The goal of this blog is to educate, encourage and entertain fellow Urban Gardeners; your comments and suggestion are encouraged to make this blog a better place to visit.

Our focus is Heirloom Tomatoes and Urban Chickens, but we will also add posts on other fruits, vegetables and gardening ideas as we see relevant.

All of the photographs are my own photography, and can be used; please give me a photo credit. You can also purchase full-sized images.

To see what I really do for a living when I am not in my garden visit my business website and blog


"The wise one"


I have been growing much of my own 100% organic, fresh food in my Brisbane CA (a few miles south of San Francisco) garden for almost 10 years now – This is the summer of 2009 and we have 31 different Heirloom Tomato plants that we are going to be reviewing (that means munching) and then sharing the information. Much of your success with Tomatoes will definitely depend on the weather.

We have three truly free-ranging hens, Hewey, Louie and Dewey - "the three wise hens" who do lots of their own gardening as well as supply us with eggs and organic garden fertilizer. They are also wonderful weeders. Their antics will entertain you in the following pages.

Also in our Urban Garden we grow apricots, peaches, five varieties of apples, Asian pears, figs, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, pepino melons, lemons, limes, oranges, cherries, grapes, tunas (prickly pears), passionfruit, onions, beans, English peas, cucumber, tomatillos, kale, arugula, a variety of peppers and potatoes.

Our herb collection includes:- parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, Italian and Greek oregano, three different varieties of basil, lemon balm, bee balm, lemon verbena, orange mint, peppermint and spearmint.

Monday, August 9, 2010

SUMMER 2010 Tomatoes in a Bay Area Garden

Well here we are in August of 2010 and I must say that this has been a mainly miserable Summer so far in the Bay Area if you are a tomato grower/lover..After the shaky start to last's years growing season, I thought I had it all figured out and started my seeds late and did not bed plant a single tomato until the first week of June.

That seemed fine and I had wind breaks on all 36 plants, which started to thrive...Then WHAM! the coldest July on record in the Bay Area for the last 30 years, couple that with high winds and fog for thirty straight days and most gardeners are weeping at the horrible outcome of their beloved tomato plants.

Not to be deterred, I have withheld water, covered plants in most danger of 50degree evening temperatures and scathing winds and still have my hopes relatively high that we will still have a bounty to share with friends.

So, as for any tips that I have - HUH! the jury is out in this whacky climate, but I will say that the plants that seem to be doing the best are in a place close to a retaining wall that reatins a lot (OK Modicum) of heat and is relatively protected from these fierce winds which usually blow in May - climate change...Only nutty people would believe that this is a natural phenomenon.

Thus far - August  9th, we have picked only 5 tomatoes from the Russian Black tomato which was a gift and not seed started - still yummy, oh so yummy.. So even though we may have to wait until July next year to plant, I feel confidant that unless the weather worsens in August, we will be enjoying fine Heirloom tomatoes this year until December.

Here are the tomatoes that we planted and grew from seed this year - All are listed in previous posts with links to their heritage...My favorite is still the Super Snow White, a ping pong ball sized white tomato with a powerhouse of Super Sweetness that lasts and lasts.

Armenian, Aunt Rubies German Green, Aussie Heirloom, Big White Pink Stripe, Brandywine, Bulls Heart, Carbon, Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red, Corne De Bouc, Gary Ibsen's Gold, Great White, Italian Tree, Japanese Black Trifele (another Karen Favorite), Mandarin Cross, Marmande, New Zealand Pink Pear, Rutgers Improved, Super Snow White, Sweet Orange Roma, Sweetie, Wapsipicon Peach (fuzzy tomatoes very cool looking), and Yellowstone

Monday, September 7, 2009


Companion planting is the practice of combining plants in ways that produce extra benefits for one or both. It is an aspect of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and one of the keys to successfully growing vegetables and herbs organically. There are 5 main reasons companion planting is used. They are:

Trap Cropping
- Examples are planting nasturtium or collards with cabbage and broccoli. Aphids are attracted to the nasturtium or collard more than the cabbage.
Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation - Legumes can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen thus improve the fertility of the soil. Examples are using cover crops of clover, alfalfa or vetch in an orchard or planting beans and corn together.
Biochemical Pest Suppression - The companion plant releases a chemical that mimics a fright or scatter hormone of an unwanted pest thus repelling it. At the same time, that chemical attracts beneficial insects. An example is the Marigold, which repels aphids but attracts Hover flies whose larvae feed on aphids.
Physical/Spatial Interactions - Planting in levels to produce more food in less space.
Beneficial Habitats - Provide food plants for beneficial insects such as ladybugs, ichneumon wasps and hover flies by interplanting or using borders and backdrops.

