I’m Moving out of Belmont


I just bought a house in Oakland, so I’ll be leaving our wonderful community garden this fall :(  A fellow gardener will be upgrading his plot to mine, and a new gardener will take his old plot’s place.

Would anyone like to take over as garden coordinator? Or perhaps form a committee of 2-5 people? Please leave a comment if you’re interested.

I’ll keep this blog domain up and can add people as authors. I figure I will still post every now and then, since our climates are still pretty similar :) And I have lots of space in my yard for my very own garden!

I will miss everyone!!

Overwatering: Yellowing leaves


I noticed some of my tomato leaves started turning yellow. I saw this in a few other plots as well. I took my sad leaves home and consulted the internet for some diagnostics.

It appears to not be disease or bug related. Instead: overwatering.

Two things can be contributing to overwatering in our plots:

1. The compost we received in spring was ‘heavy.’ It was mixed with clay, and that clay holds water (and nutrients) very well. So that means it needs less water. I had our original (without compost) soil tested and it was ‘sandy loam’ which is great, but has a hard time holding water and nutrients.

2. I added wood chips to my plot to keep moisture in, but didn’t adjust my water schedule accordingly. Keep that in mind if you have woodchips or weed mats.

What happens from overwatering?

When you overwater, the roots get ‘suffocated.’ It inhibits the uptake of oxygen and nutrients. If prolonged, it can also cause root rot. To fix it: let the soil dry out and water more sparingly. Also cultivate the top soil to aerate it.

Is clay soil good or bad?

It has a lot of benefits: it holds water, meaning we can cut back which is great for the drought. It also holds nutrients really well so you don’t have to fertilize as often, and when you do fertilize it lasts a lot longer. Lastly, roots like clay soil because they can get a firm foundation (unlike sandy soils that shift all the time).

The bad & how to fix it: it compacts much easier than sandy soils and can suffocate roots. Cultivate the soil to improve aeration. Cultivating the dirt is just using those hand-rakes to turn up the dirt a little and mix air in. And a tip from fellow gardener Rusty, cultivating the soil disrupts a lot of the pest cycles.

Produce Basket(s)

Good afternoon everyone! I just dropped off a basket on the picnic table with a little sign attached. If you have any spare produce, herbs, lettuce, seeds, etc, leave them in the basket. And if you’re looking to get extra produce, take anything in the basket home with you (just leave the basket there please!)

Also, on the picnic table seats I left a bunch of spare wicker baskets that are free to take home. I got them from a ‘freecycler’ knowing that they’d make great garden produce baskets for you all. Just leave the big on one the table for community use (it has the sign attached to it).


Summer squash recipes


The zucchini are coming in, and once they start, they can get overwhelming. I wanted to share one of my favorite ways to make use of the abundance: zucchini corn soup. It tastes like a chowder but without any dairy because the zucchini thickens it when pureed.

Zucchini Corn SoupZucchini Corn Soup
(adapted from Love & Olive Oil)

1 pound yellow summer squash
2 ears corn (shucked, and kernels cut from the cob, KEEP cob)
3 large shallots (diced)
2 large garlic cloves (minced)
1 fresh jalapeño chile (diced)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
To cut the kernels from the cob, work over a bowl or a pie tin. Be sure to keep the cob.

In a 5-quart heavy kettle combine all ingredients (including cobs) except broth and cook over moderate heat, stirring, 3 minutes. Stir in broth and simmer mixture until squash is very tender, about 20-30 minutes. Discard cobs. In a blender puree mixture in batches until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), or use an immersion blender. Season soup with salt and pepper. Divide soup between 2 bowls and garnish with extra corn, chiles, cilantro, and squash.

This is a good base that can be adapted with many different spices, like a southwestern corn soup, or a much spicier version.

It freezes very well too! I tend to make a triple batch with all my zucchini and freeze it.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Use a vegetable peeler to make long ribbons out of your zucchini. Then toss them on the grill or in a fry pan for just a few minutes. Toss it with some salad greens, feta cheese and your favorite vinaigrette. Here’s a basic recipe to get you started.

And here’s a few recipes that I haven’t tried yet, but will this summer:

Zucchini Walnut Thyme Soup

The “creamy” here comes from souped and blended walnuts. Use good quality nuts: they are important for taste as well as texture. I have written this up with walnuts and thyme, but I just know it would be fabulous with mint, basil and pine nuts.”

View recipe



Carrot Zucchini Bread


“This bread is a little bit denser than a carrot cake and not quite as sweet, but it tastes just as incredible.

