Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Cajun Spice Mix

I've been roasting a lot of vegetables lately, inspired largely by the book Fast Fresh and Green, by Susie Middleton, published in 2010. She has included a chart that helps choose the size of pieces to roast and how long it will take for them to reach a delicious stage of brownness with out scorching. She also has a number of special recipes for roasting vegetables with particular seasoning or with several kinds roasting together. 

I decided to try roasting cauliflower with something on it that would make it less white, so it would be a little more interesting on the plate. I tried curry or curry spices, which wasn't bad, but decided I like a cajun flavor more in this case. The roasting makes the cauliflower tender all through with a sense that the outer edge has been fried. Yum!

So here is the recipe, with the spice mix first:

Cajun Style Seasoning Mix (Adapted from Down Home Healthy, Leah Chase and Johnny Rivers, National Inst. of Health, 1994

They call it "Hot 'n Spicy Seasoning.")

¼ cup paprika (preferably smoked paprika--so good!)

2 tablespoons crushed dry oregano leaves

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)

½ teaspoon dry mustard

Mix all ingredients in a jar with a lid. Store what you don’t use right away in the cupboard with the lid on. Makes about 1/3 cup.

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Oven-roasted Cauliflower with Cajun Spice

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Cut cauliflower and arrange it in a single layer on a large baking pan. Cut large curds from the head and then cut them into pieces with at least one flat side and a maximum thickness of ¾ inch. (Start by cutting each curd in half lengthwise and then dividing the halves lengthwise, with a little of the stem on each.)

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a 9 x 13 inch backing pan and use one hand to toss the cauliflower in the oil, coating it. Rearrange it in a single layer.

Sprinkle a little Cajun spice mix on each piece of cauliflower. (If your shaking skills are not great, try putting it in a jar with a shaker top, but a rather narrow neck, so you can aim at each little bit of cauliflower.)

Put in the oven and cook about 17 minutes. Check. It could take 3-5 longer. It should be browned on the bottom but not black anywhere. Serve hot!

One 9 x 13 inch pan full serves 2 people and uses about 40% of a standard cauliflower head.


Making Soup Stock From A Garden

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Illustration: Soup stock being made from backyard garden ingredients, including wild onion, parsley, oregano, and thyme, with a purchased bay leaf.

Soup stock, that deliciously flavored liquid we use as a basis for soups and sauces, is a natural for the gardener-cook. The beauty of it is that most of the ingredients can be scraps of vegetables, or over-produced ones we would otherwise probably not eat up. Let the cooks with no gardens go to the grocery and buy carrots, celery, onions, and other vegetables to flavor stock. We have it already if only we know what to use. No matter if the ingredients are a bit tough or strong-flavored, they are perfect for broth. They will be strained out and discarded anyway.

An important starting concept for the gardener who would make soup stock is that most stocks include plants from two different botanical plant families: the carrot and the onion families. Use at least one of each, add a few herbs, and you'll have a very nice stock. 

Carrot Family 

In the carrot family are parsley, Japanese parsley (Mitsuba), celery, fennel, and, of course, carrot. The easiest plant of this group to grow in quantity in a small garden is parsley. Once you have it, you can let a couple of plants of it reseed and save as many seedlings as you want, transplanting some when the plants are still small to places you want it to grow. Japanese parsley is a perennial plant that grows best in shade. If you like its delicate flavor and have a shady, well-watered place for it, you can have it for harvest most of the year.

Celery is not as easy to grow as parsley, so most small space gardeners don't grow it. (If you buy celery, do save the leafy parts to use in stock.) Some gardeners do grow Chinese celery, which has narrower, less-tender stems. It is easier to grow and most useful in soup or other cooked dishes. If you are growing it, you will have plenty of leaves for use flavoring stock. 

