What to Grow in Los Angeles/So Cal in May

Of all the posts I’ve written, the most viewed is last month’s “What to Grow in Los Angeles/So Cal in April.”  Apparently, a lot of new gardeners have the same problem I had when learning to garden here: we have a unique planting schedule.  You may have already realized that just because something is sold at a big box store does not mean it is the right time to plant it.Fruit trees: In April, you should have thinned fruit lightly to allow remaining fruit to grow larger.  Thin fruits by pulling one or two from each of the large clusters of fruit.  In May, you should do this again – 6 weeks from the first time.

Vegetables: Now is the time to finish any Spring planting that has not been done yet!  It’s also good to stagger plantings for continuous veggies.  Summer veggie transplants can be put in now: chayote, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, tomatoes and melons.  From seed, you can plant: amaranth, beets, carrots, corn, green beans, leaf lettuce (not head lettuce), lima beans, pumpkins, New Zealand spinach, radishes, summer and winter squash, Swiss chard and turnips.  Beans and squash, once fruiting, should be picked daily so that they keep producing.  It is also time to plant your sweet potato slips.  I get mine from Debbie at Mericlone labs in NorCal.  Their website has been down but you can e-mail her at: mericlonelabs@sbcglobal.net.  They have wonderful white, orange and purple varieties.  As an aside, in California, we cannot receive shipments of sweet potatoes from other states.  But that is okay because here, we only need to plant “slips.”  That is a cutting from the sweet potato vine.  Debbie, or whomever you order from, mails the vine wrapped in a little wet tissue in a ziplock bag.  When you get it, just stick it in the ground and keep it watered until it roots.  It is really easy!

Herbs: Parsley is biennial, so it is time to replant!  You can also transplant basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, summer savory and thyme.  You can seed-plant basil and parsley.  Cilantro and arugula can be grown in semi-shade.  These are great to plant behind larger plants, like tomatoes.  Some herbs should be grown in containers because they are invasive.  These include all kinds of mint, horseradish and French tarragon.

Flowers: Its time to plant Tuberoses bulbs (Lei flowers – they smell great!).  Also, plant cosmos, globe amaranth, marigolds, nicotiana, petunias, verbena and zinnias in full sun.  In partial shade plant begonias, impatiens, lobelia and scarlet sage.

Tropicals:  April and May are good times to get your tropical plants in, including citrus.

One of the most important things in Southern California from now until the end of summer is to water regularly.  I try to plant landscaping plants that need little water once established.  But vegetables need regular watering!

If you are a new gardener, please tell me how it is going!

Posted in Beans & Peas, Flowers, Herbs, Lettuce, Root Vegetables, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Winter Squash | 1 Comment

A Busy Garden

The chickens are laying a lot

A week's worth of eggs

The result of busy foraging The lettuce is readyThe snow and sugar snap peas are taking offThe beans are floweringThe beans provide nitrogen for the cornThe Thyme is floweringThe yellow zucchini is fruitingThe cucumber is growingThe cabbages need thinningand the tomatillo is tall

Posted in Artichokes, Beans & Peas, Brassicas, Chickens, Herbs, Lettuce, Square Foot Gardening, Summer Squash, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spring Fever

It is warming up in Los Angeles (again).  With all of the rain, the grass grows fast.  The hens love the grass clippings. Johnny-CadeTwo-BitDallasCherryPony BoyTwo-BitTwo-BitTwo-Bit thinks my bandaged finger is a treatSoda PopThe girls enjoying a Spring morning

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Like Eating? Neonicotinoid Pesticides Should be Banned

Thanks to big business like Bayer, the U.S. lags behind European Countries in banning neonicotinoids.  France, Germany and Italy have banned neonicotinoids and their bee populations have rebounded.  England is considering it but the U.S. does not appear to be seriously considering it even though the USDA’s top bee researcher, Jeffrey Pettis, has publicly revealed that he has completed research showing that neonicotinoid pesticides harm honeybees even at non-detectable doses.

Specifically, it appears that Colony Collapse Disorder is caused by a trifecta of pesticides, poor nutrition and certain pathogens.  Poor nutrition is caused by large scale single-crop agriculture.  Bees don’t get balanced nutrition when only almond trees, for example, are available to them.  (Interestingly, due to large scale single-crop agriculture, studies show that bees are now healthier in cities where many different types of flowers are available to them!).  When combined with poor nutrition, neonicotinoids make bees susceptible to certain pathogens.  In fact, Pettis states that neonicotinoids are killing bees at levels below detection – and more than a quarter of U.S. crops are treated with them!

To read a leaked EPA report on the matter, go here: http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Memo_Nov2010_Clothianidin.pdf

For a great article on bees and neonicotinoids, go here: http://www.grist.org/industrial-agriculture/2011-04-06-should-pesticides-be-banned-protect-bees-USDA-scientist-pettis?ref=se

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What to Grow in Los Angeles/So Cal in April

Southern California is undoubtedly one of the best places to live as a gardener!  We can grow many things year round.  And our season is long enough for great melons.  But, we have a lot of issues, too.  First, we are not on the same planting schedule as most other places.  Therefore, when following other garden blogs and websites, we may plant things at the wrong time.  Second, we cannot rely on Big Box stores to advise us what to plant.  In my first season of planting veggies, I assumed that if a nursery sold something ready to plant, it was time to plant it.  Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true.  Big Box stores often make the same purchases for stores all over the Country, regardless of climate.

