Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

   On the way to my family’s house the other evening, I passed one of our local strawberry patches.  It came to me as the sweet perfume of sun-ripened berries wafted in the window on the balmy summer air…It’s that time of year again…

Time for shorts and flip flops, farmers markets and county fairs, fresh fruits and veggies, canning and preserving, frolicking in the garden, and chowing down on all the local goodness you can get your hands on!

Here in the valley we’re very lucky to have such a dazzling array of produce to choose from!

You can put a face and warm smile with what fills your plate, by visiting a Fruitstand or Farmer’s Market in your area….

If you prefer stalking your own goodies in their natural habitat, you can find a You-Pick Farm in your county…

A CSA is also a convenient option which supports your local farmers…

And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can always grow some fruits and veggies of your own…You don’t have to have 40 acres, just a few pots or old buckets on the porch will do!

Whatever you choose, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing where your food came from and who grew it…not to mention nothing compares to the taste of fresh veggies and fruit!

Or the smell of it on the breeze for that matter…Happy foraging!

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Musings by blogger Lydia of “Through the Screen Door”….

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for Spring.  After so many months of cold, rain, frost, and fog, the sun has finally decided to grace us with its presence!  Don’t get me wrong, I love Wintertime too.  Warm fires, fresh bread, rich hot chocolate, savory stews, and holidays with family are all delightful.  But, by this time of year, I’m usually ready for a change.  As soon as we get a sunny day or two, I start fantasizing about warm dirt between my bare toes, and the tangy burst of sun-ripened tomatoes in my mouth!

Last weekend was gorgeous.  My Dad brought over some baby fruit trees and boysenberry starts for me.  I have begged for his assistance in my quest for the ultimate garden, as he is the master, and I cannot yet snatch the pebble from his hand.  I remember, while I was growing up, he always had a garden.  Unfortunately for me, watching him garden back then, and managing my own wayward piece of heaven by myself, are two very different things….


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What inspires me…

Responsible farmers who not only believe in doing work that matters but also loving the work they do.

This guest post you are about to enjoy will hopefully inspire you as it has done for me:  to show up.  Written by Anna Brown, farm manager of  the organic Uplift Farms in Ceres, Ca.  She is a young woman who believes in giving back to her community and is as brilliant, authentic and adorable as her blogging words!


Every once in a while, we all need something that reminds us why we do what we do.  When the activities of daily life become a blur, one sight or word or experience can bring us back to center and return things to focus.

I had an experience like that last Tuesday, and it had to do with cauliflower.  Specifically, mid way through the weekly harvest in my 1/2 acre patch of winter vegetables I found the biggest and most beautiful cauliflower I have ever seen.  This variety of cauliflower usually keeps its leaves wrapped protectively around the head, but the one that caught my eye that morning had completely lowered its leaves, as if showing itself off to the world and inviting admiration.

Yet neither that cauliflower nor its neighbors down the row were perfect in the conventional sense.  Its beauty was a function not only of size and looks, but of the way of living and farming that nurtured it.

One difference between my cauliflower and it’s conventionally produced brethren is that most of mine show the traces of one insect or another, mostly caterpillars.  But I’m willing to forgive that because I grow organically and know that farming without pesticides means cultivating diversity and being willing to share space with competitors to some degree.  In fact having a crop that tolerates pest pressure without being decimated is a success!

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What is a Community Garden?

Any piece of land gardened by a group of people

A few months ago I visited a community garden and met an inspiring woman who is truly in love with dirt, gardening and the well being of her community. This kind preserver of nature is an ER nurse that admitted playing in the dirt was a great stress reliever. I applaud her for taking this passion one step further by following her dreams and bringing her community together to successfully build 4 community gardens in Riverbank, in just one year!

Her name is Dotty Nygard, she is president of the Riverbank Community Garden Coalition. Partnered with the school district, the city and the community this amazing hands on team have created a wonderful opportunity and educational environment for all, their goal and belief ….” creating consciousness for our earth, our community and ourselves”.

