Bigger than life…biogeographer, story teller, inspiration for sustainable design practice. From the backyard to the “Global” gardener.
Bill wasn’t perfect (who is?), but we loved him, and the worms will too.
Well it has been quite a while since my last blog post here, but I hope you have been following my twitter feed (last few tweets over there in the right column).
Summer fruit update:
Continued dry and warm winter weather had it’s effect on the health of fruit trees. Two very dry winters meant that there was no residual ground waterr stored in the soil. Being used to typical wet winters, many back yard growers did not irrigate enough and the trees are suffering. Please water your trees! Especially young trees need good watering. We are suffering in this drought, so do recycle graywater, and build yourself some rainwater catchment.
Adding to our problems was the approximate 50% of normal “chill” hours or units, affecting certain northern species like cherries, apples, aronia, haskap/honey berry, among others. Chill hours are calculated in several ways, but it is generally: total accumulated hours of temperatures between 45F and 32F, between November and February.
Typical symptoms were obvious with my ‘Honeycrisp’ apple this spring: delayed and ongoing flowering (currently holding normal size half grown fruit, smaller marble size fruit, and flower buds just opening), delayed leafing out, with many branch tips bare, and new growth from lower branches. This is a great time to see which trees are actually low chill, and to consider increasing plantings of them.
The few rains we did have were timed perfectly to promote heavy fireblight damage. This bacteria thrives in warm wet weather in the spring, especially during flowering, with bees actually spreading the pathogen from tree to tree. I have had major losses of large, otherwise health pear trees, including ‘Bosc’, ‘Williams’/’Bartlett’, and asian pears. Fortunately my favorite pear, ‘Seckle’ is fairly resistant, and has been used in breeding of other resistant varieties, like ‘Magness’ (‘Comice’ X ‘Seckle’). Without many options to prevent, or cure, the only thing I can reccomended is to prune out damaged branches back to healthy wood/cambium, and planting resistance varieties.
Maggots in yor fruits? Cherry Fruit Fly and Olive Fly
I am getting used to maggots in my ripe berries, but was sad to find them I am early whit nectarine this year. Cherry Fruit Fly, or Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) attracts whole fruit not just rotten fruit, like most fruit flies. I will put out apple cider bottle traps for SWD and for the Olive fly. With many wild untreated olive trees in our area, this fly causes about 90% crop damage most years. Trapping can reduce damage significantly, but commercial growers use a baited Spinosad product called “GF-120”. It is approved for use by organic growers, but is not so available to home gardeners. Instead I have been spraying a kaolin clay “protectorant” product called “Surround WP” (wettable powder). This can make egg laying difficult for olive flies, and coddling moth on apples. All my olive and apple trees are very white this time of the year! I will re-apply every 6 weeks until harvest, and will need thorough washing after.
To much of a good thing: Thin, thin, thin that fruit!
The dry spring weather made for an immense fruit set on many stone fruit and apple varieties. If you are greedy, and try to let all those fruit to mature you could have some serious problems: Breaking branches, (can be moderated by use of props, bands and straps), severe “alternate bearing” causing the tree to overbear one year and resting by producing no fruit the next, disease and pests are made worse with crowded fruit branches, quality of fruit is also compromised when crowded, with less sugar, less color and smaller. Please do not hesitate to take off all the excess fruit. Imagine a full size fruit on the branch, and allow room so the fruit won’t touch– about 4 to 8 inches apart.
Summer Pruning and Grafting
This season’s branch growth is becoming more woody now (hardening off) and now is a great time to do some summer pruning to control growth from the buds we left behind from our winter pruning. The bottom of this seasons growth is perfect for various summer budding and grafting techniques. We graft year ’round!
Summer Fruit Tastings Begin!
Andy’s Orchard had the first fruit tasting of the 2015 season. Held on Father’s Day, I attended with my son Ijah. Andy announced to a crowd of a couple hundred attendees that “this is our worst fruit harvest year ever”, with cherries having a 95% crop loss, mostly due to lack of chill hours. Though we did not taste as many as the 55 varieties as I had in the past, there were still many dozens of varieties of stone fruit to enjoy–including a dozen kinds of cherries and many apricots, plums, inter specific hybrids, peaches and nectarines. Find the schedule for the rest of the summer tastings at Andy’s Orchard website.
