Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Growing Year Round In My Carmel Valley Vegetable Garden - Part 2

It's going to take me a while to get through this series about my year round vegetable garden because I need to devote some time to getting my garden in shape rather than sitting in front of the computer. You'll see the mess that my garden has become in my next planned post.

So, on to year 2 in the 4 year rotation.

Year 2

Here's an outline of the various vegetables in a bed in the second year.
  • Legumes
    • Favas, peas, and chickpeas in winter and spring.
    • Bush beans and pole beans from late spring through fall
    • Peas from late summer to the end of the year
  • Corn
    • Field corn (not sweet) from summer into fall
  • Alliums
    • Garlic and bunching onions planted in fall
    • Scallions any time
  • Brassicas
    • Broccoli or other brassicas planted in the fall and early winter
  • Vegetables for winter harvests
    • Spinach, peas, winter radishes, carrots, beets, lettuces, etc.

If I haven't planted favas before the end of the previous year I still have time to get them into the garden. For late started favas I'll sow them in paper pots indoors to speed up germination but I usually just sow the seeds directly in the garden. After I cut the tomatoes down from the trellis I plant favas along the length of the trellis and cover the seedlings with cloches made from 1-gallon plastic water bottles with the bottoms cut off. The cloches protect the seedlings from rain, frost, birds, and insect pests such as sow bugs and cutworms.

I may keep some cold hardy pepper plants in the bed to harvest late ripening peppers and then allow them to grow for a second year if they survive the winter. I plan for this when I put the pepper plants into the garden, I know from experience which plants are late producers and likely to survive through the winter so I put them together in one corner of the bed.

The young fava plants are a favorite snack for the birds so I usually cover them with a mesh fabric that allows light and air and rain to reach the plants. Micromesh has worked well and is sturdy enough to last a few years. (Don't buy from Amazon, it's totally overpriced, shop around for much better deals).

The trellis is handy not just for tying the floppy mature bean laden plants onto but also to provide support for the fabric.

I devote all or most of the north side of the bed to the tall growing favas and have experimented with various other things on the south side of the bed. In the photo below I allowed mostly flowers and a few volunteer vegetables to grow.

One year when the south side of the bed was available early I put in a supposedly low growing variety of favas which flopped all over that side of the bed. We love our favas but that year there were simply too many but I couldn't bring myself to pull them out while they were still producing beans. I thought they would finish producing early but it turned out not to be the case so I didn't make the best use of the space that year. But still, growing anything is better for the soil than having nothing growing and favas are certainly great for the soil.

The arrangement that I've settled on lately is to grow peas on the south side of the bed. Note the flash tape instead of fabric, the flash tape was unusually effective at deterring the birds that year.

I have to grow peas inside a cage these days because the local rodent population has boomed and peas are definitely something that the damned critters like to eat. When the plants are young I harvest the tender shoots a few times which has the added benefit of forcing the vines to produce side shoots so I get more peas per plant.

I can start putting bush beans into the south side of the bed in mid to late April. Again, I sow them in paper pots to start them indoors.

If the weather is less than ideal I'll cover the bean seedlings with cloches. I learned to not keep them under the cloches for too long because the foliage becomes tender and the plants may suffer once they are uncovered. There's also a risk that they will fry on an unexpectedly sunny and warm day. The ones show below recovered as you can see in the next photo.

May 9
The fava beans produce mature but not dry pods in April and May. I grow an early producer called Extra Precoce Violetto aka Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto (Extra Early Purple Seeded) that gives up its last fresh beans by the end of May which allows me to move the trellis out of the bed and into the bed where the tomatoes are planted at the end of May. If I want to harvest dry fava beans or seeds I would have to leave the plants in place for a few more weeks.

May 24
I put up a few smaller trellises to support pole beans and in the spaces between the bean trellises I sow corn. Oftentimes I allow flowers to volunteer in the beds or I plant them if I don't have other plans for the spaces.

June 10
The flowers attract a lot of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Poppies attract a lot of bees, but I also allow fennel and cilantro to bloom to attract tiny wasps that lay their eggs in or on aphids. Sweet alyssum is also a favorite of mine for attracting a wide variety of beneficial insects such as hover flies whose larva are voracious consumers of aphids. One extra benefit to allowing fennel and cilantro to bloom is that the seeds are delicious too, fresh fennel and coriander seed is far more flavorful than what you buy in the store.

