Tag Archives: high brix

Fruit Trees: Planting in the Desert

How to Plant a Bare Root Fruit TreeHi Friends!

Here it is, the next post in my fruit tree blog series. Enjoy!

Late January thru mid-February is the best time to plant fruit trees here in the desert. Most fruit trees are dormant this time of year (with the exception of citrus and other evergreen fruit trees) which allows them to be planted with minimal stress during this time period. Leafing out is a sure sign that a fruit tree is well on its way to waking up from its winter slumber leaving it more vulnerable to the stress of planting. Also, the January/February time frame allows newly planted fruit trees plenty of time to get settled into their new home before a couple of huge major stressors enter into their life… our drying spring winds and searing hot summer weather. In my opinion, planting a fruit tree in March, April or May is far from ideal. Fruit trees are definitely awake by this time, the wind and heat are starting to kick up and the chance of planting failure increases exponentially.

In some cases, planting March thru May is your only option. Such is the case with citrus and other evergreen fruit trees which are typically not available until spring when the weather warms due to the tree’s sensitivity to cold. Thus, colder weather is actually a major stressor in their lives.

On the extreme side of things, I shudder when I see people here planting fruit trees in the hottest months of June thru September. I usually smile, give them a pat on the back and wish them good luck. In the majority of cases I’ve seen, the trees just never seem to recover from such a poor start. The growth is usually weak and struggling and the tree rarely ever seems to thrive and achieve its full potential. As with everything in life, there are always exceptions… the one super fruit tree that seems to thrive regardless of what you throw at it. Just don’t expect it.

Some folks like to plant fruit trees here in our desert in the fall. To me, this is a much better option than planting in late spring and summer, but I tend to shy away from this time frame as well. Again, my focus is on minimal stress to the fruit tree and subjecting the tree to potential freezes throughout winter as well as extreme temperature changes (i.e., frigid nights and hot days) may not be optimal. Now if you’re an experienced orchardist and know how to properly protect a fruit tree through extreme weather, than this may be a viable option for you.

Bottom-line is this, stress, to any plant, does not promote health and vigor and can lead to a whole gamut of issues such as disease, pest issues, poor growth, poor yields/fruit, and so on. Our goal in planting fruit trees in our orchard is to provide the least amount of stress throughout not only the planting process, but throughout its entire lifetime as well so the fruit tree can thrive and obtain (and maintain) its full potential.

With that said, here’s a cautionary point I want you to be aware of…

Caution: Avoid Planting Fruit Trees On A Windy Day!

The ideal time to plant a bare root fruit tree is on a cool calm day. Add in a bit of drizzly weather and you have perfection. But since perfection is hard to come by in weather these days, chances are you’ll be dealing with some sort of weather challenge while you plant your new bare root fruit tree. One challenge that is particularly harsh is wind. Wind can really do a number on exposed bare root fruit tree roots (say that three times fast 🙂 ). It only takes a few short minutes of blasting wind to dry out those tender wispy little hair-like roots.  Early on in the process, it’s important these precious little roots (along with the more fibrous roots) are kept healthy and viable as they are so critical to your tree’s health and play such a key role in up taking nutrients, water and interacting with soil life.

On those occasions when you do find yourself having to plant on a windy day, just be sure to keep the roots wet by placing your bare root fruit tree roots in a bucket of fresh water while you’re getting ready to plant them into the ground. Though, avoid soaking the graft union (the joint where the root-stock and the scion have been joined together ~ typically a few inches above the root area). You can also stage your fruit tree somewhere close by so you can easily wet down the roots often to keep them moist. Also, be sure to keep the roots moist throughout the entire planting process as well by wetting down the roots often until you’re able to completely cover them with moist soil.

Seriously folks, do your best and plant when it’s most convenient for you… just be certain to be gentle and attentive to your baby fruit tree’s well-being and you’ll be good to go.

Now, let’s plant those patiently waiting bare root fruit trees!

Tools and Supplies

Here’s a list of tools and supplies you’ll need throughout the planting process.  Gather together all of the supplies you’ll need before you begin planting and be sure to set up everything near your planting site for easy access.

  • Set Aside Two to Three 5-Gallon Buckets Full of 50/50 soil mix (50% forest or green waste compost / 50% native soil) ~  You’ll need these buckets full of soil mix to finish off the planting process and to build up a water well around the base of your fruit tree when you’re all done.
  • 4 to 6-foot long Metal Rebar, 1×1 Wood Stakes, or Metal Landscape Stakes (green plastic coated steel) ~ you’ll need these to help support your baby fruit trees.
  • Hammer or Rubber Mallet ~ to hammer in the support stake
  • 1/4″ to 1/2″ Green Nursery Tape ~ To tie your fruit tree to the support stake (we prefer the 1/4″)
  • Water Hose
  • Shovel
  • A 5-foot to 6-foot long wooden stake ~ to help properly position your tree during the planting process and to level the soil after planting

Amendments (for high brix ~ bionutrient fruit)

Now that you have your tools and supplies set aside, it’s time to focus on gathering the amendments you’ll use to start your bare root fruit trees off on the road to high brix bionutrient (nutrient dense) fruit. That means super slurpy sweet delicious fruit that will make every cell in your body sing with vibrant health!

Be sure to check out Step 5 ~ Kick Start Those Soil Microbes! in my Fruit Trees: How To Prepare Soil For Planting

  • OMRI-Certified Organic Animal or Fish Bone Meal ~ a good source of phosphorus and calcium; you’ll need about 2 cups per fruit tree.
  • A Variety of Rock Dusts ~ Rock dusts are a great source of minerals for our soil and mineral-rich fruit (a.k.a. high brix). Rather than rely on a single source of rock dust, I like to use a mixture for a variety of minerals. In addition to using Azomite (granular or microfine powder works ~ I’m trying the granular product this planting season. It quickly breaks down with water and eliminates the dust-factor). I also love to use microfine Basalt rock & Lignite Ore dust blend, Gaia Green Glacial Rock Dust, and a new rock dust product I’m using this year called Ruby Mountain Stone Flour. As for quantities, I typically use 1 lb of Azomite and 8 ounces of Gaia Green Glacial Rock Dust per fruit tree. I’ll be adding about 8 ounces Basalt rock dust blend and 8 ounces of the Ruby Mountain rock dust, but this is highly optional.  You may want to wait until I’ve had a chance to experiment with it, though I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome addition. Keep in mind that with rock dusts, a little goes a long way. Using too much can cause a chemistry imbalance in your soil. Always be on the safe side and have your soil tested before liberally adding amendments in.
  • Endo mycorrhizae inoculant (Ecto mycorrhizae benefits conifers & oaks)
  • John & Bob’s suite of products ~ You’ll broadcast this on the soil surface AFTER planting.
  • For an extra boost, you can also mix into the top 6-inches of soil (during the planting process) about 1 lb of OMRI-Certified Organic Alaska Humus and/or 1 lb of OMRI-Certified Organic Worm Castings. It’s all good stuff.

Step 1 ~ Let’s Get Planting!

Before you begin planting, make sure you’re prepared to do so. Check out my previous post for more details.

With your planting holes dug, soil and hole prepped, tools and supplies staged nearby, and your bare root fruit trees ready to go, select the first fruit tree to be planted. Grab the fruit tree and place it in a small bucket with just enough fresh water to completely cover the roots and set it close by your planting hole. You can skip the bucket of water if that makes more sense for your situation. Just be certain to keep the roots nice and moist.

Fruit Tree Ready for Planting

Fruit Trees Soaking In WaterPlanting a potted fruit tree?

I prefer to plant bare root fruit trees for optimum tree and orchard health as well as variety selection. Be sure to check out why.

Sometimes containerized fruit trees are our only option. No problem. Rather than placing your tree in a bucket of water to keep its roots moist, which would obviously make a complete muddy mess, make sure your potted fruit tree is well watered the day before planting.  This will allow you to easily remove and handle the tree’s root ball while ensuring the roots are moist and ready to go 🙂

Fruit Tree Hole Ready for PlantingFor those of you who prepared your holes in the fall and completely filled them with the 50/50 soil mix AND have been watering the soil to keep the microbes happy and healthy… stop watering the soil a few days before planting so it will be more workable. Next, dig down about 12″-18″ ~ just enough for the roots to fit comfortably in. Then continue onto the next step below.

Finishing up your holes as we speak? That’s okay, too. After digging the planting hole and mixing up your 50/50 soil mix, fill the hole up to about 12″-18″ from the top with your 50/50 soil mix so that the roots will fit comfortably in. Make certain to water the soil thoroughly as you fill the hole to help the soil settle. Then stop watering when you get close to the 12″-18″ mark. This will make the planting process much easier for you.

Planting Hole for Fruit TreeHow To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

Step 2 ~ Placing Your Fruit Tree

During this step, be prepared to move your bare root fruit tree in and out of the hole while you get the depth and placement exactly where you want it. Remember ~ keep those roots moist while you get the placement “just right”.

How do you know the right planting depth for your fruit tree. With potted fruit trees, it’s easy. Basically, the top of the soil in the pot is your guide ~ it should be level with the top of your ground soil. For a bare root fruit tree, it can be a bit trickier. You’ll need to identify where the previous soil line was.

To do this, simply look carefully at the base of the trunk, below the graft union and just above the roots.  The part of the trunk that was above the soil will be a slightly different color than the part of the trunk that was originally below the soil. Keep in mind that on some specimens the soil line discoloration is clear as day. Others, can have a more subtle marking. I would consider the example in the photo below on the subtle side of things.

Notice the roots in the photo are fairly dark (partly because they’re wet). Then, as you move up the trunk the bark becomes a little lighter. And there, at the indicated blue line, is the soil line discoloration.  Pretty faint, right? As you move past this point, the trunk bark gets lighter yet, then you’re at the graft union. Just do your best ~ if you plant a little above or below the line, the tree will do absolutely fine.

Fruit Tree Graft UnionHubby and I also like to use a long board to help place the fruit tree’s previous soil line level with the surrounding soil. The board helps us to line everything up just perfectly. Works like a charm every time 😀 Bare Root Fruit TreeAt the point you are absolutely certain that the planting depth is right, thoroughly moisten the soil and set your tree in ~ Never plant in a dry hole!  At this stage of the planting process, it’s extremely helpful to have a helper who can hold the tree upright through the first part of the planting process. At least until the tree is securely in place. Your helper can also use the hose to wet down the roots and moisten the planting hole soil for you, too. Some folks like to leave the hose trickling into the hole while they plant. Personally, I like to hand water the soil as we’re filling the planting hole with dirt rather than have the hose in the hole. It allows me to quickly shut off my watering hose nozzle when I need to.

Now, as you begin to position your tree within the planting hole, pay careful attention to the graft union. Newbies tend to focus on situating a tree based on the existing branch position and fail to properly place a fruit tree with a grafted trunk. To protect the graft union, position it away from the damaging hot south sun by facing it due north. This is especially important while the fruit tree is young and unable to protect the graft with its small leaf canopy. Also, you want the graft union a few inches above the soil line (the previous soil line will help you with that). So be careful not to accidentally bury it.

Step 3 ~ Stake The Tree

For the most part, Hubby and I like to stake our are bare root fruit trees at this stage so we can clearly see the roots to avoid damaging them when the stake goes in and to add an endo mycorrhizae inoculant directly to the exposed wet roots. Some folks like to stake their newly planted fruit trees when they are all done planting, but it’s a bit more challenging to dust the roots with the mychorrizae inoculant doing it this way. Do what works best for you. Here’s how we stake our trees…

With the fruit tree held firmly in its final perfect position by a helper (or creatively propped up if you’re planting on your own)..

1) Position and hold your support (i.e., rebar, 1×1 wood stake, plastic covered metal stake) close to your tree’s trunk ~ working safely in and around the tree’s roots

2) Lean the tree slightly away to prevent damage, then

3) Hammer the support securely into place keeping it level straight up and down and left to right ~ otherwise, when you go to secure your tree to the stake it could be cockeyed.

4) Now with the tree trunk up against the support, secure the trunk firmly to the support using green nursery tape. This stuff is pretty stretchy, so a little pulling and tugging while tying will firmly secure your baby fruit tree. Try to avoid tying the tape too tight, but you do want it pretty snug. Your goal is to prevent movement of the roots during acclimate weather, especially during high winds. Strong winds are an annual spring event here in the desert and just so happens to take place at the exact same time your baby fruit trees are getting established in your newly formed orchard.  Why is it so important to prevent root movement during this critical time in your fruit tree’s growth cycle? Simply put, a loose tree can rock back and forth causing the soil to dislodge, creating holes and wide cracks around the base/root ball of the tree. These open spaces in the soil can expose the fruit tree’s tender roots to air ultimately drying them out, causing the tree to stress and negatively impacting the health of the tree.How to Plant a Fruit TreeHubby and I try our best to secure the tree trunk to the support near the base of the tree and toward the top to make certain the tree is secure. Sometimes we’ll just tie it towards the top of the tree. Use your best judgment.

