Category: Linda Gilkeson

Linda’s List for Aug. 9: Sow spinach and greens; pests and problems

Yesterday should have been “Spinach Day” in my garden, but it is far too hot to attempt to sow anything right now. I have had good results sowing spinach as late as the middle of August so will wait to until it cools down in a couple of days to plant seeds. The forecast for Saturday is for cooler weather, with a small chance of the ever-receding mirage of rain showers in some places. Gardeners along the outer coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca, where summers are cool and foggy should sow spinach right now to give it time to grow to a good size before winter.

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Heat alert; sowing winter Brassicas

The recent cool weather is giving way to what is forecast to be pretty hot weather starting this weekend. This is a reminder that if you haven’t done so already, do finish mulching vegetables before it gets hot; it will conserve soil moisture and keep roots cool. Some people had quite a bit of rain, others not so much over the last week—but at least it was something after the driest May on record. It was so dry in May that powdery mildew showed up on a variety of plants (strawberries, kale, roses, etc.)–much earlier than we usually see it. On the other hand, some diseases of wet weather, such as apple scab, were noticeably absent.

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Sowing sprouts, irrigation, pest du jour

Just a quick note this time, but I couldn’t let another day go by without reminding everyone that it is time to sow seeds of Brussels sprouts and any cabbage varieties that need over 120 days to mature (e.g., January King, Danish Ballhead, Red Langedijker). Getting the timing right for these crops seems to be a perennial problem for many due to conflicting information on seed packets and from nurseries. The long season cabbages really do need the whole summer to develop a good-sized head, but no matter what size they are by fall, they still provide a harvest. Timing of Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, is a trickier because if sown too late (after the first week of June), plants usually don’t have enough growing season left to produce sprouts before winter—and if they don’t form sprouts by the end of October, they aren’t likely to have them at all. Of course you can sow Br. sprouts earlier, but by waiting until now to sow them, you largely avoid damage to the sprouts from the aphids common on Brassica crops in late summer. Aphids merely distort leaves of Brussels sprouts, but are damaging when aphids get inside the developing sprouts. Sowing in late May to the first week of June produces plant that don’t start to form sprouts until late September, which is when aphids stop reproducing and are leaving plants. You might see some aphids in the oldest sprouts but most of the crop will be free of aphids.

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Linda’s List for April 30: Tomatoes, corn, beans, peas and pests du jour

With the warmth last week and the forecast of another sunny week, you can keep right on planting any and all cool weather crops (peas, lettuce, onions, leeks, all of the cabbage/mustard family, leafy greens, Swiss chard, carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, etc.). It is still too cool at night in most places to rush warmth-loving plants into the ground, including tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, corn and beans. And don’t push sweet basil outdoors too early, either: it can’t handle cool, wet weather.

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Wet soil, cool crops, pollinator plantings

Our cold spring continues…with the soil too soggy to work in many gardens, especially after this recent heavy rain. If you squeeze a small handful of soil and it stays together in a compact clod, then it is too wet to handle; it should be moist but still easy to crumble apart after you squeeze it. Trying to turn in amendments in wet soil compacts the soil and crushes the air spaces that let in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide (plant roots, soil microbes, earthworms, etc. all need to breath). If hard clods form when your soil dries out, it is a sign of compaction, often seen in clay soils. Wait until such soil are drier before handling them and keep adding compost and organic matter from mulches to improve soil structure.

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Linda’s list for Feb. 7: Big chill coming, yams again, fruit sources

Well, nuts! To prove my contention that you just can’t trust February, the current forecast is for a few days of really cold air to hit this weekend. With lows of -4 and -5oC (25 to 23oF) predicted for the south coast (even for Victoria, which is unusual), you may need to take steps to protect some plants if that cold does materialize. I am afraid those temperature will kill any early peach and cherry flowers that are opening now, but don’t worry about garlic, spring bulbs, buds on native shrubs and trees or fruit trees that flower later — they should be okay. Do worry about half-hardy herbs, such as rosemary, and new shoots of artichokes and other less robust perennials. Mulch right over the crowns of plants or cover them with plastic. It would be a good idea to cover spinach, lettuce, chard and other overwintered greens too; the roots should survive the low temperatures, but new leaves could be ruined as -5oC is pretty much the lower limit for many greens (kale would be fine, though). I plan to harvest as many leaves as possible before the cold snap in case it takes plants awhile to recover.

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Linda’s list for Nov. 13: Last notes for winter

That recent cold snap was a surprise, with temperatures well below freezing and the first snowfall in some areas. If your winter veggies were not all mulched by then I doubt they came to harm as the soil was still relatively warm. In this warmer lull, however, do get the mulching done before temperatures drop again. Mulch is especially necessary to protect the shoulders of root crops poking above the surface, but it also protects soil from erosion in heavy winter rains. I always set aside a big bag of leaves to use at the last minute, just before a really cold spell, to cover over top of the leaves of carrot, beets and other root crops. I wait as late as possible for this because I don’t want to smother the leaves prematurely (or provide rats with a tempting winter nest).

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