The 3 Sisters planting in a Native American garden is a perfect example of companion planting. Corn, beans and squash are all interplanted. The beans use the corn stalks for support and shade the young ears from burning. The nitrogen fixed by the beans provides additional nutrition for the corn. The squash at the feet of the corn and beans receives the benefit of shaded soil so its roots stay cooler and moister and the beans repel squash vine borers. The squash, being a somewhat prickly vine, keeps varmints away from the ripening corn and beans!


A good host for predatory wasps - also repels aphids. Deters pests from brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, etc) by camouflaging their odor.

Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavor. Repels flies and mosquitoes.
All beans enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen. They are good for planting with all vegetables EXCEPT for Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks). Summer savory repels bean leaf beetles and will improve the beans flavor.

Lures bees and Hummingbirds to the garden for better pollination. Improves the growth and flavor of tomatoes.

Good for adding minerals to the soil. Good companions are lettuce, onions and Brassicas. DO NOT plant with beans, as they will stunt each other’s growth.

Good to plant with tomatoes, squash and strawberries. It will deter

hornworm and cabbage looper. Adds trace minerals to the soil and attracts bees and ichneumon wasps. Borage will benefit almost any plant it is growing near by increasing its resistance to disease and pests.

Good for loosening compacted soil so it benefits all shallow rooted crops. Attracts beneficial insects.

This one deters flea beetles, aphids, squash bugs, ants and weevils. It will also repel mice!

Improves the flavor of cabbages, onions and cucumbers. It accumulates calcium, sulphur and potassium, returning them later to the soil. It is a host for hoverflies and good wasps. Increases the production of essential oils in herbs.

Improves the flavor and growth of radishes. Keeps aphids off lettuce and is said to deter snails.

Improves growth and flavor of carrots & tomatoes. Keeps aphids away from mums and sunflowers. When planted by roses it helps prevent black spot.

Deters and kills root nematodes.

Accumulates calcium, phosphorous and potassium. A good trap plant for slugs.

CORIANDER (Cilantro)
Repels aphids, spider mites and potato beetle. A tea made from it is a good spray for spider mite.

Works well with sunflowers, carrots, peas and beets. Planting dill nearby attracts beneficials. Nasturtiums will improve growth and flavor. Keep sage away!

Repel nematodes

mproves the growth and health of cabbage and lettuce. Plant by tomatoes to trap the tomato hornworm. Attracts many beneficials. Do not plant by caraway or carrots!
A decoction of the leaves is an effective spray for aphid and cucumber and diabroitica beetle. Repellent to moles.

Plant by roses to repel aphids. Deters cabbage loopers, codling moth and peach borers.

Repels Cabbage worms, corn ear worm and leafhoppers. Plant by grapes roses, corn and cabbage.

Highly attractive to bees but do not plant near radishes.

Deters many bugs, especially mosquitoes and squash bugs

Improves the growth and flavor of most plants. Encourages beneficial, predatory ground beetles.

Discourages beetles, whiteflies and nematodes. Acts as a trap plant for spider mites and slugs. Do not plant them by cabbage or beans.

Improves the growth and flavor of all vegetables.

Deters cabbage moth, ants, rodents, aphids and fleas. Attracts hoverflies and

predatory wasps. Attractive to earthworms.
Plant as a barrier trap around tomatoes, radishes, cabbage, cucumbers and fruit trees. Deters whiteflies and squash bugs. Good trap crop for black aphid.

Plant with carrots, leeks, beets, lettuce, Brassicas and strawberries. Improves other plants disease resistance. DO NOT plant with peas.

Root exudates prevent root rot and Fusarium diseases of eggplants, tomatoes, swiss chard, squash and cucumbers.

Plant with cabbage, carrots, beans and sage. Deters cabbage looper and bean beetles.
Beneficial to plants throughout the garden as is Thyme.

You may plant this everywhere in the garden, it is beneficial to most plants and does not interfere with other growing vegetables.
Increases the production of other herbs essential oils. Attracts beneficial insects.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Apart from my opening statement, I do hope that this post makes you laugh a little, or a lot.

So what do you do when you are truly fed up supporting Corporate Agri-Business. People who could care less about the welfare of any of the animals they farm: And are only interested in generating huge profits, regardless of the cruelty they inflict upon any of the farm animals they keep. Then I would like to mention the low grade products filled with antibiotics and/or stress hormones that they then send to market for all of us to consume?

For me, I had to either give up eating eggs altogether, which are one of my favorite foods, or tend to my own cluck, in a stress free, happy and truly free range environment. I chose the latter. It has paid off and now I have wonderful orange-yolk eggs, that I consider gifts, that taste absolutely wonderful. They are higher in nutrition and much lower in cholesterol than most store bought eggs.

