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Saturday, June 20, 2015

California Month-by-Month Gardening Wins Award!

Great news to share! California Month-by-Month Gardening has received a Silver Award in the Garden Writers Association Media Awards Program! Judges said "If I lived in California I'd want this book. I'm not generally a fan of month by month guides, but this one has tons of great information and very useful, and clear, photography" and "Friendly tone. Consistent and easy-to-follow sections." Have you ordered your copy yet?

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Water-Wise Gardening 2.0

Bay Area folks: Bring your brown-bag lunch and come join me tomorrow, June 8th, at 12:30 p.m. at the Albany Public Library (1247 Marin Avenue) for a talk on "Water-Wise Gardening 2.0." With the new water restrictions in California, we need to employ every water strategy possible to keep our gardens happy and healthy. A few of the topics I'll cover include mulching, hydrozoning, lawn elimination, and keyhole gardens. Come join us!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Two-Batch Tumbling Composter

For the past few months I've been trying out a new tumbling composting system that cooks compost in two separate batches and eliminates the need for the back-straining task of turning the compost pile with a garden fork. You can read my review of this composter at Gardening Products Review, along with many other helpful reviews of a wide variety of garden products. I suppose any composting system is better than nothing, but is this worth your money? Check out the review to find out!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Are You Coming to the SF Flower & Garden Show?

The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show kicks off today and runs through Sunday. I look forward to the garden show every year and even more so this year because I'm one of the speakers. If you're coming on Thursday, be sure to stop by the Kitchen Garden Stage at 10:30 a.m. for a garden-to-table presentation on growing and preserving citrus. I'll cover the gardening info and my friend Jennifer Altman will tell you all you need to know about preserving citrus with salt and using it in recipes.

The show has lots of other great seminars lined up as well as the always-interesting display gardens. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Grow a Little Fruit Tree" by Ann Ralph

If you're looking for ways to squeeze more fruit trees into your home garden, check out the new book "Grow a Little Fruit Tree" by Ann Ralph. Ann used to work at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery and did really helpful demos on pruning there. She's taken her years of experience with fruit trees and funneled it into her new book to help gardeners see the wisdom of keeping their fruit trees small, i.e., less than 6 feet tall. Check out my review of the book at Gardening Products Review.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Magnolias in Bloom at San Francisco Botanical Garden

I've been so busy with the promotion of my new book, California Month-by-Month Gardening, that I'm afraid I let the entire month of January slip by without posting. Have you been making the most of the dry, warm weather we've been having? Have you been gardening?

I have managed to get some time in the garden, but there's still plenty to do. However, I'm hoping that in the next few weeks I'll be able to carve out some time to get to the San Francisco Botanical Garden to enjoy the magnolias in bloom. The Garden, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, has nearly 100 magnolias including 51 species and 33 cultivars. You can pick up a free Magnolia Walk map so you don't miss any of the spectacular trees, or you can go for a docent-led tour. Either way, here are some samples of what you'll see:

Magnolia campbellii. Photo by Bob Gunderson.

Magnolia doltsopa. Photo by James Gaither.

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'. Photo by Larry Beckerman.

Magnolia campbellii. Photo by Brian Fitzgerald.

Magnolia campbellii. Photo by Richard Shewmaker.

Magnolia doltsopa. Photo by James Gaither.

Magnolia dawsoniana. Photo by Saxon Holt.

Magnolia doltsopa. Photo by Travis Lange.

Magnolia stellata. Photo by Toto Hartono.

Magnolia campbellii. Photo by Tom Karlo.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Last-Minute Gift Idea for Gardeners: Early-Bird Ticket to the SF Flower & Garden Show!

If you're looking for an easy-to-purchase, totally affordable gift for a Bay Area gardener, may I suggest getting him or her a ticket to the 2015 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, running March 18 to March 22. You can get a one-day pass to the show for the early-bird price of $17.50 (regular price: $22.00). Tickets are available online or at many Bay Area nurseries.

I'm even more excited than usual about the SF Flower & Garden Show next year because I'll be speaking at the show. On March 19th I'll be doing a garden-to-table seminar about citrus with my friend, chef and culinary instructor Jennifer Altman. We'll talk about growing citrus in your home garden, preserving the fruit, and using preserved citrus in recipes. Buy your tickets now and come see us!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chatting with Farmer Fred

I had the opportunity to talk with Farmer Fred Hoffman this morning, not once but twice! First on his "Garden Show" on KFBK and then again on "Get Growing with Farmer Fred" on KSTE. We talked first about my new book, California Month-by-Month Gardening: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year, and on the second show we talked about California Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Eat the Best Edibles for California Garden.

