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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Top 8 "MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK" Picks for Your Garden

We plant edible garden's because we want produce, but sometimes it is difficult to pick what to grow. How do you know what edibles are really prolific? With this list we try to take a little out of the guessing game!

Based on last summer's crops, UC Davis Good Life Garden gardener Arlene Kennedy has chosen the varieties she felt gave us the "MOST BANG FOR OUR BUCK," and these days, that is what we need! Here is her list in no particular order:

  • Basil 'Super Sweet Chen'
  • Armenian Cucumber
  • Lemon Cucumber
  • Eggplant 'Snowy'
  • Chili Pepper 'Serrano'
  • Squash 'Dark Star Zucchini'
  • Squash 'Reve Scallopini'
  • Tomato 'Chadwick Cherry'
We wish we could tell you where to secure these varieties locally! If you know or have your own "Most Bang For Your Buck" picks, please let us know by commenting on this post!

Happy harvesting!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great Gardening Resource: CALIFORNIA GARDENING Advice to Grow By

Starting and maintaining a productive edible home garden is not easy! It takes time and patience because something unexpected always throws a wrench into the most well-laid plans.

Where do you go for help? Here is a fantastic resource to answer a huge variety of your gardening questions for those of you who live and garden in California: California Gardening--Advice to Grow By. On this site you will find tons of useful information ranging from "Gardening Basics" to "Poisonous Plants." There's even a link to to help you find a local master gardener as well as a list of upcoming classes and events.

This site is a service of the University of California Cooperative Extension. (If you don't live in California, just google your state name, "gardening" and "cooperative extension." The plethora of information they offer will blow your mind!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lemon Tree UPDATE!

Remember last week when I told you about our poor, little lemon tree? (If not, here is the link.) Well, unbeknown to me, the problem of our weak and unhealthy tree had already been solved by garden supervisor Ed Nordstrom! (That's what happens when I don't run blog entries by him first!)

Last year sometime this lemon tree was transplanted from a different location in the garden. Transplanting is always tricky, because what ends up happening usually is that a lot of the root mass gets left behind which makes it difficult for the tree to support its former self. That's what happened here.

The way you can combat this difficulty is to prune it back HARD after transplanting! That way the tree doesn't have to support the size that it once was. Makes sense, right? Well, since we didn't prune it hard right of the bat, and the tree was obviously struggling, Ed decided to make one last ditch effort to save the tree. This last February he pruned it back HARD! (See how much smaller the tree is?)

The good news is that the pruning seems to have done the job! Doesn't our eureka lemon tree look so much happier now? It's pushing out dark green leaves and I bet the little guy gives us more than one lemon this year!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog Recommendation Monday: READ BETWEEN THE LIMES!

First of all..great name, right? The author Carri describes herself as " organic gardener, lifetime farm girl, lover of all things citrus and anything green, limoncello fanatic, just enjoying a different world through my daughter's eyes. I like to use bad grammar, cuss words, and poor quality photos- it's kinda my 'thang." What's not to like with an intro like that?

Secondly, I just love the tone and the content. Check it out here: Read Between the Limes. It is so nice to read about one's real life gardening experiences and experiments! It's not always easy (See her entry about growing artichokes in her front yard: We're Having Babies.), and it's not always pretty (See her entry: My Ugly Garden.).

Best of luck to your new baby artichokes and wishing you continued success with the rest of your garden! We appreciate your support and interest!

Below is a photo of the artichoke plant (also known as the "big blue weed" by passersby) growing in Carri's front yard.

Below is a photo of the nasturtium flowers Carri has incorporated in her family meals. Nice!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Including Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden

If you have a small plot, sometimes you just plain don't want to give up the space to plant flowers for the sake of a few blossoms, but you should try it out this season! They don't really need much space and the benefits of having them there for the purposes of attracting pollinators and beneficial insects may just amplify the production of the common edibles that you do grow. Plus, it's just nice to diversify your garden texture, design and color.

Below are some of the flowers we grow to mix things up a little; some of them are even edible!

It is quite drought tolerant and known for attracting butterflies. In the middle ages, before the use of hops in beer, yarrow was used to flavor beer.



RUDBEKIA (Black-Eyed Susan) These can grow between 18 and 36 inches high in full sun and will tolerate dray conditions. Let the bloom dry out on the plant and after the petals fall off, pick the seen head. Running your thumbnail along the seedpod will give you tiny rudbekia seeds.