Now, for all of you wannabe Urban Chicken Ranchers, please think long and hard before you take on "this" responsibility. Chickens are intelligent, happy and funny little critters that need a lot of your attention and protection. I do not condone keeping chickens locked up during daylight hours. If you cannot provide them with a protected yard to frolic in all day, and then a very secure "bunker" at nigh, then please do not keep them at all. They need someone to let them out every morning after sunrise and most definitely need to be on serious lock-down at sunset - EVERY DAY! - of their potential ten years of their life.

We chose Rhode Island Red chickens for several reasons, the first being that they are less visible to predators and are large birds. The second being that they are a fairly well-bred old fashioned bird, without the skittish eccentricities and aggressive or super shy behavior of some of the cross-breeds. All-in-all, I would highly recommend this breed of bird. They are very friendly to humans, when socialized.

Unfortunately, there is still a pecking order and they can be real butt-heads to each other. Sometimes this can be fatal, so do be forewarned. Our girls are sometimes "narky" with each other, but normally pretty together.

DISCIPLINING YOUR CHICKENS (sort of like kids and puppies:)
I have had to intervene as mother hen and put them in their place. Sounds weird, but if you have a relationship with a chicken you can do this simply by putting your hand over their back, saying no and gently pushing them to the ground for a second or two. Not hard as their skeletal system is fairly fragile. They get the message and make a little squawk of protest, but it usually does the trick.

Here are some links to Chicken Houses (coops)
http://www.freechickencoopplans.com/ this link will link you to many other sites
Your Urban Chickens will need a very secure, safe, warm and dry place to sleep at night as the city is full of night time predators - Raccoons love chicken!
One more time, Raccoons love chicken! And if you do decide to raise chickens from hatch-lings and you are an animal lover at heart, they will bond with your entire family and become beloved pets that will follow you around the garden and joyfully enter your home at any open door
and shake all of the dirt off their bodies after a sunny afternoon dirt-bath. Not only that, if you have an outdoor patio and enjoy having breakfast or lunch on the patio, they will gleefully jump on your lap and eat your breakfast.

Our chickens are fed all manner of table scraps and are especially fond of fresh corn,
on the cob of course rice, sunflower seeds, purple cabbage, lettuce, peas, millet and grapes are their favorites. They also love small parakeet food, but they really are hounds at heart and if you have altruistic ideas about them being vegetarians - forget it. They are "bug" hunters; they especially love spiders!

Chickens need a well balanced diet, high in calcium for egg laying girls. We feed them back their egg shells, washed and dried thoroughly before grinding to prevent salmonella.

There are some excellent organic commercial products that you can buy. We enjoy the trip to the Half Moon Bay feed store where they have organic vegetarian laying crumble. But mostly, I make my own feed from organic human grade grains from Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.

All breeds of chickens need twice as much water as they do food. So do be sure to place several water bowls around for them to drink. Apparently they forget to drink unless water is within sight.

So come and meet my girls; Hewey, Louie and Dewey, the Three Wise Hens:- Their antics are very amusing and as you can see, they get along just fine with their dogs, Loki (black) and Sydney (red), who have raised and protected them.

Let us all put a friendly face on all animals in the name of "Cruelty Free".

Saturday, September 5, 2009


YELLOW STONE – (D) - Catalog #19
Leaf Type - Regular
Prolific plant yielding 3-inch (12 oz.) round, orange-yellow fruit with red blush on end and mild, luscious, fruity taste.
This plant was another affected by the strong winds and very odd weather in June and July 2009. Many of the blossoms were killed by the cold and we have only about ten tomatoes on the entire plant. They are very mild in flavor, but very pretty on a platter with other tomatoes. The first tomato, shown below was indeed a mutant. What causes this, we do not know, but my suspicion is once again, the weather wildly swinging temperatures and lots of wind.


WAPSIPINICON PEACH – (I) - Catalog #19

Leaf Type - Regular
Time to Maturity - 80 days

From Dennis Schlicht. A Gary Ibsen 'personal favorite.' They won't be able to keep from smiling after tasting this! 80 days.


This tomato is very unusual. The flavors are truly wonderful. Named after the Wapsipinicon River in Northeast Iowa. Similar to Peche Jaune. This tomato is an indeterminate, regular-leaf wispy, plant that yield a huge number of of 1 1/2 to 2-inch, delicate, fuzzy-like-a-peach, pale-yellow , juicy, tomatoes with wonderful, slightly-spicy, very fruity-sweet flavors. Harvest is good all the way to frost. A novelty tomato that is s delicious that you will eating it right off the vine.

As of September 5, 2009 this plant has survived the weather, as an indeterminate plant, it has fared much better than many of the determinate plants, that set all of their blossoms/fruit at the same time. Even though this one looked quite bedraggled, it is staging a rather stunning comeback - YUM!