Gardens to Tables

Winter is time for:

Garden Preparation

Start preparing gardens for spring by pruning trees and bushes and amending the soil by planting cover crops in unused beds.

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Tips for Hand Bed Preparation from the Esalen Farm and Garden Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Esalen Bed PrepGood organic gardeners will tell you that they don't grow plants, they grow soil -- and by that they mean a soil rich in organic material. As we begin to pull out our summer crops and get ready for fall planting, it's a good time to take a look at the soil in our garden and do what's necessary to create the "healthy dirt" -- or humus -- that will give life to our new seedlings. For some, it might be time to put in a cover crop. For those ready to put in their next round of seeds or seedlings, here is a step-by-step "Guide to Hand Bed Preparation" created by the food folks at the Esalen Farm and Garden, who have some of the healthiest beds (and, hence, crops) you'll ever see. I made a few edits for the home gardener but it's a great guide to get you started. Happy fall planting!

1. Clear all plant waste of previous crops and weeds from the bed using a short-handled fork, hard or soft rake, and a compost bin or trash can.

2. Check that there are suitable stakes (i.e., able to have a string easily tied to) at each corner of the bed. Stakes should be between 42-48 inches apart. If a stake is missing, drive a new stake into the ground to create the appropriate width; move existing stakes to create the appropriate width.

3. Connect parallel corner posts with string to mark the length of the bed along the pathways.

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A Fleurishing Concept Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

NoFleurish flower barthing says Valentine's Day like flowers. For most that means the store-bought variety but for those who want to add the special touch of creating a bouquet themselves — or, perhaps, learn how to take the flowers from their own gardens and make them into beautiful arrangements, a visit to the new Fleurish flower bar in Brentwood, California, might be in order. The brainchild of Amy Marella, who also owns The Hidden Garden Floral Design and founded Fleurish with Allyson Arons and Alex Frost, Fleurish creates the space and offers the expertise (from tablet tutorials to professional floral designers on hand) to help people create custom bouquets using seasonal flowers. Beginners can start with the FleurKits, which provide a recipe card, vase, fresh flowers and other cuttings and all the tools needed to create a particular seasonal arrangement (below is the one I made from the Winter Solstice kit during my visit last Thursday), while those looking for more instruction might be interested in the beginner and intermediate classes or special workshops offered throughout the year. (Yes, there are Valentine's-themed events all next week.)

Fleurish arrangementThe Fleurish space is also available for private or semi-private group events, ranging from parties for "petite fleurists" (children over 7) to those celebrating birthdays or showers to corporate events. Groups are even free to bring in their own food and drinks at no extra charge.

For most of us, the garden(or farm)-to-table idea conjures thoughts of the herbs, fruits and vegetables we use in our kitchens but the truth is the garden-to-table concept can also be applied to flowers. As we all know, it's important to have flowers in our gardens to provide an environment that keeps the beneficial insects (including the all-important bees) happy but, the truth is, they also keep us happy. I have to admit that nothing brings a smile to my face like seeing fresh blooms in my garden, which range (depending on the season) from roses to poppies to lilies to chrysanthemums to zinnias. So what could be better than bringing that happiness to the table (especially in an arrangement we created ourselves)?

Happy Valentine's Day!

 
10 Steps to Help Get Those Seeds Started Print E-mail
Written by Maree Gaetani, Gardener's Supply Company   

SeedlingsWe've noticed a significant increase in consumers wanting to either try seedstarting or elevate their capability with new equipment and lights. Here are 10 steps along that make seedstarting simple and successful:

1. Choose Seeds Wisely. If you're new to seed starting, stick with easy-to-grow vegetables and flowers such as tomato, cucumber, basil, squash, morning glories, bachelor buttons, calendula and cosmos. Don't start your seeds too early. Find the last expected frost date in your area and count back from that date based on the seed packet recommendations to determine when to start seeds indoors. Starting too early will create monster plants that need to be tamed because the outdoor environment isn't ready for them yet.

2. The Right Equipment. You can start seeds in just about any container, provided it's sturdy and allows for water drainage. However, for those new to seedstarting, complete systems are also available.

3. Start with the Right Organic Mix. For best success, use a seed-starting mix that contains peat moss and vermiculite. These ingredients provide a medium that holds moisture, drains water, and is light enough to germinate and grow even small seeds such as pansies.

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Tips for Balcony Gardeners Print E-mail
Written by Roy Joulos   

Greenbo Purple FlowerboxPlants add a great deal to our quality of life -- from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they're convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.

While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, starting a balcony garden needn't cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you'll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.

Start by planting the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have. Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn't get that much sun? Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or highly shaded all day).

Partial shade herbs include cilantro and parsley (both prefer cooler weather), dill, bee balm, spearmint and chamomile. Light shade herbs include garlic, chives, peppermint and rosemary. Partial or light shade veggies include lettuce, broccoli, green onion, collards, cabbage, peas, carrots, strawberries, beans and sweet potatoes. Remember that pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive and plants with short-growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day.

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