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Monday, August 30, 2010

It's fig day!

The first fig was ready for harvest today!  It was the "brown turkey" variety and its skin was a pretty purple color.  In the garden I was not sure if the fruit was ready to be picked, but it was soft to the touch, and luckily when we cut into it it was perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. According to the California Rare Fruit Growers website figs must be allowed to ripen on the tree as they will not ripen if picked when immature, and you will know they are ready when the fruit is soft and begins to bend at the neck.  I also found out that fresh figs do not store well; they will only last 2-3 days in the refrigerator, so when you pick them, make sure you are ready to use them right away!
the first fig of the season
the fig was perfectly ripe and very sweet
If you are lucky enough to have a fig tree in your yard there are tons of great recipes-figs are versatile as they work well in both sweet and savory dishes.  Click here to visit the California Fig Advisory website - they have a great recipe book for "Fig Fest 2010" that includes fig and orange beignets, Gary's fig and pecan cinnamon rolls, and causa con salmon with fig compote.
The brown turkey fig tree is only about 5 feet tall right now
Want to plant a fig tree in your yard?  They are picturesque, perfect shade trees that grow up to 50' tall but are usually kept around 10' to 30'.  Keep in mind also that they require full sun all day to ripen the fruit, need a lot of space and will shade out anything growing beneath them.  For more detailed information visit the UC Cooperative Extension fruit and nut research information center fig fact sheet.

Here are some other fun fig facts from the California Fig Advisory Board website:
  • Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable.
  • Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The fruits are the seeds or "pedicellate drupelets" found inside.
  • Figs contain a natural humectant -- a chemical that will extend freshness and moistness in baked products.
  • California dried fig production has averaged 28 million pounds over the last five years. All dried figs harvested in the United States are grown in California's Central Valley. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Delicious Dining Event for Your Weekend!!

If you haven't made plans for the weekend yet, consider adding this wonderful event to your itinerary, but ACT FAST!  Tickets sold out quick last year!

Tomato Luncheon and Heirloom Tomato Tasting

When:  THIS SUNDAY, Aug. 29 2010, 2-4 pm
Where:  Grange Restaurant & Bar (926 J Street, Sacramento, CA)
Ticket Cost: $40 per person

Enjoy a three-course sit-down lunch at The Grange, an innovative farm-to-table restaurant in Sacramento's new boutique Citizen Hotel.  The meal will be prepared by Chef Michael Touhy, a 31-year veteran of the restaurant industry and leading proponent of the Slow Food Movement.

THEY SOLD OUT LAST YEAR, so purchase tickets now to enjoy this special lunch which is sure to be the highlight of your summer eating adventures!!

Click HERE to purchase tickets.

Heirloom Tomato Tasting Featuring
Del Rio Botanicals / Watanabe Farm / Soil Born Farm Tomatoes
Assorted Northern California Artisan Extra Virgin Olive Oils
Assorted Sea Salts

Tomato Consommé / tomato noodles
Tomato Gelee / basil puree

Stuffed Rosemary Focaccia
Tomatoes / peppers / caramelized onion / bitter greens / extra virgin olive oil

Tomato Trio:
Tomato-Plum Pop Tart
Honey-Roasted Tomato Napoleon
Fresh Sungold Tomatoes & Compressed Watermelon w/Lemon Basil Sorbet

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Birdhouse Gourds

 No gourds yet, but aren't these flowers beautiful?  This season we have an unusual crop growing--birdhouse gourds.  This cultivar has been bred for crafts, so it won't be as tasty as those bred for eating, but they sure do make cool looking birdhouses.  Here is a great post about creating a birdhouse from one of these types of gourds from Life on the Balcony

Birdhouse gourd blossom.

This is what the gourds will look like after their conversion to a birdhouse!  Cool, right?
This season has been a little strange for our produce.  We haven't gotten much, and if we do it seems to mysteriously disappear before we are able to harvest it; it could be rodent thieves or over zealous visitor thieves.  Hopefully we will get some gourds soon.  We'll keep you posted!  Anyone else out there ever grow gourds?  Did you end up making a birdhouse?  How did it turn out?  Give us your tips!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Lemon Tree Update!

