July 2013: Mid-Summer Harvests!



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Karen’s Corner: Notes from our founder

I’ve been attempting to keep abreast of the Farm Bill legislation this year, though I admit, it’s been a challenge for me.  The more I read, the more confused I become, but it’s clear that a Bill, intended to help people, has now turned into a partisan volleyball game.  One of the most shocking things I’ve read is that farmers used to have much more clout in our politics, but now that they occupy less than 2.5 percent of the work force and farming only accounts for about 1 percent of our gross national product, the needs of farmers have become less important (NY Times article 7.3.13).  How can this be? If there are fewer farmers and we’re producing less food – isn’t that a problem for our country?  Shouldn’t helping our food producers be a priority?

Granted, this is a complicated Bill with billions of dollars in it’s budget, including funding for SNAP (our food stamp program) and subsidies paid to farmers and landowners whether they plant crops or not.  And while most small, organic farmers producing “specialty crops” such as fruits and vegetables, do not qualify for farm subsidies,  agribusiness get’s plenty of funding to grow crops (corn & soy) that are primarily used in junk foods.  Very curious….

I guess it’s up to us folks, the people who eat, drink, and grow our food, to gather information and persuade our elected officials to do what’s right for our farmers and citizens.  For some interesting facts on how hard farmers work for a buck, check out Who are you calling rich? on the Eatocracy blog.  Personally, I think the Farm Bill is incredibly important to our country, but it’s just too big to be on one piece of legislation.

Good growing to you ~ KC


July in the Garden

Harvest time is probably the most pleasurable aspect of July gardening. After months of hard work and patience we are rewarded with a bounty of homegrown delicacies. Sweet, sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh green beans, shiny  peppers, tender young squash, cucumbers and glossy purple eggplant are beginning to yield large amounts of fruit. Warm-season vegetables mature at a rapid pace during hot weather and require frequent harvesting. Check summer squash, cucumbers and green beans daily if possible. Over sized fruit will limit new production and affect the flavor significantly. Green beans in particular produce over longer periods if picked often. If you hurry, there is still time to plant Halloween pumpkins from seeds. By planting them now, they will mature in October . Pumpkins are beautiful and easy to grow, and there are some great varieties out there to choose from.  Some of our favorites are Rouge Vif d`Etampes, a scarlet hued heirloom perfect for pies and Winter Luxury, superb for eating. Watering, mulching and tidying up are the most important garden jobs in July. Give your plants a deep thorough watering a couple times a week, and supplemental water as needed.  Soil should remain evenly moist, not dry or wet. Fluctuations in soil moisture will cause plant stress leading to insect infestations and disease.  Adding a layer of organic mulch in your veggie garden will ease the irrigation requirements a bit, while keeping your soil cool and healthy. When harvest from your summer fruit trees such as peaches, plums and figs has ended, be sure to clean up all fallen fruit from around the tree. Such fruit, if not removed, will harbor overwinter pests and disease organisms.


What’s Sprouting UP

In early June, we were invited to Rancho La Puerta Spa and Resort in Tecate, Mexico. They asked us to give a week long seminar on Organic Gardening and we gladly agreed!  It was quite an honor to be selected  to come and teach gardening to curious guests from all over the country. We were also treated to a tour of the Spa’s magical 6 acre organic farm! The best part is, we are invited back next year in early July. If you are looking for a health and fitness vacation next year, we highly recommend this lovely resort!   Our next exciting project is installing part of an exhibit at The New Children’s Museum downtown.  Watch for more info and photos of this project aptly named “Feast! The Art  of Playing With Your Food”.  The grand opening will be in October. 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!!
If you plant it, they will come! Lunch time music at the Nautilus garden has become a Friday tradition. This corporate oasis is open to the public, come have lunch at Green Acre restaurant and taste what we grow!

What’s Fresh?

SUMMER SQUASH – Summer squash differs from fall and winter squash in that it is harvested before the rind hardens and the fruit matures. Summer squash come in a variety of shapes and colors. This year, we are growing yellow pattypan squash, and  zephyr zucchini! Summer bush varieties take up less space than vining Winter varieties, and if kept picked will keep producing right up to frost. The delicate flavor, soft shell and creamy white flesh of summer squash is a perfect addition to any summer meal.  Try this recipe, easy and delicious! Summer Squash Pancake

FIGS – One of our favorite fruits,  Figs are beginning to ripen!  For an amazing treat, slice ripe figs into 1/4 inch rounds, top with a little goat cheese and drizzle with a good balsamic vinegar.  Divine!  If you love figs as much as  we do – Save the Date for San Diego’s first Fig Fest!
 

Helpful Tips:

Powdery Mildew – The warm summer months combined with moisture  from our gardens creates a perfect environment for powdery mildew to thrive.   Powdery mildew first appears as white powdery spots that may form on both surfaces of leaves, on shoots, and sometimes on flowers and fruit. These spots gradually spread over a large area of the leaves and stems. Leaves infected with powdery mildew may gradually turn completely  yellow, die, and fall off, which may expose fruit to sunburn. Severely infected plants may have reduced yields, shortened production times, and fruit that has little flavor. Special resting spores are produced, allowing overwinter survival of the species that causes the disease in squash, lettuce, peas, and certain other crops.

Powdery mildew can be prevented, and it can be controlled once it appears, but it can’t be cured. The key to preventing it is planting mildew-resistant or mildew- tolerant varieties. Resistant varieties get less mildew than susceptible varieties; tolerant varieties may get some mildew, but it shouldn’t affect the performance of the plant. Prevention also includes siting plants where they will have good air circulation, and exposing as much leaf surface as possible to direct sunlight, which inhibits spore germination.

Biological fungicides (such as Serenade) are commercially available beneficial microorganisms formulated into a product that, when sprayed on the  plant, destroys fungal pathogens. The active ingredient in Serenade is a bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, that helps prevent the powdery mildew from infecting the plant. This produce needs to be applied every few days to suppress the fungus, it is not a cure, but rather a suppressant. Other remedies include sulfur based products such as Safer brand garden fungicide and natural oil based products like Dr. Earth Disease Control Fungicide.  For more information on Powdery Mildew go to the UC Davis IPM website.


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