- Author: Stan Zervas
My plot at the Avant Community Garden in downtown Benicia had fallen into disrepair as the summer vegetables finished up their season. Time to clean it up and be a good neighbor. This summer my greatest success was with butternut squash, and my biggest failure again was tomatoes. Benicia can be a cooler spot for summer gardens due to its proximity to the bay. I really like to focus on fall, winter, spring gardening because I don't have to water as much, and the climate seems great for leafy greens and cooler season crops.
The biggest challenge is working with the heavy clay soil and managing Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, sometimes also called morning glory. Each time I turn the garden bed I take the opportunity to amend the soil and dig out as many roots of the bindweed as possible. Bindweed has a deep extensive root system and spreads via rhizomes underground. If you choose to attempt to control this weed with herbicides, then choose an herbicide that will translocate (systemic) to the roots as the burndown (aka contact) herbicides will do nothing to the root systems. But we don't use herbicides in the community garden so its dig, dig, dig all the time. For more info on bindweed see www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7462.html
After digging out as may roots and rhizomes as possible I turn the top layer of soil, break up the clay soil clods and amend with compost. This year I used a bagged blend of decomposing forest products and chicken manure. I spread out about 1 inch thick of compost and turned it under.
Then off to the nursery to look for transplants. I don't tend to direct seed at the community garden because I'm to busy to remember to come water every day until the seeds emerge. I double-checked the planting guide for our area to remind myself what to plant in early September. This go-around I selected……kale, cauliflower, and broccolini. I popped in a few zinnias even though I know it's a little late for zinnias, but I like them.
September and October in California can be cool which would be great for my new transplants, or it can be extremely hot which wouldn't be the best for recently planted cool-seasoned crops. But that's what I love about gardening, it involves experimentation and luck.
Come garden with us! www.sustainablesolano.org/benicia-community-gardens/