How Wildfires Affect our Gardens

As many people with hot, dry summers know, wildfires are almost a guarantee at some point. Depending on where you live you might see them in the news or even, unfortunately, in your own backyard. Whether or not you are affected directly by these events or just by some stray ash, you might wonder what is happening to your plants in the meantime!


The most obvious side effect from a large wildfire is the smoke that often lingers for days.

  • Most experts agree that you can still eat vegetables exposed to smoke. Just be sure to give them a good wash beforehand!
  • Plants are excellent at filtering the air, but some vegetables, such as zucchini, may experience stunted growth if exposed to smoke for a prolonged period of time.
  • Intense smoke will decrease pollinator activity. Bees don't like smoke any more than humans do! Click here to read about a method of self-pollinating your plants if you think they missed out.


The effects of ash on your garden will largely depend on the nature of the fire. If the fire is burning through wild land, mostly trees and grasses, then the ash produced will be non-toxic.


In extreme cases where fire has come in close proximity to the garden, the extreme heat might be the end for your flowers and vegetables until your next planting season. However, if you have some hardier plants like shrubs or fruit trees, then there's a good chance they will re-grow if they have some green leaves left!

If you or a loved one has been affected by the recent Carr or Mendocino Complex Wildfire, including lost property or wages while being evacuated, there are resources available! Please go to North Coast Opportunities' website for details: https://www.ncoinc.org/disaster-recovery/.

Summer bounty

Here we are, in the middle of summer! This means sunshine, long days, a bounty of produce from our gardens. For most of us, this turns into a surplus of certain veggies, so here are some creative uses for those summer bumper crop varieties.


A plentiful summer crop, this can include all kinds of squash like butternut, calabaza, and zucchini. It can be added in for texture, or be the main affair!

"Green Goddess" Zucchini Noodles

Spaghetti Squash with almonds


Whether it's snap beans, green beans, or lima beans, these tasty legumes come in quite a few varieties. Here are some to try!

Garlic Pole Beans

Butter Cranberry Green Beans


Last but not least, it's everyone's favorite poster-vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you ask!) Almost everyone has got some variety of tomato growing in their summer garden. Here are some ideas of what to do what them.

Honey-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato fritters

You can also consider setting up a stand at your local farmers market or donating your produce to friends or to your local food bank. However you decide to use your extra summer produce, keep on growin'!

Try soaker hoses for your garden!

Our garden community member Steve asks:

"Have you tried underground soaker hoses?

Place the hoses 3-4 inches below the surface, before planting.
Stick twigs in the ground over the hoses and plant between the lines.
Almost no evaporation of precious water
Almost no weeds since the water is underground - no mulch [needed].

Happy plants and a happy gardener."

Check out a helpful how-to video here!

Reflections on Gardening

New members of the garden community

The Gardens Project is happy to welcome members of the Jesus Christ Fellowship church to our garden this year!

Jessica leads the children's church and is working with some friends to tend to two plots in the Middletown Community garden. Although Jessica has gardened before, she is also working with a friend who is new to the process. "This is her first time using a hose!," she told us, laughing.

They are looking forward to bringing kids into the garden to teach them about how things grow, and to show them home beautiful nature can be.

Save those seeds!

You have probably heard the term "seed-saving" before. It is what is sounds like- the process of extracting seeds from something that you've grown and saving them to be used to plant again. What you might not know is how important its history is, and how it can help your garden and your community's future!

Seed-saving is practiced throughout the world, and has been since plant cultivation first began. For most of human's agricultural history, saving seeds was the only way one could plant crops for the next growing season. Now, in the modern age we have access to a variety of seeds from all over the world. This can include special varieties farmers have perfected over the years, but it also includes specific crops that are owned and patented by corporations (names like Monsato and DuPont may ring a bell). The effect of this is that anyone using these seeds must pay a premium price for them- AND it is illegal to save the seeds of these crops to be used, which means that farmers are often obligated through contracts to keep paying over and over for the use of these crops.

Why does this matter?


Many people believe that making seed-saving illegal is a violation of their rights. While corporations have every right to create and safeguard their products, taking away the autonomy of farmers to use the seeds of crops they have cultivated is essentially putting a price tag on a nature's bounty. Similar arguments can be made for the use of any natural resource, such as clean air and water, for which many believe that there should be free and equitable access for all. Saving seeds is a way of continuing the cycle of nature as it was intended! With this in mind, people have begun to reclaim the process of collecting and distributing seeds for no cost, just like what humans have done for millennia.

Equal access.

Most people in their home gardens buy seeds from a store or even buy already sprouted plants to begin their gardens. This is a wonderful way to begin, but for those who don't have the money to begin their gardens they are left without many options. By saving seeds, people can offer their excess to friends, families, and even charities involved in food production! This could be as informal as talking to a neighbor, or could be more established through a seed-lending program at a local library.