How to Plant A Fruit TreeFor those of you worried about girdling, no worries. Once the tree starts to leaf out, you will need to check the ties to make sure they are still firmly in place but not choking the dickens out of the tree trunk. At that time you may need to loosen the tie a bit. Our trees grow extremely well using our planting and care methods and typically have well established roots, and a nice sized trunk and canopy by the end of the season. Because of this, we typically loosen the ties at this stage to give them some breathing room.

With the fruit tree firmly in place, your helper can finally let go of the tree and lend a hand in the final planting process. 😀  Before you begin covering your roots with soil and filling the hole, you’ll need to add some amendments (see next step). Just remember to keep your roots wet. You can also begin adding some water to the planting hole just underneath the root ball to help the soil settle under the roots.

What if you’re planting two or more fruit trees in one hole? Simple. Just follow the steps above leaving 18″ between each tree ~ plenty of room for both to grow. For holes where you plan to plant four or more trees in, you will need a much wider hole than the 3-feet I recommended to you. Use the 18″ spacing as a guide.

Two Fruit Trees in One Hole

Step 4 ~ Add Amendments & Soil

Now, with your fruit tree firmly in place, it’s time to add the amendments to get your fruit trees off to a great bionutrient start. For those of you who dug their planting holes and prepared the soil with amendments in the fall, feel free to follow the instructions below. Adding a few more amendments at this time can be of benefit to the tree and soil.

With the bare root fruit tree roots exposed and moist (I know I keep repeating myself but it’s that important), sprinkle a high quality endo mycorrhizae inoculant directly onto the bare roots (check the package for the recommended quantity ~ it’s usually about a tablespoon per fruit tree). An important thing to mention here is that in order for the mycorrhizae to perform its symbiotic magic, it’s best if the inoculant makes direct contact with the roots.

Next, sprinkle over the roots about 1 cup of bone meal and a portion of each rock dust (about 1/2 cup or so).

With those amendments in place, go ahead and begin covering the roots with the 50/50 soil mix making certain to water in the soil as you go. Add the water from the side of the root ball to try to prevent too much of the mychorrhizae inoculant from becoming dislodged from the roots. Once the roots are completely covered with soil, sprinkle an additional cup of bone meal over the area as well as another small portion of the rock dusts. Wet down the soil as usual. Refrain from tamping down or stepping on the soil as you fill the planting hole.  Adding water will naturally (and perfectly) compact the soil.

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

When the hole is just about filled with soil (about 4″ from the top), stop watering the soil and sprinkle around what’s left of the rock dusts. Also, be sure to sprinkle and mix in some of the rock dusts into what’s left of the 50/50 soil mix you will be using to fill the rest of the planting hole. If you’re adding the Alaska Humus and/or Worm Castings, now is the time to broadcast it onto the soil, mix it in and finish filling the hole ~ remember avoid tamping down or stepping on the soil.

As a final step to filling the hole, we leave the top few inches of soil dry and then level the soil surface within the entire planting area by scraping a 4′-6′ long piece of flat wood across the surface. This step is optional, but it really helps to finish things off for those with OCD challenges 😀

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

Step 5 ~ Build a Water Basin

With the fruit tree planted and the planting hole completely filled with soil and leveled, it’s helpful to build up a water basin barrier around the entire perimeter of the original planting hole for deep soaking.  This is where setting aside two to three 5-gallon buckets full of your 50/50 soil mix comes in handy.

Using your hands, mound up a 3-feet in diameter ring of 50/50 soil mix around the base of the fruit tree, firming the mound as you go along. To finish off the soil ring, I like to mist it with water to make it hold together better. As long as you avoid blasting the water basin ring with water, it should hold in place nicely for the entire year.

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertOnce the water basin is watered in well several times, a natural “water basin” (a.k.a. slight bowl) will form as the soil settles a bit. This is a good thing. As you know, water in the desert is a precious resource and taking advantage of mother nature’s gift any way we can is ideal. Plus, the water basin allows us to deep water our trees focusing the water at the root zone and avoiding wasteful run off. With deep soaking, the water will soak in and penetrate out into our native soil. Planting a fruit tree into a mound of soil or in an elevated planter is far from ideal in our hot and arid climate and can ultimately lead to more frequent watering ~ and wasting our precious resource.

Step 6 ~ Water Your Newly Planted Fruit Tree

Shortly after finishing the planting process and building the water basin, it’s important to water in your newly planted fruit tree. To do this, simply place the end of your hose into the water basin and turn the water on to a gentle low stream and let it slowly fill the water basin to the top with water. Your goal is to allow the water to slowly soak down deep vs. filling the water basin quickly.

As your water basin is filling, take note of any areas that may be low or high. This is especially important if you have more than one tree in the planting hole. The goal is to water the tree(s) evenly versus the majority of the water traveling or settling to one side. To fix this, simply add a little more 50/50 soil mix to any low spots until you see the water filling more evenly within the water basin.

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertHow To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertOnce the water reaches near the top of the water basin barrier, turn off the water and let it completely soak in.

In one hour, repeat the watering process above. When the water basin soaks in the 2nd time, be sure to check that no roots have been exposed. If they are, simply add a little bit more 50/50 soil mix to cover them.

When the second watering is soaked in, repeat the watering process one final time that same day. After this initial triple soaking, plan to water your newly planted fruit tree 3x per week until the tree has a nice flush of new growth (typically by March/April), then you can back off the watering to about 2x per week until summer. Then you will need to go back to watering 3x per week.

After a few days of watering your new tree, you may notice some cracking on the soil surface. If these do appear, especially cracks around the root zone area which can dry out the roots, simply add a little more 50/50 soil mix to the area to fill the cracks.

Also, take care to avoid a breach in the water basin wall by timing your water sessions properly. Too long and the basin will definitely overfill and breach ~ yikes! I like to hand water my baby fruit trees with a hose until they get settled in. Basically, I set the hose within the water basin, turn the water on to a gentle low stream and let it soak in for about 10-15 minutes or so (about 10-15 gallons). Just keep an eye on it to avoid a breach.

Step 7 ~ Now The Hard Part

Unless there’s an abundance of space in which to grow your fruit trees to full size (about 20 to 25 feet high/wide), you will more than likely need to actively manage the size of your tree’s growth in order to keep things tight and tidy to ensure a wee bit of wiggle room. This means maintaining fruit trees at a reduced height and width than they would normally grow and is quite a normal practice for a lot of residential orchards. There are a few options to keeping your tree’s growth “in control”.  One way is to espalier the fruit tree along a wall or support and keeping it well pruned. Another way is to prune the fruit tree as a small maintainable bush. My favorite way to keep my orchard manageable is to keep them “ladderless”. This means maintaining the tree’s top growth to a height that does not require a ladder to harvest. For most, this is about 6-feet high. 7-feet if your tall, like hubby and I.

The first step to maintaining a fruit tree as ladderless is to encourage low branching so that any fruit harvesting activity will take place anywhere from about knee height to about 6-feet high. Initially, this requires a bit of bravery on your part.

Now comes the hard part. In order to encourage this ideal low branching it requires one to suck it up and ignore any “existing perfect fruit tree branching” and…

Chop…

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertThat…

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertTree…

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertMaking this initial single heading cut along the trunk of the fruit tree will set the stage for future growth of a ladderless open vase-shaped fruit tree. A word of caution. When you make that initial cut, just be certain it’s at a height you can live with down the road. We used to cut our trees at exactly knee height and after some time, found this to be a bit too low for us tall folk. In order to harvest the literal low hanging fruit, it requires us to get on hands and knees and scootch along the ground. In some cases, actually lay down in order to harvest the low interior fruit getting up close and personal with our soil aerating fire ants. Quite sub-optimal. Besides the occasional itchy painful fire ant bite, we also feel like a bit of a contortionist at times to harvest. So just keep this in mind when making that initial cut.

A key point to note here is that when making that initial heading cut, it’s the cut that helps you to determine where the first layer of new fruit-bearing branches will emerge. This new branching structure will appear within 6-8-inches below the heading cut. Knowing this should help you to determine where you want to make that first cut. Also, when making that initial cut, some folks like to make a straight cut, others a 45 degree cut facing down and away from a bud. Whichever you choose, be sure to make that initial cut about 1-inch to 1-1/2-inches above a bud to begin training your tree to form an open vase shape and to allow for any die back immediately below the cut. When die back does occur, if the cut is too close to a bud, you risk losing the bud as well.

As your tree begins to leaf out and become established in the orchard, the results of that initial cut will become quite apparent and sets the stage of forming an ideal open vase shape which allows optimum airflow and sunlight penetration into the future canopy of the fruit tree for awesome fruit color and flavor.

Another goal of that first heading cut is to encourage the tree to form a solid branching structure to help support future fruit harvests. Think of a bicycle wheel. In a perfect world, the spokes (a.k.a. branches) will be evenly spaced around the tree. That is if mother nature cooperates. As your tree forms its new structure, let it grow. Refrain from scratching off or cutting off growth within the 6 to 8-inches (plus a few extra inches just in case) below the cut. You’ll be choosing your future scaffolds at the end of the first year. In a future post, I’ll explain how to care for your baby fruit tree during its first year to include pruning. So for now, make the cut, sit back and watch God’s glorious work firsthand as your tree begins to grow and leaf out.

Up next

My next post will be all about what to do for your newly planted fruit tree(s) 1-week after planting. I’ll explain how to protect your tree from the elements (and critters) as well as kick off our preferred first year’s maintenance program. Keep a look out for this important post. Happy planting!

God Bless,

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Welcome Back!

Low Chill Cherry Tree in the DesertHi Friends!

Well, I’m finally back to writing once again after a long, and what seemed like forever, 5-month break. And boy, did I really missed all of you.

Now, as most of you know, I’ve been dealing with a few health challenges for about 4-years now that conventional medicine has failed to provide any real answers or resolutions for. Those of you who have been following my blog for some time now also know that I’ve been growing and eating my own home-grown delicious high brix nutrient dense fruits and vegetables from own backyard. And doing so has done wonders in helping me to feel so much better and take back my life from this mysterious illness. Despite this, my health suddenly took a turn for the worse.

The reason why I’m telling you all of this is not to seek sympathy ~ though prayers are always welcome ~ I feel I owe you an explanation for my absence and to pass along encouragement for those of you who are facing their own health challenges.

For a few months now, I’ve felt like I hit a wall with my progress. No matter how much home-grown fresh greens, fruits and veggies I incorporated into my diet and despite the fact that I pretty much eliminated everything else (i.e., dairy, wheat/gluten, chocolate, fried foods, etc.) for the past 4 years… I felt stuck. In fact, my progress started to feel like it was unraveling. I was eating clean and better than I have in years… so how could this happen? Well, a recent hospital stay and several procedures later, I now have the answer. My major health issue is mechanical and not illness related at all.

While in the hospital, the doctors discovered (finally!) that I have a fairly severe hernia in my abdomen. OMG! It only took conventional medicine 4 years to figure it out. Years ago, it took them a year of head scratching (and lots of pain on my part) to figure out I had a rather common ailment… gallbladder disease. To add insult to injury to this new discovery, I also found out that I have a rather severe electrolyte deficiency (the issue that brought me into the hospital in the first place) as well as a thyroid issue. Holy smokes!

Needless to say, my situation has been quite debilitating at times and has obviously impacted my ability to write on my blog. It’s also slowed me down quite a bit in the garden, too! Aaaaargh. Two things near and dear to my heart 😦

After picking myself back up from this jolting news and a few trips back to my integrative doctor, I’m working through my new challenges and well on my way to healing. Thank goodness for all my home-grown fresh greens, fruits and veggies! I was able to sail through all the invasive tests and procedures and be around a lot of sick people with no issues. A huge difference from just 4-5 years ago, when I would catch anything and everything that blew my direction and have to deal with post-illness infections.

Though this has definitely been a blow to me and my health progress, garden and blog, I’m determined to push through it and continue to move forward. This also includes expanding my natural health arsenal of holistic/homeopathic medicines to include herbs and essential oils as well. I’ve only dipped my toes into this world and am impressed enough that I’ve actually altered our overall garden plan to include a medicinal and aromatherapy garden as well. Definitely more to come on this new adventure!

Bottom-line… I’m glad to be back, appreciate your prayers and have so much to share with you. For those of you currently facing health challenges, I encourage you to grow your own fresh fruits and veggies. Start small and easy like growing fresh greens and herbs. They are jammed packed full of nutrition and health promoting qualities and practically grow themselves!

