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July 28th, 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!


Blog Recommendation Monday: The Casual Gardener

July 26th, 2010
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!!


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

July 23rd, 2010
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.


Tomato Staking 101

July 22nd, 2010

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.

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

July 20th, 2010
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!


Amaranth Overview

July 16th, 2010

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!


Tomato Troubles: BLOSSOM END ROT

July 14th, 2010

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?