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We Got Mildew Yes We Do! We Got Mildew, How ‘Bout You?

September 16th, 2010
Here is an example of squash with just a few spots of powdery mildew.

 As tends to happen in the late summer, our squash is suffering from powdery mildew.  This problem is pretty easy to identify;  our plants will look like someone tossed some baby power all over them.

It starts small and then just gets worse if left to proliferate.  Powdery mildew sends little tubes into leaf cells to suck out their contents, killing the cells in the process. As leaf cells die and the leaf’s surface becomes covered in the white fungus, photosynthesis is reduced and leaves may be lost. Crop volume and eating quality can be reduced.

Here the mildew has been left to keep growing!

So how do you get rid of it organically?  Well, there are quite a few options. 

PREVENTION
According to our own UC Davis Integrated Pest Management, prevention is always the best way to avoid this problem.  In other words, if your garden is prone to this kind of issue, next time you plant squash, melon, pumpkin, etc., be sure to start with a resistant variety.

CULTURAL PRACTICES

You can avoid powdery mildew my making sure your plants receive plenty of sun.  (Because of the location of these plants near the South Building of the Robert Mondavi Institute, these plants do get more shade than others.)  Also be sure to:

  • Provide good air circulation by not crowding your plants
  • Rotate squash beds on a minimum three-year cycle to reduce the chance of a fungal buildup or reinfection from one year to the next.
  • Pull up infected plants and burn or bury them.

We got the dummy whammie–the plants need more sun and they are not disease resistant varieties–so now what?


ORGANIC FUNGICIDES
According to UC Davis Integrated Pest Management, once you have the powdery mildew problem, oils, like neem oil,  tend to work better at eradicating the issue once you have it rather than preventing the problem. 

You may also want to try a biological fungicide like Serenade Disease Control Concentrate, but like UC Davis Integrated Pest Management states, “While this product functions to kill the powdery mildew organism and is nontoxic to people, pets, and beneficial insects, it has not proven to be as effective as the oils or sulfur in controlling this disease.”

HOME REMEDY
For those of you interested in home remedies, it seems that you can also try making your own spray of one part skim milk to 9 parts water.  Skim milk works just as well as other types of milk–whole, low fat etc., but no fat means no odor!  Read more about this research finding here:  Using Milk to Control Powdery Mildew.

Did you get the gift of powdery mildew this summer?  If so, what did you do to get rid of it?  Let us know!

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Eggplant eggstravaganza!

September 2nd, 2010
imperial black beauty eggplant variety

Eggplant is definitely one of our favorite vegetables here at the garden.  Not only are they pretty, coming in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, but they are also incredibly delicious!  This season we are not only growing the familiar chunky purple variety (imperial black beauty), but also the Rosa Bianca and white “snowy” eggplant.

Hearty and scrumptious in so many different types of food – stir fries, lasagna, baba ganoush… I could eat it every day!  At only 27 calories per cup cooked and packed with pigments like nasunin which may help protect brain cell membranes from oxidative damage, eggplants seem almost too good to be true!  They are also high in fiber, potassium and Vitamin B6. 

Want to learn more about eggplant history and health benefits?  Visit our website or whfoods.org.

Check out the bounty from the garden this week!  Pictured here are the imperial black beauty and snowy eggplants, as well as maglia rosa tomatoes in front, black and brown boar, pink Berkeley tie dye and green zebra tomatoes, dark star zucchini, lemon cucumber and reve scallopini in back.

This is one of my favorite recipes for eggplant: sausage and eggplant stuffed pasta shells in tomato basil cream sauce.  It’s decadent and time-consuming to make, but a crowd-pleaser every time!  And now is the perfect time as  eggplant, tomatoes and basil all ripe right now!  (Recipe tip:  I leave the cream out of the sauce as the dish is rich enough with the sausage, eggplant and variety of cheeses.)

Eggplant can be a tough nut to crack in the kitchen though.  Grilled?  Sauteed?  Roasted?  Last night I sliced an imperial black beauty roasted it in the oven with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper.  I ate it on toasted wheat bread with melted mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and arugula, and it was delicious!  But the roasting took a very long time!  It is hard to wait when you know how yummy it will be!

In the past I’ve sauteed them, but they seem to soak up too much oil.  Do you peel them? Do you eat the skins?  The skins apparently hold much of the nutrients, but are often tough and, if grown non-organically, sometimes covered with wax which traps in pesticides–in this case peeling seems necessary.

Food experts out there: we need your help!  How do you prep and cook your eggplant?  What are some of your favorite recipes?  We need some more ideas for this appetizing edible!

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Website Wednesday: Edible Yardworks

September 1st, 2010

Ever walked out to your garden with a big to do list full of great ideas, only to find yourself standing in the same spot ten minutes later thinking “Where do I start?” Well we think we may have found an answer to that question. The Edible Yardworks website is a great place to look for a starting point for various gardening projects. And did we mention it is a Northern California specific webpage! This website is an amazing resource for people looking for that starting place.  It has 15 different ‘How-To’ topics for those interested in finding out more about everything from composting to mushroom farming.

The creator of this site, Stacey, also offers private classes on how to grow organic and cook great meals. Even better, her price for a class with more than three students is $15 per person! We think that is so reasonable, so, for those of you in Northern California get some friends together and make a night of it!

