Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Watch the Amy Stewart Book Promo Video

Flower Confidential

Go, Amy! Can't wait to buy the book.

Parkinson's and pesticides

Yet another reason to go organic: Pesticides Exposure Associated With Parkinson's Disease

Super cool plant hangers

Ok, so they're not nearly as cheap as the plain wire ones you can buy, but they're waaaaay cooler! What a great gift for the hard-to-please gardener in your life.

If you want four wires, ask for The Brassy Hooker. If you only need three, get The Original Hangover.


Some veggies like it hot... but not too hot... or cold

The last few days have broken the 100 degree mark but the forecast indicates relief is on the way for me and my veggie garden. Over about 90 degrees, even heat-loving tomatoes and peppers begin to suffer from fruit set failure. Luckily, lots of fruit had already set prior to the heatwave and it's maturing nicely.

Some tomatoes have been bred to resist high heat, and I do plan to grow one or two heat-resistant varieties next season to see how they taste.

At the other end of the climate spectrum, coastal gardeners have a hard time rounding up enough heat for good fruit set, particularly when night temperatures dip below the critical 55 degree mark. I think if I lived on the coast, I would require a Veg-A-Lot Greenhouse. These affordable compact greenhouses... greenhuts?... are manufactured by Doyle Doss, a Humboldt County gardener and inventor.

The tomato-obsessed (like me) would definitely require a Tomato Palace. It's a vertical beauty, but only one lucky gardener gets one because production has shifted to the Veg-A-Lot and there's only one left!

Here's the Veg-A-Lot press release and a few photos:


Vegetable gardening on the Pacific North Coast is extremely challenging and very often heart breaking. Low temperatures, constant winds, summer fogs, salt air – all conspire to sabotage the most dedicated gardener's efforts to raise food for their family and friends. Now you can put all that bad weather behind you and garden successfully right next to the ocean with a Veg-A-Lot™ Insulated Greenhouse.

The Veg-A-Lot™ Insulated Greenhouse is specifically designed for adverse growing conditions. Five ft wide, eight feet long, and five feet tall provides 40 sq ft of insulated garden space. (You can grow a lot of food in 40 square feet!)

No need to "go inside" – the walls go UP↑ and DOWN↓ like a Roll-Top Desk! (Completely assembled and priced at $795-.) No wasted space to an aisle way – yet convenient and easy access to all your vegetables. It's amazing!

Solidly constructed of structural aluminum and wood to withstand wind and storm; the Veg-A-Lot™ Growhouse is glazed with Solexx™, a translucent UV resistant twin-wall polyethylene, which creates an insulating dead air blanket around your garden.

The Veg-A-Lot™ Greenhouse is superbly suited for raised bed "square foot" or "French-intensive" gardening techniques. No deer, raccoons, dogs, cats, or birds can get to your vegetables. No winds to dry out your crops, so watering is greatly reduced. Very effective pest control with minimal care and maximum yields. "Honey, I need some carrots, would you mind going out to pick a few?" (This could be you.)

GO ORGANIC! It is so much easier in a Veg-A-Lot™ Growhouse -- you have absolute control of the growing environment! I am growing eggplant, carrots, turnips, beets, lettuces, bell peppers, habanero pepper, spinach, parsley, cilantro, lettuces, arugula, broccoli, okra, strawberries, bush beans -- all in 40 sq ft, with room for more!

This truly is an amazing new approach to vegetable gardening, especially for today's busy lifestyles and high food costs. You can grow a substantial portion of your food in your own backyard and enjoy the flavor and improved nutritional value of fresh food. Um-m-m-m-m good!

Visit http://www.heatstick.com for further information.

Any plans for a Veg-A-Lot Shadehouse for Central Valley gardeners, Doyle? ;-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Perfectly Natural Weed & Grass Killer

I was sent a bottle of Perfectly Natural Weed & Grass Killer to try and the timing was perfect because I've had a weed explosion in the gaps between my flagstones and in the crushed gravel paths surrounding my vegetable beds. You get a little busy and suddenly you've got a lot of weeds. I tried hula-hoeing some and pulling others, but really didn't have the time to get on my hands and knees and pull every single weed in my yard.

Enter Perfectly Natural Weed & Grass Killer.

