By Susan Taylor
Hello fellow gardeners. How does your garden grow? Here in San Diego it is mid-summer with temperatures in the mid 90s, five miles in from the beach and further east. Watering enough? Perhaps you have over watered your tomato vines as I have, resulting in way more vine than fruit. Might be time to fertilize your beds with an organic fertilizer or fish emulsion. If you have garden veggies that are looking stressed from the heat and are not productive, do pull them out—there’s time to re-plant beans, squash, basil and other herbs.
In San Diego it is still too early for fall planting, let’s hang back a bit. If you have stone fruits they should be ripening nicely and good luck with keeping the birds from getting their fair share! This wasn’t a good year in my garden for apricots but there’s enough peaches for sure; I say there’s some peach crisp and jam in the household’s future unless I keep eating them out of hand from the trees.
Let’s focus on what are known as The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen right now. These represent the dozen or so produce that, if you can afford it, should be organic produce. Likewise, the Fifteen are those that are less contaminated by pesticides in the fields.
I don’t think you’ll be surprised by most of the Dirty Dozen. They are: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, sweet bell peppers, spinach, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and imported snap peas and nectarines. See, aren’t you glad you planted most of these in your garden! The apples are far from the ground and the strawberries are right on the soil but both are over sprayed with pesticides to keep them ‘healthy” or pleasing to the human eye.
Wonder what happens to the birds who eat apples and butterflies who eat the strawberries? I wonder and doubt I would like the answer. Seriously, most of the dirty dozen can be grown in the home garden. I have to say I am surprised that potatoes are there and lettuce isn’t, so go figure.
The Clean Fifteen are another kettle, er, of fruits and veggies. The Fifteen are: avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, onions, asparagus, mangoes, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, domestic cantaloupe, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and sweet peas (frozen). Natch, most of these are not as easy to grow locally.
And before you rush off to buy a kiwi plant…remember you need a male and female for pollination; singles don’t work alone.
And while we’re on the Do Not Consider column, home garden avocados require an exorbitant amount of water in the severe drought conditions we experience. To be specific, avocado trees require significantly more water than the home garden citrus tree.
In this day and age in California, everything organic costs more per pound and not everyone can afford it and that’s an economic circumstance that needs correction. But, organic prices are coming down and many of the dirty dozen you can grow at home. We are so lucky to live in such a hospitable climate for home gardening, aren’t we? Buying organic shouldn’t be a luxury for us.
I recently visited the Tanaka Farm, a bucolic spot right in the middle of Irvine, California. This family farm is farmed organically and at the source, the produce was no more expensive than your neighborhood supermarket. We had corn from the morning at 4:00 p.m. fresh roasted and even I didn’t need any butter. I bought lots of lettuces and heirloom tomatoes for dinner that evening. Their pumpkins were already setting tiny baby pumpkins and I think it’s nice to consider that all the children who will handle them in October will touch something CLEAN from the earth, don’t you?
Some of you may remember that I mentioned that artichokes gone to flower are pretty and I’ve included a photo of one of mine. I didn’t plant any squash and so far I haven’t missed it. I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and receive plenty of their squash every Wednesday.
CSA are supported by members who quarterly invest in the farm to receive a share weekly though the arrangements may differ. Typically the buyer doesn’t get to choose what is grown or shared either, you get what’s in the box! Memberships can vary to be twice a month, large or small box and some offer add-ons, like fresh fish or flowers or juice, you get the idea. Typically your share is delivered to a handy pick up site on the same day.
Here’s a sample of what my box held last week; two huge bunches of fresh basil, six oranges and four lemons, two large plastic containers of strawberries (meant to eat on the way before the teen boys found them), lettuce, baby chard and spinach bunches, two medium eggplants — you get the idea. Everything is grown organically and locally.
I find it fun to imagine what to do with what shows up each week. Okay, there have been times when I’ve received way too many rutabagas and I don’t even like them! Those I leave behind for someone else or trade for something from my neighbor. I’ve seen my vendor’s strawberries in Trader Joe’s so the quality is guaranteed. That was NOT a plug for Trader Joe’s.
As you proudly view your summer’s harvests, consider being grateful that we can still water a garden and eat our very own freshest. The ongoing drought has devastated the Central Valley, aka the Nation’s Breadbasket. I feel so sad for all the farmers, organic or not, who have not only completely lost this year’s harvest, but livelihood forever. Consider doing a rain dance for our future!
This was originally posted at our online media partner and prodigy, San Diego Free Press.