September 2013: It’s All About Figs!

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Karen’s Corner: Notes from our founder

Summer finally arrived last week! Of course we knew it would.  Many of us lost our tomatoes and summer squash early this year as powdery mildew took hold due to cool summer weather.  Those of us who put in a second planting may get some decent fruit later this month and into October. Thankfully, eggplants and peppers are kicking in now.
As home gardeners we grumble and groan if lose a tomato plant to insects or disease, a gopher gets into our squash or the birds eat our figs. But can you imagine what our farmers go through when we have less than perfect weather?  I remember lying awake, listening to the rain pounding on the roof of our farmhouse in Oregon, wondering if any of the baby broccoli plants I put in the ground that day would survive the night. I wasn’t trying to make a living off our land, just trying to feed the family and do some trading at  the co-op, but I remember those nights very well.  The anxiety, the feeling of helplessness, and wishing I had the ability to  change or at least predict the weather. For most of us a failed “crop” in the back yard means more frequent trips to the market.  For our farmers, it means paying the mortgage or not. The products we buy from our local farmers not only sustains them and their workers, it is a huge source of pride and accomplishment for them.  So as the summer season winds down and we begin to transition our gardens into fall, head on down to the Farmer’s Market and pick up the last of summer’s heirloom tomatoes, some sweet corn or some fresh berries. And while you’re there, thank a farmer and tell them that as a gardener, you know how hard their job can be! Good growing to you ~ KC

What’s Fresh?

FIGS! Fig season is preciously short — usually from mid-August through early October. Figs do not ripen after they’re picked so they must be at their peak when harvested. The most common is the Black Mission fig which has dark purple skins with a light pink-colored flesh. Growing figs is fairly easy in our area, but choosing the best variety for your location is very important. Black Mission, Celeste, Conadria and White Genoa are great for coastal climates.  Further inland where climates are warmer try any of these but add Kadota and Black Jack to your list of must haves.  Black Jack fig trees can also be grown in pots on a balcony or patio. Most of the fruit is produced on the first year’s growth of figs trees and since they can grow from 6 to 8 feet per year, it’s good to cut them back during the winter after they lose their leaves.  Fig trees are beautiful all year long, and are easy to train and shape, making them wonderful trees for the home landscape. Fig trees are easy to grow and produce an abundance of delicious fruit every year – plant a Fig today! Here’s a simple spread recipe using fresh figs!

September in the Garden

Planning for Fall In the heat of late summer your existing garden can become parched very quickly. Make sure to mulch and to keep your soil evenly moist, this may mean watering twice a day!  When soil dries out, it causes your plants stress and disease and insects will follow promptly. 

As you transition to fall it is important to replenish your soil by amending it with organic material and soil conditioners.  We recommend adding well composted chicken manure, compost and worm castings as you remove spent plants. If you repeat this process seasonally,  you will eventually create an ideal garden soil where plants will thrive. Do not use high nitrogen amendments and fertilizers while the weather is hot or you will encourage a flush of green growth that may be susceptible to sunburn and insects. September is a wonderful time to seed carrots, radishes, beets and bunching onions directly into your garden beds or containers. The warmth will help them get off to a good start, and they will tolerate the cool nighttime temperatures that will move in over the next few months.  Remember, with root crops and bulbs, the soil is the determining factor between success and failure. Since the prime objective in growing these crops is proper root development, they need a loose, moist, well-draining soil. If you can’t provide this type of soil in the garden, grow your root crops in containers filled with a light potting soil.  September is also a great time to sow  cool season seeds in flats for October & November planting. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, onions, scallions and kale are all great crops to start later this month. Remember, seedlings are sensitive! Keep your seed trays in dappled sunlight and water daily, if not a couple times a day to keep the soil evenly moist.

Fig Fest 2013!

Did you know that Calimyrna Figs must be pollinated by a wasp? How can you tell when a fig is ripe? The answers to these questions and much more can be  found at the annual Fig Fest, right here in San Diego! Enjoy fresh and dried California Figs, delicious recipes, entertainment and more at the first San Diego Fig Fest! Savor gourmet food samples, extraordinary wines and craft brew from California’s best chefs, food purveyors, winemakers and breweries. The festival will take place Sunday 9/8 at the new San Diego Public Market, an exciting urban venue just minutes from downtown. Visit our booth! We will be handing out fresh figs to taste, answering questions on how to grow figs in San Diego, and giving tips on starting your fall garden, all organically of course!  For tickets click here.  See you there!

Helpful Tips

New Pest – Avocado Shot Hole borer – Recently, a new beetle/disease complex was detected in Southern California that causes a Fusarium dieback on Avocado and a variety of other host plants. The complex was discovered in a backyard Avocado tree near Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The disease is caused by a new, yet unnamed Fusarium sp. that forms a symbiotic relationship with a recently discovered beetle, which serves as the vector. The Euwalleacea sp. beetle, is a suspected new species of the Asian Tea Shot Hole Borer. The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) beetle discovered in California is smaller than a sesame seed (about 0.1 inch in length). The identical new beetle species was found in Israel in 2009 in commercial Avocado orchards where it has been causing damage. The beetle holes penetrate ~ 1-4 cm into the wood and there are often many exit holes in an infested tree. The new Fusarium sp. is inoculated into its hots by the beetle. The fungus destroys the food and water conducting systems of the tree, eventually causing stress and dieback. Recently. the PSHB/Fusarium complex has been found in San Diego County. Please inspect your trees and visit this website for more information.

What’s Sprouting UP

Bees at Campus Point –  We are so excited about our new adventure in Urban Farming!  With help from our beekeeper friend Don Spangler, we will learn how to operate and maintain the hives – and once the time comes, harvest the honey! Don will be teaching beekeeping classes at the Campus Point farm soon, stay tuned!   Maintenance Route – Just a reminder, our maintenance superstar Jackie will be out on maternity leave until around December. Our operations coordinator, Caitlin will helping out on the maintenance route until Jackie returns later in the year. Please contact our office if you have any questions about our Fall schedule.
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