Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First of Fall Harvest

Our first of fall harvest is ready and I don't know about you guys but I'm looking for any reason to turn on the oven this time of year. Cheddar Cauliflower was the first crop ready this season and I have never grown it before, I was pleasantly suprised by it's beautiful bright orange color. Once I cut it up it looked like a bowl of cheddar popcorn!

There is nothing like potato gratin so why not try cauliflower gratin? I found a great recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and decided to give it a try. It was easy and quick. So delicious! 

Friday, September 10, 2010

South Bay Botanic Garden Green Scene

The 3rd annual green scene is tomorrow, September 11th from 9 to 3:00pm, to be held at Southwestern College.

This free event promises many wonderful booths such as Olivewood Gardens, San Diego Beekeeping, Wildcoast and the San Diego Master Gardeners.

In addition they have three great classes;

· Composting with Worms 9:30 - 10:30 am

· Reusing Gray Water 11:00 - 11:50 am

· Growing Cool Season Vegetables 12:30 - 1:20 pm

· Guided Tour of the Botanic Garden 1:45 - 2:45 pm

                        Garden Talks (in room 1802) 

Hope to see you all there! 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We Are What They Eat

As with all things we consume and purchase these days it seems as though we have to constantly be on guard. Where did this come from? How was it raised/grown? What's in it? and the list goes on and on....

Us "organic" home gardeners and backyard chicken raisers tend to, I will admit it, feel a little smug but we have to be just as mindful as everyone else. Every time I let my guard down and allow myself to be lulled into a false sense of security I'm jarred back into reality.

This time in the form of arsenic in chicken feed, the feed is claimed to have elevated children's arsenic levels 50% and more above safe levels after consuming eggs from their backyard chickens. The additive at the forefront of this is Roxarsone and I urge everyone with backyard chickens to take 5 minutes and go outside and get the ingredients off of your chickens feed and study it. Although most feed suppliers have discontinued the use of the additive I think you might be surprised just how many ingredients you cannot identify yet alone pronounce.

Ingredients like Ammonium Hydroxide (yep, that's the same one as your floor cleaner), Bentomite (a clay that can be found in cat litter) and the ever popular and broad artificial flavoring category which could and does contain just about anything. I have to ask myself is it necessary for our chickens and ourselves to consume these chemicals? You might find ingredients even more mystifying then these, take a minute to enter them into your google search engine and see what comes up. I wager you might be questioning why you or your chicken needs things like Methionine Liquid.

Lucky for us gardeners we have a happy selection of foods for our chickens to forage and hopefully some not so happy bugs because if we look back to our chickens prehistoric ancestors they certainly weren't living off of corn and soybean meal.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Best plants for pollinators in the winter garden

Pollinators have a hard time finding food once all the spring flowers have died and gardeners focus on their winter crops but we could still use their services. Bees prefer the bright white, yellow and blue flowers while butterflies look for bright red and purple flowers.

Here is a list of plants that can brighten up your fall/winter garden as well as provide food and shelter for your hard workers.

1. Agastache (Hummingbird Mint)-  Blooms through fall providing nectar to hummingbirds and butterflies. 'Blue Fortune' the dwarf variety only gets 3-4'.
2. Bluebeard - Bees love this late summer bloomer.
3. California Goldenrod - Late bloomer that provides food to the three B's! Bees, Birds and Butterflies.
4. Coreopsis Lanceolata - Good source of nectar that blooms well into summer with regular deadheading. 
5. Gallardia - Oranges and Lemons as well as the dwarf goblin are long bloomers with deadheading.
6. Prince Calico Aster - Native to North America, blooms late summer through fall, attracts bees and butterflies.
7. Rosemary - A great choice for bees that blooms late into the season and adds great flavor in recipes.
8. Rudbeckia -  Late season bloomer, provides food for butterflies.
9. Scabiosa (Pincuchion Flower) - Butterfly Blue attracts just what it's name suggest and with deadheading will bloom throughout summer into fall.
10. Yarrow (Moonshine) - Great food source for native pollinators that blooms through summer.

