- Author: Betty Homer
Over the past few months, I have been featuring every month, one site to an urban farm tour that I attended in June 2015. The good news is that if you are interested, there is one more opportunity this summer that will take place on Sat, 9/12/15 to attend one of these urban farm tours. It will be a little bit of a trek, as the final set of urban farm tours for 2015 is to take place in the Hayward/Castro Valley area (so about a 1 hour+ drive from Solano County).
This is the third installment of my visits to various urban farms this summer. My third destination was Green Skies Vertical Farm, a mostly hydroponic urban farm using vertical gardening techniques, located in Oakland, California. Unlike the other urban farms previously featured, Green Skies is a business owned by David Ceaser who is renting this site from the property owner. Green Skies' business model is to specialize in growing in-market crops (e.g., specialty leafy greens, microgreens, etc.) and selling them directly to restaurants.
Green Skies is considered a “medium” site, the lot size consisting of 4000 square feet, of which 2500 square feet is used for cultivation. Among other unique features of this urban farm, is that David designed it be portable should he decide to relocate his business to another site someday. This urban farm can be set up and broken down quickly for transport.
David has incorporated vertical gardening techniques to maximize space. Much of his farming is done using inexpensive rain gutters which one can buy from any hardware store, on elevated scaffolding (see pictures). The farm specializes in growing soil-based kaiware (aka, daikon microgreen) and herb cultivation including, but not limited to, chives, oregano, and thyme. David also cultivates spearmint, peppermint, sorrel, minutina, stevia and chives hydroponically. Green Skies produces and sells starts including various types of tomato plants, basil, beans, lemon cucumbers, ornamental plants, etc. Water catchment from the roof on an adjacent house located on the property, and catching water from crop drainage for reuse, are integral to this farm. The farm also grows wheatgrass (in a converted rubber tote designed to be a coldframe—see pictures).
One of my favorite discoveries of this farm was/is sorrel, which is perennial leafy green great for salads that has a surprisingly refreshing, tangy, lemon taste. After visiting Green Skies, I knew I had to have sorrel for my garden (which I was able to buy locally from Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville). If the sorrel starts to flower, all that is needed is to cut back the flowers and the plant will continue to grow, giving you leafy greens when other vegetables may not be available.
For more information regarding these urban farm tours, please see http://www.iuhoakland.com/.
- Author: Sterling Smith
Pandorea jasminoides, or Bower Vine, originated in Australia; it's a great decorative vine with beautiful glossy green foliage. Flowers are trumpet shaped with deep pink throats and bloom on the previous year's growth. They are normally found in a more moderate coastal climates; Sunset zones 16-24, H1 and H2 which would include the Bay area and greater Los Angeles area.
They perform best in soil with rich organic content and with regular water. A leeward site is preferred out of the wind. After blooming season concludes; it's best to shape and thin their vines to control size. Bower vines will not tolerate prolonged freezing, so best to cover it when cold weather is forecast.
Our specimen is located in Sunset zone 9; our soil and water are pretty good, it's sited on the west side of our yard against the fence. Too the west is a 2-story home that helps to provide a robust wind-tunnel from time to time. Despite the site challenges, our specimen, with it's variegated leaves, provides an excellent visual interest in and out of bloom. Their growth is moderate, only occasionally needing to be guided onto their support.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
About 15 tears ago, my husband mail ordered a Red Haven peach tree from his favorite tree nursery. He planted this stick of a tree in our backyard where we could watch it grow from our house. It grew quickly and every year in July, it produced many beautiful Red Haven peaches. They ripen within a few weeks, keeping us busy eating them, canning and making jams and sharing them with family and friends. The season comes quickly and leaves quickly.
Along the way, the tree began leaning toward a pergola structure, scraping the paint and starting to cause some minor damage. We had to come up with two solutions. One, make the peach season last longer and two, get the tree from leaning on the pergola.
With both ideas on his mind, my husband took out his new electric chainsaw and down came ¾ of the peach tree. I was in the house shrieking “Oh no”! The tree no longer was a threat to the pergola and the limb was ready to cleft-graft with another type of peach. A bocce ball friend of my husbands had an unnamed peach tree with peaches that ripened in August and provided him with several scions. The grafting was completed in 2013. Last year the tree grew back partially and produced a few Red Haven peaches. The graft was growing.