Keep it Juicy!
INTERdependence Celebration – Collective Gardening, Tour and Fruit Tasting, BBQ/Potluck and Pool Party
Sunday, July 6
9am – 5pm
https://www.facebook.com/events/1627584290800387*** RSVP REQUIRED ***
Please RSVP to Gustavo@swirlspace.com to reserve a spot and we will send address & more information$10-20 Donation sliding scale + Potluck item
Use Paypal Donation below or bring cash
Join our Facebook Group for updates:
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE FOR THE DAY
MORNING HANDS IN THE DIRT (9am – 12pm)
We will work in the veggie gardens to clear, weed, plant, transplant, propagate, harvest and learn together.
POTLUCK & POOL PARTY (12pm-5pm)
Get refreshed in the large swimming pool and share some food amid the palm trees & roses. Bring your swimsuit and a dish/drink to share… Musical instruments & Merriment welcome!
GARDEN TOUR & FRUIT TASTINGS (1pm-2pm)
The 5 acre property includes native oak forest and chaparral, 100-year old buildings, fruit trees and vegetable gardens, bamboo grove, fragrant rose collection and nursery. With established fruit trees that have been multigrafted, there are now about 150 varieties of fruit growing.
Fruit tastings: Raspberries, Plums, Citrus.
AFTERNOON WORK SESSION (2pm-5pm)
For those of you who cant make it in the morning but would like to play in the garden. Work and cool off in the pool anytime.
John Valenzuela, Permie “Fruit Freak”
Gustavo Alcantar, Swirlspace EcoDesign
The tour and garden activities will be lead by John Valenzuela, gardener, consultant and Permaculture educator, who is also known as an expert ‘fruit freak’, serving as chairperson for the Golden Gate chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers. John has been maintaining this land for several years, and is pleased to announce that there will now be opportunities to share the garden space for collaborative food growing. John’s gardening, consulting and education services are offered as Cornucopia Food Forest Gardens, with lots of information at http://cornucopiafoodforest.com/
Please join us at the second of our summer series at the Garden of Eve ‘n’ More (GEM)
on Saturday Jun 21, 9am to 5pm
Our first event was great, and we were greatful for the pool when it got to 100 F that day!
More info and details at the events page: https://cornucopiafoodforest.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/
and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/557318967710617/
*** RSVP REQUIRED ***
$10-20 Donation sliding scale + Potluck item
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot and we will send address & more information
Interested in collective gardening and orcharding?
Join us this Sunday, the first in a Summer series !
Potluck & Pool Party
Sunday, June 8, 10am-5pm
@ Garden of Eve-n-More, (G.E.M.)
near Novato, CA (address sent upon RSVP)
Hosted by John Valenzuela & Gustavo Alcantar
Come join us for a day of education and work in the gardens and orchard followed by fun at the pool and a potluck. This is the first event in our summer series.
GARDEN TOUR & INTRO (10am-11am)
We will start with a tour of the 5 acre property, which is a ‘gem’ that includes native oak forest and chaparral, 100-year old buildings, fruit trees and vegetable gardens, bamboo grove, fragrant rose collection and nursery. With established fruit trees that have been multigrafted, there are now about 150 varieties of fruit growing (there may be some berries to sample).
HANDS IN THE DIRT (11am – 1pm)
We will work in the veggie gardens to clear, weed, plant, transplant, propagate, harvest and learn together.
POTLUCK & POOL PARTY (1pm-5pm)
We can then get refreshed in the large swimming pool and share some food amid the palm trees & roses. Bring your swimsuit and a dish/drink to share.
The tour and garden activities will be lead by John Valenzuela, gardener, consultant and Permaculture educator, who is also known as an expert ‘fruit freak’, serving as chairperson for the Golden Gate chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers.