Be sure to keep an eye out for the next post in my fruit tree series called Fruit Trees: Planting In the Desert Part I and Part II. I should have Part I up on my blog by this Friday. Also, be sure to check out my Facebook and Instagram pages. I regularly post new photos and helpful garden tips and information there.

As a side note… last year, I attempted to start making garden and orchard related videos for you to watch, but that project stalled out a bit with recent events. When things get sorted out here, my videos will be back on track! So keep your eyes peeled.

Before I sign off, did you check out the photo I posted at the top of this page? This is my 3-year-old low-chill Royal Lee cherry tree! Yes, you can grow cherries in the desert. Only a few short months and I’ll be eating deliciously sweet and nutritious cherries direct from my own backyard. Can’t get any more local than that!!!!

It’s been so great chatting with you again. Hope the rest of your day is beyond awesome!

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China Ranch Date Farm

China Ranch Date FarmHi friends!

Wanted to share with you a short “day-cation” hubby and I took earlier this year as part of a field trip we did with our small gardening group. The place we visited is definitely worth mentioning here on my blog. And yes, we finally ventured out and away from our beloved garden to expand our horizons and shake off a bit of cabin fever.

I also wanted to mention that this trip was one of a small handful of short day trips hubby and I have taken this year. Of course, ALL of our trips revolved around edible gardening. Would you expect anything less? So let the “sharing” begin 🙂

For those of you who love to eat dates, want to plant an edible date tree, or are just looking for an excuse to get out and stretch your legs and take in some fresh air… this just may be the “day-cation” you’ve been searching for.

Today’s destination… China Ranch Date Farm. Would you believe that a lot of locals here in town are completely unaware of this gem in the desert? Be sure to check out their website for an insightful look at the history of the property and the ranch itself. It’s quite interesting.China Ranch Date FarmChina Ranch Date Farm is tucked away within the Mojave Desert at the southern tip of Death Valley and a short walk from the Old Spanish Trail. Folks, this is truly an oasis in the desert. The farm is about a 2 hour drive off State Hwy 160 from North Las Vegas, so bring along lots of water, driving snacks, awesome head-bobbing music, and of course, a picnic lunch. You may opt to leave the sweets at home. The farm’s bakery serves up several sweet delectable treats that’s available for purchase to all who visit 🙂

In addition to the date farm itself, there are several trail heads on the property for those of you who love the great outdoors and hiking. For those of you who’d rather kick back and relax, there’s a hot springs nearby that offers soothing hot mineral baths. Something for just about everyone.

China Date Ranch BakeryThough the drive to the farm was quite uneventful through the desert with its open arid landscape, the scenery became much more lively as we drew nearer to the farm. To gain access to the farm entrance, the drive required some easy maneuvering on a curvy dirt road through a section of tall cliffs and a couple of knuckle clenching steep hills, reminiscent of a thrilling roller coaster ride. Once through the gates and the dust settled, the change in landscape was clearly evident. Green. Beautiful.

China Ranch Date FarmI have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed with this enchanting place. From the large date orchard that’s home to several unique varieties of date palms, to the attention given to the health and well-being of the palms and property.

Our visit began with an in-depth tour of the orchard and property, by the owner and orchard caretaker, Brian Brown. He was so generous with his time and provided such great insight into the current happenings and humble beginning of this truly beautiful desert destination.

Most visitors can freely walk the property by way of a self-guided tour map that can be obtained at the gift shop/bakery. Our guided tour started with a short hike alongside a natural creek which was heavily protected by the shade cover of cottonwoods and willow trees. A nice reprieve from the desert heat.

China Ranch Date FarmAs we continued on our tour, our guide happily pointed out a number of handwritten signs inscribed with interesting medicinal facts about the surrounding native plant life.

Yerba MansaYerba MansaChina Ranch Date FarmThis cool shady spot, my friends, is a perfect place to sit and relax for a while and take in all the wonderful sounds of nature and the natural creek that runs through the property. Just watch out for the gator in the water though. Seriously, folks, there are no alligators in the desert. It’s just a silly decoration compliments of the owner 😉

As we exited the shady retreat, we made our way down the trail to the first of many awe-inspiring palm orchards on the property. A very humbling experience indeed, standing among these gorgeous giants.

China Ranch Date FarmChina Ranch Date FarmNow, at this point you may be wondering what the white bags are that are hanging from some of the date palms. These sturdy cotton bags are used to help protect the dangling date fruit. Like most other fruit trees… the birds adore the fruit. So much so, that if left unprotected, the birds would either devour every date in sight or simply peck unsightly holes in all of the fruit rendering them completely useless. To prevent this, a few months before harvest, Brian and his staff steady themselves on ladders and other equipment to install the bags. As you can imagine, the use of ladders and other climbing equipment is frequently used within this orchard.

China Ranch Date FarmChina Ranch Date FarmChina Ranch Date FarmIn addition to installing the cotton bags every year just before harvest, Brian and his staff climb up into the canopy of each and every tree to either collect powdery pollen or to hand-pollinate each flower bud. Yes, it’s absolutely true. This laborious task helps to ensure a plentiful and reliable harvest each harvest season. Believe it or not, hand pollination is a fairly standard operating procedure for a lot of commercial orchards. Thank goodness for the ease of home orcharding with honey bees and native bees 🙂

China Ranch Date FarmAs we continued on our tour, I was simply amazed at the variety of dates available beyond the standard two varieties (Medjool and Deglet Noor) sold in stores. A sample station is set up at the gift shop/bakery for visitors to taste the unique flavors of each date variety. I highly recommend doing this while you’re there.

Dayri Date PalmOn our tour, we also visited an original grove of very old date palms that where here when the property was purchased by Brian’s family in 1970. The palms were in such a mangled overgrown mess that it took years for Brian and his family to make them presentable and less hazardous to visitors.China Ranch Date Farm

China Ranch Date FarmThroughout our tour, we encountered several old and interesting structures befitting to the style of this date farm. I love it! Like something right out of the wild west 😀China Ranch Date Farm We ended our wonderful tour with a quick stop at the date palm nursery and a visit to the gift shop and bakery, making sure to sample each and every variety of date offered at the sample station ~ Yum!

Then, to finish off our visit, we enjoyed a nice lunch with tour friends under the protection of the farm’s quaint picnic area. An absolutely wonderful close to our awesome day.

China Ranch Date Farm At the start of this trip we had every intention of purchasing a date palm during our visit to take home and plant in our orchard, but unfortunately, their date palm nursery was empty. We had visited the ranch a bit too early in the season. For those of you interested in purchasing a date palm for your garden, there is no better choice. The farm’s date palm stock is of high quality and an exceptional deal compared to most local nurseries in town. Besides, a lot of them get their palms directly from China Ranch Date Farm. Why not go directly to the source?

China Ranch Date Farm

China Ranch Date FarmFor those of you interested in purchasing a “fruiting” date palm for your garden, the best time of year to purchase a date palm pup is in spring, around April/May. This when the farm is wrapping up their harvest season and have had a chance to fully stock their nursery with new pups fresh from the orchard.

China Ranch Date Farm Just think… you could have your very own “fruiting” date palm with a potential yield of 100 to 300+ lbs per year from a single palm. That’s a lot of fruit! We’re not even talking about the potential savings and health benefits of growing a date palm in your very own biologically infused mineral rich soil 🙂

China Ranch Date FarmThank you for joining me on this tour and I hope you plan a “day-cation” to China Ranch Date Farm in the very near future. It’s well worth the trip 🙂

God Bless,

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Fruit Trees: My Trees Arrived, Now What?

Bare Root Fruit TreesHi dear friends,

Seems like ages since I last chatted you up about gardening. May 18th to be exact. I know. I know. It’s hardly ideal for keeping in touch, but believe-you-me, you and my blog are always on my mind. I take hundreds of photos in the orchard and garden, jot down notebooks full of ideas, even start a post or two only to be distracted mid-way through. “Bein’ a busy boo” is an understatement this time of year for me (and I’m sure for you as well) ~ but I feel totally and completely blessed for it. I’m also so grateful that my health is at a point that I can be crazy busy in my orchard and garden. To top it off, I’m tickled to have such wonderful friends, like yourself, who get it.

Gardening is simply amazing, isn’t it? And the rewards… to literally eat the “fruits” of your labor. And, if you’re growing biologically, like me, to achieve the highest brix/nutrient dense foods possible, every time you eat the fruits of your labor the cells in your body lights up and sparkles health 🙂  Right now, hubby and I are gorging ourselves on figs, pluots and a rainbow of incredibly large and juicy heirloom tomatoes. I feel the only way to describe our feasting joy is to say it in Italian… “Delizioso il mio caro amico. Delizioso!” (yeah, I looked this one up on Google).

My Bare Root Fruit Trees Arrived, Now What?

The purpose of this post is to help you properly stage your fruit trees for planting if you’re unable to plant immediately after arrival. Personally, I like to give my trees at least 24 hours to settle in before I plant them out in the orchard. I do this to help my new fruit tree arrivals recover from the stress of travel in less than ideal conditions (a.k.a. a box) in addition to being banged around during shipping and who knows what else. Yes, the bare root fruit trees are dormant at the time of shipping, but it’s way outside of their normal environment and conditions. Also, it gives you the opportunity to prepare yourself for planting, clear your calendar, thoroughly inspect your new arrivals, etc.

Keep in mind that the process I’m about to share with you is more specific to bare root fruit trees though if you’ve made the decision to plant a containerized fruit tree, I’ve got you covered. I’ve jotted down a few things just for you at the bottom of this post, so feel free to read on with the rest of us either for the entertainment value or as a source of information and inspiration for future fruit tree plantings 🙂  For those of you who are planting bare root fruit trees, let’s forge on.

With your hole dug and ready to go ~ you’re prepared to receive your new bare root fruit trees. Regarding the timing of their arrival, most reputable online nurseries will let you select the delivery month at the time you place your order. Typically, bare root fruit tree pre-orders begin late August/early September. I usually request an early February for my deliveries. January always seems too cold or unpredictable weather-wise. March is just too late for my liking. I like to give my new baby trees a little more time to get settled in before the onslaught of heat and wind is upon them plus, everything is starting to bloom and leaf out in March. So February is my preferred month ~ the weather is starting to warm up, it’s generally nice outside, and the ground is more workable… it’s just nice.

Be Prepared!

Whether you plan to pick up your bare root fruit trees at a local nursery or have them delivered to your door, there are a few things I highly recommend you pull together a few days ahead of time to help make the arrival and/or receiving process go much more smoothly.

  • Make sure someone is home to receive your new baby fruit trees if they are being delivered or make certain you add a shipping note when you place your order that instructs the delivery person to place the box in a shaded area. Here in the desert, a box sitting in the direct sun for a few hours can cook its contents, even in cool weather.
  • 1+ yards of quality compost (depends on how many trees you’ll be receiving). This is for those of you who will be unable to plant their fruit trees within 1-2 days after receiving them.
  • Trash Can(s) or 5-gallon buckets setup in a shaded area or in a garage filled with fresh clean water (fill the containers with water as soon as you receive your trees)
  • Air stone and small pump (helpful, but totally optional)

Step 1: Rip Open The Box

Well, maybe not rip open the box. I know, you’re pretty excited to see what your new babies look like, but relax, take a deep breath, and open the box without hurting yourself or your new fruit trees.

Bare root fruit tree rootsVoila! Your new bare root fruit trees.

Typically, when you open your box, you’ll see that the nursery has cut back some of the branches and roots in order to fit several fruit trees into one box. This is absolutely normal and in no way harms the fruit tree, though some of the cuts may not be ideal for your planting situation ~ we’ll discuss that in just a bit. Occasionally, the fruit trees will have a broken limb or two that may have occurred during shipping. Simply trim those off with a sharp pair of hand clippers versus pulling it off, which could tear and damage the fruit tree.

After you opened the box, you may have noticed that the roots are covered with plastic or a plastic bag. This is quite normal and is done by the nursery to help keep the roots moist during shipping. Inside this plastic, the roots are typically wrapped in some type of wet material like newspaper, sphagnum moss or saw dust. For now, just leave the plastic and wet material in place until you’re ready to inspect the roots ~ the roots must stay moist at all times.

Step 2: Help your tree to recover from its travels

With your trees safe and sound in your loving care, it’s time to help the bare root fruit tree(s) recover from the stress of travel and prepare them for planting. To do this, simply remove the plastic and all of the wet material wrapped around the tree’s roots then set the fruit tree roots directly into the bucket(s) of water. Note that the water level should be slightly below the graft union. This can be easier said then done when you have multiple trees soaking in the same bucket, but do your best. Let your tree roots soak for a couple of hours ~ or up to 24 hours.