As I strolled through the first garden across from California Avenue School, with my camera in tow, Dotty sat with a group of children and read “Our Generous Garden”, a lovely children’s story about gardening. Quietly listening I could feel the profound respect and connection between Dotty, children and the dirt they learned to love and nurture together.

If Riverbank is your community don’t miss out, become a part of this experience and get dirty!

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Enjoy some good old fashion fall fun at  The Greenery in Turlock,

and see all the beautiful flowers, plants and unique goodies they have

to spruce up your home for the holidays!

October 16 – 18, 2009

California State University Stanislaus

Get inspired and equipped for the green future of the Central Valley!

The Council for Sustainable Futures is pleased to host the third annual environmental conference, featuring speakers, and activities that promote environmental solutions, human rights, and social engagement. Come and see how people are making a difference, globally, nationally and locally.

Morning sessions of the conference feature live satellite feeds from The Bioneers Conference, an acclaimed forum of social and scientific innovators.

Tickets are just $20 for the entire conference. Register today!

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100_22412What will happen when our youth have forgotten where their food comes from and what it takes to create it?

What a great program Keys to Leaning Charter School has put together. They provide hands on learning experiences for their students, like getting their hands dirty to plant seeds in a real garden and watch them grow. They marvel at watching a turkey lay her eggs and incubate them. They interact with livestock, soil and each other. They problem solve and not just problems out of a book but in real life in real time.

The idea for this fabulous experience was Lee Ann Stangl’s and through her hard work and backing, Keys to Leaning Charter School was born. With Diane Sugarman as the instructor this team has created an opportunity for their students to really experience what many only wish they could, and now it many be gone.

Sadly, Diane Sugarman has received her pink slip along with many other teachers in the county. What a sad state of affairs when teachers are being laid off yet prisons are being built. What a sad program to let slip away. What a sad situation to loose the opportunity to educate our youth on the importance of agriculture.

What will happen when those who are able to vote have lost all connection with the food chain and to what is important in keeping this country healthy, strong and able to support itself?

Why should we stand by and allow it to happen?

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Lorina’s Edible Garden

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First Day of Spring Open House News Letter
March 20,2009 12-5pm

Come check out what we are growing in our little greenhouse!
We have a selection of veggies and herbs ready to take home, more will be ready as the weeks go on.

You will find Lorina cleaning up the gardens still getting ready to plant. She would love to visit with you and help you with any garden questions that you might have.

Lorina will do guest speaking for clubs, classes or anyone interested in gardening with herbs.

We also welcome field trips at the farm for all ages. Gardening activities and visiting with the farm animals are a treat at the farm!

Come on out any day after March 20 by appointment.
For more info call (209)838-1457

Lorina’s Edible Garden

17397 Enterprise rd
Escalon ca 95320

Take hwy 120 east of Escalon towards oakdale. Look for enterprise on the north side of road, look for sign at end of driveway!

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The highlight of this visit was not just a farm, but a very unique class room on a country road in Turlock, in a barn on a farm….
there are children , teachers, desks, chalk boards, cows, goats, pigs, turkeys, a vegetable garden, a fruit garden and lots of fresh air!

We arrived with organic seeds, donated by The Greenery Nursery in Turlock, and compostable containers for all the students. These kids where excited to show us their farm and share with us their responsibilities of animal care and garden care. Kat talked about our farm visits and the many career choices in the farm industry with out being a farmer. What really sparked their interest was talk about our blog and how we social network, after all this is the plugged in generation, they already have the skills of online networking and this group understood the importance of how to apply it in creating a successful business.

Here at Keyes To Learning Charter School young minds are taught the environmental issues that effect the area they live in by learning with a hands on approach to earth friendly responsible farming & gardening. This open laboratory for outdoor exploration is the only school in the central valley that offers an alternative and creative curriculum for home schooled students. Since 1978 the gardening program has been available to students ranging from 5th to 8th graders attending once a week, with the older mentoring the younger allowing them to work on their leadership skills. This school also teaches the standard class’s such as California History, Art and Nutrition.

