Prepare Soil Now for a Great Summer Garden

Gardening is not just about taking care of plants, it is about taking care of soil. If your soil is amended for improved texture, if it contains a balanced supply of moisture, nutrients, and minerals and is teaming with microscopic life, your plants will probably thrive without much additional effort from you.

bumperOver the course of a year, nutrients are used up and soil organisms break down organic matter in the soil. This is a good time to add compost fortified with chicken manure. The organic matter and nutrients in the soil are restored while improving soil texture.
Three to four inches of Bumper Crop worked into the top 8″ of soil will yield a 9-12″ deep layer of suitable garden soil that drains well, nurtures life and produces a respectable garden harvest. Ongoing care of the soil will result in a garden that produces better and better as the years pass.

Good Garden Soil Starts Here!!

If you are preparing a vegetable or flower garden bed here’s a tried and true soil preparation recipe that works wonders. It lightens our heavy soil, nourishes it and buffers the pH to make it ‘just right’ for the success of your vegetable and flower seeds or transplants.

Good Soil Tips

The following is a do list that can help you nurture your soil:

  • Plant in a Raised Bed: Improves drainage, helps warm the soil.
  • Incorporate Organic Material: It acts as a wedge to hold clay soil open and allows water to drain more freely and permit air to occupy more of the space between soil particles.
  • Add Gypsum: Helps leach salts from the soil, adds calcium and relaxes the clay.
  • Add Mulch: Apply 3″ of bark or Bumper Crop to reduce weeds, save water and moderate soil temperatures.
  • Add Nutrients: Fertilize with a mild fertilizer which includes micro-nutrients (EB Stone Organics, Maxsea). Micronutrients are essential for healthy plant development and are sometimes missing from soils.
  • Water Appropriately: Water thoroughly but infrequently enough so that air is allowed back into the soil between waterings, usually only every 3-10 days.
  • Use an inexpensive Moisture Meter to judge soil moisture more accurately.




Remineralize Your Soil

Azomite is flour-fine rock dust

California’s big Central Valley is the breadbasket of the nation. Its alluvial soils are rich and friable because centuries of seasonal flooding have deposited minerals from the eroding Sierras into the fertile lowlands.

Alluvial soils are perfect for growing crops partly because they are so full of minerals and nutrients.  Adding minerals to your own soil using rock dust is similar to centuries of valley flooding. Spread a 40 lb. bag of rock powder around your landscape 3 to 4 times a year. Gardeners doing so have achieved noticeable improvements, not only in leaf color and vigor but in fruit and vegetable flavor and production as well.

Where do you suppose vegetables get their nutrient content from… “the soil” Azomite replenishes and enhances the soil. Azomite® powdered rock is a naturally mined mineral product with 70 micro-nutrients rarely available in one place. It is odorless, won’t burn your plants and won’t restrict aeration or water penetration. Unlike some products, Azomite® powdered rock is not a manufactured, chemically prepared fertilizer. It is 100% natural with no additives, synthetics or fillers.

Azomite® has been shown to loosen hard soils, build healthy, more pest-resistant and drought-tolerant plants and promote lusher growth. Use Azomite® powdered rock to improve all your gardening and landscape areas from lawns and vegetable plots to compost piles and enjoy:

  • Increased fruit and flower production
  • Increased vitamin content in your fruits and vegetables
  • Better tasting fruits and vegetables
  • Increased pest and disease resistance and greater cold tolerance in all your plants
  • Lawns with better color while using less fertilizer

Best of all, Azomite® powdered rock is easy and economical to apply – one 40 pound bag can cover 1000 square feet. Azomite® powdered rock – gardens and landscapes have not had it this good since the last ice age.

Plant for Now & Later

Plant a bumper crop of winter veggies now and start seeds indoors for tomatoes, peppers and other summer veggies.

This week is special in that we enter the window of time for starting tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables for setting out into the garden later.  You can also set out starter plants for a second, bumper crop of cool season crops.

Peas, broccoli, onions, and cauliflower set out now can squeeze in a productive run before temperatures rise in June.  Cool season crops, such as these are often planted in September and October for harvest now, but planting now allows you to work in a crop for later spring harvest. This can even out your garden harvest before summer veggies begin to fruit.

Snap peas are great for a quick, sweet snack.  Plant a couple for snacking or plant a 10′ row for meal-size harvests.

Cauliflower comes in hues including orange and white, Broccoli is in stock in green and chartreuse; try something new!

Summer Vegetable Seed Starting

Now is the time to start seeds indoors for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. wee have seeds, seedling trays, seed starting mix, and heat mats to get you going.

