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Organic Gardening Newsletter #19 - 7/11/2009


Isn't this cool weather here in the north valley strangely wonderful? I hope you are enjoying your summer garden now, eating plenty of zucchini, and tomatoes, eggplant (what, yours aren't ready. Plant the Japanese ones next year, they ripen earlier), and basil, and cucumbers.

Field Trip for Organic Gardening Class:  Visit the CSU Chico Organic Garden Project Sunday July 19 at 9 AM.  The Chico State University Farm organic garden project summer garden is in full production now, and the organic gardening class is invited to see tomatoes, melons, peppers and flowers at the height of the season. There is no fee for this session.  Please bicycle or carpool if possible. Arrive at 9 AM sharp for a tour guided by field manager Katie Fugnetti and Dr. Lee Altier.

Directions: Take the Midway to Hegan Lane. Turn west on Hegan Lane. After you cross the RR tracks, the next left is the entrance to the CSU Chico Farm. Go straight until you see the parking area on your left. The garden is just beyond the parking area.

Yes, the gardening class series will continue. I am working with a small group to better organize future presentations and field trips. We will be having an event about once a month starting in August.  Then in January through April, we will do the weekly series. This time around it will be much better organized, since a few really well organized folks are helping to plan the classes. We are still open to ideas for topics, and for potential presenters. We plan to strengthen the emphasis on organic methods from here on out. Topics and dates will be sent in a newsletter in the next few weeks. Tentative plans call for a tomato tasting/potluck (probably at the Grange) in August, and a seed saving field trip to Bruce Balgooyen's farm in September. There will be a fee for events after the July 19 field trip. We will keep the fees reasonable, and if you have limited income and are willing to help with set-up, take-down, and clean-up, there will be opportunities to work for your tuition.

Gardening Tips:  Just a week ago, my kumquat trees started to bloom. It was a wonderful show, with that citrus blossom fragrance, and lots of bees visiting. I am learning that citrus trees like lots of water and plenty of compost. Be careful when you prune, as they are not as vigorous as many other fruit trees. I pruned what I thought was a surplus of white and purple flowering branches off my Ranjpoor Lime, and later I read that you don't usually have to thin citrus fruit  as you would peaches. Lots of the immature fruits just fall off the perfectly healthy tree. I will have a pretty small crop of Ranjpoors this year. Meyer lemons do great in this climate. they are much more frost tolerant than other lemons. Kumquats, and Mandarin oranges also do well. The Sunset Western Garden Book has a good section on citrus varieties and culture. 

As the summer heat continues, on hot days (just about every day, right?), I water my beets and chard in the afternoon. The beets and chard are still thriving. If I had let them get water stressed, they would have gone to seed by now. Are your tomatoes outgrowing their cages by now? Mine are getting toward the top of the stakes in my staking system. The more frequent watering seems to be producing a nice crop of split-free New Girl tomatoes (similar to an Early Girl, but I think with less flavor). Maybe the more frequent watering is making the tomatoes less flavorful. It will be interesting to see how the heirloom varieties turn out this year.

If you want a fall garden, now is the time to be preparing your beds. If you are starting your own transplants, now is the time for that as well. Mid August is the time to plant carrots, chard, beets, and transplants of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. I remember years ago getting 3 or 4 varieties of cauliflower seed from Lockhart Seeds in Stockton CA, and each variety had a different maturity date. We had a nice long harvesting season from planting all of them at one time. Remember to get a Nantes type carrot seed. It is the best in my opinion for fall and winter carrots. There are many Nantes type hybrids. Open pollenated Nantes should be fine as well. 

So I suggest you water a bed, till it up with a wheel hoe cultivator, or a rototiller, or a broadfork. Add compost and whatever other amendments your soil test indicated you need, and rake it out to a nice seedbed. Before you plant your seed, water it well for a few days. Once a day is good. Just water it well, and the weed seeds will sprout up. Then you wheel hoe or stirrup hoe the weeds. The point of this is to sprout out the weeds in the top inch of soil, so you need to not hoe deeper than an inch. Now, when you plant, the weed pressure will be much reduced.

Pest tips: If the blue jays or you aren't getting enough of the tomato hornworms, you can use Dipel (bacillus thurengensis), an organic approved bacterium that kills caterpillars. It also works on tomato fruitworms, which are the same species as corn earworms. Johnny's Seeds and Peacful Valley Farm Supply have a wide variety of organic pest control substances available. Often you can just tolerate some damage. I am able to gently rub off aphids in many cases with my fingers, for instance on rose buds. The aphids smear, and the plant is undamaged. Same thing with squash bugs. It is important to identify your bugs correctly. Some are predators on the bugs attacking your plants, like green lacewings, and ladybug larvae.
If you know of an expert on organic pest control methods, please email me. It would be great to have a presentation on organic pest control.

Happy Gardening,

David Grau

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

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