For those of you who purchased more than one bare root fruit tree, begin this step by carefully separating the trees to prevent unnecessary damage.

Want to take it up a notch and give your fruit tree an extra added boost? Earlier, I mentioned an air stone and a small pump. Placing an air stone into the water helps to oxygenate the roots ~ you can certainly skip this part, but it can help to rejuvenate and rehydrate the trees after being boxed up for a few days in a dark oxygen-deprived box.

Soaking Fruit Tree Roots

Over the years, I’ve encountered some debate around the need to soak the roots prior to planting. In my research, I have yet to see any strong arguments against soaking. Usually, the folks I’ve come across who are advocates for the “no-soak approach” are unable to provide reasons that would negate the benefits of soaking. I use the technique of soaking to refresh and rehydrate the roots for all of my newly purchased bare root fruit trees. I look at it this way… the bare root fruit tree received is dormant ~ not dead. It is alive! A living thing that is strongly connected and grounded to the earth, that just traveled by plane and/or truck for, in some cases, hundreds of miles. Give the poor thing some water. I’ve been soaking my bare root fruit trees before planting for years now with no issues ~ and my fruit trees have performed beautifully for me and given me more fruit than I know what to do with. Abundance baby!

Soaking Fruit Trees

Now certainly, if you receive your new trees and the roots are very wet and you plan to plant them out within an hour or two of receiving them, you can skip the soak. This is for those times when you know there’s no way on earth you’ll be planting out the same day you receive them – or – if the roots could use a bit of hydration. Personally, I’d still make the time to soak even if it’s only for a couple of hours.

In my opinion, soaking is a good idea even when bare root fruit trees are purchased locally from a nursery, farm or big box store. A lot of times they’re dealing with bulk orders of fruit trees and just do not have the time for individualized care for each fruit tree. On top of that, lots of people may be sifting through the trees exposing the roots to the elements more than they should be, etc.

Step 3: Inspect your fruit trees

The majority of the time, the bare root fruit trees you’ll receive from a reputable mail-order nursery will be top quality and worthy of a place within your beloved orchard or garden.  But, life is life and as we all know things happen. Order enough fruit trees on-line and there will be a time or two (or three) that you will receive a fruit tree that fails to meet up to your standards. It will happen. For this reason, inspecting your fruit trees shortly after they arrive makes perfect sense.

Inspecting New Fruit Trees

Okay, for those of you who are new to fruit tree growing and lack the skills necessary to complete a well thought out inspection, take a deep breath, sip some cool water and chill a moment. I’ll walk you through some of the basics and provide you with a few tips. For you fruit tree aficionados out there who’ve been around the block a few times selecting and planting bare root fruit trees, this list may serve as a simple refresher.

So, while your fruit trees are rehydrating or receiving a spa treatment :), it’s time to inspect your new arrivals.

Inspect the trunk and limbs

Be sure to check your trees from top to bottom noting any obvious scaring, large fresh wounds, splits, any oozing, dark-colored bark (could indicate disease), etc. Also, carefully inspect the roots and graft union (the point where the rootstock and scion are connected). If something looks suspicious or you’re just not sure about what you’re looking at, take a photo and call the nursery. Reputable nurseries will be more than happy to assist, even if it’s over the phone.

Roots ~ the roots (even the hair-like roots) should be moist and healthy look. As I mentioned before, nurseries often times trim down roots for shipping. This is okay and will not harm the tree. What’s bad is if you find the roots are dry and brittle. If this is the case, call the nursery and request a replacement.

Fruit Tree Roots

Graft union ~ the graft union should be firmly intact (though the plastic wrapping around this area may be loose, slightly coming undone or completely missing ~ this is okay). The graft union should also be free from major scaring and injury.

Crooked or curvy trees ~ no need to panic. A crooked or curvy trunk is nothing to worry about if you plan to lop your tree off at about knee height after planting. This is an ideal approach for growing “ladderless” (a.k.a. shorter) fruit trees. Now, if you plan to grow your fruit trees to full size and the trunk is far from straight-ish and you’re concerned about the aesthetics of your fruit trees, you could certainly request a replacement.

A note about caliper size (caliper refers to the girth of the trunk). There are a few schools of thought on this. Some say 1/2″ caliper is excellent and will produce fruit sooner, others prefer whips (small sized trunk with no branches) because they like the flexibility in training the tree exactly how they want it from the get-go. It’s a personal choice and either one will work.

What do you do if you find something unacceptable with the bare root fruit tree? This is when a fruit tree warranty comes in handy. When purchasing online, always order from a reputable nursery who offers a replacement warranty. I purchase the bulk of my fruit trees from Bay Laurel Nursery who has such a warranty and has backed it on a number of occasions for us ~ with no issues.

Now, if you’re buying your fruit trees locally, you will be able to sift through the fruit trees until you find one that works best for you.

Step 4: Beyond the 24 Hour Soak Period

With the inspection of your fruit trees and 24 hour soak period complete and any replacements noted, it’s time to do one of two things…

1. Plant your tree

OR

2. Heel-in your fruit trees until you’re ready to plant

Heel-In Fruit Trees

Heeling in your bare root fruit trees buys you a little extra time if you’re unable to plant them right away. To heel-in your fruit trees, simply bury the tree roots in a nice pile of moist non-manure compost or loose soil (compost added to the soil works well). Some folks keep their trees in an upright position or lean them up against a fence while they are heeled-in. Typically, hubby and I just lay our new fruit trees down and prop-up their tops by placing the trunk (just below the branches) on a small mound of compost/soil. This allows the branches to remain off the ground (less chance of damage) and prevents the trees from being completely horizontal.

A few things to also remember when heeling in your bare root fruit trees, is to make sure that the graft union is not buried in the compost/soil and to keep the compost/soil moist at all times. This will help keep the roots nice and moist.

When heeling in bare root fruit trees, choose a shady spot or loosely cover your trees with a light tarp in such a way that air is allowed to circulate underneath during the day-time and can be sealed up at night if a light frost is expected. A heavy frost or freeze will require some additional protection.

How long can the trees remain heeled in? Personally, I try to shoot for no longer than 1 maybe 2 weeks tops, but I do have to admit that I’m only human and have left trees in longer. Thank goodness the trees fared well despite my neglect. For those of you who need to heel-in your bare root fruit trees, just keep a close eye on the weather. Here in the desert, our weather can be quite temperamental during the months of January and February. It’s not unusual for us to have a “false spring” where things begin to warm up and prematurely wake up our garden and orchard only to knock it back again with a heavy frost or freeze.  The last thing you want your new bare root fruit trees to do is start coming out of dormancy and begin to flower or leaf-out while it’s heeled in. They’re now awake and must be handled much more carefully. Nor do you want your trees exposed to freezing temps while their roots are only covered by a few inches of compost/soil. It’s best to have them in the ground before this happens.

Step 5: Now You’re Ready To Plant

The next post in my Fruit Tree series will give you the complete low-down on how my hubby and I plant our bare root fruit trees… our foundation for growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit and super healthy fruit trees!

Bare Root Fruit Tree

A special note about Containerized Fruit Trees

Though I prefer to plant bare root fruit trees (see why), some fruit trees are only sold in containers. Fruit trees like figs, pomegranates, citrus, avocados, tropical fruit, etc. Typically, figs and pomegranates can be shipped at the same time your bare root fruit tree order ships (depends on the nursery), while other tropical fruit trees, like citrus and avocados, are available later in spring (around the month of April).

Taking care of your newly purchased containerized fruit tree before it is planted is simple and is the ideal time to begin prepping the tree for high brix/nutrient dense fruit down the road. Here are a few tips:

  • Upon arrival home, immediately prepare a sea kelp extract powder tea (such as Maxicrop or Down To Earth’s KelPlex) and give your baby tree a nice soak with it. I usually add about 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. Do this 1x per week until you are ready to plant. The sea kelp helps your tree recover from stress, and enables the tree to fare better through cold and hot weather.
  • To kick-start the soil microbes, the foundation of biological gardening (a.k.a. growing high brix/nutrient dense food), be sure to add Effective Microbes (like EM-1) in with your initial sea kelp extract soil drench. 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) per gallon of water. After the initial drench, you can also do a weekly foliar spray of EM-1 using the same dilution rate.
  • Be sure to place your tree in a protected area at night (indoors would be best if a frost or freeze is expected). During the day, your tree should be placed outdoors to soak up the warm sunshine.
  • Keep the soil moist until you’re ready to plant.

With a little more knowledge under your belt, you’re off to a great start!

Happy summer gardening!

God Bless,

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Fruit Trees: How To Prepare Soil For Planting

How To Prepare Soil for Planting Fruit TreesHi dear friends!

Thank you for being so patient awaiting the next post in my Fruit Tree series. In my last post I covered the all-important topic of how to dig a hole in the desert for your beloved baby fruit tree(s). Now, we’ll take a closer look at how to prepare your soil for the big planting day. This process can be used for both bare root fruit trees as well as containerized fruit trees.

An important note before we begin… For those of you who live in a similar climate to Las Vegas, Nevada (a.k.a. hot, arid and windy), your bare root fruit tree planting opportunity has come and gone for this year. No need to fret though. After following along with my Fruit Tree series this year, you will be well-equipped with the knowledge you need to be successful and fully prepared for next season’s planting in February.

Still want to plant a fruit tree this year? You can certainly plant containerized fruit trees this season, but I highly advise against planting them now or during the heat of summer. I’m also not a huge fan of containerized fruit trees, but that’s just me being super protective of my orchard. Be sure to check out my three-part post on bare root fruit trees vs. containerized fruit trees to see the pros and cons of both. Planting now allows very little time for your new trees to recover from the stress of planting and to settle into its new home before getting blasted by our heat and wind. The best time to plant containerized fruit trees is in the fall when our weather begins settles down.

For those of you who wish to review my Fruit Tree series at a later date, it’s easy! I’ve setup a blog navigation page dedicated to this series and placed a convenient link in the top navigation bar under Home Orcharding. As I fine-tune my current processes or discover and test out new techniques that support growing delicious and uber-healthy high brix/nutrient dense fruit, I’ll be sure to share that info with you by updating the appropriate page in my Fruit Tree series.

Tools and Supplies

Before you begin, be sure to gather together all of the supplies you’ll need to complete this step and set up everything near your planting site. The items I listed out below will help to make the soil preparation process go along smoothly.

  • Compost ~ Forest Waste / Green Waste Compost ~ buy the best quality compost you can afford (approximately 1/2 to 1 yard per fruit tree) ~ avoid compost that has additives or chemical fertilizers added (such as Ammonium Sulfate)… these do quick work of killing off precious microbiology for your soil and sets up a huge roadblock in growing nutrient dense fruit.
  • Wheel Barrel (or two)
  • Something to sift dirt through ~ a few years back, hubby put together a large sifter using 2×4’s and 1″ welded wire screen. It’s held up wonderfully and has taken lots of abuse over the years. It really does the trick sifting out rocks.

Soil Sifter for Fruit Trees

  • Three or Four 5-Gallon Buckets ~ 1 bucket to cart off rocks, 1 bucket to hold and measure out native soil, and 1 bucket to hold and measure out compost. Having that extra bucket helps save your back ~ will share more about that below.
  • Shovel
  • Steel Bow Rake
  • Standard Garden Hose with a Spray Nozzle Attachment
  • Local / native soil ~ you should have a nice big pile after digging your planting hole.
  • Heavy Duty Gloves
  • Mask ~ helps to keep the dust out of your nose and lungs.
  • Protective Eye Wear
  • Plenty of water ~ stay hydrated.
  • High Brix/Nutrient Dense Amendments (see below)

A special note about compost

When it comes to buying compost, be sure to select the highest quality compost your budget can afford ~ your soil and fruit trees will love you for it. Need to buy a budget-friendly manure compost? Organic is always best with this type of compost and it should be free of GMO’s including GMO-corn/grain fed cattle or poultry waste. It may still contain antibiotics and other veterinarian-type pharmaceuticals along with organic pesticides, etc. Even some forest waste/green waste compost can contain contaminants you may not appreciate in your compost. Just make sure you do your research first before buying. When buying bulk, always ask to see soil testing results of the compost you wish to purchase and pay careful attention to the section where they list the acceptable levels of contaminants such as biosolids, harmful bacterias and pathogens, etc. Also ask for sodium levels. High levels of sodium/salts can lead to soil issues later on.

When estimating how much compost to purchase and how much native soil you’ll need to use, keep in mind a couple of things: 1) how many bare root fruit trees you’ll be planting, and 2) how deeply you dug your hole(s).

Our time-tested soil preparation process uses a soil mixture of 50% non-amended native soil and 50% compost. You may also need extra compost if you plan to ‘heel-in’ your newly purchased bare root fruit trees shortly after their arrival.