These are profuse bloomers if constantly deadheaded. It is edible and known as "poor man's saffron" because its color and mild peppery taste make it an inexpensive alternative for the Spanish condiment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Struggling Lemon Tree

Sometimes it takes time for fruit trees to establish themselves. I know that most of our fruit trees look much healthier and happier this spring than last spring. The ground that they were planted in had been severely compacted for the construction of the surrounding Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. It would be struggle for anything to establish itself in that type of of soil despite our best attempts to amend and break up the earth. Not to mention we had some really cold days and nights this winter which didn't help the cause.

Our Eureka Lemon tree continues to fight a good fight and actually produced a lemon this season! (Looks kinda funny, right?) Garden Supervisor Ed Nordstrom let me know that they would be amending the soil with iron to help this tree along and explained that that deficiency, among other things, is one of the causes of this tree's yellow leaves.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crimson & Clover!

Why have we chosen to plant a portion of the garden with crimson clover and not something edible? Crimson clover is planted in the garden as a cover crop. Cover crops are an essential part of any vegetable garden and perform and number of different tasks:
  • Produce nitrogen which helps bring a natural balance back to the soil post harvest
  • Attracts beneficial insects
  • Aids in soil erosion
  • Adds organic matter back to the soil
  • Looks nice too, don't you think?
Corn is especially hard on soil, and if you are familiar with last summer's garden, then you know we had corn planted here in the past. (See last August's entry.) The crimson clover will help restore the nutrients lost growing corn last summer so we can grow more this summer. It's easy and looks fantastically lush!!


They weren't kidding about the clover part! You can see where a creature, we're guessing a bunny, chomped off the baby red flowers back in February! Do you see the headless stalks? I bet they tasted great!


Aren't the fuzzy red flowers beautiful?

Blog Recommendation Monday

First of all, I know today is Tuesday, but doesn't blog recommendation Monday sound so much better? The name has inspired me to share a blog or two that I enjoy, on topics I think you might enjoy on Mondays...maybe not every Monday, but I'll try! There are so many gardeners, enthusiasts, photographers, artists, 'locavores,' farmers, sustainable agriculture experts, etc. out there that write on topics I know I could not begin to cover!

So, for the debut of 'Blog Recommendation Monday' I give Chuck, the author, came to my attention via Carri at Read Between the Limes (another fun read and deserving of its own 'Recommendation Monday'). Thank you to both of them for coming to the UC Davis Good Life Garden and talking, tweeting and writing about their experiences. Here is a link to his DO NOT MISS slideshow and posting about the garden.

Here are a couple of my faves:

I love how perfect her sweatshirt looks against our crimson clover!

I'm going to miss our Winter/Fall edibles like the chard and kale seen here:

Chuck from posted some really wonderful photographs that we are lucky to have of our Winter/Spring plantings. He takes a lot of very inspirational photographs of various types of gardens, landscapes, arboretums, nurseries, cemeteries...the list goes on. Long story short, not only does he offer lots of eye candy, his blog includes links to many useful resources for gardeners and enthusiasts alike.

Thank you Chuck and another thank you to Chuck's readers whose enthusiastic responses to our garden inspire us!

Friday, April 16, 2010


Last year Sierra Nevada Brewing donated the Chinook and Cascade varieties of hops to the UC Davis Good Life Garden to grow in our "Malting and Brewing" demonstration bed.

Hops are a hardy climbing perennial vines that can grow 20-25 feet in a season. We are currently in the process of building a make shift trellis for the vines right now, but it is a race against time as a couple weeks ago they showed no signs of life and now are rapidly crawling up the blue stakes our garden supervisor Ed Nordstrom installed last week!

In beer making the brewer essentially extracts the sugars from barley malt from the hop flowers and then ferments them. The hops, with their bitter oils are used to counter of the sweetness of the fermented malt. Hops are also used as a natural preservative - beer with hops keeps fresher longer.

From what I understand these vines have been known to grow a foot in a day under ideal conditions. They will die back to the crown each fall and hop back again each spring!

BEFORE (A better before photo would just show a brown stump which is what this looked like a couple weeks ago!):


I just love the texture that the leaves have, don't you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


A couple weeks ago UC Davis Good Life Garden gardener Arlene Kennedy planted two secret messages using radish seeds, one on either side of our pea trellis in the home garden demonstration bed. Now, just in time for UC Davis Picnic Day, that message has been revealed!

