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Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Herb Harvest at the UC Davis Good LIfe Garden!


There's never enough time, especially this time of year! Take a break from the stresses of the holiday season and join us in the UC Davis Good Life Garden for another free herb harvest!

WHEN: Thursday, December 17
TIME: Anytime between 9:30 AM and 2 PM
WHERE: UC Davis Good Life Garden (In the courtyard of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science)
RSVP: goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu

DON'T FORGET!

Please bring the following items:

  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold your herbs
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don’t have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)

Below are a couple great ideas on how you can use the herbs from our garden to make some fast and easy gifts for that special gourmand in your life!

HOW TO: Making Rosemary Salt

HOW TO: Making Herbed Butter

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Microclimates: Your garden may have more than one!


Considering the unseasonably low temperatures we've been experiencing lately, Ed Nordstrom, UC Davis Good Life Garden Supervisor, wanted to remind our readers how various microclimates within your yard can impact plant vitality.

Not sure what a microclimate is? It is just a fancy name for a piece of land that is subject to experiencing multiple climates. For example, in an urban garden, the concrete and asphalt that absorbs the sun's energy will radiate heat into the surrounding air and warm the garden's environment. Lack of protection or care to combat from this kind of severe heat can threaten a plant's well being.

Cold microclimates are also potentially dangerous, and can occur when plants are located near a body of water. The ground in these areas tends to be much cooler for longer periods of time than ground located just steps away. Being aware of your yard's potential for microclimates should influence what plants you place in your garden and where.

Sometimes, like us, you just learn the hard way. The Good Life Garden is surrounded by UC Davis' Food Science and Sensory buildings which create a wind tunnel running through a part of the garden. We have our nasturtium planted in two places in the garden--these are great winter plants because they can survive low temperatures, but, at the same time, they are a soft leaf plant which is very sensitive to wind.

One of our nasturtium plants is located in a wind tunnel created by the separation of the RMI North building and the Food Science Sensory building (shown in the upper left photo) The other nasturtium plant location is protected by the corner created by the RMI North and RMI South buildings (upper right picture). The two lower photos on the left and right show how the nasturtium plants are reacting to their two different microclimates, the left photo shows the nasturtium affected by the wind tunnel while the photo on the right shows the nasturtium that is protected and thriving. These photos show how easily such little things, like a protecting wall, can have a great effect on a garden and how they create microclimates.

As gardeners we are far from perfect! We thought you'd like to know how are plants are affected by the weather just like everyone else and hope you picked up some tips to help your plants ride out the rest of this chilly season.

















































































































Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Get Ready to Fight the Frost

This week no one can escape the cold, but your citrus doesn't have to suffer! To protect your citrus trees from mother nature wrap them in anything from a paper bag to a bed sheet. Pictured here are our orange trees wrapped in burlap. Your goal during the cold temperatures is to retain the plant's heat or to provide it with an outside heat source. Not sold on the tarp look for your front lawn? Make it festive and wrap Christmas lights around the trunk and stems of the plant to warm the leaves at night.

There are some other great ways to prevent this from happening next winter as well; try planting your trees close together or up against a wall on the south-facing side of your house. Another trick to preventing cold damage is to plant your trees on a higher surface or at the top of a slope because cold winds tend to travel downhill and collect at lower points.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Organic vs. Conventionally Farmed Produce

There's always a lot of controversy out there about the pros and cons of organic produce. Is it healthier for you? Does it last longer? What are you paying for? I'm not sure there will ever be one definitive answer that we can all agree on. But, if you are reading this, there's probably a good chance you like to garden and prefer organic gardening practice, so I'll share with you the results of a taste test we held in the UC Davis Good Life Garden last April, to encourage you to continue in your practice. We're not trying to convert anyone; we're just letting you know what happened in a biased, non-scientific kind of way!

On Picnic Day, a UC Davis campus tradition, the Good Life Garden hosted a taste test to see if visitors could taste the difference between organic/locally-grown asparagus and conventionally farmed/non-local asparagus. Visitors knew which was which before tasting--so it was definitely not scientific or blind--but the results were overwhelming in favor or the organic asparagus. It had 'more flavor' and was 'sweeter.'