Diane Sugerman is the Ag teacher responsible for plant science and environmental education and believes …. ” We need youth that are knowledgeable about agriculture so that the industry will continue to be a viable force in one of the most exceptional growing areas in the country.”

That was the good news, now here is bad news… this charter school faces budget cuts due to economic times and is in danger of losing its program. They are looking for a permanent site, as this one is rented, the hope would be that someone or the Ag industry would step forward and help out in the process of educating our K-6 children like the programs offered to middle and high schools. Charter schools can be much more creative in developing innovative programs.

We are spreading the word about this exceptional learning opportunity for the future of our children so that we might inspire or motivate someone to help find a permanent site that would allow these students to showcase our local agriculture community through sustainable gardening!

Please shoot us an e-mail if you are interested in supporting this school in any way at: annariedinger@gmail.com

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To take a small, dormant capsule of life
and unlock its culinary and/or aesthetic
potential is glorious indeed!

Check out these helpful seed starting tips for your garden from Botanical Interests:


  • Varieties such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, perennials and some annual flowers really benefit from an early start indoors.
  • Light: Insufficient light is the biggest mistake people make starting seeds indoors. Long, tall, skinny seedlings which eventually fall over and die are the result of not enough light. Use fluorescent lights, preferably a 4-tube ballast. Tubes must be placed 1″ — 2″ above seedlings. Ballasts can be hung on chains and hooked into ceiling hooks for easy adjustment as seedlings grow. Seedlings must receive 14 — 16 hours of light per day.
  • Soil: Purchase high quality seed starting mix. Don’t use outside soil. Buying inexpensive, poor quality soil will only cause problems.
  • Water: Seedlings must be kept moist but not soggy. If they completely dry out just once, seedlings will die. If soggy, fungal problems can occur.
  • Containers: Almost any container can be used to start seeds including old milk containers or egg cartons. Seed starting trays and larger pots to transplant seedlings into are available. If you reuse containers year after year, soak containers in a 1:9 bleach/water solution to kill potential seedling pathogens. To retain soil moisture until seed germinates, cover container with a clear lid or wrap in clear plastic wrap. Remove cover immediately when you see the first seedling. Moving to larger containers: Once the roots of a seedling have hit the side of the container and started curling around the pot, it’s time to transplant to a larger container. Put soil in bottom of larger container, carefully spread apart the roots and place plant in the larger container (twice the size of original container). Fill container with soil and water to settle soil around the roots.
  • Visit Earthfirst.com for more container ideas!
  • Before moving outside: Harden the seedlings off for about a week by taking containers outside and placing in a filtered sun/shade location away from harsh winds during the day. Gradually increase time outdoors.


  • Inside: Generally, tomatoes are started inside 6 — 8 weeks before the average last frost, peppers 8 — 10 weeks, onions 8 — 12 weeks.
  • Outside: Warm season crops, crops that are frost sensitive such as beans, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash and watermelons should be sown AFTER the average last day of frost in your geographic region. Cool season crops such as carrots, lettuce, peas, radish, chard and many leafy greens can be sown as early as 8 — 10 weeks before the average last frost for a spring harvest and in late summer for a fall crop (see specific variety information on the front and back of each packet). Most annual flowers are generally sown around the average last frost date even though some can be sown earlier. Perennial flower seed Flower seed can vary from 4 — 12 weeks before the average last frost depending on the variety. For specific variety in can be sown almost anytime – early spring through late summer – as long as they have enough time to germinate and get a root system established. Even a late fall sowing works – seeds stay in the ground dormant until conditions in early spring permit the seeds to germinate.


  • Your knowledge of the average last day of frost in your region is crucial when planting a garden. To find out your last day of frost, call your county Cooperative Extension Service. Also inquire about the average date of the first fall frost.


