A Shout Out for Nichols Garden Nursery Seed Company

               When I first arrived in San Francisco, many years ago, living in a rented flat, wanting to plant a few vegetables in a neighbor's yard. I discovered the Nichols Garden Nursery herb and rare seed catalog. They had everything I needed to try out my new climate and microclimate. They are still there, still carry old and new favorites, and now, of course, they are also on the web.  

               Located in Western Oregon, the nursery is experienced with cool summers, especially with cool summer nights. In their catalog I discovered many varieties that were to become staples over the years. They had purple-podded bush beans, which are your best bet to grow regular garden beans in near-coastal microclimates because they germinate well in cold soil. If those worked in a particular location, then I tried 'Roma II', a bush romano bean, the kind with broad, flat pods and a buttery texture. If the garden was too chilly for the purple bush beans, then I knew I had better plant Scarlet Runner beans, because they are, as the Nichols catalog states, "an excellent cool weather variety." If I had great success with the Roma II beans, it was time to try some regular pole beans, like 'Goldmarie', a yellow-podded pole romano or old standby 'Kentucky Wonder Pole'.

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Left to right: Scarlet Runner climbing bean, 'Royalty Purple-Podded Bush Bean, and 'Goldmarie' yellow-podded pole Romano bean.

               Nichols still carries all of these bean varieties, all open pollinated, all heirlooms, and many more. And they still carry 'Early Sunglow' corn, a variety listed at 62 days to maturity. It succeeds in milder San Francisco neighborhoods, taking 90 days due to the cool microclimate, but still allowing two plantings a summer--one in May and another in July. That second planting comes out in mid-October, right before the usuals start of the rainy season. The stalks are short, but bear 2 ears. The ears are smaller than supermarket corn, but worth it for the chance to eat fresh, fresh, corn-on-the-cob.

               They also still carry overwintering cole crops like 'Purple Sprouting' broccoli, the beautiful and the delicious 'January King' cabbage. And many kinds of kale, including two packets of kale mixes that let you see the wonderful diversity of this nutritious leafy green.

               It was also the place I first found 'Stupice' tomatoes, early and tasty in cool summers. They carry 'Early Girl', 'Green Zebra', and 'Oregon Spring', all of which have borne fruit well in my Mission District community garden. And they have kept up with the times, now the sweet golden cherries 'Sungold', and offering late blight resistant 'Jasper' cherry and larger-fruited 'Mountain Magic'.

               There are many other choice varieties in this catalog that I discovered since I first saw it. They have sweet, orange cherry tomato 'Sungold', reliable and early 'Snow Crown' cauliflower, the choice color-mix 'Bright Lights' chard, striped and ribbed heirloom zucchini 'Costata Romanesco', red-splashed and long-bearing 'Flashy Butter Oak' lettuce, and 'Bull's Blood' beets, the red leaves of which seem not to interest leafminers in my garden.

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'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard

               They have also kept up with the issues of the day when it comes to garden seeds. They signed the Safe Seed Pledge, which promises they will not carry seed that is transgenic or genetically engineered. They have also joined the brand new Open Source Seed movement, offering many of the varieties that are pledged never to be patented, keeping seed these open-pollinated varieties available for seedsaving and further selection by gardeners and farmers.

               The first page that attracted me to Nichols was the "New and Unusual Vegetables" page. Here I found the uncommon crop, the surprises, unusual varieties and little-known crops. Many unusual crops are also in the rest of the catalog. They have 5 varieties of hops roots, 4 kinds of potato starts, walking onion bulbs, seed for the exquisitely flavored herb, Shiso, 'Lemon Gem' edible marigold, 3 varieties of Quinoa, miner's lettuce, magenta-leaved orach, and Tromboncino climbing summer squash.

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Walking Onion is a scallion (green onion) that propagates by stem-top bulblets.

I have only ordered seed from Nichols Garden Nursery, but they sell many other products, from essential herb oils, herbal teas, and 2 kinds of sourdough starters to ingredients and equipment for making beer cheese and wine.

               Nichols Garden Nursery is a family-owned business founded in 1950 by Nick and Edith Nichols and run currently by their daughter Rose Marie Nchols McGee. They are located at 1190  Old Salem Road, in Albany, Oregon. At their brick and mortar nursery, they sell herb plants and seasonal seedlings, including many specialty plants they don't sell through the mail. You just missed their annual Plant Day, with the traditional serving of Lavendar/Ginger ice cream, but it is the Saturday after Mother's Day, in case you are planning a trip through Oregon next spring.

               The website of Nichols Garden Nursery is nicholsgardennursery.com. Pay it a visit and discover a treasure for our west coast gardens.


Some Resources for Waterwise Gardeners

This is not meant to be a complete list, by any means, but here are a few publications and links that will be useful if you are selecting plants for a waterwise garden.

WUCOLS stands for Water Use Classification of Landscape Plants. This project, sponsored by UCDavis, California Dept of Water Resources, California Center for Urban Horticulture, lets you find out the water needs of over 3,500 landscape plants in six different regions of California. The most recent version WUCOLS IV,can be accessed at the following address:

http://ucanr.edu/sites/WUCOLS/   Click on "Plant Search" Or you can use this link: WUCOLS IV

For information on growing California Native Plants, check out the Las Pilitas web site, laspilitas.com, or use this link: Las Pilitas Nursery.

