Gardening Tips

GARDENING TIP 5-20-2016: Inspect, Plan, Prepare and Plant (I3P) Your Garden Space.

Inspect: lay out (direction), sunlight hours, soil, water source
Plan: what do you want to plant, is it feasible, jot plan down on paper, do a little bit more research
Prepare: get your tools in order (trowel, weeder, small hacking tool), prepare soil with compost/manure (~6 inches deep) and let sit for 1-2 weeks while still watering 2-3x/week (letting the micro-organisms and nutrients start their pre-planting organic process)
Plant: taller veggies (tomatoes, beans, eggplant) in the back, shorter veggies and herbs in front, trying to keep those with similar water requirements closer together; make sure when you plant the plant starters to gently dislodge and detangle the impacted roots before putting them into the soil.
Feel free to contact us directly ( if you have any gardening questions or if you’d like to be part of free gardening classes in San Francisco.  ENJOY!


GARDENING TIP 5-6-2016: Good Things in a Dropper Bottle

Happy May! Here is just a short Gardening Tip for those who use watering cans to water indoor and outdoor plants. I prepare a very concentrated fertilizer solution in a dropper bottle from the fertilizer product I have on hand. Every time I fill up my watering can I also add a couple drops to 2 droppers full (depending on the size of the watering can) of this liquid fertilizer. So the plants will receive small amounts of fertilizer every time I water and feeding is easier to remember this way. ENJOY!


GARDENING TIP 4-29-2016: The Beauty of Scented Geraniums

GARDENING TIP 4-22-2016: Save the Seeds


GARDENING TIP 4-8-2016: Understanding Tomato Labels

It can be perplexing when you are the nursery and trying to decide what kind of tomato starters to get. When you look at the tomato labels, there are generally two things that can be confusing, determinate vs. indeterminate AND days to maturity. What do they mean? 

DETERMINATE (det) tomato varieties tend to be short and bushy and fruit over a shorter period of time before being done producing. INDETERMINATE (ind) tomato varieties continue to grow taller and set fruit longer, often only limited by late fall rains and cold.
DAYS TO MATURITY (DTM) means that once the tomato plant has flowered, has been pollinated and set fruit, it will take that many days under proper conditions (water, food, warm temperatures and sunlight) for the tomatoes to ripen. Some of the shorter DTM tomato varieties are the cherry tomatoes, which generally ripen within 55-60 days, while larger tomato varieties may take up to 85 days to mature from the time they set.
Support (cage/stake) your tomatoes and water at soil level once the plant has started flowering. ENJOY!


GARDENING TIP 4-1-2016: Container Gardening – the Bad, the Good and the Beautiful

With the warm weather approaching fast, you have to become especially mindful when container gardening.

The Bad: Unlike being planted in a garden, where the plants’ roots are more protected from heat and evaporation, container plants have to adjust to an unnatural situation, as their roots have less room to spread and are exposed to above ground temperatures. Container gardening, especially in warm and hot climates, will dehydrate plants much quicker and will stress them if not properly watered. Also feed more often, as frequent watering will deplete the soil quicker of nutritional components. Another disadvantage are black or dark-colored plant containers. They absorb sunlight and heat up the roots, which is not common for garden-planted plants. So make sure that you water, feed and mulch properly and drape your dark colored containers with a white or light-colored cover or use a second container. This will reflect sunlight and will keep roots a bit cooler and longer hydrated.

The Good: It is much easier to control pests and diseases and isolate plants when necessary. Inspect your plants often to detect pests and treat them early.

The Beautiful: Enjoy the beauty close up, even when you don’t have a garden.

Renew the soil, water and feed more often! Talk to your plants & enjoy!


GARDENING TIP 3-25-2016: Don’t Forget to Feed!

