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Sow cover crops like mustard, clover or peas and then turn them over to add nutrients when it's time to plant your veggies again.

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Growing Winter Strawberries in Southern California Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

StrawberriesOctober 17, 2009: Here is an update on this post, which first ran on October 1, in which a question came in from "Nancy" about growing winter strawberries in Southern California -- with added information on how things turned out and the best place to order winter strawberries. Click "read more" for the whole post:

I'm a home gardener and am determined to grow my own strawberries this winter/spring. We've just put in eight raised gardening beds for winter crops, onions and lettuce, and I want to use one of the beds solely for strawberries. One of my reference tools is Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening book and her very specific instructions for growing strawberries in Southern California. According to her, I need pre-chilled, locally adapted bare root plants that need to go in the ground between November 1 and 10. She also goes on to say that as a general rule "don't order strawberries other than alpine varieties, from catalogues, because they usually don't carry varieties that are adapted to our climate."

My question is: where do I buy the bare root plants, local varieties for San Diego, in small quantities? I have searched the web for California strawberry plants, even up in Watsonville (strawberry capital of the world), and I have found some plants, but with a minimum order of 1500! Can you please help me find a source for my strawberries?

For the answer, we contacted Nick Sakovich, who ran the Master Gardener program in Ventura and Santa Barbara and was a farm advisor for the University of California in Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and now lives – and gardens -- on the Big Island of Hawaii (click "read more" for the rest of the article):

Using Biodynamics in the Home Garden Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Jeff Dawson of UbuntuJeff Dawson is the master gardener and creator of the biodynamic gardens for Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio in Napa, California. Considered a “biodynamic guru,” Dawson also established the gardens at Fetzer Vineyards and Kendall Jackson Vineyards and served as the Curator of Gardens for Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts.

Here he helps us understand just what biodynamics is and how it can be used in the home or community garden:

Q: What is biodynamics and can people practice it at home?

A: Biodynamics is a complex subject and practice. It requires a specific set of preparations, including composting and creating specific fertilizers. It also encompassed crushing up crystal and mixing it into the animal dung. This is because the crystal brings in heat and light to the plants. All in all, it is not something the average person can practice at home.

Q: Is there any single part of biodynamics that people can practice at home?

A: Yes, there is one small part called “gardening by the moon” but it takes a lot of skill with timing and consistency. “Gardening by the moon” is based on calendars. There are 12 constellations broken up into four parts -- fire, earth, water and air signs. With biodynamic gardening, you cultivate and harvest in accordance of these moons. Earth=roots/soil, Water=leaves, Air=flowers, and Fire=fruit. So, if you were looking to cultivate soil, you would want to do so during the Earth moon. Moon signs, contrary to popular astrological belief, last about 2 ˝ days. If you were to plant beets two days before the full moon they would come out instantly as they would be drawn up through something we call “suctional force.”

The Best Garden Hose Nozzle Ever Print E-mail
Written by Janine Warner   

After years of frustrated experimentation, I've finally found a spray gun nozzle that works!

Don't get me wrong, like all nozzles I've tried this one will wear out over time, but after many attempts I've finally found a nozzle that makes me happy.

In fairness to nozzle makers everywhere, these hose attachments must withstand tremendous water pressure, and if you're like me, they get dragged through the dirt, dropped, and occasionally stepped on, as well.

But after the frustration of bringing home new nozzles that didn’t work from the start, I’m happy to report consistently good luck with the Dramm Revolver. With nine different settings -- from spray to jet to full to mist -- you get everything you need to water, mist, and spray clean everything in the garden, including the muddy tools. And the Dramm Revolver, which looks a bit like a ray gun from the latest sci fi cartoon, even comes in a rainbow of colors.

I prefer red because it’s easy to find and that means I’m less likely to step on it.

Order the Dramm 9 Revolver Garden Hose Nozzle from Amazon

Direct from Garden to Kitchen at Brix Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

It’s pretty much a given today that the top chefs are looking to use the freshest produce in their cooking. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to follow chefs as they traveled to local farms or scoured farmers markets and talked to the gardeners to find just the right ingredients for that night’s meal.

Brix, the well-regarded restaurant in the Napa Valley town of Yountville, has taken that symbiotic relationship of gardener and chef a step further by having its own two (actually 16, if you include the vineyard and orchard) acres on the property set aside for produce to be used in the restaurant.

I recently talked to Guillermo “Memo” Rodriguez (above), the master gardener at Brix and started by asking what the chefs had come to pick from his garden that day. The answer was English peas, plus some tarragon and parsley and thyme for an English-pea risotto that Executive Chef Anne Gingrass-Paik was looking to put back on the menu. The peas were also being used in a chicken pasta that was already on the menu. (If anyone was lucky enough to eat that dish at Brix on May 29, please let me know how it was …)

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