June 2013: Fighting Fire Blight…plus Stonefruit!

Up Beet Banner

Karen’s Corner: Notes from our founder

I recently had the opportunity speak with an executive at at large, well known firm, who was asking me about the return on investment of a garden.  Of course there is the outcome of food production as a result of hours of labor, but does that equate to good business sense?

One has only to read the book: “The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden”  or spend a long day toiling in a garden to know that home grown food certainly “feels” more costly in dollar and cents terms.   But what happens to the price of that tomato if you figure in the benefits of eating fresh organic produce and the increased physical activity of working in a garden?

In 2012 Forbes magazine published a report stating that “poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year, according to new research. Of that amount, 39 percent, or $227 billion is from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to  illness…” .  As a result, companies all over America are building gyms and offering incentives for their employees to lose weight and develop healthy lifestyles.  Yet visit the cafeteria and you will find a token boxed green salad next to a hot chafing dish full of beef stroganoff and a burger menu as long as your arm.

Of the top 10 most healthy foods “in the world” listed by Fitness Magazine, 6 of them (lemons, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, garlic and avocados) can be grown here in Southern California.  Combine that with a report by the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal that states “standing, stooping, kneeling, watering and weeding involved in gardening can burn more than 300 calories an hour” and you come up with a darn good reason to included a garden in a corporate campus.

Even though I strongly believe in the benefits of eating organic produce and gardening, I still struggle with the question “what is the return on investment?”.  For me, that equation is still undefined, but I know there must be a magic formula out there….. anyone?

Good growing to you ~ KC

June in the Garden

Warm Weather Planting

When planting after the weather has warmed up and the days get long, you need to take extra care with your seedlings.  Newly or recently planted root systems are not capable of supplying as much moisture to the rest of the plant as established roots. Protect young plants from hot sun and drying winds until they have had a chance to establish their root systems. When rotating crops, plant starts around the base of an existing plant that will need to be harvested in a few weeks.  The new transplant then has some protection from the elements as it adjusts to its new environment.  Using this ‘Nurse Plant’ technique will increase the young plant’s chances of  doing well, especially during the hot summer season.

You can also begin to start direct seeding in earnest.    Plant beets, carrots, beans, radish, chard and melons from seeds.  Plant flowers like marigolds and calendulas along with your veggies, and remember to double check your irrigation lines as the weather warms up.

Throughout warm season it is important to water established plants deeply about once a week. Watering should be more frequent for new transplants and seedlings.  Add an inch or two of mulch on the root zone of herbaceous plants, and around but not touching trees or woody plants. This will protect the roots help keep the growing zone cool and moist. Fertilize your garden and orchard with a good organic fertilizer, but remember, not too much nitrogen for your tomatoes or you’ll end up with a bunch of green growth and no fruit. This time of year, it’s important to give your veggies a good source of Phosphorus and Potassium to encourage flowering and fruit set.

What’s Sprouting UP

Calling all cyclists and local bike shops! We’re doing an installation for the New Children’s Museum in downtown SD and are in need of some used bicycle wheels – all sizes, any condition. Please let me know if you can help. Be a part of “Feast!!” The Art of Playing With Your Food. Thanks!!!

What’s Fresh?

Berries and Stone Fruit

June in sunny Southern California means the start of berry & stone fruit season!  Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Peaches & Plums are all beginning to fill our markets and restaurants. Delicious with everything from homemade shortcake and whip cream, berries and stone fruit are also perfect for making jams and jellies.

Get ready to take advantage of this abundance by dusting off your canning skills, maybe with some help from our favorite book on the topic, ‘The Art of Preserving’ by Williams-Sonoma.  Can extra peaches for a wonderful cobbler at Thanksgiving, and stewed plums for a winter treat.  Berries can also be frozen processed later, taking off some of the pressure! When growing stone fruit in your home orchard, is it oh-so important to thin the fruit each year.   Remove young fruit so there is a space of 4-5 inches between each one. Heavy fruit weigh down young branches causing trees to lean and limbs to snap. Stakes may need to be used for additional support even after thinning. It’s hard to give up fruit, but your tree will thank you for it, and reward you with higher yields each year. A young peach tree split down the center as a result of heavy fruit load and inadequate early fruit thinning.

Helpful Tips:

June is the month to keep an eye out for fungal and bacterial issues like Fire Blight. Fire blight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora,  is a common and frequently destructive disease of pome fruit trees and related species.Pear (Pyrus species) and Quince (Cydonia) are extremely susceptible. Apple and Crabapple are also frequently damaged. Fire blight infections might be localized, affecting only the flowers or flower clusters, or they might extend into the twigs and branches, causing small shoots to wilt and turn black. Fire blight bacteria overwinter in cankers on twigs, branches, or trunks of host trees. In spring when the weather is sufficiently warm and moist and trees resume growth.

Fire blight development is influenced primarily by seasonal weather. When temperatures of 75° to 85°F are accompanied by intermittent rain or hail, conditions are ideal for disease development. Prune infected stems and branches at least 6 inches below the first sign of the disease. To prevent spreading pathogens on infected tools, dip your pruning shears or saw in a diluted bleach solution (mix 1 part bleach to 5 parts water) after every cut. When you are finished, thoroughly disinfectant your tools in the bleach solution for several minutes. When tree is dormant, spray with neem oil, an organic bordeaux  mixture or a fixed copper solution to suppress and kill the pathogen.

Here we grow again!

We’re Hiring! Looking for a Farm & Garden Maintenance Assistant. Hard working, attention to detail, love working outside? Come join our stellar team! Check out our website for a full job description and more information!      

Share this Newsletter with a friend so they can Join Our Mailing List!

Send us your questions and photos of your garden! Follow us on Facebook!