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Organic Gardening Newsletter #16 - 5/12/2009


Organic Gardening Newsletter #16

Thanks to Christy Santos and to Gail Brown for a wonderful tour of Gail's amazing gardens on May 10. People got lots of ideas for organic landscaping.

Next Sunday May 17 at 1:30, we return to the Chico Grange for a talk on compost and composting by Gary Foster of Compost Solutions. Gary brings decades of farming experience and extensive knowledge of revitalizing soils to his craft.  Composting and soil fertility are central to organic gardening, so this will be a presentation of importance to every gardener.

Mary Berglund asked me to share the link to Jeffrey Smith's website and newsletter on the dangers of genetic engineering. For the inside scoop on this out of control experiment on all of us, take a look at

Home gardening tips:

If you have onions growing that were planted as pencil-sized plants last winter, keep watering them to keep them growing for maximum size and mild sweet flavor. It is better to either drip irrigate or flood furrow irrigate now, so that you don't encourage powdery mildew. Powdery mildew can be controlled with a sulphur dusting, but it is better to prevent it by keeping the tops dry as much as possible. 

When the first onions start to fall over, cut the water and get ready to start harvesting.  For now, harvest the ones that are putting up a flower stalk. You will get a bigger onion if you cut off the flowers. When the time to harvest comes (late May and early June), bend them down to the ground to start the neck drying. When you harvest, lay them out in a shady spot. On some kind of screen or rack is best to provide circulation. When the tops have dried, cut the tops, and store in the shade, preferably in a cool spot (or cooler, there isn't much cool in the valley in the summer).

Potatoes should be hilled now, if you haven't already done so. You can use a 3 or 4 tine cultivator to break the dirt up about a foot from your plants, and then hoe it up around the stems. Yes, it is okay to bury the stems leaves and all. That loose hilled up dirt is where the potatoes will be a month from now when you are harvesting them.

It's still a great time to plant your warm season seeds and transplants. Keep watering the spring planting, frequently, but not too long. It is best to set a timer to remind you to turn the sprinkler off, if that is how you are irrigating. Speaking of irrigating, please do use a pressure regulator if installing drip irrigation. I recommend a 10 pound regulator, and of course install a filter to keep the sand from clogging the emitters or T-tape. City water pressure (35 to 50 psi) will blow out T-tape.

Staking tomatoes: Here is a simple system: pound in a 6' or even better a 7' stake every 5' (every 3 plants). 2x2 inch stakes are best. Pound the end stakes in deeper, and at an angle away from the row. You can use a metal T-Post at the end, with the flange toward the plants. Then tie binder twine around the end stake 8" from the ground, and loop it tightly around every stake. When you get to the end, loop the string on the other side of the plants, and back to your starting point. You end up with 2 strings 2" apart, which hem in the main stems. Repeat this every week or two when the plants are say 12' taller, and you end up with a tomato "hedge" and your tomatoes are in enough shade to not sunburn. So much easier than cages. I will try to get a video clip of this up soon. Or you can weave the plants through Hortonova trellinsing, which is attached to stakes every 5' or so.

Start preparing beds for winter squash and pumpkins. These get planted this month and next month. 

Try broadcasting buckwheat seed on idle areas to increase organic matter for fall plantings. It doesn't become a pest weed like grasses can, and it grows well in the heat. Rake it in with a rake and sprinkle it up.

Happy gardening,

David Grau

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

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