In the Garden
by SCMG Sandy Main
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
Weed…they are still growing and competing with your vegetables for water and light.
If you did not replenish the food garden soil last month, add two inches of good quality compost now. Why? Compost 1) builds soil structure by creating pores for air and water; 2) improves moisture retention in light soil; 3) improves drainage in heavy soil; 4) feeds microorganisms that provide a symbiotic relationship between the soil and your plants so that plants can use the nutrients; and 5) provides all the nutrients – in combination with the soil – that your plants need. Higher soil nutrition helps plants produce better yields with the same amount of water!
If September is hot, set out fall/winter vegetable transplants later in the afternoon and use a row cover for a week or two to protect tender seedlings from the sun.
In Sonoma County, the summer food garden is still in high production. If you have an overabundance of squash, pick them when they are very young and tender. If you have more produce than you can use, your neighborhood food bank or a neighborhood gleaning program will be happy to help you out.
Mulch will help with water retention and weed suppression now and protect against cooler weather in October and November. Use three to four inches depending on the size of the mulch particles. Mulch should not touch the plant stems.
Stagger plantings of leafy greens and other favorite crops that can be harvested before mid-November (the average frost date for Sonoma County) and hardy crops that will survive the winter for a continued harvest.
Remove the tips and small fruits of winter melons as they won’t have time to mature. Also, pinch off the last blossoms of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and squash to encourage larger fruits.
Clean up fallen fruit after harvest. Dispose of diseased material.
Citrus: apply 1/2 pound 5-2-1 mixed with 1 tablespoon Epson salts and, then, water well
Apples: renew coddling moth lures in traps.
Raspberries: foliar feed with liquid fish two times this month
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 find snails and slugs in your garden, build a trap using a 12- by 15-inch board raised off the ground by 1-inch runners. As they collect under the board, scrape them off and destroy daily.
LETTUCE, thru Oct, C, D/T, 50-60 days to maturity
CARROTS, C, D, 70-90 days to maturity
ONION, BUNCHING, thru Oct, C, D/T, 70-80 days to maturity
KALE, thru Nov, C, D/T, 65-75 days to maturity
BUSH BEAN, W, D, 55-65 days to maturity
ARTICHOKES, C, D/T, 130-190 days to maturity
CARDOON, C, T, 180 days to maturity
BROCOLI, C, T, 60-80 days to maturity
GREENS, ASSORTED, thru Oct, C, D, 35-45 days to maturity
SPINACH, thru Oct, C, D/T, 40-50 days to maturity
CAULIFLOWER, C, T, 80-90 days to maturity
CHICORY & RADICCHIO, C, D/T, 80-90 days to maturity
CHINESE CABBAGE, C, D/T, 70-85 days to maturity
ENDIVE & ESCAROLE, C, D/T, 60-80 days to maturity
KOHLRABI, C, D, 60-70 days to maturity
ONIONS, BULB, C, D/T, 100-120 days to maturity
RADISHES, DAIKON & WINTER, C, D, 50-70 days to maturity
TURNIPS, C, D, 30-55 days to maturity
BOK CHOY, thru Oct, C, D/T, 40-60 days to maturity
PEAS, thru Oct, C, D, 60-80 days to maturity
CORN SALAD/MÂCHE, thru Oct, T, 80 days to maturity
RADISHES, thru Oct, C, D, 20-60 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