A garden in winter

Couple’s organic garden makes most of cooler growing season

MULCH FUN <br>Hjalmar Hake protects his winter garden with straw mulch.

Hjalmar Hake protects his winter garden with straw mulch.

Photo By Tom Angel

Compost is available at the city of Chico’s Compost Facility on Cohasset Road just south of the airport. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Operated by North Valley Organic Recycling. Call 893-4777 for more information. Oshima recommends The Organic Gardener by Catherine Osgood Foster, as a reference book. Get organic seeds, seedlings (or “starts"), recipes and gardening tips at www.seedsofchange.com.

Hjalmar Hake and his wife, Wendy Oshima, stand next to a row of green bushes dangling with tiny cherry tomatoes—the end of the summer crop—as they talk about their plans for their winter “kitchen garden,” as Oshima describes it: a modest-sized garden “for personal use, small enough for anyone to have.”

Located next to the barn on the grounds of their rural south Chico home, the couple’s organic garden is in transition from summer to winter and they’re in the midst of planting winter vegetables.

Hake, a local electronic musician, and Oshima recently planted a row of early variety cauliflower and broccoli seeds, and spinach, chard and bok choy seeds. On either side of the raised row lie the torn-up, straw-like remains of the summer’s corn plants, laid down as a ground covering that will help prevent weeds from growing.

“We’ll also plant some leek and onion starts and root crops like daikon [radish] and turnips and beets,” Hake offers.

“And collards … and garlic,” adds Oshima. “We’re also going to try some lettuce this year.”

Hake and Oshima advocate the use of compost from the city’s compost facility north of town near the Chico Municipal Airport to enrich the soil for planting. The compost is a mixture of “all the leaves and wood shavings and what-not that people rake up,” Hake describes, and “they give you a [small pickup] truckload for $19. It’s a great service if you want to start a garden and…”

DOn’t WAIT <br>Plant your cabbage sets now, and you might enjoy them as soon as February.

Photo By Tom Angel

"…and the soil isn’t loamy,” finishes Oshima.

Hake and Oshima also recommend renting a small walk-behind rototiller for a day to turn over the soil and add compost in preparation for planting, “unless you’re prepared for a good work-out [with a shovel],” Hake says with a sly smile. Guy Rents has a small rototiller for $45.

“Also, you need to consider some kind of irrigation system,” Hake points out. “You could hand-water. … We use four soaker hoses in our garden, available from any home improvement or hardware store.”

Oshima suggests an even easier way to have a winter garden: “You might plant a container garden for small spaces.”

“Use a 2-foot deep wooden barrel—available at places like Rite-Aid—the city compost and water,” explains Hake. No other soil is necessary, and a sunny spot will fit the bill.

“That’s all you need,” says Hake. “You can plant just about anything and you can do it for many years. That soil would be environmentally friendly—no seeds to deal with other than your own—and super fertile… You can do it on a concrete slab or use [the containers] as landscape decoration.”

Hake and Oshima use no pesticides. One way they keep a handle on garden insects is by employing variety in their choice of plants. “Instead of planting all the same thing in the same place, mix it up and you get less concentration of insects,” Hake advises. “The insects who like carrots usually don’t like leeks, for instance.”

“For gophers,” Oshima advises, “I’ve tried mint leaves in their holes. It helps. I’ve also heard [of using] chewed-up mint gum. Our philosophy of gardening is that we just co-exist [with the insects and gophers]. We generally don’t have big problems with insects and gophers…”

“A mild pesticide [that you could use] would be soapy water,” adds Hake.

“Collards, broccoli and cauliflower usually get aphids,” Oshima says. “That’s probably where a soapy water spray would be helpful.”

“I hope that everyone can plant their own gardens,” Oshima says, smiling. “It’s so satisfying.”

What to plant
Eilene Franco at Plant Barn on Entler Avenue recommends planting seeds by late September, seedlings by mid-October. Ask your nursery specialist what vegetable starts or sets you can still plant in November.

About lettuce, she adds, “You can wait quite a while [to plant lettuce], even if you want to use seeds [instead of seedlings]. Lettuce is really easy to plant.” Regarding artichokes: “They will take a full year to actually produce. They will produce next fall.”

For winter planting, Franco suggests:

•chards (Swiss, red, etc.)
•Brussels sprouts
•pak choy
•bok choy
•onions (not ready to harvest till spring)