How to Prepare Your Soil For Planting

What I’m about to share with you is our “go-to” process, but you can certainly accomplish this task using whatever approach works best for you. We tend to be on the, well, picky side. For those of you who prefer a more flexible and “loose” approach, by all means, do it your way as long as the end result is the same.

Let’s get started…

Step 1 ~ Get Those Gloves On

You’re gonna need em’.

I’m gonna be upfront with you. This process is work. I wouldn’t say grueling hard work, but work all the same. And for us, well worth it. Soil prep makes a huge difference and our orchard speaks volumes to this fact. Our trees are very happy, healthy and fruitful in part to this preparation step.

Step 2 ~ Load Up The Compost

After setting up all of the tools and supplies needed to begin, we usually start off by loading up one wheel barrel with compost and placing it near the planting site. Chances are your pile of compost is elsewhere on your property, so plan on making a few trips to grab more. With this in mind, its helpful to keep a clear path for your travels back-and-forth.

Soil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Next, we place a second wheel barrel near the first one and set the homemade sifter on top. By looking at the photo below, you can see our setup… wheel barrel with compost on the right ~ wheel barrel for sifting on the left. Makes the process go along smoothly. Easy peasy. Planting Fruit TreesAs I mentioned earlier, hubby put together a sturdy sifter when we first started planting fruit trees on our property and it’s held up admirably through many fruit tree planting sessions.  The 1″ squares on the welded wire screen works beautifully to sift out unwanted rocks and debris. Keep in mind that you do not need to remove all of the rocks, just the larger ones. I also remove any obvious caliche chunks, which are creamy or whitish in color.

Step 3 ~ Start Sifting and Mixing

This step is a no-brainer. To do a 50/50 mix of native soil and compost, we simply grab a 5-gallon bucket full of native soil and a 5-gallon bucket full of compost and mix/sift them together through the sifter. Just do equal amounts of each as you go along. The result… a 50/50 mix 😀

Tip: Lifting several buckets full of native soil can quickly become exhausting. To help with this, hubby usually fills two buckets 1/2 way up with the native soil vs. full buckets to offset the weight.

To help blend things up better, we alternate the compost and the native soil when we load up the sifter. When the mixture gets close to the top of the wheel barrel, we remove the sifter and do a quick final mix with either a shovel or by hand. This is something that we do, but you could certainly skip this extra step. As the mixture is poured into the planting hole, some natural “mixing” of the native soil and compost will automatically occur and is probably sufficient.

Soil Preparation for Fruit TreesSoil Preparation for Fruit TreesSoil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Step 4 ~ Start Filling The Planting Hole

With the first batch of 50/50 soil mixture ready-to-go, we simply roll the wheel barrel up to the edge of the hole and pour the mixture in.

Now, using a bow rake, we roughly level out the 50/50 soil mixture then water it in with a hose. Make sure your hose has a sprayer nozzle attachment. The goal here is to help the soil settle by wetting it down versus flooding it.Soil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Soil Preparation for Fruit TreesWe continue the process of sifting, dumping, smoothing, and wetting until the 50/50 soil mixture is a few inches above the soil surface to allow for settling. At this point, be careful not to step on the soil of your freshly filled hole. If you plan to plant your fruit tree immediately after filling your hole (which I do not recommend ~ see below), avoid saturating the top 12 to 18-inches or so with water to make it easier for digging and planting.

Be sure to mix up one to two 5-gallon buckets full of the 50/50 mix to set aside for building up a water well around the base of your fruit tree.

Step 5 ~ Kick Start Those Soil Microbes!

Note ~ This Is The Foundation For Growing High Brix/Nutrient Dense Fruit

An important part of growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit is to build up the soil microbiology within the soil your fruit trees grow in. Why? Bottom-line is this…

“If you want to maximize yield, plant health, and nutrient density (quality) then you must maximize the nutrition/energy given to the plant.”

~ Jon Frank, International Ag Labs

To accomplish this, one must build soil health which also means building the soil microbe population. These miraculous microscopic soil super heroes breakdown important nutrients in the soil and pony-express this nutrition directly to your beloved fruit trees. Though more complex than we have time to discuss here, this symbiotic relationship brings so much more to your fruit trees than any type of hand-delivered “fertilizer” ever could.

In this super hero group I also include earthworms. These small organic matter munchers are a powerhouse in and of themselves, bringing a multitude of benefits to the health of your soil and boosting your microbe population with their beneficial nutrients.

So, here’s how we kick-start our soil for planting…

One of the best ways we have found to do this is by using the John & Bob’s suite of products. For our orchard and garden, we purchase the Lifeless Soil kit. The 4,000 square foot quantity will last us about two years. A little goes a long way and is only required 2x per year. The application of this product alone has resulted in a very high microbe population in our soil ~ confirmed by recent soil testing through International Ag Labs + our own Brix testing. Just follow their instructions to apply.

Another way to boost the microbes in the soil is to use a high quality microbial tea. Just spray it on or water it in lightly onto the surface of the soil and let these soil super heroes do their work. We have just recently started incorporating home-brewed tea into our regimen and our trees and garden are responding quite favorably so far. This topic is certainly worthy of a dedicated post, so stay tuned. Interested in learning more about this topic? Leave me a comment below.

For those of you who decide to purchase a pre-mixed microbial tea blend make certain that the manufacturer is able to provide proven results. Steer clear of folks who “talk-a-good-talk”, but fail to deliver actual data on the number and types of microbes from tested brew. Again, more on this important topic to come.

Now might also be the perfect time to introduce some worms into the soil if you feel so inclined. We’ve tried to incorporate worms after the planting process with little success in the past. Probably a result of the wrong type of worms, heat of summer, etc. For future soil prep, we would like to try Alabama Jumpers. Hopefully they will do much better then their predecessor. What types of worms are you using successfully in desert conditions? I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.

Plan to do one or all of these high brix/nutrient dense kick-start recommendations a couple of weeks before planting so you can super-charge your soil with microbes and be well on your way to growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit!

Ready to Plant Now?

Personally, I like to wait a few weeks to let the microbe population build-up and for the soil to settle before planting. Certainly, the tree can go in the ground just after filling. Just kick-start your soil at the time of planting or shortly afterwards.

Soil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Next up in the Fruit Tree series I will be discussing what to do once your tree(s) arrive. Until we talk again, be sure to visit your garden and orchard often 😀

Be sure to check out the next post in my fruit trees series ~ My Trees Arrived, Now What?

God Bless,

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Colors & Textures of Spring Edibles

Alabama Blue  CollardHi Everyone!

Spring-time is one of my very favorite times of year. It’s a time of renewal, freshness, and sweet delicious scents. As I was taking my daily walk through my garden and orchard, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of colors and textures throughout. I thought you might enjoy browsing through some of the photos I took this morning as I finish up my next Fruit Tree series post. You’ll also get an idea of what’s growin’ in my garden right now.

Enjoy!

P.S. ~ the Alabama Blue Heirloom Collard (in the photo above) is my new favorite collard. Besides the color being drop-dead gorgeous blue, the flavor is so mild and sweet.  Yum! 🙂

 

Royal Lee Cherry Wonderful PomegranateFlavor Delight ApriumRed of Florence OnionLittle Marvel PeaVates CollardTendercrisp CeleryLorz GarlicWaltham BroccoliSpring Raab BroccoliRed Russian KaleSt. Valery CarrotPurple Plum RadishPurple Vienna KohlrabiWhite Sonora WheatPink Flamingo Swiss ChardDurkat Dill Nero Di Toscana CabbageRed Streaks MustardPurple Vienna KohlrabiWild Rocket ArugulaBright Lights Swiss ChardRed Romaine LettuceRat's Tail RadishBull's Blood BeetSiberian Dwarf KaleSiberian Dwarf KaleGolden Acre CabbageGerman Pink TomatoCostoluto Genovese TomatoBlue Gold Berries TomatoStupice TomatoHinnomaki Red GooseberryGod Bless,

P.S. Christine, thank you again for the berry plants!

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December Orchard Tasks

 

December Orchard TasksHi friends!

December is the month when I can finally pause for a moment, take a step back and breathe. With my orchard tools cleaned and stored away, it’s also the perfect time to take stock of my fruit orchard’s productivity for the past year, take a closer look at challenges I encountered, and reflect upon the successes.

Home Fruit Orchard

2014 was definitely a productive year. Only a few quick flips of the pages in my orchard fruit harvest record book is enough to reconcile my memory of last year with the actual harvest numbers. Not to brag or anything, but my fruit trees ROCKED their first full year of production. Only three years old and such abundance! Well done, trees! Well done.

Eversweet Pomegranate

Bees and Pomegranates

As I sit here in awe, I feel compelled to give thanks. Thanks to God for blessing us with such wonderful fruit trees and a place to plant them. Thanks for the phenomenal increase in nutrition that was easily confirmed by the brix numbers I recorded this past year. Thanks for the health of my fruit trees, soil, and abundance of good soil bacteria that was confirmed through soil testing. Thanks for all the wonderful natural healthy amendments that made my fruit tree and soil health possible and for the resources to obtain them. And thanks for the abundance in my life and for you, my wonderful friend and faithful blog follower.

Flavor Delight Aprium

So can you guess the first task item for the month of December? o_O

  • Take time to reflect on the abundance in your orchard, garden and life. And by all means ~ give thanks
  • Review your orchard’s harvest record and journal.
    • Identify the challenges faced throughout the season in addition to your successes and develop a strategy to resolve/address the challenges in the upcoming season.
    • Estimate next year’s harvest dates, jot down your goals, and develop a strategy to achieve your goals.
  • Make a “leaf storage bin” using wire mesh to form a barrel-shape then anchor it to the ground. Any leaves you collect this fall/winter will come in handy for use in homemade compost and/or for making rich humus in early spring.

Chojuro Asian Pear

  • Begin putting together your Orchard Harvest Record pages for the next harvest season, now. When January comes along, you’ll be hitting the ground running again.
  • After the fruit trees have dropped most of their leaves, start removing any mummified fruit.
  • Irrigation ~ reduce watering to every 7-10 days.
  • Continue to pick up any fallen fruit ~ that is, if you’re still harvesting fruit.
  • Fruit you could be harvesting this month:
    • Pecan
    • Persimmon
    • Citrus (lemons, mandarins, etc.)

Fruit tree in fall

  • The cold and frosty weather is here! Be prepared to protect your frost sensitive trees at a moment’s notice. Frost sensitive trees include most citrus, avocados and other exotic sub-tropical fruit trees. It’s also important to keep an eye on your trees throughout the winter months to ensure that your chosen frost/freeze protection solutions continue to work for you and your trees. For frost/freeze protection ideas, be sure to review last month’s task list.
  • Protect sprinkler/bubbler heads, waterlines, hoses and spigots from freeze damage.
  • Spray a microbial inoculant on fallen leaves ~ when 50% of the leaves have fallen off your fruit trees, spray the ground underneath each fruit tree as well as the bottom portion of each trunk with either a fresh brewed microbial tea or by using a mother culture. Be sure to target fallen leaves on the ground to help populate the area with microbes and facilitate leaf decomposition (making a wonderful rich humus for your trees, to boot!).

Flavor Delight Aprium leaves

  • FYI ~ the first day of Winter is December 21st @ 6:03 PM EST
  • Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy the Christmas holiday with your family and friends!

Give yourself the gift of health… plant a fruit tree next spring!

God Bless,

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Bulbing Onion Test Results

dy Apple and Candy OnionsHi friends!

The bulbing onion test results are finally in. For those of you who have been waiting patiently for the results and would like to review my test information from the beginning or if you’re unfamiliar with the test I performed and would like to learn more, you can check out the details in my original post here.

Here’s a quick recap… in March of this year, I was asked by a horticulturalist friend of mine to evaluate a product called Kelzyme in my garden. The Kelzyme product is a ‘rock dust’ type of product that is derived from a seabed deposit of fossilized marine kelp.  The manufacturer claims that the product is a rich source of highly absorbable organic calcium and also contains about 70 trace minerals, both highly attractive ingredients for us nutrient focused gardeners (a.k.a. high brix/nutrient dense). This product comes in a micronized version, but the Kelzyme product I was given to test was fairly granulated and “rocky”. For rock dust products, I typically prefer to use a micronized version. The finer particle size is easier for the soil microbes to break down making the minerals available to the plants sooner. Coarser materials take much longer to break down and tend to sit in the soil as the soil microbes “work it” releasing only small amounts of its coveted mineral treasures over a longer period of time.

FYI high brix/nutrient dense gardeners ~ next year I plan to experiment with a couple of beneficial soil bacteria that are new to me and my garden and will be a fairly inexpensive addition to my gardening regimen. One bacteria targets the break down of rock dusts and the other is anaerobic and helps plants to live and thrive in salty soil environments (like our soils in the desert). Bottom-line… more available nutrition for my plants. I’m anxious to get started in the spring and will keep you updated on my progress.

