- Author: Betty Homer
If you are a gardener, a history buff, someone who enjoys cooking, and/or cares about social causes, consider sowing some heirloom seeds (flowers, fruits and/or vegetables) the next time you do any planting.
Although there is no consensus on what an heirloom seed is, it is at a minimum, a plant whose seed is openly pollinated, or in the case of certain fruit trees, propagated through grafts and cuttings. Heirloom seeds are rich in history (frequently, the varieties date back at least 50 or more years, and sometimes, hundreds of years old), as they are often passed on by family and friends from one generation to the next, and often bear interesting names which offer insight into their fascinating history. Take for instance, the popular tomato that we know as 'Mortgage Lifter'. The story goes that during the 1940’s, an auto mechanic nicknamed “Radiator Charlie,” spent seven years breeding a tomato plant until he developed a sufficiently stable tomato plant which had all the traits and characteristics that he desired. Radiator Charlie, who was apparently, quite the marketer, sold his tomato seedlings for a $1.00 each (a small fortune in his day) and used the proceeds from those sales to pay off the mortgage on his house; hence, the name, 'Mortgage Lifter'.
Heirloom fruits and vegetables are difficult to find in supermarkets, as they tend to be delicate, have a shorter shelf-life than their commercial counterparts, and are not standardized in shape or size such that they can be packed and shipped over long distances. You may have better luck finding heirlooms at farmers markets. People who love to cook, swear by the texture, flavor, and appearance of heirloom vegetables and fruits, as no two vegetables or fruits of the same variety, look exactly alike.
Also, by growing heirlooms, and better yet, saving their seeds and passing them onto others, you help maintain genetic diversity and prevent the extinction of certain varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables, which have been, and continue to, disappear at an alarming rate.
So as you peruse through your seed catalogs this winter while daydreaming of spring, consider giving heirlooms a try!
- Author: Sharon Leos
As I write this blog entry, November is four days away. At this time in a normal weather year, the summer vegetables would be done and gone. I would have removed the summer plants and tucked in the garden until next spring. We all know 2011 not been a normal weather year.
I have cleaned out the dried and broken corn stalks, the zucchini vines that shrived into spiny twine, and the tomato plants - except the one last tomato plant that still has two great tomatoes. I could not bring myself to rip it from the ground.
I know the plant looks ridiculous - especially since I pruned back most of the spent leafless branches and the rest of the bed is empty.
I know the last two tomatoes will probably not taste anything nearly as good as the sweet delicious globes we harvested in August.
I know the frost will be here faster than you can say “Under the Solano Sun” and the plant will be finished for sure.
But for some reason this year, holding on to one last bit of summer seems to be helping me ease into the short and dark days of fall and winter. I look out the kitchen window and see the bright red tomato ripening and it makes me smile. And the tomato plant is holding on to summer, too. There is cluster of new flowers opening on the other side of the plant.
I was told a compassionate gardener would let the plant go after a long season of producing tomatoes. Maybe I am being a selfish gardener by keeping the plant in the garden. Maybe I am being a compassionate gardener by allowing the plant to fulfill its productive destiny. Maybe I am an experimental gardener by growing beyond the normal season! Maybe if I get some plastic sheeting and grow lights… or, maybe not.
- Author: Betty Victor
Another good day working at the New Foundations Garden located at the Solano County Juvenile Hall Detention Facility, in Fairfield.
This garden was started last year with the cooperation of the Solano County Grounds Supervisor Jim Simon, the counselors at the facility and the Master Gardeners. The idea is to turn a huge empty field into several types of gardens and paths, along with a teaching area.
Over the last few months planting beds were constructed, filled with compost, and made ready to plant. The young men at the detention facility did the work under the supervision of the Master Gardeners. Summer vegetables were planted as well as red and golden raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. A citrus orchard has also been started with the trees off to a good start. So far the young people have learned how to plants seeds and trees, how to install drip irrigation, and how to compost by starting a compost bin. The Master Gardeners have taught the young men how to keep the garden tools clean and ready for use, as well as plant propagation.
Over the summer months, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, watermelon, and pole beans were harvested. Some of the bounty has been donated to the food bank. The blackberries, raspberries and strawberries were eaten right of the vine by these hard-working young people.
This last week the beds were cleaned of the summer vegetables, except for a tomato plant, pumpkin, watermelon, and the zucchini as they were still producing. The cleaned beds were then planted with butter lettuce, ‘Pixie’ cabbage, tricolored carrots, broccoli, and green onions as the winter crops to be planted so far.
For color, one of the beds was planted with iris and cannas and another bed has been planted with sweet peas.
Also on their waiting list the giant pumpkins that were planted early in the year. All are wondering how large they will get and if any will be ready by Halloween.
More projects are planned for the coming months, watch for updates.
- Author: Betty Homer
Are you an apartment dweller or an otherwise landless gardener who has been dreaming about having a little piece of earth to call your own? Or maybe you are just someone who has a small yard and is looking for additional space to garden? If so, consider checking out the Suisun Community Garden located on Lotz Way by the Marina Shopping Center off of Highway 12 in Suisun City. For approximately $30 a year which is intended to cover the cost of water usage, you can lease a 10' x 10' plot at the Community Garden.
Almost all of the Community Garden's current members have built raised beds to grow vegetables which they are doing so successfully, as the site receives full sun daily, even in the winter. At last check, the author of this post observed corn, tomatoes, squash, tomatillos, eggplants, strawberries, artichokes, beans, carrots, radishes, beets, sunflowers, cosmos, dahlias, nasturtiums, and more, growing at the Community Garden.
As an added benefit, most members of the Community Garden are generally friendly, and will happily exchange gardening war stories and tips with you while you are there weeding, watering, etc. Although vandalism and theft can be an issue at the Community Garden from time to time (this is a common occurrence at ANY community garden), there is usually more than enough bounty for you in your plot to harvest and enjoy. It is also not unusual for other Community Garden members to share their harvest with you.
At last count, there were only a dozen or so plots left, so don't delay. For further information, please contact the Joseph Nelson Community Center at (707) 421-7200 or check out the Community Garden's Facebook page.