Food Chain Farm

Master List of Vegetable Care
Vegetables are listed in alphabetical order

Overview – I am currently on a watering schedule for all plants on the property of watering with an automatic timer of 3 times a day for approx 10 minutes a day.  In our hot climate it seems to keep all the plants happy.  It saves us $ on watering the trees which used to be watered once a week for 7 hours a day.

All the beds have new compost, time release fertilizer and gypsum added twice a year before planting summer and winter crops.  I use the same fertilizer for everything which is a avocado/citrus product

Artichokes (winter crop) This plant has been part of the “Mediterranean Diet”  since ancient times.  Plant in partial shade, lots of organic material, good drainage, deep watering (ground should be constantly moist).

When to plant:  It supposed to be planted bare root in the fall but I planted from last spring and got nothing the first year and now I’m getting tons of artichokes in the second year.

In mild regions, cut plants back in mid-late fall.  Feed fish emulsion or other organic fertilizer spring to mid summer.  Can be a perennial in So Cal.  Dig up plant and divide root – plant 6-8” deep in soil. Also supposedly you can break the “suckers” off and plant them but I have not tried it.

Asparagus (winter) This is one veggie that I have not had success with, but I have heard some people do well with it here in Fallbrook.  I also have not concentrated on this one because it takes so long to produce (2 -3 years), takes a lot of water and you get low yield compared to other veggies. We need a type that will thrive in So Cal mild climate – some varieties cannot deal with summer heat and need freezing winters.

When to plant: You purchase them in February as “bare root” plants.   You need to pay attention to male and female plants – males mostly produce fat tender spears and females make berries and can be stringy.  Needs well drained soil and full sun.  In So Cal, tends to “fern” too quickly during hot, dry weather.

Ongoing care:  add compost in fall & spring, 4-5-4 granular fertilizer, top dress with straw and organic compost.

Basil (warm weather plant) Pinch flowers when they appear to keep it growing

Beans  (warm weather plant)
Snap bean seeds – plant Mar-Aug

Lima  beans plant May-June (problem for So Cal – does not like hot weather.  You can leave on the vine an harvest later as dried beans.

Black-eyed peas – full sun, compost – get one for So Cal at Territorial Seed

Pick them daily when they are young and tender to keep them coming

Ongoing care: water weekly – fertilizer 5-10-10 work into top 6”,  water deeply

Beets – Grows almost year round, less happy in hot months July – Oct, plant every few weeks.  Always check the seed packet – you should leave beet seeds in freezer for 2 days to help germination.

Ongoing care: light feeder


Blueberries (get bare root plants in Jan) With all the great fruits that are happy in our climate why spend you time on blueberries that require acid soil?  We used to live in New England and blueberries grew wild in the naturally acid soil.  I tried some blueberry plants that were bred for our climate but they limp along and are just not happy.   Local small farmers are trying to grow them with these So Cal varieties but they are tasteless.

Ongoing care: scratch soil sulphur every couple of months to keep up the acidity.    Blueberries have fine roots near the surface. Avoid cultivating the soil around them, and apply a 3- to 4-in. thick layer of mulch to conserve moisture.


It’s important to know what varieties are best for your location.  I believe I have  “Chandler” strawberries that are happy in So Cal.

Around Apr 15th, the strawberry plants come to life.  They are very happy in So Cal and seem to require very little care.  The challenge is to keep the beds thinned.  I should pull out about 1/4th of all the plants in each bed and place straw around each plant.  You want to keep the berries off the ground so the slugs and snails don’t get them all.   I get plenty of berries so I don’t mind sharing some with the bugs.    Certainly doesn’t seem to reason to use pesticides.

My biggest problem with strawberries is finding places to transplant them – going to have to start finding homes for the new sprouts that develop each spring!

Plant with the crown slightly above soil level (a buried crown will rot); topmost roots should be 1/4 in. beneath soil (exposed roots will dry out). Plants need consistent moisture during bearing season.

