Plantain: From Weed to Medicine

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! This week we wanted to highlight a plant that often gets ignored in the garden. The wild herb plantain, which is often considered a weed, is commonly popping up around the community gardens and oftentimes taking over the pathways. It has been said that plantain was brought to Europe by Alexander the Great, and Europeans have spread it around since. Native Americans have actually referred to it as “Whiteman’s Foot” because it grew wherever white men had passed through.

As you’ve probably noticed in your own garden, plantain manages to thrive in any type of soil and full sun. I encourage you to – instead of weeding these and discarding them – eat the entire plant, roots and leaves, or use them for medicinal purposes. The leaves can be used just like spinach – salads, steamed, in soups, sautéed, oven baked chips, etc. There are a few different varieties of plantain. The Broadleaf variety is best for eating because of its bigger leaves, but other plantains can be enjoyed as well. It is best to harvest young leaves for eating so they’re not as stringy. However, the mature, stringy leaves are great for making tea or chips with an added crunch. Plantain leaves are also easy to dry and save for later use.


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!

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:


Bundle up for the holidays and cover up your garden rows too!

Would you like to enjoy your garden for an extra couple of months?

Or boost your winter garden's growth?

Row covers are a great way to extend your growing season!
Floating Row Cover Workshop at the State Street Community Garden

Row Covers have many benefits: they protect plants from the frost and wind, block pests and diseases, and regulate soil temperature and moisture.

And row covers are easy to construct!

Floating row cover material is also known as all-purpose garden material or reemay. This magical material is made of polypropylene and allows air, water, and 85% of sunlight to pass through to plants.

Row covers can be constructed out of hoops or you can lay the reemay right on top of the plants. Metal hoops for row covers can be purchased at garden supply stores or you can scavenge around your house for recycled materials to use.

During the Gardens Project's Row Cover Workshop this fall, Master Gardener Gloria Jarrell shared her creative methods of building row covers out of recycled materials. Check out the examples below:

Example of metal hoops that support row covers
More metal hoops
Recyled fencing
Recyled irrigation hose
How to attach irrigation tubing:
use wooden stakes, attach nail, place hose right over nail.

Milk jugs or other plastic containers filled with water are a good way to hold down the edges of the reemay, you can also use rocks or bury the edges in the soil.

Once you have your row covers installed, don't forget to monitor your plants growth underneath and remember to check for pests.

A good place to purchase reemay and other row cover supplies in the Ukiah area is DripWorks Irrigation in Willits. It is more economical to buy a large roll of reemay, so organize and share with your garden neighbors. Reemay can be stored and used year after year.

Check it out! Gardeners have been covering their crops for a long time.

In nineteenth century France gardeners used 'cloches' or bell jars to cover individual seedlings to protect from frost. Each jar had to be propped up during the day to provide ventilation. Today, we are lucky to have technology like reemay material.

A great article with more information and resources about row covers:,0

Interested in attending future Gardens Project workshops? Check out our events page.
Have questions? Feel free to contact us!

Cover Crops, cause you gotta plant something!

Are you looking for a simple way to renew your soil this winter? Plant a cover crop!

A cover crop will add nitrogen and organic matter to your soil while preventing erosion and weeds. Over the winter, instead of the rains washing away all of the hard work you've put into the soil, the cover crop roots will keep those nutrients and soil in your garden, and also help retain water. When Spring comes around, your garden will be ready for another bountiful growing season. Some common cover crops include fava beans, vetch, oats, buckwheat, and ryegrass.

Cover cropping is super easy! Many garden supply stores sell a mix of cover crop seeds. All you do is broadcast (scatter/spread) the seed evenly over your garden bed, cover it with straw or a thin layer of soil (to keep birds out and moisture in), and let the rain work its magic. When the cover crop produces flowers just chop it up and turn it in to your soil.
If you can’t chop up the cover crop before it goes to seed, make sure the seed gets incorporated into your soil as the seeds will now store most of the nitrogen.

How does this work? Some cover crops are plants which add nitrogen to the soil by a process called nitrogen fixation. These plants have a symbiotic relationship with special bacteria that live in their root nodules and fix nitrogen from the air. These nitrogen fixing plants include fava beans, vetch, and clove among others.

If you do plant a fall garden, don’t fret! You can still cover crop after your fall harvest. Buckwheat is an excellent cover crop which is not frost tolerant, so it works great as a mid-season option.

Looking to learn more about fall and winter gardening? Come to one of our garden workshops!

A Year in Review

We are often asked, "How many Gardens do you have?"

Our Reply? "NONE!"

However to this date, the Gardens Project has facilitated the development of 34 community gardens in Mendocino and Lake counties.

Just in the past year, we've developed two new community gardens in Ukiah, hosted leadership development training for gardeners, updated and expanded the capacity of several existing gardens, and strengthened partnerships with many.

Here's a summary of all the fun we've had in the last year!
Coastal Garden Leaders at their first meeting in Janurary 2014, they graduate next month!

Garden Leadership Trainings
Over the last three years, we've trained 60 gardeners in Mendocino County to become leaders for their community gardens, increasing the sustainability of gardens and building community. Since January, we've worked with 20 of those leaders of on coast, and a group of leaders in Willits from our 2013 training have continued to meet. The Willits leaders hosted a garden tour on August 25th.