This is what it looked like before:

Here is the message on the east side of the trellis..."UC DAVIS AGGIES"

Here is the message on the west side of the trellis: "GRO AGS!" along with a mustang head made of radish seedlings. Isn't she a great artist as well as gardener?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Massive Fennel Bulbs!

We've let our fennel go! We planted this fennel last fall! Although it is kind of hard to tell from these photos, these bulbs are really quite large and have started to grow sprout entirely new fennel bulbs! They have not yet started to flower, but when they do, the flowers will provide a nice habitat for bees and butterflies and eventually allow the fennel to self-propagate.

Fennel fun fact: Fennel is a carminative, also known as carminativum (plural carminativa), which is an herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract, or facilitates the expulsion of said gas, thereby combating flatulence.

Here are some tips from eHow on growing the perennial fennel! Did you know that fennel, "Does not play well with others?" The eHow article recommends that you avoid growing fennel near tomatoes, beans and cabbage plants because the fennel interferes with their growth. On the flip side coriander tends to interfere with fennel's growth. We've got our fennel growing with beets and both are doing great!

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do You Enjoy the UC Davis Good Life Garden?

Many thanks to our first guest blogger, nutritional biology graduate student, Rebecca Tryon Her writing will also be featured in Davis Life Magazine in a new column entitled "Mindful Self Indulgence" beginning with the May 1, 2010 issue.

You can also keep up to date with her thoughtful insights via her own blog Off White Living where she gives her readers a peak into the trials and tribulations involved in ridding her body of a self-described addiction to sugar and flour while still enjoying a good burger!

Rudbekia aka Black-Eyed Susan photo courtesy of Rebecca Tryon.

I happened upon the Good Life Garden last September when I had a seminar class in the RMI building. What a wonderful surprise. As an inspiring gardener and lover of all things veggie, I am always impressed by a garden that weaves natural beauty with function. The Good Life Garden does just that. I recall several afternoons when I’d take my lunch in the garden or go to do some reading, as it was comforting to simply sit in the garden and find some peace amidst my first year of grad school. The garden is always in bloom and it’s been fun to see what changes as the seasons change. It’s a subtle education in seasonal eating.

Naturally, my curiosity about this garden grew. Who tends this garden? Who gets to eat all this great produce? Why doesn’t my garden look anything like this? After asking around a bit I learned that the garden does in fact allow folks to pick the herbs and produce on designated picking days and I was impressed by this. Not only is this garden really lovely to look at and a nice sanctuary to enjoy, it’s also an edible extravaganza for those who become friends of the garden. How cool. I found the garden website and love the interesting recipes, the colorful web display that certainly matches the look of the garden itself.

As a grad student in nutrition and also a huge advocate of community wellness, I see this garden as an example of how it is possible to educate, feed, and inspire people to invite better healthy into their lives. The fact that the garden is also a destination spot for events is also a clever way to provide an aesthetic venue for that also sends a message about health and eating natural foods without being overt.

Unfortunately my own garden did not sustain itself this past year (I just don’t have a green thumb – yet!) but I still get constant reassurance that it is possible to have a thriving garden every time I head to the Good Life Garden. These days I’m happening over there a few times a month to to eat lunch, check out what’s in bloom, attend an event, or take some photos. It’s such a blessing that we have this resource right here on campus and that anybody can enjoy it free of charge. Thanks to the staff who maintain the garden, what a gift you provide!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Apple Tree Trellis--SPRING UPDATE!

Last August we blogged about our Fuji apple tree trellis. Incorporating trellis systems into your edible garden is a great way to grow fruit trees with limited space. (You'll find some great resources in the previously mentioned blog entry.)

Despite the wonderful trellis and quality tree, last year's Fuji apple crop was a little disappointing. (We got one apple!) But as you experienced gardeners know, these things take time! Our fruit trees, after having a year a half in the ground are looking happier than ever and pushing out the blooms to prove it.

Below are some photos of what our apple tree looked like a couple days ago! Our crack team of gardeners continues to train the tree to the trellis. Doesn't it look great and look at all those blossoms! This harvest season we'll be able to look back at our one apple season with a chuckle!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shungiku Greens: Get to Know Them!

