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After attending our basil harvest, make a Caprese salad!

September 30th, 2011

Special thanks to Kate Hutchinson, owner of Ciocolat Extraordinary Desserts, for this article.

At Ciocolat we love working with basil.  We incorporate the fresh herb into many of our Italian-inspired dishes.

If you’d like to experience locally grown basil all year around-try freezing!  We recommend a summer purchase from the Farmer’s Market, or harvesting it on a community harvest day from the Good Life Garden.  Make your favorite pesto sauce, let it cool, and then freeze the sauce in an ice cube tray.  This will give you individual portions of pesto that can be used in your pasta dishes all year long.

Visiting the Good Life Garden in the summer is a great way to experience the flavor differences in the many varieties of basil grown there.

One can do just about anything to basil for fabulous taste results.  We chop basil to include in our pesto mayonnaise, use it as a condiment on our bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, sautee it for our tortellini sauce, and chiffonade the herb for our panzanella salad.

To experience the true flavor of basil, we recommend making a Caprese salad.  This salad calls for using either whole leaves of basil, or if you prefer a less leafy salad, chopped basil.

In Italy this salad is served as an antipasto or appetizer. You will achieve the best flavor if you purchase your ingredients from a Farmer’s Market, or pick your ingredients from the Good Life Garden.  Freshness is key to a great Caprese salad.

Caprese salad photo from Ciocolat

Caprese Salad


sliced fresh mozzarella
sliced fresh tomatoes
sliced or whole basil leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper
Kalamata olives


Alternate tomato slices, and fresh mozzarella slices on the plate and arrange basil and olives on top.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil.



Penultimate plant sale of 2011!

September 12th, 2011

Support our friends at the Arboretum and don’t miss the upcoming fall plant sale!

Gruss an aachen

Gruss an Aachen floribunda rose is the featured Arboretum All-Star at this fall’s plant sales. Ellen Zagory/Courtesy photo

What: UC Davis Arboretum’s 75th anniversary Plant Faire and Sale

When: Saturday, Sept. 24; member sale 9 to 11 a.m., public sale 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Arboretum Teaching Nursery, Garrod Drive, UC Davis.  Click here for directions.

Anyone interested in plants and gardening will want to attend the biggest and best plant sale in the Central Valley at the UC Davis Arboretum on Saturday, Sept. 24.

This year’s Plant Faire and Sale is a celebration of the Arboretum’s 75th anniversary, and will feature hundreds of varieties of great plants for Central Valley gardens, including the Arboretum All-Stars and house plants and exotics from the Botanical Conservatory.

There will be a members-only sale from 9 to 11 a.m. with live music and free children’s activities, and a public sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Anyone may join or renew at the door for early admission and a 10 percent member discount. New members get a free plant.

Arboretum staff members and volunteers will be available to provide expert advice on choosing the best plants for shoppers’ garden conditions.

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, the sale will feature 75 favorite plants of Arboretum staff, members and volunteers. Special signs will highlight these plants, with quotes from the dedicated gardeners describing what it is that they love about their selected plants, why they grow them and the special uses they have found for them.

The sale will take place at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, across from the School of Veterinary Medicine on the UC Davis campus. Free parking is available in Visitor Lot 55 across from the nursery. For more information visit or call (530) 752-4880.

The UC Davis Arboretum was founded in 1936 to strengthen the biological sciences at the university. From its modest beginnings as a small collection of trees and shrubs planted by students and watered with buckets, the Arboretum has developed into a vibrant living museum with 100 acres of gardens, and a documented collection of more than 60,000 plants representing almost 2,500 species and varieties.  It now has a rich menu of public programs that also support research and teaching on campus and promote sustainable landscapes throughout the state.

Arboretum staffers are planning a year of festivities to celebrate its 75th anniversary and to thank the members, donors, volunteers and other supporters who keep the Arboretum growing.

Click here for more information about other upcoming events.


The Fungus is Among Us!

August 30th, 2011

In the 2009 edition of The Yolo Gardener, Linda Parsons, Yolo County Master Gardener, wrote the article “Foiling the Fungus Fairy”. Click here to read the full article or continue on to see our shortened version.

Black Spot

Seeing spots? White, black or rust colored blotches or lesions usually means fungus has arrived!


For diseases to occur, plant pathogens must come in contact with a susceptible host plant. Therefore pathogens can be past on to plants through transplants, soil, humans, animals, insects, infested seeds and wind or water. The most common garden fungus diseases are powdery mildew, black spot, rust and sooty mold. They are most problematic during the spring and fall seasons due to temperatures and humidity fluctuations.