John has been maintaining this land for several years, and is pleased to announce that there will now be opportunities to share the garden space for collaborative food growing. https://cornucopiafoodforest.wordpress.com/
*** RSVP REQUIRED ***
$10-20 Donation sliding scale + Potluck item
Please RSVP to email@example.com to reserve a spot and we will send address & more information
Get ready for the Golden Gate CRFG Fruit Wood Scion Exchange this Saturday by attending this talk tonight!
Wednesday, January 15, 6:30-8:00PM
This event was a great success! Please scroll down to read the rest of this blog post–
Choosing the Best Fruit Tree Varieties: Preparing for Bareroot Season and Scion Exchanges
with John Valenzuela
At ‘Pollinate Farm and Garden’ in Fruitvale, Oakland
Sliding scale $10-25; no one turned away for lack of funds
register here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/556133
Get ready for this season of bare root fruit trees, and more fruit wood scion exchanges, by getting your fruit tree ‘shopping list’ together for this season. I hope you were taking notes at all those fruit tastings I announced this last summer! In addition to taste, I will also share other considerations about various fruit varieties, including adaptability to various climates, pollination needs, seasonality of harvest, uses in processing, historical considerations, and more. Pollinate Farm and Garden is a great new urban farm supply store that is hosting a great series of workshops. My talk will be the first of this year! Check them out: http://pollinatefarm.com/event/
Later in the season I will also lead a grafting class at Pollinate, so stay tuned!
Pollinate Farm & Garden
2727 Fruitvale Avenue
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone: 510.686 DIY FOOD (3493)
Hours: Wed – Sat 10:00-6:00 Sun Noon-5:00
2014 CRFG Scion Exchanges in full swing-
While it may be so dry we are needing to irrigate, there are some things that assure us that it is indeed winter. The scions have been cut from the California Rare Fruit Growers scion orchards of favored heritage varieties carefully maintained to preserve hundreds of unique varieties. This diversity of fruit varieties come from many regions from around the world, North America, in addition to local varieties from California, and even right here in the S.F. Bay Area. Even some modern varieties found in supermarkets might also be considered ‘rare’ fruits. Unless you have picked tree ripened plum or peach from your own backyard tree grown in healthy soil, you may never have really tasted these ‘common’ varieties at their prime of maturity and ripeness.
What is a ‘scion’?
Scions are the tips of fruit tree branches used for making new trees, just the same as the original. This vegetative or asexual fruit tree propagation is done by rooting these cuttings, or if that is too difficult, by grafting – joining the scion to a rootstock of a compatible tree. Seedlings may be good for genetic diversity and discovering new varieties, but some species only make one out of a thousand trees worth eating fruit from. If you want a fruit tree that is exactly what you know you like, and that will come into bearing sooner than a seedling, vegetative propagation is the way to go. Come to our big Fruit Wood Scion Exchange this Saturday to learn more, and gain access to hundreds of varieties that are grown by the California Rare Fruit Growers in the Bay Area. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter and Monterey Chapters have already held their exchanges this year, and the Golden Gate chapter is next!
check out the video page too: http://www.crfg.org/chapters/golden_gate/scionex_videos.htm
More scion exchanges in Northern California here:
Protect the rights of fruit tree breeders!
A reminder: We do not allow any patented varieties at out scion exchange events.
Some patented varieties of fruit you may recognize are: ‘Zestar’ Apple, ‘Pinova’ Apple, ‘Skeena’ Cherry, ‘Minnie Royal’ Cherry, ‘Royal Lee’ Cherry, ‘Sequoia’ Fig, ‘Jupiter’ Seedless Grape, ‘Neptune’ Seedless Grape, ‘Cotton-N-Candy’ Interspecific, ‘Emarald Beaut’ Plum, ‘UFO’ White Peach, ‘Harrow Sweet’ Pear, ‘Angel Red’ Pomegranate, and about 1,600 more varieties.
Luther Burbank died with limited financial benefit from all the varieties he bred because he did not enjoy the protection of plant patents. Though he supported the protections plant patents would provide, it was just a few years after he died did the Federal Plant Variety Patent Legislation get passed into law.
The following is quoted from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO):
“What is a plant patent?