Maybe it was because it was local or maybe it was because it was organic, or maybe it was because people wanted the organic to taste better so they could justify their spending. Whatever it was, organics won the taste buds of our visitors that day. I was a even a skeptic and I'm now a convert--not only because of taste, but because organic produce seems to last longer in storage--and, in a household with just two people like mine, that saves money too!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Give Thanks! FREE Herb Harvest Thursday November 19!

The UC Davis Good Life Garden would like to "give thanks" to all our past, present and future herb harvest attendees! We enjoy having you out in the garden and hope that you'll harvest some herbs to enjoy at your Thanksgiving meals.

Join us at the Good Life Garden Thursday, November 19, anytime between 9:30AM and 2PM to harvest any type of herb we have growing in the garden including rosemary, marjoram, lavender, sage, thyme, chives, and mint!


If you are interested, please RSVP to goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found here.

The harvest is free to attend; we just need you to bring the following items:
  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold your herbs
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)
BE SURE TO WASH ALL HERBS WELL BEFORE ENJOYING THEIR FRESH TASTE!

Our gardener Arlene will be there all day to answer your questions about the different herbs and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. We ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves or flowers from any particular plant.

Olive Harvest in the UC Davis Good Life Garden

video

Introduction
It's that time of year, and, although the small trellised olive trees we have planted in the garden are small, they have produced quite a few good looking olives. Now what do we do?

video

UC Davis Olive Center
Arlene learns from campus olive expert Dan Flynn, Executive Director of the UC Davis Olive Center, to assist in the garden's olive harvest. The UC Davis Olive Center is the only center of its kind in North America conducting outreach and research on olives and olive oil. To find out more about who they are and what they do visit their website.


video

About Our Olives
In the UC Davis Good Life garden we grow Arbequina olives using a trellis system. This type of olive and high-density method is the future of olive farming in California which is why we've chosen to demonstrate it here!

video


When Are Your Olives Ready to Harvest?
Dan Flynn goes over with Arlene the tell-tale signs of when olives are ready to harvest.


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Good for Olive Oil and Table Olives
Arlene asks Dan whether she could also cure the olives and make table olives rather than harvest the olives for olive oil.

video

Methods to Use for Safely Curing Olives
Here Dan discussed with Arlene the main methods for curing olives and refers her to this free publication from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources called Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling.

video

Organic Methods for Controlling Olive Flies
Arlene and Dan discuss orgnanic methods for controlling olive pests by using a spray called GF120 (It doesn't sound organic, but it is!) or by using of fly traps.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Survival of the fittest: thinning your crops for a robust harvest

It has been about two weeks now since Arlene has planted various seeds in the garden, and it's time to begin thinning the plants. Thinning is important because it prevents plants from competing for nutrients and allows the plants that remain to grow more vigorously. It also helps to improve plant health by allowing more air circulation which helps prevent fungal diseases. Why even sow the seeds so close together? Read our previous post about planting seeds; Arlene sows many seeds in each line to ensure lots of germination.

All the same, pulling those new sprouts out of the earth can be sad! In some cases, such as with the mizuna shown here, the small plants can be eaten, so you aren't just thinning, but harvesting too! And in the long run, however wasteful it may seem, thinning is important for the overall health of the mature plants. Interested in learning more about the importance of thinning? Check out Jane Tunks' article from the San Francisco chronicle. She talks about her own experiences with this important gardening step, and also has more detailed instructions.

So how does one go about thinning?

Step One
Know when to begin to thin. You don't want to thin your plants when you see the first leaves sprouting; these leaves are called cotyledons and are actually part of the plant embryo. Wait until the second set of leaves sprout; these are referred to as the "true leaves." In the case of the radishes, shown here, the cotyledons sprouted after about five days, and the true leaves emerged about 2 weeks after that. Radishes grow very quickly, however, so the times may vary depending on the type of plant. On this radish plant, shown to the right, you can see the smaller cotyledon leaves toward the base of the plant, and the larger true leaves sprouting higher.

