Archive for the ‘Garden to Kitchen’ Category

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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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.


  • 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.


  • 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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It’s undeniable even here in Southern California, fall is in the air. Though the temperature is nowhere near nippy, there’s a hint of a cool breeze, a different cast to the light, and a particular smell that all come with the changing of the season.

That means that we need to start cleaning up the garden. Some of my trials have punked out — believe it or not the nasturtiums I started from seed never really took off. I blame the crappy soil. I’ll remove the crispy remains and start planning to add lots more organic amendments to my beds in a few weeks.

Once I get things cleaned out, I’ll start thinking about starting seeds for a few cool weather crops. I won’t do many, again because of my heavy clay soil, but I’ll certainly plant lettuce and spinach in some containers. I might even do a small raised bed.

Hints of fall also make me want to preserve a bit of summer to brighten up gloomy winter days. So I’m going to put up some peaches. The easiest way to preserve peaches is to freeze them. Blanch (see recipe below) then peel and slice the peaches, placing slices on a cookie sheet. Put them into the freezer until completely frozen, then transfer into a storage container. (Smaller fruits like blueberries or strawberries can be washed and frozen whole.) Sometime in the depths of winter you are going to be so happy that you can whip up a pie or cobbler with that just-picked summer taste.

Canning is a little more time-consuming but not at all difficult. Most canned fruit recipes are too sweet for my taste, but I just found what seems to be a great recipe in the AARP Magazine that uses fruit juice in place of sugar syrup.

No-sugar Canned Peaches

  • 6 one-quart canning jars with rings and self-sealing lids
  • 11 pounds of ripe peaches
  • 1 package ascorbic or citric acid
  • 2 quarts unsweetened apple or white grape juice
1. Sterilize canning jars and rings by simmering them in hot water for at least 10 minutes. Leave them in the hot water until ready to use. Lids should be in hot, but not boiling water, until ready to use.
2. Mix ascorbic or citric acid with water according to package directions.
3. Boil water in another saucepan to blanch the fruit. Dip fruit, a few at a time, into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds until skins loosen. Dip quickly into cold water and slip off skins.
4. Cut fruit in half, remove pits and slice. Coat peaches with acid water to prevent darkening. (Acidifying the peaches also helps preserve them. Do not skip this or any other steps.)
5. Pack peach slices in jars, almost to the top. Be sure to leave the top 1/2″ free.
6. Bring the juice to a boil and ladle it over the peaches, leaving 1/2″ of headspace.
7. Make sure there are no big bubbles in the jars. If there are, slip in a knife to release them. Wipe jar rims clean of any bits of fruit or juice. Put lids on and hand-tighten.
8. Process jars in a boiling-water canner with jars covered by 2″ of boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes.
9. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool for 12 hours. You should hear each jar “ping” as it cools and the seal forms.
10. Unscrew rings to make sure jars are sealed. The lids should be firmly attached and slightly indented in the center. (If a jar isn’t sealed properly, you can refrigerate it and eat the peaches within a few days.)
Store in a dark, cool place for up to one year. (Recipe from AARP Magazine with some edits.)
Happy canning!
Just a heads-up — posts might be a little erratic for the next 2 or 3 weeks. My daughter is getting married soon and Mary Beth just started a great job. It’s all good and very exciting, but we’re both a little over the top with things to do.


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It’s been too long since we’ve posted a new recipe for the Garden to Kitchen page. Oh we talk about it from time to time and vow to be more diligent, but… you know, stuff happens and suddenly it’s been months. We’re not promising an end to this procrastination, but here’s at least one more addition to the files.

This Spelt Honey Bread is really delicious and it’s great for those of you who might not be able to tolerate wheat in your diet. Spelt is an ancient grain that still contains gluten, so it’s not for anyone with strong wheat allergies. But if you’re on the less reactive side like I am, this bread might be friendlier to your digestion.

For a long time I thought I might never be able to eat yeast-raised bread again, but I’ve been eating this bread for a couple of months now. Being able to once again have warm bread fresh out of the oven and slathered in butter is heaven for me.

Click here for the recipe.

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