Fennel loses its anisy flavor when it is cooked, having instead a distinctive sweet flavor. It is not for every stock, but can be very nice in some. (I have used it as a second carrot family ingredient, with parsley or carrot tops as the main flavoring.) Most gardeners will not have fennel growing, but if you are growing even one plant for its tender, white bulbous leaf bases, you will have plenty of green stems and leaves that could be used in stock. (The fennel in vacant lots, a weedy variety, rarely has enough tender leaf base to be useful, but I imagine its stems and leaves would flavor a stock just as well as those of domestic Florence fennel varieties. And if they are tough, no matter, since stock ingredients will be strained out anyway.)

Carrot leaves are a fine addition to stock. If you grew too many carrots to eat up, of course you can add the root too, but most gardeners don't grow that many, so would prefer to save the roots for eating raw or adding to the soup later.

Onion Family

One of the best onion family crops for use in making stock is the leek. When you buy leeks, you may not realize that up to three of feet of leaves have been chopped off, leaving at most a foot of green leaf on the white lower stem that we think of as "the leek." All of that leafy part is great for making stock. If you had purchased the leeks, you'd just have a few inches of green leaf, but in the garden, there is plenty of it. And, should the leek sit in the garden over winter and you forget to use it up by late March, it will surely form a flower stalk, becoming tough in the process. If this happens, cut up the entire plant for stock. 

Bulb onions are not the best crop for a small garden, and are not always successful in that if the timing is wrong, they will form poor bulbs or will flower before they bulb. If you do grow bulb onions, remember that any bulb, leaf, or flower stems you don't eat can flavor stock. That goes for onions you have purchased as well--any trimmings, even dry skins, will flavor stock. (if you do plan to grow bulb onions, the surest ways to do it are to plant onion "sets," small bulbs you get at a nursery, in February, or grow seed of "day neutral" varieties in early to mid spring.

Wild onions that grow in Bay Area gardens are a culinary secret worth learning. They are Allium triquetrum, a Mediterranean native that is a perennial plant. The bulbs are dormant in summer, grow in fall, and make useful greens and flowers all winter and early spring, dying back in April. If you have it as a weed, you may as well be eating it. The entire plant is tender and nicely flavored enough to use in salads and cooking, but if you have a lot of it (it tends to be weedy) you will find it flavors stock nicely as well. (Search for it by scientific name on this blog for a photo and more info on identifying it and managing it in you garden.)

Trimmings from a Grocery

While I am writing this primarily for gardeners, I should say that when produce workers put out vegetables, they often chop off the very parts you'd use for stock. I have come across workers removing leafy parts of celery, leaves of leeks, and carrot tops as they set out the vegetables, putting all the "scraps" in a box to discard. So even with no garden, one could frugally and deliciously make broth from these tasty discards.)

Herbs

You will want to add some herbs to further flavor your stock. Add a bay leaf or two. I think the best idea for most of us is to buy some already dried. Bay trees get big and make a dense shade, so are not the best choice for most small gardens, but I have seen them kept small in a large pot or half barrel with some success. If you do have access to a larger bay tree, harvest by pruning to shape. Remove the leaves and press them in newspaper under books until flattened and dried, then store in a jar. (Be aware that the California bay is a different species than the Mediterranean one, with harsher-flavored, most think inferiorly-flavored leaves.)

A number of Mediterranean herbs are easy to grow in Bay Area gardens. The best to have handy in a small garden for stock are probably oregano and thyme. Grow them in the ground if at all possible, giving them room to spread their roots and make good plants. Add fresh sprigs to your stock.

Making the stock

To make your stock, add all of the ingredients to a large soup pot at once, adding plenty of water. You can also add salt and pepper, but I usually don't at this stage, leaving decisions about them until I am using the stock for making a soup or sauce. (If you eat meat, add soup bones too, marrow bones or boney parts of chicken.) 

Boil all of the ingredients 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours--use the longer time especially if you have included meat. If only vegetables and herbs were used, you can just strain them out in a fine-mesh strainer and you have your stock. (If bones were added, you will probably want to refrigerate the pot overnight, then use a spoon to skim off any fat before you strain.)

