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Organic Gardening Class Newsletter January 23, 2010

These cold rainstorms aren't pleasant, but they are just what we need to increase the snowpack for next summer. You can't do much work outdoors, but it is a great time to order seed catalogs and plan your spring and summer gardens. Class starts this Sunday, January 24. You can register by going to valleyoaktool.com and clicking on the link there. It will save time if you pre-register, even if you pay at the door. We can have your class card ready and speed the line along so folks don't miss the beginning of the class.

When you get to class, we have about 100 Baker Creek Seed Company catalogs to distribute. It is a beautiful catalog, filled with rare and unusual heirloom varieties. Baker Creek has just recently opened a store in Petaluma, so if you are in that area, it is definitely worth a visit. It is in an old bank building right in the center of town, on the corner of Petaluma Blvd and Washington Street. There is parking within a couple of blocks. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and besides rows upon rows of seeds, they have some first rate garden tools, including the Valley Oak wheel hoe. Just a few miles north, Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastopol has a large selection of tools, supplies, nursery stock, bareroot fruit trees, irrigation supplies and so much more. Harmony publishes a catalog, but if you are in the neighborhood, I recommend you go and get your hands on great gardening supplies, and you avoid shipping charges if you buy it in the store. Both these companies sell online also.

Recommended Reading: For a strong introduction to raised bed vegetable gardening, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith is hard to beat. It is well organized with an easy reading style and lots of quality color photos of the methods and tools and plants he is discussing. Even though Ed Smith is writing from his home in Vermont, his methods are easily generalized to other areas, even here in northern California. I am not a fan of raised beds unless your soil is terribly rocky. We may have a chance to discuss this tomorrow in class. When you come to class, bring a pen. We will be handing out 3x5 cards for you to write questions for the speakers, and on the back side please write one or two favorite books and/or catalogs. We will publish a list of 10 or 15 of the most popular in the next newsletter.

Seed Catalogs to order:  You can go online or telephone Territorial Seeds in Oregon. Hazel has found their seeds to be excellent. Many of you know about FEDCO. Great people in Maine. Slow to send orders, but mostly organic, and very inexpensive. Johnny's Seeds in Maine is pricey, but has high quality seeds and fast service. Seed Savers Exchange is a well liked catalog for heirlooms saved by members.

The format for the class this time is that in the first hour I will interview the speaker(s), and in the second hour I will read questions from the 3x5 cards. After that, we will take questions from the audience. The goal is for you to get your questions answered. I am open to suggestions for improvements. We won't be doing announcements, as this took up a lot of time during last year's classes. We will have tables available for class members to put announcements and brochures on, and at the ten minute break (about halfway through the 2 hours), class members can sit at the table and be available to discuss their announcements with any of us who wander by.

If you want to email announcements of upcoming events, I will include relevant announcements in the newsletter.

Carl Rosato will be bringing some bareroot peach trees to class, maybe tomorrow. He is picking 3 varieties that will do well in home gardens, and they will be available at wholesale cost to class members. This may not happen tomorrow. Carl is getting back from the EcoFarm Conference late tonight, so it may be that the trees will come later.

Gardening Tips: A month from now, we may have perfect weather for spring planting here in the north valley. We often have a "planting window" of a week or two in February. If you have your seeds, and your tools and your amendments ready, you can slap that garden in, and enjoy beets, lettuce, spinach, chard, peas and more. Order your seeds in the next couple of days. Bruce Balgooyen will have recommendations of varieties next Sunday if you don't know which ones to order.

See you in class,


David Grau

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