It has such a soft and moist crumb thanks to all the moisture from the shredded carrots and zucchini. It also has just the right amount of sweetness and the perfect touch of cinnamon.”

View recipe


Have a favorite zucchini recipe? Leave a comment and share it :)

Squash Bugs: How to Get Rid of Them

Squash bugs are officially in full swing. We’ve seen then in a lot of plots, but we can still keep them under control! For future updates, enter your email in the box to the right of this post!

Squash bugs mating

Why are they bad?

They multiply FAST and feed on the sap of squash plants (summer squash, pumpkins, etc). If left unchecked they will affect the quality of the squash as well as the yield. And it is not uncommon for them to completely kill a plant if they aren’t kept under control.

How do you find them?

You might look at your plant and it seems fine. That’s because they hide at the base and blend in with the dirt. But they are very easy to find: soak the base of the plant and they will crawl up the plant to the leaves. They are slow and very easy to catch. I squish them between 2 wood chips.

Do this every time you water! Last year I would find 5-10 bug each time I watered – I couldn’t seem to fully get rid of them (perhaps they migrated from other gardens, perhaps they were just clever little buggers). But if there are only a handful on your plants at a time, your plants will be perfectly healthy. Let it go unchecked for even 7-10 days and you’ll get squashing dozens.

Check the leaves!

Squash bug eggs

Check the underside of each squash leaf for copper colored, oval eggs. Smush them with your hand. There aren’t that many leaves on a squash plant, so it’s fairly quick and easy to check.

You’ll also want to check each time you’re in the garden so those eggs don’t hatch!

Are there organic sprays?

Honestly, finding and squishing them is the easiest and most effective method. Since they are so slow they are easy to catch when they crawl up the leaves from a watering.

More info:

Check out this thread on gardenweb for more information.

Sunset Magazine “Celebration Weekend” in Menlo Park


Sunset Magazine’s annual “Celebration Weekend” is happening May 31 and June 1 (Saturday and Sunday) this year. I haven’t gone before, but I’m going this year :)

General admission for 1 day is $20 (along with other pricing options)

There are all sorts of vendors, demos, and experts to talk to. They also have different event stages with all sorts of interesting things happening. Most of them are free, and a few cost extra (noted below).

  • The cooking stage has all sorts of demonstrations with celebrity chefs, food editors, etc.
  • There’s a weber grilling class that costs $35 extra, with class sizes no larger than 27 people.
  • The outdoor & gardening stage speakers cover things like “The New Front Lawn,” The King and Queen of Succulents,” or find out what’s in the Sunset Test Garden this year.
  • The travel stage covers things from Campfire cooking to weekend getaways.
  • For kids (and adults too!) you can paint a terracotta garden pot
  • Wine & Craft Beer seminars are $15 extra

SF Flower & Garden show – seedling workshop

The SF garden & flower show is happening next week at the San Mateo event center. Tickets are $20. I wanted to point out that there is a seedling workshop (scroll to the bottom of the ticket list) It’s $75, which is a bit pricey but you get to go home with some seedlings.

Also note the opening night ceremony on Tuesday. You can get the ticket for 50% off with this discount code: chamber.


At The Farmer’s Market: March


Rhubarb is in season now throughout summer. Look for bright colored stalks. To store them, wrap in a damp paper tower and put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (lasts up to 3 weeks)

Strawberries won’t be in season for another month, but when they are, a strawberry-rhubarb crisp or pie with a granola crust would be delightful.  Or expand your rhubarb horizons and make a rhubarb-mustard sauce for fish or chicken.


Asparagus is in full swing! The season lasts from February through May. The smaller spears will taste better. If the ends are moist they’ve been recently picked. To store, wrap in a damp paper tower and put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (lasts 4 days to 1 week). Roasted asparagus with olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese is always a favorite. Or think outside the box and make a bowl of roasted asparagus soup.


Last of the season: brussel sprouts, blood oranges, and mandarins will be out of season in a few weeks. Pears will be in season through April and then they are done too.

Rare & Heirloom seedlings for you this year!


Get rare heirloom plants!

The community garden needs a bit of love! Many of the plots are falling apart, the tools are bare-bones, and hose nozzles keep breaking. The city isn’t able to provide us with many extras since they are on a budget too (they aren’t able to provide us with compost or extra wood to fix the plots). We don’t have a source of revenue or funds at our disposal, so I’d like to start an annual seedling fundraiser.