This year (2015), an amazing thing happened. The tree grew and survived, the graft took and we had a crop of delicious Red Haven peaches in July and a large crop of the unnamed peaches in August. That all of this happened during a drought year is beyond my comprehension and quite a miracle.
- Author: Launa Herrmann
Looks like Shakespeare grew more than English roses and culinary herbs in his 17th century garden. As he leisurely strolled through the flowerbeds, stopping to sit awhile on a wooden bench, he couldn't begin to imagine that centuries later someone would come along to unearth the evidence he was leaving behind.
Among the plants mentioned in Shakespeare's writings — roses, columbines, daisies, violets and fennel along with “pansies for thought” and “rosemary for remembrance” — were New World cultivars brought back from North and South America. At this time in Elizabethan England, tobacco was trendy. Introduced to Europe by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, it was smoked in clay pipes. Raleigh had discovered Nicotiana (hence nicotine) in Virginia while Drake's voyage to Peru had yielded coca leaves, “the henbane of Peru, akin to cocaine (Erythroxylum).
The July/August 2015 edition of the South African Journal of Science (Volume 111/Number 7/8) published the results of a forensic study that examined pipe bowls and stems excavated from William Shakespeare's garden. At the South African Police Narcotics Laboratory, a gas chromatography mass spectrometry was used to chemically analyze the residue within the pipe fragments. Cannabis was found in eight out of 24 samples, with nicotine in at least one sample and Peruvian cocaine in two samples.
What is intriguing is that four of the pipes specifically discovered in Shakespeare's garden contained cannabis residue. Also, William himself intimates in Sonnet 76 that Cannabis, or Marijuana as we commonly know the plant today, aided his ability to write. According to the above article, Shakespeare writes “invention in a noted weed,” with the word invention interpreted to mean creative writing and weed interpreted to mean cannabis.
Guess it goes to show that the wise ancient King Solomon was right: “There's nothing new under the sun.”
- Author: Betsy Buxton
Usually my blogs are true stories, with more than a little humor, of my garden adventures at Casa Buxton. Today is different as I say good-bye and thank you to a true plants woman. Muriel Humenick may not be familiar to many outside of the Sacramento region who don't grow roses, but she was a force of nature to those of us to love roses, especially the OGRs or Old Garden Roses.
She was a well-traveled lady in the world of rose competitions, both as a competitor but also as a judge. She and her late husband, Bill, lived on a 4-acre rose garden called Rose Acres. She gave lectures, demonstrations, and pointers to rosarians of all abilities and experience – all you needed was an interest to learn; from Master Rosarians to the newbies, she was available to all and never spoke down to others even when she could see a person was missing the point.
She handled 5000 varieties of roses in her home nursery/garden with the help of volunteers. It was one of her trusty volunteers who found her lying there among her roses on July 15. She picked the perfect place as her husband Bill had passed away there himself in 2008 at age 88. Muriel herself was a mere 89. When you spoke with her, the years fell away as you discussed roses, pruning, favorite varieties and much more. Usually with a rose-covered hat on and a brightly flowered blouse, she held court with her followers.
Her love of roses began in her childhood home where her father had 1 rose bush in the corner of the family Victory Garden; that sparked her love of all things roses for the rest of her life.
I had the pleasure some years ago of going to her nursery to look for a few rose bushes which I had only found in books before; these rose where introduced pre-1940s: 'Silver Moon' (a white single rambler), 'Bloomfield Courage' (single bright red, small flowered rambler) and 'Apple Blossom' (a small, dainty rambler with small flowers like those of a raspberry plant). My mother and I went up there to Shingle Springs to look and came back with a total of 4 roses and the promise of Muriel rooting the 3 I went for. We went to look and stayed chatting with Muriel there for 4 hours – none of us had expected such a long visit!
I saw her at various other places through the years in the Sacramento region and managed to chat with her a couple more time. She was a true force of nature! She was the co-founder of the Sierra Foothills Rose Society, and was also active in the Sacramento and Mother Lode Rose Societies as well. We will all miss her, but those of us who have rose bushes she propagated will always a piece of her to help us remember this remarkable lady!