Ongoing: plant in Nov.  peat moss, liquid fish emulsion

Cabbage (winter crop) – Simple to grow, start indoors in flats or direct – get a wider variety of seed types.  Compost and top with layers of straw

Carrots – year round – don’t leave in ground too long.  Plant year round except hottest months in So Cal – need cool constantly moist soil to sprout.  Rake out all rocks or clods of dirt, water well – plant on surface and press into soil.  Cover with fine layer of potting soil.  Cover seeds with 2 layers of damp burlap until they sprout worked well.
Prefer cutting to pulling to thin

Chard – (winter crop) This is my “garden weed” – it’s wind pollinated and growing everywhere.  Plant in Feb/Mar or Aug/Sept. 

Cilantro – (warm weather)I usually buy seedlings but you can start from seed in early spring after all danger of frost is past. In low desert areas, plant in autumn; goes to seed and dies in late spring heat.  I have purchased new seedlings in May and it’s growing successfully under part shade. Grows quickly, self-sows.

Corn (warm weather crop) – (heat lover) 

Planting: 4 rows min.  3 ft apart 5 ft long.. Plant more in 2 weeks aft 1st batch matures. Corn grows in various soils but does best in deep, rich ones; good drainage is important. Sow seed 2 weeks in April, then make three or four more plantings at 2-week intervals; or plant early, midseason, and late varieties.

Ongoing: Water 3xweek for clay soil until sprouts emerge.  Gradually lengthen spacing bet watering until water deeply 1Xweek. Just as tassel emerges from stalk, give good deep watering that thoroughly wets entire root zone; repeat when silks form.
Corn is a heavy feeder – 2” compost, weekly foliar feeding of compost tea and seaweed extract  or fish emulsion from time 1’ tall.

Harvesting: Silk should be brown and dry and corn will lean away from stalk when ready. Another way to check, pull back husks and try popping a kernel with your thumbnail. It should squirt milky juice; watery juice means that corn is immature, while doughy consistency indicates over-maturity.

Pests: Corn earworm is the principal insect pest. There is no simple control. Most gardeners expect some harvested ears to show worm damage at the silk ends, and they just cut off those ends. The prevention (it‘s tedious) goes like this: 3 to 7 days after silks appear, use a medicine dropper to put two drops of mineral oil just inside the tip of each ear.

Cucumbers (warm weather crop) – shade – heavy feeder – keep soil moist at all times.  Deep soak 1x wk.

Planting: April – June.
Plant seeds in a sunny spot 1 to 2 weeks after the average date of last frost. To grow cucumbers on trellis (the best way to keep them straight), plant seeds 1 in. deep and 1’3 ft. apart and permit main stem to reach top of support. Pick while young to ensure continued production.
You can also plant on the east side of corn or trained on trellis.
Row covers will protect seedlings from slugs, snails, and various insect pests, including cucumber beetles and flea beetles; remove covers when flowering begins so that pollination can occur. Whiteflies are a potential pest late in season; hose off plants regularly or hang yellow sticky traps. Misshapen fruit is usually due to uneven watering or poor pollination; bitter fruit is usually a result of uneven irrigation.

Cucumbers  (warm weather) can be sensitive to high heat – shade cloth could be helpful and use lots of mulch

Eggplant (warm weather crop) –
Planting: April/May

Full sun,  heavy feeder – subject to transplant shock  - water daily for 5 days, then weekly.  Plant 18” apart.  Floating row cover

Sunflowers –(warm weather)  birds love them – need lots of water

Bird and butterfly friendly plants from Day Lilly Farm – 15-15-15 granular or 20-20-20- soluble in spring

Garlic –(winter crop) Comes from the family that includes onions, shallots, leeks and chives.    There are two categories, hardneck and softneck.   Plant in Nov – purchase large organic globes with good sized sections – break up cloves and plant individually with points facing up in fertile soil with lots of compost.  Needs full sun – plant 4” apart and 2”beneath the surface.  Bulbs are ready to harvest when about half the leaves turn yellow and fall over  when only three or four green leaves remain on the plant.  Harvested bulbs must dry thoroughly or they will rot in storage.  Lay garlic out in a single layer in a shaded, well ventilated area for 2 – 3 weeks.  Once outer wrapper of the bulb feels dry and papery, they are ready to use.

