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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!!



April 15th, 2010

A couple weeks ago UC Davis Good Life Garden gardener Arlene Kennedy planted two secret messages using radish seeds, one on either side of our pea trellis in the home garden demonstration bed. Now, just in time for UC Davis Picnic Day, that message has been revealed!

This is what it looked like before:

Here is the message on the east side of the trellis…”UC DAVIS AGGIES”

Here is the message on the west side of the trellis: “GRO AGS!” along with a mustang head made of radish seedlings. Isn’t she a great artist as well as gardener?


Vegetable Garden in Flint, Michigan? YES!

January 26th, 2010

With this blog post we wanted to let you know about a really innovative and inspiring project that the University of Michigan, Flint is undertaking to convert a tax foreclosed property near to its campus to classroom space for university students, the community and visiting school kids.

The lot adjacent to the house will become a vegetable garden and demonstration site for urban agriculture.

The home on the left is the property that will be partially restored. This is a great idea and a wonderful way to bring back a bit of what was once a thriving town.

If you’re interested in keeping up with this project, or learning more details about the other parties involved in the deal, visit: Urban Alternatives House or check out the blog entry from San Francisco journalist and Flint Michigan expatriate Gordon Young here.


Chive Talkin’–How to divide and transplant this perennial favorite

October 8th, 2009

Here Arlene talks about prepping your chives for transplant to other areas of your garden. Chives are a perennial herb. When they get a little too big you can divide them and replant them–it’s a two for one deal! You’ll be sure to always have a supply, or you can give some to your family, friends or neighbors. These tips don’t apply to chives only. This technique can be replicated on many different types of perennials.
Once the large clump of chives has been removed. The next step is to divide it. In this video Arlene talks about how she completes this step and the type of tool that she uses. First of all she looks for a natural break in the plant, then she uses a garden saw to separate the two areas.
Now that you have your chives separated, you can transplant them to another area of your garden or into someone else’s yard! In this video Arlene goes over the steps necessary to prepare the soil for the transplants by first, digging the hole and getting the soil nice and moist.
Fear not if your transplants look as if they have seen better days in the weeks ahead. They are okay, but they are in recovery mode because they have had an operation. As Arlene says, “When you get home from an operation you don’t look so good, but you bounce back!” That is what will happen in a month or so after your transplants have had time to adjust.


Planting Carrot Seeds in the Winter Demonstration Bed

October 6th, 2009

Here is a video of showing Arlene’s techniques for planting seeds in the garden.

Step 1
Make sure your soil is damp. Sprinkle it for a minute or two before getting to work.

Step 2
Lightly “draw” a line(s) in the soil where you want your seeds to go. We use a soil knife which is pretty cool do draw out the lines. Some people call it a weed knife because if the handy serrated edge. No matter what you call it, it works, so it is no wonder it comes from a line of instruments called, “Tools That Work.”

Step 3
Lay down your seeds in the lines, leaving just enough room for a bit of soil on top. The rule is that each seed should only be covered by soil at 2-3 times the seed’s size. For example, if your seed is 2 mm wide, cover it with about 4 mm of soil. Arlene sows many seeds in each line to ensure lots of germination, then will go back and thin the lines when she can see which seedlings are the strongest.

Step 4
Cover your seeds with soil using Arlene’s light “scrunching” or scratching technique. See Step 3 for more information on how much soil with which you should cover your seeds.

Step 5
Lightly water the area where seeds were sown again and be sure that it doesn’t dry out. Dried out seeds will not germinate, but seeds in overly wet soil have a hard time germinating too! It’s a fine line, so be careful and have fun!


Gardening Along with Arlene: Amending Your Soil

October 2nd, 2009


Before you plant, it’s important to amend your soil in order restore nutrients that may be depleted after your summer crops were harvested. Soil quality can vary a great from yard to yard. If you believe your soil may be the root of an underlying problem, you may want to consider getting your soil tested by your county agricultural cooperative extension. That is what we’ve done. You can read more the amendments we employ in the garden and why here. (This is a large .pdf document because there are four short videos embedded in it. You can also view the videos on our Facebook Fan page or below. If you aren’t already a fan you can become one here for free!)

Long story short, the soil in our garden requires a bit more amending than most. Overall, for the average organic garden, we recommend, and we also will add gypsum (calcium sulfate), 3-4-3 dried chicken manure pellets, and compost. For a garden that is about 100 square feet, sprinkle on about 1 coffee can full of gypsum, and another 5 coffee cans full of dried chicken manure pellets; then layer on about an inch of compost. Work it into the soil by using a spading fork and hula hoe. Last, use a bow head rake to smooth and level the area.


Winter Garden Plan–Now Available for Download!

September 28th, 2009

Even though it’s still quite warm here in the valley, it’s time to start preparing for your fall/winter garden!

Not sure what to do? Fear not! I have the plan for you! Click here to download the plan I’ll be using in a square of the Good Life Garden that we’ve dedicated as our Winter demonstration area for the home gardener—it’s relatively small, about 11’ wide by 12’ tall, but it’s packed full with seasonal favorites. Feel free to substitute what we have planned here with some of your own favorites. You’ll also find brightly colored companion plants, like calendula and garlic chives, proven to organically help your garden flourish.

As we go through the season, I’ll also be helping you prepare your soil, and share with you some of the challenges and successes I encounter as I ‘work the dirt’ here in Davis, California. We hope you’ll follow along and keep us updated on your progress by posting your successes, questions, trials and tribulations right here on our blog, on our Facebook Fan page, or by emailing us at

Keep up to date! Sign up for the UC Davis Good Life Garden newsletter on the home page of our website for the latest information on all the “Growings-On” in our garden!

We look forward to seeing you in the garden this winter!