Thursday, April 5, 2012

Buying Plants at the Nursery

On a recent trip to local nurseries with a friend who was looking for drought resistant plants to complete her design I stopped over in the vegetables to check out the varieties. We stopped by one of the major home improvement stores as well two of the most popular nurseries in town. I was shocked by what I found, from the mega store to the small family owned stores the plants were in a sad state. I watched as people searched through the selections to find healthy plants. It made me think of all the times I have heard people say "I just don't have a green thumb", well no one would if they started off with sick and stressed plants!

Flowering Tomatoes

When selecting nursery plants try your best to choose plants in the variety that you want that are NOT flowering. If this task is impossible remove all flowers right after you plant it. Under no circumstances should you purchase plants that are already setting fruit. When a young seedling has been living in tight, cramped quarters on a shelf for too long it will start to flower. At this point the plant has received the message that it will not be able to mature and it rushes to bear fruit in order to essentially produce seed which will ensure its continued existence. All of this energy should have been going into developing healthy roots and a strong structure. The gardener will be the one to pay the price for these unhealthy, overgrown plants with lackluster production and high susceptibility to disease. Also plants brought home with signs of disease can put your whole garden at risk.

Start off on the right foot by selecting plants that are bright green with no signs of discoloration or pests and you are sure to have bountiful harvest this season.

Seeds in the City Squash
Seeds in the City Tomatoes
Seeds in the City Peppers

Seeds in the City Eggplant

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Garden Calendar in San Diego

Within the Garden - William Templeton

Summer has drawn to a close as cooler temperatures and shorter days takeover. Luckily our mild climate still allows for abundance in the garden and there is no shortage of events to inspire your fall plantings this month. 

October 8th - This Saturday learn how to Design your Garden with Native Plants with Greg Rubin at the SD Botanic Garden from 9 - 12pm at a cost of $25-30.
October 8th - Learn how to Grow Your Own Food for free with VGSD at Olivewood Gardens. Class 1 of 3 is from 8 - 12pm and introduces you to all of the basics.
October 8th - Stop by the booths at The 4th Annual Sustain La Mesa Environmental Festival which is held from 10 - 2pm.
October 10th - The SDHS host highly entertaining author of Wicked Plants Amy Stewart who will present her new book Wicked Bugs. The event starts at 6pm and is $10 for non-members.
October 13th - The Center for Sustainable Energy host arborist Leah Rottke as she speaks about Planting Fall Trees for Spring Vigor from 5:30 - 7:30pm.
October 15th - The SD Farm Bureau host the 2nd Annual Farm Tour from 9:30 - 3:30 pm. This tour features 6 farms and the opportunity to see how mushrooms get their start, visit the Stone Brewing Farm, learn how to best grow avocados and finish with a wine tasting. $20 for adults, $10 children.
October 15 & 16th - The SD Botanic Garden will hold their 29th Annual Fall Plant Sale from 10-4pm that is free with admission.
October 19th - Enjoy pumpkin carving, food, music and the film Nourish at Seeds at City Fall Festival from 11 - 2pm.
October 22nd - Help to sustain the Seeds at City Urban Farm through their Young Farmers Fundraiser starting at 3pm within the Wild Willow Farm.
October 22nd - Learn to build a Hydroponic Fall Garden with AGPals at the SD Botanic Garden from 9 - 12pm. $70 pays for the class and materials.  
October 23rd - Planning and Planting Fall crops will be the topic of this free class taught by Farmer Bill at City Farmers Nursery from 1:30 - 3:00pm.
October 29th - Learn How to Compost for free at the San Diego Zoo from 8 -10am at this event sponsored by the Solana Center.

Did I miss your event? Email me at

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June Garden Calendar in San Diego

Marcela Camarena Lubian
The gardens are in bloom and the calendar is chocked full of fun and inspirational garden happenings this month.