Once the stock is strained, you can use it immediately to make soup, or you can put it in containers in the refrigerator for use in up to a couple of days. Or, if you have too much to use fresh, put some in containers and store these in the freezer for later use. Write the kind of stock and the date on a label affixed to the containers. 

May the soup be with you!

 

 

 


Master Gardener Plant Sale Coming Up April 21, 2018

Each year the Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco counties has a spring plant sale and educational fair. This is their 9th year!

The event will be held on Saturday, April 21, 2018, 9 am to 1 pm at the San Mateo County Event Center, Sequoia Hall. There will be free parking at 2495 South Delaware Street, San Mateo. 

The plants available will be new and heirloom varieties of tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplants, herbs and more.  They will have top-performing selections for each microclimate. 

There will also be educational tables and expert advice. 

 

For more information, go to www.bit.ly/MGPlantSales

 

 


Pokeweed--A huge and Toxic Weed

In my SF Chronicle Column for November, I reported on a weed that has been sighted in San Francisco. It's a native in the  Eastern part of the U.S., so I was surprised to find it here, but there it is. I also saw one down the Peninsula this summer, though I forget just where. 

The plant is large, 4-10 feet tall, and most parts and stages of it are toxic to most mammals. I described it in my column, but was unable to get a photo of it into the print version. However, I can show a photo here. This is an image of a stem of berries. Botanists call this kind of flower or fruit-bearing stem a raceme. The berries are dark purple. When they are ripe, their stems and the longer central stem of the raceme are usually bright pink. The stems of ripe berries are the most recognizable parts of the plant. 

Pokeweed berries

Photo by Andra Sadoun

You may find it surprising, given the toxicity of this plant, to know that it has long been a part of the diet of rural people in the South and eastern-central parts of the U.S.one of the young greens gathered and eaten in spring.  Only the leaves of very young plants are eaten, and they must be boiled two or three times, with the boiling water drained off of them between boilings and after the last one. This dish is called "poke sallet." (It important to know that the word "sallet" derives from an old English word that meant cooked greens, not salad, as the raw leaves would be toxic.)

The berries are toxic, and eating only a few has killed small children. Though some say the seeds are the most toxic part, it hardly seems worth the risk to try them. Birds seem immune to the berry toxin, so the fruit is eaten by many kinds of birds, including Northern mockingbird, mourning doves, and cedar waxwings. Raccoons and possums may also be able to eat the berries, though most mammals cannot.

The most toxic part of all is the root. The plant is perennial, likely to regrow from last year's roots, so the best way to get rid of it is to dig it out. Wear gloves, as the toxin can enter through skin. Then pick up any fallen berries you see, and watch for seedlings. (The young plants are sort of nondescript, with large oval, pointed leaves.)

How did the weed get here? Presumably from bird-planted seed, but it's possible the seed was assisted by some other form of transportation. It could have stowed away in tire treads or shoe treads. While there are domestic varieties, are grown as ornamentals, their leaves look different from the wild plant. (The ornamental varieties are  ‘Silberstein’, which has pale, cream-colored leaves with green spots, and ‘Sunny Side Up’, with yellow-green leaves.) The ones being found in the Bay Area seem to have normally green leaves, meaning are not escaped ornamentals.

 


Here are my recommendations for sources of information on growing fruit and nuts in San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Also search this blog for info on citrus HLB disease and on wooly apple aphid, both problems for which you should keep a lookout: 

Golden Gate Gardener: Third Edition, Pam Pairce, Sasquatch Books, 2010. The chapter on fruit is a good primer on selection of fruit-bearing plants for Bay Area gardens, with a discussion of microclimate adaptation and summaries of the care and possible problems involved in growing specific fruits. Suggested varieties included.

