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Monday, April 28, 2008

Free Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer

Photo of Edamame Plant Trailing Up a Young Avocado Tree

Get free organic Nitrogen fertilizer and help our earth at the same time.

Instead of buying commercial Nitrogen fertilizers, first try planting a few legumes in your plant beds or container garden. Legumes have the ability to naturally convert atmospheric nitrogen (nitrogen dioxide) into nitrate, an organic form of nitrogen that plants can use. Peas, beans, clover, lentils, peanuts and alfalfa are a few examples of legumes.

By using legumes to fix nitrogen in our soil we are also helping out our planet. Nitrogen dioxide is a pollutant. It is a major component of smog, and can irritate the lungs, lower resistance to respiratory infection, and increase sensitivity for people with asthma and bronchitis. Some of the major contributors to nitrogen dioxide are automobiles and electric power plants. Additionally, home heaters and gas stoves can also emit nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen oxides also help form acid rain, which eventually runoff into our sewers and water channels. These increased levels of nitrogen in our bodies of water lead to explosive algae growth. This is problematic because algae competes with natural grasses in the water beds. Furthermore, algae overgrowth depletes oxygen supply that oysters, clams and other marine life rely on for survival.

In My Garden:
This is my first year planting legumes with my other plants. I chose to use edamame plants (a.k.a. "soy bean" plants) because edamame beans are tasty and they have some unique properties. For example, edamame beans "contain all of the amino acids needed to make a complete protein, just like meat" (Mayo Clinic). Edamame beans "also contain isoflavones, a plant-based compound that may reduce the risk of some types of cancer" (Mayo Clinic).
I planted an edamame plant in the same container as my avocado tree. The avocado seems to like the edamame's company. My avocado plant now has several new baby leaves. I cannot be sure it is because of the edamame's presence, but I can confidently say that my tree is performing better than last year, and that the edamame's presence is at least not harming my avocado plant.

Photo of Edamame Plant Trailing Up a Young Avocado Plant

Neat Fact:
Early Native Americans have used companion planting methods to grow corn, beans and squash. The Iroquois referred to these crops as "The Three Sisters," and considered them to be special gifts from the Great Spirit (Dodson). To read more about the Legend of the Three Sisters click here.
The corn serves as a support structure for the beans.
The beans provide "nutrients" to the other plants.
The squash acts as mulch and preserves moisture in the soil. Its prickly vines also deters raccoons from ravaging the corn (Dodson).


Dodson, Mardi. "Companion Planting: Basic Concepts & Resources-Ancient Companions." National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. available at (last visited Apr. 28, 2008).

Fahrenthold, David. "EPA Told to Set Timeline for Cutting Nitrogen Pollution," Washington Post. 26 Mar. 2008: B02. available at (last visited Apr. 27, 2008).

Mayo Clinic. "Legumes: Using Beans, Peas and Lentils Instead of Meat." CNN.17 Jun. 2005. available at (last visited Apr. 28, 2008).

"Nitrogen Dioxide. " Clean Air Trust. available at (last visited Apr. 27, 2008).

"Nitrogen Cycle," Soil Food Web, Inc. available at (last visited Apr. 27, 2008).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

African Daisy (Venidium Jaffa Ice)

Photo of African Daisy (Venidium Jaffa Ice): First Bloom

My first African Daisy (Venidium Jaffa Ice) bloom of the season! I planted a few venidium jaffa ice seeds in my succulent container to make the container appear fuller. The venidium jaffa ice foliage is "hairy" and has a frosted pale green tint. The seedlings resemble a hairy succulent until it shoots out its miniature sunflower-like blooms. My African Daisy is about 17-inches tall and has blooms that are about 2-inches wide across, but the seed packet says the plant can reach heights of up to 24-inches and have blooms as large as 4-inches wide across.

This African Daisy is an annual. I love annuals because they grow quickly and usually work well in containers. Although they only last one season, I can easily start them from seeds the following year.

Photo of White African Daisy (Venidium Jaffa Ice)

View of African Daisy's Double Row of Petals

Friday, April 25, 2008

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Events

Public Plant Sale:
Saturday, April 26th, 2008 (10 a.m. - 2 p.m.)
UC Berkeley's Botanical Garden is having a Public Sale Saturday April 26th, 2008, 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

Free Plant Clinic:
Saturday, May 3rd (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Free plant clinic.
Find out which diseases ail your plants. Entomologists are also available to identify the pests that are living in your plants too! Please bring cover plants and disease samples in containers or bags before entering the Garden.