Monday, August 30, 2010

More than one way to grow

Here are some wonderful shots from this years Paul Ecke Jr. Flower and Garden Show

This last picture is courtesy of Expert Aquaponics located right here in San Diego and was a small part of their absolutely amazing setup.  This vertical garden is soil less and holds up to 50 plants! Look for more post on aqua-farming to come on Seeds in the City as one of our own has recently started her own aqua-farm with over 100 Tilapia! 

Master Gardeners Fall Seminar

The San Diego Master Gardener Association is back with their fall seminar that features great speakers and their plant sale.

When: Saturday, October 2nd
Where: Marina Village Conference Center
What: Many great topics this year including Integrated Pest Management, Garden to Table with chef Ron Oliver of the fantastic Marine Room, The Dirt on Soils and Growing Fungi in the Garden.

Hope to see you all there and of course I will share the best of the best right here on Seeds in the City.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Cover Crops

 Summer is finally upon us in now sunny San Diego and to celebrate Seeds in the City is coming out of hibernation with a new post. Thanks for your patience!

Cover crops can be a very beneficial addition to your soil that most farmers and gardeners plant in the winter to ready the soil for spring planting. In addition to adding organic materials to the soil they can solve compaction problems as well as suppress weeds and attract beneficial insects.

In between the spring/summer and fall/winter garden you can also have a cover crop. Our soil is in definite need of a quick pick me up before the fall planting commences so I looked into a few options.

Our issues were specific, we needed a quick growing crop that could tolerate summer heat and could be tilled under in a matter of weeks. We ended up going with Buckwheat which is ready to till under right after it flowers in a mere 4-5 weeks and Soybeans. Here is a short breakdown of some options;

Buckwheat - Grows fast, smothers weeds, attracts beneficial's and releases potassium when breaking down in the soil.
Canola (Rape) - Smothers weeds, fast growing and suppresses nematodes.
Clover - Great for attracting beneficial's and some can be quite pretty. Downside is a lot of clover varieties require up to 1 year before they can be turned under.
Cow pea - Smothers weeds, suppresses nematodes if allowed to bloom before tilling, adds nitrogen to the soil and it's edible!
Soybean - another edible choice that adds nitrogen and thrives in heat, till into the soil when 50% of the plants have flowered or wait to harvest the beans.

When you cover crop is ready to till under cut it to about 2 inches above the soil and let dry a couple of days. Then gently dig it into the top layer of your soil, preferably by hand.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

When to Harvest - Top 10

Knowing when it's time to harvest and enjoy the fruits and veggies of your labor can be tricky. Here are a few hints on the best times to harvest.

Carrots - can be pulled when they are as big as your finger, they will be sweetest then. Also look for a carrot top that is bright orange. Cut their tops off if your not going to eat them right away.

Corn - the husk should feel full, look for the plants silks to be dry and brown, greenish near the cob. Cut a slit in the husk to do the kernel test; pierce one kernel with your fingernail, if the liquid is clear it's not ready, if there is no liquid the corn is over-ripe and if there is milky liquid it's just right. Pick in the morning for ultimate sweetness.

Cucumber - look for the flowers to fall off of the cucumber, it should be dark green and large enough to use; pickling varieties should be 2-6" and slicing varieties should be 6-10".

Eggplant - the skin should be smooth and shiny but firm, most varieties will be more than 6", the smaller the eggplant the better the flavor.
Peppers - pick when peppers are big enough to use, certain peppers are not completely ripe until they turn their final color. If you pick certain peppers before they turn red that plant will continue to set new fruit.

Potatoes - new potatoes can start to be harvested anywhere from when the plant flowers to two weeks after the flowers have died. For non-flowering varieties this is about 10 weeks after planting.  Dig out a few new potatoes for that nights dinner and replace the soil. For your final harvest and storage potatoes dig up the plant carefully when it's dry and after the foliage has died back. Leave the potatoes out in the sun to dry for a couple of days.

Snap Beans - look for beans that are straight and thin as a pencil, pick in the morning (only if plant is dry) when they are at their sweetest. The seeds should be barely visible in the pod and it's tips should be soft.

Sweet Potato - usually ready 100-140 days after planting, harvest when plant dies down on dry days before the first frost. Be careful to avoid damaging your potatoes when harvesting and cure a week before storing. Rinse very gently if absolutely necessary.

