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Valley Oak Newsletter March 16 2018

Posted by David Grau on


Soil Born Farms
"Suga' Cane Community Garden"

"A non-profit urban agriculture and education project that engages our local food system, supports healthy living and grows sustainable community"


     Soil Born Farms turned an old dormant yard into an edible oasis, with 14 fruit trees, a patch of blueberry plants and 5 large veggie garden beds, as well as a large patch of Sugar Cane. Giving the garden its name Suga' Cane Community Garden.
     Students from school Green Tech Education help do all the work to make this community garden happen, with the help of 14 of our farm strength
5 tine steel Broadforks.

     Soil Born Farms is a Sacramento, CA based organization that empowers children and adults alike to take part in local food production, as well as sustainable and healthy living practices. They provide opportunities for the community to participate in planting gardens, and provide job training in areas related to local and sustainable food production. They also hold classes and workshops, food donation drives, tours, and youth leadership development.

Follow Soil Born Farm's Instagram story here

Want to be featured with your favorite Valley Oak tool?
Here’s what to do:
  1. Post a picture of you or a friend using your Valley Oak tool to either FaceBook or Instagram and tag our @valleyoaktool profile.
  2. Write a brief description about why you love your tool and how its helped make your gardening/ farming experience better.
  3. Then wait as each week we will be featuring one or more Valley Oak tool team members and sending them a complimentary $15 gift certificate for money off their next purchase!
Good Luck and keep on growing!


Fermented Apple Juice Recipe


  • about 9 organic apples, enough for one quart of juice
  • 1 tsp powdered culture starter or 2 Tbsp whey
  • pinch of good sea salt

Recipe from


  1. Juice the apples, skimming off as much foam as possible.
  2. Add culture starter or whey and salt to the fresh apple juice.
  3. Pour the mixture into quart size mason jar.
  4. Put lid on jar and tighten.
  5. Leave at room temperature for 3 days.
  6. Transfer to the refrigerator and enjoy!
  7. Should last about a month in the fridge, but you will drink it faster than that!
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Weekly Gardening Tip

Planting After the
Last Frost

March 16th, 2018

     In much of northern California, the last spring frost occurs in early April. So in late March and early April, lots of gardeners will seize the day and rip up their garden plot and plant all the summer garden seeds, like beans and corn and okra.
Well, not so fast! Yes, it is fine to go to the nursery and buy some tomato and pepper six packs to slap in the dirt, however, this may be neither the time nor the place for putting your warm season seeds in the ground. Here’s why: soil temperature.
     If you look at a handbook like the classic Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers (a great resource, but the price is unreasonably high for a new copy), you will find charts for the days to germination at different soil temperatures. Beans, squash, melons, and corn and okra are more likely to rot that sprout if planted in soil that is too cold. If you have had a couple of warm sunny days, don’t think the soil is warmed up yet. Check it. A compost thermometer is ideal for this, which you can get from Johnny’ Seeds,, and other online stores. Read your entire seed packet. They often state the temperature you need. 65 degrees is a good idea. If some cool wet weather is on the way, you are better off waiting for some warmer days and nights.
     Every year, a lot of new gardeners spend an entire weekend digging up their gardens, and by the end of the weekend, they are sunburned and might even have a really sore back. So pace yourself, wear a hat, maybe use some sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and use ergonomic movements. Gardening should be fun, and should make you feel like you got some exercise, not like you hurt yourself. Pace yourself. Pay attention to how your body feels when you are using your broadfork, or rototiller, or shovel. If you are using a shovel, it is easier if you sharpen it with a mill bastard file. Keep your shovel blade clean. Dirt sticks to a rusty shovel, and you end up lifting a ton of extra weight for no good reason.

An experienced gardener who is paying attention is planning her next move all season. If she has a cover crop planted (a great idea for improving fertility and soil texture), or just a strong crop of weeds, she will take advantage of a few dry days, and mow down the vegetation prior to tilling. If you use a lawnmower or a weed whacker (available in cordless electric these days), you may be able to incorporate the chopped vegetation into the soil. If the cover crop is pulled up by the roots, or chopped long like hay, it is best to remove it to a pile for composting rather than snarling up your tiller tines.
So, let’s say you have dug up a bed or two to plant, and you have added some compost, or scattered a little composted chicken manure. Work it in, rake out the bed, and drag the corner of a hoe down the row to make a little tiny furrow for planting. Drop your seed into the furrow at the recommended spacing (should be on the seed pack, or you can look it up online). Cover the seeds with sifted compost, or some peat moss if your soil tends to a clayey texture. If the soil is dry, water it. You may need to water daily if it doesn’t rain. If you plant carrots or lettuce, you may want to water twice a day. The compost holds on to moisture, and it doesn’t crust, so seeds can break through a crust. If your soil is crusted, a gentle watering can soften the crust so that seeds can push up out of the ground.
Please do send in any questions about gardening. I will do my best to respond. We are planning to send out this email newsletter every week until at least early summer, so you should have a chance to see an answer.

Happy Gardening, and more to come next week,

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