- Author: Stan Zervas
Fava beans are easy to grow, forgiving and delicious. I planted some in the fall of last year and they went through the winter just fine. Flowering is in full force and the first little bean pods are starting to form. You can plant favas closely spaced and use them as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. Or space them a little wider and grow them for food. Either way your garden gets the advantage of the symbiotic relationship between the fava roots and the Rhizobium bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen in root nodules. The nitrogen helps feed the favas and after you harvest your crop there is excess left behind in the crop residue and roots to enrich your garden soil. I'm going to eat my favas three ways. Right now you can harvest the tops including some flowers and use them like you would use pea shoots. Raw in salads, steamed, or quickly stir fried in a little oil with salt and maybe some garlic? When the pods are young they can be eaten whole like you would snow peas, or let the pods mature, shell them and eat them as you would a shelling pea. From what I read you could also let them mature and harvest them after they have dried and keep them to use as a dry bean. I doubt there will be any left for dried beans by the time I'm through. The major pest is aphids in the fresh young shoot tips, so I better get those off and eaten before the aphids show up.
The only downside so far is that I can't let the chickens out to roam the backyard because those little monsters love fava leaves and flowers and will wipe them out in no time.
- Author: Launa Herrmann
When we discuss succulents, we often paint them with a broad brush. We think about shades of green, gray and blue, along with an occasional stripe of pink or maroon tingeing their edges. We forget that seasonal temperatures play a role in the intensity of their colors, especially in the winter.
This spring I'm enjoying the effect that our cooler wetter winter weather had on the potted collection of succulents on my patio. The photographs below don't do justice to the vivid accent colors now on display.
Frankly, I must admit that I used to think succulents needed heat and dry soil to morph from simple greens to vibrant oranges, brilliant reds and deep blues. Not so. Since succulents prefer temperatures in the 70s, extremes in both hot and cold can intensify their color palette.
I'm pleased to say that this year the sunshine yellow daffodils are not the only March performers strutting their stuff in my backyard. They were upstaged by pots full of spectacular succulent color.
- Author: Betty Homer
Bouquets to Art @ the de Young Museum In SF - limited time only from March 14, 2017 to March 19, 2017
There is a very short-lived exhibit called "Bouquets to Art" at the de Young Museum in SF which runs from March 14, 2017 to March 19, 2017 (I assume short-lived because the exhibit can only last as long as the cut flowers do). This exhibit has been held annually for at least 32 years and is intended to be a fundraiser to support the de Young's special exhibits, conservation projects, and educational programs. Although I am unable to attend this year's exhibit, I have attended this event in the past and found it to be enjoyable. Well-known floral designers create elaborate interpretations of paintings that are part of the de Young's permanent collection (paintings mostly depicting flowers) by arranging flowers in such a way to evoke and bring art to life. In addition to the exhibit, there are lectures ranging on a wide variety of topics related to flora and fauna (note that some have already sold out), which are as follows:
Tuesday, March 14th, 2:00 pm
Textural Woodlands and Botanical Haute Couture
Lecture and floral demonstration by Françoise Weeks
Wednesday, March 15th, 10:00 am
A Passion for Monet
Lecture by Elizabeth Murray
Wednesday, March 15th, 2:00 pm
From Ballet to Blooms
Lecture and floral demonstration by Mark Welford and Stephen Wicks, Bloomsbury Flowers
Thursday, March 16th, 10:00 am
Cultivating a Natural Aesthetic-- Lush, Loose, Organic Spring Bouquets
Lecture and floral demonstration by Ariella Chezar, Ariella Flowers
Thursday, March 16th, 2:00 pm
Transforming Spaces: Lessons from a Dream-maker Event Planner
Lecture by J. Riccardo Benavides, Ideas Event Styling
Ticket prices are as follows:
Seniors 65+: $20
Youth 6-17: $10
Children 5 and Under: Free
For more information, please see: https://deyoung.famsf.org/bouquets-art-2017
- Author: Karen Metz
Recently I have been perplexed by something happening in my raised beds in the back yard. I have started finding these broad fairly shallow holes that look like they have been dug from the top down. Now some years ago we had experienced problems with the neighborhood cats using our raised beds as a litter box. But these holes seem different and we have not found any fecal material near them.
