In the Garden
by Master Gardener Stephanie Wrightson
Most summer squash are varieties of Cucurbita pepo. But not all Cucurbita pepo are summer squashes. There are a lot more choices than the standard green zucchini.
Corn, Zea Mays, Maize
By Master Gardener Rebecca Goodsell
Corn is a New World plant with prehistoric origins in the lowlands east of the Andes. This long lost progenitor of maize evolved to produce a kind of maize with each kernel in a separate husk.
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.
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
DRIP IRRIGATION - THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY TO DELIVER WATER TO YOUR FOOD GARDEN:
As the drought in California continues, we need to be exact in our application of water to our food gardens - we can't afford to waste a drop. The Food Gardening Specialists developed two documents to help you use water wisely:
-Drip Irrigation in the Food Garden
-How Much Water Does my Food Garden Need?
Food Garden Tips
Weeds are easiest to control when they are small. They will grow large rapidly in a garden bed that is irrigated, and it is important not to let them flower and go to seed. Hand pull or hoe weeds. If you haven’t installed drip in your veggie bed – do it! It’s the most efficient delivery of water to your veggies in a drought year AND you won’t be watering weeds inadvertently.
As the summer heats up and soil moisture evaporates at a higher rate, adjust your irrigation. Ideally, water between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Avoid fluctuations in soil moisture. The soil near the roots should remain evenly moist, not soggy to avoid problems such as fruit cracking and blossom end rot in tomatoes. In a drought year, we don’t have enough water for deep watering. Keep the active root zone (usually 6 to 12 inches) moist through daily watering. How much? The AVERAGE summer evapotranspiration rate requires 1” of water per square foot – about 2/3 gallon per square foot. Divide that into daily applications (or do the best you can if you have watering restrictions).
If you are container gardening, add a complete slow-release fertilizer but consider adding half of the manufacturer’s recommendation. In a drought, you do not want a flush of green growth requiring more water.
Follow-up feedings may be required periodically through the growing season for heavy feeders and long-season crops if a controlled-release fertilizer was not applied at planting. Side dressing your plants with 2 inches of compost will do the trick. Fruiting plants benefit especially from phosphorus and potassium; if using an organic fertilizer, use half of the manufacturer’s recommended amount.
Keep herbs pinched back to control their size, to encourage new tender growth and to discourage them from bolting. Let a few plants flower to attract beneficials but be mindful of free-seeding plants such as cilantro.
Normally, you would fertilize fruit trees with a half application of nitrogen in July or August if mature fruit trees have not put out sufficient shoot growth and/or good fruit set. HOWEVER, avoid fertilizing trees stressed by drought. If water is unavailable, do not fertilize at all because trees will be unable to absorb the nutrients. Overuse of fertilizer increases growth and water demands. If the tree is developing fruit, this is a critical watering period. Add a three- to four-inch mulch layer to retain moisture, but keep it 12 inches away from the trunk.
If you haven’t already added flowering herbs or ornamentals in or near your food garden, do so now to attract beneficial insects. But consider low-water options such as Achillea (yarrow), Coreopsis, rosemary, thyme, chives and Salvia (sage).
Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Is the summer garden infested? An insecticidal soap spray or a horticultural oil will smother many soft-bodied pests including aphids, mites, thrips and whiteflies without harming many beneficial insects and bees. Also, watch for codling moth larvae on pears and apples (tell-tale red-brown droppings), referring to UC IPM for infestation control.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH
LEEKS, Feb-Jul, C, T, 120-150 days to maturity
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
CORN, SWEET, Apr-Jul, W, D, 65-110 days to maturity
CUCUMBERS, Apr-Jul, W+, D/T, 50-70 days to maturity
SQUASH, SUMMER, Apr-Jul, W, D/T, 50-60 days to maturity
BEAN, POLE, May-Jul, W, D, 60-70 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
CELERY, Jun-Jul, C, T, 120-170 days to maturity
BRUSSELS SPROUTS, Jul-Aug, C, T, 100-150 days to maturity
CABBAGE, Jul-Aug, C, T, 70-100 days to maturity
BROCCOLI, 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
*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