Here's the link for the podcast of the first show. My segment starts around 22:40.

And here's the link for the podcast of the second show. My segment  here starts around 20:45.

Thanks, Fred! It was a fun chat!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Here Are the Winners of the Gardener's Supply Company Giveaway!

Hope you had fun checking out the website for Gardener's Supply Company. The lucky winners--yes, there are actually 5 winners for this giveaway!--who will each receive a set of the LED pinecone lights are: Anonymous (commenter #3), Jennifer57, bluebird23, kansas_krystal, and Katrina. I'll contact each of the winners via email to arrange for shipment of the prize.

If you're still Christmas shopping, you can get free shipping on orders over $50 at Gardener's Supply Company if you place your order by midnight tomorrow night. They have lots of items that make great last-minute gifts for gardeners and garden-lovers.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Goodreads Members: Enter to Win a Free Copy of California Month-by-Month Gardening

If you're a member of Goodreads, you can enter now to win a free copy of my new book, California Month-by-Month Gardening: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year! You have until December 29th to enter. Two copies will be given away. Don't wait--enter now!

While you're at it, you can follow my Goodreads Author page to keep up on any events I'll be speaking at or radio shows I'll be on. (Hint: The first radio show is coming up this weekend!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Welcoming a New Affiliate Sponsor and a Giveaway! Deadline Extended!

One of the cool things about having a garden blog is the opportunity to join the affiliate networks of some of the garden-related businesses that I really like. High on that list of companies is Gardener's Supply Company, a mail-order business that specializes in items for the garden as well as garden-y goodies for indoors.

I could go crazy ordering from GSC's wide range of merchandise. Want to know what's on my Christmas wish list? How about any of these canning supplies? Or a mason bee house? In another month I'm going to be wishing I had some of these great seed-starting accessories. And I'm definitely in need of a new pair of gardening gloves--the problem would be choosing which kind to get!

Click on any of the GSC ads in the sidebar at the right and have fun shopping for the garden-lovers in your life, as well as for yourself! And just to get you in the mood, GSC is giving you a chance to win a set of beautiful LED mercury-glass pinecone lights for your holiday decorations--or anytime decoration! The string of 10 lights is powered by 3 AAA batteries and casts a beautiful golden glow. The lights are intended for indoor use, but I used them* on a small tree on my front porch where it will be sheltered from the rain (and I sealed the battery pack in plastic for extra protection).

To enter the drawing, just go to the Gardener's Supply Company website and choose one item that would be on your Christmas wish list. Then come back here and leave a comment saying what you'd wish for--and don't forget to leave your email address! On noon (PDT) of Monday, December 15th, I'll randomly select one commenter who'll receive a free set of the pinecone lights (value: $29.95) from Gardener's Supply Company.

Update: I'm extending the deadline one more day! You have until Tuesday, December 16th at noon (PDT) to enter. Don't wait! 


Good luck!

* Gardener's Supply Company provided me with a free set of the pinecone lights as part of this promotion.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Welcome, December!

To celebrate the release of my new book, California Month-by-Month Gardening, and the long-awaited rains we're experiencing this week, I thought I'd post something from the book. Here's the introductory essay for the month of December:

 Close the year, but not the garden.

The advice you will most often hear at this time of year is about how to close the garden, implying that it's out of business or at least on hiatus. It's important, of course, to ready a garden for winter, cleaning and clearing out the dead or faded plants, covering furniture, turning off irrigation systems as the rains take over the job of watering.

But in much of California, winter never gets harsh enough to really shut down a garden. Instead the garden downshifts into neutral in December, like an engine that never turns off but idles quietly through the short days and long nights. Manzanitas and other natives burst into bloom, evergreens maintain their composure, and succulents soldier on, all cheered on by cool-season annuals in hot shades. Even in areas blanketed by snow, while the outdoor garden rests, the indoor garden moves to the fore as bulbs are forced into bloom and tender plants take up their winter residence indoors.

Gardens are not meant to be merely blue-sky endeavors. Enjoying the garden year-round should be our goal. To do that, we have to keep the gate open and the path clear so that the garden can beckon us in at every moment. Even on days that are too cold to linger outside, the garden can comfort and delight us from a window, reminding us that even on the shortest of days the rewards of a garden stretch out long before us.

