Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

December Planting Tips, Around the Garden and Kitchen

Dear Folks,

Back on October 20th I posted that two of my banana plants had put out a flower - well we have beginning fruit.  Now I can only hope we do not get a freeze which will kill it back.  Fingers crossed I can make my homemade banana pudding in about 3 months. I tried to catch a bee working the flowers (they need to be pollinated) but I missed her.

I harvested a nice size purple sweet potato and my radishes are coming in nicely.  See below for what I did with the sweet potatoes.

I planted my root crops in a different bed this year and the radishes said "thank you for the move" and have been growing strong since Sept and the most of the ones in the picture came from the October planting :-)

My good friend Jacq Davis, over at Epic Yard Farm gave me some Pigeon Pea seeds and they also said "oh yes we like this area".  The plants are about 4 feet tall and have starting putting out flower/seed heads. These were amazing in growth. I direct sowed the seeds July 16th, and they were up in 9 days!!!

I plan on harvesting them for fresh peas, rather than dried, except I will let some dry for re-sowing next summer.  My timing worked great for sowing this past summer.

December Planting/Sowing/Maintenance Tips

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.

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 Ironite or 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.

In future notes I will discuss thinning fruit and a nice spring bouquet option of "forced" branches.

Around the Kitchen.

I started Sauerkraut back in October and it will be ready to refrigerate tomorrow. I really packed it in using a new "packing wood tool" a friend gave me.  It was a kit and it also contained a larger glass weight (weights are not really visible in pictures - they keep all the ingredients submerged -- this is very important when fermenting foods) and silicone "pickle pipes" (the funny looking cap) designed to allow the CO2 gas (the gas is formed during fermentation) to escape without opening or leaving open (but covered lightly)  My sister and I are planning a holiday cooking / baking week shortly and I will be using some of the sauerkraut for our homemade Pierogies.

I also decided to, finally, "preserve" some of my limequats ala preserved lemon tradition.  I say finally because I have been "thinking" about doing this for several years and never got around to it.  I saw this awesome recipe by Sweet Paul for a Mediterranean Stuffing that had my mouth watering.  It called for the usual type base of onion, bread but added olives and preserved lemons.  As soon as the limequats are ready (in about 2 weeks) I want to make this stuffing by filling a casserole dish with the stuffing, laying chicken breast and/or thighs (bone-in, skin-on) over and baking until the chicken is tender.  Meanwhile all the juices from the chicken add additional flavor to the stuffing.

This is my first time using the Pickle Pipes and so far so good.  I am not a real big fan of all the silicone baking/cooking gadgets but this seems like a very good exception to my personal rule.

That sweet potato I showed earlier and some elephant garlic I harvested in late spring got the "roasting" treatment in the oven yesterday.

Garlic: I first decided rather than the more traditional form of roasting garlic whole with the top cut off,  I would separate the clovers, toss with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees.  Because they were so big (and harder from drying over the summer) they took about 60 minutes to the lovely caramelized gloss you see in the lower part of the collage.

I have not yet completely decided how to use the roasted garlic.  I separated the cloves from the skins, saved the skins (and froze) for making a pre-broth to make one or more of my soups and stored the cloves in the frig. I will be freezing most of them for use as I dream up some meals.

Next I put the spiralizer to work on the Purple Sweet Potato.  These purple varieties are a "drier" type and harder so I worked up my muscles getting it through the blades, but what a nice batch of curls I got.  I cut them up some so there were workable pieces.  I tossed with a little avocado oil, fresh ground black pepper and course Himalayan Pink Salt.  I roasted at 450 degrees for ten minutes, tossed then roasted for 15 minutes more..

Last night I used some of them for garnish on one of my "Cream Soups" and it worked great.

One last item from the kitchen.  I use a recipe from Jacque Pepin for his Saucisson (salami) which is dry/cold cured in the refrigerator.  I have made this several times and it is always wonderful. Here is the link to his original recipe.  A NOTE:  I use a small cooling rack over a large dish to place the curing meat on.  I put it on the top shelf in the back of my refrigerator and it is the perfect spot for drying as our refrigerators constantly remove moisture from the air.  Once it is finished to the degree of drying you want, I store in a container or ziplock bag to keep from drying out more.  It can get as hard as a rock which is not fun to slice.  Still tasty.  After it is all consumed, there are always tiny bits of spices and meat, which I toss into my freezer stock bucket for the next broth making.

This last one I made was done in 3 and a half weeks curing.  I will be putting another in soon as my two nephews asked for it for Christmas :-)

I hope the gardening and cooking give you ideas for your own garden and kitchen.

You can find my cookbooks and gardening calendar links on my publisher's site or on Amazon.

We have much to be thankful for and I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

A kind idea for the holidays.

Consider a Reverse Advent Calendar Food Box.  Try starting on Thanksgiving when you gather to appreciate family.  Take to the food bank of your choice a few days ahead of Christmas.

Kindness is the best choice.  Have a wonderful time in the garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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