Watermelon - look for the tendril nearest the fruit to turn from green to brown, also look for the bottom of the plant to yellow.

Winter Squash - look for the vine to die down and the stem to dry, the skin should be hard making it difficult to pierce with your fingernail. When cutting, leave 1" of stem. Buttercup and nut varieties taste better after sitting in the sun for two weeks after harvest as does Spaghetti Squash which is usually ripe when the stem cracks.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Attack of the Potatoes

Okay recently in one corner of the garden I couldn't help but notice that everytime I turned around the potato plants seemed to be growing. I thought that it must just be a mistake because they were already bearing down on the 2 foot mark and the guide said they would be 1-2 feet tall. Mind you they started at the bottom of a 6 inch trench. I checked for flowers everyday as a sign that they were slowing down because frankly I just didn't allot that much space in the bed for the potatoes.

Well today they are just three inches shy of 3 feet tall and FINALLY a flower. I can only hope that this is some sort of signal that they have ceased their upward and outward takeover and will now focus on the actual potatoes. If anyone has found a way to send a message to your plants that that will be quite enough, there is no more room for you, please share. I have a couple more renegades that didn't seem to get the memo.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Apartment Gardening-Top 10

Don't think that just because you live in a apartment you can't grow your own food. It's entirely possible to provide yourself with your favorite fruit and vegetables using your kitchen window, balcony, patio or rooftop and even hanging off your roof*! You will be surprised to learn that some of your favorites can even be grown inside (so long boring houseplants). First think about what you actually eat day to day and what is included in your favorite recipes. I'm just going to cover ten here but container gardening creates endless possibilities.

Dwarf Banana Plant-Can be grown inside, many different varieties
Cucumber*-Choose varieties with a more compact growth like bush champion or spacemaster, for growing upside down choose a slicing or pickling variety.
Herbs-Basil,Oregano,Rosemary-Probably the easiest to grow and will take up the least amount of space (except for rosemary). Perfect for a windowsill. Many wonderful dwarf varieties available.
Lettuce-Buttercrunch is a great variety that withstands heat as is Jericho. Pick the outside leaves for your salad or sandwich and it will continue to grow.
Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree- Can be grown inside, near sun of course, the container and pruning keep it small, has a wonderful fragrance and flowers.
Peppers*-Many favorites like Jalapeno and Green Bell. Will need a sunny spot, choose pots a minimum of 12" deep.
Potatoes-These can get big so be prepared, one potato plant can take up a 5 gallon bucket but it can also give you up to 6-10 potatoes that you can harvest individually each night.
Squash-Look for smaller bush varieties.
Strawberries-Great for little to no extra space.
Tomatoes*-Half wine barrels are a good choice for indeterminate varieties, for those with a little less space choose dwarf varieties that are perfect for smaller containers.

No longer will you need to consider where you food came from and if it was sprayed with chemicals.

 For more great tips on apartment gardening visit: Life on the Balcony a great blog I came across.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center

Seeds in the City is so excited to be partnering with Olivewood Gardens this summer to provide seedlings for their urban garden.

Olivewood Gardens sits on a 1/2 acre in National City and they focus on education; connecting local communities to nature, educating them in the process.

Their mission is to reconnect students and families to the natural environment through food, education and community engagement.

We feel so lucky to share our seedlings with such an important group and the community. However Olivewood still needs your help in the form of fundraising, teaching, garden installation/maintenance, garden tools, kitchen supplies and of course monetary donations go directly to fund their very important work. To make a donation contact Amy Carstensen at 619-336-2253.

Website of the Week

Find out more and get involved here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Find Inspiration in a Garden Tour

The Bankers Hill/Mission Hills Garden Tour was today and I think I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Pearson's Garden & Herb Farm

After numerous visits to my local nurseries I started to notice a trend in regards to the items I was purchasing. All of them had an identification tag from Pearson's Garden, so I decided to investigate the origin of all these plants a little further. Pearson's Garden and Herb Farm is about 40 minutes north of us in Vista. It is family owned and operated since 1989 by Cindy and Mark Pearson. It's very unassuming from the road, so much so that I drove right past it and had to turn back around because it's literally the backyard of a house. Not just any backyard mind you, once you enter through the beautiful gates it could be considered Shangri-la to many gardeners.

