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The week in pictures!

April 19th, 2011

Here’s an update on what’s happening in the garden this week – enjoy the photos!


The word of the day is 'artichoke'...They are going crazy out there!


The lavender is the other show-stealer this week...


It's the bee's knees!

bolted red cabbage

Unfortunately a lot of our lettuces and cabbages are bolting because our gardener was told to hold off on harvesting things due to Picnic Day and some other events. The flowers are pretty though! I would have expected them to be red or purple, like the cabbage.


More bolting romaine lettuce! I think it looks cool, even if it's no longer edible.

winter barley

The winter barley is thriving.


And the 'pretty in pink' radishes are sprouting.


We've got peas!

garden colors

Even though a lot of the plants are on their last legs and are going to be removed next week, the color is still vibrant.


The fennel is looking pretty tasty...

I can't wait for the brown turkey figs to be ready to eat! They're getting there slowly...

artichokes 2

The attack of the artichokes!


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.

We’re in the News!

July 2nd, 2010

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to have a journalist from the The Sac Bee, Gina Kim, and her photographer, Autumn Cruz in our garden to cover our free herb harvest. To see the article online go here, otherwise read what Gina Kim wrote below. Also be sure to take in some of the stunning photos!

Our herb harvests are free and take place every few weeks or so during the summer and fall seasons. Be sure to keep in the loop by signing up for our newsletter, or following are Facebook and/or Twitter accounts. All the information can be found on our website.

In UC Davis courtyard, environment is edible

Leek plants reach up toward the sun. Artichokes peek out from their thistle-like leaves. Fragrant lavender blossoms dry radiantly on their stems.

It’s just a routine day in the Good Life Garden at the University of California, Davis.

More than 100 types of flowers, fruits and vegetables have been planted in the 6,000-square-feet of organic growing space in the courtyard of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

The garden is replanted three times a year – fall, spring and summer – and is an example of an edible garden used for decorative purposes.

“People haven’t traditionally thought of a tomato plant or basil as landscape plants, but why not? You get something nice to look at and something to eat,” said Sal Genito, director of buildings and grounds at Davis.

Those on the garden’s e-mail list were invited Thursday to cut lavender and other herbs, the first of the year’s monthly harvest days that run through the fall.

Andrea Thompson, 40, of Sacramento came armed with pruning shears and plastic bags. She harvested basil for pesto, garlic chives for scrambled eggs, sage for sweet potatoes and oregano for pasta sauce, plus a bunch of lavender and a bouquet of the daisy-like rudbeckia in yellow and orange.

“It’s so motivational for a home gardener to see what’s possible,” said Thompson, operations director for the school’s lass=" lingo_link lingo_link_hidden" href="" rel="nofollow">Foods for Health Institute.

The garden was planted in 2008, the same year the Mondavi institute opened. The second phase of the institute project, a brewery and winery, is expected to be completed this summer.

The garden costs about $45,000 a year to maintain, which Genito hopes to offset soon by selling produce to campus cafeterias as well as renting the space for private events and receptions.

Until a washing facility that complies with food safety standards is installed, most of the produce is donated to the Gunrock Pub and chancellor’s events, as well as the Food Bank of Yolo County.

The plants mostly were started from seeds donated by the organic company Seeds of Change, said gardener Arlene Kennedy. Beyond weeding and pruning, Kennedy is also the one who shovels in chicken manure and compost into the beds between the year’s three major plantings.

There are generally about 50 plants in the garden at any one time. The summer garden includes seven types of beans, two varieties of thyme, Armenian and lemon cucumber, 10 kinds of tomatoes, four types of eggplants, six varieties of peppers, three kinds of basil and four different lavenders.

Some of the plantings are experimental, like a Fuji apple tree that is being trained to grow like a grapevine for easier picking and space restrictions.

Two persimmon trees are being guided onto a trellis and will eventually be grafted together when they meet. And a handful of tomato plants in new varieties, such as the Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye Heart and Large Barred Boar – developed by the Suisun Valley-based Wild Boar Farms – are starting to sport their fruit.

Each of the garden’s beds are a mix of flowers, fruits and vegetables, not just for the aesthetic contrast but because the varieties inadvertently help each other, Kennedy said.

For instance, Persian carpet zinnias attract hoverflies whose larvae eat aphids that feast on the snowy eggplants.

I think organic gardening is easier,” Kennedy said. “I let nature resolve the problem.”


• For more information about Good Life Garden or to get on the newsletter list for harvest day alerts go to

• The garden is free and open to the public. Contact the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, (530) 752-6741.


FREE Lavender Harvest: Thursday, July 1 from 9:30 AM – 2 PM

June 29th, 2010

Just in time for Independence Day! FREE LAVENDER GIVE-AWAY Thursday, July 1st from 9:30 AM – 2 PM.

Join us at the Good Life Garden this Thursday, July 1st, anytime between 9:30AM and 2PM to gather some lavender! We also have a few other herbs that may be available to harvest on request. Some lavender will already be cut and ready to take home, and some will need to be harvested. Be sure to come prepared with a cutting instrument in case all of the trimmed lavender has been taken!

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.


The new plants are sprouting!

June 3rd, 2010

I went out to the garden today and everything looks lovely! All of the new summer plants Arlene started from seed are beginning to sprout – the Kentucky wonder pole beans, dark star zucchini, arava and sharlyn melons, bush beans and cosmos are all taking off. The Cherokee purple tomatoes have even begun to bloom!

The hops also look very happy and the hidcote blue lavender in particular is stunning. The alyssum also looks much happier since a sprinkler head problem has been fixed. Check out the rainbow of colors we have right now. I’m so glad summer is finally here!

Kentucky wonder pole beans greet the sun

the angel red pomegranates are blooming
the purple alyssum is doing well after fixing the sprinkler head
the brilliant pink of the rosa prostrata is a bright addition to the wine aroma garden
the Cherokee purple tomato is the first to bloom

The humming of bees is audible if you visit the hidcote lavender bed
the chinook and cascade hops are thriving (apart from the one that was ripped out of the ground by vandals!)

Want to see more photos? We’ve finally updated our flickr page so check out the progress of our plants this year: We still have a few more sets to upload too, so be sure to check back soon!