Food Gardening with Less Water
Can you have a food garden with limited available water? Yes! You can grow nutritious veggies with less water and a better taste than those found in the grocery store. Find out how with guidance and a video produced by the UCCE Sonoma Master Gardener Food Gardening Specialists. Click here for more information.
In the Garden
by Master Gardener Stephanie Wrightson
By Master Gardener Joe Michalek
Fall and Winter Garden
By Master Gardener Janet Barocco
Your own dried herbs will be fresher and more pungent than any you can buy at the supermarket. The process is easy; learn the basics.
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
If a fall/winter garden was not planted, plant a cover crop, such as fava beans, to add nitrogen and organic matter, to improve the soil tilth and water penetration and to help mitigate disease issues related to crop rotation. Cut down the crop next year just as it comes to bloom for maximum nitrogen benefit, leaving the roots in the soil. The tops can be simply chopped and dropped or put in your compost pile.
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 to early-Dec 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.
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.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH
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. This is a brief summary. Refer to the Vegetable Planting Summary and other SCMG website articles for more detailed information. “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 = 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