Step Two
Once you recognize the true leaves, go through and pull out plants by hand; a little research online can tell you how much space should be left between plants depending on the variety, and this space is usually dictated by the size of the mature plant. Here is another useful article that goes into more detail about what plants should be thinned and by how much.

Step Three
After you've finished thinning, go back through the clumps of plants again, as is shown here. Arlene demonstrates how she finds the strongest looking plant, and removes the rest around it.

Step Four
After that, go back and replace soil around the base of the plant in case the plant was disturbed during the thinning process.

So next time you are looking at your full and lush row of newly-sprouted veggies, don't despair! Thinning is critical for plant health and productivity, and chances are if you have an edible garden, you can eat the plants too!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Harvest Sage and Serve it on Thanksgiving!

Come to the next UC Davis Good Life Garden herb harvest on Thursday, November 5 from 9:30 AM-2 PM and pick some sage that you will be able to dry and showcase by Thanksgiving!

Here is a great article from eHow.com explaining the process.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Join Ed & Arlene for another FREE HERB HARVEST!


Join us at the Good Life Garden Thursday, November 5, anytime between 9:30AM and 2PM to harvest any type of herb we have growing in the garden including lavender, sage, thyme, chives, and mint!

If you are interested, please RSVP to goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found here.

The harvest is free to attend; we just need you to bring the following items:
  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold your herbs
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)
BE SURE TO WASH ALL HERBS WELL BEFORE ENJOYING THEIR FRESH TASTE!

Our gardener Arlene will be there all day to answer your questions about the different herbs and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. We ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves or flowers from any particular plant.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chive Talkin'--How to divide and transplant this perennial favorite

video

Here Arlene talks about prepping your chives for transplant to other areas of your garden. Chives are a perennial herb. When they get a little too big you can divide them and replant them--it's a two for one deal! You'll be sure to always have a supply, or you can give some to your family, friends or neighbors. These tips don't apply to chives only. This technique can be replicated on many different types of perennials.

video
Once the large clump of chives has been removed. The next step is to divide it. In this video Arlene talks about how she completes this step and the type of tool that she uses. First of all she looks for a natural break in the plant, then she uses a garden saw to separate the two areas.

video
Now that you have your chives separated, you can transplant them to another area of your garden or into someone else's yard! In this video Arlene goes over the steps necessary to prepare the soil for the transplants by first, digging the hole and getting the soil nice and moist.

video
Fear not if your transplants look as if they have seen better days in the weeks ahead. They are okay, but they are in recovery mode because they have had an operation. As Arlene says, "When you get home from an operation you don't look so good, but you bounce back!" That is what will happen in a month or so after your transplants have had time to adjust.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Planting Carrot Seeds in the Winter Demonstration Bed

video

Here is a video of showing Arlene's techniques for planting seeds in the garden.

Step 1
Make sure your soil is damp. Sprinkle it for a minute or two before getting to work.

Step 2
Lightly "draw" a line(s) in the soil where you want your seeds to go. We use a soil knife which is pretty cool do draw out the lines. Some people call it a weed knife because if the handy serrated edge. No matter what you call it, it works, so it is no wonder it comes from a line of instruments called, "Tools That Work."

Step 3
Lay down your seeds in the lines, leaving just enough room for a bit of soil on top. The rule is that each seed should only be covered by soil at 2-3 times the seed's size. For example, if your seed is 2 mm wide, cover it with about 4 mm of soil. Arlene sows many seeds in each line to ensure lots of germination, then will go back and thin the lines when she can see which seedlings are the strongest.

Step 4
Cover your seeds with soil using Arlene's light "scrunching" or scratching technique. See Step 3 for more information on how much soil with which you should cover your seeds.

Step 5
Lightly water the area where seeds were sown again and be sure that it doesn't dry out. Dried out seeds will not germinate, but seeds in overly wet soil have a hard time germinating too! It's a fine line, so be careful and have fun!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gardening Along with Arlene: Amending Your Soil

video
Before you plant, it's important to amend your soil in order restore nutrients that may be depleted after your summer crops were harvested. Soil quality can vary a great from yard to yard. If you believe your soil may be the root of an underlying problem, you may want to consider getting your soil tested by your county agricultural cooperative extension. That is what we've done. You can read more the amendments we employ in the garden and why here. (This is a large .pdf document because there are four short videos embedded in it. You can also view the videos on our Facebook Fan page or below. If you aren't already a fan you can become one here for free!)