So tear the last page off the calendar and make your final entries in your garden journal. Remember the sweetest-smelling blossoms, the most successful harvests, the most eye-catching plants. Note the new bed you planted that now flourishes below your window and the bare-root tree you planted last winter, now taller than you and bare of leaves once again. Take a picture to mark your progress. Then close the book on the year and take up your daydreams for next year's garden. But leave the garden open, always waiting for your footstep and the next plunge of your fingers into the soil.

 --from California Month-by-Month Gardening by Claire Splan

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Release Date for California Month by Month Gardening!

Good news! My publisher has moved up the release date on my next book, California Month by Month Gardening, to December 1st! That means there's plenty of time to get your copies in time for holiday giving.

I'm really excited about this new book! It addresses the concerns of gardeners throughout the state regarding what to plant, when to plant it, and how to grow it. The book helps you plan your garden, plant it, care for it, water it, feed it, and, when problems arise, trouble-shoot it. With hundreds of photos and plenty of step-by-step instructions, it's ideal for new and intermediate gardeners, but even experienced gardeners will find it useful as a means of managing their gardening time and tasks throughout the year.

You can pre-order copies from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or other online booksellers, or you can order a signed copy directly from me (and save $2 off the regular price).

To pre-order copies of California Month by Month Gardening (to be released December 1, 2014), click the Buy Now button:

Requested author inscription:

You can also order signed copies of my first book, California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, directly from me (also at a discounted price). To order California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, click the Buy Now button below:

Requested author inscription:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Canning Applesauce from the Last of the Apple Harvest

The last dozen or so apples from my Fuji apple tree found their way into some yummy applesauce today. I sort of ad-libbed the recipe this time, but the result was great.

Last night I washed, cored and quartered 12 to 14 apples and put them in my 6-quart crockpot with 1 cup of apple juice, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon. I set it on Low and let it cook, covered, for 12 hours. This morning I turned off the heat and ran the cooked apple mixture through a food mill to remove the peels. (Don't peel the apples in advance--there's pectin in the peels that helps to thicken and flavor the applesauce.) The apple mixture was a little watery at that point so I put the apple mixture back in the crockpot, set it on High, and let it cook uncovered for another hour or so to thicken up. From this, I was able to get three and a half pints of canned applesauce.

I can't wait to try this applesauce alongside a pork chop or mixed into oatmeal. For just a couple hours of hands-on work, it will totally be worth it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fuji Apple Butter Crockpot Recipe

This is the first year that my Fuji apple tree has had a significant harvest, especially considering that the young tree is still not quite 6 feet tall. When I had picked over three dozen apples (and still left some small ones to develop more on the tree) I decided to do some canning and began looking for some good recipes. I decided to make apple butter, because it's tasty, fat-free, and easy--only six ingredients and it can be prepared in a crockpot. This recipe is adapted from the Rival Crock-Pot Cooking book that came with my crockpot many years ago. The only thing I changed was the variety of apple used.

Old-Fashioned Apple Butter

12 - 14 apples (the book suggested Jonathan or Winesap; I used Fuji)
2 cups apple juice (I used apple cider)
Cinnamon (ground)
Cloves (ground)
(The book also listed an optional ingredient--1/2 cup sauterne--which I didn't use)

In addition, you will need a large crockpot and a food mill.

I used 14 Fuji apples of varying sizes. I washed, cored, and quartered them and put them in the crockpot, which I sprayed with a light coating of oil, along with 2 cups apple cider. I covered them and cooked on Low for 10 to 18 hours. (I cooked it overnight, 18 hours).

The next morning I ran the cooked apples through a food mill to remove the peels. (You don't want to remove the peel before cooking because there is a good amount of pectin in the peel that helps thicken the apple butter.) Measure the apple mixture and return it to the crockpot. I had 10 cups of cooked apples at this point. For every 2 cups of sieved, cooked apples, add 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon of cloves. So, for my 10 cups of apples, I added 5 cups of sugar, 5 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 2 1/2 teaspoons each of allspice and cloves.

Stir well, cover, and cook on High for 6 to 8 hours, stirring every couple of hours. After the first 3 hours of cooking, remove the cover so the juice will evaporate more and the fruit will cook down. The mixture will become dark brown and very thick. Spoon it into hot, sterilized jars and process using standard canning methods. I used a hot water bath to process, following the instructions here.

My yield from this batch was 8 half-pints.

I still have a couple dozen more apples sitting on my counter--I think I may have to dig up some more apple recipes!

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