Our struggling lemon tree is producing up a storm!  Last April we let you know we pruned our Meyer lemon tree back HARD in order for it to adjust from its recent relocation/transplant.  See the blog post:  Lemon Tree UPDATE! for a quick review and some disheartening 'before' photos. 

The little guy must be happy now...just look at all the lemons we have to look forward to come winter!  Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to creating happy environments for your edibles.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Developments in our Sustainable Gardening Practices

Have you seen the progress of the new winery, brewery and food processing facility on the north side of our garden?  This month the doors will open to a state-of-the art LEED platinum designed facility housing the Anheuser-Busch Brewing and Food Science Laboratory as well a teaching and research winery. 

If you have driven past the campus along 80 West or East, you may have looked over and seen these beautiful silos.  (See photo below.)  They are not for grain storage; these are rain water collection tanks! The rainwater collected here will be used to water the drought-tolerant landscape immediately surrounding this new facility in addition its use in the buildings' toilets!

Just north of the UC Davis Good Life Garden, these four rainwater collection tanks will soon provide irrigation to our edible landscape.
The UC Davis Good Life Garden is not currently part of this sustainable irrigation system, but will be soon according to director of grounds and landscape services, Sal Genito, who plans to tie the garden to the same system in the coming year.

We'll keep you updated on our progress.  In the meantime, if you come to the UC Davis Good Life Garden and notice the pinkish/purple irrigation control lids near the new facility, you'll know that the water from this source is actually 'green' in the sustainable sense because it comes directly from the rainwater collection tanks pictured above.  (See photo below.)

As irony would have it, the water from our own campus utility water system is managed under the 'green' irrigation control lids.  (See photo below.)

Do you use a rainwater collection system for your landscape or edible garden? Tell us about it!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Decorating Your Edible Garden with Alyssum!

See our gardener Pat Stoeffel trimming the white alyssum border around our tomato plant bed.
We get great feedback on how beautiful our edible garden looks. (THANK YOU!  We love to hear your feedback!)  We have our campus senior landscape designer Christina DeMartini Reyes to thank for her excellent planting plans!  She likes to use borders of different types of flowers to achieve a variety of goals.  Planting flowers around your edibles not only attracts pollinators, the colors of the flowers provide contrast to the greenery of the fruit and vegetable leaves, they are excellent around the bed borders because they define the space, AND they can act as a type of ground cover.  All of this is great for the garden, but how do you keep it looking good throughout the season?  It isn't easy!

Today when I visited the garden I noticed that our new Good Life Garden gardener, Pat Stoeffel, was trimming back a border of alyssum that was looking particularly rangy.  She had given it a trim a couple weeks ago, but here it was leggy again!  She wants to keep the area looking nice so she is shearing it back by about half to reveal the new bloomers beneath the old!  (See the photos below.)

Do you plant alyssum to attract pollinators to your garden?  Do you use it as a border?  How do you keep it looking fresh and healthy?  Let us know!

Pat trimmed this alyssum back just a couple weeks ago, but now it needs more pruning.  This photo shows a patch of half trimmed, half untrimmed alyssum.  Note how she is trimming about half of it back to reveal the newer growth underneath.
This photo shows a detail of what the new growth underneath looks like.  It looks compact and fresh doesn't it?  We want to get rid of the brown, leggy, rangy stuff to reveal the fresh flowers.  It's kind of like exfoliating your skin to reveal a new fresh layer underneath!  (Okay...maybe not!)
Pat laughs here because she's feeling more like a barber than a gardener!
This is a different patch of alyssum in the garden which nicely frames our bay laurel trees.  This patch has not needed any pruning, yet.  We think maybe it's because the fertility of the soil may not be as high as our tomato bed. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Hunter, angler, gardener, and gourmand. Is there anything that Hank Shaw can't do?  A former line cook, Hank spent 18 years as a political writer which he gave up to "walk a less travelled path" as a writer, caterer, and sometimes Sacramento State lecturer.  He now documents his quest for honest food - food that is locally grown, humanely raised, or that he hunts himself - on his website: 

Hank's site is extensive and packed with beautiful photos.  It has something for everyone - unusual vegetable recipes, exotic pasta recipes, how to cure your own meats, and for the more adventurous, how to prepare and serve wild game! Particularly interesting articles include "Shark Fishing in San Francisco Bay" "Want to Learn to Hunt? Get Started Now", and "How to Make Caviar."

