Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bought Bargain Bulbs at Costco

After a trip to Costco last Thursday, I now have two bags of tulips chillin' in the meat bin of my fridge and bags of daffodils and alliums sitting on the counter, waiting to be planted. I wasn't planning on buying bulbs that day, but the display got to me-- stack upon stack, row upon row of colorfully labeled bags full of fresh, firm spring bulbs. At $8.29 a bag, they were irresistable.

We're talking 50 tulip bulbs and 50 daffodil bulbs for $8.29/bag. The 'Gladiator' Alliums were 3 to a bag. They's special, I reckon.

Now that I have a bulb auger, I'm no longer intimidated by the thought of planting 153 bulbs. I used to own one of those long-handled "bulb planters" that works well only if you're planting in a bed of tiny marshmallows. I have clay soil... the kind of clay that'll make a man out of you... or that'll make you scan the horizon for a set of biceps attached to a man.

Since I ditched the bulb planter and took a chance on a bulb auger I've never looked back. If I were putting together one of those You Don't Need A Man lady tool kits, it would definitely include a bulb auger.

Mail order bulb companies I've had good luck with include:

Dutch Gardens, Inc.

A few bulb companies highly ranked on Garden Watchdog include:

Old House Gardens Heirloom Flower Bulbs
Brent and Becky's Bulbs
John Scheepers, Inc.
Van Engelen, Inc.
Easy to Grow Bulbs

Californians, also check out Far West Bulb Farm, which sells native California bulbs.

Where the heck are my bulbs from? Let's see... looks like they're from the Netherlands' Langeveld Bulb Co., by way of Garden State Bulb Co. (the U.S. office and warehouse) in New Jersey.

Now, let's see how Langeveld ranks on Garden Watchdog.

SCORE: 75/100

Hmmm... interesting. Come spring, we'll know if my bargain bulbs pay off. I'll report back. I buy bulbs from independent nurseries as well. What I like about buying from a local nursery is that you often get to pick each bulb from a bin. You'll most likely pay more per bulb, but you'll have the opportunity to select the largest, least-bruised bulbs. The longer you wait, the funkier the selection usually. Plus, sometimes bulbs get put back in the wrong bin. As always, shop early for the best selection.

Where do you shop for spring bulbs locally, blog readers? And your favorite mail order bulb company(ies)?

Trey, are you reading this? I'm curious about which bulb companies you use and why you like them.

Being sporadically bargain-minded, I just did a price comparison; My Costco tulips and daffs cost 6 cents a bulb. I'd be paying more in the vicinity of 69 cents a bulb locally. Right now I feel like I got a really good deal. Time will tell.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Get the latest spinach E. coli updates from the CDC

(Photo from UC VRIC)
Center for Disease Control (CDC) Spinach E. coli Outbreak UPDATES

More spinach news--
Spinach E. coli: Farmers Warned a Year Ago KXTL - TV/DT Sacramento
Salinas Farmers Warned About Spinach Safety in 2004 KNTV-TV—San Francisco Bay Area, CA

"This is not the first time those supposedly healthy, leafy greens have made people sick. Rather, it is the 20th incident since 1995 in which E. coli outbreaks have been linked to spinach or lettuce. The cause could be fertilizer or irrigation and flood waters fouled by animal waste. Finally the FDA warned the industry last year to improve its safety record and in August, just weeks before the latest outbreak, announced inspections under its Lettuce Safety Initiative."-- editorial

Spinach Cultivation in California:
Spinach Production in California UC VRIC
Growing Home Garden Spinach UC VRIC

Northern California home gardeners... it's time to plant spinach. If you have trouble finding plant starts, or if you have the heebie jeebies about where the starts came from, plant spinach from seed.

And in the San Francisco Chronicle, Lynette Evans explains why Gardeners Don't Have to Give up Spinach.

A sign spotted at the local Midas Auto Services shop...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Homemade Salsa Virgin No More

Back in July I put out a call for salsa recipes and got a few good ones from Lesli, blogging at The Peterson Farm in Georgia, Rachelle, The Accidental Gardener and Sierrabella at Sierrabella's Garden in the California foothills. Yesterday, I finally managed to make homemade salsa. Why have I not been doing this, oh, for the last twenty years or so? So easy and delish!

Both recipes call for tomatoes, onion, peppers and garlic, but Lesli's mentions peeling the tomatoes and Rachelle's calls for the addition of fresh lime juice and cilantro. I decided to grab a bit o' this and a bit o' that from each recipe. We're still talking super simple and super easy.

-- Tomatoes (I used 'Early Girl' and 'Costoluto Genovese' because that's what I had on the vine... quantity should be similar to about 6 Roma tomatoes)
-- 2 'Fresno' Chili Peppers
-- 1 clove garlic
-- juice of one lime
-- one onion
-- salt to taste

I wore latex gloves from the get-go because I'm a big chicken. Proving even more what a big chicken I am, I used greenish Fresnos because the red ones are much hotter. Ok, and I scraped out the seeds. I was probably one step away from leaving the hot peppers out entirely.