For now, just keep in mind that not all soil microbes and bacteria are created equal. Some live better in certain environments (i.e., fresh water, brackish water, clay soils, sandy soils, etc.) while some bacteria are better at certain tasks than others (i.e., breaking leaf litter vs. rock dusts). There’s big science involved in world of soil biology that I certainly do not claim to know… like at all, but I find this topic fascinating and read up a lot on the research and findings being done by scientists and technical experts who have dedicated their lives to this subject.

Since I had just received a fresh batch of bulbing onion transplants and had recently prepared my 4×10 raised bed for planting, I decided the onions and planting site was the perfect choice for testing the Kelzyme product.

Onion TestThe onion transplants were purchased from Dixondale Farms, and consisted of the following varieties:

I broke the onions into two distinct groups… Test Group #1, I used the Kelzyme product. Test Group #2, I added the John & Bob’s suite of products. The onions were divided up evenly among the two groups with each group receiving the following: six Candy onions, six Red Candy Apple onions, and six Texas Legend onions.

In order to do a fair assessment of the Kelzyme product, I considered several factors throughout my test including…

  • Number of leaves each plant generated
  • Onion bulb size (diameter and height)
  • Onion bulb weight
  • and finally, the Brix reading for each onion

As the onion plants were growing, I referred to a hard copy chart I made to keep track of who was who. For after harvest, I made up several little tags that I used to tie onto each onion as I harvested them in order to properly identify each individual within the two different groups.Onion Test Group 1 Kelzyme

Onion Test Group 2 John and Bob's

Once harvested, I left the onions in the raised bed for about three days under the protection of my squash plant leaves to help prevent sunburn on the newly exposed onion bulbs. I then carefully collected the onions and moved them indoors where I hung them for a couple of weeks in a warm room to begin the curing process. Eventually, I moved the onions to another room where I laid them out flat to finish the curing process, which took an additional 4 weeks (6 weeks total). When completely cured, I cut-off the dried leaves leaving about 1-inch of stem on the onion bulb then moved them all to a cool dark place for storage.Curing OnionsWith the curing process complete, I started the Brix portion of my onion test. To perform this portion of the test, I had to cut open each and every onion to test the brix using my refractometer. Rather than do this all at once and have to freeze all my onions, I opted to use 1-3 onions in my normal cooking routine each week and test the brix immediately after cutting an onion open. During this phase of my test, I did not see any significant difference in the readings for onions I cut open earlier versus later in the process.

Test Results and Observations

OnionTest_060614_2Now, let me share with you some of the stats and my observations…

Out of the 36 original onion transplants (12 of each variety), only 20 onions matured to full size. The other 16 onions failed to grow beyond the original transplant size. Both groups had an equal number of onions that failed to grow (as you can see from the chart below). Though the fact that less than 1/2 of my onions failed to grow was disappointing in and of itself, I feel that the cause of this is not a result of either of the products used, but rather some other consideration entirely. I won’t even try to speculate at the cause.

Onion Failed to Grow Chart

Size & Weight

Nothing really stands out to me in this category. By looking at the chart below, you’ll see that the Kelzyme group (T1) had the largest sized onion coming in at 3.5”diameter x 3.2” height, but the John & Bob’s group (T2) was very close behind coming in at 3.5” diameter x 3.0” height. Size wise, neither group produced any onions of any size worth writing home about. This could have been a direct result of the high nitrogen OMRI organic fertilizers I used before the onions began to bulb-up. I flat-out refused to use the ammonium sulfate product the grower recommended which is horrible for soil health. Despite all this, neither of the test group products seemed to visibly boost the bulb size. I also wanted to point out that the soil I used in my raised bed (from ViraGrow) was new and already contained high levels of nitrogen (which I confirmed from a soil test I had performed just before planting). The high level of nitrogen seemed to have little effect on the onion size, either. The soil test also indicated extremely low soil microbial activity which probably played a significant role in the unimpressive onion sizes.

Onion Size Chart

OnionTest_061714_1

To determine each onion’s size, I measured both the diameter and height of each onion bulb using a dial caliper tool.

Though I did have a total of six (6) onions that were 3 inches to 3-1/2 inches in diameter, overall, I was far from impressed. Especially since I was hoping that the Candy and Texas Legend onions would get close their size potential of 6 inches. Not even close!

Regarding the number of leaves on each onion plant, my documented numbers are all over the place (see chart above), but I can say that the larger bulbs (3-inch and larger in diameter) did, on average, have more leaf growth than the smaller sized onion bulbs.

Size Conclusion~ Unimpressive ~  no real winner. In my opinion, the test results are too dismal to compare. For those of you with OCD, I guess the Kelzyme group (T1) can be pinned the size winner with its, ooh, wait for it… 3.5” x 3.2” sized Candy onion. Keep in mind that it only won by a hair as the John & Bob’s group (T2) was right on its heel with a 3.5″x3.0″ sized Candy onion.

Onion_4

Brix Reading

Well, after the uninspiring size and weight results for both test groups, I was just about ready to throw in the towel and call it a wash, when suddenly it donned on me, “hello, miss I’m all about growing high brix/nutrient dense food. Test the brix!”

Test Onion Brix

So like any good high brix/nutrient dense grower would do, I pulled out my refractometer along with my handy-dandy OXO garlic press (which by the way, I love!) and began to cut open and test my first onion. Though the entire Brix testing process took some time, the results were worth the time and effort involved. Finally, results interesting enough to ponder over.

To help make some sense of these results, I provided a Brix Measure Chart ~ For Onions (below) so you could first see what the experts say an onion brix reading of poor, average, good and excellent look like. To help even further, I’ve color coded the chart and used this color coding in the chart that contains my test results below. For those of you interested in downloading a complete brix chart, you can find it here.

Onion Brix Chart

Onion Brix Readings

In the chart above, you can see that the Kelzyme group (T1) did have the two highest brix numbers coming in at 14 and 13. For me, I found this interesting and it makes me want to explore the Kelzyme product further, especially in combination with other products I use.  What really caught my attention, though, was the fact that the John & Bob’s group (T2) had double the number of onions in the above Excellent range. This was even despite the fact that the raised bed soil originally started off with extremely low microbial activity. I also find it quite impressive that almost half of the onions planted were above an Excellent rating of 10. In hindsight, it would have been very helpful to have been able to compare the results with onions planted in soil that had no additional amendments added (a.k.a. a baseline group). Oh well, next time.

Though the results from my small-scale far from perfect test are nowhere near worthy of being published in any scientific research papers and such, I do feel that the brix results is an indicator of the positive impact the soil microbes and minerals I used (i.e., John & Bob’s product) had on my onion plants. Ultimately a big plus for the nutrition of the food I eat from my garden ~ regardless of size.

Brix Conclusion ~ I honestly have to say the beneficial bacteria, microbes and minerals are the winners in this category. Evidence that these little helpers have a positive impact on the nutrition levels of the plant.

Onion_3

Final Note

Even though my test was far from perfect and no extraordinary growth was observed, I do feel that the Kelzyme product deserves a second look. My test results definitely demonstrated promise in the area where microbes and minerals were concerned, especially in a soil that started off essentially void of microbial activity.

I’m also interested in testing the Kelzyme product with tomatoes and peppers since the manufacturer claims the product is high in absorbable calcium. More to come on that.

Onion_5

Hopefully you found my onion test of some value and that it at least peaked your interest in using beneficial bacteria, microbes and minerals in your garden to grow fruits and veggies that are high brix and nutrient dense. Until my next post, keep warm and keep growing!

God Bless,

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November Orchard Tasks

 

Black Mission Fig

My Black Mission Fig is such a hardy over achiever in the front orchard.

Hi Friends!

Well, October is now officially behind us and with it came cooler weather into the Las Vegas, Nevada area. A welcome relief from the heat of summer. Sad though, too. The cooling weather is a sure sign that any summer veggie crops still growing in the garden will soon be coming to an end 😦

In the orchard, everything is definitely starting to wind down. The leaves are beginning to get a bit crunchy and drop off the fruit trees. And the soil microbes, though still hard at work, are wrapping up their work helping the fruit trees store critical nutrition for next year’s growth and harvest. Everything is definitely quieting down in the orchard this time of year with the exception of a few trees that still need to be harvested, such as our pomegranates and Pink Lady apples.

Pink Lady Apple

Before you decide to pull up a chair, sit back and relax, there are still a few important tasks to be completed during the month of November. For those of you who were wondering what happened to the October list of tasks, well, there’s no sugar-coating this one… things got away from me and I failed to post. No worries, though. October’s list translates well into November. When I have a bit more time, I’ll add a separate list for October under the Orchard Calendar link at the top of my blog page. So, without further pause, let’s get started.

Dorsett Golden Apple and Black Mission Fig

November Orchard Tasks

  • Irrigation ~ in early to mid-November, reduce watering to 1x every 7 days
  • Daylight Savings (Sunday, November 2nd). Be sure to adjust your irrigation timer and clocks back (1) one hour.
  • Bees ~ for those of you who have bee hives to tend to, it’s time to help your precious little busy bees get ready for winter. Be sure to have plenty of water available for them along with lots of their fav blooming plants in and around your orchard as they prepare honey for the winter months. I like to keep several basil plants growing in my garden as long as I can. They absolutely love it!
  • Gather together and organize your orchard harvest records and journal notes from this past season. You’ll need it for a task in early December.
  • Continue to pick up any fallen fruit ~ that is, if you’re still harvesting fruit.
  • Fruit you could be harvesting this month:
    • Fig
    • Pomegranate
    • Pecan
    • Persimmon
    • Apple
  • It’s time to plan for winter protection now! Buy winter protection for frost/freeze sensitive fruit trees ~ frost sensitive trees include most citrus and avocados. It’s also important to keep an eye on your trees throughout winter to ensure that your chosen protection tools continue to work for you and your trees.

Plum leaves in fall

  • In the Las Vegas area, we’re pretty fortunate to have relatively warm and mild winters compared to most other areas within the U.S., but it’s still fairly common to have several frost days throughout the winter months along with an occasional freeze. Here are a few things you can do to help protect your orchard this winter…
    • Be informed… know the first average frost date for your area. Here in North Las Vegas, NV it’s around November 15th.
    • String up UL-approved Christmas lights in the canopy of your frost-sensitive trees. Be sure to use the old style bulbs and not LEDs ~ the lights need to be able to generate heat to be effective at warming your trees during a frost or in freezing temps.
    • Purchase frost/freeze blankets that you can easily drape over your trees. It’s ideal for the blanket to be long enough to bunch up on the ground and secure down with a couple of heavy objects (i.e., bucket with soil or rocks, large rocks, etc.)
    • Spread around a thicker layer of wood mulch underneath your fruit trees to help protect the roots from the colder weather. Just be sure to keep the mulch about 6-inches away from the trunk for fruit trees that are less than 5 years old.
    • Keep in mind that it’s easier for winter injury to occur with dry roots than it is with roots that are moist. So, if a freeze is expected, run your irrigation for a few minutes to moisten the soil for added protection.
    • Renew whitewash in areas showing wear, especially on the trunk and main scaffold areas. Doing so helps to insulate your trees from really cold evenings and thawing in daytime ~ i.e., sun scald.
      • Sun scald is a common injury for trees during the cold winter months, especially on clear sunny days. The sun warms (thaws) the trees during the day and then, at night, when the temperatures drop and re-chills the tree, the trunk is at risk of cracking and/or splitting.
  • Protect sprinkler/bubbler heads, water-lines, hoses, and spigots from freeze damage.

Fruit Trees Dropping Fall Leaves

  • Spray a microbial innoculant on fallen leaves ~ when 50% of the leaves have fallen off your fruit trees, spray the ground underneath each fruit tree as well as the bottom portion of each trunk with either a fresh brewed microbial tea or by using a mother culture. Be sure to target fallen leaves on the ground to help populate the area with microbes and facilitate leaf decomposition (making a wonderful rich humus for your trees, to boot!).
  • Add a 1-inch layer of vegetative compost on top of any fallen leaves that are located directly under the canopy of the tree to boost soil microbial action. Be sure to avoid using high-nitrogen animal manure compost. Not only will the compost and leaves act as an insulator for the fruit tree’s roots it also gets the soil microbes jumping into action.
    To avoid holding moisture up against the trunk and putting up an “All You Can Eat” buffet sign for critters who love to munch on the bark of your trees under protective cover (i.e., mice, etc.), be sure to rake the leaves and compost back about 6-inches.
  • Make a “leaf storage bin” using wire mesh to form a barrel-shape then anchor it to the ground. Any leaves you collect this fall/winter will come in handy for use in homemade compost and/or for making rich humus in early spring.