Now that we’re full-swing in the growing season, remember to feed all your edibles, flowers, shrubs and trees every 6-8 weeks. Your vegetables need high nitrogen fertilizers to help them develop their leafy structures and to help them along to set fruit. Citrus trees (a little) and blueberries (more) need some acidity for better fruit production. My favorite natural acid fertilizer is cottonseed meal. For most fertilizers its enough to sprinkle them around the plant, rake it in lightly and then just water well, or dissolve the right amount of fertilizer in your watering can and water your plants. Make sure you follow the package directions. To make you remember, mark your calendar.  Just fyi, the 3 numbers that you usually see on the fertilizer box label are the percentages the product contains by volume of N-nitrogen, P-phosphorus, and K-potassium. The various products labeled “general-purpose fertilizers” contain either equal amounts of each major nutrient (N-P-K ratio 16-16-16, for example) or a slightly higher percentage of nitrogen than of phosphorus and potassium (such as a 12-8-6 product). Such fertilizers are intended to meet most plants’ general requirements throughout the growing season. ENJOY!

GARDENING TIP 3-18-2016: Good Bug or Bad Bug?

Know your garden bugs. Many of our beneficial garden bugs, like the ladybug (ladybeetle) go through life cycle stages, from egg to adult. During its larval stage it doesn’t look anything like an adult. That’s why it is important to be mindful of all the critters we see in our garden before trying to get rid of them. And actually it is during its larval stage that ladybugs most effectively devour aphids and other garden pests. So next time you see one of these larvae be happy you have them.  Another tip when buying ladybugs make sure you release them at dusk. No need to spread them about, just closest to the richest food source (aphids). If released during the day, they will try to fly back in the direction where they were actually bred and came from, and you may end up with very few ladybeetles tending to your garden pests. ENJOY!

GARDENING TIP 3-11-2016: Is Bagged Soil Really Soil?

If you’re doing container gardening like me, then you probably buy potting soil in a bag. But what you probably don’t suspect is that this kind of ‘potting soil’ is not actual soil that is made up of real soil components such as sand, loam, or clay. If you read the ingredients label on potting soil bags, the bagged soil is made up of mostly composting components like forest products, peat moss, bone meal, earthworm castings, etc. This means that this type of ‘soil’ is nitrogen rich for good and quick growth, but over time will deplete and will lose its nutritional and structural value. So when you are container gardening it is important to refresh the ‘soil’. I usually change the container soil once a year. ENJOY!

GARDENING TIP 3-4-2016: The California Lilac is a’Buzz

If you are planning to plant California natives, then the California Lilac (Ceanothus spp.) is a lovely and drought tolerant option. There are many varieties and types available, as a ground cover, shrub or small tree. It is a long bloomer with delightful, fragrant and nectar-rich lilac compact flowers, that attract bees and other pollinators. Once established (now is a good time to plant them), they don’t need much care, water and maintenance, other than annual pruning and shaping if so desired. The fragrance of spring is in the air. ENJOY!

GARDENING TIP 2-26-2016: Keep Your Hummers Coming

GARDENING TIP 2-19-1016: The Scoop on Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are an excellent addition to the garden and compost pile.  Contrary to what many people think, coffee grounds are not acidic. The acid in coffee is water-soluble, so it most likely ends up in the coffee mug; the grounds are actually close to pH neutral, contain little nitrogen, but a lot of carbon. Coffee grounds improve soil condition and structure. Just work them directly into the soil. You can also add the grinds (paper filter and all) to the compost pile as a carbon (or brown) source. If you don’t have a compost pile just save the grounds up in a separate container until you’re ready to add them to your soil. The good thing is that they won’t go bad. ENJOY!!

GARDENING TIP 2-12-2016: Know Your Weeds

GARDENING TIP 2-5-2016: Planting Vines – Bougainvillea Vines

Now is a good time to get the vine(s) of your liking into the ground. In our area Bougainvillea vines are a favorite, as they have brilliant flowers throughout the year and don’t require much water once they are established. However, they are somewhat picky when being transplanted; they don’t like their roots to be disturbed. We found the best way to plant them is to cut out the bottom of the plastic pot in which the bougainvillea vines are purchased in, loosen the roots a little bit from the bottom and put the vine, pot and all, into the planting hole. Fill in soil and level the planting area around the side of the pot. If necessary cut off the extra rim around the top of the pot, as not to have it stick out. Bougainvilleas are great performers once they get going. ENJOY!

