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Organic Gardening Class Newsletter November 21, 2009

Field Trip tomorrow: Fruit Tree care with Carl Rosato. You need to register for this class if you want to find out how to prune and maintain peach, apple, pear, persimmon and other fruit trees. We will email directions to you. I will check my inbox at 11:30 tomorrow, for those of you who are deciding at the last minute. Based on today, tomorrow's weather should be perfect for visiting a large garden with a variety of fruit trees and watching Carl prune them. Get all those questions about varieties, pruning, thinning, fertilizing and caring for fruit trees from a man who has been doing it full time organically for decades. Well worth the $10 cost payable at the garden gate. I hope to see you there.

Gardening Tips: This is perfect weather for gathering leaves. Leaves are the ideal source of organic matter for your compost pile and for your garden. And of course we get the leaves without any fossil fuel consumption. In the ideal world (just around the next bend, I imagine), the city won't pick up leaves because nobody wants to get rid of them. Leaves are the soul of the garden. Everyone has a spot for a pile of leaves. Once they are piled, they don't blow around much (we don't have tornados here, right?). Then next spring you can compost them with a little manure and kitchen scraps and whatever amendments you decide to add. By the way, if you have a compost pile, you will preserve the nitrogen and potassium better by putting a scrap wood roof over it to keep off maybe 90% of the rain. Not a good idea to use a tarp, because the pile needs to breathe. Anaerobic compost is really stinky stuff, suitable only for commercial dairies where they use this method to produce methane. And these methane pits can be dangerous, due to the absence of oxygen.

I know commercial anaerobic composters are a little off the subject of organic gardening, but I hope you agree that the larger missions of organic gardening include healing humanity's relationship with all of Nature. And integral to that are energy use and manure handling. Here is a link to a site that details the methane production at Langerwerf dairy near Durham, where they have been producing energy from cow manure since 1983:

By the way, years ago when I was farming organic vegetables, we bought the spent manure from Langerwerf. If you read the details on the website, you will see that they use the liquid portion for fertilizing their corn. The solids have organic matter, but very little nutrients, so it is not a complete fertilizer like aerobically composted manure. And while we are on the topic of manure, if you raise chickens, you have an ideal source of organic fertilizer. There is one caveat, however. For safety and for maximum nitrogen capture, any manure should be composted prior to application in the garden. It is easy to compost manure. Just add lots of leaves or straw, or spoiled hay, grass clippings and such. A compost pile doesn't need to be turned. I could go on and on about compost, and in fact, I will talk extensively about composting next spring in our class series. 

Here is a link to a website with a short video on humanure compost (no bad odors), which is what the whole planet needs to do:

Obviously, on any sort of larger scale, humanure composting systems need to be designed and operated by competent governments. Wouldn't that be nice, a competent ecologically aware government. We could even have peace as a national priority!

Garlic: break apart the bulbs of garlic and plant the largest cloves. It is not too late to plant it here in the Sacramento Valley. Valley Oak Tool Company is looking for a nice D-handled compost fork like the one I have. If you know of a source, please let us know. We are designing a broadfork right now, and hope to have it available in a month or so.

Have a great Thanksgiving,

David Grau

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