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Friday, May 28, 2010

Thank You Wild Boar Farms for the Outrageous Tomatoes!

Yesterday Arlene planted the tomatoes donated to our garden from Wild Boar Farms. They are located just down the road (I-80W) in Suisun Valley. Thank you so much to Wild Boar Farms farmer Brad Gates (pictured above) for sending us the following tweet that got the ball rolling:
@goodlifegarden can I offer you some tomato plants for trial?? Locally bred and dressed to impress.
The answer of course was yes AND thank you, but then I started to dig a little deeper into that background of Wild Boar Farms. Was it a good fit for our garden? But the question, really should have been, is our garden really good enough for them!

Check out these endorsements from a couple folks you may have heard of like the staff of Alice Waters at Chez Panisse who had this to say:
"Wild Boar Farm's Tomatoes are Beautiful and Flavorful. They're Tomatoes You'll Never Forget."

AND Michael Pollan
"I grew a half dozen different Wild Boar varieties in my Berkeley garden in 2009 and they performed exceptionally well-- vigorous plants, with some unusual colors and shapes and excellent flavor."

Not bad, huh? We are really excited to see how they do here! Below is a list of the varieties that we have planted, and, where possible, links to their website where you can buy the seeds.

Pink Berkeley Tie Dye
Large Barred Boar
Black & Brown Boar
Boar King

Next year they will hopefully have starts available for larger public consumption. This year the 2,000 plants they had available sold in two days! Check out a photo of these lovlies and their rainbow of color below!

But, like Brad says, "You may buy a tomato once just because it looks cool, but you won't keep buying it unless it tastes great too." At Wild Boar Farms looks aren't enough it's all about the taste, and these tomatoes have at all!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Container Gardening Question?

We received a question from one of our readers about the safety of gardening in containers and which container material is the best, but we don't have answer. Does our audience have any information to share on the topic? Any advice would be much appreciated! See our reader's question below.


I have a very important question and think UCDavis may be the best place to get an answer....
Is it safe to grow vegetables in plastic containers, such as the "plastic" clay colored pots sold at nurseries, and the black gallon or more containers that many plants are sold in? If drinking water from plastic bottles can be dangerous, can this practice be also?
...and how about clay type pots.... how does one know if they contain lead, and if so does in end up in the plants grown in them?
I have been using containers - to grow tomatoes and peppers- for several reasons, mainly to avoid ground critters...but many other folks use them to grow plants on their patios. If using such containers is a heath hazard, it would be kind of you to let us all know.


I wish we had an answer from the UC Davis archives, but I was not able to find one! I am sorry we couldn't be more help! You may want to locate a one of your local Master Gardeners and ask them as well. I know that their are quite a few that read our blog, so stay tuned here too!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Phyto... what?

Does this look familiar?

If any plants in your garden have this appearance and you're wondering what it is, then your plants probably have a bad case of phytophthora - a slow-moving but hard-to-combat fungus-like rot that can wipe out entire beds. Originally classified as a fungus, it is actually now considered an oomycetes, which grows in warm, moist soil and basically causes the plant to rot from the inside out.

According to the UC Integrated Pest Management website, the pathogen initially makes plants look like they are suffering from drought, and plants will wilt and die quickly with the first warm weather of the season. Leaves can also turn dull green or yellow.

So what are you supposed to do to combat this annoying disease, which took out some of our purple sage? The best thing to do is to make sure the area has good drainage and don't over-water. Once it has infected an area, try not to spread the soil or plants to other areas, and you can also try rotating in more resistant plants that require less water or are acid-loving. Be sure not to plant things like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers or pole beans in areas previously affected because those plants are particularly susceptible. Other alternatives are solarization (covering the area to warm it up enough to sterilize the soil) or fungicides.

In this particular instance we removed the sage and planted basil. The basil is a short-lived crop and will be removed in the fall anyway, so we are hoping that the phtyophthera will not move fast enough to affect the new plants.

For more information about phytophthora, visit the UC IPM website.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pretty plants!

While walking through the garden with Arlene the other day there were two particular plants that stood out to me for some reason, and I wanted to do a little mini-feature on them. No, they aren't edible, but they sure are lovely to look at, and would add nice color to any garden - edible or otherwise!

The first one was santolina, specifically Santolina chamaecyparissus, also known as cotton lavender or gray santolina. It's a beautiful little evergreen shrub that requires little water and explodes with little yellow or white flowers. Arlene likened them to a "star-filled sky." Can't go wrong there!The second plant that caught my eye was the Rudbeckia. These flowers are thriving and have had a bit of a success story at well. One of the beds got waterlogged from runoff lawn irrigation, and all the Rudbeckia died. Arlene improved the drainage in the bed, and the Rudbeckia came back and are now flourishing! Arlene said that she has found the key with Rudbeckia is good drainage and full sun, and recommends using them in raised beds as raised beds tend to have better drainage.
Another cheerful flower that would brighten anyone's garden!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Summer is almost here!