Long story short, the soil in our garden requires a bit more amending than most. Overall, for the average organic garden, we recommend, and we also will add gypsum (calcium sulfate), 3-4-3 dried chicken manure pellets, and compost. For a garden that is about 100 square feet, sprinkle on about 1 coffee can full of gypsum, and another 5 coffee cans full of dried chicken manure pellets; then layer on about an inch of compost. Work it into the soil by using a spading fork and hula hoe. Last, use a bow head rake to smooth and level the area. (You can see the videos on all these techniques here. See below.)

video
Using a Spading Fork

video
Using a Hula Hoe

video
Using a Bowhead Rake

Monday, September 28, 2009

Anything Goes Herb Harvest!

Join us at the Good Life Garden Thursday, October 8, anytime between 9:30AM and 2PM to harvest any type of herb we have growing in the garden including basil, lavender, sage, thyme, chives, and mint!

If you are interested, Please RSVP to goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found here.

The harvest is free to attend; we just need you to bring the following items:
  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold your herbs
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)
BE SURE TO WASH ALL HERBS WELL BEFORE ENJOYING THEIR FRESH TASTE!

Our gardener Arlene will be there all day to answer your questions about the different herbs and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. We ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves or flowers from any particular plant.

Winter Garden Plan--Now Available for Download!


Even though it’s still quite warm here in the valley, it’s time to start preparing for your fall/winter garden!

Not sure what to do? Fear not! I have the plan for you! Click here to download the plan I’ll be using in a square of the Good Life Garden that we’ve dedicated as our Winter demonstration area for the home gardener—it’s relatively small, about 11’ wide by 12’ tall, but it’s packed full with seasonal favorites. Feel free to substitute what we have planned here with some of your own favorites. You’ll also find brightly colored companion plants, like calendula and garlic chives, proven to organically help your garden flourish.

As we go through the season, I’ll also be helping you prepare your soil, and share with you some of the challenges and successes I encounter as I ‘work the dirt’ here in Davis, California. We hope you’ll follow along and keep us updated on your progress by posting your successes, questions, trials and tribulations right here on our blog, on our Facebook Fan page, or by emailing us at goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu.

Keep up to date! Sign up for the UC Davis Good Life Garden newsletter on the home page of our website for the latest information on all the "Growings-On" in our garden!

We look forward to seeing you in the garden this winter!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Herb harvest next week!

Do you love fresh herbs? Did you have a great time at one of our basil picking parties this month? Then come join us at the Good Life Garden next Thursday, September 24, anytime between 9:30AM and 2PM to harvest four different types of herbs:
  • lavender - there are 4 varieties in the garden right now: ‘Otto Quast’ (Spanish), ‘Dwarf Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote Blue’ (both English), and ‘Grosso’ (Italian).
  • sage - purple variety
  • thyme - lemon and common varieties
  • chives - garlic and regular varieties
We have very limited amounts of thyme and sage, so if you want to get some of those particular herbs, make sure to come early and clip a few sprigs!

If you are interested, Please RSVP to goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found here.

The harvest is free to attend; we just need you to bring the following items:
  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold your herbs
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)
BE SURE TO WASH ALL HERBS WELL BEFORE ENJOYING THEIR FRESH TASTE!

Our gardener Arlene will be there all day to answer your questions about the different herbs and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. We ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves or flowers from any particular plant.

