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Thursday, March 17, 2011

We've moved!

To try and simplify things a little and to get with the times, we have integrated our blog and website! From now on you can find our blog here:

Thanks so much for reading!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Does sprinkling tomato plants with seawater increase their nutritional value?

by Zuhayr Mallam, founder of the UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG). For more information about this group, visit their website.

Tomatoes are among the most popular items in American gardens today and are commonly used in many types of salads and sauces. They have an especially rich history at UC Davis (see the “square tomato” and other tomato research on campus) and thrive in the Sacramento Valley, due to the prime tomato-cultivating summer climate.
Image taken from the Gillaspy Lab webpage at Virginia Tech University
Tomatoes are high in antioxidants, which are thought to help fight cancer, prevent heart disease, slow aging, and confer a host of other health benefits. And although it has been long held that salt is harmful to soil, several studies conducted worldwide have shown that spraying tomato plants with diluted – approximately 10% saline – seawater can actually increase their nutritional value and taste! The salt in seawater is thought to produce stress in tomato plants, which respond by producing more antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and chlorogenic acid, as well as other taste-enhancing chemicals – albeit it makes the fruit somewhat smaller. Many are still concerned about salt causing soil degradation and rendering some seawater-treated tomatoes inedible, but scientists cite that plants thrive in balanced soil containing both macro– and micronutrients.

This theory is still much up in the air, but it is good food for thought. A major potential benefit of this method would be providing irrigation for crops in areas with freshwater restrictions and shortages as well as malnourishment.

Hmm… This may be an interesting opportunity for a summer science experiment! Let us know if you decide to give it a try.

As always, consult a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet!

Monday, March 14, 2011

"I saw the sign..."

...and it opened up my eyes... to all the different types of trellises involved in viticulture!

If you haven't gone by the garden recently, check out the new sign we've installed that provides some great information about the awesome teaching vineyard on the west side of the RMI.

If you can't make it to the garden, click here to view a larger pdf.
Or if you just want a few tidbits, here are some fun facts:
  • There are eight different areas or "blocks" of grape vines in the new vineyard dedicated to different donors, trellising systems, and types of grapes.
  • There are many different trellis types and trellising techniques based on a variety of factors such as grape variety, climate, and method of harvest.
  • The Harry E. Jacob Variety Demonstration Block in the Teaching Vineyard is a reference collection featuring over 300 of the world's major grape varieties and is arranged by country, region and variety.
  • Ampelography is the area of botany that identifies and classifies grapevines.  It means "grape vine identification" in Greek.  Students are trained in the Ampelography block which features examples of the most widely-planted wine grapes in California.
  • The vineyard also includes a table grape block featuring current and historic grape varieties not used for wine such as Crimson Seedless, Autumn Royale, Malaga and Muscat of Alexandria.
And just in case you don't know:

Vi•ti•cul•ture - n. : the cultivation or culture of grapes
Enol•o•gy - n. :a science that deals with wine and wine making
(from the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology website)

Visit the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Program website for more info as well!

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Beautiful Friday in the Garden

APHID UPDATE: The aphids have now moved on to cabbage and chard and Pat is fighting what seems to be a losing battle! She said that with the advent of the warmer weather and sunshine that the aphid population seems to be exploding. Her advice: just be diligent and continue spraying with the Safer Soap as much as possible, as well as following the other tips from our previous post.   And pay attention to all of your tasty leafy veggies - not just kale- because they are definitely not immune either!

Yep... the aphids have gotten to the cabbage.  Now that's nasty!

This poor little kale plant was stunted from all of the aphid damage!

Other than the bad news on the aphid front, everything else in the garden is doing well and it is a beautiful sunny day! The artichokes are sprouting, the calendula adds a vibrant touch of orange all over the garden, and the newly planted radishes and nasturtiums are starting to sprout!  Enjoy some recent photos below and have a great weekend!

The calendula is spectacular right now!

Now I want a Greek salad!

Maybe the chard is starting to have an aphid problem too, but it is all over the garden and still looks delicious to me!

The purple hues of the kale and cabbage complement each other nicely, don't you think?
Pat is working diligently away at spraying the kale with the Safer Soap to rid it of aphids.
Go, Mr. Ladybug, go!  Eat those aphids so I can eat this delicious artichoke.
Ok so these aren't in the garden, but are so spectacular I had to share them anyway.  The tulip trees on campus are breathtaking right now!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring Gardening Tips

Spring is almost here!  The vernal equinox is on March 20 and marks the beginning of spring in the northern  hemisphere.  Here are some gardening tips to get ready for the season from "The Yolo Gardener" Spring 2011 Newsletter--a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners, by Master Gardener Linda Parsons. Thank you Linda for these great tips!