Stacey also posts several great video from very reputable sources. Her videos are in the “Case for Edible Yards” tab at the top of the page which has 9 reasons why being sustainable is so important including Biodiversity, Industrial Agriculture, and Climate Change.

Stacey uses a clip from this movie in the Industrial Agriculture section
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It’s fig day!

August 30th, 2010
The first fig was ready for harvest today!  It was the “brown turkey” variety and its skin was a pretty purple color.  In the garden I was not sure if the fruit was ready to be picked, but it was soft to the touch, and luckily when we cut into it it was perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. According to the California Rare Fruit Growers website figs must be allowed to ripen on the tree as they will not ripen if picked when immature, and you will know they are ready when the fruit is soft and begins to bend at the neck.  I also found out that fresh figs do not store well; they will only last 2-3 days in the refrigerator, so when you pick them, make sure you are ready to use them right away!
the first fig of the season
the fig was perfectly ripe and very sweet
If you are lucky enough to have a fig tree in your yard there are tons of great recipes-figs are versatile as they work well in both sweet and savory dishes.  Click here to visit the California Fig Advisory website – they have a great recipe book for “Fig Fest 2010″ that includes fig and orange beignets, Gary’s fig and pecan cinnamon rolls, and causa con salmon with fig compote.
The brown turkey fig tree is only about 5 feet tall right now

Want to plant a fig tree in your yard?  They are picturesque, perfect shade trees that grow up to 50′ tall but are usually kept around 10′ to 30′.  Keep in mind also that they require full sun all day to ripen the fruit, need a lot of space and will shade out anything growing beneath them.  For more detailed information visit the UC Cooperative Extension fruit and nut research information center fig fact sheet.

Here are some other fun fig facts from the California Fig Advisory Board website:

  • Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable.
  • Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The fruits are the seeds or “pedicellate drupelets” found inside.
  • Figs contain a natural humectant — a chemical that will extend freshness and moistness in baked products.
  • California dried fig production has averaged 28 million pounds over the last five years. All dried figs harvested in the United States are grown in California’s Central Valley. 
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Another Lemon Tree Update!

August 23rd, 2010

Our struggling lemon tree is producing up a storm!  Last April we let you know we pruned our Meyer lemon tree back HARD in order for it to adjust from its recent relocation/transplant.  See the blog post:  Lemon Tree UPDATE! for a quick review and some disheartening ‘before’ photos. 

The little guy must be happy now…just look at all the lemons we have to look forward to come winter!  Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to creating happy environments for your edibles.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

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Corn from our garden: BEFORE and (almost) AFTER

August 13th, 2010

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again!  I love before and after photos from our garden so I thought I’d share some with you too!

To learn more about growing your own corn access this helpful download about corn from the UC Davis Vegetable Research and Information Center.  This and many other helpful links and resources can be found on the California Master Gardener Program website called California Garden Web.

To learn more about the corn varieties we have growing in the garden visit the corn page on our website.

Here is the corn on June 30 about a week or so…cute!  (Can corn be cute?)  It’s hard to believe it will ever amount to much!
Here you can see a couple rows.  Some of the seeds did not germinate.

Here is a photo of that same corn, only this was taken just over two weeks later on July 16.  They grow up so fast don’t they?
Now you can see the corn is filling in despite the few that did not germinate.

This is what they look like almost a month after (August 12, 2010) the photos that were taken just above on July 16.
We have two patches of corn growing in our ‘Malting and Brewing Bed’ just outside of the brand new Brewery, Winery and Food Processing Facility.  Perfect fit, right?
Here is a close-up of the corn blossom!  This is a really interesting variety called ‘martian jewels’ corn.  The kernels are white, but the cob is a rich purple; the flavor is hardier and richer than most typical sweet corns.
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Blog Recommendation Monday: The Casual Gardener

July 26th, 2010
Shawna Lee Coroando is the author of Gardening Nude (a self help book on how gardening can help you strip away the stress of your daily routines), a syndicated newspaper columnist, health and green living guru, and finally, blog writer extraordinaire. The Causal Gardener is the perfect name for her blog because she writes articles that don’t preach about the “right” way to garden.  She sticks to giving her readers tips and ideas to help expand their gardening skills without stressing over perfection.
Shawna keeps track of what works and what doesn’t season by season so in her articles she’ll talk about how what she did last year was a little better than what she did this year and why (or vice-versa). She also writes book reviews; her latest is on The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting which she thinks should be in everyone’s library. Her blog posts always include big pictures and lots of videos for you visual learners out there. You will also find lots of tips on how to reuse or recycle objects in your garden.
On July 20, 2010 Shawna gives her readers an update about the process she went through to convert her front lawn into a vegetable garden; it’s very inspirational and you can read it here: “A Sustainable Vegetable Garden – In My Front Lawn.”  She even gives us a peak into her design process by including a “bird’s eye view” of her final product  (See photo on the right.), as well as  a corresponding “gardening by numbers” plant list!  Isn’t that great! How many times have you wished that someone knowledgeable would just tell you what to do?   I know I have and the answers are here!

Thank you Shawna for providing your readers with such thorough garden reporting, and of course, for not making us feel imperfect in the process!!

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