Well... I'm proud to report that the results didn't quite have enough kick for me. I'm tougher than I thought, despite my Irish potato-lovin' genes, and will try the red ones next. Pretty soon I'll be saying, "'Fresno' chili peppers? Zey are nothing to me. I eat zem whole, right off the vine. I bathe in a bathtub full of them. Is like a milk bath, only milder."

Or not.

Seeding the peppers

Peeling the tomatoes

Blending ingredients

Verdict: Flavor is fresh... and sweet compared to store-bought salsa. The garlic and onion are essential and don't overpower the tomato flavor. Salt definitely boosts and balances the overall flavor. You could leave it out if you're eating the salsa with salted chips, but if your chips are unsalted, go ahead and salt the salsa. Guacamole would of course make a fabulous accompaniment to the salsa and chips.

I'm still a chunky salsa virgin and salsa verde virgin. Thanks, again, Sierrabella, for the salsa verde recipe. I need to scare up some tomatillos.

Ok, who knows the best tomato varieties for making salsa besides 'Roma'?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Zucchini Man

His nose is a little underdeveloped, but I had to remove him from his mold because the zip ties started stretching from pressure! There must be an art to this thing. I was able to pry the back mold off immediately, but the face wasn't budging. I waited about an hour and then tried again. Voila!

I have soooooo got to get the corn mold to try on my yellow zucchini!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Vegiforms on my yellow zucchini

Ok, now some of you may find this disturbing on several levels... just plain wrong... but if you're the type of person whose heart races a little at the thought of a yellow zucchini sporting a man's face, then Vegiforms are for you.

I strapped Pickle Puss on yesterday and will be checking his growth rate frequently after learning that my friend Weeder's Vegiform got stuck not once, but twice. Squash tend to grow very quickly. Or did she use eggplant? Anyhoo...

Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Victory Garden on your Video iPod

Did you know you can download Victory Garden "vodcasts" onto your video iPod? God, I love modern technology...

Ok, now who's representin' the West Coast with a gardening video podcast?

(S.F. Chronicle,

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NatureSweet Home-Grown Tomato Challenge Winners

(Photos courtesy of NatureSweet Tomatoes)Listen to Larry's interview on Capital Public Radio

(official press release)


FOLSOM, CALIFORNIA (Sept. 9, 2006) -- NatureSweet Tomatoes congratulates Larry Williams of Fair Oaks for winning the $5,000 grand prize at the September 9 Homegrown Tomato Challenge, held at the Raley's store at 25025 Blue Ravine Road in Folsom. Williams won the competition with his Sweet Million variety of tomatoes.

While Williams can now claim to be one of America’s best tomato gardeners, he faced stiff competition by the following runners-up, who all received a $250 Raley's store voucher for their premium tomato entries: Don Ravenscraft of Rio Linda (Sunsweet variety), Yevdokia Boychemko of North Highlands (cherry variety), and Jill Robbins of Sacramento (Pineapple beefsteak variety).

Ten finalists were chosen from more than 82 entries. NatureSweet’s distinguished judges included Pat Rubin, Home and Garden columnist at the Sacramento Bee; Michael Marks, TV's "Your Produce Man", columnist and celebrity chef; Gwen Schoen, Food Writer for the Sacramento Bee; Julie Watts, KCRA-TV3 Weather Plus Forecaster; and Michael Schutt, Raley's Produce Merchant.

Winners were chosen based on overall appearance/color tests and Brix testing. Brix tests determine sweetness -- the higher the Brix number, the better the taste. The finalists were then taste-tested by the judge’s panel. All surplus tomato entries were donated to the Twin Lakes Food Bank in Folsom after the Challenge.

The Homegrown Tomato Challenge treks across the country as NatureSweet continues to seek out America’s best homegrown tomatoes.
Here are a few photos. The winners look happy! Congrats, all!

(Photos courtesy of NatureSweet Tomatoes)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Teapot and Coffee Cup Planter

I replanted my little terra cotta teapot and coffee cup with succulents. They look pretty cute and can go longer without water than when I had pansies in them.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Digging Dog profile in S.F. Chronicle

Digging Dog Nursery unearths unusual plants Mendocino hideaway's grounds offer horticultural trip around world
Miriam Owen, Special to The Chronicle
Saturday, September 9, 2006

Demo gardens? A kaleidoscope of Kniphofia colors? A short drive from Mendocino? Sigh...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Painting pots with Keeyla Meadows

Keeyla Meadows, artist, garden designer, and author of Making Gardens Works of Art: Creating Your Own Personal Paradise is giving a pot painting workshop at Mrs. Dalloway's Literary & Garden Arts in Berkeley.

When: Saturday, Septemer 16, 3 p.m.
Painting Pots with Keeyla Meadows: a hands-on class. Bring two or three un-glazed pots to paint. We will provide paint, and Keeyla will demonstrate technique and color combinations.

If you ever have a chance to tour her garden and the gardens she's designed, don't miss it!