I know less than I thought

Guest Blogger: Holly Ordinans

She also has her own blog which you can read by clicking here.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, my experience with growing my own food is quite different compared to someone raised in California, specifically this northern region of Mendocino and Lake County. Before moving to Ukiah, I thought I had a pretty solid knowledge base about gardening—and I did! Gardening though, not farming, and not gardening to the extent that exists here. Growing up, my mom always had a backyard garden, and my sister and I learned a great deal from her about planting, watering, weeding, picking, etc. We always spend the summers eating what we grow. However, this is not at all common in Wisconsin. And it’s even less common to grow your own food year-round since the winters are so cold.

That being said, when I moved to California, my perspective on growing what you eat was immediately challenged and enhanced. Like I said, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on gardening; but it turns out, I know less than I thought. I know how to plant seeds, I know you need to water your plants, I know how to harvest a backyard garden in the summer… but I had never been exposed to this amazing level of gardening, farming, and growing.

I went through an unexpected culture shock when I entered into a community filled with sustainable growers- all of whom are filled with a wealth of knowledge on gardening and farming. In a short amount of time, I have gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation for how food is grown and harvested. I was already a veggie and fruit lover, healthy eater, and love to cook with fresh produce; now, though, I have this whole new perspective on words like “organic” and “sustainable.” I have found deeper connections in our food system, and feel as though my understanding of growing food has been expanded tenfold.

In Wisconsin, there are of course many farms in various parts of the state, and there are definitely areas where people hold true to living off the land. Northern California takes that to a whole new level though. I cannot believe how much I have learned in such a short amount of time just about this one aspect of our food system—and I still have a lot left to learn! I know much less than I thought I knew coming into this, and am finding myself becoming more and more obsessed with the gardening and farming culture of this place. I planted quite a few seeds, my starts are growing, and I can’t wait to get started in my community garden plot.

It hasn’t even been two months of living here yet, and I have already learned so much about growing my own food. It’s really inspiring to live among so many knowledgeable growers who truly practice what they preach in terms of farming sustainably and eating organic, plant-based foods. Growing your own food and living off of what is available/in season is so incredible. I’m learning that there is so much you can do using only what you’ve grown, and I am eager about all there is for me to learn about gardening—more in depth than the basics I came here with. Every time I go to the community garden to water my starts, I learn something new from one of the other gardeners who is also there. Just the other day, one of the gardeners talked to me for a good 10 minutes just about tomatoes. My previous understanding of tomatoes was they are easy to grow, my family has always grown tomatoes in our garden, and one plant produces quite a few. Then, after just one conversation with another community gardener, I learned so many little details about how tomatoes grow, and which types grow which ways, and even left with some advice for my own tomato starts.

In reflecting on the past two months just on the subject of growing your own food, I can conclude that this is a very special place for growing. I can tell that the gardeners and farmers here are so passionate, knowledgeable, and genuinely interested in sharing what they know. Whether I’m at the garden or the farmers’ market, someone is enlightening me with something I didn’t already know about a particular vegetable or how to grow it. Like I’ve mentioned a few times, I REALLY know less than I thought I knew, and I’m so thrilled that I am in a position to learn so much.

Emerald Kale Salad

Are you swimming in kale and hungry for a recipe? This delicious sesame-kale salad was shared and devoured at our latest Lake County Gardens Gathering Potluck by one of our Highlands Senior Center gardeners. Thanks Susan!

Emerald Kale Salad

2 heads Kale (curly is the hardiest, but whichever kind appeals)
1/4 cup olive oil
3T sesame oil (can use toasted or non)
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 of a lemon, squeezed (or more, to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
fresh ginger, minced (to taste)

Wash kale and break into bite-sized pieces. Steam until lightly crisp. (If you steam too much, go easy on the liquid ingredients).
Place kale in large bowl.
In small bowl, blend all dressing ingredients together.
Pour over kale and stir until everything is evenly coated.