Wonder what to do with all of your fresh herbs after the harvest? Check out the recipe for this Meyer lemon cake with lavender cream from Epicurious, or read our "Tips for Growing and Using Lavender" post. Lemon thyme is excellent used in chicken or fish dishes, and also makes a delicious herbal tea. For chives try the chive and garlic mashed potato recipe from Epicurious, or use chopped chives as a garnish for soups and salads.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Herb "forts" and other companion plantings

In her summer garden tour, our gardener Arlene describes the configuration of the plantings in specific beds as herb "forts." This clever name refers to the protective barrier created around different varieties of vegetables; the herbs create a protective barrier because they either repel or attract harmful or beneficial insects. Companion plants can also be effective for other reasons; for example, plant sunflowers next to beans because beans enjoy the partial shade provided by the sunflowers' foliage. To download the pdf of Arlene's Summer Garden Tour visit our website and click on the link to the tour on the homepage.

Specifically in our garden this summer, Arlene discusses the English thyme/garlic chive "forts" that have been planted around the yellow crookneck and rĂªve scallopini squashes. Thyme is a beneficial companion plant because it helps to control whitefly which can be harmful to squash, and because garlic chives contain the same essential oil as garlic, its smell is displeasing to aphids, flies, and mosquitoes. The photo below shows the yellow crookneck squash surrounded by the garlic chives.













The other benefit to utilizing companion planting in your garden is that it decreases the need for pesticides or herbicides. Companion planting is a critical aspect of organic gardens. According to Kelle Carter of Seeds of Change, "Organic gardening is composed of numerous aspects that make up a whole interconnected system. This system relies upon insects, birds, shade, sun, and all other aspects of a living and working community. By growing numerous types of crops you create habitats for beneficial insects or animals, deter problem pests, and enrich your soil to create a living ecosystem of beneficial bacteria and helpful fungi." Read Carter's article about companion plants here; the article is an excellent overview and also includes a chart of plants, their companions and their effects.

You can also visit the Good Life Garden website for detailed information about the crops we have planted currently. We provide information about companion planting and pest management, nutritional information, historical facts, and how to plant, grow and prepare the edibles in your garden.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Olive tree update

If you have been by the garden lately, you may have noticed that some of the olive trees in the grove aren't looking very healthy. The poor health of the trees is not due to neglect, but is due instead to a percolation problem that presented itself after the trees were transplanted last October.

What is a percolation problem? It simply means that the water cannot percolate, or absorb, into the soil. This is due in part to the the recent construction of the courtyard which contains the same compacted soil necessary to create a stable foundation for the surrounding buildings. The soil was compacted and then hardened, and now water simply sits there without draining, creating the perfect environment for a bacterial infection of the root system. Nevertheless, despite the fact that two of the trees appear to be dead, they still have live growth on them, and our Grounds crew is working hard to come up with a solution. Below is a photo of one of the trees being transplanted last October.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Download Our Self-Guided Walking Tour

Green thumbs, brown thumbs or in between thumbs--the self-guided walking tour of the UC Davis Good Life Garden by its gardener, Arlene Kennedy, is sure to entertain. You can download the .pdf file by clicking here.

Here's a taste of the introduction:

"Robert Mondavi's Harvests of Joy tells about the value of living the 'good life.' The Good Life Garden reflects this idea. It's all about taking time out to grow, prepare and enjoy fresh food, fine wine (and beer!) because this contributes to a better and more healthful life."

Arlene's insights go on to inform participants about our crops, how they were selected, organic gardening tips, and interesting stories of its growth, or lack there of in certain cases! She answers the many, "Why'd they do that?" questions that one may have when strolling through the garden, but, should you still have a question about the garden, please let us know by emailing it to: goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu

We encourage you to take the tour! It is rather long, so break it up into various visits, but do so soon because it will only be applicable for the next month or so as we are now planning for our fall/winter crops.

Keep up to date! Sign up for the UC Davis Good Life Garden newsletter on the home page of our website for the latest information on all the "Growings-On" in our garden!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tips for Growing & Using Lavender


In our garden we have cultivate four different types of lavender: Lavendula stoechas 'Otto Quast' (Spanish); L. angustifolia 'Dwarf Munstead' (English); L. angustifolia 'Hidcote Blue' (English); and, L. intermedia 'Grosso' (Italian).

Our gardener Arlene prefers the English varieties because of their superior fragrance, and, of the two types that we grow, her favorite is the 'Hidcote Blue' (see photo to the left) due to its compact flower spikes and saturated purple-blue color.