By mid July the corn has taken off.

July 14
The pole beans have started to climb.

July 14
Bush beans have become a new fave with the rodents the last couple of years so I grow them in cages now too. The rodents were starting to get into the pole beans in 2017 so I didn't grow those in 2018 because I couldn't come up with an effective way to protect them.

July 14
Mid August the corn is developing ears and the beans are setting. There's a few overwintered pepper plants growing in one corner.

August 20
By the end of September the dry beans are maturing...

September 29
and the corn is ripening.

September 29
Damned Rodents! That year I was able to deter them by wrapping each individual ear in row cover fabric.

The next year the rodents learned to chew right through the fabric and eat the corn. They can't chew through hardware cloth. I skipped growing corn the next year (2018) and will skip corn again in 2019.

Here's why I grow my own. Where can you buy beans that look like this? No place where I shop, that's for sure.

And you won't find corn like this anywhere either. This is not just ornamental corn, it's corn that can be ground into the best tasting cornmeal or polenta, or treated to make hominy or masa for homemade tortillas,

Santo Domingo Rainbow
Hopi Greasy Head
And it's just simply beautiful.

When the bush beans are finished producing in the fall I have a few options to replace them.  I can plant peas for harvesting pea shoots. If space opens early enough I can get a crop of snow or snap peas also. 

It's a good time to plant carrots for harvesting in the winter. Winter radishes such as daikon or watermelon radishes are another option. Most recently I tried a fall planting of rutabagas that worked well. Beets can also be sown for winter harvesting.

I usually plant lettuce in the fall or early winter for winter harvests. I prefer to grow heading lettuces but could plant lettuces for cutting baby leaves. My usual strategy is to set out about twice the number of plants that I need and then thin out the baby heads as I want them which leaves room for the rest of the plants to grow to full size heads.

Fall is also the time to put some alliums into the garden. If I was still growing garlic I would be sure to have space available for it in this bed in October. Lately I've been trying bunching onions in lieu of garlic. One of my favorites is I'itoi, an heirloom from the southwest.

And the newest addition to the allium roundup is Yellow Potato bunching onions. On thing that I like to do is to double crop an area. When I set out the potato onions I also scattered seeds for a quick growing cool season salad green called Rishad cress. As the cress matures I cut out whole plants as I need them and to leave room for the growing onions. I also use parsley and mache to interplant. The method works well with regular bulbing onions also.

At the end of the year after I've cleared out the corn plants and bean trellises I can start cool weather vegetables like broccoli, broccolini, kohlrabi, mustard, cabbage, napa cabbage, and chard. Most of these will grow through the winter and give me some of my first spring harvests round about March. Mustard greens are quick growers and will provide harvests in January. I start the seeds indoors and then set the seedlings out under the protection of cloches.


If I plan on growing bulbing onions I need to reserve space in this bed for planting the onion seedlings in January. I had terrible problems with downy mildew on my onions in 2017 so I'm taking a break from growing them for a couple of years to allow the mildew spores to die out. I plan on doing some research to find downy mildew resistant varieties that are suited to the climate and day length requirements here but I haven't devoted time to that project yet.

Next up will be what I plant in the bed in the 3rd year of the rotation.


  1. You have an interesting mix of things in this year of the rotation. The cress and favas are two things I've never grown. I do like the yellow potato onions though. They have done well for me, better than shallots, and are a nice addition to the allium lineup.

  2. That poppy, so beautiful. That corn, so beautiful. I think blooming favas are just wonderful. You've sure put a lot of work into your garden and this post. Thanks a lot, I appreciate it. I suppose it's partly because it is so successful.

  3. That's a great tip re: pinching back the peas for shoots and then harvesting more peas to boot - I'll have to try that.

    Yum, yum beans - I'll be cutting back on a few things this year, but one thing I'll be growing more of is dried beans...just can't get enough of them! And that corn looks glorious! Unfortunately, it's also one crop that I will be skipping due to a mystery corn stalk nibbler.


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