Here are links to two articles on the subject of watering trees during a drought that were recently in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Trees Out on A Limb

Watering Trees in A Drought

Finally, here is a short list of books that you will find useful as you seek ideas and plants for a waterwise garden:

California Native Plants for the Garden, Burnstein, Fross, O'Brien, Cachuma Press, 2005.Photos, text on garden uses and care.

New Sunset Western Garden Book. I think the most recent is 2012, and it does have all color photos, which are helpful, but the text of couple of editions right before this one were a little more thorough.

Plant Life in the World's Mediterranean Climates, Peter B. Dallman, University of California Press, 1998. Maps and charts show how the 5 mediterranean regions are similar and, importantly, how they differ, then explains the habitats to which many of our favorite plants are adapted.

 Plants and Landscapes for Summer-dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region, East Bay MUD, 2004. Inspiring photos and useful information.

The Random House Book of Indoor and Greenhouse Plants, Roger Phillips & Martyn Rix, Volumes 1 & 2, Random House,1997. Despite the name, thiese two volumes cover mostly mediterranean and other subtropical plants that we can grow outside. The photos and text about the plants in their native habitats are very useful.

Wildly Successful Plants: Northern California, Pam Peirce, Sasquatch Books, 2004.California garden history, plant origins, garden maintenance instructions, garden design, and a philosophy for a regional garden.


Help Learning to Use Plant Scientific Names

There is another post containing resources for gardeners learning to use plant scientific names. You will find it if you search for "Plant ID". I have added the following new one today:

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/2plants.htm Searchable list of common garden plant genera. Click on a genus name to get description and links to many photos of different parts and stages of the plant. It also links to another database, this one providing a simplified plant key for woody landscape plants.


Master Gardener Spring Sales--Mostly Tomatoes

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Master Gardeners will be holding spring markets in three Bay Area counties in April. As reported in my SF Chronicle Column of April 5, they will be as follows:

San Mateo/San Francisco Master Gardeners will hold two sales. The first is on April 11, 9-1, at Redwood High School, 1968 Old County Road, Redwood City. The second is April 18th, 10-2, at Central Park in San Mateo, and is part of an open house at the park on that day. For more information: 2015 San Mateo/SF Spring Garden Market Information

Marin County Master Gardeners are having two sales on the same day, April 18th, both 9:30-12. One is at the Bon Air Shopping Center, 50 Bon Air Ctr., Greenbrae, the other is at the Pini Market, 1535 S. Novato Blvd, Nave Shopping Center, Novato..For more information: 2015 Marin County Tomato Market Information

Santa Clara Master Gardeners are having their sale on April 11, 9-2 at History San Jose, 1650 Senter Road, San Jose..:For more information: 2015 Santa Clara Spring Market Garden Information

All of the sales include tomato plants galore and Master Gardeners on hand to answer questions and the  April 11th sales in Redwood City and in San Jose include other kinds of seedlings and garden talks, and  a "green elephant" sales.

Each of the Master Gardener Organizations have prepared lists of the tomato varieties they will be selling, with information on the qualities of each variety. Here are links to the three 2015 tomato variety lists:

2015 San Francisco/San Mateo Tomato List

2015 Marin County Tomato Varieties

2015 Santa Clara County Tomato List

 

 

 


Link to Article on Growing Food in Shade

This summer I gave several talks at the SF Public Libraries and mentioned an SFGate.com article on growing food crops in the shade. Earlier in July, I found that the link to this article was broken. I reported the problem and the SFGate technical staff said they would look into it. It is finally repaired, so here is the working link: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Best-edibles-to-grow-in-shade-in-Bay-Area-3747126.php  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 


Some Links for Seed School Class 1 August 20, 2011

Growing plants from seed is fun and saves money. I have written about saving and growing seed in both of my regional books Golden Gate Gardening & Wildly Successful Plants: Northern California. The first covers seeds of vegetables and herbs, the second covers many common California garden flowers.

Because Seed School at the Garden For the Environment in San Francisco (http://www.gardenfortheenvironment.org) starts tomorrow, I am putting a few links on this blog. The first class is on saving seed, so these are links that will be particularly helpful on that subject.

Here is a link to a series of articles by Tom Clothier, on every topic you can imagine relating to saving and starting seeds from Botany for Seedsavers and Genetics for Seedsavers to conditions for growing many kinds of seeds and dealing with damping off (decay) in seedlings.

http://tomclothier.hort.net/index.html

I also found his template for folding a seed packet that needs not tape or glue, for those times when you need to enclose some seeds when you are "in the field" with no access to other containers.

http://tomclothier.hort.net/templat3.htm

To find many wonderful printable templates for making paper seed packets when you have more time and materials, do a Google search for "seed packets" with "template". Here is one example of some of the pretty templates you will find with such a search:

http://content.bbcmagazinesbristol.com/gardensillustrated/pdf/GI_seedpackets.pdf

The following link is to native plant seed collection guidelines of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden. It covers getting permits for collecting on public land, keeping records, guidelines for amount of seed to take, and other important information for those who are thinking of doing this.