As a perennial shurb it is easy to grow in our zone--it likes sun and well-draining soil. It flourishes when watered regularly, but is also drought tolerant. Arlene suggests pruning the flowering stems down to its newest leaves upon bloom. This encourages a second bloom and is also a good time to shape your plant.

To harvest:
  • Cut the flower stems when the buds are first opening
  • Tie and hang in a warm, dry, dark place for two weeks
  • Separate the flowers from the stems
  • What you don't use immediately you can freeze
The wife of Cary Avery, our landscape superintendent, uses frozen lavender to freshen up her potpourri before guests arrive.

Ed Nordstrom, our garden supervisor even uses the dried lavender stems when roasting a chicken--the same way you'd use hickory chips to add flavor!

Lavender deters moths, leaves your clothes smelling fresh and soothes frazzled nerves! It's definitely worth a permanent place in your own home gardens!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Vandalism in the Garden--Does Anyone Out There Know Anything?

What you see here is a photo of a 10 foot high tripod with "Emperor" Scarlett Runner Beans climbing on it. The vine was a sight to be seen, "...a mountain of lush green foliage covered in bright red flowers," in the words of our gardener Arlene.

Sometime between August 21 and August 23, the structure was tipped over, ripping the plants out the ground and knocking down a neighboring tomato plant.

They were so happy there; it's such a shame we won't be able to enjoy them any longer this season. If anyone out there has any information about it, please let us know. Meanwhile, Scarlett Runners, RIP.

Basil Harvest--There's still more! A Lot More!

Thank you to everyone who could make it out to our first annual basil harvest! It was a success, but there is still lots more basil to be enjoyed, so, if you weren't able to join us yesterday, or you did and you want more basil, join us AGAIN!

Stop by the garden this Thursday, September 3 anytime between 9:30 AM and 2 PM to harvest two different types of basil - the Super Sweet Chen and/or Large Leaf Purple varieties.

If you are interested, Please RSVP to goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found here.

The harvest is free; we just need you to bring the following items:
  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold the basil
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the basil (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep the basil in for the day)
BE SURE TO WASH THE BASIL WELL BEFORE ENJOYING ITS FRESH TASTE!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Join us for a basil picking party this Thursday!

Come join us at the Good Life Garden this Thursday, August 27 anytime between 9:30AM and 2PM to harvest two different types of basil - the Super Sweet Chen and Large Leaf Purple varieties. You can come visit the garden anytime during those hours; in order to harvest enough basil to make pesto (about 2 cups' worth) you will probably only need ten minutes or so. In the photo below you can see the Super Sweet Chen (left) planted with ageratum and zinnias.

If you are interested, Please RSVP to goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found here.

The party is free; we just need you to bring the following items:
  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold the basil
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the basil (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep the basil in for the day)
BE SURE TO WASH THE BASIL WELL BEFORE ENJOYING ITS FRESH TASTE!

Our gardener Arlene will be there all day to answer your questions about basil and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. (We have one variety of basil, called Fino Verde, that should not be harvested as the plants are too small.) We also ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves.

Wondering what to do with all the fresh basil? Here is our garden supervisor Ed Nordstrom's pesto recipe:

1/2 c. olive oil
2 c. packed basil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
toasted pine nuts to taste
lemon juice or Fruit Fresh (ascorbic acid) to retain color and freshness

Blend the oil, basil and garlic in a blender or food processor. Check the consistency and add more basil or olive oil as needed. Add parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts. The cheese will thicken the pesto, so allow for the change in consistency. While toasting the pine nuts, also be aware that the high oil content of the nuts may cause them to burn quickly, so watch them carefully.

Fruit-Fresh is a product you can buy that contains Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and citric acid, which will preserve the color and freshness of fruits and vegetables, and will keep your pesto from browning. Alternatively you can use lemon juice to help retain color.

The Large Leaf Purple basil is also available for harvest on Thursday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Red Velvet Okra and Love Lies Bleeding

The stunning red velvet okra is the variety featured this season. Not only are the pods scarlet; the stems are also the same rich color, lending the plant a majestic look that would stand out in any garden.