Rad Radish Recipes

Radish Varieties

Radishes are fantastic spring vegetables! Radishes are great to grow with kids because they grow quickly and are beautiful and rewarding to harvest. For years I did not think that I liked radishes because my family didn't eat them at home, it wasn't until I left for college that radishes became a regular part of my spring time diet. Now radishes are some of my very favorite vegetables! There are so many different ways to use radishes in cooking, and they are easy to add to meal-time regulars by tossing them into a side salad or quickly roasting them in the oven for a tasty side dish. For the more adventurous eaters radish greens can be eaten in salads or used in pesto. Here are a few rad recipes that highlight radishes:

Braised Radishes with Shallots and Bacon from thekitchn

Braised Radishes with Bacon

This yummy recipe defies how most people think radishes should be eaten. I had radishes roasted for the first time about a year ago and I've been hooked ever since. You can make the radishes savory by roasting with salt, pepper and garlic or you can make them sweet by roasting with butter and salt and topping with brown butter.

Radish Salad

For radish-lovers who enjoy radishes raw try this radish salad or a yummy watermelon radish salad with citrus dressing!

Finally for the adventurous eater here is a recipe for Radish Pesto!

Radish Pesto from Attainable Sustainable

How do you like to eat radishes?

Happy Cooking!

Spring Recipes

Hey Gardeners!

Here at the Gardens Project we are getting excited for cooking with spring vegetables. Although at the supermarket you can buy most vegetables year round, we love to cook in season - it's not only cheaper but the veggies taste better! To me, spring always means a bounty of fresh produce, from tasty greens to spicy radishes.

Currently here in California we are at the tail end of citrus season so it's a great time to enjoy lemons and oranges at their peak!

Citrus is also really good for you! I always eat citrus to get a boost of vitamin C when I feel like I might be getting sick to give my immune system a good boost. Another great thing about lemons is that you can use the peel to flavor cakes, breads and even pasta to give it a bright, summery taste.

Here are a few spring vegetable recipes that celebrate citrus:

Spring Asparagus Salad PC: feasting at home

Spring Asparagus Salad from Feasting at Home

This is a great, filling springtime salad with lemon, feta cheese, couscous and asparagus.

Spring Veg and lemon broth from Olive Magazine

Spring Veg and Lemon Broth Pasta

This is a quick and delicious springtime dinner!

Orange honey champagne vinegar dressing

Orange Honey Champagne Vinegar Dressing

This dressing makes salads exciting and bright. You could also incorporate oranges into your salad by putting in slices. I always think feta cheese and oranges on a salad make it more tasty and exciting to eat.

Happy Cooking!

What We're Reading in April 2017

If all this rain is preventing you from working in your garden, the best you can do is curl up with a great gardening book. This list from Modern Farmer is packed with gardening tips and cookbooks. Happy reading!

Middletown Community Garden Updates!

After over a year of planning we have finally broken ground at the Middletown Community Garden!

In the past month we have dug post holes, set our fence posts in the ground, and dug trenches to lay irrigation. Along the way we have had to fight against the rainiest year in California since 1895, and super rocky soil (as you can see from the picture) to get everything done. We've had great help from our volunteers particularly Jeff Regan and Mel Bullock in getting the fence posts set. Next week we are having an Earth Day Work Day on Friday, April 21st to finish building the fence, let us know if you can make it by calling 707-994-4647 ext. 128!

We are hoping to get this garden done in time for our gardeners to have summertime gardens so if you're interested in helping us build this garden contact us!

Here's another picture from a few weeks ago before the hogwire was put up.


Some Egg-ceptional Egg Ideas!

Pickled Eggs just a taste.com

Since Easter is coming up this weekend here are a few egg-cellent ways to spruce up hard boiled eggs and incorporate some vegetables!

We love this first recipe because you get two things for one recipe - pickled beets and beautifully dyed pickled eggs! To make the eggs even more special you could devil the eggs after pickling them - my personal favorite way to enjoy hard-boiled eggs.


From 2007 to 2017: A decade of community gardens and the future promises more!

Since the Gardens Project was founded in 2007, we’ve worked with the people of Mendocino and Lake Counties to develop 45 community and school gardens. That’s an average of 4.5 gardens a year! A lot has changed since the first community gardens in Ukiah, but the need to increase food security in both counties is still there and the work continues…

Setting up the drip irrigation at the Willits Head Start Preschool Garden


What's Growin' on this Spring with the Gardens Project!