Powdery Mildew

Follow these easy steps to avoid fungus attacks:

  1. Select high quality plants and seeds. Select plants with healthy looking leaves and strong stems.
  2. Do not plant too early. Plant growth may be slowed by cold temperatures which makes them more susceptible to attack by disease-causing organisms and insects.
  3. Rotate crops. Grow your crops in different parts of your garden each year, be sure not to rotate crops with those in the same plant family.
  4. Avoid over-crowding the plants. Crowding plants creates a moist, humid environment that is favorable to diseases.
  5. Water early in the day. Plants that remain wet throughout the night are more susceptible to disease.
  6. Remove diseased leaves, flowers, and fruits as soon as they are noticed. Disease is easily spread by wind, rain and overhead watering.
  7. Mulch! Mulch prevents soil that may harbor disease-causing organisms from splashing on to plants.
  8. Fertilize carefully. Avoid over-fertilizing because too much nitrogen promote tender, fast growth, which is susceptible to attack by fungi.
  9. Keep insects and insect damage to a minimum. Insect wounds provide entry points for disease-causing organisms.
  10. Practice good gardening sanitation. Always start with a clean planting site.
Sooty Mold

Nature’s Medicine Chest

April 8th, 2011

This is an abridged article written by Jan Bower, Yolo County Master Gardener,  from “The Yolo Gardener” Fall 2010 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners. Thank you Jan for this great information!  To read the full article, visit their website here.

Herbs have a variety of uses. They flavor foods, perfume gifts, repel insects, heal illnesses, and serve as companion plants. They can be grown in their own formal garden, along a pathway, or in containers.  They played an important role in traditional medicine, but are also playing an increasingly important role in modern medicine.

For medicinal purposes, the herbs are most often prepared as teas, oils, or spices used in foods, but they can also be inhaled in steam baths and included in ointments, poultices, pills, powders, and gargles. One thing to keep in mind, however, in using herbs for healing is that some of them might be poisonous or addictive so consulting a medical practitioner before use is recommended.

Disclaimer: Medicinal herbs have been with us since the earliest of times. However, many have not been proven to be effective for all of their traditional uses; one should always consult a medical professional before self-treating with an herb.

Here is a short list of some familiar herbs and their medicinal qualities and applications – all of which can be found in the Good Life Garden!

  • Basil  (Ocimum basilicum) comes in many varieties with different scents and flavors. Used widely in tomato-based dishes, it can be a remedy for diseases of the brain, heart, lungs, kidney, and bladder and is often mixed with borage in a tea to revive lowered vitality. The dried leaves are also made into snuff to remedy headaches and colds. One variety has the distinct aroma of camphor and has been known to draw out poison from insect stings and bites.

    Check out all that basil from our herb harvest last year!

  • Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) and berries from the bay laurel tree have a volatile oil that can be applied externally to bruises and sprains, dropped into ears to relieve pain, and used to treat rheumatism, hysteria, and flatulence. As an essential ingredient of a “bouquet garni” (a bundle of herbs that are tied together and used in cooking), bay leaves can improve the appetite and cure fevers.

    bay laurel

    One of the few bay laurels we have in the garden.

  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) contain a pungent oil that stimulates the appetite, aids with kidney function, and helps lower high blood pressure.
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seeds and leaves can serve as a laxative, relieve dizziness, help purify the blood, or help cure kidney stones and other urinary dysfunctions.
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is used to strengthen eyesight and refresh tired eyes. The seeds produce an oil that helps digestion and relieves asthma and abdominal pain.

    We had some massive fennel last year!

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has the effect of smelling salts – it calms nerves, relaxes tensions, and alleviates faintness, dizziness, and insomnia. Used in the bath, lavender refreshes the skin and is recommended for oily complexions and pimples.

    Who DOESN'T love lavender? It smells amazing, is awesome for home remedies, and is gorgeous.

  • Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is used to fight bad colds, cramps and other digestive disorders, painful swellings, rheumatism, colic, and nervous headaches.
  • Mint (Mentha arvensis) provides relief for colds, inflammation of mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, gallbladder disorders, gastrointestinal pain from gas, and muscle and nerve pain.


    Be careful of mint - it has a variety of uses but can take over your garden! That's why we keep it in a raised bed.

  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is rich in iron, vitamins A, B, and C, and an oil called apiol, which is extracted from the seeds for therapy related to infections of the urinary tract, general disease prevention, and treatment of digestion and circulation problems, and kidney stones.


    Who knew parsley had so many uses and was filled with so many vitamins?

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) stimulates memory and circulation, relieves headaches and other rheumatic conditions, and strengthens eyesight.
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis) decreases sweating, restores energy and memory, and is helpful in digestion, particularly as it relates to the liver. It is found in mouthwashes and gargles because of its antiseptic properties and is used to whiten teeth and heal inflammations of the mouth and throat, e.g. gingivitis and sore gums due to wearing dentures.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is used to treat bronchitis, whooping cough, sore throats, colds, headaches, cramps, colic, bowel and bladder disorders, bad eyesight, and loss of appetite.

It’s official: announcing our partnership with master gardeners

March 28th, 2011

The UC Davis Good Life Garden is proud to announce that Master Gardeners from throughout the area will be contributing to our website.  We thought it would be interesting for you to know a little bit about their backgrounds to start off, so, about once a month for the next few months we’ll be introducing them to you!  These introductory articles will be followed by original articles about gardening by these experts.  By promoting this valued program to our audience, we hope to inspire the Master Gardener in you!  You may find that you too would like to become a Master Gardener,  take advantage their many classes or, call their hotlines with questions.

