Posts Tagged ‘Raised Bed Gardening’

Artichokes growing in the demonstration garden at the Farm and Food Lab

Barbara: The wonderful UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County are at it again. They’ll be presenting a series of five exciting gardening workshops March 13 — May 15 at the Farm and Food Lab in the Great Park in Irvine (details below and in the sidebar). If you live in Orange County and are a gardener you should go. No excuses!

I discovered these workshops last fall and wrote about my experience in this post, A Morning Full of Surprises. Check it out for pics and more details about the Farm and Food Lab.

Sweet peas at the Farm and Food Lab

Master Gardeners

Do you have gardening questions? The MGs are very knowledgeable and they’ll be available at the workshops to answer any questions you may have. If you stump them, they’ll research your problem and get back to you. And it won’t be just any old opinion either. The answers will be research-based and scientifically accurate information. If you can’t wait for the first workshop on March 13th to talk to them,  you can call or email the Master Gardener hotline for answers to your gardening and pest problems: 714-708-1646 or hotline@uccemg.com

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Master Gardener in Training. And let me just say that this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time! Volunteering is an important part of the program — Master Gardeners are required to volunteer 50 hours a year. At first I thought this sounded like a lot. Now I say, “Piece of cake!”

I’m falling all over myself trying to take advantage of volunteer activities because they’re fun, the folks I’m working with are great, and I learn so much doing them. Two of the best so far have been planting espallier bare-root fruit trees, which you’ll see when you go to the workshops, and grafting persimmon trees. I’ll be doing a post on the bare-root fruit tree planting next week and one about the grafting shortly after that.

Here’s the workshop info. See you there!

Garden Workshops

At the Great Park Food and Farm Lab from 10 a.m.-noon. Admission and parking are free.

Grow it NOW: Warm Season Vegetables — Saturday, March 13
Ready to dig in the garden again?  Now is the time to plant warm season vegetables to feed your family over the summer months.  The Master Gardeners will give you the information you need to choose your crops so that you can follow the #1 rule: plant what you and your family like to eat!  Yum!

Tomato Time — Saturday, April 10
You could plant from dawn to dusk and still not plant every variety of tomato!  Whether you are a novice or a pro, you’ll enjoy learning about tomatoes:  the many varieties, their culture, diseases and pests, growing in the ground vs. growing in containers – and finally, how to use them.  Come hear the Master Gardeners on the “A to Z” about tomatoes.

The Backyard Orchard — Saturday, April 17
Not enough room in your backyard for an orchard?  With a little planning and know-how, it could happen. Learn about the varieties of fruit trees suitable for backyard growing and how to plant and care for them. The Master Gardeners will provide tips for fruit trees in small gardens.   Valuable information…ripe for picking!

Tool Time — Saturday, May 1
Okay, okay – there are some trusty standby tools that you need in your garden.  And then, there are the cool tools – the ones that take your breath away, that you don’t want to live without, that you see in your dreams.  The Master Gardeners will discuss and demonstrate tools for home gardens.  Be there!

Smart Gardening — Saturday, May 15
What does it take to be a Smart Gardener?  Knowledge – and application of that knowledge – about irrigation, soil care, pest control, energy and wildlife.  Sound complicated?  The Master Gardeners will simplify it as they provide tips for you to save time, money and create a healthier garden.   If you want to be a Smart Gardener, attend this workshop.

Garden Workshops will be held at the Orange County Great Park Preview Park in the Farm & Food Lab.  The Orange County Great Park is located on Marine Way off of Sand Canyon by the 5 Freeway in Irvine.  For more information, please visit www.ocgp.org or call 949-724-7420.


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Barbara: I was looking forward to this past Saturday morning ever since I read that the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners would be presenting a fall vegetable workshop at the Farm and Food Lab in the Great Park. Irvine is something of a wasteland when it comes to these sorts of things, so the fact that there was a workshop like this surprised me.

The second surprise was the Farm and Food Lab. I was truly amazed when I laid eyes on it. I’d heard that there was something agricultural happening in Orange County’s Great Park, but more than this I did not know. Well, turns out that there’s a not-quite-year-old, 2-acre farm that has produced more than 6 tons of organic row crops that have been donated to local food banks!


This 2-acre plot will be substantially expanded in the coming months.

And next to this very productive field are beautiful raised beds brimming with fruits, vegetables and ornamentals, each planted in keeping with a theme — a pizza garden, fruit salad garden, a Native American garden, etc.


Orange County gardeners explore the Food and Farm Lab.

In the midst of this delightful setting the Park crew set up a large tent for the lecture. And that brings us to the next, and perhaps biggest, surprise. The tent wasn’t big enough to accommodate all the people that showed up! In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have imagined that more than 20 people or so would come, but there were at least triple that number. Bring me my smelling salts!

Kay Havens, a certified Master Gardener, gave a great presentation. It was informative, funny and full of tips for growing fall crops in containers and small gardens. Afterward, I spoke to Tom Larson, chief landscape and farming consultant, who told me that there are plans for a much larger farm and a community garden.

Things are looking up in OC, people! If you’ve lived in Orange County for as long as I have, you too would be pinching yourself to make sure this wasn’t a dream. I think I’ll stick around to see what happens next!

P.S. There are four more workshops scheduled. See the Great Park site for more information. And come to the next one — you won’t be disappointed.

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Mary Beth: I love this time of year. It’s a time when I like to make a few changes in the garden beds. Some work, some don’t and, while the main bones of the garden will always be the same, it’s fun to have a few surprises to look forward to the next year. And changes here and there are especially nice for those of us who like to take photographs.