Not a fan of okra due to the texture? The slimy texture is a result of its mucilage, which is a mixture of carbohydrate molecules and proteins that help plaints retain water. The slimy nature of the mucilage is utilized as a thickener in soups and stews such as gumbo, but can also be minimized if fried or baked.

Learn more about the history of okra, its uses and nutritional value on our website.

Some other plants that are currently in bloom and yielding fruits or vegetables are melons, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, pomegranates and corn. Many different varieties of flowers are also in full bloom. View a slideshow of the latest plants here.

In the photo below you can see the "love lies bleeding" in the foreground and the scarlet runner bean plant behind it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cantaloupes from Food Science & Technology Students

Today our gardener, Arlene Kennedy, was approached by students from the Food Science & Technology department who were looking to find homes for some cantaloupes. They are developing a robot that can field test cantaloupes to determine whether or not they are ripe. We don't if these passed the test, where they were grown, or how, but we have reserved five for any local reader that wants to drop by the UC Davis Grounds Office to pick one up. We are located northeast of Mrak Hall and south of the Art Annex.

Reserve your cantaloupe now by emailing us at: goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu. This offer ends Friday, August 21, 2009 at 4 PM.

IMPORTANT for all melon eaters! You should wash melons thoroughly with warm soapy water before preparing them because microbes that linger on the surface may cause food poisoning upon introduction to the fruits’ flesh. Look here for more information on melons.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We're on TV! We're on TV!

Recently, a local television news station in Sacramento came to the UC Davis Good Life Garden to learn more about how some of the plantings here tie to the education Viticulture & Enology students receive at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and just what it means when someone says, "Did you pick up the berry notes in that wine?" Watch the clip here! Kudos to our gardener, Arlene Kennedy, for doing such a great job!

Green Bean Seed Saving

The Seeds of Change brand bush beans we planted this season lived up to their 'bountiful' variety name. So much so that our gardener, Arlene Kennedy, has chosen to save the seeds for future planting. She is drying the pods on the vine, removing the seeds, then placing them in an air tight container for storage in a cool, dry place.

Sign up for the UC Davis Good Life Garden newsletter on the home page of our website for up-to-date information on all the "Growings-On" in our garden!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Corn and Cover Crops

Much of the garden summer crop is now in full bloom, including the colorful variety triple play corn that we are featuring this season. Because corn depletes a high amount of nutrients from soil, it is a good idea to rotate a cover crop into your garden - the cover crop is an organic way to replenish nitrogen.

Here you can see our gardeners discussing plans for the fall; they are going to plant red clover after the corn has been harvested. Red clover is an extremely effective cover crop and also yields lovely scarlet flowers!

Pictured here is the triple play corn. This variety of corn is mainly used for decorative purposes, although it can be eaten if picked early when the corn is still white and sweet.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quick How-to Compost Video

Check out this super easy way of creating a compost bin in your backyard! We found this video on Sunset Magazine's website, its less than two minutes in length and totally worth it. Compost is just decomposed organic matter at its various states and can be used as fertilizer or mulch because it will return nutrients to the soil. This then saves you money because you dont have to buy fertilizer or nearly as many trash bags since you can throw most of your kitchen waste into your compost. All in all, compost is good for your wallet and for your garden-- who doesnt love that!

Stay tuned after the first video is over and learn how to make an inexpensive, efficient compost bin out of chicken wire!

Sign up for the UC Davis Good Life Garden newsletter on the home page of our website for up-to-date information on all the "Growings-On" in our garden!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beautiful gardens, less water

We love the Sacramento Master Gardeners' website; especially the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center's water-efficient landscape garden. Check out photos of the beautiful space that incorporates not only water-efficient plants, but also drip irrigation, swales to capture water, and permeable concrete walks and patios.

The Horticulture Center has two more workshops this year - including one about composting and an open garden day that will also include information about water conservation. Check the schedule here.

The website also has an extensive list of garden-related sites. A great resource!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Must Have Garden!

