In the Garden
Cool Season Cover Crops/Green Manure
by SCMG Jason Robinson
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
Mulch perennial crops and any bare soil. Option: rake leaves into a pile, run the mower over them and use this as organic mulch; 3-4 inches are recommended to retain soil moisture even in the cooler fall when drought conditions persist. Mulch also reduces splash and, therefore, reduces the number of disease spores that might move from the soil to your fall and winter crops.
If tomatoes are still in the garden, cut off their water to help ripen what is left. And pruning the growing tips of indeterminate tomatoes will encourage the plants to direct all of the sugars and energy to ripening the existing fruit before the first frost (on AVERAGE, mid-Nov in Sonoma County).
As veggies fade, pull them out and toss any plants showing signs of pests or disease. The rest can go into the compost.
Strawberries can be planted October through spring. In the spring, pay attention to day-neutral (“everbearers”) vs. short-day types. If short-day types are planted in spring (when days are lengthening), they will not flower/fruit adequately. Trim off all runners as they develop because they weaken the mother plant and reduce fruit size. See University of California guidance.
Lightly fertilize cool-season vegetables in a fall/winter garden if compost or a slow-release fertilizer was not added earlier. Do not add nitrogen to root crops. Citrus: apply 1/2 lb of 5-2-1 mixed with 1 tablespoon of Epson salts and water well.
Raspberries: foliar feed with liquid fish two times this month.
Blackberries: apply 2 oz per plant of 5-10-10 and water well.
Fruit Trees: apply 7-5-7 per bag instructions around drip line of trees and work in, being careful not to disturb roots.
Despite the fertilizing schedule outlined above, be conservative with fertilizers if the drought persists during the fall – more vigorous plants require more water.
Turn off your automatic watering systems when rainy weather arrives. But, if a dry spell follows the first rain storm, like last year, don’t forget to turn it back on.
Scientists are predicting an 80 percent chance of the drought lasting at least ten years. A drip system is the most efficient way to deliver water to your veggie garden. If you didn’t install one this spring/summer, now is a good time to rectify this. Remember to keep the design simple and use drip with inline pressure-regulating emitters (rather than a tangle of spaghetti tubing and external emitters that break/crack easily).
Clean, sharpen and oil garden tools and store them in a dry space. Steel wool will remove rust build up (wear gloves); some gardeners use wax paper throughout the year to wipe cleaned and dried blades after use to prevent/reduce rust. Drain garden hoses and hang them in the garage during the rainy season.
Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Sanitation is an important aspect of disease prevention. Clear garden debris and, then, clean and disinfect tools in a 10-percent bleach solution for one or two minutes.
- LETTUCE, C, D/T, 50-60 days to maturity
- BUNCHING ONIONS, C, D/T, 70-80 days to maturity
- KALE, thru Nov, C, D/T, 65-75 days to maturity
- GREENS, ASSORTED, C, D, 35-45 days to maturity
- SPINACH, C, D/T, 40-50 days to maturity
- BOK CHOY, C, D/T, 40-60 days to maturity
- PEAS, C, D, 60-80 days to maturity
- CORN SALAD/MÂCHE, T, 80 days to maturity
- RADISHES, C, D, 20-60 days to maturity
- GARLIC, thru Nov, C, D, 120-185 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