Saturday, October 12, 2013

Winter Vegetable Garden In A Bushel Basket

Southwest include Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah
We're most lucky here in southern California and in most of the U.S. sunbelt to be able to year-round garden. Temperatures in the inland valleys are a moderate 60F+ which is wonderful for all root vegetables, lettuces, onions, cabbages, flowers etc.

There's an imaginary line that marks southern California and that is the northern most border of Kern County, Riverside, San Luis Obispo County and San Bernardino County. The latitudes of these counties even on the shortest days of the year have more than nine hours of glorious warm sunlight which makes it most possible to grow almost any crop during the winter months. Most avid vegetable gardeners in these areas take advantage of the moderate temperatures that are similar to Mediterranean climates of Turkey, Italy and parts of Spain and Portugal.

Like I always say, when in Rome.. . grow it! Besides growing the regular cabbage, beets, bok choy, various lettuce and onions, I can get away with growing tomatoes outside until December. Herbs love southern California and the sunbelt during the winter months as well. My basil and oregano flourish more so in Autumn and Winter rather than Summer or Spring.

It's always a 'wow' experience whenever the California Poppies, roses and citrus trees are in full bloom during the winter months.
Seldom does it actually freeze over in southern California. Southwestern states like Arizona, New Mexico do get plenty of frost dates and fall below freezing temperatures that disallow particular crops like fragile lettuces, mustard, broccoli etc.
Because southern California hardly sees freezing temperature or frost that's deep enough to freeze the ground, we can grow just about anything during winter. We have the warm Pacific Ocean breezes, California sunshine and shelter from mountains to thank for long growing seasons.
Excellent vegetables to grow well during Autumn and Winter in zones 8, 9 and 10. Zone 7 can be variable. Keep an eye out for frost and freezing ground temperatures in U.S. hardiness zone 7.
It's always a good idea to start seeds ahead in containers so that you have a good strong plant, no second guessing at where you had sown seeds or a chance that your seeds won't germinate.
Almost all crops can be seeded directly outside by the middle of fall to germinate and grow without any cover necessary. Celery seeds are considered micro seeds and I always recommend sewing them in a container so that you can transplant them into the ground. Celery seed can easily blow away even before they hit the ground.
A helpful hint to know and has always been successful for me is to space winter vegetables a bit further apart than usual. This will allow good air circulation once the weather becomes a bit cooler or wetter. There will be times during the winter months that cool season crops may need some extra babying to get them through hot dry spells that occur or overnight drop in temperatures. 
Keep in mind that Santa Ana winds which are warm winds usually occurring in October - December can dry out or erode your ground. Water them often to keep their roots moist and cool until they get well established.

Published planting guide charts are a good source of information to let you know when to begin or establish particular plants according to their growing seasons but, live on the edge! Try planting seeds out of season to see what happens.
You may be surprised that you can actually grow cabbage during the heat of summer with a bit of extra care or cherry tomatoes that grow until February. Vegetable gardening is all about trial and error. Ground cover, companion planting, old bed sheets can help along vegetable plants that don't normally grow during the winter months.
I've had zucchini grow up until December because, the plant was situated between Detroit Red Beet plants. Weird and surprising things always happen in the garden.
I'm a big fan of square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is based on how many plants can fit into a square foot using companion planting techniques. Many times tall plants will help extend the life of out of season shorter plants. Lettuce is a great ground cover for many plants that need a bit of warmth. Plant lettuce at the base of just about anything. Taller plants help shelter lettuce from cold or the heat of the sun. Experiment with your garden. Experiment with container gardens and plant locations.
The more you know.. .
*Do you have a hot spare bedroom that gets direct sunlight? Why not have a container garden in that hot spare bedroom or corner near the sliding glass window? There's no rule that your veggies need to only grow outside in particular plots. Many times cement retaining walls radiate heat during the winter which will help plants like broccoli and brussel sprouts thrive. Trial and error. It's always a kick to find that 'sweet spot' around the house or outside that allows you to grow a cabbage or bed of spinach. Some climbing vegetables like cucumbers can grow longer, outside of the typical growing season when planted along side of a cement wall. The wall's heat helps the plant live a bit longer.
Squash and tomatoes are always fun to try to grow out of season. I have good success with Hubbard, butternut, acorn squash and cherry tomatoes up until the first frost.
 Recommended Vegetable Seed Companies:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Easy Companion Planting

Vegetable and Flower Garden
Companion Planting Made Simple

Companion planting is when you plant different vegetables or flowers together or in close proximity with the goal of controlling or ridding bad pests (deer, rabbits) and weeds, improving nutrient uptake and fertility, attracting bees, butterflies and other good insects that will improving pollination or rid your plants of damaging insects.

Besides using companion planting to rid pests or attract bees for pollination, companion planting can actually improve your soil or heighten the flavor and aroma of foods because, a companion plant is warding off disease, damaging elements and allow nutrients to easily absorb into a plants root, stem or leaf system.