Leaf catch

  • Inspect tree trunks for pest damage and address any issues promptly.
  • Permanently remove limb spreaders ~ only remove them if the secured limbs stay in place once the spreaders are removed. Otherwise, leave them in for another season.
  • Complete routine maintenance on all orchard equipment before storing for winter.
    • Deep clean pruners ~ sanitize, sharpen and oil
    • Clean rakes and shovels ~ remove any dirt and rust then apply a protectant
    • Make any necessary repairs
  • Do general clean up in and around the orchard.
    • Pick up piles of debris, fallen limbs and branches to help prevent over-wintering pests and diseases.
    • Empty out and sanitize buckets and containers you regularly use ~ use a mild bleach and water solution to sanitize.
    • Rake out any wood mulch that has “bunched” up or has been displaced throughout the season.
      For example, my border collie, Pinny, regularly does burn-outs around the orchard while chasing birds and squirrels exposing bare ground in some areas and creating piles of wood mulch in other areas. Yeah, I’m a little OCD that way, but I do like a tidy orchard going into winter. It just helps to mentally “wrap up” the season. Plus, it looks nice 🙂
  • Order/buy compost now for bareroot fruit tree planting in early February ~ Waiting until the last-minute is never a good thing. Also, be aware of the fact that a lot of bulk compost delivery companies will have a better selection / quality of product this time of year versus in January. Generally, spring is when new compost stock starts to come in for preparation of the growing season ahead. Keep in mind, that you’ll need a good-sized pile of compost if you plan to “heel-in” your new bareroot fruit trees before planting. Compost will also be required for the fruit tree planting process, as well. Just be sure to keep the compost moist by hosing it down at least once each week and covering it with a tarp. Using a few heavy objects to anchor down the corners of the tarp is a great idea, too since it’s inevitable that we’ll get a few blasts of wind this winter.

Vegetative Compost Forest Waste

  • Dig holes now for bare root fruit trees that will be planted in February ~ this step for November is optional, but something that I highly recommend. This is especially true for those of you planning to plant more than 1-2 fruit trees in early spring (i.e., early February here in Las Vegas). Doing this step now not only helps to expedite the planting process in spring, but it’s also much easier to do this laborious task while the weather is still decent versus in the finger numbing cold of January or February.Burrrr. Been there done that!
    • Safety Hazard Warning: For those of you who plan to dig the holes now and leave them empty/open until planting in spring, be aware of the potential safety issue/hazard of doing this and take precautions to secure and/or block the area (i.e., place cones and reflective tape, etc.), otherwise, follow the next step…

Fruit tree planting Check for drainage

  • Once your holes are dug and drainage checked, do the following:
    • Mix together 50% native soil and 50% compost; be sure to remove any rocks that are golf ball size and larger.
    • Mix rock dusts into the 50/50 soil mixture (I use about 16 ounces each of Azomite, Glacial Rock Dust, and Soft Rock Phosphate).
    • Refill the hole about three-quarters of the way up with the rock dust infused 50/50 soil mixture. Leave the remainder of the soil mixture either piled up next to the hole or in buckets. You’ll need this soil during the planting process in February.
    • Mix in a quality microbial inoculant (or the John & Bob’s suite of products) along with a couple of large handfuls of bone meal into the top 4-inches to 6-inches of the 50/50 soil in the hole, then water in well.
    • Now, let this sit and work its magic until you’re ready to plant.
    • Note: You’ll probably still want to block off the area, but it’s far less of a safety issue with the hole(s) partially filled.

Well, that just about does it for tasks in the month of November. Oh, one last task… make yourself your fav fall beverage, preferably something nice and toasty hot, then step outside with it, take a sip and enjoy the cooling weather 😀

God bless,

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My High Brix/Nutrient Dense Growing Style

HighBrixPost_23Hi Friends. Today’s the day I spill the beans on my growing style and give you a bit more insight as to why I do what I do and how I do what I do. It’s far from being a super big secret that I’ve been holding out on you. Over the past few years my blog has evolved from being focused on my home and property repair project, which included my orchard and garden, to being pretty much focused on my fruit trees and veggie garden. So to date, my posts have revolved around what I’m growing here in the desert along with some helpful how-to information. Basically the result of my growing style. Well, it’s high time I shared something with you that is near and dear to my heart.

Before I dig in, let me just start by saying that everyone has their own way of gardening and they may be in a different place in their understanding of the options out there for gardeners today ~ that’s okay and I totally respect that. For me personally, I’m absolutely thrilled when I’m able to share something that really “speaks” to someone and opens them up to something new and wonderful in their garden!

It’s also such an honor to be able to write my blog and share with you my experiences, knowledge and even challenges in both my orchard and garden. I love the fact that a lot of you send along such kind words about what I’m sharing and that we get the opportunity to encourage each other to grow baskets full of healthy nutritious fruits and veggies. That’s what friends are for!

I applaud all of you who are growing even just one edible in your garden and encourage you to keep at it. Who knows… maybe one day you’ll be growing most of your own food, too 😀

What is My Growing Style?

HighBrixPost_8Just like my post’s title hints at… both hubby’s and my growing style is all about growing high brix/nutrient dense fruits, veggies, and greens. The type of gardening method we use is called “biological gardening” which focuses on building the health of the soil and the life that lives within it (a.k.a. soil microflora and microfauna ~ you might know it simply as soil microbes). It also includes nurturing soil aerators such as earthworms and yes, even ants (well, maybe we can leave out the fire ants ~ I have a definite love and mostly hate relationship with them when they take up residence in my veggie garden beds). Using this type of gardening method enables us to meet Our goalto grow the most nutritious and life-giving food as humanly possible. Some of you may be asking… “what does high brix/nutrient dense mean?”.

Essentially, a high brix/nutrient dense growing style specifically targets growing fruit, veggies and greens with the highest levels of nutrition. This is accomplished by balancing the soil’s mineral content in order to attain a higher mineral content within the plant itself.

The higher the sugar content in a plant, the higher its mineral content and nutritional value

Brix is a method of measurement used to measure the sugar content within a plant by using a tool called a refractometer. We use this refractometer.

HighBrixPost_24

Our high brix regimen focuses on…

  • Soil Testing
  • Remineralizing and balancing the soil
  • Boosting microbial life in the soil
  • Growing high quality nutritionally infused plants from seeds

The results…

  • Fruits and veggies taste and smell better
  • Fruit and veggie plants are bigger and healthier
  • Higher plant sugars
  • Fruits and veggies are heavier (minerals and trace elements weigh more)
  • Less insect issues
  • Higher ability to resist environmental stresses (i.e., drought, frost, heat, etc.)
  • Fruit and veggies have a longer shelf life

Why I Do What I Do

Why do I grow to achieve high brix in fruits and veggies? Sorry to disappoint, but the details I’m about to share with you are far from explaining why I am the way I am. So for now we can all thank God, my parents, and my life experiences for… me 😀

Before we started growing our fruit orchard and veggie garden here in Las Vegas, hubby and I were certainly no strangers to gardening. We started gardening together over 25 years ago and our gardening style has evolved over the years from initially growing conventionally with N-P-K fertilizers and systemic pesticides (yikes!), to a more natural approach without pesticides or chemicals and eventually transitioned into our current way of growing.

Our focus on high brix/nutrient dense growing was intensified a hundred-fold due to major health issues that hubby and I experienced at about the same time. This is when we really started getting into growing the healthiest food we possibly could.

In early 2011, hubby and I came down with a severe case of the flu. For years I had been battling obesity from eating the typical American diet of “quick” convenience foods, which at the time seemed to be the only eating solution for my busy hectic life, and with this state of health, I’m sure, only complicated what happened next. From the get go, I experienced severe breathing issues in which I struggled to take in air. It took several weeks for hubby to fully recover, but my condition continued to worsen and my body became overwhelmed with multiple infections. Barely able to eat, I quickly lost about 90 lbs. A very unhealthy and unavoidable approach to weight loss which took its toll on my poor ailing body.  Several months later and multiple emergency room trips, specialist appointments, tests, antibiotics, and allergic reactions later, conventional medicine was unable to diagnosis my illness. That’s when I turned to Integrative Medicine and began to seek out more nutritious healing foods.

Severely fatigued and still barely able to eat, my integrative doctor placed me on a diet that completely eliminated dairy, wheat, gluten, sugar, yeast, chocolate, and processed foods. What was left? Fruits, veggies, limited protein and a few whole grains cooked in a way that I could easily digest… in soup.

My Spring 2014 GardenAt that time, my diet primarily consisted of store-bought fruits and veggies and my recovery was slow and incremental. By late 2013, my strength had improved enough that I was finally able to ease myself back into working my orchard and garden, primarily focusing on growing leafy greens for my soups such as bok choi, tatsoi, collards, kale, beet greens, and swiss chard. When I started to eat most of my fruits and veggies from my own garden, the improvements in my health were nothing short of amazing. I was actually getting better 🙂

So if you haven’t guessed by now, the reason why hubby and I do what we do is… for our health. Pure and simple.

How I Do What I Do

First let me give credit where credit is due.  My hubby has been instrumental in helping us to move toward achieving our goal of growing high brix/nutrient dense foods. His behind-the-scene technical skills, additional research on the subject, and physical labor has been instrumental in the success we’ve seen to date. Thank you sweetie… for your support and hard work!

Okay… now for the exciting stuff. Below is the foundation of the biological gardening approach we use in our orchard and garden to achieve high brix/nutrient dense fruits and veggies grow…

Soil Testing

When I mentioned soil testing earlier, I could literally hear people shuffling around checking for their wallet. Most people think that soil testing is super expensive and completely steer clear of it. Certainly, if you’re submitting multiple soil samples at the same time and add lots of additional tests to the basic soil test, it can become quite expensive.

A basic soil test can actually be rather reasonable in price and costs around $14 to $25.
The other good news is that it usually only needs to be done at least once a year
(2x a year is ideal)

What does a basic soil test provide? Most labs perform what is called a Melich III test (see note below) that reports on things like: soil pH, % of organic matter, and values and/or saturation % for sulfur, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, base saturation % and p.p.m for a handful of trace elements such as Boron, Iron, Manganese, Copper, Zinc and Aluminum. Certainly, enough information to determine your soil’s needs. Some labs offer soil amendment recommendations based on the results of the soil test as part of the cost or at an additional cost. A little later, I’ll explain a much better way to obtain a recommendation, especially if you want to grow high brix/nutrient dense foods.

Spectrum Analytics soil test

Two labs I recommend for soil testing (and have used) are Logan Labs in Ohio and Spectrum Analytic in Ohio. As of 7/21/2014, Spectrum Analytic’s S3 soil test costs $14 and Logan Labs’ basic soil test costs $25. Both tests provide about the same information.

Melich III test ~ this test works just fine for raised bed soils using imported top soils and/or compost but the Melich III is insufficient for accurately testing calcareous/high pH soils like our native soil here in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Is a soil test absolutely necessary for high brix growing? Myself personally, I believe soil testing is critical to achieving our high brix goals. I want a clear and accurate picture of how my soil is doing and what the excesses or deficiencies are so I can address them without playing mad professor mixing up a little of this and a little of that. But that’s just me.

Logan Labs, Inc soil testAnother option is to forgo soil testing and use a one-size-fits-all recipe using soil microbe friendly ingredients like the one that was developed by one of the leading experts in growing nutrient dense foods, Steve Solomon ~ author of The Intelligent Gardener. Choosing this route, a gardener can completely bypass soil testing and source and mix the ingredients as needed. To me, it’s still sort of a shot in the dark approach but it might work just fine for some gardeners.

Obtaining Soil Test Recommendations for High Brix/Nutrient Dense Growing

I mentioned earlier that I would explain a much better way to obtain a soil test result recommendation, especially if the goal is to grow high brix/nutrient dense foods.

First, I wanted to point out something very important about lab recommendations (like Logan Labs or Spectrum Analytic). Though recommendations from a lab can be quite helpful, especially if a gardener uses conventional methods of growing by using N-P-K chemical-based fertilizers and such. Can this type of lab recommendation apply to high brix/nutrient dense growing? Could happen, but I haven’t seen any recommendations that were helpful in my growing situation.

The fact is, most lab recommendations are typically made for commercial applications where minimum inputs are wanted for maximum bulk. Basically, cheap powerful N-P-K chemical fertilizers for quick growth and size. The focus is definitely not on soil health or nutrition.

Here’s an awesome tip! There’s a company out there who is dedicated to helping home gardeners grow better quality foods. The company is called Grow Abundant Gardens and they offer a helpful super-inexpensive tool called OrganiCalc for home gardeners to use to obtain soil amendment recommendations (with a focus on soil health) based on the results of a soil test obtained from an independent lab (such as Logan Labs or Spectrum Analytic).

