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Hello, Desert!

It is apparently time for me to experience yet another growing climate. At the end of the month, BioOrganics and I will be moving from Santa Maria (Central CA coastal zone) to Palm Springs. No real specific reason - the low desert area just seems like an interesting place to live at my age, especially during the wonderful winters there.

As the BioOrganics production and packaging operations can be done anywhere, and most orders are sent all around the country by FedEx, there should be no disruption of service to our customers.

I've gardened and experimented with plants now for nearly 40 years, beginning in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, where the topsoil on the family farm was rich and deep. Then as years and careers passed I learned how to deal with clay in Chicago, loose shale near Big Bear in California, ancient sea beds in Camarillo, decomposed volcanic ash in Central Oregon, and sandy loam in Santa Maria. Each represented distinctly different climates and growing situations, but I always manage to develop techniques and discover well-suited plant varieties.

The last 15 years since I began working with soil microbiology have been especially productive for my gardening efforts, and have given firsthand knowledge to pass along to our commercial customers at the same time. For example, I found that newer tomato hybrids are less responsive to soil biology methods than older varieties, maybe because biological dependence has been bred out and chemical-fertilizer routines bred in?

It will certainly seem strange to be planting annual color in the fall and tomatoes around Christmas. Unlike the midwest, where one avoids being out in the weather from December through March, I'll now be semi-hibernating from June through September, and unlike northern areas where you look forward to the first warm days of spring, I'll learn to look forward to the cooler days of fall.

The soil in Palm Springs is essentially sand, so Step One will obviously be to add organic matter. This is also prime territory for the introduction of mycorrhizal fungi to help form a moisture/nutrient-holding underground mass. These two simple steps can quickly create ideal rooting conditions for both vegetables and ornamentals in desert soils. Of course, vegetable plantings must be timed to be finished before the peak heat of summer arrives. I'll try to find a cover crop to occupy the beds during the hot months - perhaps some heat-tolerant annual legume? Any suggestions?

A relative of mine who lives out there has been testing the addition of mycorrhizal spores to her landscaping, which had been struggling. She reports that the improvement has been miraculous for some of her shrubs and young citrus trees. This is really not too surprising, as those sand soils rarely have the important soil organisms needed by many plants.

Also missing from desert sand are many of the minor and trace elements essential to good plant health. I expect that our MycoMinerals product will therefore be very helpful in establishing my new beds. I wonder which tomatoes will do best??? Hopefully, my favorites Pineapple and Ananas Noir (Black Pineapple) will do well. There has not been enough heat here in Santa Maria for them to ripen properly. (Although the very tasty Big Girl and Siberian varieties have thrived)

My web site and email addresses will remain the same, along with the toll-free 888-332-7676 information/ordering number (U.S. only). I will provide a new regular phone number for international calls as soon as I get one.

Good growing, my friends. Wish me luck!

Don Chapman
President, BioOrganics

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