A plant patent is granted by the Government to an inventor (or the inventor’s heirs or assigns) who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. The grant, which lasts for 20 years from the date of filing the application, protects the inventor’s right to exclude others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the plant so reproduced. This protection is limited to a plant in its ordinary meaning:”
All the patented plant varieties can be found on the USPTO website search engine:
A spreadsheet with all patented varieties as of Jan 2012 is found here, thanks to Jason Sutor: https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AqoBKzfSt0AudHRmZmk2LWVqUHNrMjJwS29fYWpGenc&hl=en&output=html
We respect the rights of the breeders who hold these patents. Plant patents do not last forever. They do eventually expire, 20 years from the filing of the patent application. They are then in the public domain, and are free to share. Thanks to the hard work of fruit breeders from Zaiger Genetics, University of Minnesota, Armstrong Nursery, and many, many others; we may consider these great modern varieties ‘future heirloom’ fruits.
Some varieties with expired patents are:
‘Red Baron’ Peach,
‘Champagne’ White Peach,
‘August Glo’ Nectarine,
‘Arctic Snow’ White Nectarine,
‘Arctic Queen’ White Nectarine,
‘Flavor Supreme’ (PlumXPlum Cot),
‘Flavor Queen’ (PlumXPlum Cot),
‘Flavor King’ (PlumXPlum Cot)
‘Ginger Gold’ Apple,
‘Cripps- Two’ Apple aka Sundowner®
‘Cripps Pink’ Apple (which also has another trademarked brand name: Pink Lady®)
Trademarked names are a separate issue. Trademarks are brand names used for certain varieties, with the mark ® if federally registered (renewable every 10 years), or with the ™ if the trademarked is just claimed.
For more on trademarks and patents see this article, from Oregon State: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/what-does-it-mean-when-nursery-plants-are-patented-or-trademarked From a couple of nurseries, more on the confusion multiple names for varieties causes: short article- http://www.lazyssfarm.com/Inquiring%20Minds/trademarked_plants.htm , and a longer article-
Collect scions while you prune your fruit trees.
For some tips on how to prepare scions to bring to the exchange see some of our videos on preparing for the exchange, here:
Pruning classes abound in the Bay Area: at Berkely Hort. Nursery, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, the Institute of Urban Homesteading, and other venues.
Please consider joining me at the Berkeley Eco-House backyard food forest for a pruning class, Sunday, Feb. 2nd. More info here:
One more class to mention:
The Marin Master Gardeners will host me presenting the talk: “Fruit Tree Diseases and Pests in the Home Orchard”. The program is February 26, 2014, 12pm-1pm at the Boro/Pickleweed Community Center in San Rafael. Hope to see you there-
Please let me know if you need advice regarding your fruit trees, or need any pruning or grafting this season.
See you at the exchanges! Or maybe at that cherimoya tasting in So Cal.
The Magic of the Forestiere Undergound Gardens: a sustainable underground oasis still fruitful after 100 years
The Visionary Underground Gardens of Baldassare Forestiere
(all rights to images belong to the Forestiere Underground Gardens)
While on my way to attend the Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee in Clovis, held days after the summer solstice, I just had to make a pilgrimage to a place I have been dreaming of for many years: the famed underground gardens of Baldassare Forestiere (1879- 1946). These unique and other-worldly gardens are still maintained by the Forestiere family, and are seasonally open to offer tours to the public, which I highly recommend. Much of the following stories I recall from those told by our excellent tour guide, Lisa. Any errors are my own http://forestiere-historicalcenter.com/
I drove from the 54 degree foggy coast of Santa Cruz to the 93 degree early summer Central Valley heat of Fresno, which can be regularly over 100 degrees later in July and August. It was this extreme heat that Forestiere sought to escape in his underground caverns, creating an productive oasis of citrus and many other fruit trees that grow throughout his artistic home in a never ending expression of his visions of paradise.
Immigrating from Sicily as a 22 year old unschooled and self taught skilled laborer, he left is homeland after a bitter argument with his father to seek opportunities in America to start his own citrus empire. First living in Boston and New York, he labored digging in the new subway tunnels. The unfriendly winter climate frustrated his dream to grow citrus, so he left the North East to search for suitable terrain in the famed subtropical fruitlands of Southern California, only to be thwarted by the exorbitant land prices. He heard rumors of less expensive land to the North, in the Central Valley farming town of Fresno, where he arranged to purchase 80 acres, sight unseen in 1906.