Here is an example of the highly informative Botanical Interests Seed packet:

Hungarian Yellow Wax Pepper – Capsicum annuum
Organic HEIRLOOM Seeds 

75 days from transplanting. Developed in Hungary, this early-maturing pepper has a waxy texture that resembles beeswax. Wax peppers are actually orange-red when ripe but are usually picked while still yellow. Great used fresh in salads, pickled, fried, canned, or roasted. 4,500–5,000 Scoville heat units (medium hot).

This packet sows up to 24 plants when started indoors.

When to sow outside: For mild climates only: 2 to 4 weeks after average last frost, when soil temperature is at least 70°F [Warm enough for Sun Bathing].

When to start inside: RECOMMENDED. 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting. Ideal soil temperature for germination is 70°‒90°F. Transplant seedlings outside 2 to 4 weeks after average last frost, and when daytime temperatures are at least 70°F, and nighttime temperatures are at least 55°F. Mild Climates: Also sow in late summer for fall/winter crop.

Harvesting: Harvest when 3″–5″ long or longer and when peppers are yellow or orange-red. Even though Hungarian yellows are usually harvested yellow, they will ripen to orange-red if left on the vine. When harvesting, take care to avoid touching the interior of any broken peppers, as the capsaicin is an extreme irritant, especially to the eyes. Wash hands thoroughly after harvesting, or wear gloves to harvest peppers.

Artist: Pat Fostvedt





Grow Potatoes in Fabric Pots

fabric-pot-potatoHave you ever tasted potatoes fresh dug from the garden?  The taste is incomparable to store bought types and growing in a bag or container is very easy.

We have fabric growing pots that have several advantages over conventional garden growing. They drain well and they are easy to harvest.

These fabric planting pots are made with a spun fabric that feels like felt.  The pots drain well, they allow air into the roots and cause the roots to “self-prune” as they hit the edge of the pot. Roots normally hit the wall of a container and simply turn to wrap around the inside of the pot. With fabric pots, the roots prune themselves when they hit the air and they branch instead of turn.

Fabric pots also have the advantage of remaining cool in the sun.  Normal plastic containers can reach hard-to-touch temperatures on a hot day, but fabric pots breathe, releasing the heat.

Grow your Potatoes the Easy Way!

Cut seed potatoes into chunks having at least 2 eyes each. Allow the pieces to dry and callous at least overnight.

Fill the container about 1/3 full with a 50/50 mixture of Master Nursery Bumper Crop and either garden soil, or Master Nursery Potting Soil.

Plant one seed potato for each 3 gallons of fabric pot capacity. For the #15 container, for example, plant 5 seed potatoes. For the #10 container, plant 3 or 4 seed potatoes. Place the seed potatoes evenly in the container.

Water the soil thoroughly. It should be moist but not soggy.

Soon, you will see little stems pop through the soil. Mound up more soil/compost mix, but do not to cover the leaves. The leaves need sun and air exposure.

As the potatoes continue growing, keep adding the soil/compost mix until you reach the top of the container.

Mid to late summer the potato leaves and stems will begin to turn yellow. Timing will vary somewhat depending on the potato variety.

When the foliage has died back and the weather is cooler, stop all watering about 2 weeks prior to harvest. The leaves and stems will turn almost completely yellow. You are ready to harvest.

Don’t use a spade or sharp instrument! Pull out all the stems and leaves, wearing gloves. Dig in and find your hidden potatoes.

Arrange potatoes in a single row for a day and allow to dry. Then brush off the soil. Store potatoes in a cool, dry area with good ventilation. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator!

Bag Care
Fabric containers are reusable! Shake out any extra soil and allow the container to dry. Store in a dry location until you are ready to start again next spring.

Read more about growing potatoes.

January Vegetable Guide

Vegetable Plant Time Plants for a family of 4 Special Notes Plant Now
Artichoke Year ’round 3 – 4 plants Permanent, perennial. Bareroot 
Asparagus January – February 30 – 40 plants Permanent, perennial. Pick up free planting guide. Bareroot 
Broccoli August – February 15 – 20 ft. row Can be planted more than once/year for a continuous harvest. From starts or seeds
Brussels Sprouts August – February 15 – 20 ft. row N/A From starts or seeds
Cabbage August – February 10 – 15 plants Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. From starts or seeds
Cabbage, Chinese August – February 10 – 15 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. From starts or seeds
Carrots Year ’round 20 – 30 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. Can be planted more than once/year for a continuous harvest. From Seeds
Cauliflower August – February 10 – 15 plants Tie leaves up and over head to protect from frosts. From starts or seeds
Celery August – February 20 – 30 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. From starts or seeds
Chard August – February 3 – 4 plants Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. From starts or seeds
Chives Year ’round 1 clump Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. From Starts or Seeds
Endive August – February 10 – 15 ft. row N/A From Starts or Seeds
Garlic October – January 10 – 20 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. Note: plant through EARLY January for best results From Bulbs
Leeks August – February 10 ft. row N/A From Starts or Seeds
Lettuce August – February 10 – 15 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. Can be planted more than once/year for a continuous harvest. From Starts or Seeds
Mustard August – April 10 ft. row N/A From Starts or Seeds
Onions  November – March 30 – 40 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. starts
Parsley Year ’round 1 – 2 plants Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. From Starts or Seeds
Peas September – January 30 – 40 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. Can be planted more than once/year for a continuous harvest. From Starts or Seeds
Potatoes January – March 50 – 100 ft. row Arriving Early January for planting through mid-March
Radishes Year ’round 4 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. Can be planted more than once/year for a continuous harvest. From Seed
Rhubarb December – February 2 – 3 plants Bare root in November – January, Canned in February – April and again in September and October. Bareroot
Spinach September – January 10 – 20 ft. row Suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. From Starts or Seeds
Strawberries June – September 12+ plants Bare root in November – 6-Pack arriving in March. Bareroot after 11-12

