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Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Durango, Colorado

Purple Passionflower

Irvine, California

Macro photo of Orange Tulip Petals

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This is a bit late, but if you live in or around Irvine you’re going to want to come by the South Coast Research & Extension Center (SCREC) this morning for the 4th Annual Residential Demonstration Landscape Open House & Vendor Fair (phew – doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue does it?).

Today from 9 am to 2 pm there will be garden industry vendors and water agencies showing the latest methods to reduce landscape water usage. Master Gardeners will be speaking about composting, small space gardening, pest control, and edible landscaping. Plus, best of all, there will be a plant sale (cash or check only).

You’ll also marvel at SCREC, a beautiful rural oasis in our busy suburban/urban environment. Most folks have no idea what a treasure we have here in Irvine. I often do my Master Gardener volunteer hours there pruning in citrus, persimmon, pluot and cherimoya groves. They also have 3 residential landscapes demonstrating different levels of water conservation through landscaping and planting.

I’ll be there as a “seed planter/floater.” So come by and say hi. I guarantee you’ll learn something to improve your home garden.

Event is today 9am to 2 pm at SCREC 7601 Irvine Boulevard, Irvine CA 92618. All lectures and demonstrations are free. Plant sales are by cash or check only – no charges. Click here for more info and a list of speakers, demonstrations and vendors.

 

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Irvine, California

Pink Coneflower

 

 

Durango, Colorado

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I mentioned the passing of our amazing Bea Grow a while ago. Her death last December was sad, but now comes the truly unbelievable news that her garden is to be dismantled bit by little bit. I was as shocked as I imagine most of my fellow gardeners were when I read the craigslist notice of the sale of the contents of her house and garden that my friend sent me.

Disposing of the house contents I can understand, but taking apart the garden? Say it isn’t so!

This is a beautiful and amazing space. Bea was a true master of her craft and the garden she created on a hot, Southern California hillside was a joy to see. There are surprises and delights wherever you look — an adorable beehive watering can nestled amongst the greenery, graceful fountains and pedestals, a bird house with Bea’s little wren friend flitting in and out, delicious color combinations, and, amazingly, a rhododendron. Who but Bea could grow a rhododendron in San Clemente?!

Bea was very generous about showing her garden and with gardening advice. You could ask her anything and she would tell you her formula. I was pleased to hear that she credited watering with a weak solution of fish emulsion (one of our favorite techniques) for her success with containers plantings.

And it wasn’t just the garden that was beautiful. Bea was as lovely and gracious a person as you could ever meet. She was kind, funny and humble. The day I visited I asked if I could take her picture. She said yes, but she didn’t think I really wanted to do that. She told me she wasn’t a very good subject as she was very plain-looking. On the contrary, I told her, and I meant it. See for yourself. Not conventionally beautiful perhaps, but beautiful nonetheless; Bea was as lovely looking as any flower in her garden.

Bea (3rd from left) sharing her gardening tips.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Bea and her garden since I heard the news. The sale of the contents of her garden seems so wanton and disrespectful of a life’s work. Surely there’s some gardener out there who would love to buy Bea’s house and put his or her touch on this jewel.

I know all about change and impermanence and have meditated on this concept often. But this week I am struggling with it. Sometimes it’s just too soon.

And, no, I’m not going to the sale. As much as I’d love to have a small piece of Bea’s garden to put in mine, I don’t think I can bear to see the destruction of her work. The memory will be enough.

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Another in a series of posts to bring you interesting garden-related stories. This week we have links to a few articles we think you’ll like and news about events in Southern California.

A Plan to Turn Brooklyn’s Unused Acres Green: This article is about a truly great idea that a group of Brooklyn gardeners called 596 Acres (the total of unused public acres in Brooklyn) had to find and cultivate all the unused lots that dot the city. LOVE this idea!

Humans aren’t the only ones making things grow. Apparently the male Bowerbird, who builds elaborate bowers to attract a mate, is responsible for a lot of new plant life.

Here’s a lovely tribute to a lovely woman and an amazing gardener, Bea Grow. I had the pleasure of meeting her and visiting her beautiful garden a couple of years ago. Bea died last December and is sorely missed by the O.C. gardening community.