I was absolutely in awe, everywhere I looked there were neat organized rows of every herb and heirloom vegetable you could imagine along with gourmet veggies all in perfect 4"or 6" pots. Hard to find varieties I had been searching for were finally all in one place. The family is right on hand to help you navigate their nursery and suggest the best varieties. On top of all that you can trust that your plants are grown without chemical pesticides, hormones, fungicides or growth regulators and no gmo's. Also they do ship! Check out their online store and for me I justified the drive by having a long list ready of everything I wanted. In those terms ordering twice a year in bulk, saving multiple trips to local nurseries makes sense.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Truth About Peat Moss

I must admit I have often used Peat Moss as a great seed starter and soil amendment. If you stop by your local nursery you will usually see bags of Peat Moss for sale. Most likely it's Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss. Not to be confused with living Sphagnum Moss, Sphagnum Peat Moss is partially decomposed, slightly acidic and takes many, many years to form. Peat Moss got it's start in melted glaciers after the Ice Age. Today Peat Moss is harvested by draining surface area water, clearing vegetation and letting it dry under sun and wind. It is then vacuumed with harvesting machinery at 100 acres a day. In the year 2000 Canada exported 1.2 million tons of Peat Moss to the United States. According to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA), which is run by the 18 Peat Moss producers that represent 95% of the industry, Canadian Peat Moss is a sustainable industry.

A sustainable alternative to mined Peat Moss?

Coir/Coconut Dust/Coconut Peat-Short fibers of coconut shells considered to be a renewable resource that has long been considered a waste product in Southeast Asia. Auburn University and Arkansas University recently compared Peat Moss and Coir and found Coir to be comparable noting that it was less acidic, wet easier, decomposed slower and withstood pressure better then Peat Moss. Also the larger size brick form of coir expands to three times it size but is light and compact to carry.

Free Compost Bin

We have a small kitchen composter but have always considered getting a compost bin setup in the yard. Mostly because we were hesitant to load our tiny composter in the kitchen with steaming fresh chicken manure. Well Josh spotted a couple of discarded wood pallets behind a dumpster and went to work. He disassembled the pallets taking off the inside pieces of wood and turned them horizontally. He then created angled slots in front of the bin which makes loading, unloading and turning the pile easy. Next he placed one pallet inside the bin at the bottom to allow for air flow and finally he loosened the soil where the bin was going to go.

Voila! Insta-bin

Sandy we need your grass clippings!

Invasive weeds got you down?

We have weeds growing in several inaccessible places in the yard. They usually grow unchecked simply because we do not see them until they are towering over us, this Godzilla of weeds actually turned out to be more like a weed tree. Well now that Josh has gotten a week off he decided to attack these trees which actually required a chainsaw.

Being the clever guy that he is, he wanted to make use of this weed instead of sending it off to the landfill. I left him with a pile of sticks on the ground and returned to this...

I was floored to say the least and when he wasn't looking I threw a couple of weed seeds back into the pit from which it came envisioning new trellises for my beans and cucumbers. Maybe someday he will tell us how this came out of that giant weed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What to do with all of your extra produce

My last post got me thinking, or just freaked me out. We are going to have allot of extra produce this summer and fall that might actually exceed what we and all of our loved ones can actually consume. As much as our chickens would hate to hear this we need to look into other alternatives so none of our organically grown food goes to waste.

Backyard Grower Program- This program at the City Heights Farmers Market allows those of us with small scale gardens to still participate in the local food community. You bring your produce each Saturday morning to their booth and either sell it yourself for a $5 fee or have them sell it for a small percentage.
Crop Swapper- Started by two brothers in San Diego, Crop Swapper allows you to swap your produce with others in the San Diego area. They meet once a week at Del Cerro Park, 6475 Del Cerro Blvd, San Diego, CA 92120, with more locations to come.
Veggie Trader- The craigslist of produce, this amazingly easy to use sight enables you to list seeds, seedlings and actual fruits and vegetables that you have in excess. You just post a listing detailing what you have available then you choose if you would like cash for your goods or if you want to swap for some produce or seedlings your in need of.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's Growing-Seeds in the City-Summer 2010

We are very happy to have such a healthy and happy garden this year that is already producing. Friends of Seeds in the City get your recipes ready. This is what we have growing this year.