The Gardens Project is feeling the spring fever, and we want to tell you all about it!

Students from the Ukiah Junior Academy volunteering at the Vinewood Park Community Garden in March

We are digging into our 9th year of community garden work with fresh new ideas on the horizon as well as old events coming back to life... all to grow food and community in our beautiful Northern California land!

Wanna learn about all we're doing and get involved? Here's a look at what's growin' on, click on the links to dig deeper into each topic.

New Garden Projects in Mendocino and Lake Counties

We are working with communities from Leggett to Lucerne this year to help build new garden projects for different communities, agencies, and apartments. The first few groups we'll be working with this year include:
North Shore in Lucerne will have new raised beds for easier gardening!

More about projects in Leggett, Boonville, and Hopland coming soon!

Garden Leadership Training in Ukiah

Garden Leaders from the Arbor, Jack Simpson & Village Circle
Community Garden Managers from 7 gardens in Ukiah are in the middle of a 4 week training to become effective leaders for their gardens- with lessons on community building, communication, event planning and more!
Participating are leaders from the Arbor Youth Resource Center, Vinewood Park, Village Circle, State St, Washington Ave,Thunderbird and Jack Simpson Gardens.

The Gardeners' Gathering

A NEW EVENT FOR THE GP- the Gardeners Gathering will bring together community and home gardeners from Lake and Mendocino Counties together to learn and share gardening skills, with a special presentation on the Drought and how it impacts our gardens, mini-workshops, free seeds, plant starts, resources and more!

FREE and ALL are welcome to attend, click here for more details.

Supporters of the Gardens Project

Fetzer Vineyards has partnered with the GP to donate 5% of their Community Wine Sale proceeds to community garden development! Community Wine Sales are held at Fetzer in Hopland every other month during the year. We are grateful for this new partnership that will provide funding for garden projects throughout the year!
The next Community Wine Sale starts now! Place your orders by Friday, April 10th to pick up your wine at Fetzer on Saturday, April 18th. Click here for ordering information.

SAUCY restaurant in Ukiah will be hosting a Dine-Out day for the Gardens Project on Tuesday, April 21st. Come to Saucy all day for a meal and we'll be donated a portion of the proceeds from the day! Don't forget that it will be Earth Day WEEK- so there will be local farm fresh specials on the menu!

Want to make a donation to the Gardens Project?
You can donate online at anytime, just click here!

We also sell our Gardens Project T-shirts for a $20 donation (for pick up in Ukiah). Contact GP Coordinator, Stephanie, at 462-1958 or slogsdon@ncoinc.org to get one!

The Homegrown Garden Tour- coming back to life!

Genaro in the Cleveland Lane Garden showing off his Nopales in 2012!

Have you been to the Homegrown Garden Tour in Ukiah? It's been a few years since the GP has hosted the tour for the community to visit the gardens, but this year it's coming back this August! Keep a check on our events page for tour information.

Gardens Project VIDEOS

Did you know that the GP had a video intern last summer? Kenny Logsdon, Anthropology student at Appalachian State University, spent last summer interviewing our community gardeners and documenting workshops.

Take a look at this video about our drip irrigation workshop last summer- and then get inspired to set yours up to for water conservation!

Thank you for your continued support of community and school gardens in Mendocino and Lake Counties!

Sneak Preview to some great gardening links!

Word on the street is that there is an awesome gardening workshop this Saturday March 7th at the Grace Lutheran Church and Community Garden from 10am-Noon!

Free seeds and plant starts!

Check out a selection of great online resources about gardening below:

Cover Crops

Cut Flowers

•Growing and Selection:

Harvesting Fruits and Vegetables

•Chart for Mendocino County:

•How to Harvest Fruits and Vegetables:

Pest Control

•Benificial Insects:

•Natural Garden Pest Control:


Pruning Fruit Trees

Raised Beds

•How to Make a Raised Bed From Pallets:
•How to Build a Raised Bed (Plans):


•Improvement and Care:

Tool Care

Vegetable Spacing and planting Guides

•Planting Chart for Mendocino County:



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