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.


We were wondering what the heck was effecting some of our seedlings just as they started to grow. It was the same story every time, things would be going great then poof the effected seedlings would just topple over looking like something possibly delicately nibbled around the stem like an insect version of a beaver.

Josh found the answer quite by accident while perusing one of the many books covering the house. This wasn't a new breed of insect but the very well known phenomenon called "damping off". Different fungi cause this and there is no cure but it's entirely preventable. Jerry Baker suggests 6 easy steps to make sure this doesn't happen to you.

1. Clean your seedling containers thoroughly with warm soapy water.
2. Use soilless seed starting medium
3. Plant your seeds in small containers and gradually transfer them as they grow
4. Water your seedlings from the bottom
5. Give your seedlings intense light and a little air movement, which will help strengthen the stems
6. Mist the seedlings with Jerry Baker's Damping-Off prevention tonic (4tsp. chamomile tea, 1tsp liquid dish soap. Mix in 1qt boiling water, let steep at least 1hr, strain and cool. Mist the seedlings as soon as heads appear).

Another great use for eggshells

So this might gross out some of you but after enjoying our chickens eggs we dry out the shells, crunch them up and feed them back to our mostly lovely ladies. It provides them with calcium as well as a little bit of grit. Lately we have had so many eggshells that the extras have been making it into the compost bin, which is where I'm sure most of yours go but did you know they also can benefit your garden in another way?

If you crush them, then soak them for 24 hours you can pour the water right onto your plants to provide much needed calcium. This is especially beneficial to tomatoes and peppers.

Thanks Jerry!

San Diego Wildflowers

Are in bloom all over the city. Lupines are popping up everywhere I look, even lining the freeways. Because of the good amount of rain this year all the hillsides seem to be bursting with color. You must get out and see this before the summer heat takes it's toll. You don't have to venture very far, all of these pictures were taken within 10 miles of Downtown San Diego!

This trail can be accessed at the north end of Regents off of the 52 freeway. It is part of Rose Canyon, at the site of the proposed Regents Road Bridge.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Live from Earth Day San Diego 2010

It was great to meet all of you who came out and picked up free seeds and seedlings today! Let me know how it grows!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Night Lights

Yes I spend my Friday nights in the garden and no I'm not checking to see if my plants are safe. Well actually I am, I have read that it's best to scour your garden at night for pests under the cover of darkness. Well we gave it a try and had great success. We found 7 slugs, mostly on the Marigolds (it's true what the say they are great slug attractors) and 1 snail. Overall a very successful night!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coffee Grounds Good For The Garden?

I'm sure we have all seen the free "Grounds for your Garden" in our local Starbucks. Coffee grounds sound like a good soil amendment, I know they always make me feel better, if only for a short while. But are coffee grinds actually good for your vegetable garden? I found a very informative article on Gardens Alive that had several good points:

Raw grounds straight into the soil.

First it's "not recommended [to add] raw ingredients [to your garden] before composting". Seeing as "coffee grounds alone are highly acidic [they would be] best for plants like blueberries that thrive in very acidic soil". Because grounds are so high in acid and nitrogen you "risk creating a 'mold bloom' where you spread them".

Okay, then I will compost the grounds and add them to my blueberries.

The author recommends "adding a cup of agricultural lime [or hardwood ashes] to every ten pounds of grounds before you add them to your compost pile".

Well grounds do have lots of good nutrients right?

Typical grounds contain "1.5% Nitrogen...also alot of Magnesium and Potassium, both of which plants really like, but not a lot of Phosphorus (the fruiting or flowering nutrient) or calcium, a mineral that many plants crave, and whose lack helps explain the recalcitrant acidity".

Here in California they mention it might do more good than bad due to our high alkaline content. I think most organic soil amendments in moderation, mixed with a compost pile that has good levels of green and brown, will do more good then harm.

Bake seedlings at 350 degrees for two hours....

I must be honest; I have never owned a greenhouse. Being from Southern California, I have never really experienced what most people refer to as "seasons". That being said Josh has been eager to find some sort of housing for the seedlings after they inexplicably jumped off their perch on to the ground in his office (trying not to take it personally). Josh found a great portable greenhouse that wouldn’t take up much space, would house my seedlings and would give us a place to grow some summer crops in the winter.

It arrived the day before yesterday and it was perfect. Josh quickly set it up and placed it out on the balcony. I couldn't wait to get my seedlings into their new home so I promptly placed them on the shelves and zipped it up tight seeing as it was a cool overcast day.

I went about my day and while casually walking by the new greenhouse two hours later I couldn't help but feel a nice cozy warmth emitting from inside. I looked inside and gasp in horror as all my seedlings were wilting under the immense heat. I frantically zipped open the door and a microwave popcorn like steam was released from within.