To his dismay, he discovered his new property was underlain with a shallow hardpan of cement like sedimentary rock, making planting trees near impossible. In addition the searing summer heat was especially brutal that year. Seeking to escape the heat, he excavated an underground shelter, breaking through the hard pan, and using the rock as bricks. He knew such a shelter would be cool in the summer and warm in the winter, as the earth has an average 55 degree temp year around, at a 20 foot depth. By day, he was employed as a ditch digger in the area, as he developed his property in his ‘spare time’, by himself. Never using dynamite, as he feared the damage of work already completed, he worked endlessly with only his hand tools, and his two mules, for some 40 years, until his death in 1946.
His creation was no dark, dank cave- Throughout the endless maze-like tunnels there are hundreds of wonderful ‘Roman’ stone arches, full of light and cool fresh air, amid an abundance of fruit hanging from the living trees!
Fulfilling his dream, Forestiere found that he could cultivate his beloved citrus and other fruit trees in rock walled planters under the many skylights, protected from winter frost and summer sun with lath structures, the roots remained cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Inspired by his Roman Catholic faith, he created many plantings with patterns of threes and sevens, representing the Holy Trinity, and the Seven Sacraments. Without any written plans, he worked from his mind’s eye, eventually manifesting some 55 rooms, atriums, and grottos, including a chapel, 2 bed rooms, dining room, kitchen, fish ponds, ball room, extensive car port and more, wandering under more than 10 acres of land. Not only beautifully inspired, it is functional vernacular: with a water well, rain water catchment and drainage systems, solar heated bath, wood heating kept the small rooms cozy and the earth kept it cooled. Hundreds of ‘Roman arches’ support the ceilings, while the natural airflow is directed to keep a cool breeze circulating. Many passage ways and rooms align to allow views across hundreds of feet underground, while some secret observation holes were used to watch for the possibility of intruders, inspired by the famed secret catacombs of the old country.
After completing an adequate home for himself, he continued with his labors, with his ultimate plan to create an underground oasis resort for visitors to escape the summer heat, and to share in the enjoyment of the abundant fruits of his gardens. He never opened the resort, having worked for some 40 years on his ever expanding visions, is was never quite ready for the public. Though needing constant care and maintenance, the stonework stands strong, and the fruit gardens live on, including many species of fruit trees, now still bearing, after more than 100 years .
A partial list of plants I saw at the Forestiere Underground Gardens:
according to their website, http://www.undergroundgardens.com/amazingfacts.html
Grape varieties included ‘Alicante’, ‘Thompson’,
‘Muscat’, ‘Grenache’, ‘Black Morocco’, and ‘Zinfandel’.
Another unique skill applied to his vision was the many multigrafted citrus trees, still found found flourishing and full of fruit today.
Orange sweet and sour types
Lemon sweet and sour types
Cedro or Citron
You can learn how to graft citrus too!
I have done several grafts onto one citrus tree, but Mr Joe Real of Sacramento, has a tree of more than 100 varieties on one tree! Yes, that would be lot to manage, but it is possible. If you are at a more ‘beginner’ level of wanting to learn how to graft a single variety, trying your hand at this ancient art of ‘making two grow as one’, please join us this weekend.
Grafting citrus is something that is done in these summer months, so you are invited to a workshop to learn how to make your own single variety citrus tree this Saturday, Jun 29. Out at the Indian Valley Organic Farm in Novato, Marin Co., fruit trees we have grafted at prior grafting workshops have been planted, cared for, and now are bearing their first fruits. At this workshop, we will have over 20 varieties of disease and pest free citrus grafting buds to choose from, and we will help you graft a tree to take home. For more information on specific varieties and registration see:
This summer, when Fresno is sweltering in typical 100 degree plus heat, take the time to retreat into the lush and productive subterranean oasis that is the Forestiere Underground Gardens. A truly unique and inspirational food forest!