I'd read about homemade vinegar concoctions as weed killers but also read that the typical 5% acetic acid concentration in table vinegar wasn't really enough to kill weeds while the recommended 20% concentration was strong enough to blind a person.

Perfectly Natural Weed & Grass Killer, however, has the following breakdown.

Active Ingredient: Clove oil..... 8%
Inert ingredients: Vinegar (maximum 8% acetic acid in solution)..... 90%... Lecithin.... 2%.

It's reportedly "100% Organic and Family Safe"

Manufacturer recommendations include wearing eye protection and gloves during application, but it's nice not having to worry about lingering herbicide toxicity in the garden. The bottle label doesn't boast OMRI certification, so I will need to look into the caliber of approval it's receiving from other respected organic gardening organizations and practitioners. Having OMRI "cred" really makes it a no-brainer for me.

Would I buy this product or something like it? Very likely. In fact, I'll bet if I'd used this fast-acting herbicide sooner, I probably wouldn't have been faced with a weed explosion at all. It would have been more of an easily-handled weed situation.

It's nice to have another weapon in the "less toxic" weed-control arsenal. Wonder if it's sold by the gallon. Peaceful Valley Farm Supply sells a similar product called BurnOut II, containing 4% Clove Oil and 93% vinegar (which I assume to be 5% acetic acid), lecithin, water, citric acid and mineral oil.

Perfectly Natural is sold online at Unique Products Are Us and locally at nurseries, KMart, WalMart, and Fred Meyer.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

S.F. Chronicle plugged my blog!

Ok, so it was merely listed as a regional blog "worth visiting" in a larger article about sites by Dave's Garden, GardenStew, GardenVoices, You Grow Girl, Amy Stewart, Karen Hess, Pam Peirce and Marta Acosta, but I'll take it!

What's shakin', Bay Areans? ;-)

Blogs get to the root of gardeners' thinking
Sophia Markoulakis, Special to The Chronicle

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Garden musings are no longer private thoughts between our plants and ourselves. Through blogs, we can now share our most intimate gardening thoughts with the universe.

Short for Web log, a blog is a personal journal posted online for public access and scrutiny. A blog is highly interactive, with the author's profile made public. Snazzy tech advances such as permalinks that direct readers to related Web sites and blogs, and trackbacks and pingbacks that connect readers and bloggers with one another streamline this interaction. So garden blogs, in essence, allow gardeners from all over the world to share images, experiences, anecdotal information and expert knowledge...

... "Some Northern California blogs worth visiting are:

-- sacgardening.blogspot.com

-- mybayareagarden.blogspot.com

-- uncletomsgarden.blogspot.com

-- Also check out nature-trail.blogspot.com for some eloquent and feline-friendly writing; inmykitchengarden.com for a California transplant making it in rural Missouri; and cabopulmo.blogspot.com for stunning desert succulents."

read entire article

Some great choices... and thanks for the mention, Ms. Markoulakis!

Flirting with triple digits

Without warning, our lovely spring weather has succumbed to summer scorch. Valley heat scares the un-acclimated. We natives deal, though. You garden in the cool mornings and early evenings. During midday? Well, you stay inside in a preferably air-conditioned building or seek deep shade outside. Don't go jogging. Don't do roofing or lay asphalt.

Every morning I have the same ritual. I get up, go downstairs and pee my dogs in the backyard. While they're doing their business, I walk the yard. It's cool, birdsong arrives on cue, and the light is soft. In fact, my backyard is mostly in shade in the mornings because it faces south and west.

The front of my house gets most of the morning sun, but except for retrieving the paper in whatever god-awful ensemble I deemed "pajamas" the night before, I tend not to hang out there in the mornings. Not private enough, and you don't really want to bump into me before I'm holding a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. Not because I'm unpleasant. I'm just a little bit mute. Clouded. Whatever they put in coffee... it brings clarity and after a few minutes I am awash with this overwhelming sense of... civility.

Here's what caught my eye this morning, pre-coffee.

'Munstead' lavender and 'Moonbeam' coreopsis

Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum) and Miscanthus 'Morning Light'

Yellow zucchini squash


'Black' (heirloom)

'Costoluto Genovese' (Italian heirloom)

'Costoluto Genovese' (foreground) and 'Early Girl' (background)

'Black from Tula' (foreground) and 'Copia' (background)

Peace stake in purple eggplant

Tri-color beans climbing bamboo teepee

Immediately after peeing, lie down and sun yourself before coming inside for breakfast. Yeah, it's a dog's life around here..."