Instead of getting plants from Home Depot, or even a local nursery this year, consider buying the extra seedlings I’m growing. The varieties I have aren’t even found at nurseries! I’ve separated the plants into 2 sections: vegetables that I’ve grown in the past and did well, and new varieties that I am trying this year.

I will use the money that I raise to put it back into the garden. From tools to repair materials and more. The plants will cost $5 each. I’ll accept payment when I deliver the plants sometime in April.

Leave a comment with the plants you’re interested in so I make sure to set aside the varieties you want.  I plan to open this seedling sale to the public as well, but I want to give first pick to my fellow gardeners.


Tomatoes that I’ve grown in the past and would recommend!

Each year I grow a few favorites and try all sorts of new ones. And each year I pick the best ones and add them to my ‘grow it again’ list. Below are 4 tomato varieties that I grow each year, these are my tried and true keepers.

Hawaiian pineapple tomato from Tomatofest#1 Favorite! Hawaiian Pineapple

These tomatoes have the best flavor of all the ones I’ve grown so far. Last year, they averaged 1 lb each and I got 25-35 tomatoes on each plant. They take a bit more time to ripen, but are well worth the weight.



Sasha Altai#2 Favorite! Sasha Altai

These tomatoes always produce well throughout the season, last year I got 115 tomatoes off one plant (3 oz each on average). Organic gardening magazine listed it as one of the top 10 best early producing tomatoes in the world! I would tend to agree, they have a great flavor with a meaty flesh. Another outstanding Russian variety from the mountains (which do very well in our climate).

Sweet Pea CurrantSweet Pea Currant

These tiny tomatoes are adorable. They are literally the size of peas, so they are really fun for salads (especially when guests come over).



Nicholayev yellow cherryNicholayev Yellow Cherry

Another Russian variety that performs well. These sweet, tasty tomatoes ripen early and produce all season long.



 New tomatoes to try this year:

I always try new tomatoes, and a lot of them! It’s the only way to find new varieties to add to the ‘grow it again’ list. Below are the ones I am trying this year.

principe borghesePrincipe Borghese – best variety for sun-dried tomatoes

70-75 days. The seeds are authentic, imported from Italy and are famous for sun drying. Small 1-2 oz. grape-shaped fruit are very dry and have few seeds. They have a rich tomato taste that is wonderful for sauces.


Blue Berries tomatoNEW & RARE! Blue Berries

Here’s a new, small cherry variety from Brad Gates, Wild Boar Farms. Brad Gates is known as “the tomato guy” in the bay area, having grown over a thousand varieties. “These tomatoes are very dark purple color, which means it’s super-rich in anthocyanins. Unripe, the fruits are a glowing amethyst purple. At maturity they turn deep red where the fruit was shaded; the areas that received intense sunshine are a purple so deep it’s almost black! The flavor is intensely fruity, and sugar-sweet!” Plants are very productive, yielding all season.

Large barred boar tomatoLarge Barred Boar

Another tomato from Brad Gates. This tomato grows fairly stocky and not as tall as most indeterminate varieties. Flattened beefsteak fruit are pink-brown with metallic green stripes and weigh 8-12 ounces. Very meaty pink flesh is very flavorful. One reviewer described the taste as sweet with an acidic finish.

Cour di bue Cour di Bue – Original Italian sauce tomato

These heart-shaped beefsteak type tomatoes are very meaty with few seeds. That makes them a great tomato for sauces, soups, salsas and more. One reviewer says she grows these in the Pacific Northwest and said she got her first tomato on July 8, when most of her tomatoes aren’t ready until August.

 Anana's NoireAnanas Noire

This unusual variety was developerd by a Belgium horticulturist.The multi-colored fruit (green, yellow and purple) weight about 1 – 1.5 lbs each with a heavy yield. The flavor is said to be smoky with a hint of citrus (however, reviewers were split on the flavor, some said it was amazing, other’s didn’t pick up on the smokiness and citrus).

King of SiberiaKing of Siberia

Russian varieties do very well in our cooler-summer climate. This is one of the best varieties according to Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seed company. It has a sweet, balanced, creamy flesh with few seeds.


Orange strawberryOrange Strawberry

Their flavor is “robust, complex and surprisingly tart for an orange variety.” They are meaty with few seeds and have one of the most perfect heart shapes of any tomato variety. The meaty flesh makes it a great sauce variety.