Photo of Christina & Pat at Master Gardener Conference

Landscape Architect and Good Life Garden designer, Christina DiMartini Reyes with Pat Stoffel, Good Life Garden Gardener at a recent Master Gardener conference.

Who are the Master Gardeners?

A group of volunteers trained in horticulture, the Master Gardener Program functions as a partnership between the University of California, the USDA, county governments and California residents. After receiving training based on UC-verified research, Master Gardeners extend their knowledge to the public via classes, demonstrations and other venues like farmer’s markets and the Master Gardeners hotline.

The Master Gardener programs focus on sustainable practices, teaching people to be more environmentally aware in areas like integrated pest management, energy and soil conservation, and waste management.

Find Out More!

Master Gardeners are located in almost every county throughout our state and others!  Here are just a few of our ‘local’ chapters.  If your county is not listed just Google your county’s name and ‘master gardener.’  It will surely be the top listing.  Their programs and expertise are definitely worth exploring!

Amador County Master Gardeners

El Dorado County Master Gardeners

Placer County Master Gardeners

Sacramento County Master Gardeners

Solano County Master Gardeners

Yolo County Master Gardeners


Why have a vegetable garden in a park?

March 24th, 2011

This is an abridged article written by Peg Smith from “The Yolo Gardener” Spring 2010 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners. Thank you Peg for this great information!  To read the full article, visit their website here.

Curious about what vegetables can be planted at this time of year? A visit to the Central Park Gardens vegetable bed will help you make your choices and evaluate new ways of doing things. The vegetable garden is an oval at the north end of Central Park Gardens (corner of Third and B Streets, Davis) divided into four beds.

A year round plan for vegetable rotation has been developed so at any time of the year something is being planted, is growing, or is being harvested. All produce grown at Central Park is donated to the Davis Community Meals program.

This bed was planted in November of 2010 and is now being harvested. Broccoli, cabbage and kale (brassicas) were the demonstration winter crops this year. Onions are interspersed between the plantings.


This bed was planted in October 2010 with samples of “green manure,” or cover crops. Included are annual rye, crimson clover, vetch and fava beans. Clover, vetch and fava beans are nitrogen fixing plants that improve the health of the soil. These cover crops will be chopped and turned into the soil or added to our compost.


Yolo County winter grain crops. Looking at a field while traveling along the road, it is hard to tell what grain crop is in a field. Currently in the vegetable garden there are samples of hard white wheat, hard red wheat, durham wheat, triticale, barley and oats. This allows our garden visitors a closer look at Yolo County crops so they can easily see the difference between oats and wheat .


This bed has recently been planted with late winter crops, including beets, cabbage, chard, leeks, spinach and carrots.

Workshops at the garden once a month. Please check for a complete schedule. All are welcome, from beginners to advanced, at our outdoor garden classroom.


You can’t fail with KALE!

March 23rd, 2011

by Felix Munoz-Teng, Vice President of the student-run UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG).

This leafy-green vegetable has been grown for over 2000 years and continues to be grown today. In Europe, it was the most widely-eaten green plant until its bulky brother, cabbage, came along. Surprisingly, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts all belong to the same species of plant: Brassica oleracea. Despite their large differences in appearance, selective propagation by humans has led to the wide variety of the species that we see today!

Kale - it's not just a garnish! Image from


If there is any green vegetable you can count on, it’s kale with its unmatched nutrient richness. One cup of this green-leaf vegetable provides a daily value of 1327% vitamin K, 192% vitamin A, 88.8% vitamin C, 25% manganese, 10% dietary fiber, 10% copper and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, this nutrient-abundant vegetable delivers no more than 36 calories per cup.

Healthy Living

There has been a great deal of research conducted on kale and its benefits related to health. It has been shown to reduce the risk of “oxidative stress” and “chronic inflammation”, which is linked to a low intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients respectively. As a result of these benefits, research has further been able to show definite advantages in terms of cancer prevention and, in some circumstances, treatment.

In other areas, kale contains remarkable cholesterol-lowering abilities. Researchers have shown that fiber-related contents in kale prevent the fat in cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine. Instead, the fat passes through the intestine and leaves the body. Secondly, kale plays an important role in the regulation of detox activities within the body, which is an important process for our cells.
Try this recipe for kale chips – you will never believe that kale could taste so good!

Kale chips are a healthy and tasty snack! image from


  • -Preheat oven to about 375*.
  • -Use about 1 salad spinner’s worth of kale (about enough to fill a grocery store veggie bag). Tear the leaves off  the thick stems into bite size pieces. Spread out on cookie sheets.
  • -Drizzle with about 2 tsp of olive oil.
  • -Sprinkle with Parmesan, Asiago or your seasonings of choice, plus a sprinkle of kosher salt.
  • -Bake for about 15 minutes, until edges are brown and kale is crispy when moved in pan.