Stalks can be substituted for chives or scallions in recipes

Welch’s book reports that interplanting garlic with cabbage crops reduces problems with cabbage worms and aphids.

Ginger – p75 Welch. 

Grapes –  As with all plants, be sure to choose the variety that is best suited to your micro climate –  Also do you want wine or table grapes? local nursery should help you choose.
Keep trying varieties and yank them whatever doesn’t taste good.

Pruning: In first year of life, do not prune – when winter arrives, you can start pruning.
After that, prune in Dec. removing 75-90% of last year’s growth.

Pruning is important – vines need max exposure to the sun to be able to ripen the grapes.  When allowed to grow out of control it encourages disease and insects to set in. Grapes need free air movement – trapped air increases danger from mildew -  vineyards use immense fans to stimulate air circulation.

Keep fruit off the ground where it will rot.  After a year you will notice fruit begin to emerge.  Weeding the area do the job by hand which is the best way to avoid damaging your grapes.

Mulching and composting to control weeds and promote growth.

Diseases: powdery mildew

Soil: Deep, fertile well grained sandy loam is ideal – loose, good drainage. 

Thompsons and Red Flame are prolific and need constant restraining. 

Harvesting – know what color grapes should be

Greens (winter crop)
Arugula – called Rocket in Europe – have grown both from seed and from nursery flats – so far, the nursery seedlings are doing much better

Lettuce – plant in Jan, containers on patio but because it is our rainy season in So Cal – lots of slugs can destroy the lettuce – replanted seeds in plastic containers and put into wagon.  Next year,  will try putting a collar of copper around the rim of the pot.

Okra – (warm weather crop) Plant in april, heat lover

Melons (warm weather crop) – full sun Apr-May. Plant 4’ apart, fertilize when flowers appear, water well until fruit forms them withhold water to make more sweet.  Don’t wet foliage.  Foliar feed liquid humic acid, soluble kelp when fruit sets  FRUIT MUST BE OFF THE GROUND – try plastic mulch or set on cut-off upside down flower pots. Protect fruit with straw.

Parsley – (warm weather) Mar or April partial shade .

– (cool weather) direct sow, soak seeds 24 hr.  Cover plants with floating row cover and worked well – after tall enough, brought the barrier down to form a fence around them.  Needs strong trellis – vines can become an enormous tangled jungle.  Use fish net held up by strong metal pipe frame.

Peppers (warm weather) – heat lover, do not dry out – heavy feeders – VERY sensitive to direct sun – even under shade cloth needed “side” cloth to prevent damage from late afternoon sun.  Similar to eggplant and tomatoes -  all are cousins.

Pinch off blossoms on newly planted seedlings to get the plant stronger.

Performs best within a precise range of temp.  Fruit sets best when night temp bet 60 and 75 degrees –  when daytime temps top 90 cause blossom drop.

Feed peppers lightly with balanced liquid fertilizer as soon as see first blossoms open.

lack of dark green leaf color despite adequate nitrogen may come from lack of magnesium.  Spray the leaves with a solution of 1 t Epsom salts to a pint of lukewarm water.

Possible pests include aphids, whiteflies, and cutworms. To control pepper weevils (both the larvae and adults attack fruit), destroy infested plants after harvest. Allow 60 to 95 days from planting to harvest.

Persimmons –  ready in mid-nov -  left for a 3 weeks trip in Nov when persimmons were ripening.  Pulled half off and put in frig.  Aft 3 weeks, were soft like haychias and made great pudding.  The rest of the fruit left on the tree were perfectly fine even as all the leaves fell off – not many birds ate fruit (one or two).

Pomegranate -  also ready in Nov and picked and put in frig.  Seemed OK but also fruit outside still OK by mid December.

When the tree put out a poor crop, I trimmed the dead branches – about half of the tree and it improved the crop the next year.

This is one of the fruit that we can enjoy at the peak of flavor because I can leave on the tree until they literally start to crack open with juicy seeds – delicious.  I can freeze the seeds successfully.

