Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Garden on February 7, 2018

Unseasonably warm weather and sunny skies are prompting spring-like growth in the garden. What a difference a year makes. My February Update for 2017 was all about how incredibly WET it was, complete with a video of a gopher tunnel gushing water. It's not official yet but I have no doubt that we're stuck in drought mode again. The latest long range forecast hints at rain for SoCal next week but won't commit to saying that we too might get some of the goodness.

Here's a sign of the weird times, tomatoes ripening in February. I've NEVER had this happen in the 20+ years that I've been growing veggies.

Piccolo Dattero Tomatoes

The tomato plants are certainly tired looking but look at all the ripening tomatoes on them. Would you be able to cut them down? On the contrary, I think I'll feed them.

Piccolo Dattero Tomato Plants
The rest of the 2017 tomato plants are long gone and the space that they occupied is now devoted to favas and a new experiment that is in progress. I've added Golden Sweet snow peas to the mix. They can share the trellis with the favas.

I started both the favas and the snow peas in paper pots. This is the first time that I've started favas in paper pots, I usually direct sow them, but I got the tomato plants out so late that I wanted to try to give the favas a faster start and it seems to have worked.

Golden Sweet Snow Pea Seedling
Pepper plants still linger in one corner of the bed. I'm trying to get low growing snap and snow peas and chickpeas started in paper pots to plant in the rest of the bed. The next round of snow peas have germinated but I've killed off two rounds of snap peas, they keep rotting. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, are snap pea seeds more susceptible rot?

You can see in the next bed on the far right that I've got the cage draped with lightweight Agribon fabric. A summer tactic in February, shading the cool weather crops to try to protect them from sun and heat. The lettuces are looking really good but I sure hope they don't get the urge to bolt.

The overwintered peas are in full bloom.

Peas are setting. These are shelling peas.

The Pink Lettucy mustard doesn't seem to suffer from the warm weather and neither does the Batavia broccoli. But the poor broccoli is still being attacked. I think that this time it's birds, they are after the developing (too early) heads. So after I did the photo shoot I covered most of the rest of this bed with fine netting.

Cabbages are growing quickly, especially the napa cabbages.

I can start harvesting Tronchuda Beira.

Broccolini isn't happy with the heat. The netting will provide a bit of shade.

One of the cabbage plants died so I set out 2 that were held in reserve but I think they stayed in pots a bit too long.

I want to save seeds for Syrian Medieval chard, a quick growing, quick bolting, but delicious variety. A minimum of 20 plants is required to produce seeds to maintain a genetically healthy strain of seeds and I don't remember how many I planted but it's more than 20, many of them are doubled up.

My attempt to force the celery to grow upright and produce longer stalks is working to a degree. I've used newspaper to do the same thing before but that produces a cozy place for the ants to take up residence and farm aphids. Blocking the light would also blanch the stems and I don't want to do that with this celery because of its lovely pink hue.

The cover crop in bed #3 is growing well. I'm still keeping it cover with lightweight Agribon fabric both to protect it from the birds and to help keep it from drying out. I've turned the drip system back on but I'm keeping the time on at a bare minimum.

The overwintered pole Frieda World snow peas are ready to start harvesting.

That's the latest, not a complete tour, just what's new since the last one.


  1. I used to make paper pots out of newspaper, but, alas, the newspaper contained about 90% ads (extremely wasteful) so I stopped it. Now I face paywalls and still tons of ads. I refuse to pay for ads so use up my 5 or 10 free articles and switch to another newspaper. OK, off my rant.

    I read about using toilet paper rolls for starting seeds. It seems that the roots grow straighter instead of bunching up at the bottom.

    California Drought Monitor has three counties - Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles - at D2 Severe Drought, but no red yet. 81.73% of the state has some form of drought.

    Snow peas look good.

  2. I'd love to pick your brain on the Frieda World snow peas, actually. I grew Golden snow this year so I could play with the yellow pod genetics in crosses. I found they had a decent, but shrugable, nothing to write home about taste.

    Anyway, I've never heard of Frieda World. Ideally I'd like to grow a snow pea next year just for the eats, so I'd love to hear your observations on it's taste/growth/pros-cons etc.