Read all about caviar on Hank's site.
Go check out all of what Hank's blog has to offer.  If you enjoy the site as much as we did, you also have his book to look forward to, which is about hunting, foraging and fishing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blog Recommendation Monday: Keeping a Tradition Alive

The blog A Growing Tradition is about one mans effort to keep his father's (and now his) passion for home grown food alive. Thomas, the blog's author, left his so-called "concrete jungle" for New England to carry on a family home gardening tradition, and pass on  memories of gardening with his dad.

Thomas is a very successful gardener!  I know by the wonderful photos he takes of his produce.  If you wonder what a particular variety is, he lets you know via his informative photo captions.  He also weighs his produce monthly, so you can track his progress.

Another bonus about this blog is all the online resources he links to that lead his readers to interesting articles and videos, inspirational blogs, blogs from around the world, foodie blogs and notable online seed companies.

Thomas not only writes about his gardening adventures but he also actively posts blog entries about both good and bad cooking experiences. Whether he is telling stories, making general recommendations or posting recipes, this blog is one to include in your subscription list!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Corn from our garden: BEFORE and (almost) AFTER

I've said it before and I'll say it again!  I love before and after photos from our garden so I thought I'd share some with you too!

To learn more about growing your own corn access this helpful download about corn from the UC Davis Vegetable Research and Information Center.  This and many other helpful links and resources can be found on the California Master Gardener Program website called California Garden Web.

To learn more about the corn varieties we have growing in the garden visit the corn page on our website.

Here is the corn on June 30 about a week or so...cute!  (Can corn be cute?)  It's hard to believe it will ever amount to much!
Here you can see a couple rows.  Some of the seeds did not germinate.

Here is a photo of that same corn, only this was taken just over two weeks later on July 16.  They grow up so fast don't they?
Now you can see the corn is filling in despite the few that did not germinate.

This is what they look like almost a month after (August 12, 2010) the photos that were taken just above on July 16.
We have two patches of corn growing in our 'Malting and Brewing Bed' just outside of the brand new Brewery, Winery and Food Processing Facility.  Perfect fit, right?
Here is a close-up of the corn blossom!  This is a really interesting variety called 'martian jewels' corn.  The kernels are white, but the cob is a rich purple; the flavor is hardier and richer than most typical sweet corns.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chive-tastic! The plant that keeps on giving

Chives aren't just for the baked potato.  Not only are they a delicious and versatile herb, they are easy to grow, divide and transplant and can add lush greens and beautiful colors to your garden.

Chives provide a fun and attractive accent to garden beds

garlic chives yield pretty white flowers
A perennial that dies back to the ground in winter, chives are still easy to grow in pots inside in a sunny window, and come spring and summer they flourish in any kind of soil and with little water.  They are also easy to divide and transplant - making them a cheap and easy way to add accents to beds!  Check out our previous post, "Chive Talkin'," where Arlene explains how to split and move the plants around your garden.

And chives aren't just for the meat and potato crowd either.  They can lend great flavor in place of onions and garlic in stir fries, are delicious in dips, egg salad, soups and omelets, and can be frozen at harvest time and used straight out of the freezer for sprinkling into cooked foods!

