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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

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. 

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.

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY! for inspiration!

July 7th, 2010

Stumped about where to start with your garden? Want to spruce up your space with a new design or some new plants? Want to try something different? is the place to visit!

I stumbled upon this website which came through to my email from google alerts – and what a gem! Not only is it nicely organized and laid out, it has a plethora of ideas to get the creative juices flowing! The “plants” section alone has tons of resources for plants by type, as well as a “top 100 most popular plants” list that links to what seems to be endless resources for each plant on the list. In addition to this they have garden design ideas including links to landscape design resources, how to get started with dry gardens, wet gardens, wildlife gardens, and even how to design a garden by color, light or season. I have to say I’m particularly interested in the moonlight garden plans – who knew there were so many different varieties of flowers that bloom at night! They also have an extensive listing of resources and ideas for edible gardens – even how to make an edible flower salad!

So next time you’re stumped or need some inspiration, or even just want some interesting reading accompanied by some lovely photography, check out!


Massive Fennel Bulbs!

April 14th, 2010

We’ve let our fennel go! We planted this fennel last fall! Although it is kind of hard to tell from these photos, these bulbs are really quite large and have started to grow sprout entirely new fennel bulbs! They have not yet started to flower, but when they do, the flowers will provide a nice habitat for bees and butterflies and eventually allow the fennel to self-propagate.

Fennel fun fact: Fennel is a carminative, also known as carminativum (plural carminativa), which is an herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract, or facilitates the expulsion of said gas, thereby combating flatulence.

Here are some tips from eHow on growing the perennial fennel! Did you know that fennel, “Does not play well with others?” The eHow article recommends that you avoid growing fennel near tomatoes, beans and cabbage plants because the fennel interferes with their growth. On the flip side coriander tends to interfere with fennel’s growth. We’ve got our fennel growing with beets and both are doing great!


Nasturtium is Like a Box of Chocolates?

April 6th, 2010

Have you ever thought you planted one seed and then, much to your surprise, something else came up in its place?

That’s what happened to us when we planted our nasturtium seeds. The packet said it was a vine, and, don’t get me wrong, we got some vines, but we also got a very happy bush! So much for the trellis we planted near the ‘vine’ which may be bare for a little while!

Sometimes you never know what you are going to get! It still looks pretty good though don’t you think?


Peas–Keep Harvesting and They’ll Keep Producing!

April 5th, 2010

Last Friday at the UC Davis Good Life Garden we harvested quite a few peas!

We are currently growing two types: shelling peas and Sugar Ann snap peas. For those of you like me who thought a pea was a pea was a pea. That is not the case! Shelling peas are grown primarily to “shell” or to eat the peas inside and not for the pod. Sugar Ann snap peas on the other hand are grown to eat whole, pod and all!

What I have found is that you can eat a shelling pea, pod and all if you get it young. If you wait then the pod become a little woody and chewy. The same applies to the Sugar Ann snap peas but their pods tend to stay tender on the vine for longer than shelling peas, and boy, do they live up to their name! If you harvest them at just the right time–not to young, not too old–they are so sweet and delicious! I happen to have this variety growing at home and can’t seem to be patient enough to incorporate them into a salad or stir fry because I’m snacking too much right off the vine, but I digress.

The point of this entry is to let you home gardeners out there know the importance of regular harvesting! If you want your peas, or cucumber, or beans, or really any edible that produces multiple fruits, legumes or vegetables–you need to harvest early and often! By harvesting our peas the plant will produce more. If we waited until the pods were all older and fatter (See photos.), our plants would get the message, “My work is done!” But we want them to keep kicking out the peas into spring, so we’ll keep harvesting and so should you!