Are you interested in growing your own vegetable garden, but do you not have space in your yard? The Experimental College at UC Davis has the solution - they rent 200 square foot plots for just $25 per year. The rental fee includes water, tools, mulch, manure, and gardening advice, and renters can even plant perennials such as fruit and nut trees. Gardeners can also do volunteer work around the garden or at the Davis Farmer's Market to earn credit toward the rent on their plots.

Visit the Experimental College Garden website for more information about rentals and how to apply.

Garden Pollination Guide

Done all the reading you can on good gardening practices and still can't get your garden to go from the ground to your table? Take five mintues to read this article put out by Vera Stader, UC Davis Master Gardener from Tuolumne County, which talks about the importance of pollination--another one of those topics not always considered when planting a garden. Her tips might just give your garden some life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

UC Davis Researchers Prove Fresh Fruit in the Fridge Keeps Longer


See this video, orginially on the HowStuffWorks' website, about how UC Davis researchers prove that fresh fruit can last up to nine days longer and not lose any of its nutritional value when stored in the fridge!

Sign up for the UC Davis Good Life Garden newsletter on the home page of our website for up-to-date information on all the "Growings-On" in our garden!

Apple Tree Trellis

It is possible to have an orchard of fruit trees in your backyard if you keep the trees small. At the UC Davis Good Life Garden we trained a Fuji apple tree to grow on a trellis. See the photo to the left.

Here is a how-to link with information on developing your own trellis support system for apple trees.

Our fruit tree was donated by a local nursery, Dave Wilson Nursery. Check out their website for a veritable plethora of information for home gardeners interested in growing backyard orchards.

Sign up for the UC Davis Good Life Garden newsletter on the home page of our website for up-to-date information on all the "Growings-On" in our garden!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Grilled Bread Recipe--Simple and Amazing!

Thank you to the chefs from A Healthy Kitchen located in Sacramento for letting us know about this amazing and simple recipe for grilled bread.

-Slice a crusty peasant bread round
-Toast on the BBQ to your desired level of brown
-Rub with cut garlic cloves (cut side down)
-Add sliced avocado
-Drizzle with olive oil
-Sprinkle with salt

It is amazing!

The chefs teach very useful classes out of the Sacramento Food Coop.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Free Events Offered by the UC Davis Arboretum



Budget woes need not stop you from getting outside and learning from the experts! The UC Davis Arboretum has a great summer program list for your education and entertainment, and the great news is, there's no charge! Check it out here!

We like event on Saturday, August 8, "Guided Tour: Sun-Drenched Colors at 10 AM at the Shields Grove Gazebo. It's all about which plants can take the summer sun and still provide color in your garden.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Community Garden Guide

All those interested in starting a community garden, check this out! The UC Cooperative Extension has a guide on all of the how-to’s of starting your own community garden. It's a great way to get people involved in their neighborhoods. Take a look at the this step by step guide which is to intended to help neighborhood groups and organizations along the path to starting and sustaining a community garden.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food Safety Tips for Your Edible Garden




Dr. Linda J. Harris, associate director of the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS), collaborated with University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Research Specialist, Dr. Trevor Suslow back in August of last year and published a brochure entitled Food Safety Tips for Your Edible Home Garden.

This consumer brochure provides an outline of food safety practices important to consider in the edible home garden. The objective of the project was to help consumers develop a food safety plan for their home garden by applying food safety principles the authors have drawn from research and practical experience.

It contains some useful reminders for all you home gardening enthusiasts! You can download it here.

To find out more about the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, visit their website here.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Great Article About Our "Kids Farms & Food" Summer Camp

We are very proud of the great feedback and attention that we have received so far about the UC Davis Good Life Garden "Kids, Farms & Food" summer camp. Here is a link to a great article appearing in the Sacramento Bee today as well as a slide show of photos. Farm Fresh Learning--Sacramento Bee, date: July 28, 2009


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Extra Space for Your Edible Garden













You won't look at those old filing cabinets from the UC Davis Bargain Barn the same way after checking out this fantastic gardening idea from the blog Design Sponge. We did a quick search on their site and there are a few cheap ones--even a two drawer version for $15! They even have one that is already yellow!
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