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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!
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