The gardener simply plugs in their soil test result numbers into the OrganiCalc tool and the tool will display the recommended soil mineral/amendment types and amounts. Super easy. Their recommendations are targeted at growing better quality food. There is also an option to request further discussion of the OrganicCalc recommendations with Grow Abundant for further discussion, if needed (at no additional cost).

To use the OrganiCalc tool, there is an annual subscription cost of $9.50/year. I’ve used this tool myself a few times and I highly recommend it. P.S. ~ I’m not being paid in any way for this testimonial… I just think it’s an awesome economical tool available to home gardeners who aspire to garden biologically. Important note: OrganiCalc is currently only setup to accept soil test results from either Logan Labs or Spectrum Analytics.

Remineralize and balance the soil

Again, the higher the sugar content in a plant, the higher its mineral content and nutritional value. We are so on board with re-mineralizing our soil and strive to do this in a balanced way by adding the amendments in the proper ratio (based on a soil test). Too much of a good thing can be just as detrimental to the soil as not having enough.

Glacial Rock Dust and AzomitePart of our regimen includes using the following, as needed:

  • Colloidal Soft Rock Phosphate
  • Azomite
  • Glacial Rock Dust
  • Sea products like Kelp and Sea-Crop (which has 95% of the salts removed)
  • Worm castings Kelp Powder and Kelp Meal

Boost soil biology in the soil

Once the rock dusts and amendments are added to the soil, then what? We believe that soil biology (microbes, bacteria, protozoa, fungi, worms, etc.) has such an important role to play in the success of growing high brix/nutrient dense foods.

HighBrixPost_4Some of these hard workers help to break down the rock dusts and other organic matter into a form of food and nutrition that plants can readily take up. Others help to aerate the soil. The consequences would be catastrophic without them.

John & Bob'sHere are a few of the things we use to help these tiny little workers flourish in our orchard and garden:

  • Humus
  • Earthworms
  • John & Bob’s (Maximize, Nourish, Optimize and Penetrate)
  • Effective Microbes/ Mother Culture (TeraGanix EM-1)
  • High Quality Vermicompost tea
  • Mycorrhizae root inoculants

Endo Mycorrhizae Root InocculantTo incorporate all of this healthy goodness into our soil, we avoid tilling our soil by gently mixing the products into the first few inches only. We also incorporate many of these products (in small amounts) into each planting hole as we plant out our transplants and in our custom soil mix that we source and mix ourselves for use in making soil blocks to start seeds.

Brewing up a bi-weekly batch of high quality vermicompost tea and using it as a soil drench is also an important step in our biological gardening regimen and a nice compliment to the TeraGanix EM-1 product. It really helps to boost the soil microbiology within the soil.  We make our tea simply using fresh high quality vermicompost, organic unsulfured black strap molasses, unchlorinated water, and a little hydrolyzed fish to help keep the foam at bay. To ensure the highest number of microbes within our tea we use a high quality high air volume pump (30L/min). Rather than using an air stone, we use an air lift for maximum air to obtain highly oxygenated water. You can learn more about this type of brewing setup and how to brew high quality compost tea at Microbe Organics.

Feeding Regimen

We also use a holistic foliar spray that we source and mix up ourselves every 7-10 days to provide plants with the additional nutrition they need during their growing and fruiting stage. Some of the products we use are…

  • Unsulfured Black Strap Molasses (OMRI certified)
  • Hydrolyzed Liquid Fish (OMRI certified)
  • Kelp Powder (OMRI certified)
  • 100% Cold Pressed Neem (OMRI certified)
  • Effective Microbes/Mother Culture (TeraGanix EM-1)
  • Organic OMRI certified amendments and fertilizers (based on the needs of specific plants)

Pest Control

One of the benefits I’ve noticed in our biologically grown high brix/nutrient dense orchard and garden is the fact that there are a lot less pest problems. Why are there less pest pressures with this type of growing method?

  • Insects can sense vibrations and recognize different infrared frequencies as being either a potential mate, food, water, etc. Plants that are deficient in mineral content (sugar) vibrate at a specific frequency that is readily recognized by insects as food. Mineral rich (high brix) plants vibrate at a much different frequency due to the higher mineral content. Based on the teachings of Philip Callahan of the University of Florida, a USDA entomologist.
  • This is reinforced by the fact that insects cannot digest the rich nutrients/sugars in high brix plants and become sick. Basically, they starve on a healthy plant!

“Insects and disease are the symptoms of a failing crop, not the cause of it.”
~ Dr. William Albrecht

It goes without saying that we still encounter pests in our garden, but our plants seem a lot less prone to infestation and there’s a lot less nibblin’ goin’ on. And, the pests that I have seen are readily picked off by the beneficials and birds in our garden. Except for those nasty bragada bugs… nobody likes them, so we had to intervene with our castille soapy water spray and even at that, they were just on one plant ~ now, I haven’t seen one in weeks. Teamwork at its finest 😀

Beneficial Cellophane Bee

With all that said, we still do keep things on hand to address any potential pest challenges that may arise. Everything we use in our orchard and garden is safe for microbial/soil health as well as the beneficial insects and pollinators, like the Cellophane Bee (photo above). Using these types of products allows them to continue to thrive and further assist us in obtaining a natural and healthy balance. We use things like…

  • 100% Cold Pressed Neem (OMRI certified)
  • Soapy water (using either a biodegradable soap or pure-castile soap) (OMRI certified)
  • Aromatic Essential Oils (OMRI certified)
  • Pepper/wax spray (OMRI certified)
  • OMRI approved citrus peel oil extract
  • Diatomaceous earth (used very sparingly in targeted applications only) (OMRI certified)

Neem Oil and SoapI found a very interesting article you might like to read on the topic of pests and high brix that was written by Oscar Morand from the Permaculture Research Institute.

Growing Nutritionally Infused Plants From Seeds

In addition to everything else we do in our garden, I grow all of our veggie plants from seed. This allows me to start my plants with high quality soil, properly initiate my seedlings into my biological gardening regimen from the get go and ultimately kick-start my high brix/nutrient dense food source. Starting from seeds also allows me access to a much wider selection of plant varieties to choose from. All the things store bought transplants are missing. By avoiding store bought transplants I also side step the possibility of adding unwanted chemical growth enhancers and/or inhibitors, lifeless soil or sludge, pesticides and other chemicals, soil/plant diseases and pests, etc. into my biological life-promoting garden.

Favorie Seed Catalogs

Sure, buying and using transplants already potted up is the easiest way to grow a garden, but I actually enjoy growing my own plants from seed. It’s especially rewarding to see all your hard work grow to be a big, beautiful, fruitful plant 😀

Rather than spend money on plastic pots that will eventually add to our landfill problem, I opted to try making my own soil blocks. I absolutely fell in love with soil block making! They are so economical to make and so much better for your little seedlings. The 2” block is quite inexpensive (around $30) and saves money over the long run over buying a constant supply of peat, manure, or plastic pots.

Soil Block Maker My favorite soil block maker is the 2” block size. When I first started working with the soil block tool, it took a couple of tries to get my technique down, but now I’m a pro. Today, I can easily crank out a full flat of 2” soil blocks in under 10 minutes. That’s 32 blocks total! I usually grow about six full flats of 2” blocks per season. That’s 192 high brix plants, baby!

Seed StorageTo make my soil blocks, I source and mix my own custom soil blend and incorporate some of the products I use in my garden to help give my seedlings a great high brix start.

At transplant I also like to incorporate the following:

  • John & Bob’s (Maximize, Optimize, and Nourish)
  • Mycorrhizae root inoculant
  • Rock Dust (a little sprinkle for good measure)
  • In the fall, I also plan on testing a product called Transplant Formula (see below); using this product may allow me to eliminate some of the products above

Though not a requirement for biological gardening, I’m a strong advocate for growing heirloom and open-pollinated seed and believe that it is much healthier for our environment and for our beneficials like bumble bees and bees. It’s also a way to help preserve biodiversity within our gardens and our planet. Some hybrid plant flowers can be difficult if not impossible for our larger beneficials, like bumble bees, to access the nectar and pollen. While some hybrid plant flowers either produce no pollen or are a low-quality food source. Food for thought.

FYI ~ I’m also a huge fan of companion planting and intensive growing, too!

How We Grow High Brix/Nutrient Dense Food On a Tight Budget

Regardless of the type of fruit and veggie gardening method a gardener chooses to use, there will always be some level of investment in the care and maintenance of their garden. Whether the garden is grown using conventional methods such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides or a more natural approach is used such as biological gardening, the investment is always there. I firmly believe the benefits of biological gardening, both for the garden and our health, far outweigh the results produced by using conventional methods.

HighBrixPost_6Is one method more expensive than the other? It depends on what your goals are for your garden. Both conventional gardening and biological gardening for high brix/nutrient dense food can become quite expensive. It’s highly dependent upon the products, tools and plant materials chosen.

Personally, both my husband and I consider our orchard and garden an investment in our health, but we do live on a limited modest budget and simply do not have a money tree growing in either our front or backyard orchards. With that in mind, we take great care in choosing the products we purchase for our orchard and garden and do everything we can to avoid waste. Waste includes using unnecessary excessive amounts of product. The soil testing definitely helps with that.

HighBrixPost_5Believe it or not, most of the items we use are actually quite economical because a little goes a long way in the garden. Even with that said, we’re always on the lookout for great deals and ways to save money so we can continue to invest in our health.

One huge challenge we face here in the Las Vegas area is the fact that quality garden resources are scarce and almost impossible to find. Because of this, most of what we buy are from online sources and finding deals with free shipping is critical for us. Another savings technique we use is to buy in bulk. It’s especially helpful and cost-effective when we’re able to split an order with someone else.

What’s Next?

We’re currently trying out a new soil testing lab (at least it’s new for us), who is dedicated to helping both farmers and home gardeners grow high brix/nutrient dense foods. The lab is called International Ag Labs, Inc. and they offer a biological approach to farming and gardening based on the teachings of Carey Reams. The company has a few different websites that can be a bit confusing, so I’ve provided a brief description of each along with a link.

International Ag Labs, Inc.  ~ soil testing/consulting (farmers and home gardeners) and product sales to commercial farmers only

High Brix Gardens ~ very detailed informational site for home gardeners about growing high brix/nutrient dense foods

Fix My Soil ~ the local dealer’s website for International Ag Labs product sales to home gardeners

This company is a professional lab that analyzes soil samples using a different approach than most labs as well as providing more details on mineral/trace element data and microbial activity.

International Ag Labs, Inc is the only lab in the country to offer the Morgan Extract (weak acid) test. International Ag Labs believes this test is more accurate than other soil tests and more accurately reveals what the plant can actually utilize from the soil.

The lab also offers a suite of foliar sprays, soil drenches and dry broadcast products formulated specifically for high brix/nutrient dense growing and do provide product recommendations along with their soil test results. They will even mix up a custom blended soil prescription for the specific needs of your soil, if desired (this service is available through Fixmysoil.com). The lab only sells direct to commercial farmers, but they do have a home gardener division and sells through a qualified dealer only. Their product line is quite impressive and has a lot of positive feedback from biological gardening enthusiasts who want to achieve the highest brix and nutrient density possible in the food they grow.

Hubby and I submitted soil samples from our orchard and raised beds to this company a week or so ago and are waiting anxiously for the results.

One of the products that we did decide to purchase from them “before the results were in”, and a lot of high brix/nutrient dense growers are excited about, is called Transplant Formula. This product was a bit on the pricier side, but it should last for a very long time since its application only requires one tablespoon per plant at the time of planting.

Transplant FormulaThe product contains:

  • 4 different calcium compounds
  • 4 microbial packages to inoculate root systems
  • 5 volcanic rock powders with quick acting enzymes
  • 4 ‘biostimulant’ carbon sources

We’re still in the process of evaluating this company and their products, so I’m hesitant to recommend them to anyone as of yet. I’ll keep you updated on our evaluation progress. Update (as of 5/31/2015): I will be writing an blog post update soon on this topic ~ so keep your eyes peeled!

Some Awesome Resources

For those of you who are interested in learning more about biological gardening and growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit, veggies and greens, I’ve gathered together a few links and resources for you to start with.  I’ve also included a few books in our home gardening library that we find indispensable that you may find interesting as well.

Books

  • The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon and Erica Reinheimer
  • Nourishment Home Grown by Dr. A. Beddoe
  • The Ideal Soil: A Handbook for the New Agriculture by Michael Astera

Hope you found this post interesting and helpful. Certainly, if you have any questions please feel free to leave me a comment.

Before I head out into the garden, I leave you with these words of wisdom…

“Optimum health begins with the soil!”

God Bless,

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