- Author: Cheryl A Potts
Pumpkins! Tomatoes! Peppers! Zucchini! Basil! Squash! Strawberries! Sounds like a great day at the Farmer's Market or a trip to Larry's. Right? Well, all this and more can be found at Marks' Growing Center, a program designed to provide individuals with development disabilities, community access, life skills, and employment.
Found on Leisure Town Road in Vacaville is Hope House, a residential home for adults with special needs, and in the frond yard of this home is a huge vegetable garden, composed of donated plants, currently reaching the end of their summer run. However, the pumpkins are turning orange and the gourds are becoming huge and beautiful.
Volunteering for her second year on this project, Master Gardener and retired special education teacher, Bernice Stalk has planted, picked, watered, weeded, and sold the vegetables to local eateries with great dedication while encouraging those with special needs to become involved. These same individual have helped sell their wares at a road side stand set up on some Saturday mornings at their residence, greeting the public, counting out tomatoes and showing off some of their craft items.
These same individuals are excited about manning a booth on October 13th at the last Vacaville Farmer's Market of the season, where they they will be selling zucchini bread, jams, jellies, home made bird houses and other great things for your garden. Be sure and drop by and say hello.
Volunteers make up the staff as well a functioning board. Compost, seeds, time, and plants are donated. Funds raised help pay for trips and activities for the participants. More help is needed as the transition to a winter garden is made. So if you are wanting to get involved, let me know.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
It’s such a pleasure spending time in the garden, especially this time of year. Even with our erratic weather, we have color and life everywhere. The garden is abundant with vegetables and flowers. We have been busy the past 2 months harvesting cherries, followed by peaches. A couple of days ago, I pulled the yellow onions, cleaned and trimmed them for storage. The ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Juliet’ tomatoes are providing us with tomato sandwiches and salads. The zucchini is trying it’s best to hide from our searching eyes. The last one was about a foot long (oops). Eating outdoors just about daily is the best summertime treat and a relaxing way to catch up on our daily activities. Listening to the splashing of our water features, watching the bees and hummingbirds-zipping back and forth. What a treat. The dahlias are blooming in several corners of the yard and these blooms have been cut and placed in a vase gracing our kitchen island. The begonias, in pots and hanging baskets are glorious. As busy as we are each day, enjoying the fruits of our labor, is the best feeling. There is no better time than “the good ole summertime” and right now we’re enjoying every minute of it before it’s over.
- Author: Patricia Brantley
Call me the Indiana Jones of gardening, but I wanted some adventure from my summer garden. I wanted to discover something “new” that was old (I hear that line from the movie ringing in my head, “It belongs in a museum!”). Among our adventures were the following:
The Heirloom Sweet Chocolate Pepper. This is a brown-skinned pepper at maturity, which starts out green, and is supposedly red fleshed on the inside (kind of like those glowing stones from the “Temple of Doom”). It is said to taste sweeter than the average bell pepper. Of course, it’ll add color to any salad and one review I read said it freezes well for winter use. You’ll see a picture of my plant below of a mature brown one and a “newbie” green one behind it.
The Psidium 'Lemon Yellow', or Lemon Guava was another adventure. Maybe you’ve heard of the Strawberry Guava Tree, well here is its cousin. Like Indiana in “The Last Crusade” looking for a golden statue, these yellow treasures make their trip from South America too. The little fruits are prolific on it, and I think we were just waiting for a bit more sun and warm weather to ripen them up so we’ll be able to reap our golden reward. We have it in a container and everything I’ve read says it’ll be fine there for quite a while.
Another veggie that I discovered was Black Spanish Radish. I found the seed packet hidden in a huge seed display at a local discount store. As you’ll see by the picture these didn’t get too big. The packet didn’t exactly “map out” any details, so I planted them like any other radish. As I’ve recently found out though, they are a winter variety and that could attribute to them not reaching their potential. They are definitely black though. That isn’t mud you’re seeing, that is the skin color! Well, the only “Jones” reference here is that apparently, they have been used medicinally by other cultures for thousands of years, and we all know Indiana was always eating or drinking some kind of concoction to cure something or protect him from something. I don’t know what they’d cure, but the ones that came from our garden sure have a “bite” to them! They start out with a regular radish flavor, and the heat builds from there.