This is my "sunny Mediterranean" bed, where I grow all the really fun stuff like lavender, phormium, echium, verbena bonariensis, a hot-pink flowering sedum, etc.

Props to Costco for their affordable teak furniture and to Smith & Hawken for their portable firepit that doubles as a grill.

Succulents planted in a rusted metal bowl

Ornamental millet, angelonia, celosia and heuchera in a green ceramic pot

My garden has an inconvenient truth.


'Medallion' roses and an old watering can

Hanging tomatoes ('Sun Sugar') and strawberries

Delphinium... also hanging because it's the only way to save it from certain snail death.

Weed disclaimer: You will see some...times-a-lot-of weeds in my flower and vegetable beds. That is because I am lazy, just like the late, great garden writer Henry Mitchell, who confessed--

"Fortunately, I am myself as lazy a man as ever lived and you are in no danger whatever of reading here that you should stand on your head and bow thrice before planting basil in the full moon's paralactical ecliptical balderdash the third hour after the fifth rain in March."

You da man, Henry.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Strawberries and Yellow Zucchini... because you are what you eat

Staying trim was never a problem for me... until I had a child. I don't know if childbirth does something funky to your metabolism, or that by tending to another's needs it becomes more difficult to tend to your own. I do know that many adults spend way more time sitting than we did when we were young and especially when we were carless. Not careless... "car-less"... as in "I walk everywhere". We car-driving grownups sit at desks... we drive, we sit, we drive, we sit, we drive. Whether you have kids or not, modern adult life can be much more sedentary than it should be.

Whatever the cause of my added poundage... the reality is that I now have to watch what I eat. Oh yeah, and exercise.

Weight Watchers has been a big help to me because its Points system makes it very easy to keep track of how much food I'm consuming. On Weight Watchers, you are allotted a maximum number of points per day and once you're out of points, you're out. That's it. Step away from the fridge. The other really cool thing about Weight Watchers is that vegetables and fruits have been assigned very low points values. Many vegetables count as 0. What? Free food? How clever is a diet that encourages you to eat more fruits and veggies? Very!

While my diet resolve waxes and wanes, having home-grown fruits and veggies is giving me added incentive to stay "on plan" until my summer trip to Mendocino. What happens in Mendocino... stays in Mendocino.

Sauteed Yellow Garden Zucchini

Slice zucchini (about 2 to 3 cups), saute in 2 teaspoons olive oil. Season with garlic salt and cracked pepper. Enjoy.

W.W. Points for 1 cup zucchini = 0
2 teaspoons olive oil = 2 points

Garden Strawberries

1 1/2 cups = 1 point

25 to 27 Points per day is a typical maximum, so you see you can stay quite full eating healthfully from the summer garden.

School's Out

Watch the video

Music: "Swinging on a Star" by Tony Bennett, from the CD, The Playground

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A backyard retreat/ office/ guest room

I would sooooo love one of these when we finally ditch my teenage son's swingset.

Want to major in Organic Ag? Now you can.

UCD plows ahead, but lags on organic ag major
By Edie Lau -- Sacramento Bee Science Writer

For the first time this fall, a university in the United States is offering a major in organic agriculture.
It's not at the University of California, Davis, one of the nation's foremost agricultural schools, nor is it anywhere in California, the top state in certified organic cropland.

The program is at Washington State University, which is leading a movement among agricultural schools to put organic farming in the curriculum.

Read the rest of the article.

By the way, WSU is in a quaint college town called Pullman, Washington, where I happened to live from age 11 to 15. Picture, if you will-- college students, real cowboys, snow, Main Street, steep, treesy hills lined with charming homes, rolling wheat hills, the best ice cream, rock concerts, and cute boys who are now middle-aged like me so just shoot me.

What Flower Are You?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Snapdragon: "Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."


Friday, June 09, 2006

Now it's easy to go biodegradable in the home and garden!

Biobag makes biodegradable trash, composting, dog poop and lawn bags.

You can also dispose of your garbage guilt with biodegradable paper plates, and cups. Remember, plastic trash really is forever. Compostable cutlery isn't!

Whole Foods carries some of these products as well. Ask your neighborhood grocer to too.