August 2013: Orchard Pruning and Garden Pests!



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Karen’s Corner: Notes from our founder

This August marks the beginning of our sixth year in business. It seems like so long ago that we were hauling our “pop up” tent to various Farmer’s Markets every weekend as we tried to advertise our business and spread the word about growing vegetable gardens at home. It was hard work starting a business during the recession, but the timing was right for us as the Slow Food movement here in San Diego was just taking off. And, as with the Great Depression, when times are tough and you still need to feed a family, planting a garden can help with the grocery bill but also makes a person feel that they have some control over what can be a desperate situation. My husband Paul was laid off and out of work several times in the past 6 years and I remember how good it made me feel to go plant something in the garden, thinking  to myself “well, at least we’ll have lots of broccoli to eat..”. Now that the economy is getting a little better and people are going back to work, it would be easy to slip back into our old habits. But for many people, tasting fresh produce, only minutes from harvest to their table, was an enlightening experience.  I’ve been asked if I’m worried that the “growing your own food thing” is just a fad and I can answer with a resounding “no”. If anything I think people are even more interested in learning about and growing fresh food, and for many reasons. So as I count my blessings and enjoy every day that I wake up and go to a job that I love, I would like to thank all of our wonderful clients who have grown with us and helped us keep our doors open through tough times. Thank you to our staff and interns who have all brought valuable knowledge and hard work to our company, to our support staff, our bookkeeper, web designer and graphic artist, our very supportive suppliers, and to our families and friends who have always been there to cheer us on. Thank you all! And Happy Birthday California Farm and Garden!

Good growing to you ~ KC

August in the Garden

Time to summer prune fruit trees. Summer pruning is done in August after you have harvested all those lovely peaches, plums and apricots.  If you are diligent about pruning your stone fruit trees in the summer, you will have slower and more controlled tree growth allowing you to guide your trees into the shape you want.  Dormant fruit tree pruning is “invigorating” meaning the tree responds by putting out a lot of new branches and water sprouts in the spring.  Summer pruning is performed to control the height and shape of your trees and can also reduce re-infestation of insects the following year.  Some experts suggest that Apricot trees only be pruned in the summer because they are such fast growing trees in the spring.  They are also susceptible to Eutypa dieback, a fungal disease that affects Apricot trees after winter pruning.  Trees that should be pruned in summer include, peaches, plums, pluots, nectarines, apricots and apples.  For a good resource on pruning, pick up The Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees by Chuck Ingels  Or, call us at California Farm and Garden we’re experts at pruning all sorts of fruit trees!

Helpful Tips

Root Knot Nematodes You’d never guess this yard suffers from root knot nematodes. Root-knot nematodes are plant-parasitic nematodes. About 2000 plants are susceptible to infection by root-knot nematodes and they cause approximately 5% of global crop loss. Root-knot nematode larvae infect plant roots, causing the development of root-knot galls that drain the plant’s photosynthate and nutrients. Infection of young plants may be lethal, while infection of mature plants causes decreased yield. Infestation in root crops is devastating. We will probably never get rid of them entirely, but we are waging war and definitely winning. Our prescription? First, we tore everything out of the bed making sure to remove as much of the root material as possible – we didn’t want to leave anything for the nematodes to feed on. In the fall we planted a cover crop that repels nematodes and let that grow until February.  Next, we turned the cover crop back in the soil and added organic concentrated chicken manure pellets that are very high in nitrogen, watered well and covered the bed with clear plastic to solarize the soil.  The combination of sunlight and high nitrogen fertilizers helps heat up the soil to kill remaining nematodes and their eggs. After 6 weeks a concentrated solution of micro-compost tea and beneficial bacteria was used to completely saturate the soil. Before we planted, we added worm castings and more composted chicken manure. We will continue to amend the beds with chicken manure and plant cover crops each year to maintain the upper hand. Concerned you may have root knot nematodes? Don’t be alarmed just yet, nitrogen fixing nodules that commonly appear on plant roots can look very similar to nematode feeding damage. One way to tell the difference is by taking a look at the root to see if the nodules are predominant on one side. If they are, good news! It is probably just a nitrogen nodule. If they seem more sporadic, and you are having difficulty with your plants, it may be a sign of a nematode problem.   Don’t forget! Fig Fest! is coming to San Diego this year and August 15th is the last day to save on your ticket! Early Birds will receive $10.00 off the price of a ticket.  Come on down to the Public Market and savor gourmet food samples, extraordinary wines and craft brew from California’s best chefs, food purveyors, wine makers and breweries.  And don’t forget to come visit us at our booth – we’ll be set up in the “Dames Pavilion” and we’ll be handing out samples, seeds, and answering questions on fig tree cultivation.

What’s Fresh?

TOMATOES! Growing tomatoes outdoors  can be fleeting during a cool, rainy summer like the one we’ve had. Powdery mildew, which thrives in warm, damp environments can be so discouraging. Songwriter Guy Clark had it right: “Only two things that money can’t buy: That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.” And neither of the two comes easy. But, if you’ve been able to battle the mildew your garden is probably flush with ripening tomatoes.  The hardy cherry tomato seems to always yield an abundance of fruit despite poor weather.  Not sure what to do with your bounty? We love this recipe for oven roasted cherry tomato paste!  As with most tomato products, this paste stores beautifully. Save them for cold days and drop them into steaming soups, stews, and chilis for an incredible taste of summer!

Even MoreHelpful Tips

Grasshoppers – Grasshoppers are sporadic pests in gardens. However, in some years large populations may build up, especially after a wet spring, and then migrate into nearby gardens, often defoliating everything in sight. More than 200 species of grasshoppers occur in California, but only a few of these cause significant problems in gardens. The devastating grasshopper, Melanoplus devastator, and the valley grasshopper, Oedaleonotus enigma, are the most widespread and destructive. Looking for an organic control method? We’ve been using Nolo Bait for the last couple of years and it does seem to make a difference in the numbers of hoppers hatching out.  Nolo bait is comprised of a natural grasshopper pathogen Nosema locustae. This single-celled microsporidium protozoan in a wheat bran formulation infects and naturally controls over 90 species of grasshoppers, locusts, and mormon crickets. Nolo bait should be broadcast in affected and outlying areas; apply early in the season as the grasshoppers emerge. Grasshoppers will stop feeding, become lethargic and die after feeding on the Nolo wheat bran bait. Nolo is most effective on the small grasshoppers (by 3rd to 4th instar) and can be an effective control, but it will act slowly. It will have little or no impact on later instars or adult grasshoppers that move into your yard or garden. Learn more about grasshopper control and management here!

What’s Sprouting UP

Meet our new staff member, Brian!  Brian is a graduate from Point Loma Nazarene University and has spent time as an intern at the Seeds@City urban farm in downtown San Diego. He has a passion for nature and loves to be a part of growth. His passion began when he spent several months in Uganda with coffee farmers and now cares for a large garden at his home. He is currently working towards a Nursery Occupations certificate at Southwestern College and is excited to continue learning and growing with California Farm and Garden.   Our maintenance superstar Jackie will be out on maternity leave beginning August 29th. Our operations  coordinator, Caitlin will helping out on the maintenance route until Jackie returns later in the year. Congratulations, Jackie! Calling all cyclists and local bike shops! We’re still collecting bicycle rims – all sizes, any condition. Please let us know if you can help. Be a part of this wonderful exhibit! Thanks!!  
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