Food Gardening and El Niño
In the Garden
By Master Gardener Joe Michalek
By Master Gardener Bryce Sumner
Food Gardening with Less Water
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.
Food Garden Tips
Prepare and protect the garden beds from possible damaging heavy rains. See “Food Gardening and El Nino.”
Spray fixed copper to peach trees after leaves have fallen to control peach leaf curl and brown rot.
Spray fruit trees with organic and vegetable oil-based dormant oil. The oil smothers over wintering insect eggs and pests.
Dormant pruning of fruit trees can be done from the beginning of leaf fall up to bloom. See UC guidance on pruning and training fruit trees. Little or no pruning of citrus is required: prune out any crossing, broken or shaded out branches from the interior of the tree.
If you don’t have a drip system in your food garden, buy supplies so that you’ll be prepared to install the system before your early spring garden is started. Drip is the most efficient way to deliver water to your garden—an important consideration during a drought.
Instead of raking and depositing your leaves in the green bin, run the lawnmower over them to shred them and use them as mulch on your winter veggies beds. These leaves contain many nutrients that the trees pulled out of the soil and atmosphere. In addition to feeding your soil, you will be protecting soil from erosion and moisture evaporation, retarding winter weed growth and preventing splash from rain that could deposit soil-borne disease on your winter crops.
If a heavy freeze is predicted, cover citrus trees with burlap draped over stakes, keeping fabric away from foliage and fruit.
Grow sprouts and herbs in a sunny kitchen window.
Read up on cold frames, plastic tunnels, row covers, cloches and other plant protection in order to extend the growing season next year. Take advantage of sales on the supplies you will need for planting early spring crops.
December 21 is the shortest day of the year with the longest shadows. At high noon, note where the yard is sunniest – this is the best place to plant your fall and winter food garden next year.
With fewer gardening tasks, this is a good month to research perennial weed problems. Look at University of California’s weed photo gallery to identify weeds and watch a video on weed control techniques.
Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Spraying with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) will organically control any cabbage worms that you find in your winter garden.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH*
RHUBARB, Dec-Mar, C, D/T, 1 yr maturity from roots, 3 yrs from seed
*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.
C = cool season crops that grow best in soil temps of 60-65 degrees and air temps of 65-75 degrees.
D/T = seeds can be planted directly into soil or transplants can be used