Today I dug up one of my favorite plants, the Blue Star Amsonia. This plant looks especially good contrasted with the red poppies that grow next to it (it’s one of my favorite photo subjects) but, it got too big and began to take over the bed.

Red poppy and Blue Star Amsonia

Red Poppy and Blue Star Amsonia

So I moved it, leaving behind an Amsonia seedling I found to keep the poppies company. This also gave my father’s pretty yellow rose some room to be seen. In the Amsonia’s place I transplanted a white coneflower, a dozen crocosmia ‘lucifer’, and a clump of Red Switch Grass that has beautiful leaves blushed with red. I think this combo will look amazing with Dad’s yellow rose and a delicate white rose, ‘Darlow’s Enigma’, that’s nearby. It will also give the bed color throughout the entire season which it lacks this time of year. I planted the Amsonia on the other end of the bed with the yellow daylilies and blue Japanese iris, where I think it will look especially nice and give me more pretty combos to photograph.

I’m planning on more garden changes, but right now they are still swirling around my brain. I’m one of those gardeners who doesn’t plan on paper. The ideas pop in my head while I’m having a bout of insomnia, while I’m working in other people’s gardens, or while weeding in one of my beds. When things start to come together and the picture I’m painting in my head seems right, I’ll  grab my shovel and start creating a new work of art.

Speaking of changes, this fall will be extra busy for me because Ray and I have decided that we won’t be coming back to live on Block Island next year. We’re going back to our home in Colorado and will stay there year round. It’s a very bittersweet time for us. I’m very excited about living all four seasons in the mountains and working in my Colorado gardens again after 5 years on Block Island, but heartbroken to leave this special garden that’s filled with so many wonderful memories.

Laying out the vegetable garden 5 years ago

Laying out the vegetable garden ...

The vegetable garden five years later

The vegetable garden five years later.

The flower bed in front of the vegetable garden

The flower bed in front of the vegetable garden...

And five years later

And five years later.

In spite of leaving so much behind, I know that these changes will be good for us. I can feel it. And my Colorado garden, which has endured on it’s own all these years, is calling me.

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Barbara: A few days ago I shared the story of how my Dad started gardening on Block Island and how my sister helped him after he became ill. Until he passed in 2004, Dad and Mary Beth worked side-by-side and built on the bones of the garden he started back in the summer of 1968. In the five years since, Mary Beth has created a masterpiece. As promised, I’ll take you on a little tour starting with the vegetable garden.

It’s been a tough growing season this year, as many of you know. The rain never seemed to stop and the sun hid behind the clouds for most of the spring and early summer, so the gardens got a slow start. Luckily the week I was there it was beautiful. (Guess I brought some of that California sunshine with me.) Most of the photos were taken when I was on Block Island in the beginning of July, but a few are from seasons past.

The view from the house

The view from the house.

The Vegetable Garden

This is at the far end of the property. I love waking up with the sun and wandering around here. It’s so peaceful and the dewy earth smells fantastic. It’s also where I can usually find Mary Beth — weeding, pruning or watering. It takes a tremendous amount of work. Good thing she loves it!

Herbs are planted in the center raised bed

Herbs are planted in the center raised bed and the vegetables are in the beds that surround it.

Misty August morning last year

One misty August morning last year.

These posts have been fun for me. I’ve rediscovered lots of old photos like the ones in the previous post and these of my daughter, Kristin with my Dad.

Harvesting tomatoes in 1982

John and Kristin harvesting tomatoes in 1982.

Kristin's prize tomato. Her grandparents are behind her with their heads cut off (?!!)

Kristin's prize tomato. Her grandparents are behind her with their heads cut off (?!!).

This flower bed sits directly in front of the vegetable garden. It’s the most beautiful of the garden beds. The perennials are artfully planted and timed so that it’s never without a magnificent display of blossoms from early spring through the first frost in late October.

The Island’s summer visitors stop by the side of the road to take pictures. It’d be fun to see some of them.


This is the one that stops traffic all day long.

Walk around any corner on the property and you will find a lovely surprise — birdhouses and birdbaths, wind chimes, and pots brimming with flowers. It’s a never-ending delight and every season Mary Beth finds new treasures to tuck into the garden.

The slow drip of water attracts all kinds of birds

The slow drip of water attracts all kinds of bird who fight to bathe here.

Some of the best treasures are the ones we rescue. Mary Beth’s client was tossing this bird house. She brought it home and rebuilt it. After a coat of paint, it was ready for some new tenants.

Afternoon sun

Afternoon sun lights the bird condo that sits near the bee hives behind the vegetable garden.

Another spot I love. There’s nothing so soothing as sitting here with a cup of tea and a book to read.

Peaceful moment

Lovely, weather-worn bench waiting for a visitor.

More water for the birds

Terracotta frogs guarding another birdbath.

While the vegetable garden is mostly planted with humans in mind, Mary Beth always remembers to add treats for the birds, bees, butterflies, etc. I love these exhuberant, fuzzy sunflowers.

Dew like little jewels sit on the fuzzy stem of this gorgeous red sunflower.

Dewdrops highlight the fuzzy stems of this gorgeous red sunflower.

The little hoenybee is so covered in pollen that she's hard to see.

This little honeybee is so covered in pollen that she's hard to see.

The next post will focus on the flowers beds. Till then be sure to spend a few quiet moments in your garden just taking it all in.

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