Yum!  Can't wait for peaches this year!  Make sure to get out there and trim and treat your fruit trees before buds swell.  Image from
  • Prune foliage and branches damaged by winter.  If you haven't yet pruned your roses and fruit trees this is the last month to get them ready for spring bloom.  Don't put it off any longer!
  • Take care of weeds now before they take over.
  • Remove old growth from perennials and dig and divide crowded plants. 
    • Begin cultivating your perennials - loosening soil once it is dry enough - and add soil amendments such as compost, peat moss and organic fertilizer. 
    • Be sure to use fertilizer recommended for each plant type.  Too much nitrogen will make plants grow too quickly, producing weaker growth.
    • Care for roses and fruit trees by adding rose food and soil amendments, as well as a cup of alfalfa pellets and two tablespoons Epsom salt to each rose plant.  This will help the roses produce more basal breaks (new growth) and chlorophyll.
    • Mulch your garden to a depth of 3 inches to reduce weeds and require less watering.
    • Start your plant selection: 
      • Pansies, violas, Dianthus, Iceland poppies, primroses and plant candytuft are all early blooming annuals.  
      • Bulbs, corns and tubers like cannas, begonias, lilies and dahlias can be planted now.
      • Some good shade plant selections include astilbe, columbine, coral bells, Dicentra, Foxglove, Hostas, Nepeta, Pulmonaria and ferns.
      • Primroses are one of the earliest spring flowers, and are often a common sight at Victorian cottage-style gardens. Image from
      • A good drought tolerant selection can include Russian sage, Muhlenbergia, rabbit's tail grass, Buddleia, echinacea, rudbeckia and gallardia.
    • Remember to lightly fertilize and mulch after planting!  Plants will do better if they are planted at or slightly above grade.
    Rabbit or bunny's tail grass is a great drought-tolerant selection, and it's cute!  Image from
      • Due to above average rainfall, there are going to be more insects and diseases this year, so keep an eye out for early fungal diseases and aphids.
      • March is your last opportunity to spray fruit trees with dormant (lime-sulfur) spray before buds swell to get rid of wintering fungus and spores.
      • Check plants regularly (especially roses) for black spot, rust and mildew.  Also check for slugs, snails and earwigs, as well as aphids, mites thrips and scale with the advent of warmer weather.  Keep these harmful insects in check by planting yarrow, alyssum, feverfew, dill, parsley, coriander, penstemon and asters to attract beneficial insects.
      • Visit if you want to use commercial pesticides.
      • Check your irrigation system to make sure your lawn is getting enough water.  Increase the water amount as the days get longer and warmer.
      • Re-seed thin areas and begin your fertilizing and mowing schedule.  Try applying a light topcoat of compost to improve lawn growth and health.
      • Stake tall growing perennials and vegetables before they start bending over in late spring.
      • Later on in the season thin fruit trees, leaving four to five inches in between each fruit to help remaining fruit mature properly and to keep branches from being over-weighted which can cause splitting.
      • Deadhead spent flowers to ensure a long blooming season.
      • Plant containers with annuals and herbs.
      To read the unabridged version of this article go to their website and download the Spring 2011 newsletter here.  You can also sign up to receive this newsletter by entering your email address at the top of this page.

        Tuesday, March 8, 2011

        FREE Gardening Classes from Local Experts!

        Gardeners and wannebe gardeners!  Mark your calendars!  Here is a list of FREE classes being offered by our local area Master Gardeners!  I can taste the freshly picked produce now...yum!

        Worm Composting
        Date: March 17, 2011
        Time: 7 - 8 PM
        Location:  Vacaville Library Cultural Center
        1020 Ulatis Drive
        Vacaville, CA
        more info...

        Vegetable Gardening Seminar
        Highlights: How to start a vegetable garden with information on seeds, transplanting, irrigation, double-digging and composting.
        Date: March 26, 2011
        Time: 10 AM - 12 PM
        Benicia Community Garden
        E. 2nd St. and Military East
        Benicia, CA
        (Behind the Heritage Presbyterian Church)
        more info...

        Sustainable Landscaping Seminar
        Date: April 16, 2011
        Time: 1 - 3:30 PM
        Solano Community College
        Horticulture Building 1000
        4000 Suisun Valley Road
        Fairfield, CA
        more info...

        Spring Plant Sale and Gardening Workshop 
        Highlights:  Plant sale, basic vegetable gardening & tomato growing tips
        Date: April 2, 2011
        Time: 9 AM to 1 PM
        Woodland Community College Horticultural Center
        2300 East Gibson Road
        Woodland, CA
        more info...

        Got Allergies?  Plants to Consider Using in Your Garden
        Date: April 9, 2011
        Time: 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM
        Meet at the Central Park Gardens in Davis at 4th and C Streets
        more info...

