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“Farmer Fred” Hoffman

September 20, 2010

Finally, I met “Farmer Fred” Hoffman. Farmer Fred is a lifetime master gardener—a celebrity around these parts—who shares his colossal horticulture knowledge as host of the “KFBK Garden Show” on NewsTalk 1530 KFBK in Sacramento, California, Sunday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., followed by “Get Growing” on Talk 650 KSTE in Sacramento, 10 a.m. to Noon.  

On the occasion when I met Farmer Fred, he was the guest speaker for a small group of Clements Garden Club members. It was a casual affair in the backyard of one of the members, only two miles from my house. Garbed in sunglasses and a Kellogg’s cap, Farmer Fred shared tips, and answered questions with zeal and a bit of humor. Here are some of his helpful gardening hints:

  • Plants need water, air, fertilizer, and drainage.
  • All plants growing in pots need drainage holes.
  • Elevate pots so air can circulate. [Place trimmed scrap wood under pots.]
  • Raised beds are a good solution for poor soil and other issues.
  • Put gardens in an open area. Clear a 15-foot surrounding area. Voles won’t cross an open area for fear of predators.
  • Fill raised bed with 50 percent garden blend/50 percent mushroom compost; both available at most gravel and rock businesses.
  • Soil pH should be 6.2 to 7.3. Over 7 is very alkaline.
  • Steer manure should be kept in a pile for six months before use.
  • Never use lawn clippings treated with weed and feed in your vegetable beds for mulch.
  • Row cover material is for winter vegetables. Most cool season vegetables don’t need protection from frost [but they do need protection from wind].
  • Trees and shrubs do better when native soil is used doing planting or transplanting.

When I asked Farmer Fred about sunscald on pepper plants (Betty with question was for you.), he said he’s learned to live with it. “There’s nothing wrong with them.” Farmer Fred spaces his pepper plants 18 inches apart.

Farmer Fred also commented that voles are smart. They quickly learn how to avoid traps. “There’s really nothing you can do about them,” Fred said. “Voles are cyclical.” He wasn’t in favor of poisons because of secondary infection to pets and other animals.

Farmer Fred’s favorite cherry tomatoes include sweet million, sweet gold, and sun gold.

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10 comments

  1. I also attended the Clements Garden Club meeting and learned quite a few new things that I had never heard of from Fred Hoffman. He is a true font of knowledge on all things garden related.
    You can also read his garden column in each Saturdays Lodi News-Sentinel in the Real Estate part of the paper.

    He also said that Japanese Maples do not like to get their trunks wet. Ours was getting wet from our sprinkler system so we should do some changes. Another garden job to be done!!!

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  2. Very informative article. Thanks for asking about the sunscald on pepper plants.

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  3. Farmer Fred article was interesting. One of the comments regarding covering plants for winter temperatures was something I’d thought about for the cactus garden. I have green outdoor mesh/screening that we made our sun-shades with to cover the palm & fern garden, and thought that might be a good idea to cover the cactus when the temperatures get close to freezing. Last year we wrapped the tree ferns in front of the house with the mesh as well as a plastic tent that saved those plants last year. Unfortunately, when I had the house painted, the painters bent several of the stalks and i lost about half of one plant, but they are still good to go and did survive the winter cold temps.

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  4. p.s. My cactus slip I was trying to sprout in water, got all slimy, so i threw it away. The people who told me about the mealy bugs, said to sprout the cactus – dry them out first – then plant and don’t water. Over watering seems to still be a problem in our garden. We’re on the trial & error again.

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  5. Thank you, Dianne, – and all the others in the Clements Garden Club – for coming out to hear me speak, I appreciate it! A note about sunburn and peppers: maintaining leaf cover over the peppers can mitigate sunburn. Good growing techniques – including adequate water and fertilizer – can encourage more leaf cover on your pepper plants. I’m not sure if putting a lightweight, white-colored row cover over your peppers would help. That is worth experimenting with next year! More info about sunburn and peppers: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/VEGES/ENVIRON/pepsunburn.html

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  6. Thanks for sharing the wisdom of Farmer Fred. Enjoy your blog very much. Ray

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  7. I grew 12 bell pepper plants this year in my summer garden. They did very well and had great production. The times that I would notice any scalding was when I had missed watering them and the leaves had drooped a little, so less protection was afforded the peppers. So Farmer Fred is right (as usual) and the shading by the leaves is very important to keep the sun scalding at a minimum.

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