  • GMO: (Genetically Modified Organism) Botanical Interests does not carry genetically modified varieties. Genetically modified varieties have had their DNA scientifically altered to make them more pest, disease, or chemical resistant. GMO seeds are controversial because no one is sure of their long term effects on the environment and humans.
  • Hybrid: A variety created by crossing two separate varieties to achieve desirable characteristics. A hybrid tomato, for example, may have been created to have excellent disease resistance, produce uniform, prolific fruit, or have superior flavor. If you save the seeds from a hybrid, though, the resulting fruit next year may revert back to the characteristics of one of its parents.
  • Open-pollinated: Varieties that are pollinated naturally by wind or insects without human intervention. Saved seed will be true to the original variety.
  • Heirloom: An open-pollinated seed variety that has been passed down through the generations for at least 50 years.
  • Organic: Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic seed, much like organic food production, is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. This ecological management system promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. Botanical Interests’ organic seed is “Certified Organic” which means that our seed and our packaging facility have been inspected and meet strict standards set forth by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).


  • A perennial is a variety that regrows from the root system every year. The advantage of a perennial is that it doesn’t need to be replanted every year; a disadvantage is that perennials have a shorter bloom period than most annuals. When choosing perennials for your garden, mix varieties with different bloom periods so that you have color in your garden over a longer period of time. Annuals do not regrow from their roots every year. However, they may produce seed that will germinate and regrow the following year. There is no guarantee that those plants will be identical to the original plants. Annuals usually bloom for a longer time period than perennials – in many cases, they bloom most of the growing season (spring to late fall).


  • Seed Germination Problems: Botanical Interests, Inc. seeds are extremely high quality. Seeds may not sprout if a) unusually cool or wet weather occurs, b) if planted too early when soil temperatures haven’t warmed up sufficiently, c) if seeds are not sown at the recommended depths and/or d) if seeds are not kept consistently moist. Extensive sowing information is included on the inside of the seed packet!
  • Soil: Don’t over fertilize your vegetable garden. Excess nitrogen can sometimes cause excessive foliage growth and few flowers or vegetables. Usually adding ample organic material to your garden soil at season’s end will supply sufficient nutrients.
  • Diseases: Many plant diseases can be prevented by starting with high quality seeds and good gardening practices such as rotating your crops to different locations within your vegetable garden and cleaning your gardening tools regularly with a 10% bleach/water solution.
  • Pests: Old-fashioned, low tech, and chemical free options should always be the first line of defense against insects and are usually effective. Contact your local County Extension Agent for specific solutions to specific problems. More information is also available in books and on the web.
  • Sunlight: Vegetable plants and most flowers CRAVE sunlight. Without enough of it, they get leggy and don’t produce vegetables or flowers. Most vegetables need AT LEAST 8 — 10 hours of DIRECT (not shade) sunlight. Some root crops (carrots, beets) and leaf crops (lettuce, kale) can manage with 6 hours of direct sun. See flower packets for individual recommendations.
  • Weeds: Weeds compete with seedlings and desirable plants for water, light, and nutrients. They can also harbor harmful insects and disease. Keep flower & vegetable beds weeded all season, particularly during initial seedling emergence. To identify WHICH emerging seedlings are from the seed you have sown, see the seedling drawing on the inside of the packet (back of the plant tag). Mulch: Mulch is a layer of almost anything – grass clipping, leaves, artificial materials such as landscape fabric – which is placed on the surface of the soil to keep soil moisture in and prevent weeds from coming up. Mulch should be applied thickly enough, several inches if possible, to keep weed seedlings from emerging. Some perennial weeds will still make it through the mulch, but because the soil below is moist (because of the protective layer of mulch), these weeds will be easier to pull.

We would like to hear your favorite gardening tips!

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We have shown you gardens growing in garbage bags, growing in kiddie pools, container gardening, gardens on city roof tops and now another resourceful tool…the tire!!

This just proves how simple growing your own can be & how ideas don’t seem to end for many creative people that want to be close to their food!

More from our favorite earth loving friends at earthfirst.com :)

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