http://www.hazmac.biz/aboutus/Seed%20Collecting%20Guidelines.pdf

Another link of use to those who are interested in native plants is that to the Presidio Native Plant Nursery. They grow native plants for restoration projects and welcome volunteers. Much of what they do is starting plants and tending them as they grow, but they also sometimes involve volunteers in wild seed collecting and cleaning. They welcome volunteers 1-4 on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

http://www.parksconservancy.org/help/volunteer/volunteer-native-plant-nurseries/presidio-native-plant-nursery.html

 Finally, here is a google search engine that has been set up to deal with all aspects of saving, obtaining, or growing seeds:

http://www.google.com/cse/home?cx=017813469075022978746:zxwdeucohtq

Hope to see you in Seed School. In the first class, I will cover the basics of seedsaving, and then we will clean some seeds I've saved and I will advise on ones you may have saved or plan to save.

(If you missed the class and would like to see it repeated, send me a comment and we will see if we can do it again.)

 


The other weeds: Wildland Weeds

Some weeds escape mainly in gardens. Others may be weeds in gardens, or may not, but are able to grow in undisturbed, or relatively undisturbed wild habitats. A prime example is Algerian Ivy, which can cover the ground under redwood trees and climb them, sometimes causing them to die. Most plants not native to the redwood forest woudn't be able to grow there, but this one, from North Africa and the nearby Canary Islands, just takes over.

As the information about these pest plants gets out, gardeners who want to do the right thing begin to check whether a plant could be a wildland invasive before they plant it. This is a good thing, but going online to check can be tricky. If a search for the plant's name with the word "invasive" or "wildland weed" turns up a lot of hits, you still may not be clear whether the plant is invasive where you live.

In California, the best site to check for this information is the California Invasive Plant Council. Here is a link to their site:

www.cal-ipc.org California Invasive Plant Council. This nonprofit seeks to reduce the escape of non-native invasive plants into California’s wildlands. The entire book Invasive Plants of California’s Wildlands, with both text and photos, is available on their site.

If what you want to do is find out where wildland weeds are being combatted near you, with the thought you might volunteer to help, this next link is for you:

http://www.ice.ucdavis.edu/nrpi/  This is the Natural Resource Project Inventory. If you scroll down and click on "county" and then select your county and click on "submit" you will find out where the nearby action is. These projects welcome volunteers and can be fun and a good place to make new friends.


I've been weeding a lot lately

This is the season when our gardens often look like the weeds are winning. In our mediterranean climate, winter rains bring weeds, many of them natives of The Mediterranean (the European or African lands that border the Mediterranean sea) so they are used to this winter rain-enabled life cycle.

While it is tempting to think of weeds en masse, there are a number of reasons to identify them. The skillful gardener notices new weeds and learns how to fight them before they get a root-hold, and knows which of the usual cast of weed characters have underground structures (like bulbs or running roots) that must be removed if one is to get rid of them.

Identifying weeds can be difficult, but if you can get as far as common name, you can learn quite a bit about your weeds on the following two web sites designed for California gardeners. And, knowledge, as they say, is power.

http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/ipc/encycloweedia/encycloweedia_hp.htm

Find weeds by common or scientific names, read about them or see photos. Look at the national weed list & at the California weed list. Check out the pdf of the Noxious Times, the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture weed management newsletter.

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/weeds_common.html

This site offers a weed photo gallery that is searchable by common name. From here you can also go to the same weed list searchable by scientific name or by plant family name. You can also read about weeds that cause problems in turf.


Some links about seeds

As promised, here are some links about various seed topics. I am putting them up for my class, but they are generally useful. I brought these sites together to help you understand some of the terms you see in seed catalogs, like treated seed, organic seed, and the "safe seed pledge."

Various governmental and NGO websites on different seed topics:

http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/seed/facts.htm (Facts from the US Department of Agriculture about naming and labeling varieties of seed) This explains what is entailed in giving a plant variety, or   cultivar, a name and selling it under that name.

http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/seed/treated.pdf (Requirements under The Federal Seed Act for labeling   treated seed)

   

http://www.seedquest.com/forum/s/SundstromChip/0.htm (Interview with Chip Sundstrom of the California Crop Improvement Association about organic certification of seed)

http://www.ccof.org (Site of the California Certified Organic Farmers, includes information on organic farming in California and links to the federal organics law)

http://www.panna.org/resources/ge.html (Pesticide Action Network North America resources on issues related to genetic engineering that include many PANNA fact sheets and many links to other resources.)

http://www.gene-watch.org/programs/safeseed/sourcebook.html (A list of seed companies that subscribe to the Safe Seed Pledge, with links to them) The Safe Seed Pledge says that the company won't knowingly sell bioengineered seeds.

http://www.ecobooks.com/authors/vavilov.htm (A history of the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry, which was the world’s first seedbank, and an explanation of Vavilov’s “centers of origin” of cultivated crops. This page includes links to related websites and some of the links within this site (to other sites) are broken, but there is enough of interest on the site itself to be worth looking.