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Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

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Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

Post  mmichellew on 10/28/2013, 5:26 pm

Greetings! I have been dabbling with square foot gardening for a year or so. Its hot in central CA where I live, so my summer gardens usually die from lack of attention from me. My tomatoes looked great last summer but were not very productive and something chewed into almost all the fruits. Couldn't believe the holes in my tomatoes. Bummer! I cleared out the tomato plants and  had to pull out the mix so I could do battle with the Bermuda grass that seems to survive no matter how often I hit it with roundup. Then I laid fresh ground barrier material, a double layer that comes up and over the sides of my boxes, and replenished the Mix with a new supply of chicken manure (pew!) and vegetable compost mix. I thought I'd try a winter garden, since I don't mind cold and rain. On October 26, I planted a ton of Brussels sprout starts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and celery in my newly filled garden beds. I have no idea if its too late to plant this stuff. I hope not.  

I want to grow carrots, but do not know if it would be worth buying seed again. I tried them last spring along with lettuces by seed, and I had not one sprouted plant. I'm hoping to have better luck with starts but I would love to know how to get the seed to grow. Is fresh Mel's Mix too hot for seeds to grow in it?  what would cause an entire bed of seeds not to germinate?

Also, can anyone tell me what I need to do to keep my winter garden producing this winter?  How do I protect from frost if/when it comes? I'd love to keep production going year round. 

Thanks!


Last edited by mmichellew on 10/28/2013, 5:27 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fine tune the location of my garden, hope i get answers from gardeners in my zone/area)

mmichellew

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Re: Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

Post  sanderson on 10/28/2013, 7:30 pm

Mmichellew,  First, welcome to the Forum!  glad you\'re here   You have a ton of help right here on the Forum.  In fact, Audrey and I live right up 99 from you, the Fresno Sanger area.  She is actually in the Foothills but the weather is near identical - scorching summers, cold winters, lack of rain, etc.  It sounds like you have spent a year without the greatest support system a Newbie (and experienced) gardener could ask for.

In response to winter gardening, yes you can.  But, to start with, photos are really important to the the folks here.  It helps to visually see a problem in order to offer suggestions to solve the problem.  And don't be shy, this is my first year with SFG and every success, even one veggie off a plant is cause to do the happy feet dance.  Very Happy 

I made notes so here goes.  Holes in tomatoes sounds like tomato worms.  Folks religiously check for tiny green worms on their tomatoes so they don't grow into big green worms.  They are dispatched immediately except for the folks with chickens, who will give them to their "girls."  Bacillus therengis (BT) sprayed on the plant kills the caterpillars.

Bermuda grass is an awful grass to keep out of flower beds, so you have my sympathy.  If it is regular Bermuda, keep it regularly mowed to keep the seeds from dispersing into the boxes.  It is important, as you already know, to remove ALL of the roots from the Mel's Mix (MM) before placing it back into the boxes.

I assume your MM was originally made with 1/3 vermiculite (or perlite), 1/3 fluffed peat moss, and 1/3 compost.  I don't know what you mean by vegetable compost mix.  Composted produce? or commercial bag of "compost" for veggies.  There is a big difference.  Do you have a copy of All New Square Foot Gardening? Very important to keep referring to.  As far as the chicken manure, was it fresh manure or well composted (taking time) manure. Chicken manure is a "hot" manure and can burn if not well composted.  Bunny pellets are a cold manure and can be added right to the box.  Cow, horse, llama (general rule is that only herbivore manure should be used) are hot but not like chicken. Horse manure has a lot of partially digested hay in it and can be a great manure to add.  But you want to learn more about it before using.  Hopefully you know you can go up to the Search box in the upper right corner and type in a topic (subject) to locate information in many areas.

Some seeds work great directly sowing in the MM.  Others are easier to start in the spring, late fall and winter in little seedling pots.  Make sure you label each pot or you may do what I did, and mix up all my peppers!  Embarassed 
Seedling I started Feb 15 this year:  Some are in perforated yogurt cups or soda cups.




Cold frame made with scape wood:  The cover opens for sunny winter/spring days and closes for cold nights.  (Brought them inside if the night temp was going to be below 40.*


I use Mel's planting guide.  Finger or pencil to make a hole in the MM or pot mix, drop 2 small seeds or 1 large bean or pea or squash seed.  I don't broadcast seeds.  I'm stingy!  MM is so light, you can plant a little deeper than the seed packet states!