Click the link for a round-up of all the O.C. garden tours. Should have gotten this link to you sooner for all the April tours, but there are plenty on the list for May. One I highly recommend is the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour. It’s free (donations encouraged) and it’s fabulous — this weekend, May 5 – 6.

There will be a workshop on Edible Gardening in Small Spaces by my fellow Master Gardeners at the Orange County Great Park this Saturday. Here’s the description: Limited space? Master Gardeners are here to show you the ins and outs of getting a great yield from little places. Choose your favorite vegetables and learn how to make the most of them.

And finally a few words about a great event that I was a part of last weekend at the Orange County Great Park; the Artisan Food and Arts Festival. It was an all-day celebration of artisan food, sustainable gardening and art.

Chef Linda Elbert (of The Basement Table) and I collaborated on Seed to Plate: Cooking from the Garden, a presentation about growing your own vegetables and preparing them. I really enjoyed sharing organic growing tips with our audience.

Afterwards, I was able to spend time taking in the other chefs’ demos, the restaurant booths, sampling the food from the food trucks and seeing the art exhibits. Some of the art is still up. I highly recommend that you go see Tom Lamb’s exhibit of aerial photography called Marks on the Land: The View From Here.

The entire event was so much fun — kudos to my friend Maya Dunn and the Great Park staff for a fabulous job of pulling it off in grand style. Let’s hope that it comes back next year!

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Saturday: The bees are coming today! To get ready for their arrival, I’m preparing their sugar syrup and making a homemade version of Honey B Healthy, a nourishing supplement that is added to the syrup.

I’ll be teaching my co-workers how to be beekeepers and they’ll be installing the bees on Sunday with my guidance. Ray built us some beautiful Top Bar Hives (Thanks, Ray!) which will be their new home. We are very excited!

We have, over the last couple of weeks in our (very little) spare time, been creating a bee and butterfly sanctuary. It’s in its beginning stages and will soon be filled with plants that all the local pollinators will want to come and visit. We are also adding a labyrinth that will be planted with medicinal herbs and a vegetable garden filled with heirloom vegetables. The hives will be nestled in this wonderful little spot we’ve created located in the Animas River Valley.  It’s coming together beautifully and I’ll be posting pictures of the hives and gardens soon.

Happy Spring everybody!

Recipe found on the Beekeepers of the Ozarks:

Honey B Healthy (generic)

  • 5 cups of water
  • 2 1/2 lbs of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon lecithin granules (used as an emulsifier)
  • 15 drops spearmint oil
  • 15 drops lemongrass oil.
  • 6 drops of thyme oil (optional)

Dissolve lecithin in 1/4 cup of water. This may take several hours. Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Stir in lecithin until dissolved. Stir in essential oils until everything is evenly distributed. Cool before using.

I use 1 tablespoon per quart but I don’t use thyme in my mixture. One to two tablespoons per gallon works if using thyme oil.

Makes about 2 quarts.

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I’ve been in my house for most of the time that I’ve lived in California — 19 years. And in all that time I’ve missed having the big, productive vegetable garden that I had in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of reasons that I haven’t been growing vegetables here; too little time, not enough sun, etc., but the big one is the really crappy soil in our area.

Soil is so very important for growing veggies. Of course light, water and nutrition are key elements, but you can have all of those and still not be able to grow much in the way of vegetables if your soil is lousy.

My soil is compacted and low in organic matter, a result of building practices in developments such a mine. Builders come in and level the ground, bulldozing away the fertile topsoil. Add the fact that the soil in this area is full of heavy clay, which stops tiny little roots dead in their tracks, and you have very inhospitable veggie growing conditions.

The solution is to build raised beds that you can fill with beautiful, fertile soil and loads of compost. Which is what I did last week.

This project is pretty easy. In spite of having only the most basic woodworking skills, I had no problem getting good results. I started with plans, which I modified it to match my needs, that I found on Sunset Magazines website. Now some of you may laugh at how little mine is (4′ x 4′), but I have only one tiny spot that gets enough sun for growing anything but part-shade plants.

I decided on a smaller version than Sunset’s also because this is test run that I didn’t want to sink a lot of money into. If it works, I’ll get some of the eucalyptus trees that surround my yard trimmed or removed (Have you priced this kind of job lately? Yowzers!) and redo my landscape to accommodate larger beds. In the meantime, this project cost me about $90 and took about 4 hours. Here’s how I did it.