Society garlic adds touches of purple to your garden, and its rich garlic flavor and aroma adds extra depth to any recipe

Leigh Abernathy at also has some great ideas: "If you're feeling arty, use the whole leaves to tie up bundles of carrots, asparagus, or sliced zucchini. You can cross them decoratively atop a dollop of sour cream in a bowl of leek and potato or cream of tomato soup. You could even use them to tie smoked salmon rolls. The bright green of the leaves is the perfect accent for the salmon or soup, and the mild onion flavor adds a little zing to vegetables (not to mention impresses any guests you might have). If you're using chives as a visual accent, just sprinkle a few over whatever you're accenting. If you're using them to add flavor, don't be stingy--give your next baked potato a chives crewcut. Really bury that orange roughy fillet under a layer.Try combining minced chives with cucumber, tomato and feta cheese, tossing the lot with olive oil and serving it with a hearty bread."

Brenda Hyde at also has a great and easy recipe for herb salts that you can put in decorative jars - a great gift idea!

"Herbs salts are SO easy. They can be used on soups, stews, potatoes, vegetables and casseroles. Suggested herbs are basil, chives, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, savory, tarragon or thyme. 

You will need:
1 cup of noniodized salt or sea salt
1 cup fresh herbs 

Crush fresh, chopped leaves with the salt, using the base of a jar, or whirl them in a blender for several minutes. Spread the salt and herbs on a cookie sheet and dry in a 200 degree oven for about 40 to 60 minutes. Break up any lumps, and stir frequently during drying. When mixture is cool, seal in a glass jar and store away from heat and light. A jar of herb salt, tied with raffia and a gift tag makes a wonderful gift!"

Do you have any other ideas for the delicious chive?  Post a comment!

Monday, August 9, 2010

3 Tips for Managing Flea Beetles on Your Eggplants!

We've been bitten!  Fleas just don't attack your pets, they can attack your plants as well!  Check out the photos of our poor eggplants.  This year we have quite a few eggplant varieties growing in the garden (imperial black beauties, rosa bianca eggplants, snowy eggplants, and Vittoria eggplants), and not one has evaded the wrath of the flea beetle.

Here are a few tips on how you can manage these pesky pests:

1.  Make sure to get rid of your garden debris in the fall to remove overwintering beetles.
2.  Cover your seedlings with a protective covering until they are in the sixth leaf stage.
3.  Use an aluminum foil mulch.

The good news is that this year the fleas planned their attack later in the season than last year which allowed our eggplants a chance to establish themselves before housing these unwanted guests.  We hope our plants will still produce enough healthy fruit to not worry about having to to get rid of the fleas, but we'll be sure to keep you posted!

For more information, check out what the University of California Integrated Pest Management (UCIPM) Program has to say on the topic here.  

Have you had a problem with flea beetles before?  What treatments if any have given you success?  Let us know!

This is how you know you have flea beetles--holey, lacy leaves!  This plant must have been feeding an army!

In this photo you can see our eggplant in the front and our bush beans in the back.  The flea beetles have no interest in munching on those beans at all!  Their tastes are specific!
Despite their porous leaves, these eggplants continue to blossom!
I love the color of the eggplant blossoms, don't you?
We sure hope these blossoms produce delicious fruits despite the unwanted guests!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blog Recommendation... Friday! A big garden in a small space

We normally post blog recommendations on Monday, but it's been one of those weeks!  So sorry for the late entry, but we had to post this week anyway because there are so many cool blogs out there!
Like this blog -  My Back 40 (feet).  Chuck B, its creator, gardens on his tiny rooftop in San Francisco. Can you imagine gardening on a roof over-looking a city? How beautiful!  And he definitely utilizes the space in creative ways.

Chuck gets up close and personal with his plants and his plants' visitors. (Like the picture to the right, from the entry Full Sun in the Small City Garden.) And the picture below is a good indication of just how well he packs as many plants as he can into his 40-foot space. I would never guess this a rooftop garden from looking at this photo!

The blog focuses pretty heavily on photos, but Chuck always posts a brief caption about why he likes a certain plant or a plant's progress. He also includes tips on pruning, watering, or other tidbits he's learned during the season.

He also includes a column on the right hand side titled "N. Calif. Public Gardens," where he lists about twenty public gardens and their websites from all over the Northern California area - a very cool resource if you are looking for new places to visit.