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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


First of all, special thanks to Lisa at for posting a lovely photo essay about us on their awesome site! You can view the Good Life Garden photo essay here.  She visited the garden this past weekend and took some wonderful photos which she posted along with detailed captions including all of the plant names. is a fantastic new social networking website that brings together gardeners of all skill levels across the globe, with the goal to "to elevate the importance of gardening, and in so doing expand the global gardening footprint."

The site is easy to use and has tons of cool features - including a database of 6,000 vegetables (including 778 tomatoes!) developed by Cornell University, and a 5,900 ornamental plant database powered by Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the U.S.A.  Like facebook, you can also create an account with your very own GLOG (Gardening Log - love the name!) which includes an interactive timeline feature where you can track your projects and your garden's growth.  It also has a new tagging feature where you can draw from their database to tag specific plants in photos that you post on your profile page!  Check out the super cool tagging feature video here.

Thanks to our new friends at!  I hope you check out the site and sign up - it's a great place to get inspiration, build a community and learn new gardening techniques!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blog Recommendation Monday: The Casual Gardener

Shawna Lee Coroando is the author of Gardening Nude (a self help book on how gardening can help you strip away the stress of your daily routines), a syndicated newspaper columnist, health and green living guru, and finally, blog writer extraordinaire. The Causal Gardener is the perfect name for her blog because she writes articles that don't preach about the "right" way to garden.  She sticks to giving her readers tips and ideas to help expand their gardening skills without stressing over perfection.

Shawna keeps track of what works and what doesn't season by season so in her articles she'll talk about how what she did last year was a little better than what she did this year and why (or vice-versa). She also writes book reviews; her latest is on The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting which she thinks should be in everyone's library. Her blog posts always include big pictures and lots of videos for you visual learners out there. You will also find lots of tips on how to reuse or recycle objects in your garden.

On July 20, 2010 Shawna gives her readers an update about the process she went through to convert her front lawn into a vegetable garden; it's very inspirational and you can read it here: "A Sustainable Vegetable Garden - In My Front Lawn."  She even gives us a peak into her design process by including a "bird's eye view" of her final product  (See photo on the right.), as well as  a corresponding "gardening by numbers" plant list!  Isn't that great! How many times have you wished that someone knowledgeable would just tell you what to do?   I know I have and the answers are here!

Thank you Shawna for providing your readers with such thorough garden reporting, and of course, for not making us feel imperfect in the process!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

FREE HERB HARVEST this Tuesday, July 27 from 9:30-2:00!!

Download the flyer above by clicking on the image or here.  (Adobe Acrobat is required.)

In honor of Arlene's last day as gardener of the  UC Davis Good Life Garden, we're hosting another herb harvest this Tuesday, July 27 from 9:30 AM - 2 PM.  I cannot even think about the fact that she is moving onto greener pastures in the Bay Area.  We will miss her terribly and wish her lots of luck with her new endeavors.  (In other words, please don't go!!)

Pretty much every herb is available for harvest (oregano, basil, sage, chives, rosemary, thyme and mint) except the lavender, which, as you may already know, was harvested a few weeks ago.

If you are interested, please RSVP to so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found on our website:

The give-away 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)
* water to drink (because it's going to be hot!)


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, July 22, 2010

Tomato Staking 101

At the UC Davis Good Life Garden we stake our tomato plants rather than using cages to provide support.  Either way is fine, but we do get a lot of questions about how to go about training your tomato plants using the staking method as it does look pretty neat and it makes harvesting your crops a bit easier.  In order to answer these questions we have put together another "Gardening Along with Arlene" flyer on the topic which you can download here

 For more details, take a look at these demonstration videos.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Help Your Local Farmer's Market Be America's Favorite!

It’s summertime and that means two things:  1) There are loads of delicious farm fresh produce available at your local farmer's market every week; and 2) American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest has kicked into gear!
The process is simple.  To vote for our market, all you have to do is:

1.)    Go to
2.)    Type in the name of your local farmer's market or perform a search
3.)    Click “Vote” 

That’s it. That’s all it takes to bring your local farmer's market one step closer to being America’s favorite farmers market!
Now American Farmland Trust has introduced leader boards where you can keep track of the Top 5 markets receiving votes in your state

Want to support multiple markets in your state? Search by state and you can vote for more of your favorites - just remember, you only have one vote to cast per market! 

According to American Farmland Trust (AFT), the purpose of this contest is to re-connect local consumers to local farms, with the ultimate goal of keeping our nation’s farm and ranch land productive and healthy!  Buying at the farmers market keeps money in the local community and helps farms and ranches remain economically viable. By voting, you’re helping support farms and communities across the nation. As American Farmland Trust says, “No Farms No Food™!”

So don’t forget to vote for your local farmer's market at and spread the word!  Big thanks to everyone who has already voted!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Amaranth Overview

Amaranth is a beautiful plant! Take a look at the spectacular blossoms from the amaranth variety 'love lies bleeding' produced during last year's summer crop.