If you want an easy to grow, majorly prolific, beautiful green to grow in your garden, plant shungiku greens. You will not be disappointed! Ours are just starting to flower now with beautiful, edible yellow blossoms and guess what! The greens still taste great!

Below you will find a little information about shungiku greens from our Web site:

Chrysanthemum coronarium

Also known as chrysanthemum greens, shungiku produces attractive edible leaves and adds bright colors to your garden with its orange, cream, and yellow flowers that are also edible. The tender greens have a unique and zesty flavor. Harvest at 4-6 inches for fresh use or braising. Lovely 1-3 inch flowers make a nice addition to mixed salad greens, or can be used as an edible garnish.

Here are some quick tips on growing greens from the Organic Gardening Newsletter.

Here is a photo of what our shungiku bed looked like in February:

This is what it looked like a few days ago:

Every single one of those leaves is delicious and edible! No need to buy greens at the grocery store or farmer's market when you've got these growing in your garden!

Here is a photo of those deliciously beautiful flowers!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nasturtium is Like a Box of Chocolates?

Have you ever thought you planted one seed and then, much to your surprise, something else came up in its place?

That's what happened to us when we planted our nasturtium seeds. The packet said it was a vine, and, don't get me wrong, we got some vines, but we also got a very happy bush! So much for the trellis we planted near the 'vine' which may be bare for a little while!

Sometimes you never know what you are going to get! It still looks pretty good though don't you think?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Peas--Keep Harvesting and They'll Keep Producing!

Last Friday at the UC Davis Good Life Garden we harvested quite a few peas!

We are currently growing two types: shelling peas and Sugar Ann snap peas. For those of you like me who thought a pea was a pea was a pea. That is not the case! Shelling peas are grown primarily to "shell" or to eat the peas inside and not for the pod. Sugar Ann snap peas on the other hand are grown to eat whole, pod and all!

What I have found is that you can eat a shelling pea, pod and all if you get it young. If you wait then the pod become a little woody and chewy. The same applies to the Sugar Ann snap peas but their pods tend to stay tender on the vine for longer than shelling peas, and boy, do they live up to their name! If you harvest them at just the right time--not to young, not too old--they are so sweet and delicious! I happen to have this variety growing at home and can't seem to be patient enough to incorporate them into a salad or stir fry because I'm snacking too much right off the vine, but I digress.

The point of this entry is to let you home gardeners out there know the importance of regular harvesting! If you want your peas, or cucumber, or beans, or really any edible that produces multiple fruits, legumes or vegetables--you need to harvest early and often! By harvesting our peas the plant will produce more. If we waited until the pods were all older and fatter (See photos.), our plants would get the message, "My work is done!" But we want them to keep kicking out the peas into spring, so we'll keep harvesting and so should you!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Nasturtium: The "AFTER" Story

Do you remember back in December when we let you know about how one of our nasturtium plantings got pounded by the wind? It looked like a hopeless cause. (If not, here is a quick link to that post.)

As our garden supervisor, Ed Nordstorm told me, "Fear not! Unless the roots are damaged, the plant will grow back." He was right! We gave it a chance and it has grown back with a vengeance! (It's kind of a philosophy for life don't you think?)

Do you have any gardening tips that can apply to everyday life? Let us know!

BEFORE (See photo below.)

AFTER (See photo below.) We managed to catch the first bloom of the season. These blossoms are very yummy and add color to all kinds of dishes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MINT: Why is it everywhere?

At the UC Davis Good Life Garden, our gardener Arlene knows that it is important to keep mint, corralled because before you know it, it's everywhere! The smallest bits, if not completely pulled out by its roots (and there are a LOT of roots) can spawn new plants behind your back!

It smells great and is an important ingredient in a variety of dishes from all over the world, not to mention its beneficial value in aromatherapy at helping to relieve stress and increase energy. Mint also serves as a beautiful, low-growing ground cover, but keep it pruned because, like Arlene mentions in the video below, it has a strong and prolific root system. This is one of the reasons why we have chosen to keep some of our mint in a raised planter bed--we can keep a better eye on those sprawling branches!

It's not just peppermint either! Here our garden supervisor Ed Nordstrom shows us how our spearmint has begun to invade our sage patch. In his opinion, left on its own, the spearmint would cover nearby Interstate 80! Sounds good to me!