Looking Like Spring!
Hunting, Gathering, Gardening

New Articles & Old, Community Gardens

Last night I used finely chopped wild onions (Allium triquetrum) in a pasta sauce that included sundried tomatoes, garlic, and basil. The wild onion was from my backyard, and the basil was from the African Blue Basil plant that is still bearing leaves (and flowers!) in my community garden plot. Gave me great pleasure to be able combine the wild onion, a winter grower, with the homegrown basil, which would ordinarily be unavailable this early in the spring.

The wild onion, which I described in detail in Golden Gate Gardening (see sidebar of this blog) is a native of the Mediterranean basin that is quite weedy in our area, so if you have it, be careful to pick off most of the flowers before they can produce seeds. It has a triangular flower stem bearing several white flared bell-shaped flowers, a strong keel on the leaves, and a strong scent of onion. The whole plant is edible, including the flowers, which are nice on a salad. (Don't eat your weeds unless you are sure you have positive identification, and if you have something that you think might be a wild onion but it doesn't have a strong onion smell, don't eat it!).

African Blue Basil is the only perennial basil, though plants won't survive winter if they are too cold. The one I have at home seems to be dead, but the one in my community garden, where the winter has been milder, is still bearing leaves and flowers. I wrote about this plant last year for the Chronicle, and you can find that article in their archives at www.sfgate.com . In addition to being perennial, this basil is a large plant and the basil that has the best chance of producing a crop in fneighborhoods with foggy, cool summes. You will be able to find it in local nurseries this spring, though maybe not quite yet.

At risk of circular information sharing, since I think some of you who read this blog in the past few days found it through the SF Chronicle, I should report, that I had 2 more articles in the Chronicle Home Section this week. You can find them at www.sfgate.com . Click on "Home and Garden." On Wednesday, April 19th they published an article called "It Poured Indeed." I interviewed several professional gardeners and an arborist about the effect of all of the rain we just had on their business and the gardens they attend to. It's been hard on them too!

Today, on April 22, they published an article I wrote about growing vegetables and herbs in containers, in which I share information I learned the hard way years ago when I lived in an apartment building and before I had a community garden plot. I went and gathered (sandy) soil from a vacant lot, put the boxes where I would have to carry water to them in a watering can, and put them in a notch in the building that maybe got a couple of hours of sunlight a day. Even worse were the ones I put on the roof, where wind helped to dry out my too-porous soil and I had to climb stairs to water! I hope this article will help readers do the best they can with what space they have, or, if there isn't an adequate place to grow in containers, to find a community garden.

Incidentally, to search for an available community garden spot in San Francisco, you can log on to www.sfgro.org, the new organization that has just been formed to help community and backyard gardeners. The acronym stands for SF Gardeners Resource Organization.

There are community gardens all around our area, in many cities and towns, so a little searching should turn up something near you. In exchange for a small fee and participation in keeping the garden running smoothly (both the physical area and the group interactions) you can get a plot of land, smaller or larger depending on location and plenty of help from other gardeners in learning what to do.

I am headed off to Marin County in the morning to repeat the lecture, with slides, that I gave in at the San Francisco Sloat Nursery on Sloat Avenue last week. The topic is Mediterranean Climate Food Gardening. This one will be at 10 AM at the Sloat Nursery at 401 Miller Avenue in Mill Valley. Their website is www.sloatgardens.com

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