For the last few years the beds were used for veggies and gladiolas. Because of the drought I had not planted densely. Last year there were only two tomatoes, two peppers, and my continuously growing garlic chives and onions. The gladiolas had really started to take over. At the end of the season I dug up most of the corms. However like digging up potatoes, you never seem to get them all; this spring there were many sprouts from left behind corms. There don't seem to be as many large sprouts as I recall there being before the holes. Of note the four lettuce plants, two broccoli, onions, garlic chives and sweet pea vines have remained untouched.
We have never had a problem growing gladiola before. We've grown them for years and just leave the corms in the ground over winter. Somethings have changed in the garden over the years. The trees in the neighborhood and surrounding neighbor's yards have matured. We lost our little Westie to cancer a few years ago as well. About a year ago we started seeing a tree squirrel visiting our bird feeder. We had a squirrel proof feeder and the squirrel seemed content to eat the sunflower seeds that had fallen on the ground beneath the feeder.
This year there are three squirrels. One has learned to brace his lower legs on the frame at the bottom of the feeder thus avoiding setting off the wire mesh that used to lower down to block the openings whenever he visited. His buddies wait below as he always spills seed as he is feeding. This year I also spotted an opossum in the yard one night. We still have the visiting cats and birds, but no problems with turkeys or moles.
Now with the feeders full of sunflower seeds and a neighbor's orange tree trailing delectable oranges along the fence, I would think the squirrels would be pretty well fed at this point. Perusing the Internet, some sources felt that squirrels would dig up and eat gladiola corms, although apparently they aren't as fond of them as daffodil and crocus bulbs. Others felt that squirrels were attracted to recently disturbed soil looking for a place to hide their nuts or to find where other squirrels had hidden away their treasure. I did check the areas around the holes and didn't find any nuts or seeds. But in my case the earth hadn't been recently disturbed. These were corms that had wintered over and were sprouting.
So although I suspect the squirrels are the most likely suspect, I am not 100 per cent sure. I have never seen them in the raised beds. I spot them at the feeders all the time and my husband actually saw one eating an orange while sitting on top of the fence. As they have not disturbed my vegetables (yet), I will just continue to observe for now. Several sites did suggest putting down a fine mesh, over the soil after you plant bulbs, to keep the squirrels from digging. If the problem persists or worsens, that is probably what I will try. If any of you have other thoughts on possible culprits, I would love to hear them.
- Author: Michelle Davis
Western Redbuds Cercis occidentalis are blooming! A California native you can find them throughout California and east into Utah. These beautiful, deciduous, multi-branched, clumping trees reach 8 to 20 feet in height and can spread to 16 feet. Usually 6-12 magenta-colored, pea-shaped flowers emerge in the spring on bare reddish-purplish branches before the nearly round or heart-shaped bronzy leaves put in their appearance. These tiny leaves turn green and grow to about 3 inches. In the summer, flattened reddish pods containing 3 or 4 seeds develop. In the fall, the seed pods mature, and the tree leaves turn to red and orange. Western Redbuds require good drainage, appreciate slightly acidic soil, and do well in full sun or partial shade. The buds that are just now appearing can be added to salads or even pickled. Native Americans used the tree bark to make a tea to treat diarrhea and dysentery and wove the bark of the new shoots into baskets. Carpenter bees which are great tomato pollinators use small circular punches of the leaf edges for their nests. These trees also attract hummingbirds, songbirds and butterflies. Beauty and function –redbuds are the best of both worlds.
That said, I killed 2 of these trees, before I finally gave up on the native and planted an Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis. Eastern Redbuds are native to the Eastern United States from New Jersey to Central Florida and as far west as Nebraska. They sport straight trunks and are not clumping. They can reach to 30 feet and spread to 35 feet. They are not as picky about soil, which is probably why mine has survived in alkaline soil on a south-facing slope. Mine also tends to bloom later. When it does, the flowers and leaves look similar to the Western Redbud, and it still attracts all the birds and pollinators.
Redbuds are native to many parts of the U.S and the world, including Oklahoma (where it is the state tree), Texas, New Mexico, Mexico, Southern Europe, Western Asia and China. A nearby Vacaville subdivision was planted with Afghan Redbuds Cercis griffithii. (The nursery tags were left on the trees.) Cercis siliquastrum is found in the Middle East, where some call it the Judas Tree, because it is believed to have been the tree on which Judas Iscariot in the New Testament hung himself after betraying Jesus. It is said the tree blushed with shame after this occurred.
If you are looking for a truly beautiful tree that provides year-round interest and attracts pollinators, this is the one!