Materials

  • One 16-foot long 2 x 12 cut into 4 equal pieces (ends up being a tad less than 4′ each due to the saw cut)
  • One 8 foot long 2 x 4 cut into 4 16-inch pieces with some left over
  • A box of 2 1/2″ decking screws – you’ll only need 12 of them though
  • One roll of 1/4″ hardware cloth (I had to get a 3′ x 10′ roll — a 4′ x 10′ would have been better)
  • Five 1 cu. ft. bags of organic topsoil
  • Three 1.5 cu. ft. bags of organic planting compost (total topsoil + compost should be 9 – 10 cubic feet)
  • 2 cups organic Tomato & Vegetable food
  • One small Jack Russel Terrier, optional

I went to Lowe’s (wish there was a real lumber yard in the area) and bought top grade pine. You can use pine, redwood or cedar. The latter two will last a while longer but there are sustainability issues with the cedar. DO NOT BUY TREATED WOOD even if they say it’s the new, safe kind. I don’t believe any of it is food-safe and it’s certainly not organic.

When you are selecting the wood look down the length of the board to make sure it’s not warped. A tiny bit bowing or twisting is ok, but it should be very, very slight. Also eliminate any lumber that has more than very minor splits on the ends or lots of knots.

Lowe’s will cut any lumber you buy to your measurements for no additional charge — good thing because these boards would never have fit into my car, nor could I have managed the larger piece by myself.

Some of the changes I made to the original plans were: I used 12″ lumber for the sides because I couldn’t see any reason to use two 6″ boards as they did in the Sunset plans. And I switched out their recommended 4″ x 4″ corner posts for 2″ x 4″ because my bed is smaller and I thought it wouldn’t compromise the sturdiness factor — besides it saved a little $$. I didn’t add the piping for the row cover hoops because it never gets that cold here, however my resident bird population may cause me to regret not being able to float some bird netting.

Tools

  • Electric or battery-powered drill, plus a screw driver bit and a drill bit that is slightly smaller in diameter than the decking screws
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Metal snips or shears

I assembled the bed upside down right where I was going to place it. In retrospect this was probably a mistake that accounted for my not getting the box perfectly squared. So I recommend assembling it on a flat surface like your patio, deck or garage. I did the whole thing myself, but if you can recruit a helper (one with opposable thumbs) so much the better.

  1. Lay down two of the 2 x 4s and place one 2 x 12 on top of them so they are right angles, lining up the 2 x 4s at opposite edges.
  2. Drill pilot holes to prevent splitting the wood. Use 3 decking screws for each end. Screw through the 2 x 12 into the 2 x 4s.
  3. Repeat for one more side. You should have two sides with legs and 2 sides without. (As you can see I switched out my little battery-powered drill which didn’t have enough torque for my electric drill)
  4. Attach one plain board to one board with legs, making sure that the corner is square and the legs face inside the box. Be sure you place the screws so they go into the wood and not the gap between the side and the leg.
  5. Attach the second legged board to the opposite side.
  6. Attach the final side.
  7. Next you should try to get the site as close to level as you can. 
  8. Then turn the bed right side up and mark the soil where the legs will go.
  9. Dig holes four inches deep for the legs.
  10. Place the legs in the holes and fill them in tamping the dirt around the legs.
  11. If there are slight gaps under the sides, take some dirt and mound it along the sides to fill them.
  12. Cut the hardware cloth to fit and lay it on the bottom. This is important if you live in an area with moles and gophers.
  13. Dump the soil and compost in and mix thoroughly using the shovel and the cultivator. Soil should come to within 3 inches of the top.
  14. Add the organic fertilizer and mix that into the top 4 -6 inches.
  15. Using the bow rake, level the soil
  16. Gently spray water to moisten soil.

Now you’re ready to plant!

It is little, but I’m very excited to have a vegetable garden again — no matter how small. Now Emmie needs a nap and so do I!
Update: I should have mentioned that you can increase the size of this raised bed by at least two feet in length with no issues. I wouldn’t recommend increasing the width. For raised beds 3′ to 4′ is as wide as you’ll probably want to go. It makes it easier to reach into the bed for weeding, planting and harvesting.

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