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Organic Gardening Newsletter #17 - 5/30/2009


Organic Gardening Class Newsletter #17

Somehow a week slipped by without a newsletter, so hopefully you will find this before tomorrow's class. I will be interviewing Jimi Logsdon about his large diverse home garden, which is pretty much an urban mini-farm, with vegetables, fruits, and a small flock of very happy chickens.

Thanks to Gary Foster for an excellent presentation on composting, and to Mike Weideman for his talk on containergardening, and so much more.  Mike uses Gary's compost and is really happy with it. If people are interested in going in on sharing a pickup truck load of compost from Compost Solutions, please email me. I am willing to do one run out there, and deliver to a few gardens, and if you are wanting compost, or have a truck to help out a few other gardeners, please email. I believe Gary said they can deliver 4 yards or more, so if you need that much that might be the way to do it.

Next week, I will be talking about weeding tools, about caring for your summer garden, and about preparing for fall planting (it is really more like summer planting for fall and winter harvest).

Gardening Tips: Let's discuss watering. A rule of thumb that may be useful is that larger plants need deeper and in many situations less frequent irrigation. Freshly transplanted tomatoes, peppers, and other plants need watering once or twice a day for a few days. A mature tomato plant has an extensive root system, and needs a deep watering. Fruit trees need a lot of water, and deep in our climate. On the coast, with cooler and moister air, the watering requirements are quite different.

Your soil type influences the wetting pattern from an irrigation. Heavier soils (more clay content) generally get wet in a larger area under the surface than a lighter (little clay, more sand and/or silt) soil. So lighter soils need more frequent watering, as the water goes more straight down, and drains away faster. Most of the loams around Chico are lighter, so your plants will need watering every 2-4 days when established.  Established trees and shrubs can easily go a week to 2 weeks without watering, but need a long deep soak when you do water. In my opinion, most people water their ornamentals much too often, and too much. Maybe Jeff Armstrong can address this issue next time he comes to class.

Cool season vegetables like lettuce, spinach, chard, beets, leeks, and the like need more frequent watering during hot dry weather. Peppers like a lot of water, and appreciate afternoon shade. The best bell peppers I ever grew were right next to tomato plants that provided that afternoon shade. Cucumbers like a lot of water.

Over-watering can cause problems, and sprinkling in warm weather can cause problems, like powdery mildew in onions. Fruit from over-watered trees may be larger but less flavorful. As a crop comes to maturity, moisture management becomes critical. Mulch can reduce the amount and frequency of watering, as well as suppressing weeds and keeping the soil cooler, which plants appreciate in hot weather. Leaves that you stockpiled last fall can make an excellent mulch. I don't mulch plants until they are well established, since mulch can harbor pests, and keep the soil too cool in the early spring.

Ask me about guttation. It is an indicator of adequate moisture.

I am putting in my last planting of tomato transplants tomorrow. Get your melons and squash in as soon as possible if they aren't already planted. By the way, if you do use transplants, follow Mike's advice and transplant only smaller squash and melon plants. The big ones don't ever recover from transplanting. Since the seeds come up so quickly and strongly, I prefer to plant seed rather than transplants of squash and melons. Beans and corn don't transplant well.

Some vegetables do well as fall transplants, like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and cauliflower. You can plant your whole fall garden from seed. Carrots and beets need to be direct seeded. Get seeds soon so that you have them on hand for August planting. That's right, you plant fall and winter crops in August. September is not as good. The plants need to size up during long days. They come to maturity in cool weather, but they get their start with lots of sun and lots of water in August and September.

See you in class,

David Grau

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

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