Companion planting absolutely works because one or more of the following occurs:

One plant will produce a particular substance or substances that help another plant in various ways. Basil will repel aphids from tomato plants.

Growing habits of one plant compliment the growing habits of another which will help the plant thrive to its potential.

One plant will attract insect predators that eat the insect pests on the companion. If you had planted 10 cabbages all together you would almost certainly lose several to moths or caterpillars unless you carried out regular spraying of insecticides which I feel isn't good for your health; however,  if you plant them with celery and beets and some peas, you would have a successful cabbage crop. Caterpillars can't stand the smell of celery.

One plant will repel the pests that eat or damage its companion. For instance, pepper plants near cabbage will repel cabbage moths.

One plant disguises its companion so that pests do not recognize it.

One plant creates a micro-climate for another.

One plant attracts pollinators that are required by its companion. Colorful flowers like marigold or cosmos can attract bees, butterflies and moths that help pollinate the flowers of a pepper or tomato plant.

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Companion Planting

Asparagustomatoes, parsley, basil
Beanspotatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage, summer savory, most other vegetables and herbsonions, garlic, gladiolus
Pole Beanscorn, summer savoryonions, beets, kohlrabi
Bush Beanspotatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, celery, summer savoryonions
Beetsonions, kohlrabipole beans
Cabbage Familyaromatic plants, potatoes, dill, celery, chamomile, sage, peppermint, rosemary, beets, onionsstrawberries, tomatoes, pole beans
Carrotspeas, leaf lettuce, chives, onions, leeks, rosemary, sage, tomatoesdill
Celeryleek, tomatoes, c cauliflower, bush beans, cabbage
Chivescarrotspeas, beans
Cornpotatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash
Cucumbersbeans, corn, peas, radishes, sunflowerskohlrabi, potato, fennel, cabbage
Leekonions, celery, carrots
Lettucecarrots, radishes, strawberry, cucumber
(carrots, lettuce and radish make a strong team)
(also Garlic)
beets, strawberry, tomato, lettuce, summer savory,
chamomile (sparsely)
peas, beans
Parsleytomato, asparagus
Peascarrots, turnips, radishes, cucumbers, corn, beans, most vegetables and herbsonions, garlic, gladiolus, potato
Potatobeans, corn, cabbage, horseradish (should be planted at the corner of the patch), marigold, eggplant (as a lure for Colorado Potato beetle)pumpkin, squash, cucumber, sunflower, tomato, raspberry
Radishpeas, nasturtium, lettuce, cucumber
Soybeansgrows with anything, helps everything
Squashnasturtium, corn
Strawberriesbush bean, spinach, borage, lettuce (as a border)cabbage
Tomatochives, onions, parsley, asparagus, marigold, nasturtium, carrots

   Melons              Nasturtium, corn, tomato

Sunday, February 10, 2013

U.S. State Birds Flowers, Trees & Capitals

Do You Know What Your State Flower or Bird Is?
Well You Should!
Once upon a time state flowers were found along hillsides, highways and home gardens. The Golden Poppy is California State flower and yet, I don't see them along hillsides, highways or in anyone's gardens! What ever happen to the glory of seeing all of the beautiful flowers.. and where have they gone?
I rarely see a California Golden Poppy alongside the road or in the distance. It was a grand site to see a hillside with a blanket of orange poppies! The brilliant color was hard to miss. Every now and again I'll see a couple poppies in a cluster and remember the days of rolling hills of orange.
Other people are saying the same thing about not finding their state flowers in the wild, alongside roads or even at nurseries. It's time for all of us to take back our flowers and say.. I miss  you, I want you, I need you and I will represent!
I challenge all backyard gardeners and state capitals to plant at least one state plant. If you're from New York, your state flower is a beautiful rose. If you're from Florida, your state flower is a wonderful orange blossom. If you're from the Illinois, your state flower is a lovely native violet.
As backyard gardeners, we should be the first to notice our state flowers missing from the common landscapes of America. Gardening is often a domino effect. Perhaps if you plant your state flower in in your front yard, maybe your neighbor will or maybe you'll inspire someone in the community to do the same. How about buying a pack of flowers and offer your neighbor one?
California Golden Poppy
So many things from childhood or landscapes are missing or are being lost because, we as people are either neglecting or simply forgetting about things. The social media/internet/computer age has unfortunately made all of us couch potatoes or computer chair loungers.
We all use to have at least one ol' backyard gardener on the block who had the best lawn, the best flower beds or the best curb appeal. As kids we would think, 'Man .. that guy needs to get a life.' 
Well guess what? That 'guy' did have a life. He was creating beauty, history, memories for himself, his family and for passer-bye's. It's time to slow down, give up the computer, cellphones and T.V. for a day and get out and be that guy who takes pride in his manicured lawn and beautiful flower beds.
I rarely see anyone with flower beds anymore.. I hope to change that by planting flower beds in my front yard and one of them will include the California state flower, the Golden Poppy.

Reseeding Your State or County With Wildflowers!
Did you know that some states actually reseed wildflower seeds each year via hydro-seeding but, most states don't.