        Backyard and Worm Composting
        Date: April 16, 2011
        Time: 9 AM - 11 AM
        Woodland Community College Horticultural Center
        2300 East Gibson Road
        Woodland, CA
        more info...
        Still need more information about any of these events?  Contact the Master Gardener secretary at 530-666-8143.

        Monday, March 7, 2011

        2011 is the Year of the Vegetable!

         2011 has been named Year of the Vegetable by Mr. George Ball, president of the W. Atlee Burpee Company.  (The cynic in me thinks, well isn't that sell vegetable seeds, so why not make every year "Year of the Vegetable," right?)  But I read on to become inspired!  Here is a quote from the newsletter:
        Eighteen years ago as president of the American Horticultural Society, [Mr. George Ball] initiated a successful children's gardening program. He now wants to inspire all of America to at least develop a starter garden. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control shows that only 26 percent of Americans eat at least three servings of vegetable a day. With child obesity at an all-time high, Mr. Ball advocates a nutritional diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. It has been found that kids who grow vegetables alongside their parents eat them regularly and with gusto.
        Not too shabby, eh?  My nephew is five and I don't believe he has ever willingly eaten a vegetable.  My sister sneaks vegetable nutrients into his 'milkshakes' in the morning.  This has kept him incredibly healthy, active, fit, and smart as a whip, but I wonder if he would be more into eating his veggies if he grew some on his own.  I'm going to get him started on this project when I go down to SoCal for a visit in April.

        Do you have kids who grow their own fruits and vegetables?  Do you agree with Mr. Ball's assessment?  Tell us your stories!

        Friday, March 4, 2011

        Aphids Attack Kale, Leave Chard Alone?

         We've got some aphid issues in the garden.  Do you?  The weird thing is that they are going after kale, but not chard or other greens, any idea why?

        It is kind of hard to see, but here Pat is showing me how deep the aphids can get into our crops...kale in particular seems popular with the pests this year!

        Here is a photo of the damage that aphids can wreak on your edibles.  This was kale!

         After talking with Pat Stoffel, UC Davis Good Life Garden gardener extraordinaire, she pointed out this odd occurrence and spoke about how she manages aphids by using Safer Soap.  The problem with this method is that it takes a long time to go through each plant under attack and it only eliminates aphids currently feasting on our greens.  Other than that, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot else one can do to fight these buggers long term.

        Below is some information you may find helpful in controlling aphids in your garden.  This text is edited from "The Yolo Gardener" Spring 2010 Newsletter--a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners.  Thank you to Master Gardener Barbara Ohlendorf for this very informative article!

        Here are my cliff notes to aphid control based on her article:
        • It is hard! (Brilliant observation, right!)
        • Aphids are annoying and they have lots of little friends that help them out.
        Control methods:
        • Hose down the affected plants that are hosting colonies every few days
        • This won't get rid of them all, but you want to keep some aphids around so that their natural enemies, like ladybugs, stick around.
        • Where you have aphids you probably also have ants that protect the aphids from their natural enemies.  Why? Because ants like to feed on aphid honeydew. (Honeydew is a euphemism for the aphid spit that these bugs excrete in order to chow down on your plants.)
        • You will need to get into the ant 'elimination' business as well. 
        • Consider using an organic insecticide like Safer Soap (See above.) to manage the population without damaging your plants or destroying your garden's eco-balance.
        To read the unabridged version of this article go to their website and download the Spring 2011 newsletter here.  You can also sign up to receive this newsletter by entering your email address at the top of this page.

        UC Integrated Pest Management Information
        NEED MORE?  Attend this FREE Public Education Class
        The Whys and Hows of Integrated Pest Management
        Time:  March 12, 2011 at 9:30 AM
        Place:  Central Park Gardens, 3rd and B Street, Davis, CA

        Wednesday, March 2, 2011

        BEWARE: Silly String Attack!

        Silly string?  NO!  Citrus trees beware!  This highly invasive parasitic plant attacks and grows over ornamental shrubs and fruit trees with a preference for citrus, but its non-discriminating taste also includes annuals, perennials and native trees such as oaks and willows.   This mess of thick spaghetti with leafless twining threads, wraps around host stems to form a dense mat; if it doesn't kill the host, the weakened state of the infected plant will predispose it to diseases, insects and nematode invasions.

        This weed is under an eradication program in California and has spread to more than a dozen California counties including Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Los Angeles, Merced, Sacramento, Shasta, Solano, Sutter, Tulare, Yolo, and Yuba. It has also been a major problem in Texas.

        WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU SEE THIS?  Do not try to control it yourself.  Report it to Yolo County Agricultural biologist Bill Lyon at 530-666-8140.  Curious?  Find out more about this weed on the UC Davis IPM website.

        Thank you to the University of California Cooperative Extension Yolo County Master Gardeners for shedding some light on this parasite.  This content is paraphrased from a Spring 2011 feature by Diana Morse appearing in their newsletter, "The Yolo Gardener."  