June 2nd - The Best Sustainable Fruit Trees will be discussed from 5:30 - 7:30pm at this free class which will be held at the CA Center for Sustainable Energy.
June 4th - Succulent Reproduction is the focus of this class that teaches how to revive old plants and start new ones for $35.00 from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm.
June 4th - This free Gardening 101 class will cover seed starting, irrigation systems and water harvesting from 9:00 - 12:00 pm at the Solana Center.
June 4th & 5th - SD Cactus Society's Annual Show and Sale will be held at Balboa Park from 10:00 - 4:00 pm.
June 5th - Choosing the Best Irrigation System is covered at Liberty Farms from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm for $35.00 and covers what irrigation will best meet your needs.
June 7th - Learn How to Start & Manage Community Gardens with the Solana Center at this free class from 6:00 - 8:30 pm that is taught every Tuesday of the month.
June 7th & 14th - Aquaponics Workshop will be held over at the Ecolife Foundation for $30.00 which includes lunch.
June 11th - This free class covers Xeriscape: Low Water Use Plants at the Walter Andersen Nursery in San Diego at 9:00 am. On the same day Summer Vegetable Care and Planting will be covered at the Poway store from 9:30-10:30 am.
June 11th - The final, free Gardening 101 class will cover pest, weed management and cooking and sharing from 9:00 - 12:00 pm at the Solana Center.
June 12th - Beehive and Frame Assembly will be the focus of this 11:00 am class taught at Liberty Farms for a fee of $35.00.
June 12th - Free Winemaking Demonstration will be held at Curds & Wine from 1:00 - 3:00pm, RSVP online.
June 18th - SD Master Gardeners Summer Plant Sale will be held from 10:00 - 3:00pm at Balboa Park. Arrive early for the best selection!
June 25th - Planting for Challenging Areas will be covered in this free class at City Farmers Nursery from 1:30 - 3:30pm which includes hills, shade and areas with poor drainage.
June 26th - Poultry Care and Management is the topic of this 10:00 am class taught at Liberty Farms for $35.00 that covers selecting the best breed for you and how to care for your chickens.

Did I miss your event? Email me at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Inspiring San Diego Home Gardens

The last month of garden tours have been full of inspirational design. It was such a delight to see how many people have converted their lawns and other water hungry plants through the creative use of succulents and drought resistant plants.

Combinations of color brightened up containers and landscaping.

It was also great to see how many people are now keeping backyard chickens!

And finally a few words of inspiration...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


What the heck?

Before the heat of the summer takes over I tend to do alot of hand watering in the garden. Even though it takes considerably longer, because it really does no good to spray blasts of water in the direction of your plants, it has its benefits. When you hand water you tend to notice slight changes in your plants and even notice new visitors which will be the topic of the next post.

Insect activity is in full swing so you will no doubt have similar calling cards left in your yard.

Winter Squash
I noticed the lower leaves of this squash were starting to resemble freshly skated ice with strange looping trails going in every direction. Up close I could see that the leaf was literally mined as the insect moved over the surface. Which brought me to one conclusion;
Vegetable Leafminer Larvae
The pale green larvae of the vegetable leafminers adult form is a tiny fly that will lay its eggs on the underside of leaves. These tiny larvae can be spotted inside the tunnels they make which gives you an idea of how small they are. Not to worry though because the leafminer will rarely do enough damage to harm production. If the damage seems to be limited to a few leaves you can remove them which will limit spreading but if the damage is widespread the plant will still able to photosynthesize. The leafminer is also dinner for ladybugs and lacewings. 

I noticed while watering this eggplant seedling that it had lost the upper edge of it's leaf. I looked for a nearby insect or slime trails and found nothing so I inspected the bite marks. The insect here only ate from the outer edge which meant caterpillar or grasshopper. On further inspection you can see that the entire leaf was a meal, veins and all. This meant we were looking at something with strong jaws.

We were dealing with a grasshopper which everyone will inevitably find in the yard and they are unfortunately hard to catch. The more time you spend in the garden the more likely you are to inadvertently stumble into one as I have many times. Luckily the chickens prize this gourmet treat and make a fast disposal system. 

