60-65 degrees and air temps of 65-75 degrees.
D = seed is usually sown directly in the garden
T = crops are usually planted from transplants
D/T = seeds can be planted directly into soil or transplants can be used
Selected Kitchen Garden Recipes
Dilled Cucumber Soup
Bok Choy Stir-Fry
Carciofi alla Romana
Classic French Omelet with Herbs de Provence
Fennel Pollen Update
Fennel-Pollen Crusted Halibut
Grandma's Herbed Triscuit Hors d'oeuvres
Grilled Padron Peppers
Honey Fig Jam
Lemony Rice and Shrimp Salad
Other Fennel Recipes