ANR University of California Publication 8261 Selecting Fruit, Nut, and Berry Crops for Home Gardens in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties, by K. S. Jones and Laurence R. Costello. http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/repositoryfiles/8261-54314.pdf

Grow a Little Fruit Tree, Ann Ralph, Storey Publishing, 2104  This is my favorite book for current and prospective fruit tree owners. She covers choosing, planting, harvesting, pests, but most importantly, pruning. The most important information in the book is how to make the first cut and prune the tree in the early years to create trees that you can harvest without having to use a ladder. The illustrations are attractive and useful. 

California Rare Fruit Growers. This California-wide organization has local chapters that often give workshops or hold scion exchanges. They are on the web at crfg.org, especially useful is the fruit facts Wiki, https://crfg.org/wiki/fruit/, which includes fact sheets for many kinds of fruits, especially subtropical ones. They also now have a YouTube channel, at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=crfg.

 


Popup Perennial Edibles Sales

If you are looking for a single fruit tree or a entire edible landscape, you may find what you need at one of the periodic plant sales being held on the grounds of the Bay Natives Nursery at  10 Cargo Way in San Francisco. There will be one April 22 and again on May 13. On both days, at 1 p.m., there will be a talk on Edible Backyard Gardens by Mike Boss, Plant Ecologist and Garden Maker.

Available at the edible perennials sales will be trees, shrubs, vines, and non-woody perennials--everything from artichoke plants to unusual citrus. 

While you're there, check out the natives at Bay Natives, as well as their lively flock of chickens. Penned next to the nursery is a small herd of goats, also fun to watch. 

 


Spring Bloom in Fall--It's a Problem

In today's SF Chronicle (January 1, 1917), I wrote about plants that bloomed last fall in San Francisco that ought not to have been blooming until spring, caused by continuing climate change.

While it's true that we typically have our warmest "summer" weather from mid-September to mid-October, this weather has been lasting longer than usual. Last fall, the warm days and mild nights lasted until near the end of November. We celebrated time spent outdoors in nice weather, but some of our garden plants reacted by blooming and leafing out as if it were spring. This is a problem for the plants, which put energy and physical matter into doing this, so that when spring really does come, they have less stored matter and food energy to do it all again. This weakens the plant, leaving it more susceptible to all kinds of setbacks.

Case in point is my apple tree, which has borne bountiful crops of delicious apples for 30 years. But recently it has been trying to bloom in fall. Then, because winters aren't quite cold enough, it blooms later than usual in the spring. And, because of the energy it used up in fall, it blooms more sparsely. Two years ago, it had practically no fruit.

Last year it did better, though not as well as it used to do. The photo below, which I sent to the Chronicle, but they didn't use in the paper, shows my tree last November, with a few last apples and last leaves till hanging on while blooms and new leaves opened all around them. Now, on January 1, all the new leaves have succumbed to cold, wasting all that effort.

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If you are growing other temperate plants in the Bay Area, such as cherries and plums (ornamental or fruiting), magnolias, lilacs, or azaleas, you may be having the same kind of problem. What's to be done to save our plants? Obviously continue to work against climate change, a movement in which California in general is doing well.  But we can also join an effort to record the changes, in which our regional data will provide extremely valuable evidence.

More data about how climate change is affecting plants in our region is especially important so that we are represented in a system that has so much more data from cold-winter regions.

There are two organizations that are seeking citizen science data. One is the National Phenology Network (www.usapn.org/), sponsor of the National Phenology Project. It studies both plant and animal species. Another, Project Budburst (budburst.org), is studying only plant responses. Phenology is the study of what plants and animals do in response to seasonal changes.

Sending records to these databases is easy to do online. Log in, choose a plant, and tell them what it is doing on various dates. Children can do it at home and school classes can do it. Both web sites have curriculum information to help teachers fit the work into classes. It teaches observation, appreciation of plants, climate science, ecology, and how science is done

So as our new, and rather unnerving, year begins, please help observe and record what is going on with nature. Your reports will be powerful.