You can actually adopt a highway to help pick-up litter.. how about reseeding your native flower? Here's a link to contact your governor to request that your state reseed your native flower. Tell them how much you miss seeing that special flower and how states like Illinois actually reseed country sides using hydro-seeding method.
Where to Buy state wildflower seeds
Arkansas State Flower
Apple Blossom (Pyrus Coronaria)
Southern Pine
Picea sitchensis
Camellia sp.
Yellow Hammer
Sitka Spruce
Pinus palustris
Myosotis scorpioides
Willow Ptarmigan
Cercidium floridum
Saguaro cactus
Carnegiea gigantea
Cactus Wren
Little Rock
Pinus echinata
Apple blossom
California Redwood
Sequoia sempervirens
Golden poppy
Eschscholzia californica
California Valley Quail
Blue Spruce
Picea pungens
Rocky Mountain Columbine
Aquilegia caerulea
Lark Bunting
White Oak
Quercus alba
Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia
American Holly
Ilex opaca
Peach blossom
Blue Hen Chicken
Cabbage Palmetto
Sabal palmetto
Orange blossom
Live Oak
Quercus virginiana
Cherokee rose
Rosa laevigata
Brown Thrasher
American Elm
Ulmus americana
Epigaea repens
Eastern White Pine
Pinus strobus
Apple blossom
Pyrus coronaria
St. Paul
Red Pine
Pinus resinosa
Lady slipper
Cypripedium reginae
Common Loon
Southern Magnolia
Magnoila grandiflora
Magnolia grandiflora
Jefferson City
Flowering Dogwood
Cornus florida
Crataegus sp.
Ponderosa Pine
Pinus ponderosa
Lewisia rediviva
Western Meadowlark
Populus deltoides
Soldiago gigantea
Western Meadowlark
Carson City
Bristlecone Pine
Pinus aristata
Artemisia arbuscula
Mountain Bluebird
New Hampshire
Paper Birch
Betula papyrifera
Purple lilac
Syringa vulgaris
Purple Finch
New Jersey
Northern Red Oak
Quercus rubra
Purple violet
Viola sororia
Eastern Goldfinch
New Mexico
Santa Fe
Pinus edulis
Yucca sp.
New York
Sugar Maple
Acer saccharum
Rosa sp.
North Carolina
Pinus palustris
Cornus florida
North Dakota
American Elm
Ulmus americana
Wild prairie rose
Rosa carolina
Western Meadowlark
Ohio Buckeye
Aesculus glabra
Scarlet carnation
Dianthus caryophyllus
Oklahoma City
Eastern Redbud
Cercis canadensis
Loranthaceae sp.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Douglas fir
Pseudotsuga meziesii
Oregon Grape
Mahonia aquifolium
Western Meadowlark
Eastern Hemlock
Tsuga canadensis
Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia
Ruffed Grouse
Rhode Island
Red Maple
Acer rubrum
Viola sp.
Rhode Island Red
South Carolina
Cabbage Palmetto
Sabal palmetto
Yellow jessamine
Gelsemium sempervirens
Great Carolina Wren
South Dakota
White Spruce
Picea flauca
Pasque flower
Anemone pulsatilla
Ring-necked Pheasant
Yellow Poplar
Liriodendron tulipifera
Purple iris
Iridaceae sp.
Carya illinoensis
Texas Blue Bonnet
Lupinus texensis
Salt Lake City
Blue Spruce
Picea pungens
Sego lily
Calochortus gunnisonii
American Seagull
Sugar Maple
Acer saccarum
Red clover
Trifolium pratense
Hermit Thrush
Flowering Dogwood
Cornus florida
Cornus florida
Western Hemlock
Tsuga heterophylla
Western rhododendron
Rhododendron macrophyllum
Willow Goldfinch
West Virginia
Sugar Maple
Acer saccarum
Rhododendron sp.
Sugar Maple
Acer saccarum
Wood violet
Viola sororia
Populus Sargentii
Indian paint brush
Castilleja affinis
Western Meadow Lark

U.S. First Lady
Lady Bird Johnson
*Lady Birdy Johnson always lead by example. She was the top doll of U.S. First Ladies. She left a legacy to America by setting up an organization called Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Center located at University of Texas at Austin. There's lots of resources on her website and her organization offers grants to schools and communities to ensure education regarding conservation for future educations.
Backyard gardeners can purchase wildflowers seeds directly from Lady Bird Johnson's organization as well.


Sowing the Future, One Seed at a Time
The Austin American-Statesman, in partnership with the Wildflower Center, has begun a five-year campaign to honor Lady Bird Johnson by bringing color to the hills and highways of Central Texas. The campaign, which will raise money to plant wildflower seeds, will conclude in 2012, the year when Lady Bird would have turned 100.

In support of this campaign, a special mix of Central Texas wildflower seeds has been created by the Wildflower Center in collaboration with Native American Seed. A share of the proceeds from the sale of Lady Bird's Legacy Mix goes to fund the Wildflower Center's Seed Grant Program.