Make your own free website on

Valley Oak Tool Company logo

Home | Wheel Hoe | Broadfork | Accessories | Order | Testimonials | Contact

Organic Gardening Newsletter #14 - 4/29/2009


Organic Gardening Class Newsletter #14

Thanks Leslie Corsbie for a nice introduction to drip irrigation.  For those of you who still feel overwhelmed by all the filters, tubes, emitters, and fittings, Leslie installs irritation systems, as well as other landscape design and installation.  You can reach her at 879-0999.

Directions to Woodleaf Farm (this Sunday's field trip):

From Chico, take Highway 99 to Highway 70 to Oroville.  Get off at the Oro Dam Blvd. exit.  Go left under the freeway and uphill. At the light that is at Olive Highway, turn right on Olive Highway. Go a few miles and then turn right on Forbestown Road. Turn right a mile or so on Forbestown Road, onto Old Olive Highway.  Woodleaf Farm is the first driveway on the left, through the tall gate. You can also Mapquest directions to: 6176 Old Olive Highway, Oroville CA 95966.

We will be carpooling at 9:30 and 12:30 (your time is on your class card) from the Farmers Market parking lot, and will have directions printed out for each driver.

Jeff Armstrong, the owner of Nutrilawn here in Chico sends the following recommendations: 

Our Landscape/irrigation division has worked with numerous battery powered irrigation timers (one project has 63 of them!).  So far I prefer the Hunter or Toro ( I lean toward Toro).  Toro will permit longer length control wires to the valves-and while on the subject of valves it is important to note that only "self-latching solenoid" valves will work with battery powered controllers.  Also, since you are offering T-tape you might mention the importance of a specific range pressure reducer.  Many of the easily available pressure reducers are 30 p.s.i. which is excessive for short run systems (I think we commented on that on the college farm tour).  Thanks for all your hard work....  Jeff Armstrong

This year, I am using pressure regulators set at 10 psi (pounds per square inch). Higher pressure (15-30 psi) is not advisable on smaller systems, and is not necessary. I am also using an inline filter rather than the type Leslie prefers. This is based on price. The type Leslie recommends is more durable and easier to clean. But if your water is from Cal Water in Chico, the main problem is usually just a little sand/sediment, and the inline filter is adequate for that. Any filter must be checked and rinsed periodically. I recommend you start with cleaning the filter once a week until you know how fast it will clog. Don't leave your drip system open for more that a couple minutes. Critters may crawl or slime their way in (Al Vogel mentioned this problem). Chico Sprinkler sells these, as well as the other fittings you will need. The T-tape I recommend is available at Chico Sprinkler in a 7500 ft. roll, or from me by the foot (8 mil, with emitters spaced 8" apart).Chico Sprinkler sells the 15 mil T-tape by the foot, but it is more expensive.

If you want to buy T-tape, Agribon row cover, tomato stakes, pruning shears and pocket saws, or a wheel hoe, you can email me to arrange an appointment.

Vegetable Gardening Tips:

Now is the time to plant warm season vegetables. Water your plot, remove the weeds (to the compost pile or greenwaste bin), loosen the soil to 6" or so, add compost and other nutrients. (Here is where a soil test helps. Most soils are deficient in some nutrients, but without a test, you don't know what to add.)
If you are flying blind (no soil test), make sure your compost is balanced. Store-bought mixes are often not adequate. You need some nitrogen in your compost. The compost from Compost Solutions, The Worm Farm, or Chico Municipal compost all have some nitrogen. If you use manure, it should be composted first. I think an inch or two of balanced compost on a kitchen garden is a good idea.

I had a bad experience with a store-bought potting soil recently. The tomato and basil seedlings germinated fine, but they were not growing well. They were stunted and the leaves were yellow. I should have used a mix of half potting soil and half compost. So in a rush, I added some bat guano, which was 10-2-2 (n-p-k). I burned the plants and killed most of them. It doesn't pay to rush, does it? Moral: even organic amendments can harm your plants. (No, I am not commenting on "everyone makes mistakes").

So, I am replanting tomorrow. I will have a lot of late tomatoes, which is fine for canning. I planted 10 big New Girl transplants from Sawmill Creek Farm (Brian and Nancy sell transplants at the Chico Thursday night farmers market (in front of La Salle's) and their tomato starts are also at Country Harvest Health Foods at 7126 Skyway in Paradise, and Stratton's Market in Paradise.

Back in the day when I was raising vegetables, Arugula was called "Rocket," and Mesclun was just unheard of. So it has taken me a while to catch on to how to harvest Mesclun. It appears to be a cut and come again system. It is so great to have my hands back in the dirt after all these years. And to be learning so much new information (new to me anyway), as well as having the feel and the knowledge drift back into my brain from so long ago. The potatoes in my garden are absolutely thriving. Sprinkling almost every evening for half an hour with a rainbird is working well. By the way, not all sprinklers are created with equal flow rates. Half an hour of lawn type sprinklers would be way too much water. I am filling basins around all my fruit trees about once a week. I am watering my wood chips mulch once a week in the evening to have it stay damp overnight and accelerate the fungal decompostion and thereby reduce any fire hazard. It is likely to be a long hot summer this year. Mulching your soil after it warms may save water and increase the health of your fruit and vegetable plants this summer. I don't mulch tender baby plants, as I have seen a lot of slug and snail damage which I think was from the mulch as habitat. I am really interested to find out how Carl Rosato raises vegetables without turning the soil.

A very good point was raised last Sunday. Drip irrigation hose and T-tape are apparently not recyclable. Non-plastic irrigation systems are certainly more sustainable in being less polluting (landfills are essentially concentrated land  pollution). But drip is supposed to save so much water, and electricity to pump the water. How are we going to best irrigate in the future? You tell me. 

See you Sunday at Woodleaf Farm.

David Grau

Valley Oak Tool Company
P.O. Box 301
Chico  CA   95927
telephone 530-342-6188

Enter supporting content here