Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

December Gardening Tips - Sowing, Planting and a Recipe

Lots of "Green" Garlic - large ones are Elephant type.
Dear Folks,

I have a mix of information for you today.  December planting information and garden maintenance tips

And finally my "Red Hot Chili Truffle" recipe, with my 'secret ingredient' to give it a wonderful taste and consistency. 

If you have never used "green garlic" (I like to call them garlic scallions) they are a great addition to meals.  Whenever you would use garlic or green onions, green garlic will give you a mild to medium taste of garlic without some of the heat associated with cloves.  You use the whole thing as you would a scallion.  You can plant green garlic all the way through April for a continuous harvest.  Harvest when the greens are 8+ inches tall and the clove has swollen a bit.

December PLANTING:

Bok Choy
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit, Bare Root
Fruit Trees
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Ornamental Cabbage/Kale (Brassica Oleracea)
Peppers (seed)
Primrose (Primula Vulgaris)
Watermelon (by seed December 15 and after)


Carnation (Dianthus)
English Daisy
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Scented Geraniums
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet Alyssum

GARDEN TIPS for December
    Holiday time can be stressful. Your edible garden can be an oasis from stress.  With citrus fruit ripening like yellow and orange ornaments, pansies blooming, and dill waving in the breeze, winter is only a state of mind here in the Desert Southwest.
    November through January can be a ‘rainy’ season for the desert. You can usually hold off on regular watering if you have received a half inch or more of rain within 2 days of normal watering days (except for trees unless you receive 1 inch or more).  Make good use of your water meter to determine soil moisture. 
    If rains are heavy this month, in addition to foregoing some water days, you may need to put down Ironiteor Green Sand to compensate for mineral bonding (which makes iron unavailable to the plants) due to both the excess water and the cold soil.  Ironite is not a fertilizer so it will not burn plants -- apply to the drip line (edge) of tree canopy.

Watering Guide:
As the temperatures rise or decrease, a guide (this is only a guide! make use of your moisture meter to check moisture content of soil) For mature gardens would be:
    70s water every 5-6 days for all but trees
    80s water every 4-5 days for all but trees
    90s water every 3-4 days for all but trees
    100s water every 2-3 days for all but trees

Garden Design tip - if you are considering laying out a new garden, use Ironite to 'draw' the garden layout on the soil, easy and safe.

FROST damage:  Do not prune until danger of frost is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.


Prune citrus and deciduous fruit trees in December, or no later than early January before flowering starts.

Occasionally our crazy peach trees drive Deane nuts because they still have leaves on them when they start to flower in late December or early January.

The idea with pruning deciduous trees is to get it done before the 'sap starts running' in the warming spring weather.  Because we do not usually have extended cold spells some of the stone fruit trees may not actually go into full dormancy.

The commercial growers like Schnepf Farms have simply adopted the practice of prunning their peach etc. trees after December 15th. This ensures that flower buds will not be pruned off later on.

There is always the challenge of a cold spell coming in January or February while the stone fruit trees are coming into bloom, which in other areas of the country might mean the severe limiting of fruit production.  Here we have not generally found that a short cold period has killed off the flower bloom/fruit production.

If you feel you are in a colder area, you can cover the blooming peaches, apricots, plums and apples with cloth covers if you can reach high enough to make it worth the effort.


Peach tree borers are a problem here in the valley as the special hybrid stone fruit trees are more vulnerable to borers because the pests are not killed off as readily as in very cold areas of the country.

Winter 'dormancy' of the trees is the time to consider treating the trees to an oil spray to discourage the darn pests

Generally called "dormant oil" or "horticulture oil" this is a heavy oil based control which is designed to smother the pests, and therefore can't be applied to the active growing parts of any plants.  It is sprayed on the trunks of stone fruit (not evergreen like citrus) from the soil-base line up.  Make sure you read the instructions carefully.

If peach and other stone fruit trees are new to you and your garden, look for swelling on the buds/edges of each branch which indicates the tree is going into active growth and DO NOT use the spray on those areas. 

Sow tomato, basil, pepper, eggplant, tomatillos and all similar warm-soil lovers beginning Dec 1 or later, indoors.

Start warm weather seeds indoors or greenhouse for transplanting out February 1st (with frost protection handy).
Transplant out February 1st.  Tomatoes in particular need a good 'running start' to give you the first of two crops before the high summer night time temperatures stop fruit set.

Collect things you can use to provide frost protection for the first 2-3 weeks in February  after transplanting.  I start saving the distilled water jugs we use for a Poor Man's Cloche, but cardboard boxes will do alsoYou just have to remember to put them on at night after transplanting and take them off during the day.

. . .
Chocolate is an herb, of course, and what would the holidays be without a recipe using chocolate and since we are in the southwest, chili!

       Notes: this is a very rich, soft (but not liquid) at room temperature truffle.  Using the dipping chocolate option for coating will allow them to stay more solid at room temperature
during parties and dinners.  Otherwise it is best to keep all of them refrigerated until ready to eat.  They will keep in the frig in covered containers for 3-4 weeks.

12     ounces (2 cups) dark semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like
Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chips)*
6      tablespoons butter
1/3    cup of eggnog (secret ingredient)
1-1/2  teaspoons of chili powder (strength of choice!)
Coatings: Red crystal candy sprinkles, chili powder, cocoa powder, or dipping chocolate **etc

       Have plastic (like syran wrap) lined pan ready - pan should be wide enough to make shallow layer of truffle when poured.
       In a double boiler or heavy pot on low heat, melt butter and eggnog, stirring constantly.  Add chili to butter and eggnog, mix to incorporate chili completely before adding chocolate.
       Add chips to melt stirring constantly (if you do not stir the mixture may burn).  When completely mixed and melted (no lumps), pour mixture into pan, refrigerator until firmed -about 2 hours.
       Cut the truffle mix into small squares or using a mellon baller, or roll small balls in lightly-oiled or buttered hands, roll in coating of choice (if dipping instead see note below), place on wax paper lined pan, and chill until ready to use.

       *If desired, use white chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet (use the best white chocolate made with real cocoa butter)
       ** Dipping chocolate is special tempered chocolate that creates a hard glossy shell of candy   Can usually be found at Michael's (look for Wilton dark).
       To Dip Truffles: Roll into balls as noted above and chill.
Do not use any other coating if you want to dip the balls.  In the top of a double boiler or a clean wide mouth class/china jar or bowl set in a simmering water bath, melt dipping chocolate stirring to keep liquid.  IMPORTANT, do not let any water come in contact with this chocolate or it will ruin it.  Once the truffles balls are chilled, using a fork or toothpicks, dip each ball in the chocolate, place on wax paper lined tray and return to refrigerator or freezer to chill for about 15 minutes.

Last - a Tip for Spring.  While you are doing your holiday shopping pick up a couple of packages of RED GLASS OR METAL Christmas Ornaments.

These are great helpers in the spring and summer to deter birds from eating your ripe fruit.  When fruit begins to turn color, hang the ornaments here and there.  Pecking at the glass or metal deters the birds.  It is not a 100% guarantee but you should have more of the fruit for you and family and by pass the potentially dangerous bird netting.  Buy at least 1 1/2 inch diameter size.  You want the shiny kind, not dull or satin.  The shiny attracts the birds.

The ornaments are a lot easier to find now than at other times of the year. 

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Need Gift Ideas for family and friends who garden or cook?  Check out my books and gardening calendar, your choice of sellers.

Have a Great Day in the Garden and Kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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