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Last chance FREE basil harvest!

September 28th, 2011

herb harvest flyer

Don’t miss the end of the season FREE basil herb harvest at the Good Life Garden!   Basil will be removed after this harvest to make room for our fall plants, so get your Ziploc bags ready!

WHEN: Friday, September 30
TIME: Anytime between 9 AM and 2 PM
WHERE: UC Davis Good Life Garden – in the courtyard of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.  click here for directions.

Please 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)


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Mulching Police on Patrol!

May 25th, 2011

Fine Mulch

Coarse Mulch

To mulch or not to mulch?  That is the question!  Mulching is great for your garden and believe it or not, it’s actually required by law.  Don’t worry – if you do not mulch you will not be taken to “non-mulchers” jail or even fined, but mulching is an important part of water conservation and is included in the 1990 Water Conservation in Landscaping Act (AB325). This act was designed to encourage backyard gardeners to abide by seven basic principles of water conservation, one of which is mulching.

Mulch is defined as any material applied to the surface of the soil to improve the texture. Mulching reduces water evaporation from soil by 50 percent, thus reducing the need to frequently water. It also protects soil from erosion, suppresses weeds by 2/3 by blocking them from sunlight and inhibiting their ability to grow, and also serves as a soil conditioner. Earthworms, which aerate the soil and leave castings (worm poop) that act as a high-quality fertilizer, are also very much attracted to mulch.

Mulching also reduces crusting and soil compaction (that’s when the soil dries out and cracks). It does this by lowering the soil temperature by almost 10 degrees. In the winter it can have the opposite effect by contributing to warming of the soil, protecting it from those frosty winter evenings.

Mulch is usually applied to vegetable gardens once the soil has warmed up; around spring time or a little later. The coarser the material the deeper the mulch should go. The California Master Gardener’s Handbook suggests the mulch depth should be around 1-3 inches for finer materials, such as sawdust and grass clippings, and for coarser materials, like bark or straw or even shredded plant matter, use 3-6 inches. But be careful not to put mulch too close to the stem of plants or the trunks of trees as it may retain too much water and have damaging effects on the plant, like crown rot.

Thank you Shirley Porter, Nevada County Master Gardener, for providing us with this information from The Curious Gardener newsletter published by Nevada and Placer County UC Cooperative Extension.  Their website is filled with great information, classes and events.  Check it out here!

Example of Mulching Several Inches From Tree Trunk

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Website Wednesday: Edible Yardworks

September 1st, 2010

Ever walked out to your garden with a big to do list full of great ideas, only to find yourself standing in the same spot ten minutes later thinking “Where do I start?” Well we think we may have found an answer to that question. The Edible Yardworks website is a great place to look for a starting point for various gardening projects. And did we mention it is a Northern California specific webpage! This website is an amazing resource for people looking for that starting place.  It has 15 different ‘How-To’ topics for those interested in finding out more about everything from composting to mushroom farming.

The creator of this site, Stacey, also offers private classes on how to grow organic and cook great meals. Even better, her price for a class with more than three students is $15 per person! We think that is so reasonable, so, for those of you in Northern California get some friends together and make a night of it!

Stacey also posts several great video from very reputable sources. Her videos are in the “Case for Edible Yards” tab at the top of the page which has 9 reasons why being sustainable is so important including Biodiversity, Industrial Agriculture, and Climate Change.

Stacey uses a clip from this movie in the Industrial Agriculture section
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It’s fig day!

August 30th, 2010
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. 
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Decorating Your Edible Garden with Alyssum!

August 19th, 2010
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. 
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Corn from our garden: BEFORE and (almost) AFTER

August 13th, 2010

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.
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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 goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found on our website: http://www.goodlifegarden.ucdavis.edu/location

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!)

BE SURE TO WASH ALL HERBS WELL BEFORE ENJOYING THEIR FRESH TASTE!

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.

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