In the Garden
Food Gardening Specialists in 2015
by SCMG and Food Gardening Editor Stephanie Wrightson
The Food Gardening Specialists (FGS) is a subgroup of Sonoma County Master Gardeners. Members have specialty training and a passion for growing food. Their first planning meeting of 2015 last month started with a question: What new thing are you going to do in your food garden this year? The answers were varied with a few themes weaving throughout—not the least of which was food gardening with less water.
Fruit Tree Care
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.
Harvesting & Preserving Garden Bounty
Food Garden Tips
Continue to protect frost-tender plants on cold nights. If you use a tarp or sheet on evergreen plants, use stakes to make sure that covers do not touch the leaves. If you use lights as a heat source, do not use the new energy-saving strings as they do not generate enough heat. Buy “the cube” which automatically turns on lights at 35 degrees and turns them off at 45 degrees. Mulch insulates the roots from cold. Potted plants can be moved under shelter. Finally, make sure that plants are well-watered as the freezing temps will turn the water in the soil to ice, making some of it unavailable to the plants.
Spray fixed copper to peach trees just before bud swell to control peach leaf curl and brown rot. This also helps with fire blight.
Plant bare root fruit trees. If you planted trees last year, remove stakes over one-year old.
If you haven’t already pruned dormant fruit trees, there is still time for most fruit trees. See UC’s guidance on pruning and training fruit trees.
Spray fruit trees with dormant oil after pruning and before buds start to open. Click here for a calendar of fruit tree tasks. If gophers are a problem, affix hardware cloth under raised beds and use wire baskets for plants outside of a protected raised bed. When offered, attend a free Master Gardener class on how to use traps to reduce your gopher population.
It may be time to harvest citrus. Since it only ripens on the tree, sample one to determine its ripeness. If scale insects are present, spray citrus with volck or superior oil.
Prepare pots, hanging baskets and other containers if they will be used for vegetables or herbs this spring; add fresh potting (not garden) soil. At a minimum, replace one-fourth of the soil each year and add a light balanced fertilizer following the manufacturer’s instructions. When you purchase seeds or transplants for pots, look for clues like “pixie,” “mini” or “patio” in the variety name.
Start tomato and other warm-weather vegetable seeds indoors so that they’ll be ready to plant outside after the threat of frost has passed. While the last average frost date in Sonoma County is April 15, this is a 30-year average. Most gardeners delay planting warm-weather vegetables until mid-May.
Some weatherpersons have predicted a wet winter (although not enough to overcome the drought). Vegetable garden soils should be moist, but not wet, and dry enough to crumble when pressed in your hand before preparing it for planting.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH
• RHUBARB, Dec-Mar, C, D/T, 1 yr maturity from roots, 3 yrs from seed
• ASPARAGUS (crowns), Jan-Mar, C, T, 2 yrs to maturity from roots/crowns
• PEAS, Jan-Apr, C, D, 60-80 days to maturity
• ONIONS, BULB, Jan-May, C, D/T, 100-120 days to maturity
• ARUGULA, Feb-Mar, C, D/T, 30-40 days to maturity
• BOK CHOY, Feb-Mar, C, D/T, 40-60 days to maturity
• SPINACH, Feb-Mar, C, D/T, 40-50 days to maturity
• TURNIPS, Feb-Mar, C, D, 30-55 days to maturity
• GREENS, ASSORTED, Feb-Apr, C, D, 35-45 days to maturity
• RADISHES, Feb-Apr, C, D, 20-60 days to maturity
• POTATOES, Feb-May, C, D, 100-120 days to maturity
• LEEKS, Feb-Jul, C, T, 120-150 days to maturity
• SWISS CHARD, Feb-Aug, C, D/T, 60-80 days to maturity
• LETTUCE, Feb-Oct, C, D/T, 50-60 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