Friday, October 26, 2007

October Gardening Notes

October is a good time to plant bulbs, both in your garden and in pots. If planting bulbs in clay soil you should work bone meal, top soil and hardwood mulch into the soil. Do not plant your daffodil bulbs until after the first hard frost. After the second hard frost, plant tulip bulbs. Follow with muscari and crocus bulbs.

For indoor pleasure, force daffodil, tulip, crocus, and hyacinth bulbs. Place your potted bulbs in a dark and cool location until green life appears. Then move to a sunny location where you can enjoy the blooms during the winter gloom. After blooming, let the bulbs dry; then store in a cool dark place. Plant these bulbs in your garden the following fall. Except for paper whites, which apparently do not re-bloom. Do you know how to get paper whites to re-bloom?

October is the time to winterize your roses by applying potassium. Stop deadheading your roses so rose hips can form. The rose hips signal to the roses that this is the time to go dormant. Give the roses a final deep water then mulch to protect their soil from freezing. When the tree leaves start to show color begin to transplant and plant roses, shrubs and trees.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Steven Foster, herbalist

Last May I attended a travel writing conference in Arkansas. Many months later I found a misplaced memory card with my interview of Steven Foster on his new book, “Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine” which is published by National Geographic. I had talked with him 12 years ago when I was harvesting ginkgo leaves for an herb company. Steven, who specializes in medicinal and aromatic plants, has become world renowned as an herbalist, lecturer, international consultant and botanical photographer. His website at is full of information on herbs and his international projects.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today is Blog Action Day and this year bloggers are asked to write on the environment. A month ago I registered to participate. I was the 548,000 blog to sign in.

At the moment I’m in my favorite place Marin County, CA. near Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. Only 20 minutes or more north of San Francisco this is a serene location in which to learn how to become a better environmentalist. The flower, fruit and vegetables gardens are brimming with beauty.

On Tues. mornings one can volunteer to work in the garden. At 9 am last Tues. I met the head gardener, Astrid, and two other volunteers. Jessie is a high school student here for the morning as part of her independent study. Sarah volunteers often at the Center.

Our first activity was to spread straw mulch on a freshly weeded flower bed. We carefully placed straw (about two inches thick cover) around the flowers covering the bare ground. We used boards which we laid down on the beds to reach the center of the beds. This was to distribute our weight so as not to compact the soil. We compressed the straw with our hands to push out the air; so a strong breeze wouldn’t blow our work away.

Next we were directed to an area of the bed which needed to be weeded. Weeding is my favorite garden activity. I chose a large patch of scented Bloody Cranesbill Geraniums. Easy to zone out on the thick perfume, red tinted leaves, and blue flowers of this plant. ( I took a seed pod to germinate at home.) We used a knife-like tool to get deep at the roots of tall grasses which were popping up through the geraniums.

Around 10:30 we headed into the dining room for a mid-morn snack of fresh bread, muffins, fruit, tea and coffee. Rather than returning directly to the gardens we help peel and chop quinces which will be made into a paste. After an hour we returned to the gardens to deposit our weeds on the correct compost piles (we used white buckets for compostable weeds and black for invasive) and to return our gardening tools and wheel barrels to the garden shed.

Then we joined the rest of the members of the Center for a delicious lunch. The breads freshly baked in the kitchen, large salad of argula, flowers, and melon from the garden, four different soups (a thick puree of spinach and chard topped with fresh cheese shaving; tomato & lime; miso; and beet).

The San Francisco Zen Center which includes Green Gulch, Tassajarra, City Center and Greens Restaurant (vegetarian food) states that “As an expression of our Zen practice, it has always been important for us to pay close attention to our impact on the environment”. There is their organic farm and gardens at Green Gulch, where they are restoring a creek; the solar panels at each center; and programs and lectures on the environment.

For directions and more info on Green Gulch Farm Zen Center see website at or call 415-383-3134.