Mustard

‘Wild mustard’ includes a few species.

A few species of mustard came to naturalize in California, and for a few distinct reasons. Some likely grew first as greens in the gardens of the original Spanish Missions. At least one species also provided culinary and medicinal mustard seed. The more prolific types became cover crops and fodder for livestock. Later in history, mustard seed provided oil.

According to legend, Spanish Missionaries established the route of El Camino Real with mustard. After sporadically dropping seed as they traveled between Missions, they could follow the bright yellow bloom by the next winter, and find greens to eat. El Camino Real became worn enough to navigate before the mustard dispersed too extensively to assist. 

Most but not all species of mustard that are naturalized locally are of the genus Brassica. Wild turnip and wild radish provide similar greens, but are generally more likely to bloom pale pink or pale white, rather than bright yellow. Garden varieties of mustard, which are available as seed or in cell packs, provide delightfully tender new leaves with mild flavor.

Rotation Improves Vegetable Garden Production

Summer squash are consumptive vegetables.

Vegetable plants are mostly unnaturally productive. Extensive breeding compels them to yield fruits and vegetative parts that are bigger, better and more abundant that what their ancestors produced. Increased production increases their reliance on resources. Without crop rotation, some sorts of vegetable plants noticeably deplete some of what they need. 

Rotation, which is the same as crop rotation or garden rotation, is a technique of growing vegetables where different types of vegetables grew previously. In other words, one type of vegetable does not grow in any one place for too long. Some vegetables may produce well in some types of soil for a few years. More consumptive types prefer annual rotation. 

This technique disrupts the depletion of particular nutrients that particular types of plants crave. It also allows for replenishment of depleted nutrients in the absences of plants that cause such depletion. Furthermore, some soil borne pathogens find this active cycling to be disruptive. Eventually, plants that cycled out can cycle back into a particular situation.

Tomato plants are particularly consumptive, so appreciate rotation in many types of soils. Eggplant and pepper are related to tomato, so crave many of the same resources, even if they are less consumptive. Therefore, they should not cycle directly into soil relinquished by tomatoes. Unrelated vegetables, such as squash, corn or bean, are more appropriate. 

Warm season vegetables that are now returning to the garden might appreciate rotation. A bit of research to determine appropriate placement for them may significantly enhance production. It helps to know which vegetables are related, such as mustard, collard, kale, radish and turnip (of Cruciferae Family), or squash and melon (of Cucubitaceae Family).

Because corn is so high, it should grow to the north of a vegetable garden. Unfortunately, rotation may dictate that it grows to the east for a while, or only in portions of the northern edge that it avoided for a while. Pole beans that like to climb wire fences may sometimes need reassignment to different portions of their fence. Peas should follow their example since they are related.

Warm Season Vegetables For Spring

Frequent harvesting promotes continual zucchini production.

Warm season annuals for next spring and summer are already replacing the cool season annuals that bloomed so dutifully since last autumn. As this happens, it is also getting to be about time for warm season vegetables to replace cool season vegetables. Strangely continuous warm daytime weather since December accelerated this process somewhat.

Removal of cool season vegetables that are still productive is as unpleasant as removal of cool season annuals that are still blooming. Fortunately, most cool season vegetables are finished by now, or will be soon. Few linger into warm weather as some cool season annuals might. Regardless, warm season vegetables will need their garden space soon. 

Unlike most cool season vegetables, which actually are vegetative, the majority of warm season vegetables are actually fruits. The plants that produce them generally continue to bloom and produce more fruits throughout their respective seasons. Some, such as bush bean and determinate tomato, exhibit brief seasons. Many produce continually until frost. 

Therefore, indeterminate tomato, pole bean, squash, cucumber, many varieties of pepper and some varieties of eggplant need no replacement within the same season. Cucumber can get tired enough by early summer to justify replacement in midsummer though. Okra, as well as several varieties of eggplant and pepper, produce for relatively brief seasons.

Phasing prolongs production of warm season vegetables that produce only once or only for a brief season. For example, corn that matures so uniformly that it is ready for harvest simultaneously lasts only a few weeks in a garden. Phases for seeding that repeat every two weeks or so develop in two week cycles. As the first phase finishes, the next begins. 

Because so many individual plants are desired, and the seedlings do not transplant well, corn seed prefers direct sowing into the garden. So does seed for bean, root vegetables, and most greens. For tomato, pepper and eggplant, and perhaps cucumber and squash, small plants transplant well, and are not numerous enough in a garden to be expensive. Warm season vegetables grow slowly during cool weather, but accelerate as the weather warms.

