December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays From The Johnsons

Happy Holidays from the Johnsons:


The back of the card:

Published by Sudeep Johnson
Doggie Paw Cards, Inc.
Many thanks to Paddington the little white dog, without whom there would be no card.

Here is last year's: Holiday Card From The Johnsons

August 5, 2011

Paving Paradise Again?

I just found the article in the SF Chronicle about San Mateo College voting 'for' paving over a lovely garden area to make another parking lot. As if they don't have enough parking lots! Grr I'm mad!

If we take all the paving over of land to it's logical conclusion, where does it leave us except in a concrete hell with no way for rain to resupply the aquifers, no peace in the enjoyment of nature, no oxygen! Gah!

Find the article at:

November 3, 2010

Recycling Mystery

This is a blog - so I can rant - right?

Well here is my recycle rant.

I have always been an avid recycler, carefully separating all the chosen items into their respective bins. Paper with paper and sometimes some cardboard, crushing down soy milk cartons to the smallest possible shape, crushing cans to take up less space and even separating plastics and cans under the belief that this would make it easier for the sorter. Well I guess I was completely wrong! Last week we had delivered to the entire neighborhood some spiffy looking large plastic bins. One for compost, one for trash and one for "all the other stuff." It's the "all the other stuff" category that has me perplexed!

Throwing cans, bottles, other plastics and paper all into the same bin is like sacrilege upon the altar of my fervent belief system. How can this be easier for the sorter at the other end? It goes against all common sense.

The recycle bin also has a notice on the front saying that it is illegal to riffle through and take cans and bottles. I used to HELP the can and bottle rifflers - and believe me there are plenty in this neighborhood - by separating the things with a return on them from the other stuff. Every other Monday night before the recycle truck comes on Tuesday morning, I would hear someone going through the bottles and cans. In my book, if you are that poor - you are absolutely welcome to the scant amount you may get from returning some bags of cans or bottles - in fact I salute your endeavor. Surely these are my cast offs to do with as I please? And if I choose to give them to someone by leaving them outside on the street then surely it is my gift to those in desperate need. Anything that is left over, the City is welcome to pick up and try making money out of it. Why is it "illegal" to do a bit of honest scavenging?

The people who come at night to pick through the cans are not drunks or drug addicts. They are ordinary people who are having a hard time making ends meet - so I'm incensed at the big "illegal" sign.

If by putting all the recyclables together in one pot it encourages more people to recycle, then I guess in the long run it is a better system. But are people going to be put out of work because a new machine is going to take over the sorting? I'm not sure I go along with that part of it.

It is a perplexing new system.

December 1, 2009

Colonial Gardens Make Good Sense

On a recent trip to Williamsburgh, Virginia, I took a guided tour around the Colonial gardens. The tour was very interesting and the guides were informative and knew their stuff.

Interestingly, the main vegetable garden was laid out in - wait for it - raised beds! And we thought this was a recent improvement on traditional gardening! Below is a photo of the raised bed area.


I was struck not only by the good sense of the garden lay out but also by the neat orderliness of the situation.

Back then, the woman of the household was the one who tended the veggies, and the only way she could water the garden was by pulling up buckets of water from the well house. I 'm glad we have improved upon that particular situation.

Each house was allotted half and acre which was split into 3 main areas; the area around the house with the well and a small orchard of fruit trees; the garden area for veggies herbs and flowers; and the furthest area from the house which was used as a paddock for any livestock held by the family. This was the model for the average, poor - not quite so poor household and gave the family enough room to chop wood, grow some fruit and supplement their diet with healthy vegetables which they may not otherwise have been able to afford. The garden also produced herbs which were used in the kitchen as well as medicinally. The whole layout made perfect sense to me as a model that addressed the needs of the population.

Just think how it would be if each modern household had this much land around their house to be used in this same fashion. By products would be less crowding, better air and fewer cars parked in the road.


Above shows the foreground house 'yard', the garden beyond and furthest is the paddock for livestock.

This is where the whole idyllic picture went sour for me as I learned that the richer folks, who also had the same allotment of space, did not grow vegetables but had ornamental gardens, often laid out like English formal gardens with small hedges and flower beds, and did this to flaunt the fact that they could afford to buy veggies and could hire slaves to tend the flowers!

It occurs to me that people in the US seem to be living as if they are all rich - like the folks back in Williamsburgh. In my neighborhood, it is the norm to have no veggie garden but the front yard laid out to create 'curb appeal' or some such other real estate jargon. Most new houses these days are built with a huge house taking up all the available yard area except for a small border of flowers or shrubs. And what about the folks who inhabit apartments? No room any where for any kind of self sufficiency there at all.

When did we get away from the sensible way of having a small building to live in and a large yard to grow food in? How can we all live like the wealthy? Is this a sustainable model? I think not, but it has become the model of the American dream. No wonder we are in such dire straights.