        To check out some of their past issues, go here.  Interested in signing up to receive quarterly news via email from this wonderful resource, enter your address into the box at the top of the page.

        Monday, January 24, 2011

        SWEET BAY LEAVES--Deceptive Name, Delicious Addition

        Image source:
        The Bay Leaf, found on Bay Laurel evergreens and shrubs throughout Europe, North America, and India, has become a staple of Mediterranean cuisine and serves as a healthy and delicious supplement to any diet.
        Contrary to its deceptive nickname – “Sweet Bay” – the Bay Leaf is actually intensely bitter and may even be harmful if ingested whole due to its razor-sharp edges. However, it has become quite a popular food additive due to its exotic flavoring, olfactory appeal, and long shelf-life (one year!). Most often, it is ground up and used in spicy dishes, such as biryani (see recipe below), or boiled in soups, sauces and stews. Many are also attracted to its distinctive scent, which can brighten any meal!
        Bay Leaves are an excellent choice for type 2 diabetics, because they help the body process insulin more efficiently, therefore lowering blood sugar, and reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels (diabetics are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease). Additionally, they have been used throughout history to cure migraines, bacterial and fungal infections, indigestion, and much more!

        Try this Recipe for… Biryani
        A spicy Persian/South Asian Dish

        Image source:
        -2 lbs. Chicken with bones (cut into small pieces)
        -2 cups Basmati Rice (washed)
        -1 packet Shan Special Bombay Biryani Mix
        -2 tablespoons crushed garlic
        -2 tablespoons cup plain yogurt
        -2 tablespoons grated ginger
        -1/2 onion (finely sliced)
        -1 tomato (cut into small pieces)
        -5 tablespoons oil
        -3 medium potatoes (peeled & halved)
        -Crushed bay leaves

        1. Fry the onion in hot oil until golden. Add tomatoes and fry until the oil separates.
        2. Add meat, garlic, ginger, potatoes, yogurt, bay leaves, and Shan Bombay Biryani Mix. Fry for 15 minutes.
        3. Add 1-2 cups of water and cook on low heat until the meat is tender. Then increase the heat and stir fry until oil separates from the gravy.
        4. SEPARATELY, boil the washed rice in 12 glasses of hot water. Boil until the rice is more than half cooked. Remove from heat and thoroughly drain the water.
        5. Spread the cooked meat and curry over the rice in TWO layers. Cover the pot and cook on low heat until the rice is fully cooked and tender. (Approximately 30 minutes) Mix before serving.
        *This recipe serves 6-8 people

        by Zuhayr Mallam, Founder of the UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG).  

        Monday, January 10, 2011

        Eggplants -- The "Mad Apple"

         by Felix Munoz-Teng, Vice President of the student-run, UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG).
        When Europeans first encountered the eggplant, they gave this delectable food a rather dark nickname – mala insane or “mad apple/egg” – because it comes from a family of poisonous plants. Although this dreary name stuck, people quickly realized the eggplant’s tremendous health benefits, and it became a staple crop of the Mediterranean.
        Nutritional Value 
        Although eggplants have an unflattering reputation, they deliver a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including Thiamine, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, Phosphorous and Potassium. Wow! They are also a good source of fiber, which is found in the skin, and are low in sodium and overall calories.
        Health & Disease
        Eggplants contain bioflavonoids, which may be helpful in preventing strokes and hemorrhages. They also contain an antioxidant known as phytochemical monoterpene, which may be beneficial in preventing heart disease and cancer. The National Cancer Institute is currently conducting research to determine whether they may help with the inhibition of steroidal hormones that stimulate tumor development.
        However, the fruit contains some negative toxins like solanine, which may be harmful to some individuals. Solanine is an alkaloid that can result in heart failure, headaches, diarrhea, and vomiting if ingested. Be sure to check with your doctor to see if you are sensitive to this toxin before consuming large quantities of eggplants.
        And remember! Eggplants can be found at the UC Davis Good Life Garden!
        Try This Recipe for…Baba Ganouj – A Delicious Dip (brought to you by Eating Well Magazine)

        • 2 medium eggplants, (1 pound each)
        • 4 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
        • 1/4 cup lemon juice
        • 2 tablespoons tahini
        • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
        • Extra-virgin olive oil (garnish)
        • Ground sumac or chopped pistachios (garnish)
        Prick eggplants all over with a fork. Thread garlic cloves onto a skewer. Grill the eggplants, turning occasionally, until charred and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Grill the garlic, turning once, until charred and tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the eggplants and garlic to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, peel both. Transfer to a food processor. Add lemon juice, tahini and salt; process until almost smooth. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with sumac, if desired. Enjoy!
        This blog was brought to you by the Diabetes Advocacy & Awareness Group (DAAG)