Potato – (warm weather) Buy fresh, good quality organic potatoes and cut up with one “eye” in each section. Plant in March

Tried to plant in Nov but only 1/3 came up.  I now have random potatoes coming up at odd times because there are potatoes in the ground that I have lost track of – a nice surprise!

Ongoing care: water well when foliage turns yellow and dies back.  Discontinue watering and allow tubers to mature for a week or two.  Tried planting above ground in chicken wire “cages” but yield was lower than regular method in raised bed. 

Radish - year round but dislikes hot summers. Takes sun in mild climates, part shade where weather is hot.

Rhubarb – Not recommended for So Cal – needs frost.

Spinach –  (winter crop) I have had a lot trouble growing spinach but finally got it to grow.  Something was eating the seedlings before they could get established.  I have sprinkled hot chili powder all around and that seemed to help.  Plant seeds inside plastic collar then cover with weed cloth. Lots of organic bug spray.   Planted on the north side of peas.  Doesn’t seem to get much sunlight but seems OK.

Squash (warm weather crop) –  Here’s a quirk about Squash that confused me at first.  You plant summer squash (Zucchini) in April but you also plant winter squash (Acorn, Butternut) at the same time.  Basically, winter squash is allowed to ripen longer.  (keep the fruit off the ground – place in cut-off overturned flower pots.)  Have you every a zucchini in the garden too long?  You’ll have a yard long specimen in no time!  You have to pick every day to keep them small and tender.

Direct sow to avoid transplant shock.  Rich soil (would grow on compost heap). Give all kinds of squash rich soil, periodic fertilizer. Roots need regular moisture, but leaves and stems should be kept as dry as possible to prevent leaf and fruit diseases. Pick fruit when it is small and tender.

Squash bugs cause leaves to wilt and may damage fruit. To control, destroy yellowish to brown egg clusters on undersides of leaves; trap adults with boards or burlap set in the garden at night, then collect and destroy your catch each morning. Various insecticides are also labeled for control of squash bugs.

Sweet Potato – Haven’t tried it yet – plant in April

Tomatillos – need 2 plants to pollinate

Tomato - (warm weather crop)– not too rich soil, no extra mulch.  Add Gypsum for calcium light light snow  2-5 lb per sq ft. Put cardboard tube around  - 2” with ” into soil

To grow tomatoes from seed, sow seeds in pots of light soil mix 5 to 7 weeks before you intend to set out plants. Cover seeds with 1/2 in. of fine soil; firm soil over seeds and keep surface damp.
Place seed container in cold frame or sunny window—a temperature of 65 to 70F/18 to 21C is ideal, although a range of 50F/10C at night to as warm as 85F/29C in the day will give acceptable results. When seedlings are 2 in. tall, transplant each into a 3- or 4-in. pot; keep seedlings in sunny area until they reach planting size. When buying tomato plants, look for compact ones with sturdy stems; avoid those that are tall for the pot or have flowers or fruit.

Plant in a sunny site in well-drained soil. Space plants 1 1/2—3 ft. apart (staked or trained) to 3—4 ft. apart (untrained).
Make planting holes extra deep and set in seedlings so lowest leaves are just above soil level. Additional roots will form on buried stem and provide a stronger root system.

Tomato plants need regular moisture at root level; they are deep rooted, so water heavily each time you water. If soil is fairly rich you won’t need to fertilize at all.

Watermelon (warm weather)
These plants are best grown in hills or mounded rows a few inches high at center; you will need to provide considerable space. Make hills about 3 ft. in diameter and space them 3—4 ft. apart; encircle each with a furrow for irrigation. Make rows 3 ft. wide and as long as desired, spacing them 3—4 ft. apart; make furrows for irrigation along both sides. Plant seeds 1 in. deep—four or five seeds per hill, two or three seeds every 1 ft. in rows. When melons appear, cover with straw and keep off ground with cut –off overturned flower pots.  Watermelon does not become sweeter after harvest—it must be picked ripe. To check for ripeness, thump the melon (it should produce a hollow “thunk”); check to see that underside has turned from white to pale yellow; and make sure tendrils where melon attaches to stem have darkened and withered. Cut (do not pull) melon from vine

Waterlilly (P 124 Welsh)

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