But growing these hearty show-stoppers in your garden may not be your first choice if your goal is enough production to feed your family, but WAIT! Did you know that these plants produce tasty greens you can sauté just like you would spinach? And, from what I've read, the greens don't cook down as much as spinach either. (If you've ever sautéed spinach then you know how unnerving that can be! You never have enough!)

Here are three varieties we are growing this summer at the UC Davis Good Life Garden...

Elephant Head Amaranth

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth

Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth (see photo above with blossoms)

The photo directly above shows how our gardener Arlene is keeping the plants bushy in order for them to produce more greens. Basically she will keep topping the main stalk of the plant. (That white spot in the middle of the photo is the tip of the topped stalk.) This process will slow the plant from sending out the lovely blossoms packed with grain, but at the same time encourages the plant to sprout more of its bushy, tasty leaves.

If you miss sautéeing winter season greens, give amaranth greens a try for the summer and fall!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tomato Troubles: BLOSSOM END ROT

Tomato blossom end rot is annoying to say the least, but fear not! You are not the only one who has this issue!

Today's entry is an answer for Kate, one of our beloved fans, and addresses the problem that she is having with her tomatoes. Above you will see a photo of her poor tomato. Most of her tomatoes have a hard brownness at their ends. Kate has correctly identified the issue as a lack of calcium, but wants to know what it is and how she can fix it.

First of all, it looks to me like you have a classic case of tomato blossom end rot. The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources describes the problem in detail in their free publication "Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden:"

  • Water-soaked spot on blossom end of fruit enlarges and darkens, becomes sunken and leathery. Affects both the green and ripe fruit, and is more common in sandier soils.

Probable Cause
  • Calcium nutrition and water balance in the plant, aggravated by high soil salt content and fluctuating soil moisture.

  • Maintain even soil moisture
  • Amend planting area with organic matter such as compost to improve water retention.
  • Avoid heavy applications of high-nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Soils that are deficient in calcium may be amended with gypsum.
Kate, for some reason I remember that you were concerned about the sandy soil where you planted your garden. If this is the case try amending your soil with gypsum which you can obtain at most nurseries. The packaging will let you know how much to add. Also try to be sure to maintain even soil moisture. If you are concerned that the soil around your tomatoes is not evenly moist then add some compost around your plants to improve the water retention. (On a side note, what is that black and white enamel(?) background on which you took this photo? It looks so cool and vintage!)

Does anyone else have some suggestions? Have you ever added gypsum to remedy this kind of problem in your home garden? How did you do it and what were the results?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NPR Interviews our Landscape Architect & Gardener!

We are so excited to let you know that this morning UC Davis Good Life Garden landscape architect Christina DeMartini Reyes, and gardener Arlene Kennedy were interviewed on Capital Public Radio's program INSIGHT.

You can hear the interview here. It is just the first few minutes of the segment. I hope you enjoy it! Do you have any questions about the garden for either Arlene or Christina? Let us know!

Christina DeMartini Reyes
UC Davis Landscape Architect

Arlene Kennedy
UC Davis Good Life Garden

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tennis Shoes? Flips Flops? Or Do You Garden in Rubber Boots Too?

"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."

- Henry Van Dyke

Angela, the author of the Gardening in My Rubber Boots blog, claims this is her gardening motto. And Angela, we think your an amazing gardener and blog writer, which is why on this Blog Recommendation Monday we want you to visit Gardening in My Rubber Boots.

Angela is a gardener living in the Seattle, Washington area, who loves hedges and formal gardens with cottage inspiration. She has a small vegetable garden and 2 hens (Henny Penny and Hazel) and 1 rooster (Brownie). Whats really great about this blog is that Angela blogs about so many different topics, at the top of her page she has the tabs Flower and Garden, Chickens, Veggies, and Garden Tours. So if you are only interested in flowers or stories about her chickens you don't have to sift through a ton of articles in an effort to find what your really looking for.

Two features of Angela's blog we love are her "Wordless Wednesdays" and Book Reviews. On Wednesdays she only posts picture(s) or a video (and a little caption) but how great is that? At work and need a break? Escape for just a second to Angela's garden and look at what new photo she is sharing!

Her book reviews are also very useful, and don't worry, this isn't a commitment to a gardening book club. It is just as it sounds, her review of a gardening book. Good, bad or indifferent, her reviews can save you from that moment you get when your reading a book that just really isn't working and your brain says "Cannot continue! Not enjoying this!"

Whether your passions involve flowers, chickens or vegetables, Gardening in My Rubber Boots is worth taking a look at!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

BLOG RECOMMENDATION MONDAY: Rock Out with the Heavy Petal Blog

This week we are rockin' out in the garden with Andrea Bellamy, the creator of the Heavy Petal blog.

Andrea's blog focuses on sustainable practices, and garden design for small urban spaces. Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, she brings her West coast ideas to the world of blogging.