As if they were on fire I quickly dosed everything with water practically drowning them in the process. The pumpkin and eggplant seemed quite pleased with the new temperature but the carrots and tomato were lost. I couldn’t help but wonder if they believed this was a payback for their stunt in the office. I almost think these seedlings and I might have too much past baggage and it might be better for us both to move on.

Whatever does end up happening, one thing I will probably not be caught doing until the dead of winter is zipping up the new greenhouse.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cultivating Food Justice Conference

The Cultivating Food Justice Conference is coming up on Saturday 4/24 and going until Sunday 4/25. It will be hosted for free at SDSU with free food and parking. Some of the workshops topics include:


Basics of Urban Homesteading
Greywater and Rainwater Harvesting: low-cost, simple solutions to creating a local water supply
Real Careers in Real Food: how to create jobs and start a business in our food system


Seed Sovereignty: How we can fight corporate ownership and protect our food diversity
Why are farm internships illegal?
Urban Farming and Aquaponics: Raising Tilapia and Produce in Water
Beekeeping for the Intrepid
Lawn to veggie garden conversion 101

Hard to believe it's free!

Friday, April 9, 2010

San Diego Garden Tours

The annual garden tours are back and with over 20 tours available in San Diego County there is sure to be garden styles and inspiration for everyone. Some of my favorites from last year and must sees are listed here:

April 17th- Encinitas Garden Festival and Tour
April 17th & 18th - Coronado Flower Show & Garden Tour
April 24th- Point Loma Garden Walk
May 8th- Mission Hills Garden Club Garden Walk
May 22nd- San Diego Floral Association Historic Garden Tour (Kensington)
Information: (619) 232-5762 Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Companion Planting - Top 10

Summer Crop Top 10

This post has been a few days in the making. As I researched the best plants for pollinators in raised beds I started to generally look into companion planting. Well needless to say now I'm hooked. I did some more research and thought I would put it into an easy to understand format. Here is a list of the top 10 summer crops and their likes and dislikes. Let me know if you guys have witnessed any other good partners or life long enemies.

Plant With: Chive (Improves Growth & Flavor), Sage (Improves, Repels Carrot Rust Fly) and Tomato
Just Not That Into: Dill

Plant With: Bean (attracts beneficials, controls Leaf Beetle & Leaf Hopper), Potato, Pumpkin (improves growth), Squash (attracts beneficials, controls Western Flower Thrips)
Just Not That Into: Tomato

Plant With: Catnip (repels Cucumber Beetle), Corn (protects from wilt), Dill (repels pests), Eggplant, Onion, Oregano (repels pests), Pole Bean (adds nutrients), Radish (repels Cucumber Beetle), Sunflower, Tomato
Just Not That Into: Basil, Potato, Rosemary, Sage

Plant With: Green Beans (repels Colorado Potato Beetle), Marigold (controls Nematodes)

New Zealand Spinach
Plant With: Bean, Onion and Strawberry
Just Not That Into: Potato

Plant With: Carrot, Basil, Eggplant, Onion, Tomato
Just Not That Into: Fennel

Pole Bean
Plant With: Carrot, Cucumber, Eggplant, Oregano (improves growth & flavor), Radish, Strawberry
Just Not That Into: Basil, Beet, Fennel, Garlic, Onion, Radish, Sunflower

Plant With: Corn, Eggplant (trap), Marigold, Onion (repels Colorado Potato Beetle)
Just Not That Into: Cucumber, Pumpkin, Rasberry, Spinach, Squash, Sunflower, Tomato, Turnip

Plant With: Borage (improves growth & flavor, attracts bees, repels squash vine borer), Corn (protects from wilt), Marigold (repels beetles, nematodes), Oregano (repels pests)
Just Not That Into: Potato, Pumpkin (only if saving seeds)

Plant With: Basil (protects tomato from insects & disease), Carrot, Cucumber, Garlic (repels Red Spider), Marigold (repels Tomato Hornworm, Thrips, Aphid), Onion, Pepper
Just Not That Into: Corn, Dill, Fennel, Pole Bean, Potato

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Organic Produce Delivery

I don't know how I'm just learning about this, but everyone has really kept the request for post topics coming in and I can't tell you how much I'm learning.  Keep it up!

In San Diego we have different CSA programs (Community Supported Agriculture) wherein the consumer purchases shares of upcoming harvest from local organic farms. These farms know that the average person doesn't have time to drive out to them so they bring the fresh produce to you! Also if you're a business I know several local CSA's can take orders from all the employees and do bulk deliveries.

Be Wise Ranch- Escondido based organic farm that delivers weekly seasonal  produce boxes to pick up points around the county for it's CSA members. It's not only convenient but cost effective; a large share which provides a week supply of produce (10 tomatoes, 2 avocados, 5 oranges, 3 lemons, green beans, squash, beets and carrots) for a family of 3-4 is only $30.00 a week and a small share which provides produce for two adults and a child is $25.00 a week. Most of the member slots are full, but have no fear they open up membership again in June.