I visited Arlene yesterday and got an update about all of the exciting new plants going in next week! Check out the array of seeds we'll be planting.

These are just the new varieties that are different from last summer's crops. Pictured above are sugar pumpkins, martian jewels and sugar pearl corn, elephant head and Hopi red dye amaranth, and Kentucky wonder pole beans. Apparently last year the pole beans, though they had pretty flowers, didn't produce very well due to the heat. According to the Master Gardener website, the pollen of many different pole bean varieties dies at temperatures of 90 degrees and above, and they recommended the Kentucky wonder and blue lake varieties specifically for this area.

The scarlet runner pole beans didn't produce very well either, but the flowers were so pretty that we are going to plant them again! Check out how beautiful the plant was last year:
Some of the other plants we'll be adding are tomatoes, squash, melons, bush beans, cucumbers, eggplant and chillis. Yum! Check out the "garden" section of the Good Life Garden website to see all of the different veggies and flowers going in soon, and click on the images to learn more about the specific varieties!

Monday, May 17, 2010

We're Listed on's Gardening Blog Page!

For "Blog Recommendation Monday" we bring you so many gardening blogs from all over that you won't know what hit you! We bring you the gardening page:


Above is a photo of a regal looking blue jay on top of one of a garden trellis. We're not sure why we thought this photo was appropriate for today's entry other than he or she is on top of the trellis, and the UC Davis Good Life Garden is now listed on It's a stretch, we know!

What the heck is Well...from one newbie to another (my apologies for waking up to this cool site so recently), this is the place where you can go to find out "what is happening now" on a variety of gardening. And, when it comes to gardening, UC Davis Good Life Garden is now listed with other really interesting, informative and educational garden bloggers!! We are so excited! You have to scroll all the way to the bottom, but there we are!

Check out all of the sites, you will definitely be bookmarking quite a few for future reference! If and when you do, let us know which you like!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

BEFORE and AFTER: Transition Time!

Doesn't everyone just love before & after photos? I know I do, so that's what we're bringing you today! We are transitioning to our spring/summer edibles in the garden right now! It is a little barren, but we are laying the 'ground' work for a prolific season of yummy produce by amending the soil with compost and Renovate Plus from Earthworks.

Next on our calendar, Arlene will be planting the produce we grow from seed and finally, on May 25, she, along with other UC Davis groundskeepers, will plant the starts we grow at a local nursery as well as the tomatoes that Wild Boar Farms has generously donated!

For now, here are some before and after photos for you to enjoy! Do you have any before and after photos you'd like to share? If so, please post them on our Facebook page!

BEFORE: In the before photo Arlene has just started harvesting the winter produce.

AFTER: This is what it looks like today! Slightly more barren, right?

BEFORE: This is a shot of what our artichokes looked like at the beginning of March.

AFTER: We have pruned the artichokes down to their roots. They will grow back next year! (This one already has started growing back! (Don't you love that ladybug on it!)) Over the spring/summer season okra will be planted here.

BEFORE: Here is our crimson clover patch at the height of its bloom! We planted the clover here to reintroduce the nutrients lost after growing corn in this area last summer.

AFTER: The clover was cut down and tilled back into the earth. This area is again ready to grow corn!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Here in California we have an amazing resource that I want to make sure you know about! It is known here as ANR or the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and is comprised of a statewide network of University of California researchers and educators dedicated to the creation, development and application of knowledge in agricultural, natural and human resources. In other words, they do the research and all you have to do is take advantage of it!

They provide a wealth of information for our farmers, but also our home gardeners. You have got to check some of this out! The books they sell can't be beat, plus they offer a ton of free resources you simply must read!


The California Master Gardener Handbook
It is a whopping 700 pages--the definitive guide to gardening in California. All for only $30!


Drip Irrigation in the Home Landscape
This easy-to-use reference guide answers common questions about components, materials, design, installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting. If you're considering a drip irrigation system for your garden, for $5 you need this guide -- don't go to the hardware store without it!


Browse all the FREE PUBLICATIONS from 21 pages about Slugs: A Guide to the Invasive and Native Fauna of California to 6 pages about Patch Budding: A Convenient Method for Top-Working Olives.

Do you have a similar resource in your state? If so, let us know!

Explore, learn and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SOIL AMENDMENTS: Here is what we are using this season!

This season we are using a new product from Earthworks called Renovate Plus to amend our soil in addition to some compost from the UC Davis Student Farm. If you are interested in learning more about how we've amended our soil in the past, check out this past blog entry.

Here is a little bit about the product and the company from their website:

EarthWorks has been formulating and manufacturing the most complete Dry Organic fertilizers on the market since 1988. We start with carbon rich compost that feeds soil biology and will help to build soil structure. The real strength of the EarthWorks fertilizers is the addition of rock minerals, and multiple carbon sources that together create an agronomic superiority unlike any other fertilizers on the market today. The key to the EarthWorks program is to build a carbon foundation in the soil that allows for the reduction of excess fertilizer, preserving soils and budgets.