January Garden Checklist

checkbox 2017 Roses are arriving every day! Come select early to get growing.

checkbox Choose your Camellias now! Seeing is believing, so choose now while they are in bloom. The selection is great and you’ll be able to pick just the right color for your winter garden.

checkbox Move your living tree outdoors. Care for other holiday gift plants such as azaleas and camellias by placing them outside where they will thrive in cooler temperatures.

checkbox Seed Potatoes are available in early-January. Choose from certified disease-free white, red and russet, blue and gold varieties. Harvest new potatoes when plants begin to bloom in June and more mature potatoes when plants begin to die down in midsummer. Pick up our handy planting guide.

checkbox Feed the lawn monthly even during cold winter months. This not only maintains its attractive green color all winter it also minimizes rust disease and other problems resulting from malnutrition. Masters Fall and Winter Lawn Fertilizer is especially formulated for the winter season.

checkbox The Berries are looking awesome this year! In stock now, we have Olallie Blackberries, Raspberries, Huckleberries, and Blueberries. In addition to all of our berries, we also have Currants, Olives, Kiwis and Grapes. This is the best time to shop for the best selection.

checkbox Coming end of January, please look for our full line of Fruit Trees. From Apples to Walnuts and everything in-between. This really is the best time for selection and planting of Berries, Grapes, Figs, Pomegranates and Fruit trees. Come on by and let our Professional Alden Lane Nursery staff help you select and give you the very best advice on how to plant and care for your trees. We are here to see you through so you get a wonderful harvest year after year.

checkbox Spray Your Roses Now. An application of dormant oil just after winter rose pruning will help reduce pest populations by smothering over-wintering eggs. Spraying fungicides, as well, will halt diseases such as rust, blackspot and powdery mildew. Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil is listed for use on organic gardens.

checkbox Protect frost tender plants when frosts are expected. Spray with Cloud Cover and for added protection drape frost tender plants with Fast Start Plant Blanket Fabric. Try not to let the covering material rest on the plant. String non-LED Christmas tree lights on your frost tender plants when a freeze is expected. The warmth from the bulbs will provide another measure of protection.

checkbox Prune most fruit trees, roses and other leafless trees and shrubs from December through January. WARNING: Do not prune spring blooming shrubs and trees such as lilac, quince, flowering cherry, etc. until the blooming period is over.

checkbox Keep up your New Year’s Resolution . . . join the Livermore-Amador Valley Garden Club ( and the Mt. Diablo Rose Society (

checkbox Think Strawberry shortcake! This is the month to plant perennial vegetables and fruits. You can set our strawberries, rhubarb, raspberry, blackberry and many other cane fruits.

checkbox If you like asparagus, horseradish and artichokes we have starts for those too. Come by and let us help you choose your favorites.
Prevent crabgrass in your lawn before it starts. Apply Bonide Crabgrass & Weed Preventer now to prevent crabgrass seeds from sprouting.

Planting and Growing Artichokes


How To Plant & Grow Artichokes – Bare Root Plants have Arrived
Artichokes are a cool season perennial vegetable. The mature plants reach 3-5 feet in height and cover several square feet with large, deep cut, grey-green leaves.

Artichokes are primarily grown for the soft fleshy flower bud, but this handsome plant is often used ornamentally in the garden. Given the proper conditions, each plant will produce several stalks with many flower heads and will remain productive for several years.

Preparing the Soil
Artichokes grow best in rich, well-drained soils supplied with plenty of organic matter. We recommend MASTER NURSERY GOLD RUSH. One cubic foot will enable you to prepare a 3 ft. by 3 ft. area, enough for one artichoke plant. Also important when planting is an initial treatment of MASTER NURSERY BONE MEAL. Use one cup bone meal beneath each plant for strong root development. Mix well into the soil beneath the roots. Water new transplants immediately and thoroughly.

