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February 16th, 2012 Newsletter

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Cane berries are most easily pruned when all their leaves have fallen off and the buds have just begun to fill out and show their light pink color. The dead canes and the plant structure are then quite apparent, and the thorns are more easily avoided. But be careful to not damage the new pink shoots; those will produce next year's berries!


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by Liz Forsyth

Are there miracle plants? Many recipients of the benefits of the aloe vera plant would swear to it. Wall paintings dating back to the ancient Egyptians, probably in the Second Intermediate Period, called the aloe the "plant of immortality"; queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra incorporated the plant into their beauty regimens.

During the Minoan Age in Greece, records of the usage of aloe vera in medicine were recorded in the Ebers papyrus, which was discovered in Thebes in 1858, and dates back to the reign of Pharaoh Amen-Hotep in 1552 BC; what is even more amazing is that this document referenced the use of aloe vera over the preceding 2000 years, taking the first documented usage back to roughly 3500 BC.

Believed to have originated in Africa, this warm weather plant thrived throughout the world, and references have been found in literature of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indian and Chinese peoples. In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great applied aloe vera to the wounds of his soldiers. The bible says that the body of Christ was wrapped in linen and a mixture of myrrh and aloe. We find it spoken of in Gaius Plinius Secundus’s (or Pliny the Elder) Natural History which was written in the mid-first century AD. Pliny the Elder was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher whose name frequents the historical texts of botany; as regards aloe, he claimed it as the first anti-perspirant. In the 1st century AD “De Materia Medica,” physician Pedianus Dioscorides provided us with a detailed description of this succulent. He wrote that taken internally, aloe induces sleep and cleanses the stomach, heals tonsillitis and relieves diseases of the mouth; used topically aloe relieves boils, bruises, hemorrhoids, wounds, dry itchy skin and ulcerated genitals, heals foreskin, stops hair loss, and soothes the eyes. Galen (131-201 AD), a physician to a Roman emperor, used aloe vera as a healing agent.  Galen authored over 100 books on herbal and conventional medicine, gaining his knowledge from doctoring the Roman gladiators.

In the 11th century, the Chinese wrote of using the aloe plant for sinusitis and skin conditions. In the 15th century, the Jesuit priests of Spain were instrumental in bringing aloe vera to the New World; the padres of the early missions used the plant to comfort the sick, and it could always be found growing in the mission yards. By the 17th century, Great Britain’s East India Company was actively trading aloe from Socotra and Zanzibar. The Dutch established plantations throughout the West Indies, in Barbados, Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire for the growing of the aloe plant.

Most recently, by drinking the inner gel (which along with the sap holds the plant’s medicinal qualities – not the rind) Mahatma Gandhi sustained a high energy level despite his poor diet. In a letter to his biographer he wrote “You ask me what were the secret forces which sustained me during my long fasts. Well, it was my unshakable faith in God, my simple and frugal lifestyle, and the aloe whose benefits I discovered upon my arrival in South Africa at the end of the 19th century.”

The opposite of the peaceful Gandhi, in the 20th century the U.S. Government purchased a Texas man’s entire crop of aloe in order to make a salve for atomic burns.

Why does the aloe vera plant work so efficaciously over such a range of medical conditions? Well, it produces at least 6 antiseptic agents that kill or control bacteria, fungus and viruses: at least three anti-inflammatory fatty acids which render it effective against burns, cuts, and abrasions: and at least 23 immune stimulators, which explains why it is showing real promise in the fight against AIDS and in the control of cancer.

We have included a document listing from A to Z the healing abilities of the aloe plant. Believe it or not, people have recorded simply feeling better from the ingestion of what is truly a miracle plant.

Click Here To View A-Z List!

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by Liz Forsyth

We in southern California are able to grow so many fruits that require 500 hours or less of cold weather beneath 45 degrees each year because one Floyd Zaiger, along with his wife Betty and eventually their daughter and two sons established Zaiger’s Inc. Genetics in Modesto, California, in an effort to improve fruit around the world.  The Zaiger varieties, which began in 1954 as a 2 ½ acre farm, now produce millions of boxes of fruit each year for world-wide consumption. 

A fairly recent study of ten low-chill peach (Prunus persica) cultivars have shown the ones listed below as the best to grow in our area.  The objectives of this study were to evaluate the adaptability, fruit yield and quality of low- and moderate-chill peach cultivars and to assess the vulnerability of these cultivars to pests and diseases.  The trials suggest that the group of four ‘Pride” cultivars, along with ‘Tropic Snow’ are more resistant to powdery mildew, a plus for the home gardener.  Also considered were varieties that will successively ripen throughout the summer.  Planting the following selections should produce high-quality, flavorful stone fruits from late-April through August.