Garden of Eden Organics- Another Escondido organic farm, 7 pick-up locations, individual boxes that feed one are $108 a month, small family boxes that feed 2-3 are $139 a month and large family boxes that feed 4-5 are $164 a month. They also offer grass-finished beef, chicken and eggs.

Suzie's Organic Farm- They have several pick-up spots as well as being regulars at several farmer's markets around town. Each produce box contains 8-15 items for a mere $25.00. Their current list of produce looks delectable.


To Bee or Not to Bee

All this talk about bees has got us thinking...could we have our own bee-hive? I sadly missed several beginner bee-keeping classes here in San Diego given earlier in the year but I managed to find one more at the Cultivating Food Justice Conference 4/24-4/25.

In the meantime here is a general write up on beekeeping from the University of California.

Drip Drip Drip

We made the mistake of leaving the drip irrigation system in place when we turned and amended the soil in February. One of the drip line distribution heads was damaged by a shovel. With the 1/4" plastic adapters broken off inside the head, the quick fix was to plug the holes with silicone.

It is always best to clean the drip irrigation system filters at the start of a new growing season. We were lucky to have no major build up of sediment from last year. After a quick test, we were relieved to find that all the lines were functioning well.

Jen did a great job of covering the drip lines with mulch this season. This should help not only the aesthetics, but also keep the sun from damaging the lines.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wild Pig Spotted

I've heard you should never disturb them if you come across one in the wild...any advice on capturing this beast?

Cover Crop | Compost | Mulch

After a little bit of sun and heat the top layer of soil in the raised beds has taken a beating. Now that the seedlings have matured, and the drip could be placed, we decided it was time for mulch. We worked compost and the cover crop into the soil in February; now we just had to protect this work from the sun. We picked up a fine bark mulch and spread it in the boxes taking care not to smother the new seedlings. I was amazed with how great it turned out. This process conserves water, protects the soil and the drip lines from the sun, and is much cleaner looking without the drip lines exposed.

Spring S#%@

The winter hibernation that took over the garden seems a world away now. The raised beds are now being attacked from all angles: from below the White Grubs, then on the surface the Cutworms, and today three grasshoppers were spotted flying in the matter of an hour. Just as we thought it could not get any worse, the dogs decided to help us out and deposit their own version of manure in the raised beds. The squashed seedlings and "presents" that were left sent me into a tailspin. Luckily, Josh came to the rescue. One Home Depot mission later, we had this beautiful garden fencing; which also acts as a support to the shade devices. Maybe, years from now, I will actually be one step ahead of all these creatures - heck anything would be better then 20 steps behind.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Best plants to attract pollinators

As novice gardeners we feel satisfied when our garden stays alive and produces something other then pest high rises. Were definitely not ready to try and create those beautiful lush gardens you see in garden books. That being said I still like to try and have a diverse garden while adding color to our raised boxes, but if all you're going to do is look pretty then you have no place here. Plants that are going to get one of the small dedicated lots in the raised beds better be ready to multitask.

I set out to research plants and flowers that were perennials or annuals, would add some color, do well in full San Diego sun, not get too large, or require lots of water and will contribute to the ecology of the garden. Easy right?

Here's what I found:

Borage- Annual that gets 2-3' tall, attracts bees like crazy, edible flowers.
Cosmos (Sonata Dwarf)- Very pretty flowering annual plant that attracts bees and butterflies, tolerates heat and low water. It blooms late spring to early fall. Look for dwarf varieties that only get around 2'.
Dill- Annual, 3' tall with yellow flowers, can be used in recipes, many medicinal uses, attracts Beneficial's such as bees, companion plant to our cucumber vine.
Echinacea- Perennial that likes full sun, the beautiful purple coneflower can get up to 4' tall and 2' wide so look for dwarf varieties like 'Pixie Meadowbright'. Attracts butterflies and has medicinal uses.
Gallardia- Perennial, likes full sun, look for dwarf varieties like goblin that only get a 1' tall and wide. Attracts bees and butterflies.
Sea Holly- Perennial, likes full sun, very unique flower that blooms summer into fall and will add violet to your landscape, make sure you get a dwarf variety like eryngium planum 'Jade Frost' it only gets 8" high. They attract butterflies and beneficial flower wasps.
Sunflowers- Besides being beautiful, they attract the three B's; Beneficial's, bees and butterflies. When selecting your sunflower think of heirlooms simply because some newer varieties are pollen-less or are hybrids that don't attract bees.
Toad Flax- Perenial, mid-season bloomer that gets 2-3' high but only 1' wide, comes in pink or blue, attracts bees and butterflies.
Yarrow (Paprika)- Flowering perennial native that can endure drought, gets up to 3' tall, yarrow comes in many great colors and also attracts butterflies.

Some of these would do well in containers for those of you working within the confines of a concrete garden. Let me know if you have found any others that worked well for you.