Contented Acres Produce

  (Gustine, California)
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Winter Seed Order

Organically grown seed is expensive but probably worth the extra cost.  [Read More]

Summer is Here

Summer weather has finally arrived in the valley and soon folks will be stopping by my farm stand asking for tomatoes. The shortest season tomatoes require over 60 days from transplanting to first harvest. Hopefully we'll have tomatoes before the end of June - but we can't have them on the first 90 degree day of summer.

If you don't have all your summer veggies in yet - it's not too late! Started tomato, eggplant and pepper plants can still be purchased. Melons, squash, and cucumbers will grow nearly as quickly if direct sowed in the garden - especially in warm weather like we're having now.

The advantages of late plantings include quicker growth and healthier plants as they start off in ideal weather. Also, plants that are sown or set out now will produce all the way until frost as long as you keep them free of pests and diseases.

So, get out in your garden and grow your own! There's still time for a productive summer garden when you consider that "summer" in the  Central Valley can continue through October.


Spring Gardening

Most of the spring garden is sowed in winter in these parts, but there are still some quick growing crops that can be sowed right now! Turnips, radishes and beets will grow quickly if direct sowed into moist soil. And if you just can't wait for the roots to form you can eat some of the tender tops while you wait.

Snap peas or shelling peas will be a gamble. Hot days in May will make them mature quickly and all at once, but our wet late winter gave us little choice. Get them in ASAP if you still want to give them a try.

Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower need more time before harvest. If you have some started in flats or pots plant them out once they have four true leaves. If not, find starts at a good nursery and give it a go. They'll need about 80-90 days from transplant so act quickly.

Sunny days make it tempting to set out summer veggies, but we still have a good chance of frost until after April 1. If you want to gamble, set a few plants out under plastic covers. Cut the bottom from a plastic milk jug. Or invert a plastic bucket over the whole plant. Just be aware that even at outside temperatures under 80 the sun can make an oven out of an unvented cover.

My early tomatoes and peppers still need about two more weeks in the greenhouse which hopefully will be just about perfect timing.


Home Gardens

Home gardening is making a big comeback and I know that many of my good customers are growing some of their veggies at home. If you're gardening in my area you should be able to grow the same things I do on a smaller scale. But timing is really important!

If you want to start your own plants from seed, now is the time for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to be sown in a cold frame or a sunny window. The plants can take six weeks or more to be ready for transplanting outside, so an early start is a big help. For faster germination, these seeds like about 75F, but they will germinate at lower temperatures.

Meanwhile, prepare your garden soil while there's a little moisture in it. If it sticks to your shovel it's too wet, but waiting too long makes the digging difficult. Try to bury your shovelhead, working the soil at least to that depth. Then work good compost or manure into the loosened soil.

While your seeds grow in the greenhouse, these organic additions will get your soil food web working. Till thesoil again once or twice between now and transplant time to kill the weeds that  sprout.

Can't wait until summer to enjoy the fruits of your labor? Short season crops like radishes, arugula and baby greens can be sowed directly in the garden. Beets and turnips love the lengthening days of spring and will form roots as the days grow warmer. Snap peas or shelling peas can  also be sown in the garden now and harvested before the heat arrives.

We'll still have some stormy weather in March and April, but if you take advantage of the sunny days in between, you can grow a spring garden, and be ready when summer comes along.


Give Me an Inch (of rain)

What a difference a month - and an inch of rain makes. Last week I measured .48" of rain in a couple of days. This week has totaled a similar amount, and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day should bring a bit more. This is more rain than we've had since last spring and welcome, indeed.

The sticky loam builds on my boots as I work, a minor nuisance. All of the work now is with hand tools since the tractor would cause compaction of the soil.

When I was young I despised hoes and rakes and all manner of hand tools. Now I love to follow the wheel hoe or my push seeder. I enjoy weeding with a stirrup or tri-hoe. Even pulling weeds by hand is good in small doses. The tractor is a great tool, and necessary to get the big jobs done. But it's not my favorite way to work in the garden. 

Today over 600 plants were set out, mostly bok choi, broccoli, and cauliflower. The perfect moisture in the soil should make the usual watering in of the transplants unnecessary. Especially if the predicted storms materialize.

The close-planted lettuce in the cutting bed is suffering a bit from the moisture, but most of the garden is very content with the rain and the weather. And except for a temporary slowdown in harvest ready veggies - so am I.

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