Organic Garden Club Speaker Topics


 February 27, 2017: “The Growing and Upkeep of Roses and Blueberries” with speaker, Scott Klittich of Otto and Sons Nursery



March  28, 2017: “Butterfly Gardens Made Simple" presented by Matilija Nursery



April 27, 2017: Presenting an award winning documentary film, "Seed: The Untold Story" with the Thousand Oaks Library

Seed the Untold Story



May, 2017: "The Right Plant in the Right Place" with speaker Lisa Burton

Lisa's organic fruit, herb & veggie garden

California Garden Clubs and District Board Meetings

  • February 24, 2017: Triumfo YMCA and Veteran's Garden Site, 10:30 am

  • March 27 - 29, 2017: The Wildflower Conference in Kernville, CA

  • March 29, 2017: District Lunch hosted by Ojai Garden Club

  • May 28 - June 3, 2017: California Garden Clubs Convention, San Luis Obispo
  • June, 2017: National Garden Week

  • June 21, 2017: Channel Island District President's Home, 10:30 am

Guest Speakers


Scott Klittich of Otto and Sons Nursery in Fillmore, Growing Roses and Blueberries – February, 2017

Otto and Sons Nursery in Fillmore has specialized in growing roses, fruit trees, and berries since 1976. Scott Klittich donated three rose bushes and a Sunshine Blue dwarf blueberry bush that four lucky club members took home.  They grow over 120,000 rose plants in 800 varieties on a 22 acre property. The age of modern roses that flower several times a year started in 1867 when the first hybrid tea rose was introduced. Hybrid tea roses should be pruned after their spring bloom as they bloom on old wood. Old garden roses or heritage roses are wonderfully fragrant, blooming once a year but often producing more roses than repeat bloomers do throughout the year. Climbing roses grow beautifully on trellises and should not be pruned in the first three years and then cut away the gray canes. Drift roses are good ground cover blooming almost continuously without scent. All roses need to be fertilized from Valentine’s Day through Halloween.  For getting rid of bugs on roses, use a gallon of water, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of canola oil, and 2 tablespoons of dish soap, weekly if needed  allowing time to dry before nightfall.

Otto and Sons carry eight varieties of blueberries specially bred for the warm Southern Californian climate. Blueberries are usually grown in cool moist forest areas. Sunshine Blue is a semi dwarf variety growing to 3 feet in warmer climates with sweet medium sized berries that produces well in patio and deck containers, with  1/3 shade planting mix, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 bark. Plant at least two varieties for better pollination and a higher yield in consistently moist acidic soil with acidic fertilizer and afternoon shade.  Local favorite varieties are Southmoon, Emerald, and Star. Blueberries fruit on last year’s wood, so lightly prune in July cutting only dead wood and cross branches. There is a narrow window for fruit bearing and the season runs from mid April to mid July. Birds love blueberries, so cover the plants with netting before the berries start to ripen using PVC pipe to build a canopy as the blueberry branches can be brittle. Allow the berries to ripen on the bush for at least a week after they turn blue until the blue skins are covered in a thin waxy coating, called a bloom, and are at their peak.


Darcey Lober, Growing Herbs for Health and Flavor - November 2016 

“Herbs are Nature’s Medicine Cabinet,” said past president of our club, Darcey Lober, who grows numerous herbs and brought many of them to share with us. Organic Gardeners can grow herbs in window boxes outdoors or pots indoors, filled with organic potting soil and organic herb starter plants or seeds.  Favorite culinary herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, chives, and thyme are hardy perennials and will grow year after year in small pots. Fresh herbs elevate every dish, adding nutrients and flavor. Snip a small sprig of the herb and mince it finely into the dish, using French, Italian, or Asian herb pairing. The more you harvest the tops of the plants, the longer they will be at their best before they flower. Herbs help keep aphids and other harmful bugs out of the garden, while pollinators and beneficial insects love their flowers, making herbs the best companion plants for a vegetable garden.

Some herbs have antibiotic properties, while others are antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anesthetic, or antiviral. Herbs can be preserved by picking them early in the morning, then drying, freezing, or mixing in oil, vinegar, or liquor. Healing herbs can provide an alternative to synthetic drug use. When herbs are used often in seasoning food or as herbal tea, they become a preventive medicine therapy. Some of the herbs that were passed around the room were:

  • Artemisia, Coastal sagebrush, can be used in lotion for arthritis pain.
  • Ashwaganda makes a good tonic for boosting energy.
  • Black Sage makes a good footbath for muscular aches.
  • Dandelion roots make a good blood, liver, and kidney cleanser.
  • Echinacea is good for flu and colds, but only take it 10 days at a time.
  • Fennel and Mint are good for digestion and relieving gas.
  • Foxglove is used to make digitalis for heart medicine.
  • Lemon Grass is filled with antioxidants and flavonoids.

Phil McGrath, Organic Farming in Ventura County - October, 2016

Organic Garden Club members were touched and delighted hearing the history of Organic Farming in Ventura County from Phil McGrath, legendary Oxnard Organic Farmer and owner of McGrath Family Farms, who is seeking to be sustainable with diversity, co-op farming, Food Hubs, and robotics.