Early winter to early spring is the perfect time for planting artichokes. Plant divisions in a sunny location or in one that receives a half day shade. Artichokes need plenty of room; space them about four feet apart. Place the plants in the soil so the base of the new leafy shoots is just above the ground.

Watering & Feeding
After growth begins, water plants thoroughly once per week. Regular soakings are much more beneficial than frequent lighter sprinklings. As temperatures begin to rise, plants may need additional water. Water when the leaves begin to relax and wilt.

For a balanced supply of nutrients, feed the plants monthly with MASTER NURSERY TOMATO & VEGETABLE FOOD.

Cut artichokes while the buds are tight and about 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Cut each bud with 1 to 2 inches of the stalk. If left on the plant, the green bracts loosen and their purple flowers show. Buds will open more rapidly in hot weather.

artichoke600[1]After harvesting, the last artichokes from a stem, it will wither and the leaves will die back to the ground. This is the time to cut the stem and leaves to the ground, usually mid to late summer. New shoots will grow from the base producing a new plant with next year’s crop.  Make regular applications of Sluggo Plus to ward off earwig invaders.

Bare Root Vegetables

bare-root-veg-tableArtichoke, Rhubarb, Asparagus and Horse Radish have arrived bare root.
Bare root vegetables are easy to overlook because they come at a time of year not often thought of a vegetable growing season, and because they look unimpressive in a display. Frankly they are ugly and look more like cast offs.

They are often just soil-less twig-like roots without a hint of green. They look like they might need a lot of care and special skills just to be brought to life, but in reality, they are easier to plant because they tend to be hardier and more forgiving than seedlings.

Once planted, bare root vegetables have all the advantages of being perennial. They live year after year.

Artichoke is tops on the list because it makes a stunning landscape plant as well as being a productive edible.

Asparagus is right up there in terms of favorites.

Rhubarb, popular in colder climates grows well in rich soil located with afternoon shade.

Horseradish is best planted in a pot to contain its growth.

Herb Gardening in Winter

As the temperatures drop and the desire to garden remains high, cold hardy herbs can fill a need to grow something edible.  Herb gardening can be enjoyed in a kitchen window or in a container on the deck or out in the garden bed, and they are perfect for Thanksgiving Stuffing, winter stews, salads and more. 

So take a few minutes and add herbs to the vegetable or kitchen garden. Youll find that their magic can add a savory taste to all your cooking!

chives Chives
This spiky plant looks like a cluster of onions. In late May, it is crowned with lavender flowers. Clip and chop handfuls of it to season potato dishes, salads, dressings, egg dishes, and soups. It is one of the most versatile kitchen herbs. You can flavor white vinegar with a few stems of this herb and enjoy it splashed over garden ripened tomatoes.
The addition of culinary grade lavender in tiny amounts can jazz up dishes as diverse as grilled pork chops, to scones, cakes, and even candy.
The flavor of mint is refreshing, cool and sweet, especially good in iced drinks and teas, with lamb or in salad dressings. Special tips: Minty sun tea: Put 8 tea bags, ½ c. of fresh mint leaves and 1 gal. of water in a clear glass jar. Set in a sunny spot for several hours. Serve over ice.
For a clean sharp and peppery taste, add to vegetables and salads as a garnish. Include in sauces, soups, stews and stuffing. Special tips: Parsley is high in Vitamins A, C, and B.
rosemary150 Rosemary
Wonderful flavoring for chicken or any barbeque. Evergreen, woody shrub has aromatic foliage (It’s actually related to mint.) The flavor of rosemary is bold and piney.  Use it in pickles, jams, preserves and sauces, as well as meats and soups. Special tips: Use a branch of  rosemary as a basting brush at your next barbecue, or put some on the coals for a great aroma. Plant in full sun.
sage150 Sage
Warm, slightly bitter, this flavor is a must for turkey stuffing, as well as pork, duck and sausage seasoning. Special tips: Dried sage leaves are used as a substitute for coffee or tea.

Bare Root Onions

pix2bonion[1]Bare root onions have arrived.  Many gardeners have been waiting for this moment.  Come in immediately. The window of availability is narrow and supplies sell out quickly!

Bare root onions are started from seed in August and carefully nurtured along to this point by our grower in Stockton.  These onions come in varieties including yellow, white and gardener’s favorite, Stockton Red.
We bundle them in packs of 30. Bare root is the preferred method of planting for many long-time gardeners.  The supply is finite and runs out quickly, so hurry in for your’s now.

Onions and the related shallots, leeks and garlic all grow best during cool weather and are usually planted in the fall in California for late spring harvest. Plant in rows 1 to 2 feet apart in a moist seedbed, in full sun. Sets (bulbs) should be planted 1½ inches deep and seeds ½ inch deep. Place seeds or bulb sets 1 to 2 inches apart in the row for green onions or 3 inches apart for bulb production.

Use our Recipe for Good Garden Soil and then get ready to plant.