- Author: Patricia Brantley
So the other day we were in the San Francisco for lunch and a walk around. As we were leaving the Embarcadero there was this little flower shop that had a few potted plants outside. Well you know that no Master Gardener can walk past a stand of plants or vegetation without at least taking a 5 minute look-see.
I walked inside first. The tiny cramped shop was humid and there were canaries in cages singing away. The cut flowers were beautiful. From the ordinary daisy to exotic orchids. There were a lot of flowers crammed into this dark little place.
I stepped back out into the sunlight to peruse the potted plants, thinking I could take home a living souvenir from our day. Well, the frugal part of Master Gardener caught up with me- $8.50 for a polka dot plant in a 4 inch pot! I just picked one up for a filler at Walmart for $2.50.
Then there was a row of African Violets. But wait, these had a tag hanging over them. “Waiting to Bloom--$4.50”. They honestly didn’t look much different than the others that were bloomed. There was also a succulent in a 4” pot for $8.99 that while healthy, was still only half the size of one at a local garden center.
At this point, I finally had had enough of searching for my living souvenir and decided to head on my way with just some photos. Just as I ran out of room on my photo card, I looked down and at my feet was a large group of chopped-off orchids. There were two leaves and a piece of stem. I now know where all those pretty cut ones inside had come from. The sign read Phalaenopsis $3.00…Waiting to Bloom.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
On Saturday, March 10th, the Master Gardeners held a class on Plant Propagation in the Horticultural Building at Solano College. The class was divided into four sections: layering, dividing, cuttings and seeds. This presentation was open to the public and 25 people signed up and about 45 showed up. The morning went extremely well as the Master Gardeners came loaded with garden plants and cuttings to support and supply each of the four “stations”. The participants divided into 9 or 10 at each section and we began demonstrating and planting. Every 20 minutes or so, the group then rotated to the next section to learn specific techniques. It did not take long before everyone was engaged, planting, asking questions and just having a grand time.
My Master Gardener partner Kris Moore, and I hosted the seed table. We talked about the benefits of planting with seeds, starting seeds, saving seeds, seed catalogs, seed tapes, reading seed packets, seed varieties, different ways to start hard outer-shell seeds and how a seed germinates. We demonstrated planting a plastic flat (lined with newspaper) with vegetable seeds, placed in rows and marked with plastic labels (name and harvest date from the seed packet). We provided peat pots, soil, seeds and water for those who wanted to plant seeds to take home.
During our presentation, we mentioned how much fun it is to collect seeds from friends and family to plant in your garden. It is an economical way to grow plants and seeing the results will remind you of the person who shared. My yard contains many plants that have come from other gardens. The photo with this article is a double hollyhock discovered close to our house, that we collected seeds from then planted in our backyard.
The Master Gardeners taught 45 people the joy of creating plants by layering, cuttings, dividing roots, and rhizomes and sharing seeds. It will be a busy spring for all who participated.
- Author: Betty Homer
Disclaimer: This article does not express the views held or advocated by UCCE or its affiliates with regard to biodynamic gardening or farming. It only seeks to introduce the concept of biodynamics to readers as another alternative system of sustainable gardening.
On the recommendation of another Master Gardener, I enrolled in an 8-month course at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California, in my quest to learn more about different systems and methods of organic gardening. Last month’s lecture was on “Cosmic Rhythms, Planting Calendars.” Although I have not quite made up my mind about the efficacy of this planting system, it was/is nevertheless interesting to learn a new way (at least new to me) of backyard gardening.
One of the beliefs held by biodynamic practitioners, is that planetary/intergalactic events somehow relate to/have practical effects on plants on Earth. For instance, one of the lecturers at the seminar asserted that certain planets such as Venus and Mercury, directly impact the plants belonging to the rose and lily families, respectively, because the geocentric orbits of those planets correspond with the shape and appearance of plants belonging to those families. Although this assertion may or may not be true, the concept of inter-relatedness between celestial and terrestrial events, is both appealing and beautiful.
Planting according to cosmic rhythms is a very complex process, as many factors (i.e., the perceived location of the sun and moon, position of the planets and constellations/stars, the equinoxes, etc.) must be taken into consideration in designing a planting schedule and what tasks to do at a particular hour and on a specific day. While one can create his/her own calendar, the Stella Natura calendar is one of several calendars upon which biodynamic gardeners rely (be forewarned that biodynamic calendars may be a bit daunting to read for the beginner, as they are filled with all sorts of symbols representing where certain planets are believed to be positioned in the zodiac, the phases of the moon, and what conjunctions and oppositions exist as between the moon and the planets). Although inconclusive, some biodynamic practitioners claim and have documented that they have experienced a better, healthier crop yield when planting according to a biodynamic calendar. It is interesting to note, however, that one of the lecturers at the seminar stated that planting according to a biodynamic calendar is very difficult, if not impossible, on a working farm due to scale and the economic realities of operating a farm (i.e., margins being razor-thin). So will planting according to a biodynamic calendar give you better yields? As the lecturers at the seminar suggested, consider experimenting and decide for yourselves.
- Author: Esther E Blanco
So, what’s a Handkerchief Garden? It’s my friend Martha’s British description of small cottage garden (backyard). I wanted to learn more, so I did what every self-respecting Master Gardener would do - I Googled it. I found out that a “pocket-handkerchief garden” as defined in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online is “a garden or field that is very small and usually square”. Several sites offered descriptions of patchwork of plantings, usually containing flowers, fruit trees or vegetables.
Then I found a fascinating book written by Charles Barnard titled, My Handkerchief Garden. It had been published in England between 1838 – 1892. Barnard recorded his personal experience and advice on planting a 25 x 60 foot vegetable garden in England 138 years ago. He carefully documents his expenses, the plant varieties he selected, seeds he used, the cuttings saved, the supplies he needed. He estimated a dollar value of his harvested, and what produce he gave away, and the time he spends toiling in yard (minutes daily) vs. working (wages per hour). It’s fascinating to read the costs for plants and stocks and to read about the bounty of a home vegetable garden in 1838. Barnard speculated that an average family could save enough money to help pay all their household bills. I don’t know if he was being overly optimistic or if families didn’t have many bills back then. If you’d like to see his book in its entirety, it available to read online or you can download a PDF http://www.archive.org/stream/myhandkerchiefga00barn#page/n5/mode/2up
- Author: Esther E Blanco
My collage pal Martha grew up in England. She has a beautiful accent and a keen knowledge of just about everything. When I eventually purchased a townhouse with a very small backyard, I described it to Martha. I told her that my backyard was the size of a postage stamp. Her response was, “Oh, you have a handkerchief garden!”
I always loved her English description my tiny, suburban California, postage stamp size, backyard. The only problem with her description was that my backyard was totally barren. My Handkerchief Garden consisted of concrete, a volunteer Heavenly Bamboo bush (Berberidaceae), dirt and a pile of river rocks next to the garage. I was a rather pathetic Master Gardener, without an actual garden. I also didn’t have a lot of extra money to buy an instant landscape. So, I cleared the rocks, fixed the irrigation, and patiently filled the spots with things I got from other gardeners like bearded iris rhizomes (Iridaceae), spider plants (Chlorophytum), and two yellow tea roses (Rosacea Grandifloras) someone who no longer wanted in their garden. I even managed to purchase a few planting pots at garage sales, and one or two six-packs of flowers at the grocery store for color. Occasionally, I’d treat myself to a plant like a hybrid camellia (Theaceae C. Saluenensis) or a rhododendron (Ericaceae R. mucronulatum). I found the perfect planting table made from recycled fence boards, and a white Adirondack chair with matching footrest on clearance at Raleys. Eventually the once barren, dusty courtyard became a garden.
Over the years, Martha’s description of my yard helped to inspire my vision of what could be possible. And without realizing it, Martha had given me hope. I could see in my mind, the possibility that my tiny, barren backyard could actually become a brilliantly British inspired Handkerchief Garden!