Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

It’s still summer, but it’s time to plant winter (cool-season) vegetables. If you get them in the ground while the days are still relatively long, you can harvest this winter. If you wait too long, peas will pause and broccoli will balk. Dormancy sets in when there are less than 10 hours of daylight. You need to give winter crops a head start before plant growth slows down or stops altogether.
Read More
More Plants, Less Mulch

More Plants, Less Mulch

In Sacramento gardens, I’ve observed that the roots of drought-tolerant plants, such as lavender, salvia and penstemon, will rot if they are kept constantly moist by a layer of woodchips. I’ve also worried that covering up all bare soil with mulch, which UC Berkeley entomologist Dr. Gordon Frankie calls “mulch madness,” will make it hard for native bees to find places to nest. When should we mulch? And when does mulching create more problems than it solves?
Read More
Nasty Nutsedge

Nasty Nutsedge

A friend sent me a photo of a dramatic flowering stem displayed proudly in a vase. It looked a bit like a floral firework, with a single triangular stalk topped by spiky leaves, centered with clusters of little white flowers. “What is this plant?” she asked. She had been told that it was papyrus, which it resembles, but she feared it was something bad. It was.
Read More
Must Be Present

Must Be Present

It’s debatable whether absence really does make the heart grow fonder. There’s no question that a gardener’s attentive presence makes a garden better. An observant gardener can identify pests and other problems early and keep up with the rapid changes that happen this time of year. Grab a bucket, have a hose with a powerful spray nozzle handy and take a daily stroll outside. Both you and your garden will benefit. The bucket is good for collecting weeds and spent flower heads. Remove weeds as soon as you spot them, getting them out, roots and all, before they can set seeds. Deadheading flowers will make your garden look fresher and encourage continued bloom.
Read More
Garden Variety

Garden Variety

Of the 35 largest cities in the United States, only two do not have botanical gardens, Sacramento and Fresno. Bruce Ritter and Linda Ching hope to leave Fresno alone on that list. It could be years before a Sacramento botanical garden blooms, but the seeds are being planted. In January, Ritter and Ching co-founded the nonprofit Sacramento Botanical Garden and launched a capital campaign to raise $25 million to build the project.
Read More
Beyond Basic Basil

Beyond Basic Basil

Summer cuisine isn’t summer cuisine without fresh basil. We pulverize it into pesto and toss it into tomato sauce. We combine it with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese to make pizza, lasagna and caprese salad. While it’s a staple of Italian cooking, Californians use it in many kinds of food. There are dozens of mouth-watering basil recipes just a Google search away. It’s now warm enough to plant basil, which can be damaged by temperatures below 50 degrees. Give it a sunny spot, water it regularly and pinch it back to keep the plant bushy and prevent it from flowering, which causes the leaves to be less flavorful and slows down the plant’s growth. You can start seeds in a pot indoors or sow them in the ground, protecting them from pests such as slugs and snails. I usually buy already-started plants. There are often half a dozen seedlings in a single pot. I tease them apart and plant them separately in the ground, placing them between my tomato plants. It may be an old wives’ (or gardeners’) tale, but I’ve heard that if you plant basil close to the tomatoes, it will improve their flavor and discourage pests. That may not be true, but it’s convenient to grow them together.
Read More
Share via