Vegetable gardening is still cool.

If leafy lettuces are running out, there is still a bit of time to sow some more seed before spring.

Last autumn, it was unpleasant to remove warm season vegetable plants to relinquish space for cool season vegetables, particularly since some still seemed to be productive. Now the cool weather that the cool season vegetables crave will soon be getting warmer. It is still too early for warm season vegetables, but it is time to get ready for them.

If space allows, seed for a quick last phase of certain fast growing cool season vegetables can be sown. Radishes, carrots and beets still have time to mature before the weather gets too warm, although the beets will be the small tender sort. There probably is not enough time to grow big beets for canning. Leafy lettuces can still be sown to replace what might be running out early. Large vegetable plants like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage grow too slowly to mature before spring weather gets too warm, so will need to wait until next autumn.

Peas are odd vegetables that like to grow in autumn and spring, in between warm and cool (or cool and warm) season vegetables. The first phase of peas can be sown now, and followed by subsequent phases every two weeks or so until the weather gets too warm for them.

Even though it will soon be getting too warm for cool season vegetables, it is not yet warm enough to sow seed for warm season vegetables directly into the garden. Fast growing vegetable plants that get sown directly, such as beans, corn and most squash, will need to wait until the weather is warm enough for them to grow efficiently, and the cool season vegetables finish and get out of their way. However, seed for vegetable plants that can get planted as seedlings, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, can be sown into flats or cell packs in greenhouses or cold frames.

Tomato, pepper and eggplant seed sown directly into the garden when the weather gets warmer will be more likely to get eaten by snails or succumb to rot as they germinate than seedlings that got an early start in a greenhouse or cold frame (although snails and rot are not problems in every garden). For those who do not want to start growing seedlings at home now, seedlings will certainly be available in nurseries when it is time to put them out into the garden. However, the advantage to growing them at home is that there are many more varieties of seed available from catalogs and online than any nursery could stock with seedlings.

Six on Saturday: Feast Of The Assumption

 

August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption, which celebrates when the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the end of her life, was assumed into Heaven, body and soul. In some cultures, it is known more simply as the Assumption, so is not considered a Feast Day. That would be fine with me. The vegetable garden is rather pathetic for the middle of August. There are plenty of cucumber, and more summer squash than we know what to do with, but the rest of the produce is slim pickings.

1. Squash – of this sort will not be ready until after the first frost next winter. Nonetheless, it seems to be maturing slowly. It should probably be substantially larger for this late in summer.P00815-1

2. Kale – could be either late or early. It is a spring or autumn vegetable here. Seed was sown late, but should have been later to be ready for autumn. It should survive, and start over later.P00815-2

3. Tomato – are better than they look here. The cherry tomatoes do not ripen in clusters though. I just pluck the ripe fruits off individually. None of the bigger tomatoes have ripened yet.P00815-3

4. Bean – vines have grown like weeds, but are just beginning to produce. I have never grown this variety before. The variety that I had always grown starts producing earlier, while young.P00815-4

5. Cucumber – production has been adequate. However, because I have not been watering regularly enough, the cucumber are rather bitter. I like how the vines climb up over the junipers.P00815-5

6. Squash – has been too productive! These are the summer squash, mostly zucchini, for the neighbors. However, there is nothing ‘ini’ about those that could not get harvested early enough.P00815-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Six on Saturday: Blank Slate (& Asphalt)

 

While unable to work at my second most time consuming job, I developed a bit of unused space into a vegetable garden. I would not have done so if I had known how much work it would be, or how much of what seemed to be usable space was just trash, brambles and a shallow bit of soil on top of pavement. Alternatively, I should have had the main unpaved area bulldozed first.

Now that it is halfway through spring, this new vegetable garden is finally started!

1. Four decades of junk mixed with wicked brambles was removed to expose less than four hundred square feet of cruddy slope. Rain draining from the deck eroded a gully in the middle.P00425-1

2. To the right, disfigured juniper should be temporarily obscured by cucumber vines expected to grow from seed sown just above a ditch. Indeterminate tomato vines will be added soon.P00425-2

3. Across the road, more junk, weeds and brambles were removed from between a curb and fence, only to find that the area is paved to the fence! Pole beans will be pleased with the fence.P00425-3

4. Posts supporting the deck had too much potential to ignore. Dragon fruit plants can climb them to the top and cascade downward. The posts are pressure treated, so will be painted first.P00425-4

5. ‘Kadota’ fig can grow as a hedge where the outer surface gets sunlight under the downhill edge of the deck. The area behind it is too shaded to be useful. The area in front is for vegetables.P00425-5

6. There are plenty of radish greens growing wild outside of the garden; but a few radish roots would be nice too. These are developing splendidly, and should be ready before anything else.P00425-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

When It Rains, It Pours

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Mudslide!