  • TROPIC SNOW – A medium to large-sized freestone fruit, the ‘Tropic Snow’ has white skin with a slight blush, and serves up a superb lemon-peach flavor. A freestone peach means that the inner pit does not adhere to the pulp.  A wonderful balance of acid and sugar, this self-fruitful selection ripens in late April with a need for 200-250 chill hours.
  • MAY PRIDE – Sporting large, showy pink blossoms, this sweet yet tangy fruit ripens in May.  Self-fruitful, it requires 175-200 chill hours.  A Zaiger cultivar.
  • EVA’S PRIDE – Needing only 100 to 200 chill hours, this must-have peach variety is a yellow- fleshed, freestone fruit with a unique red mottled interior.  A self-fruitful, ‘Eva’s Pride’ is a heavy producer whose harvest season begins in late May and extends through late June and ripens 2-3 weeks before ‘Mid-Pride’.  Fresh tree-ripened fruit offers a zest to its flavor even when dehydrated.  Also use for preserves and pies.  A Zaiger cultivar.
  • MID PRIDE – Considered the best yellow freestone peach for southern California, this beauty offers up double pink flowers followed by a July harvest of large, yellow, flavorful peaches that are great for eating, canning and pies.  Self-fruitful, needing only 250 or less chill hours, this is yet another Zaiger cultivar. 
  • AUGUST PRIDE – One of the best low chill peach varieties available, it rewards the grower with fruit of a sweet, aromatic, rich flavor that is good for fresh eating, preserving, baking and dehydrating.  Ripening from late July through August (or 3-4 weeks after ‘Mid Pride’), it requires less than 300 chill hours, is self-fruitful, with a bonus of being a Zaiger variety.

Peach trees are easier to grow than you might suspect.  They tolerate poor soil, but will of course grow better with soil amended with compost.  They like full sun all day, and can tolerate hot or windy site placement.  As long as they are receiving enough water and nutrition, they can even be grown on steep slopes.  And if the winter is unusually cold, your peach crop will make up for it by producing a higher quality yield.

Fertilize every three months with an organic granular fertilizer; we recommend E.B. Stone Fruit Tree and Citrus.

Prune so that the trees grow with an open structure, a dense canopy of foliage, but an uncluttered crown of branches.  So, remove the dead branches and branches crossing others.  It is best to prune during the winter, when the foliage is absent, and it is advisable to keep peach trees shorter than 15 feet so that harvesting is easier.  When the fruit has ripened to its full color, and is easily removed from the stem, it is time to harvest . . . and then enjoy the fruits of your labors.


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by Liz Forsyth

Roses are addictive, as any gardener who takes them on will attest.  Their beauty makes them nonpareils, but as with all of Nature, they need specific care to ensure their health.  But true gardeners bond with their plants on a daily basis, making it easy to catch problems and solve them before too much damage is done.

If, in early summer, while examining your rose plants, you see the leaves beginning to skeletonize, you are suffering an attack by rose slugs, caterpillar-like creatures that are the larvae of one of three common sawflies that attack roses (the others are curled slugs and bristly rose slugs).  The mature larvae of the curled slugs are approximately ½” long and a pastel green with yellow heads, black eyes, and white spots on the abdomen and the thorax.  No matter which pest you are dealing with, they all require immediate attention.  The primary attack mode is to take a deep breath and hand-pick the slug from the underneath of the leaf.  Flip the leaves every morning and check for the worms.  Every few days try taking a broom handle and knocking briskly on the branches.  As the slugs are not very well attached to the leaves, they should fall off easily.  Also try blasting them with a strong spray of water; not a bad methodology, useful on many plants, especially when ridding them of aphids.  If you are committed to organic methods, and you are catching the problem early on, use horticultural oil as an alternative to synthetic pest control products.  Neem oil suffocates the pest, so cover the underside of all of the leaves. 

If you decide to spray with insecticidal soap, do so in the early morning or the evening when the wind has died down so as to prevent drift that might harm the good bugs.  Again, aim the spray on the underside of the leaves.  And also spray the earth beneath the plant as the rose slug larvae turn into pupae that overwinter in the soil, emerging in the spring as sawflies to lay eggs on the rose leaves.  These eggs hatch into the little green larvae, eat like crazy, and then disappear.

If you decide to resort to using a synthetic pest control, we offer Bayer Insect, Disease & Mite Control products that contain imidacloprid.  However, while rose slugs may look like caterpillars, they are not, so treatments such as BT (bacillus thuringiensis) will prove inadequate to the job.

There may be multiple generations within the space of one year, so constant vigilance is required to keep your plants looking healthy and beautiful.  Just one more excuse to spend time in your garden, time with your plants. 

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. hamburger
  • 1 egg
  • 1 8-oz of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (add more or less to your liking)
  • Black pepper
  • Ketchup

Step by Step:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Blend all ingredients except for ketchup in bowl.
  • Place in a loaf pan.
  • Spread the top with ketchup.
  • Bake for 1 hour.

 

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