The damage on this young yellow fin potato literally showed up overnight. In order to determine the culprit I looked for clues at the scene of the crime. The most telling are slime trails or a pest that is still enjoying it's meal. I had neither here so instead I had to rely on the holes in the leaves. They were closer to the center than the edge and small to medium which either pointed to an earwig or caterpillar. On closer inspection you can see that the bite marks are irregular in shape meaning one thing:

Cabbage Looper
 The Cabbage Looper caterpillar is thankfully very easy to spot and can normally be found on the underside of the leaves on the plant showing signs of damage. You can just pick them off and in our case feed them to the chickens who love these tasty treats (another great reason to keep chickens). You will want to provide a happy home for lacewings, ladybugs, solider bugs and wasps who dine on this insect. Also cabbage lopper is deterred by compact thyme which makes a great addition to the garden.

This tomato has not been attacked by a virus or bacteria, instead it been discovered by skeletonizers. Skeletonizer damage can be distinguished by sunken in, chewed away areas of a leaf where the veins are still intact. There are many variations of this species whose moth form is also spotted in the garden. I easily controlled it by handpicking them off the leaves and the tomato has grown exponentially with no new damage.

Here is the culprit

Keep in mind for most pest there is a predator and in order to lure and keep these beneficial insects we should not eliminate all of their food supply. Also if you take away one thing from this let it be that the only spray I utilized was a hard blast of water and most damage on plants, up to 20% of the plant above ground, will not harm production. 

Any mysterious damage has you stumped? Email us at and we will get on the case.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

May Garden Calendar in San Diego

May Flowers
Marcela Camarena Lubian

There is truly something for everyone this month...

May 1st
East County Earth Day will be held from 11:00 - 3pm at the Mt. Helix Amphitheater and the free event will include lectures on such topics as growing your own food and hummingbirds in San Diego.
Replace that thirsty lawn just in time for summer with City Farmers free class from 1:30 - 3:00pm that focuses on cost and water saving alternatives.
May 3rd
Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center will offer their free one hour guided tour of the gardens and spectacular education program. Go on the website to RSVP.
May 5th - 8th 
Garden Festival at the San Diego Zoo celebrates the 700,000 different plant species and teaches guest about the many uses of edible varieties. Free with admission.
May 7th
Aquaponics - find out how you can GROW your own fish and create a closed loop system by means of Tilapia and their emulsion which becomes the perfect fertilizer for your vegetables at this free class taught from 1:30 - 3:00pm at City Farmers Nursery.
Mission Hills Garden Tour - "A Walk Down Sunset Boulevard" will showcase 12 homes and runs from 10:00 - 4:00pm. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.
May 11th
Beginning Beekeeper class will be taught at Liberty Farms from 6:30 - 8:30 pm at a cost of $35.00.
May 12th
Re-imagining the California Lawn will be presented by author Carol Bornstein at the SD Botanic Garden from 7:00 - 8:00pm. The lecture will be $10 for members and $12 for non-members.
May 14th
Organic Gardening classes will be taught in a free four part series from 9:00 - 12:00pm by the Solana Center. Classes cover everything from garden design to cooking and sharing.
Historic Coronado Garden Tour from 10:00 - 4:00pm features 8 homes and is $20 in advance.
May 15th
Learn how to Make Your Own Cheese in this free class taught at City Farmers Nursery from 1:00 - 4:00pm.
May 19th
Growing up Vertical: The Future of Farming will be discussed by Gordon Smith at SD Botanic Gardens from 6:00 - 7:00 pm, this class is a must for apartment dwellers and is $10 for members and $12 for non-members.
May 21st
Ladybug Day at the SD Botanic Garden from 10:00 - 3:00pm.
May 22nd 
Hive Management will be taught at Liberty Farms from 10:00 to 1:00 pm at a cost of $35.00
May 28th
Palm & Cycad sale at the SD Botanic garden will feature many rare and unusual varieties, free with admission. 9:00 - 3:00 pm

Did I miss your event? Email us at

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thanks to all that stopped by to say hi at today's Earth Day event! We are sorry that we ran out of seedlings so early but glad that they found good homes. If you have any questions about your seeds or seedlings; like how big do they get, how much sun do they like or how much water do they need please feel free to email us at with your variety in the subject line. You can also comment here and we will be sure to get back to you.

Happy Growing!