Supporting Urban Gardening
One Organic Seed at a Time
Friday, May 22, 2015
TDN Newsletter: 5-22-15
Dear Gardening Friends,
Happy Memorial Day!! Seems early, but here it is!! We hope you enjoy this important long weekend - with at least some part of it spent in your garden! We’ll be in the Farmers Markets, as usual.
Sweet Potato Update:
Great news!! Our Certified Organic Sweet Potato “slips” are due to arrive this week, and a couple weeks after we plant them up, they’ll be available! We will offer Beauregard and All Purple again this year; they will be very limited, so please don’t miss out! You can expect to yield roughly 2 pounds of sweet potatoes per plant. They are $6 each and you can buy them here:
They’re easy to grow, and the leaves are edible and nutritious… I usually throw a few into our breakfast smoothies. They are, of course, Certified Organic. We've written up a “Helpful Guide” on how to grow them…
It’s an entirely different process than growing regular Potatoes, and it includes “curing” them to convert their starch into sugar; I found this to be extremely easy, just leaving them in our oven with only the pilot light lit, and bowls of water underneath, for 12 days. Oh.so.sweet!
Peruvian Purple Fingerling Potatoes!
We just got in another batch of Certified Organic Seed Potatoes and this time, for the first time ever, we have the extraordinary Peruvian Purple Fingerlings! We also have our "regular faves" - Yukon Gold, Colorado Rose and Russian Banana Fingerlings.
Both Sweet Potatoes & regular Potatoes do so well in Smart Pots, and are really fun to grow.
Here’s our “Helpful Guide” on planting the regular Potatoes...
This is a first for us, but we want to let you know about an issue that’s come up regarding the Down to Earth Acid Fertilizer that we’ve been selling for Blueberries for the last year or so…
A customer recently brought to our attention that the ingredients include “cottonseed meal”, and he inquired if we knew if it was Genetically Modified or not. We knew the overall product wasn’t “Certified Organic” or “OMRI listed”, but we thought that that was because it is primarily a fertilizer for Rhododendrons and Camellias… So, we contacted the manufacturer right away and were informed that since the cottonseed meal is purchased by them “as a commodity”, it most likely would be genetically modified.
I related this to our customer, and he asked whether his blueberries had been altered by this product. (Of course, I thought immediately about our three huge, 5-year-old Blueberry bushes out front!!!)
In search of that answer, I spent the 2 weeks making phone calls and emailing the following Agriculture Professionals:
• Down to Earth, who is the Fertilizer Manufacturer
• Our Organic Certifier, CCOF
• Our primary Inspector at the L.A. County Ag. Department
• The Ag. Department’s PhD. Plant Pathologist & Soil Biologist
• One of our long time Organic Vendors who is a professional Consultant to the Citrus & Avocado growers in Ventura County
• The original Grower of the Blueberry bushes that we sell
• Dr. Earth, from whom we buy the Acid Lovers Potting Soil
• OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute)
The unequivocal consensus was that the fully dried and ground cottonseed meal contained in the Acid Mix fertilizer could NOT alter the genetics of the Blueberries; indeed, as the L.A. County PhD. Plant Pathologist pointed out, “the two are from entirely different families, and therefore, would be incompatible for hybridization”. Yay!! And sigh of relief.
This was great to find out, but we still needed a Blueberry Fertilizer…
It turns out that Dr. Earth makes one (which I confirmed is “OMRI Listed”, which means it meets the standards of the National Organic Program, which is part of the USDA) that is the companion to the Dr. Earth Acid Lovers Soil which we already recommend for planting the Blueberries. They say on all their packaging “No GMOs”, so we are going to stock theirs from now on.
So, we welcome you to return your Down to Earth Acid Mix (opened or not), if you like, and we’ll happily replace it with the Dr. Earth Acid Lovers Fertilizer, at no charge. You can bring it to the Nursery or to the Farmers Market. We truly apologize for our oversight when selecting this product and any concerns it may have caused you!
A humble clarification…
Even though the customer who originally inquired about the Fertilizer did so in a polite manner, and was patient while I tried to sort this all out, he did say that he “thought he could trust us, as we always say we are Certified Organic”… which sorta stung…
So, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what being “Certified Organic” really means.
We are Certified Organic by CCOF, and have been so since 2010. This means that we cannot use anything “Not Allowed” by the National Organic Program (which is overseen by the USDA) in our own production. This also means we cannot use seeds which are Genetically Modified or treated in any way (yikes!! Not that we would!).
We are, and always have been, in total compliance with the County, State and Federal Agriculture Agencies who inspect us regularly.
However, it doesn't mean that we cannot sell something which is not Organic…there are rules and regulations about signage and “separation” to which we adhere. But sometimes a thing simply doesn’t exist “Organic”.
For example, it’s right there at the top of our Fruits & Berries website page that “Our Trees and Berries are Not Organic”. This is because there are no wholesalers growing them organically! We absolutely would have them if they were available. But as trees and berries are long-term propositions (and eventually do become “Organic” if grown in a strictly Organic manner), we chose to offer them - and our customers love them!
So, in terms of the Blueberry Fertilizer, even if we had known it contained GMO cottonseed meal, we would not be breaking any of the rules of our Organic Status simply by selling it. If, on the other hand, we actually grew our own Organic Blueberry stock, and used a GMO fertilizer on them, we absolutely would be in very hot water with all the Ag Agencies!!
So, at the Farmers Markets, for instance, we always have our Certified Organic Veggie & Herb Seedlings inside our tents, and our Berries & Fruit Trees outside the tents… this constitutes the required “separation” of Organic and Non-Organic. And since we don’t do any sort of spraying or treatments to the Berries and Fruit Trees ourselves, there is no chance of “contamination”.
Please feel free to ask us any questions you might have on this subject, as it is a bit complicated. And please accept our apology for not having realized from the beginning that the Acid Mix Fertilizer could be problematic. We’ll have the Dr. Earth Acid Lovers Fertilizer in stock in the next few days, and will be bringing it to the Markets every weekend.
P.S. Something Important I did Learn
Something important that I learned while trying to sort out the Fertilizer issue is that container-grown Blueberries will not maintain their acidity forever, as our Los Angeles City water has a pH of about 8.0. As we know, Blueberries need to have a pH of between 4.3 and 5.5. So, even if we plant the Blueberries with all the right “Acid Loving” ingredients (see our Helpful Guide here), eventually the pH will rise too high for them to be optimally productive.
What we can simply do is mix up a diluted Distilled Vinegar solution (2 tbsp. Vinegar per gallon of water) and drench the soil a few times a year. The original Grower of our Blueberries said this is what all the professional Growers do to maintain the low acid pH of their crops. Simple!! I’m going to drench ours this week!
Having said all that, Alex did make another Blueberry run a few days ago, bringing back 60 Sharpblues and Emeralds; they’re gorgeous and selling like mad already! It’s one of the best investments you can make, and you’ll love them year-round, and most especially during those Spring months where you just stand there eating them in your pajamas right off the bushes!!
Well, that’s it for now…
We hope to see you here on the 3rd for the Open House and at the Markets, and as always,