If you are interested in purchasing this product you can visit one of their distributors these locations:

Sierra Pacific
1175 Tara Court
Rocklin, CA
Hours 7 AM-5 PM Monday - Friday


Sierra Pacific
510 Salmar Avenue
Campbell, CA
Hours 7 AM-4:30 PM Monday-Friday

I know their locations and times aren't the most convenient for the home gardener, but they just don't have a sales channel for local nurseries yet!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blog Recommendation Monday: DigginFood

The DigginFood blog describes itself as "...a community table that serves up gardening and cooking inspiration for people who like good food."

Here is a quote about the blog from its author Willi Galloway,

I got the idea for DigginFood while I was harvesting some greens. I was thinking about what I was going to make for dinner and I realized that I read tons of gardening and cooking blogs, but none of them focus on my favorite thing to do: cooking with food fresh from the garden. So I decided to create a site where I could blog about what was happening in my garden and kitchen, share growing guides and recipes for my favorite foods, and tell stories about other people who like to grow and eat real food.
Sounds like it is right up our alley, doesn't it? We think you will like it too!

Here is a sample of the wide variety of content you will find:

Convert an IKEA Shelf into a DIY Seed Starting Station (No need to explain this!)
Inoculating Peas with Rhizobia Bacteria (Sounds scary, but is a good idea!)
Vegetable Trellis Round Up (Trellis options for all kinds of veggies.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Top 6 Picks for Adding GARDEN POP!

Zinnia "Persian Carpet"

Scarlet Runner Bean

Basil 'Fino Verde'

Last week we gave you our gardener Arlene's picks for the top summer garden edible producers in our entry entitled, "Top 8 MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK Picks for Your Garden." This week we brought you the "Top 7 TASTIEST EDIBLES for Your Garden," and today we bring you Arlene's picks for those plants sure to add that certain "Je ne sais quoi!" (a.k.a. "Pop" or "Flare") to your garden design!

Of the plants we grew during our last summer season these are the one's Arlene felt added the most "Pop!" (Drumroll please!) no particular order, here they are:

  • Bush Bean 'Royal Burgundy'
  • Scarlet Runner Bean
  • Chile Pepper 'Peruvian Purple'
  • Basil 'Fino Verde'
  • Zinnia 'Persian Carpet'
  • Sunflower 'Double Teddy Bear' types
We receive most of these varieties from Seeds of Change and either plant them from seed directly into our garden or have the seeds grown into starts at a nearby nursery. If you have your own "TOP PICKS FOR ADDING GARDEN POP", or have other suggestions on where to secure these varieties, please let us know by commenting on this post!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

BEETS: Our Harvest and a Pickled Spiced Beet Recipe

Today we are harvesting beets!

So what to do with all these beets? Here is a recommendation from Professor Kevin Scott, UC Davis Viticulture & Enology. He loves the spiced beet recipe he first discovered in a vintage UC Davis Extension Cookbook from about 30 years ago!

Canning is a fairly easy process once you get used to it, but you want to make sure, sure, sure everything has been sterilized and safely sealed. For more information on canning resources and how-t0s see the links below.


4 c. vinegar
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
3 quarts cooked small beets, peeled

1. Cook beets until tender. Plunge into cold water and slip skins -- or use canned beats.
2. Mix vinegar, sugar, and cloves. Simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add beets and simmer 10 minutes more.
4. Pack beets into hot, sterilized jars and fill with liquid. Seal.
5. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes as directed on page 3*. (We don't have page 3, but the idea is to process the jars for their final seal and sterilization. Don't know what that means? Here are a couple resources to help out.)

Did you know that cold weather makes bull's blood beets leaves turn red? If you grow this variety in milder weather the leaves stay green! The leaves that Arlene are holding below are both from the same plant. The red leaf grew in the winter whereas the green leaf grew recently. Nature is so amazing don't you think??

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Green zebra tomato featured above.

Last week we gave you our gardener's picks for the top summer garden edible producers in our entry entitled, "Top 8 MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK Picks for Your Garden."

Today we bring you Arlene's picks for the tastiest produce we grew during our last summer season! Here they are in no particular order...

UC Davis Good Life Garden Picks the "TOP 7 TASTIEST EDIBLES" for Your Garden:
  • Bush Bean 'Gold Rush'
  • Eggplant 'Imperial Black Beauty'
  • Melon 'Arava'
  • Melon 'Sharlyn'
  • Chile Pepper 'Serrano'
  • Tomato 'Green Zebra'
  • Tomato 'Chadwick Cherry'
You may remember that a couple of these, the chadwick cherry tomato and the serrano chile pepper also made our "Most Bang for Your Buck" picks...something to think about as it is finally planting time here in our neck of the woods!

We wish we could tell you where to secure these varieties locally! We receive most of these varieties from Seeds of Change and either plant them from seed directly into our garden or have the seeds grown into starts at a nearby nursery. If you have your own "TOP TASTIEST EDIBLE" picks, or have other suggestions on where to secure these varieties, please let us know by commenting on this post!
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