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August 2007
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October 2007

Fall and Winter Gardening Seminar

It is time again for the annual "Fall and Winter Gardening In the Bay Area" all-day seminar sponsored by the Alameda County Master Gardeners. It is always a fun and informative event, celebrating our climate in which fall is often as much of a beginning as spring. I often give one of the workshops, as I will this year, and am always glad when I am not teaching elsewhere part of the day so I can be there all day and hear some of the other workshops.

This event is on October 20th, from 8:30 3:30 P.M. at Merritt College, in Oakland and costs $30.00 + $10.00 if you want a box lunch. There are 3 sessions, each with 3 different workshop choices. I will be speaking at 1:30 this year, on the topic Extending Your Growing Season with Winter Crops. Others will be speaking on such topics as Orchid Growing, Citrus, Waterwise Gardening, Fall Ornamental Gardening Tips. There will also be books for sale (including mine) and a plant sale. To learn more about the day, or to register, you can download the brochure by going to

Undersea Garden at Quail Botanical Gardens

When I was last at my Dad's, in San Diego County, we went to Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas ( I have been there many times, to see their wonderful collection of plants, including a large planting of tropical and subtropical fruits. However, this time, I was hoping to see their new "undersea garden." I read about it in Pacific Horticulture Magazine, a few issues back. Most of the plants in this (actually drought tolerant) garden are succulents, but it looks like it is made up of corals, sea anemones and the like. Sure enough, I found it, over by the area where they hold children's events and day camps, and next to their administration building. It was as wonderful as I thought it would be, so I took some photos to share. (There was a similar garden in the San Francisco Landscape and Garden Show last March. It included a sculpted octopus.)

(I know that purists will be horrified to see these drought-tolerant, dryland plants pretending to be underwater creatures. I remember well Wolfgang, the owner of Red Desert, before he retired, admonishing us not to put shells in the pots with cactus and succulents. He thought it just wasn't right. Sorry Wolfgang. I like it.)

July_august_07_189_copyThis seahorse, which is 5 or 6 feet tall, is located next to the administration building, where the painted wall adds to the illusion. It is a giant example of the idea of inserting succulents in wreaths and other decorations. Many succulents have shallow roots, so can survive this way for some time, though clearly if they began to grow and multiply, the piece would have to be redone.


An oversized casting of a nautilus shell next to some otherwise rather ordinary small-leaved succulents gives this area its air of of oceanic authenticity.


The tillandsia looks to me like a sea anemone growing at the edge of a sea cave. This bromeliad is an epiphyte (an air plant) so it can just sit there on the rock.


This is my favorite shot. What is the plant on the right that looks so much like a coral? I think it is a euphorbia. I don't plan to look it up though, just enjoy the effect. Though this garden is in San Diego County, many of the plants could survive nicely in Bay Area gardens, so if you like the look, shop around in the succulents and bromeliad sections of a nursery and see what you can put together.

September in the Demo Vegetable Garden

My fall vegetable class at City College of San Francisco (111E) just started and the demonstration garden at the college stands at ready to demonstrate what you can grow in this season. Here are some photos so you can see what is happening there.

Ccsf_garden_sept_9_005_copy I do this every fall. In August, I, with several student volunteers, planted 82 seedlings of cabbage family crops. Specifically, these are all the same species, Brassica oleracea, which includes brocoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. The seedlings look pretty much the same at this age, but as time passes, the plants will develop into the different vegetables. I'll take photos as this happens and post them from time to time. The plants right in the front are purple kohlrabi, which will develop purple bulbs on their stems. You can see the bulges just beginning to appear.Ccsf_garden_sept_9_013_ready

Ccsf_garden_sept_9_013_copy Meanwhile, however, the summer crops are still in full swing. This is scarlet runner bean, Phaseolus coccineus. It is a bean of the Mexican and Central American uplands, so it prefers cooler weather. That makes it ideal for San Francisco. If weather turns too warm, fewer pod set until it gets cooler. This is the second flush of pods this summer and there are dozens of beans. The plant is a perennial. Two plants came back from last year. One of them is at least 12 years old. I also put in a few more seeds, and got 2 new plants this year. The red flowers attract hummingbirds.

Ccsf_garden_sept_9_020_copy And we are still getting zucchini. The plants suffered more than usual from powdery mildew this summer. I sprayed last week with baking soda, oil, and soap, after removing the leaves with the worst symptoms--the ones with many white fungal spots. I will probably have to spray again, but maybe I can stop the outbreak long enough to get a few more zucchs. The recipe for the spray I used is 1 heaping tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon summer oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap in a gallon of water. I sprayed using a $10 plastic pump sprayer that holds 1 1/2 quarts of water, so I had to reduce the amounts of the ingredients for less water. (Summer oil is sold in nurseries for spraying plants to control various pests. It is sometimes based on petroleum products, but you can also find formulations based on soy or canola oil.)


This final image shows a late planted bush bean crop, just now blooming. If you plant a bush bean in mid-July, you should get a nice crop in September/October. This a bush Romano bean. It has nice flat pods that are deliciously tender when cooked. And such nice lavender flowers!

School Garden Workshop September 15th

If you are involved in any way in a school garden in San Francisco, and it needs resources, there are lots of opportunities available. I wrote about some of them in my SF Chronicle column on September 5th, which you can read at You may also want to go to the program: Kids in Gardens: School Gardening, Saturday, September 15th, 10AM to Noon. It is being held at the Garden For the Environment, at 7th Avenue and Lawton, and is cosponsored by the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance. You will get ideas for building the garden, integrating it into the school, or improving it and will leave with a packet of activities that relate the garden to various school subjects. Learn about resources you can tap into. It costs $15, kids free, preregistration required. You can read about this workshop and about the GFE at their website Click on the events tab to find information. Or you can call them at (415) 731-5627. Get those kids out in the garden! It is good for them.