YEAR ROUND GARDENING
Yes, you can have home-grown vegetables all year-round. It takes planning, work and some easy-to-find knowledge, but wouldn’t spinach right out of the garden be a great addition to your hot dip on New Year’s Eve?
This is a quick and by no means comprehensive guide, but we’ll tell you where to find more info.To get started, you need to know what crops thrive in cold weather and which ones do best in our long, hot summers.
Cool-season crops are best in average temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees. These include beets, carrots, parsnips, asparagus, potato, cabbage, lettuce, onion, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and globe artichokes. Warm-season crops like it best between 65 and 95 degrees. Some of these are tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, corn, squash and beans.
You also need to know approximate first and last frost dates so you know when to plant. The county has as many mini-climates as Triangle Road has potholes. Weather is changeable but here are two examples: A chart compiled from UC, USDA and other sources lists Catheys Valley first frost in fall from Nov. 10 and 20 and last frost in spring from April 10 to 20. For Lushmeadows, the dates are Oct. 10 to 20 and May 10 to 20.
Starting plants indoors or in a greenhouse 6-8 weeks before they can go outside is another season stretcher. The back of the seed packet tells you how long it takes the plant to ripen.
To keep growing all year, you need to work at it all year. You may have spring lettuce followed by summer green beans followed by fall spinach. Careful attention to days of maturity for each crop will establish the ideal rotation period.
It’s critical to plan your garden on paper first, noting crops and amounts to be planted, dates of planting and estimated harvest, planting location for each crop, spacing between rows and support required.
Some plants take a big helping of nutrients out of the soil, some can put those nutrients back in. Know what these are and work that knowledge into your rotation plan. Big takers are leafy veggies, corn, vines and tomatoes. Big givers are all the legumes such as beans and peas.
In general, it’s not a good idea to put the same annual plant in the same place season after season. Waiting at least 2 years — 3 is better.
UC Cooperative Extension web sites can help you with more detail. Go to www.cagardenweb.ucdavis.edu. You’ll find tons of advice under “Vegetables.” including planning and planting, plus a long list of requirements for individual veggies from artichokes to watermelon.
American Indians knew to plant corn, beans and squash together. The corn gives the beans a “trellis” to climb on, the beans add nitrogen to the soil and the squash leaves shade the ground, moderating temperatures and keeping weeds down. This concept is companion planting. Here are a few examples, from www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/ecogardening/complant.html.
Herbs with strong scents can throw off insects’ intent on getting to your veggies. Some good ones to plant with your crops include garlic, onion, chives, catnip, basil and mint.
You want good bugs in your garden, particularly ones that eat the bad bugs. Attract them with such things as dill, carrot, cilantro and parsnips. Tansy and pennyroyal have some anti-ant properties and low-growing thyme and lavender can discourage slugs, so plant them as a border.
There is one more thing about all this: grow what you’ll use. It’s no good having a lovely crop of rutabagas if you can’t stand them, is it?
Mariposa County Master Gardeners will have a workshop covering these topics on July 21, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Board of Supervisors chamber, 5100 Bullion St.
For questions about any home-garden topic, contact our hotlines:
Mariposa office, 5009 Fairgrounds Road in the Ag office. Hotline 209-966-7078 any time, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Walk-ins and direct phone calls Tuesdays 9 a.m. to noon and Thursdays, 2 to 5 p.m.
For information, (209) 966-2417 or North County office message phone (209) 852-9711.
Master Gardeners are volunteer educators for the home gardener. We are trained through the University of California as part of Cooperative Extension services.
Submitted by Mariposa County Master Gardener Elizabeth Gabriel, (209) 966-6476