The only reason we developed a small vegetable garden here this year is that we have been unable to go to work for about a month. Without my second most time consuming employment, I had time to clear a small unused space (which was not nearly as simple as that sounds) and sow seed for vegetables. It was a late start a month ago, but not too late.

In fact, there was still time to do it before the last storm to go through. I know that sounds trivial, but as a Californian who is accustomed to gardening in a chaparral climate, and sometimes where there is no water available, planting prior to a storm ‘seems’ to be rather important. I know it is not. Water is available here. Otherwise, I would not grow vegetables.

Not only was there a storm, but there was a second storm later! Of course, it is not really that simple. The first light duty storm was nice, and soaked things sufficiently. Then the weather stayed strangely cool for this time of year. Nothing germinated. Then the second storm was brief but torrential enough to erode all of the recently sown seed right out of the new garden!

It was too comical for me to be too annoyed by it. I only needed to see what survived the erosion so that I could replace what did not. I almost replaced everything anyway, just because I was that certain that nothing survived.

Well, as it turned out, not much was missing! The garden got a slow start, and was delayed again by cool weather, but somehow seems to be recovering nicely. Even some of the very old seed that I did not expect to be viable has germinated.

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A late batch of radish somehow survived.

Now, I must go work in the garden.

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Late but ready to go.

Poppy And Periwinkle

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Even though I know they are slightly purplish, periwinkle look blue to me.

Clearing space for a new small vegetable garden is more work than it will be worth. It took more than a day to remove the thicket of bramble from a triangular area that is only about forty feet from front to back, and not much more than twenty feet wide. After so many years of getting trash dumped on top of them, the brambles were unusually prolific with gnarly root burls.

There is still significant work to do. I still need to condition the soil and groom the adjacent junipers before sowing seed for the warm season vegetables for this summer. Now that I can see that the junipers that were formerly concealed by brambles are worthy of salvage and grooming, I will need to clear a bit more garden space across the road, and cut back a few trees above.

When finished and producing, the garden will not produce enough. The four hundred or so square feet in the main part of the garden should supply enough for two people; but realistically, it would more likely produce enough for me alone, with a bit extra to can for when it is not producing much. There are about a dozen on our crew. They all have families. I need a quarter acre!

The math of it all is frustrating. So is all the work to get it started. It all seems so futile. I know we will appreciate the little bit that we get. I will still get plenty from the weeds that grow wild around the baseball field, so will not take much from the garden.

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As simple as they are, poppies are still my favorite native wildflower.

For now, I try to visualize what the small vegetable garden will look like in production this summer, even if all that I see blooming are the poppies and periwinkle on the outskirts.

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My illustrations are more technical than artistic. It looks like someone else took this one. Ignore the pickup in the background.

Six on Saturday: New Vegetable Garden

 

There is more time for a late start on a new vegetable garden now. I had planed to take this and next week off from most of my work, to tend to other neglected obligations. However, under the circumstances, I am still unable to tend to many of those obligations! Well, the crew wants a new vegetable garden.

1. Before, the area was overwhelmed with a dense thicket of Himalayan blackberry brambles, that had grown up into the joists of the deck above, and over the adjacent junipers to the right.P00321-1

2. After, it is not much better. This initial phase took me half a day!! I intended to remove most or all of the junipers, but as they become exposed, it is evident that they are worth salvaging.P00321-2

3. I already know I will be sowing seed for the warm season vegetables a bit late; but this wild cucumber feels compelled to remind me. It is already past the top of this seven foot high fence.P00321-3

4. This is just some of the debris that I removed. For comparison, the animal to the lower left is a buffalo. Okay, it is really just Rhody. The dumpster is as high as the cargo container though.P00321-4

5. Okay, so that was a bit of an exaggeration. The pile really is this big, but only the small portion outlined in yellow to the upper right is from the new garden, and is only about two feet high.P00321-5

6. While up on the bridge over the debris pile, I got this picture of most of the work trucks that are not at work where they belong. Everyone else writes about it; but I have not mentioned it.P00321-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/