One reason why the Heavy Petal blog caught our attention is the Heavy Petal Garden Tour. Her blog has this great feature where readers can post 5-10 photos of their own gardens for others to see. Being able to see what has worked for others is a good way to get ideas for your own garden! Andrea also has some really great posts like her how to piece on creating a hanging flower basket, or the before and after story on the stages of growth of a Painted Lady butterfly.

We love that she put a penny

next to this Red Russian garlic,
it gives such a great perspective on size.

Andrea is taking her blog ideas and putting them onto paper. She has written a book titled "Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small Space Edible Garden," which will be available in late December 2010. Congrats Andrea! We cant wait to take a look! In the mean time Andrea says she loves to get comments and feedback so check out her blog and if you have any pictures your willing to share think about joining the Heavy Petal Tour!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY! for inspiration!

Stumped about where to start with your garden? Want to spruce up your space with a new design or some new plants? Want to try something different? is the place to visit!

I stumbled upon this website which came through to my email from google alerts - and what a gem! Not only is it nicely organized and laid out, it has a plethora of ideas to get the creative juices flowing! The "plants" section alone has tons of resources for plants by type, as well as a "top 100 most popular plants" list that links to what seems to be endless resources for each plant on the list. In addition to this they have garden design ideas including links to landscape design resources, how to get started with dry gardens, wet gardens, wildlife gardens, and even how to design a garden by color, light or season. I have to say I'm particularly interested in the moonlight garden plans - who knew there were so many different varieties of flowers that bloom at night! They also have an extensive listing of resources and ideas for edible gardens - even how to make an edible flower salad!

So next time you're stumped or need some inspiration, or even just want some interesting reading accompanied by some lovely photography, check out!

Friday, July 2, 2010

We're in the News!

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to have a journalist from the The Sac Bee, Gina Kim, and her photographer, Autumn Cruz in our garden to cover our free herb harvest. To see the article online go here, otherwise read what Gina Kim wrote below. Also be sure to take in some of the stunning photos!

Our herb harvests are free and take place every few weeks or so during the summer and fall seasons. Be sure to keep in the loop by signing up for our newsletter, or following are Facebook and/or Twitter accounts. All the information can be found on our website.

In UC Davis courtyard, environment is edible

Leek plants reach up toward the sun. Artichokes peek out from their thistle-like leaves. Fragrant lavender blossoms dry radiantly on their stems.

It's just a routine day in the Good Life Garden at the University of California, Davis.

More than 100 types of flowers, fruits and vegetables have been planted in the 6,000-square-feet of organic growing space in the courtyard of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

The garden is replanted three times a year – fall, spring and summer – and is an example of an edible garden used for decorative purposes.

"People haven't traditionally thought of a tomato plant or basil as landscape plants, but why not? You get something nice to look at and something to eat," said Sal Genito, director of buildings and grounds at Davis.

Those on the garden's e-mail list were invited Thursday to cut lavender and other herbs, the first of the year's monthly harvest days that run through the fall.

Andrea Thompson, 40, of Sacramento came armed with pruning shears and plastic bags. She harvested basil for pesto, garlic chives for scrambled eggs, sage for sweet potatoes and oregano for pasta sauce, plus a bunch of lavender and a bouquet of the daisy-like rudbeckia in yellow and orange.

"It's so motivational for a home gardener to see what's possible," said Thompson, operations director for the school's Foods for Health Institute.

The garden was planted in 2008, the same year the Mondavi institute opened. The second phase of the institute project, a brewery and winery, is expected to be completed this summer.

The garden costs about $45,000 a year to maintain, which Genito hopes to offset soon by selling produce to campus cafeterias as well as renting the space for private events and receptions.

Until a washing facility that complies with food safety standards is installed, most of the produce is donated to the Gunrock Pub and chancellor's events, as well as the Food Bank of Yolo County.

The plants mostly were started from seeds donated by the organic company Seeds of Change, said gardener Arlene Kennedy. Beyond weeding and pruning, Kennedy is also the one who shovels in chicken manure and compost into the beds between the year's three major plantings.

There are generally about 50 plants in the garden at any one time. The summer garden includes seven types of beans, two varieties of thyme, Armenian and lemon cucumber, 10 kinds of tomatoes, four types of eggplants, six varieties of peppers, three kinds of basil and four different lavenders.

Some of the plantings are experimental, like a Fuji apple tree that is being trained to grow like a grapevine for easier picking and space restrictions.

Two persimmon trees are being guided onto a trellis and will eventually be grafted together when they meet. And a handful of tomato plants in new varieties, such as the Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye Heart and Large Barred Boar – developed by the Suisun Valley-based Wild Boar Farms – are starting to sport their fruit.

Each of the garden's beds are a mix of flowers, fruits and vegetables, not just for the aesthetic contrast but because the varieties inadvertently help each other, Kennedy said.

For instance, Persian carpet zinnias attract hoverflies whose larvae eat aphids that feast on the snowy eggplants.

I think organic gardening is easier," Kennedy said. "I let nature resolve the problem."


• For more information about Good Life Garden or to get on the newsletter list for harvest day alerts go to

• The garden is free and open to the public. Contact the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, (530) 752-6741.