In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Now's the time to plant individual garlic cloves, or separate and transplant already-sprouted ones for biggest yields next May and June.
Starting the New Garden Slowly
We begin to notice that the garden is growing more slowly this month. After hot and frantic summer harvests and preserving, we, too, can be calmer in our garden activities. Planting broccoli, garlic, and strawberries is a good way to get started on the overwintering garden. And cover crops are great for the home plot as well as larger landscape areas.
Just about any broccoli variety will do well in our area. Try "sprouting" kinds for lots of small heads. For brilliant chartreuse, pointed heads that taste milder than regular broccoli, try 'Romanesco,' a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.
Garlic planted now will develop a strong root system over the winter, and leaf production can begin early in the spring, resulting in a large head next summer. So the sooner you plant them now in rich, well-drained soil, the larger they'll be at harvest. Planting in the spring, even with rich soil, will produce only medium- or small-sized cloves, or a single bulb without cloves. (These small bulbs can be used in place of a single large clove in recipes. They can also be left in the soil or stored and replanted the following fall, when they'll develop further and then mature into separate cloves.) For the largest-sized garlic, plant cloves four to six inches apart now in a raised planting bed that is well-drained and compost-enriched, and keep the soil moist through next June.
Create new strawberry beds away from where potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers have grown within the last three years. Incorporate rock fertilizers, compost, and cottonseed meal, then water the soil well. After two to four weeks, transplant strawberries one foot apart so the crown is just above the soil level. Strong roots will develop over the winter, and spring warmth will encourage fast growth and large berries.
Plant ground covers -- including fava (broad) beans, clover, mustard, oats, annual rye, wheat, and vetch -- to be turned into the soil early in the spring as "green manure." Remove plant debris from soil surfaces, and cultivate the soil to bring underground overwintering pests and weed seeds to the surface.
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