“If you can do the work yourself, it’s a garden.  If you need help, it’s a farm,” said Phil McGrath. Phil’s grandfather came from Ireland and started farming in Ventura County in 1876. They started as sheep and cattle farmers with 10 children and 700 acres at the end of Gonzales Road.  The family transitioned to dairy farming around 1920 and at one time had the 3rd largest dairy in California.  After WWII, they started row cropping.  In the late 40s and 1950s, they grew sugar beets and lima beans.  In the 1960s they added broccoli, celery and other row crops such as lettuce and tomatoes. Strawberries became a big crop in the 1970s. Our Mediterranean climate is one of only five places in the world with this climate.  It is especially good for growing strawberries. In the 1980s, the Sunkist Cooperative, the 45th biggest company in the world, moved in from Salinas!

In 1992, the McGraths turned to organic farming.  By the time Phil’s Dad died in 1995, the farm had become Certified Organic. Only property in Napa is more expensive than farmland in Ventura County. Farms here have to lower their water usage by 20%.  They are incurring higher costs and will question the crops they grow and determine what to plant based on what’s sustainable. Organic farming demands diversification and rotating the crops with peas and beans to improve the soil.

Phil McGrath advised, "Eat local, eat organic, and eat what’s in season." In the USA we spend less on food and more on healthcare than other nations. Organic is good for the environment with more diversification and fewer chemicals and pests.  Eating organic means getting sick less often and health costs go down. McGrath Family Farm is working to get an organic food hub where there would be a retail section, a processing plant and a school distribution center.  In the future Phil is planning for high tunnel growing, substrate (bag) growing, more hydroponics and robotics.

Craig Underwood, Fall Vegetable Planting Timetable - September, 2016

Living in Ventura County most of us have visited and tasted or even picked Underwood Family Farms delicious farm grown vegetables.   At our September monthly meeting, we had a real treat in meeting the owner, Craig Underwood.  His family has been farming in Ventura and Kern County since 1867. Craig shared with us gardening timetables, best farming practices, and answered lots of questions from our audience.  Here are some tips from Craig Underwood:

  • Celery is planted early February with a 10 day to 2 wk. span of successive plantings.
  • Artichoke is planted June- July and Nov. Dec. The crop has had a big problem in past few years and hasn’t done well.
  • In the fall, carrots, beets, greens, radishes and corn are directly seeded.
  • Cool season plants that are planted from greenhouse transplants include: broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and chard.  There are trade secrets to grow Brussels sprouts which he could not reveal!
  • Last year, due to warm temperatures, corn was planted very early - mid February. This was the “first time I could remember” in his many years of farming (since 1967).  Corn was ready at the end of May!
  • Summer crops include tomatoes, peppers, squash, watermelons, and other melons. Tomatoes being planted four times!
  • Unfortunately DDT is still left in our streams and the non-point pollution is monitored as well as sediment, water quality/usage and fertilizer. It was very encouraging to hear a revolution is going on with biological antagonist to kill harmful insects instead of using synthetic chemicals of the past.  This is especially helpful for peppers and corn which are loved by pests and cause big challenges for farmers.
  • Best farming practices include: drought tolerant watering, conservation cover cropping, soil testing for nutrient balance, and crop rotation every third year.

Bill Brandt, Tropical Fruit Trees we can grow in Ventura County - July 2016

“Yes”, says Bill Brandt, Rare Fruit Grower and Past President of OGCVC, “we can grow cherimoya, lychee, papaya, banana, and mango in Ventura County. You bet-ya!” He spoke about more tropical fruits trees than mentioned above that we can grow here plus one or two we may not want to grow. Making pollinating fun and interesting, he kept the audience laughing picturing 6’4” big voiced Bill using his tiny paint brush to collect pollen on cherimoya flowers one day and the next day pollinating the flowers in the female stage! He told us that some growers have spent a lot of money on buying a rare fruit tree one year and after a few years pay big bucks to have it removed when it not only doesn’t produce, but blocks the sunlight from the genuinely wonderful organic fruit trees in the orchard that are suited to our local environment.


Andy Lopez, The Invisible Gardener - June 2016

“It’s not a bug problem. It’s a soil problem,” said Andy Lopez, who kept us all laughing while speaking about pest control and non-toxic bug spray. For short term solutions for a few bugs, organic gardeners can (1) make a solution of water, garlic oil, and clove oil to spray on the effected plant to repel pests and (2) make a solution of winter green or canola oil to spray on the bugs. However, the long term solution is in the mineral balance of the soil. Weed presence indicates a trace mineral deficiency in the soil and infestation of bugs is imbalance in the soil. For an infestation of bugs, gardeners can spray the bugs with a cold brew coffee or coffee with cream and Granny Smith molasses. Coffee grounds are pest repellents and help balance the soil. They can be worked into the garden topsoil. Gardeners can use a beer tester to check plant leaves and produce to discover the level of beneficial bacteria in the garden.  For pesky birds soak raw chickpeas in whiskey and scatter near the plant. Birds don’t like to fly drunk!

Because the city water effects the mineral balance, Andy Lopez suggested a water filter on the hose or drip watering system for the garden. The soil can be amended with rock dust, beneficial bacteria, earthworm castings, and compost tea. When the minerals are balanced properly, the soil is alive with microorganisms. A compost tea spray is very effective to achieve the proper mineral balance as well as keeping the bugs away. Earthworms make the best compost and compost tea.