Friday, January 22, 2016

Creating a Spring Pollinator Garden

Pollination is vital to the fertilization, reproduction, and survival of all non-GMO food and flower species. We have talked before in this blog about the plight of the pollinators. Pollination occurs when insects or animals move between flowers of the same species carrying with them the essential powdery pollen granules necessary for fertilization. The result is successful seed and fruit production that will enable your plants to provide tasty, full-bodied fruits and vegetables, year after year.

Exactly who are these pollinators? Birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, ants, and other small insects, as well as some larger animals, are all pollinators and, if they are to do their job, we must pay attention to, protect, and provide habitat so they can survive the dual threats of habitat destruction and poisoning due to chemical misuse. We know this threat is real because bees are our "canaries in the coal mine" and we have seen their colonies decline steeply due to the aforementioned habitat destruction and the use of Neonictinoids, a class of powerful pesticides currently used on over 140 different crops. These "neonics" are applied to the coating of GMO seeds and, once introduced into the environment, kill indiscriminately by poisoning the plant's pollen and nectar as well as the surrounding soil and runoff.

The proliferation of GMO seed by one of the largest companies in the world, Monsanto, goes hand in hand with their production of chemicals such as Roundup that kill any weeds, insects, birds, or mammals that might potentially compete with their plant. Commercially, these GMO seeds are marketed as being "Roundup Ready" and the plants grown from them are formulated in their labs to withstand huge repeated doses of this chemical. In the opinion of  many, the person who eats these plants is taking a long term risk of health problems. To make matters worse, the GMO seeds sold by Monsanto, either commercially or on retail seed racks, will not produce a plant that is viable for reseeding, meaning you have to purchase new seed from them every year!

Our best bet is to promote pollinators and ensure a future where we can produce our own food, and the best way to do that is to see that bees and other pollinators have the habitat that they need. Your own property is the most obvious place to start. Flowers grown with untreated seed, and organic vegetable starts will provide beauty, good food, and a chance to produce viable seed for next year.

Here are a few favorite plants that will attract beneficial pollinators:




Alpine Strawberry
Sweet Pea



Fruit Trees
Another way you can help is by adding your voice to an organization like the Pollinator Partnership. Sign up for their Million Pollinator Garden Challenge at:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vertical Gardens

Want an artistic twist to your garden, patio, or landscape? Wish you could grow more flowers or veggies in the space you already have? Vertical gardening is a way to add creativity, beauty and dramatic appeal while maximizing your space. If you live in an urban area with only a small patio, balcony, or deck, vertical gardening can provide room to grow. If you presently have no garden it’s still possible to grow edibles or raise beautiful flowers in whatever space you have available. Just do a web search for the term “vertical gardens” and you’ll find plenty of ideas to get you started.

Vertical Garden Center-Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia

Public vertical gardens are being constructed and displayed all over the world. The sides of buildings, park structures, and bridges are being covered with hundreds of species of plants arranged to complement each other and the results are breathtaking. The wilds of the natural world are being brought into the city, improving air quality and the emotional well-being of passersby as well.

Vertical Garden Wall at Bay Meadows

Vertical Lettuce Patch

If you are running out of space in your own garden, growing vertically may provide a solution. Growing flowering vines on the south side garden fence will provide a shaded area for plants that don’t do well in direct sun, such as lettuces, parsley, and beets. You can use the fence on the north side that encloses the garden by planting peas, beans, squash, luffa (or loofah), and melons to get plenty of southern exposure without shading other plants. If you have a solid wooden fence or building in your garden area, running string or wire attached to nails or screws vertically or horizontally will work well and enable climbing plants to flourish.

Vertical Luffa Arch

Flowering vines, such as clematis, purple passion flower, trumpet vine, moonflowers, or morning glories, are available in an amazing range of colors. They can be trained to climb a redwood trellis supported by 4’ x 4’ posts, a tepee of wooden stakes or poles wire together at the top, or a wooden arbor or archway that you pass through as your enter your garden area.

Wisteria Covered Pergola

If you have a pergola or covered shade area in your yard, putting tall ceramic or wooden planters next to the base of the supporting posts and planting climbing vegetables in them can give you an assortment of beautiful hanging squash, melons, cucumbers, grapes, or climbing flowers by midsummer. It’s also quite a head turner.

Arbor at Temple Rose Garden

Adding levels to your landscape, deck, or vegetable garden will give you more room to garden and add beauty. Think of adding a stone wall or crushed gravel pathway to turn your flower garden into a botanical garden. Put up a trellis and grow climbing roses for a burst of scent and color. Do some research online and make the entry to your home, backyard, or garden as inviting as you’ve always wanted. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Nourishing Gardens of Esalen

Esalen, a haven devoted to the exploration of human potential, is located in Big Sur, California. Recently, my wife, Nancy, and I had a very enriching experience while visiting with our nephew, Sam, who works there.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Winterizing Your Drip Irrigation System 2015

While much of the northern portion of United States is battening down the hatches for winter, there are areas of the country where gardening throughout the winter is feasible. More than half of DripWorks’ customers live in USDA zones 8 and 9, an area that stretches from the west coast down through the southwest and the southern states. Here, when certain measures are taken, fall and winter gardening is possible. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

10 Gardening Blogs We Love!

A quick look around will reveal the many garden blogs available online these days. The ones we enjoy the most are informational, beautiful, and contain personal insights that leave you feeling like you just visited the garden of a new found friend. Here are a few of our current favorites!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fall Planting for Beauty and Pollination

Autumn is the best time for planting and enjoying flowering perennials. Choose fall-flowering shrubs or smaller perennials and plant them with an ample amount of well-composted soil in October* to ensure that your plants thrive. The coming rains and cooler weather will help their root systems develop fully and enable your garden to become the spectacular showcase that you, and the birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and other local beneficial insects in your neighborhood, have been dreaming of. (*Consult your local planting zone guide)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

2015 Heirloom Exposition - Pure Food for the World

The sights and sounds of the 5th annual National Heirloom Exposition are just around the corner. The expo's mission: to reconnect us to the pure, healthful food of our heritage. The world is being taken over by national and multi-national corporations, whose reach has not just extended into the food industry but appears to have taken it over. The goal of these corporations is to make the most money for their shareholders, not to provide nutritious food for our health.