High Speed Rail Development Threatens the Gardens
Whether you visit to take a tour or not, please let them know you are opposed to any disturbance to the gardens and access to their educational tours during the proposed high-speed rail development construction adjacent to the gardens.
The longest day of the year is here and the fruits are falling from the trees. Will you be there to taste test the delicious diversity? Well there are many opportunities to expand your palate.
I have a whole page dedicated to listing the upcoming fruit tastings I know of in the Northern California area:
please send me any tastings I have missed!
I started this year’s summer fruit tasting season with my son on Fathers Day last Sunday at Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill, South of San Jose.
I have been to as many of these tastings at Andy Marinani’s farm as I can get to. Andy is renowned for having the top collection of stone fruit varieties commercially available purchase by the public. He generously contributes propagation material from many varieties of stone fruit and persimmon which are offered at the California Rare Fruit Growers annual scion exchanges, and leads the Santa Clara Valley Chapter CRFG Hybridizers Group. Don’t feel bad you missed this first tasting, as he holds several during the summer stone fruit season. His website with details of future tastings is here:
This year Sunset magazine’s June 2013 issue just came out with an eye popping article on Andy Mariani and Andy’s Orchard, of course mentioning their seasonal fruit tastings. This publicity lured the crowds of tasters to number an estimated 300+.
Our bellies were getting full and our taste buds saturated, having tasted 34 varieties of cherries, and a dozen other early stone fruit varieties, topped off with a chocolate dipped fresh cherry! Then there was the orchard harvest walk, this time with the alert leadership of Karl Gross, scion exchange co-ordinator for the Santa Clara Valley CRFG. We took home some rare fruits: including a few pounds of the ‘Black Republican’ cherry, mother of the renowned ‘Bing’.
This weekend there are at least two tastings on the same day, scheduled so that you could actually attend both.
At 10 am on Saturday, June 22, the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository will host a mulberry and early stone fruit tasting at the Wolfskill Experimental Farm near Winters.
This is a historic site, founded before the gold rush, by John Wolfskill. It now is managed by the University of California, with a section containing the USDA fruit nut and vines collections. They also host multiple tastings throughout the seasons. Lead researcher John Preece and his field managers and researchers maintain thousands of varieties in their collection and are very knowledgeable, and glad to share information at these tastings. Their website is full of information on the collection:
Later in the day on Saturday at 400pm, another fantastic event will be held in the Central Valley:
The Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee, held at the Mokichi Okada Association’s Oasis Garden in Clovis. Nearly a dozen organic orchardists will be sharing over 60 varieties of fruit starting at 5pm. More information here:
The more fruit you taste, the better your reference points are to know what you like and describe for others what they might like too. This will allow you to make a better shopping list for our winter scion exchanges. It is hard to remember those warms summer fruits in the cold of January, so make good notes! Your taste buds just might start to tingle when you hear those special names again.
Keep it juicy!
In my last post, I mistakenly announced the Final Farm Fiesta was on Saturday, but it was held on Sunday. Hayes Valley Farm was from the beginning planned as an interim use of abandoned freeway off-ramp land that eventually would be built upon when the economy picked up. For three years the farm has grown literally tons of food, through touching and been touched by thousands of urban SF gardeners. Inspiring!
Get a piece of this at their plant sale this weekend Sun May 12: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151582075368069.1073741827.273374513068&type=3&l=230c98082b
Here are some related links:
HVF facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hayesvalleyfarm
Many photos posted of the Final Fiesta: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151584009303069.1073741828.273374513068&type=3&l=dfffbe10f5
A great local radio show, ‘Chew on This’ on KALW, had a great first episode that included a story on the movement around the transition of the Hayes Valley Farm: https://soundcloud.com/chewonthisradio/chew-on-this-season-1-episode
From Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s rural location to Merritt College Hort Dept in the Oakland hills to the People’s Grocery in the Oakland flatlands, to the largest- at San Francisco Botanical Garden, lots of really great plant sales!
On a sad note, the Hayes Valley Farm will have it’s Farm Farewell Festival “Branching Out” this Saturday too.
see all the details on the events page here: