- Author: Tina Saravia
I love perennial vegetables. I have a few of them that I planted once and harvest from year after year - artichokes, asparagus, tree Kale ‘Pentland Brig,' tree collards. I also have Swiss chard, pepper plants, and one eggplant that over-wintered or did not die in the winter. I also have blue potatoes that pop up everywhere due to re-planting them in several places over the years and not digging up all the pieces. I consider them my friendly weeds.
But like a lot of gardeners, I like to try and challenge myself to grow new plants, or I have plain garden envy. I also like to eat a variety of vegetables. I really can only eat so much kale and collards every day. But I found out that, like last year, a lot of seed companies are behind in their shipments. The seed companies have been doing well because more people are gardening during the lockdown. I searched around and came upon an Oakland-based seed company that will deliver in a few days. How awesome! They specialize in Asian vegetables.
Meanwhile, my brother asked me if I could sow some okra (Abelmoschus escutentus) seeds for him. They had bought a packet of ‘Red Burgundy.' I couldn't say no to my little brother who makes the best gumbo. A few days later, my neighbor down the street brought me a bag of freshly picked cilantro that he planted in the perimeter of his backyard. He also brought a packet of seeds and asked me if I could sow okra ‘Clemson Spineless.” How could I say no? His wife makes the best dal in Solano County, maybe California.
While waiting for my shipment, I decided to inventory my seed collection. I noticed I still have ‘Star of David' okra from last year. So I sowed them also. I soaked the seeds overnight and planted them in little paper pots - 3 in each pot. I have enough seeds to spare.
Here's a link from UC California Garden Web https://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/okra.pdf.
It's a really good resource. The seed packets have instructions for when and how to plant. But none of them says anything about soaking the seeds before planting.
My new seeds came in the mail a couple of days later. I enthusiastically opened the envelope, and there it was, in the midst of all my Asian vegetables — a packet of okra. I am declaring this year in my garden the ‘Year of the Okra.'
Nothing will be wasted, there's a new seed library at the JFK Library in Vallejo. I can donate my excess seeds to them.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano takes garden produce donations at their warehouse in Fairfield. So far, I've dropped off 22 lbs of collard greens this year.
The okra seeds are sown, time to move on to the next ones.
- Author: Betsy Buxton
Here I am again, with my tales of plant woes and the weeds which torment me! Only this time I come with a warning about a plant sold at the nurseries, big box stores, and “helpful folk” who feel that you cannot live any longer without a certain plant(s) that they must share with you!
A good case in point is a plant with beautiful and large pink flowers is sold by the 6-pack ‘Mexican Evening Primrose' or Oenothera speciosa. Among its attributes (according to Sunset) “Good groundcover . . . . but can be aggressive and is potentially invasive”. Aggressive?? Potentially invasive?? That is the understatement not only of the year but of the century!! From a mere 6-pack, I raised 5 of those little ‘darlings' which have multiplied into a full 1/3 of an acre and are not only humming their way across the ground but in my pots of succulents as well. I even have found seedlings growing in the pots hanging at the top of the uprights of the fence. Invasive – not much – if there is nothing else growing back there. The only place I do not have them is next to the neighbor's fence – there the Bermuda grass coming under the fence from the other side is holding those darn things at bay!
This is also the year of the Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), which is growing up all over the place, just as though it had been planted among my roses. I just pulled one up that was over 14 inches long; good thing I do not fertilize that area, or they would be draped over the roses like red and white laces. According to my weed book, I can look forward to its flowering from March through July (oh glory!) unless I can yank it out. Since it is not a monocot, anything I spray it with will also affect the roses too. Thus, the yank, yank and dig, dig of the roots.
All is not lost, however, as this is the 2nd year that my lilac has bloomed! For 20 years, since it was planted, that lonely lilac has sent up shoots with green leaves, only leaves, looking sorta-kinda like a lilac but just increasing the size of its puny circle of shoots and leaves; BUT starting last year, a few mighty small sprigs of flowers (2 to be exact) have been coming forth. For this year, 6 – count ‘em 6 – slightly sprigs have appeared to grace that part of the yard with fragrance! Talk about the surprise being the best of all. The Dichelostemma (firecracker plant) bulbs are coming up and have large buds which will turn into elongated flowers which are bright red and that look and hang down just like firecrackers.
Going back to thoughts of weeds, reminds me that doing my diligent plucking has reduced the grass weeds in the north side yard to pulling 1-3 small grass plants to every 3rd day. Now all I need to do is go and apply the same tactics of pulling and spraying to get that area ready for the roses and penstemons that are patiently awaiting their time to go from pots into the ground. Someday, someday!
- Author: Jenni Dodini
- Author: Nancy Forrest
This fall I signed up at Be Love Farms (which is an organic winery and regenerative farm) to assist with harvesting of Olives and making Olive Oil. It was a fascinating day. the fruits of my labor netted me a few bottles of their Olive Oil and a wonderful lunch.
Olives are delicious fruit that can be collected from trees or bushes. Typically harvested in the late summer till early fall, there are few methods used mechanical and manual. Mechanical harvesting systems are designed to achieve the mass removal of the commodity during the harvesting season at once. This method has been practiced by shaking the trunks, limbs, and canopies of plants. In some cases, chemicals have been used to loosen the mature fruits. We used the hand-harvesting method. Hand-harvesting uses hand-held implements, hand-held rakes, hand-held limb shakers, and by beating the trees with poles.
The process was simple, but a lot of hard work. My arms ached by the end of the day. A few of us worked on one tree at a time, then moved to another tree. First, we placed tarps on the ground in order to catch the falling olives, and rakes were used to gently dislodge the olives from the tree. Ladders were used to climb up and pick the olives from the higher branches. For those areas that couldn't be reached with a rake, we slid our hand down the olive shoot in a milking action to remove the leaves and branches. We had to avoid stepping on the tarps. Which wasn't an easy task.
The process is repeated until all the olives are removed from the tree. Then we dragged the tarps over to large plastic bins and emptied them. These bins would be transported to the olive press.
The basic procedure for making olive oil has remained the same for thousands of years: harvest the olives at the right time, crush them into a paste, separate the solids from the liquid, and further separate the water from the oil. The method of extraction has a distinct effect on the flavor and ultimate quality of the olive oil.
- Author: Janet Snyder