Native Plant Sale:
Saturday, May 3rd - Sunday, May 4th
On the weekend of May 3rd and 4th in cooperation with the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour ( UC Botanical Gardens will also release a special selection of native plants for their native plant sale extravaganza. Their native plant propagators and California area horticulturist Ken Bates will be on hand to answer questions.

Bug Exhibit:
Tuesday, April 1, 2008 - Thursday, May 15, 2008 (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Walk through the Garden to see a variety of original sculptures by local artist Patrick E, including antlion larvae, a dragonfly, the golden orb weaver spider Argiope and a scattering of ladybugs along with a special new giant insectivorous insect member of the Garden.
The Bug Exhibit is free with Garden Admission.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Propagating Succulents is Easy

Photo of Mature Black Aeonium and its new babies

My mature black aeonium sprouted baby aeoniums, and it's time for me to find these babies a new home. Propagating succulents is easy. I used a sharp pair of shears to cut the baby succulents from the mother plant. Then I removed the leaves from the base of the stem to expose about 2-inches of the stem.

Photo of Black Aeonium Cuttings

Then I dipped the tips of the stems in some inexpensive rooting hormone, and stuck the cuttings in the ground. I'm giving the succulent cuttings a good watering once every morning. So far everything looks good. I'll give you an update in a month or two.

Note: I have successfully propagated some succulents like jade and christmas cactus by skipping the rooting hormone and just sticking the cuttings in the ground. I chose to use the rooting hormone with the black aeoniums because I'm not sure how hardy black aeoniums are.

Photo of planted Black Aeonium cuttings

I tried this method with an aloe cutting I took a while ago. As you can see in the photo above, the aloe cutting has developed a beautiful root system.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

German Chamomile

German Chamomile Seedlings as of 02-24-2008

Common Name: German Chamomile
Latin Name: matricaria recutita
I started some German Chamomile seeds indoors in Dixie cups in January. I planted about 5 seedlings in a 6” standard flower pot. All but one of them are growing at a steady, decent rate. I’m going to pull the center plant out and give it away to one of my friends. The plants are about 4-inches tall now, but should grow up to 2-feet tall.
As soon as the chamomile plant matures, I’m going to harvest the flowers and make my own tea. I’ve heard that chamomile tea can calm the nerves, help you put you to sleep, and ease stomach pains, but I was surprised to learn that drinking hot chamomile tea can also help stop allergies.
If you’d like to make your own chamomile tea, make sure you choose German Chamomile (an annual plant) and not Roman Chamomile (a perennial plant) because Roman Chamomile can produce allergic skin reactions in a few rare instances. Pick the chamomile flowers when they are in full bloom. Gently rinse the flowers (without bruising them), and then allow them to dry in a cool, dark place. Store the dried flowers in an air tight container, in a cool, dark place until you are ready to use them. When you are ready to drink some tea, boil a cup of water. Place about 1 teaspoon of crushed chamomile flowers in a tea ball strainer and steep it in the water for 5 to 10 minutes before drinking your tea.
Chamomile has antianxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antispasmodic properties. It also contains natural blood thinners. The chemicals in chamomile is similar to a prescription drug warfarin (Coumadin). So if you are taking warfarin you should avoid drinking chamomile tea.  If you are presently taking any medication, you should consult your doctor to rule out any potentially dangerous reactions to using the herb in question. 

Source: Balch, Phyliss. Prescription for Herbal Healing, New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2002.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tomato Seedling Sale Tomorrow (Saturday, April 12)

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to remind those of you in the area that
Bountiful Garden is having their tomato seedling sale tomorrow!

Saturday, April 12th, 2008 starting at 8:00 a.m
at 21901 Columbus Avenue, Cupertino, CA.
  • All plants come in large one-gallon pots. They have a great selection of heirloom tomatoes. Click here to see what kinds of tomatoes they have.
  • 100% Organic, no pesticides, herbicide, fungicides.
  • Each plant is $5.00, and that money will go directly to disaster relief! "[E]very penny of the money that is given to [them] by people at [their] vegetable stands goes directly to disaster relief. This means that all of the costs in operating the organization must come from other forms of fund raising (tomato seedling sales, donations, sponsors)." To learn more about Bountiful Garden, click here.