Fun in the Garden
Keep Humboldt Green and Keep the Green in Humboldt. Buy Local.
By Keith Hamm, Garden Columnist
What a year we are having, light in rain totals, but an abundance of coastal sunshine on the garden. A lot of us have used this to our advantage with early plantings. Too bad that also means early weeding, pruning and slug patrols. If you haven’t started this season’s veggies, fear not, our long season allows for plantings almost all year.
If you live on the coast, then you know that cool season veggies are what it’s all about. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try some tomatoes, especially Cherries, Romas’ and early fruiting varieties like Eureka. Just space them well for ventilation and keep them off the ground. I suggest buy ing starts if you did not plant seed by April. Black Beauty eggplants can also do very well on the coast when started early. Much of the key to warm weather plants on the coast is ventilation, well drained soil, thin or no mulch and different varieties as some may do well while others may fail. Once in a while I will plant corn, early mid and late varieties. If all fail, locate so at least you have a wind break. Peppers you ask? Well, I hope you like hot ones or sweet banana peppers. Better yet, make friends with the mountain folk, Kale makes for a good trade in July and artichoke for melons in the fall.
I am what many may consider a ‘lazy gardener’. I love to be in the garden, but mostly to graze, admire and watch the kids chase cabbage moths. I have some favorite plants that help me feel successful with little effort. One well known tip that works, keep a board laying slightly elevated in the garden, check it early morning for snails and pests. Snails also tend to avoid red leaf lettuces like ‘Red Sails’. Broccoli varieties like ‘De Ciccio’ give lots of side shoots after the main head is taken.
Things like this lesson the ‘work’ in- volved with chasing bugs and replanting. Timing can also help a lot in these matters. I tend to avoid a summer crop of broccoli because the cabbage worms can get relentless. Plant starts in July-August for a fall crop and plant over winter varieties in the fall for a spring crop. Try carrot seeds under broccoli plants. They are slow to get started and after cutting down the broccoli, the carrots take off and are ready the next month. Pumpkins and winter squash may be difficult if they are planted too late, like July, but summer squash is fast and fruitful. Keep in mind having some beds empty by the end of October to plant great over winter stuff like garlic, kale, brussel sprouts and beets.
Nothing depletes soil more than a Humboldt rainy season followed by heavy feeding plants like brassicas, tomatoes and corn. Rotate heavy crops with light crops like lettuce and herbs, top fruit crops with root crops and never skimp on turning in some compost to replenish organics in the soil. If you have a large garden and want to try a summer cover crop on some empty beds, use buckwheat. It is pretty and it works well.
There are a thousand books on how, what, when and why on gardens. I think the most successful folks are the ones who write their
own journals as they go, answering these questions. Talk to your neighbors, visit the Farmer’s Markets, the annual Seed Exchange, loiter at the nurseries and above all, grow more than you need. The rewards are huge when we share with others.
About the Author:
Keith Hamm is a 20 year local, landscape contractor and nursery owner at Living Earth Landscapes. When he is not building ponds, decks and land- scapes, or hosting free workshops on the weekends, you can find him landing salmon on the Trinity, riding bikes with his kids and enjoying family activities at his house in McKinleyville. If you have suggestions for future topics, send an email to: Keith@822pond.com