GARDENING TIP 1-29-2016: Good Garden Bugs

On occasion take inventory of and know your good garden bugs. Common garden spider contribute to keeping many of our bad garden bugs in check. It is good right from the growing and planting start to know what bugs possibly will aid us in biologically keeping our garden pests in check. Good garden bugs are an important part of a balanced integrated pest management approach.

GARDENING TIP 1-22-2016: Feed your Acid Lovers

Early bloomers like Azaleas, Camellias and Rhododendrons and later spring bloomers like Gardenias and Hydrangeas all like acid soil. Now is a good time to feed them with an acid fertilizer. Being late bloomers, you should also prune the hydrangeas and gardenias. Again make sure that you clean up the litter debris and mulch around the plants with shredded wood or wood chips. Disinfect your pruners too (1:10 bleach solution). Enjoy the flowers!


GARDENING TIP 1-15-2016: Roses! Prune Them, Clean Them, Feed Them!

GARDENING TIP 1-8-2016: Prep Your Spring Veggie Garden – Fava Beans

With the new year upon us, start thinking about your spring veggie garden. Nitrogen is an essential element for your vegetables to grow well. One natural way to add nitrogen to your garden soil is to plant Fava Beans or other nitrogen fixing plants such as peas. Fava beans and pea seeds or seedlings (I prefer seedlings in 6-packs) are available at your local nurseries. Once planted and as they are growing these plants will release nitrogen into the soil through their root system.  Also give them some support with stakes or a trellis as they mature. Like peas, fava beans are edible and can add a new taste to your spring cooking. Try them!

GARDENING TIP 1-1-2016: Seedlings from Seed

HAPPY 2016! It is time to start thinking about what you would like to grow during the year and if you want to start your plants from seeds, which you can buy from local nurseries or online. Plan a drought tolerant butterfly garden and start some milkweed seedlings from seeds indoors. Once the seedlings are a little bit stronger and the day time weather is warmer, we will harden them off outdoors during the day, while bringing them back in at night. In a couple of months these seedlings should be ready to be planted outdoors.  If you can, give it  try!  Most milkweed species are good plants to attract butterflies. Several CA native milkweed species (e.g. A. fascicularisA. speciosa) are quite drought tolerant and are also a great food source for many caterpillars, and especially monarch caterpillars, before they turn into pupae and hatch into beautiful butterflies.

GARDENING TIP 51-2015: Cover Up!

Now is a good time to mulch around your garden plants and vegetables using bark chips, shredded bark or straw. Spread the mulch about 3 inches thick. This will greatly reduce the growth of unwanted weeds, will help prevent soil run-off in rainy weather, and will even add some nutritive elements to the soil.

GARDENING TIP 50-2015: The Weeding Tool – The Gardener’s Best Friend

Over the years I have worked with many avid gardeners. One thing they all had in common, they all l-o-v-e-d their weeding tool. The weeding tool can be used not just for weeding (e.g. pulling dandelions up by their whole root), but also for simple digging and planting preparation. You can use it for many different gardening activities. If you don’t already have one, then put it on your wish list. The weeding tool is an absolute must. Once you have it, you will find you can’t do without it.

GARDENING TIP 49-2015: Take Care of Your Tools

For most gardeners winter usually provides some downtime. This is a good time to plan for the next planting and growing season, including doing inventory of your gardening tools, cleaning, lubricating and sharpening them. Also plan to prepare a spray bottle with a diluted bleach solution to disinfect your pruners and loppers every time you’re pruning off infected tree/shrub material. Pruning time is almost here.

 GARDENING TIP 48-2015: Succulent Dishes Inside and Out
Succulents can be easily grown in fun-looking re-purposed dishes and containers. Fill the dish or container with succulent/cactus soil and stick small succulent cuttings into the soil. Water sparingly, but don’t let the soil dry out completely. Many succulents will grow roots and can be propagated this way. Most succulents prefer bright indoor light or if kept outdoors prefer to be in a semi-sunny spot.