In the Valley, protection from sun and freeze is important for year around gardening.  Mulch in the summer and Indian Fall.  Here's my frame system with cold winter / heavy rain protection:





Tulle and coat hanger protection from the white butterfly / green worm that eat brassicas (cabbage, Brussels, brocolli, bok choy, etc.):


I'm sure others will jump in with encouragement and suggestions.  Don't Forget, PHOTOS!  Very Happy

sanderson

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Thank you!

Post  mmichellew on 10/28/2013, 7:47 pm

Thanks for the insights, Sanderson, I am very appreciative that you took time to respond and to post all those photos!  Very helpful!  I saw what I believe are aphids (tiny grey, soft bodied insects) on my brassica starts, so can see it will be a little more challenging than some. Soap spray to kill them? 
 
I am familiar with tomato horn worms-- they are so dang big they are easy to spot, pick off and smush. But the bite marks on my tomatoes were larger, irregular, and I almost wonder if birds weren't pecking at them. I never had that happen before. But the truth is I work full time now and those birds had 9 hours a day to pick away at my fruits while I was at work. My little Doxie apparently didnt get the memo to chase all birds away.   

As for the chicken manure, it was bagged stuff from Home Depot (cant believe I paid someone for that!) and it smells very strongly of urea/ammonia and of course fecal matter. Made me wonder if maybe the manufacturer didnt compost well enough before sending to market.  The vegetable compost is also a bagged, commercial compost mix composed of vegetables and fruits, so it said on the package. At least it didnt smell so bad. So it sounds like maybe i didnt get enough varieties of animal poo for the garden?  And Vermiculite was nowhere to be found in Bakersfield. Those were the only two compost items available at home depot last weekend, soeme guy had just cleaned out the cow poop before I got there. Smile  Just seemed comical to me.  I will try to take pics when I get home to post.  
Again many thanks! 
Michelle

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one more thing

Post  mmichellew on 10/28/2013, 7:49 pm

At my daughter's back yard in central Bakersfield, the flies were horrible when we put out the smelly composts.  I had a smattering of flies but my goodness they were nasty at her garden. Any advice for outsmarting those rascals?

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and yes...

Post  mmichellew on 10/28/2013, 7:50 pm

And yes, I have the square foot gardner book... loaned it to my son who has beautiful gardens. Maybe its time to take that puppy home!

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Re: Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

Post  sanderson on 10/28/2013, 8:52 pm

I use the Gardner Composted Cow manure from Lowes.  But I put it in the compost pile as one ingredient of at least five different sources of organic matter.  Never directly in the boxes.  If you want to add it to the square and it's skinky, bury it under some MM. Others add manure directly but as a Newbie, stick with the basics. I don't have any flies in the beds because everything is inert (perlite/vermiculite), uninviting (peat moss) or earth smelling (compost).  As I am layering the 5 or more materials, the flies love to visit, mainly for the decomposing fruits.  Chopped up fruits and veggies, grass clippings, wood shavings, sea weed, composted cow manure, Starbucks coffee grounds (pucks), etc. Composted manure shouldn't smell like poop, a more mellow earthy with a light overtone of poop!!  Very Happy  I cover my compost cage with tulle material to keep the flies away, otherwise they would lay eggs.  The sides are lined with fly screening.

I started off using perlite but then I finally called around and found bulk (6 cu. ft.) of vermiculite for $40.  I called every single nursery around Fresno/Clovis/Sanger to find it.  Some places will order it for you to be available at the next scheduled delivery.

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Re: Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

Post  donnainzone5 on 10/28/2013, 9:07 pm

I think the Round-up may be inhibiting germination. Why not try solarizing (covering weeds, etc.) with black plastic instead? Or just digging it up and covering with weedcloth?

Also, borage inhibits tomato hornworms. It's edible and attracts bees.

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my SFG boxes planted

Post  mmichellew on 10/28/2013, 9:49 pm

here are my sfg beds.

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Re: Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

Post  sanderson on 10/28/2013, 10:20 pm


sanderson

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trying to post the beds again

Post  mmichellew on 10/28/2013, 11:12 pm



mmichellew

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Re: Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

Post  sanderson on 10/29/2013, 1:05 am

Success! cheers 

PS: you don't have to type in a title, it will still show up in your thread.

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Re: Central California: Just planted my winter garden starts yesterday

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