If you live in Southern California, it would be worthwhile to pick up guru Pat Welsh’s book, “Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide.”  This is the best source of information for the Southern California gardener that I have ever seen.

Anyway, the common vegetables that you can transplant this month are: cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, tomatoes and melons!!!  It’s a little late to plant cukes and tomatoes from seed.  If you don’t have any yet, check out http://www.twodognursery.com, a local organic nursery.  And there is a sale this Sunday to support Japan!

The common veggies you can plant from seed are: green and lima beans, beets, carrots, corn, endive, leaf lettuce (not head – it’s too warm outside!), New Zealand spinach (I get mine from http://www.rareseeds.com –  it’s too late to plant regular spinach from seed!), squash – summer and winter, radishes, swiss chard and turnips.   Remember some of these should be planted in intervals.  For example, for constant lettuce, plant lettuce every 3 weeks.  Over plant leaf lettuce and you can have a sprout salad when you thin them out.  Seed packs have way too many lettuce seeds anyway!

Now is also time to plant Amaranth.  The plants are beautiful and delicious!  I got some seeds from rareseeds.com and am giving this a try this year!  Just can’t decide whether to put it in the SqFt garden or landscaping.  (Landscaping is better because it grows 5 to 7 feet high but I have hard clay soils and haven’t amended much of it yet).  Anyway, Amaranth is wonderful.  Each plant produces 40,000-60,000 seeds, which can be used like grain (like quinoa) but are even higher in protein (and are gluten-free!).  I find the seeds to be quite tasty!  Especially when on a gluten-free diet and am craving something like flour or oatmeal.  Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18%), and contains amino acids, lysine and methionine.  The seed is high in fiber (3x that of wheat) and contains calcium (2x that of milk), iron (5x that of wheat), potassium, phosphorus and vitamins A and C.  The seed also contains tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E, which can lower cholesterol.  Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible and consists of 6-10% oil. The oil is predominantly unsaturated and is high in linoleic acid, which is important in human nutrition.  The amaranth seeds have a unique quality in that the nutrients are concentrated in a natural “nutrient ring” that surrounds the center, which is the starch section.  For this reason the nutrients are protected during processing.  The leaves are supposed to taste like spinach and can be used like them.  But the amaranth leaf contains higher calcium, iron, and phosphorus levels than spinach.  The leaves are best when the plant is young.

Herbs are easy.  I started gardening by transplanting some $2.49 Basil from Trader Joes!  You can transplant basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, summer savory and thyme.  You can seed-plant basil and parsley.  Cilantro and arugula can be grown, too, but they prefer cooler temps.  They will bolt fast in the sun.  Plant them in semi-shade.  These are great to plant behind larger plants.  For example, tomatoes and cilantro are great companion plants. Plant cilantro in the tomato shade.  Some herbs should be grown in containers because they are invasive.  These include all kinds of mint, horseradish and French tarragon.  (The latter can be hard to find but Two Dog Nursery has it!)

You can also plant seed potatoes through this month.  And it’s time to plant sweet potato slips.  I get mine from Debbie at Mericlone labs in NorCal.  Their website has been down but you can e-mail her at: mericlonelabs@sbcglobal.net.  They have wonderful white, orange and purple varieties.  As an aside, in California, we cannot receive shipments of sweet potatoes from other states.  But that is okay because here, we only need to plant “slips.”  That is a cutting from the sweet potato vine.  Debbie, or whomever you order from, mails the vine wrapped in a little wet tissue in a ziplock bag.  When you get it, just stick it in the ground and keep it watered until it roots.  It is really easy!

Also, when I bought my home, I inherited a lemon and orange tree but had no idea what to do with them.  And they certainly grow more fruit than I can pick!  April is the time to thin fruit lightly to allow remaining fruit to grow larger.  Do this once now and again in 6 weeks.  Pat Welsh recommends pulling one or two from each of the large clusters of fruit.

Finally, flowers.  Now is the time to plant begonia, bellflower, calliopsis, cosmos, celosia, coleus, columbine, daisy, delphinium, geranium, lavender, impatiens, marigold, nicotiana, petunia, scarlet sage, straw flower, sweet alyssum and verbena.  And have fun!

Posted in Beans & Peas, Flowers, Herbs, Lettuce, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

My Pretty Bees

Here in Los Angeles, it is really warm (thank goodness!).  And my bees are busy!



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Artichokes & Square Foot Gardening

I notice that a lot of people hit my blog by searching “artichoke” and “square foot gardening.”  Check out my entry about growing artichokes:(https://themidnightgardener.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/artichoke/)

In the meantime, while driving through LA today, I noticed a neighbor with artichoke plants, so I snapped a photo to describe why I plant these as perennial landscaping and not in my square foot garden beds.  As you can see from the plants below, they are larger than the car!

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the artichoke is just above the comma in this sentence.  It is in front of the window.  As you can see, while it is several plants, they are cumulatively taller than the car and much wider than the car!  While too large for a square foot gardening bed (unless you’re going to use a 4×4 and let them have the whole thing – and what would the point be?) they do make terrific landscaping plants!

Posted in Artichokes, Square Foot Gardening | Leave a comment