Crop Resilience.

Saving seeds from certain crops means that growers can actually select for aspects of plants that they like. For example, if a gardener plants two different varieties of tomatoes and one does particularly well in a dry season, they can save those seeds for use in the future. Whether you are growing to feed yourself, to sell at a market, or just for fun in your backyard it is always helpful to have a big diversity of crops. You never know if pests might find one thing particularly tasty, you might not save those seeds for next year!

Cultural heritage.

For many cultures, both indigenous and people who have immigrated, plant varieties are very important to their heritage. Saving seeds is a way to preserve these important ties for future growers. Some heirloom varieties only exist in seed exchange programs and can't be found anywhere else in the world. Having access to these resources is a tangible way to keep traditions alive. This is especially important for marginalized communities to allow their practices to thrive.

There are so many reason why it's important to save seeds. The next step is to learn how.

Check out a few of these resources on how to save seeds, and keep an eye out for seed-saving libraries or exchanges in your own community!

Saving vegetable seeds

Saving flower seeds

Seed library in Mendocino county

Garden-to-table: Spring veggies

With spring in full swing, it's time to think of fresh new recipes to try. The best part about these is that they can come right from your garden! These simple but tasty recipes use a few key ingredients that are easy to grow, and can be part of an easy spring meal for you and your family.

First up, a classic: Grilled cheese with a garden twist.

Another important thing to think about is what spring veggies you can grow, and how they can be used in a million different ways! Check out the garden-to-table guide for some spring planting inspiration.

Lastly, here are some fun and EASY side dishes to try with your own garden ingredients:

Spring Garden Saute

Herb Pasta Salad

Beet, Carrot and Couscous Salad

Winter Watering in Times of Drought

(Our beautiful new Middletown Community Garden)

In Lake and Mendocino Counties we are blessed with a climate that allows winter gardening. Greens, onions, garlic, and root vegetables enjoy and even excel in cooler fall and winter weather here. While usually we enjoy a wet winter that allows us not to water our crops, this year we have so far seen very little rain but cold nights, an issue for drip irrigation users. Why? Drip irrigation, and the pipes that the water is delivered through, can get damaged and broken if there is water in pipes during freezing temperatures. For that reason The Gardens Project turns off the water during the winter, however in years like this one where there isn't much rain, how do you ensure your plants get adequate water?


Growing Resiliency

Over the past decade, the Gardens Project has been growing more than just delicious, local produce. We’ve built 47 community gardens to grow resiliency in our community.


Take it from Lorindra Frances, a member of the brand new Middletown Community Garden. “The whole fire thing this year was really scary since I lost everything in the first one. But to have a garden again makes my heart really really happy,” Frances remarked as she watered her raised bed, beautifully adorned by a variety of vegetables. “I left during the evacuations and those that didn’t, watered my area while I was gone. What better way than with the earth to unite a community with so much devastation.”

Community gardens have the power to transform grief, daily annoyances, and hardships intobeautiful friendship, resilient community, and organic produce. The garden represents the cycle of life, and with the new growth comes the recycling of last season’s nutrients. Two of our beloved community gardeners have passed on this year, as many more have celebrated the birth of new loved ones. Seasoned gardeners have passed on their knowledge, tools, and saved seeds to newer gardeners.

Village Circle at sunset

It’s been a year of growth and renewal. In 2017 alone, we’ve held 20 food production workshops on topics ranging from seed starting and transplanting to compost production to edible wild plants. Over 3,000 community gardeners are currently growing organic produce to feed their loved ones on land that was previously vacant, underused, or paved over. We’ve built 4 new community gardens, and laid the groundwork to complete a fifth by early next year. We celebrated a decade of empowering community, with family, gardeners, and friends, and of course garden-fresh cuisine. Along the way, we’ve enjoyed countless garden potlucks, marveled at the sweetness of fresh spring strawberries, and rallied as our communities were hit hard by this year’s North Bay Firestorm.

Invest in a more resilient food system in your community. Support the Gardens Project this #givingtuesday.


Fall is here!

In the last few weeks fall weather has finally come to Lake and Mendocino Counties - cooler nights and shorter days mean that some of the summer vegetables are slowing in production and it's time to start planting new crops like lettuce, favas and onions that prefer cold weather. In Lake County we had a great workshop about fall gardening taught by Lake County Master Gardener Coordinator Gabrielle O'Neill you can read her guide on fall gardening here!

With the shut down of summer vegetables in the garden there is a new season of vegetables to enjoy cooking and growing! Here are some great recipes that highlight fall vegetables:



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