Basil-Black Opal
Beet-Burpees Golden
Beet-Early Blood Turnip
Bean-Blue Lake Black Seeded Pole Bean
Bean-Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean
Bean-Royal Burgundy Bush Bean
Carrot-Red Core Chantenay
Carrot-Scarlet Nantes
Corn-Golden Bantam
Cucumber-A&C Pickling
Cucumber-Bush Champion
Cucumber-True Lemon
Eggplant-Imperial Black Beauty
Eggplant-Listada de Ganadia
Eggplant-Rosa Bianca
Lettuce-Jericho Romaine
Lettuce-Webbs Wonderful
Onion-Parade Bunching
Pepper-Mini Red Bell
Pepper-Quadrato Asti Giallo
Pepper-Sweet Banana
Potato-Desiree Red
Pumpkin-Rouge Vif'd etampes
Radish-Cherry Belle
Spinach-New Zealand
Squash-Anna Swartz
Thyme-Spicy Orange
Tomato-Paul Robeson
Tomato-San Diego
Tomato-Yellow Pear
Watermelon-Chris Cross
Watermelon-Sugar Baby

No SERIOUSLY, get ready, we might have gone overboard and in a couple months it's going to be crazy.

SLIME mold

So on our daily check of the garden we came across this yellow substance that is a pretty strange sight. It's not bug eggs, but actually slime mold which can spread across mulch when temperatures get warm and humid. Slime Mold is part of the Myxomycetes family, it feeds on micro-organisms and is in no way parasitic. It prefers moist conditions and as it dries it turns a tanish-brown color. Pesticides and other chemicals do not effect it and it will most likely go away on it's own but you could scoop it out or bury it under if it's appearance gets to be too much.


Currently Slime Mold is being studied all over the world and is featured in this article by Wired magazine for their unique ability to build efficient networks of travel. Slime mold designing our transportation networks?! I would never have thought that in a million years just by looking at it.

Hillcrest Farmers Market In Pictures

Womach Ranch-Part 2

So we visited Curtis at the Hillcrest farmers market promptly at 9am when they opened so as not to miss our chance to try one of his chickens. It was great to meet him in person and he already had a line of eager customers looking for chickens and eggs.

We picked up our beautiful bird and I started planning our meal. Since our garden is not yet in full production mode we picked up a lemon, garlic bulb and yukon gold potatoes to add to our rosemary and thyme. We roasted our chicken with the garlic and lemon placed inside the chicken with rosemary potatoes lining the pan. I must be honest that I have never handled a chicken or cooked a whole chicken and it definitely brought me much closer to the food I was about to consume. After 1 hour and 45 minutes the bird was done.

We thanked the chicken for giving up it's life and dug in. We promised ourselves that we would only eat a small amount and try to make it last the week. As Josh likes to tell the story I was soon searching each bone for any morsel possibly left behind. I blame this on the fact that I hadn't had chicken in over 5 years. The entire bird was gone in one night.

When we were leaving the Womach Ranch booth on Sunday, Curtis offered to give us a tour of how things are done and to see the birds in person. Look for that adventure soon!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Womach Ranch-What Free Range Ought To Be

For those of you who have seen Food Inc. you have no doubt longed for your own version of Joel Salatin's PolyFace Farm right here in San Diego. Well we have found it in Curtis Womach who is based in Julian and runs Womach Ranch. Womach Ranch chickens are what we have always idealized our grocery store chickens to be, actually "free range". Their diet consists of grass, organic feed and whatever tasty bugs they can scratch up.

You can find these chickens for sale at the Hillcrest Farmers Market every Sunday from 9am-12pm, but get there early, Curtis tells me they usually sell out before noon. For those of you who aren't early birds you can sample his fare at the always-delicious Linkery.

Food Inc.

Airs tonight on our local KPBS station at 9pm. Check when it's airing where you live here. This is one of the most important food documentaries ever made. If you eat food then this is for you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Before & After...Spring Edition

My favorite part of Spring Planting...watching your labor of love grow.