The capstone project of a year long leadership training is the Photovoice Project. Participants take photos from their gardens and add captions to capture aspects of their garden experiences to share with community members and policy makers. Click here to view Photovoice Projects.
Pinoleville Youth Build Students working at Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves Senior Apartments
20 new raised beds were created in Early Fall 2013 for Autumn Leaves. The Gardens Project partnered with and the Pinoleville Pomo Nation YouthBuild Program to create the raised beds. North Cal Wood Products donated redwood and Cold Creek Compost donated compost to fill all the new beds. All three have donated their time and resources to many other gardens working with the Gardens Project. See all the photos of the beds being constructed by these resourceful youth at our Autumn Leaves Photo Album!

Vinewood Park at the Peak of the Season!

Vinewood Park Community Garden
Vinewood Park Community Garden is a collaboration between the City of Ukiah and The Gardens Project. The Garden is located along the North end of the park, along the fence line in an area previously underused and covered in ivy. The garden provides 12 wheel-chair accessible raised beds serving the Walnut Village Senior Apartments as well as 16 additional beds for neighboring families and individuals. Pinoleville YouthBuild, our most valuable partner in garden construction, built the fence, raised beds and communication board for the garden. See more pictures of the garden!

Village Circle Gardeners, October 2014

Village Circle Community Garden
Village Circle Community Garden was developed in partnership with private land owners. This garden is one of the largest community gardens in Ukiah with 49 plots, second only to the State Street Garden which currently has 54 garden plots. Gardeners from the Cleveland Lane Community Garden have transitioned to this new garden in preparation for their garden closing due to expansion of the Grace Hudson Museum. Directly south of the garden are the Summer Creek apartments, who's residents are also participating in the garden. Thank you to Jason Dolan and Dark Horse Farming Company for providing labor and materials for the fencing, and also Ukiah Natural Foods for awarding the Gardens Project with a $2,000 grant to purchase fencing.
Tons of information for gardeners to see on the new boards.

New Communication Boards
Five boards were created for gardens to post communications, gardening information by the students of the PinolevilleYouth Build Program.
Seed Starting and Transplanting Workshop, March 2014

Gardening Workshops
Starting in Janurary 2014, the Gardens Project started a series of workshops that take a new gardener step by step through the gardening cycle. We are so thankful for all of our workshop presenters, and are looking forward to the ones still to come!

Past Workshops in 2014
Janurary: Planning your Garden with Brooke Wilder
March: Seed Starting and Transplanting with Carolyn Brown
April: Water Conservation with Linda Macelwee
May: Bed Preparation with Luke Howerter
June: Drip Irrigation with Peter Reynolds
July: Natural Pest Management with Dan Storm

Upcoming Workshops
Oct 11th:Composting with Luke Howerter
Oct 18th: Row Cover Season Extension with Gloria Jarrell

Winter Garden Tip: Have One!

A Broccoli start, ready to go!

Winter gardens often get the cold shoulder from tired gardeners with too many green tomatoes to count. But there are many wonderful, nutritious crops you can plant in the fall before the coldest months of December and January. Here’s a list of plants you can put in your garden right away.

- Broccoli/Cauliflower
- Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts
- Kale, Chard, Collards, Arugula, Mustards
- Carrots & Beets
- Garlic & Onions

Mendocino Local Food has a great Planting Guide that you can use to determine whether to start your vegetables from seeds or starts. The Gardens Project also has resources online with vegetable gardening basics and tips.

Be sure to either look at the information on planting from your seed packet or if you buy starts from the farmers market, ask the farmer! Growing will be slow during the coldest months of January and December, but as soon as it starts to warm up a little in February or March your garden will pick up speed.

Happy Composting!

Want to know how to keep a happy compost pile this winter?
It's all about layers!

Check out this article from the Marin Master Gardener's web page for tips on sheet composting!

Start Your Garden Indoors

Wintertime is a great time to start your plants indoors to extend your growing season and beat wintertime blues!

Mother Earth News just published a great story on how to start seeds indoors, the link to the article is on our "How To: Grow Food" page. Check it out for more information on seed starting!

Some great tips from the article:
Don't start beans, peas or root crops indoors, they don't transplant well.
Use 1/3 coir 1/3 compost and 1/3 soil.
Moisten the mix before sowing your seeds, plant 2-3 seeds per cell/pot.
Cover with a plastic dome or plastic wrap until seeds sprout. After that, water only when soil is almost dry.
After 4-6 weeks, move them outside on a porch or protected area during the day, inside at night for one week, then transplant into your garden!

Indoor container gardening

You might think there's no gardening you can do in January, but think again!
Now is the time to start your herbs and other plants inside for those of you who garden indoors or in a greenhouse. This site has plenty of useful information about container gardening.
Remember, most potting mix is too strong for most plants and doesn't drain well.
It's important to use a mix of 1 part potting mix to 1 part volcanic rock, like pumice (don't use vermiculite!)
Start your seeds in a flat or 1-2" pots, then each time your plants start to outgrow their containers, transplant them to a pot 2-4 time the original size. For example, if you start seeds in a flat, transplant the seedlings to a 2" pot, then transplant the established plant to a 1 gallon pot, and as it grows move up to a 5 gallon and then 15 gallon pot.
Also, check out this site for tips about small container planting using a vertical shoe rack!
If you think you don't have enough time or space for vegetable gardening indoors, try an herb garden!
This site has information about starting a basic beginner's herb garden. Just use the container gardening information above for your herb garden. This site has information specifically about growing herbs indoors.
Enjoy your mini gardens!

Remember to check our "How To" page for more gardening tips!


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