    1. I think the primary merit of the Frieda World snow peas is their cold hardiness, they're supposed to be fairly frost resistant. They certainly sailed through what passed as winter here this year. We had a few frosty nights and the little baby plants made it through with absolutely no protection. Their cold hardiness means that they will be the first pea ready to harvest in early spring which is why I tried them, I wanted a pea that would be easy to overwinter and produce an early crop. I've only just started to harvest them and have only had a few of them raw, sliced up in a salad. They tasted good to me, but then they're the first and the first always taste so good. If you are looking for a big super sweet snow pea then this probably isn't the one for you, it's on the small side and just modestly sweet but it does have a nice pea flavor. The vines are tall, already reaching for the top of the 5+ foot trellis that I'm training them on.

      The biggest and sweetest snow peas that I've grown are Oregon Sugar Pod II. The thing that I don't like about Oregon Sugar Pod II is that they have a very short harvest window, you get a big harvest but you get slammed with it over about a 2 week period at the most. One of the things that I like about the Golden Sweet peas is that they produce over a much longer time period which is what I prefer. I want to pick peas as I can eat them because I've not found a way to preserve them that's worth eating. I'm hoping that Frieda Worlds will have a similar extended harvest period because they are tall vines like the Golden Sweet. The Oregon Sugar Pod II vines are short which I think is one of the reasons they have a short intense harvest.

      At the moment I also have Sweet Horizon snow peas in full bloom. They are a dwarf variety that I overwintered by keeping the vines trimmed back by harvesting the young shoots and I have them inside a cage that I can easily cover with frost cloth. They are just beginning to set peas but none are large enough to harvest yet. I suspect that they will have a short intense harvest like the OSP II.

      Yet one more snow pea that I trying for the first time this year is Royal Snow, a purple variety. This one is described as being best eaten raw with a pleasant though mildly bitter flavor. Whatever, I was intrigued by the color and think it will look fabulous with the Golden Sweets which I generally like to eat raw also.

    2. Thank you, that was a ton of helpful information. I think you're absolutely right that Frieda isn't the pea I'm looking for. Even though we technically have a first/last frost date of Dec 31 - Feb 15th or something here, we don't really get frost. Too much cement, roads, buildings, etc. So cold tolerance doesn't aid me much. But I can see how overwintering in your area could be extremely beneficial.

      And so true, the first ones always taste the best! Hunger is the best sauce, I imagine.

      I enjoy Golden snow, but mine honestly aren't that productive. Only 2 out of 5 plants really thrive, and I find the vines quite thin and weak compared to some of the others I'm growing like Sugar Snap. Oregon Sugar Pod II sounds very intriguing. I'll admit I don't much like shorter peas either, though mine is because they always seem form a hopeless tangle, like a pea tumbleweed, that's a bugger to harvest from. I prefer them standing at attention.

      Keep us updated on those Sweet Horizon - that sounds like an interesting and clever method of winter care. How dwarf are dwarf peas? I've personally found all bush peas to be more like half-runners, so I'm imagining something like a bush bean for a dwarf pea...?

      On the subject of purple, I grew sugar magnolia tendril this year, and despite many of the reviews saying the taste was weird or different, hot damn they are absolutely fantastic. Maybe it's just my tastes, but the purple lends this amazing taste on top of the already sweet snap pea. I really hope your purple snows end up tasting the same/similar, because it's an absolutely fantastic flavor. My new favorite pea, hands down.

  3. You are right about Golden Snow, they aren't a big lush plants but in my garden they stick around for a long time and keep producing so in the end they are productive overall.

    Sweet Horizon. Dwarf is a relative term, they aren't little bushes, they're just shorter than the tall varieties. My plants are growing in a 24" tall cage and trying to bust out of the top so they are a tangle of growth and will be a pain to harvest. But again, the decision to grow those was to take advantage of a space where I couldn't train them up a trellis, so I would rather deal with the tangle than not grow anything. Same thing goes for the Canoe shelling peas that are in the same cage.

    I grew Sugar Magnolia peas back in 2010 and had huge problems with powdery mildew. It was tasty, beautiful, and productive but the PM was a deal killer because it ruined much of the pea crop. Maybe it was just a bad year for PM, but after that I switched to pea varieties that are resistant.

    I've been looking back at peas that I grew in previous years and I see that I grew Green Beauty snow peas back in 2009 and was sufficiently impressed that I saved seeds. I'm not sure why I haven't grown them since, most likely my promiscuous habit of always trying something new I suppose, or perhaps it was hit by powdery mildew, but it may be a variety of interest to you. It's tall growing and produces huge sweet pods. I took one photo of a pea on the vine that was 5 inches long and noted at the time that it wasn't as big as the 7 to 8 inches described in the SSE yearbook. I think I'm going to have to try it again.


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