September 16, 2009

The Little Squash Plant That Could

I get asked a lot why I like to work in the garden. Fresh organic produce can be bought at local health food supermarkets, fruit stands and of course the local farmers market. But eating healthy food straight out of the garden is only one of the perks that come with gardening. This morning I happened to see a yellow crookneck squash that I had planted back in May, from a plant that I bought from a nursery. So the life span of this squash plant is very close to over. In human years it is an octogenarian at the least!

This particular plant had already almost out produced every other squash in the garden, and back in August I had cut off all the brown and dead looking leaves - as I find them unattractive - so now it has a long bare stem of about 18", and is happily producing more baby crook necks, and new, green leaf growth, looking like a small fountain of green and yellow at the end of a snake.

New, green leaf growth looking like a small fountain of green and yellow at the end of a snake.

This little squash plant reminded me of why I garden. Not just for the wonderful healthy vegetables, but for all the many rewards that come after a little time in the yard. There is exercise from digging, walking, pulling etc that adds to the daily exercise quota; the energy from inspiration, when you have an idea about a new bed or discover a new plant; the spiritual feeling of oneness with nature; the observation of living creatures that have homes out there in the 'outside' of your house; and the meditation of silence. The garden keeps on giving in every season - just like the "Little Squash That Could".

July 28, 2009

Armenian Yard Long Cucumber Taste Test

Have you tried growing this variety of cuke? One of the attractions of this particular variety is the boasting value. They really do grow very large, very quickly. I will show you in pictures what to expect if you decide to grow one of these behemoths in your vegetable garden.

All of a sudden, a huge green amazing looking fruit appears amidst an otherwise ordinary looking amount of foliage.


In mid July it seemed the growth had slowed up, so unable to resist any longer, and seeing the beginnings of other huge fruits, I harvested and brought it to the cutting board. You can see how big this baby was.


The first cut. Let's see what the inside is like.


Hmmm... lots of seeds.


I'm not too keen on eating lots of seeds, so I decided to scoop them out.


Then I cut the flesh into chunks as slices were no longer an option. Even after taking the seeds out there is still more cucumber to eat than you would ever think possible.


The flavor is milder than some of my other varieties of cukes, which in itself is not a bad thing. However I'm not keen on the feel of the flesh which I would compare to that of a melon. So, would I grow this variety again? Actually, after living with the cut cukes in my refrigerator, I realize I am not too attracted to them after all. I think they have novelty value and could get kids interested in growing vegetables because they are so much fun, but when it comes to eating, give me good old burpless or victory any day.

I guess size isn't everything.

July 21, 2009

One Loss for the Environment

Just recently I had to move. It came as a bit of a surprise, so in my scramble to find a place, get everything packed and all the rest of the annoying things associated with moving, I decided to leave some garden items behind.

I left the new owner a lovely butterfly bush that attracted not only butterflies but hummingbirds too, a pineapple sage with beautiful red flowers as well as some other fragrant flowering herbs. I also left a patch of well tended ground complete with compost all ready for the summer season's plantings.

I loved my little patch of land. I turned it from a bare piece of dirt when I moved in, to a little piece of paradise full of butterflies, hummingbirds, mourning doves and robins. The bedroom and bathroom windows looked out onto this view and each time I looked out the window I felt happy. Along with all the plants I added during my tenancy there, were a couple of old peach trees that still bore fabulous fruits.

Below is a photo of the yard when we arrived.


And now two photos of the yard soon before we left.



I know that not everyone is a gardener - although secretly I can't imagine why - so I was prepared to imagine this little paradise becoming over grown with some weeds and maybe the vegetable patch not being used. But nothing prepared me for the ultimate downer that I was faced with when I learned that the entire piece of land, all that was on it including the peach trees and the ornamental plants growing in the front yard, have all been bulldozed. They are gone. And what is now in their place? A very large truck!

Of course I am kicking myself for not digging up every single plant, but beyond what I see as my loss, is the overall loss for the green movement. Gardens being bulldozed and shopping malls put in their place and housing subdivisions being erected on farm land are all losses for the environment and the little creatures living there.

I sure hope all my little bird friends that lived in that garden have a safe place to go.

May 11, 2009


Just to let everyone know we are moving. That's houses, not blogs.

The new house has a lot of garden space. After the disruption we'll be posting more.

January 9, 2009

Welcome to Growing the Garden

This is a blog about gardening, with a focus on urban/suburban and community gardening.

Have you ever tasted a fresh, ripe tomato that you grew yourself?

Fresh vegetables and fruits can fill our bellies, while the beauty of flowers and shrubs can fill the soul. Towns tend to be ugly and unproductive, with grass lawns sucking up valuable water resources giving nothing back but a high utility bill.

Imagine a new urban landscape with front yards bursting with succulent tomatoes, and apples falling from the trees. Imagine acres of grass wastelands turned into productive, attractive fruit and vegetable gardens. Imagine little community gardens tucked into nooks and crannies, roofs and backyards. Imagine little walkways constructed over busy roads so that gardeners with wheel barrows have safe access to freeway cloverleaf interiors and road intersection medians. That is the world I want to live in, and this blog is to help get to that goal - one garden at a time.

If you want to contact us please send email to info -at-