RiesentraubeTomato Riesentraube

The name means “giant bunch of grapes” in German. Massive yields of 1oz fruits. It’s said to be the most popular small tomato among seed collectors, as many enjoy the rich, full flavor most cherry varieties are missing.


San Marzano Heirloom Variety

A great sauce tomato with meaty flesh and few seeds. Heavy yields. A common heirloom tomato.


Tender Gem ZucchiniSummer squash: tender gem

50 days. Easy to pick, almost spineless. Huge yield and performs well under stressful conditions.




Golden ZucchiniSummer squash: golden zucchini

Golden zucchini that grow 7-8 inches and set all summer long.





Mammoth SunflowerMammoth Sunflower

I’ve grown these before and they are huge (about 10 feet tall). The heads are about 10 inches across and produce great seeds for eating (if the birds don’t get them first!)


Ms. Mars sunflowerMs. Mars sunflower

Dark red to lavender petals. Grows 20-30 inches tall and blooms in summer.





Skyscraper sunflowerSkyscraper sunflower

They grow up to 12 feet tall with a bunch of flowers per stalk. Each flower is about 14 inches across.




Evening SunEvening Sun Sunflower

These have a mahogany color, a great fall-colored sunflower. Up to 6 feet tall.




Tall Orange SunTall Orange Sun Sunflower

Is this not the most adorable sunflower ever? Grows 5-6 feet tall.

Blue-eye daisiesBlue-eyed daisies

A mix of lavender, pink and white daisies with blue centers. Grow 12-18 inches tall.






I have a lot of herb seeds. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll make sure to grow some extras.

  • Basil
  • Stevia
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro


Compost Soil Test Results


Hey everyone, I got the compost tested so we knew what kind of nutrients it had and could plan out any adjustments that might be needed. When reading labels on products, most have instructions on what to do for 100 square feet. Our large plots are 20 x 6 feet, so 120 square feet.

I calculated all suggested amounts below assuming that your plot is 1/3 of the new compost and 2/3 of original soil.

pH could to be lowered a bit (more acidic)

The pH of the compost tested at 8.9. Tomatoes (and other veggies) ideal range is between 6.3 and 7.1. The soil regularly found in our plots tested at 6.7, so that is spot on. When mixed together that’s about 7.4. If you added a lot of compost, you might want to apply 6 lbs of sulfur (at 30% concentration) to your plot.  I used 1 bag of this product, which is in stock at the San Carlos Home Depot. It’s also available at Amazon. Note that 6 lbs should lower your pH by about 0.5 points, which is just perfect. See product directions here.

Add a little Calcium and Nitrogen

The Calcium and Nitrogen tested well. However, the Potassium is very high (see next section), so the soil test results suggest adding Calcium and Nitrogen to even out the ratio. Adding about 2 lbs of Calcium (gypsum) and 1-2 lbs of Nitrogen (14-0-0) should be sufficient.

Calcium: I bought a 40 lb bag of gypsum at Home Depot for $6 (it was all they had). It’s in the new ‘tool chest’ that showed up over winter. The combo for the lock is the same as the gates. Please use it, because I sure don’t need all 40 lbs!

Nitrogen: I used a bag of Blood Meal from Home Depot that was 12-0-0 NPK. (see the section below, you do NOT want a fertilizer with Potassium (K)).

Potassium is very high, do not fertilize with ANY Potassium this year

The potassium in the compost is about 5x higher than normal. So if you use any fertilizer, make sure there is no Potassium in it. Remember that the K in NPK stands for Potassium. So a 10-10-10 fertilizer for example has potassium.

When Potassium is high, it can inhibit the uptake of other nutrients, which is why the soil testing facility advised increasing the levels of Calcium and Nitrogen just a little to even out the ratios.

Garden Fundraiser:

I’d like to raise money for garden uses (and cover some of the costs I have made when buying extra shovels, etc). I’m raising a bunch of really fun organic heirloom tomato seedlings right now. If you’re interested in the seedlings either leave a comment or send me an email. I’d love it if you bought them from me instead of Home Depot (I’ll offer them for the same price as Home Depot). This way, the money goes back into the garden! Let me know how the following:

  • Number of tomato plants (so I can ballpark how many seedlings to keep around)
  • What kind (cherry, beefsteak, sauce tomatoes, etc)
  • If you’d like Herbs, summer squash, or anything else. I have a lot of seedlings, just let me know.

Lastly, if you shop on Amazon, please click this link first. I set up an affiliate account so we can collect a small percentage of sales to put back into the garden :) $1 here and $1 there helps, and costs none of us extra money!