So join me on an adventure in the garden this summer. It might be a little more relaxed than running from gigantic boulders or dodging poison-tipped arrows, but at least we get to wear cool hats!
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
In the spring of 2007, the Solano County Master Gardeners took on a project of designing, planting and maintaining the Children’s Memorial Garden on Beck Ave., in Fairfield. The dream for this little garden was a colorful, happy place to honor the children who died as a result of violence in Solano County. The garden, when the Master Gardeners were first introduced, was barren, full of weeds and had rocks and boulders haphazardly dumped throughout. Not what the county had originally envisioned.
Master Gardener, Carolyn Allen, created a design plan and in April of 2007, a crew of Master Gardeners arrived to place plants that were ordered by Solano County Grounds Supervisor, Jim Simon. The garden has matured into a lovely, peaceful setting that is enjoyed by the employees at Solano Health and Social Services, the clients using that facility, and the general public.
This spring, vegetables were added for a bit of whimsy. There are strawberries, tomatoes, an eggplant, celery and red Swiss chard. The plants are thriving. In fact, the tomatoes and strawberries have fruit which is ripe and ready to pick. These plants are labeled with wooden stakes next to them.
Two Bunny Tail grasses (Lagurus ovatus) were added early this year, and protected with metal cages. This particular plant had been placed previously, but resembling a weed, it was sprayed with an herbicide. We’re hoping the cages and wooden stakes will keep them from future demise.
Every year on the last Friday in April, a lunchtime ceremony is held at the little garden. Local dignitaries speak, a Children’s Memorial flag is flown and parents of these little victims come to honor “our” children. This year, fourteen pairs of children’s shoes were placed on a hopscotch board to represent the young victims in 2011.
From February to November, Master Gardeners, show up early at the garden to clean the litter, deadhead plants, add new plants, pick veggies, fertilize and generally maintain the dream now realized. It is a labor of love to maintain the Children’s Memorial Garden.
- Author: Cheryl A Potts
Often a shopper will linger near the Master Gardener's table at the Vacaville Farmer's Market, eyeing our free materials and checking out our informational posters. Sensing the "lingerer" is wishing to ask a question or engage in conversation with a Master Gardener, but seemingly reluctant or shy, I take the plunge and ask an opening question. "Do you have a garden"? Often the answer is "no, I don't have room", "we don't eat vegetables", "I don't have time", or, "our soil is too clay".
Last Saturday morning, the other Master Gardeners and myself became aware that when asked if one gardens, one often assumes that we mean vegetable gardening. However, if you are one of those who claims to not be a gardener, you need to know that the boundaries of gardening are limitless.
If you have shrubbery and a lawn, you have a garden. If you have a porch with a potted geranium, you have my permission to call yourself a gardener. If you have just one houseplant that needs nurturing, you garden.
Do not sell yourself short. Know that you do garden if you have one tomato plant growing in a pot on your patio, keep your lawn green, or have an African violet blooming on a shelf. Talk affirmatively about your terrarium on your coffee table, your three herbs growing in your kitchen, or that fern that flourishes in your bathroom.
You do not need a large plot, a compost pile, a complicated irrigation system, or a rototiller. You do not need to know the difference between a perennial and an annual. You simply need to be growing something--flowers, grass, a bell pepper plant, rosemary, ivy or a honeysuckle vine.
Caring for one miniature rose in a sunny window, seeing it grow and blossom, can be as rewarding as giving away bags of extra veggies to friends and neighbors.
So if you are one of those who, when asked, has denied having a garden, rethink this and realize that most likely, somewhere in your personal environment is something growing. Therefore, you can say, "Yes! I have a garden."