Open Source Seed Initiative

 

OSSI flags april 17 2014 event

Photo by Jack Kloppenburg

Have you purchased a plant and found that the label says it is illegal to propagate the plant? Illegal to make cuttings, divisions, or to to save seed? Increasingly, when plant varieties are being patented, making it illegal for a customer to get them without purchasing them from a certain company.

A separate issue affecting gardeners who want to save seeds is the increase in the market of F1 hybrid varieties. These are bred to display a certain set of desirable traits in the first generation, but not in subsequent generations. There is no law against saving F1 hybrid seed to grow, but if you do so, the positive traits will break apart in the next generation (the F2), some appearing in some offspring, others in other offspring. A certain number of the plants that grow from the seed won't have any of the positive traits of the first generation.

Older plant varieties, the so-called "heirlooms," are not F1 hybrids. This is because throughout human history, farmers and gardeners didn't know how to breed plants to create those hybrids. They just saved seeds from their best plants from year to year. (Another word for these non-hybrids is open pollinated. So all heirloom seed is open-pollinated.) The heirloom seed movement has been finding these old varieties and selling them through their seed catalogs. 

Besides this salvaging of old varieties, certain plant breeders, university researchers or public-minded private individuals, have been breeding new open pollinated varieties with positive traits that rival the hybrids. They may "grow out" a hybrid, saving the best seed from several post-F1 hybrid generations until they obtain seed that will stably reproduce the best traits of that hybrid. Or they may make crosses themselves, transferring pollen of a plant onto the female part of the flower of another, hoping to create offspring with the best traits of both parents.

In my San Francisco Chronicle column of January, 2016, I reported on some open-pollinated sweet corn varieties that carry the supersweet gene of some hybrids. Then, in my July column, I reported on some new open-pollinated vegetable varieties that will be useful in cooler gardens near the coast. (You can access my column at sfgate.com, with a search for Pam Peirce.)

However, in my research to locate these new varieties, I came across a new initiative that gardeners should know about. This is the Open Source Seed Initiative. Some of the new breeders of open-pollinated varieties are registering them with this initiative. By doing so, they are stating that they will not patent the seed of the variety, nor can it, or other varieties that are bred from it to be patented. Here is their logo:

Cropped-ossi-logo-words

 

You will start to see this logo in seed catalogs. If you are viewing a catalog online, you will often have the option of sorting the offerings to just show the ones registered with the Open Source Seed Initiative. You can also read more about the organization that registers the varieties at osseeds.org.

One of my favorite varieties covered by the initiative is 'Flashy Butter Oak' lettuce. It is a looseleaf lettuce with broad, oakleaf-type leaves, speckled with maroon. I find it to be sweet and nonbitter even when it is mature and about to form seed, and that it grows well in cold or warmer weather. (I garden in San Francisco, so my definition of warm is not what it would be inland.)

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Photo by Pam Peirce

This lettuce was selected or bred by Frank Morton of Lupine Knoll Farm at Grant's Pass Oregon. At my last reading of catalogs, you could buy seed at Bountiful Gardens (bountifulgardens.com), Territorial Seed Company (territorialseeds.com), or Wild Garden Seed Company (wildgardenseed.com). (I have also been saving seed to donate to the Seed Library at the Potrero Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, but they will not always have it, as my donations may not be large enough to meet the need.)

Frank Morton has released several other nice open-pollinated varieties, several of which are under the Open Source Seed Initiative, and you will see his name listed next to his  varieties in seed catalogs. So that you can have a face to associate with these varieties, I offer his photo, collecting lettuce seed. Thanks Frank!

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Photo by Karen Morton

 

 

 

 


A Shout Out for Nichols Garden Nursery Seed Company

               When I first arrived in San Francisco, many years ago, living in a rented flat, wanting to plant a few vegetables in a neighbor's yard. I discovered the Nichols Garden Nursery herb and rare seed catalog. They had everything I needed to try out my new climate and microclimate. They are still there, still carry old and new favorites, and now, of course, they are also on the web.  

               Located in Western Oregon, the nursery is experienced with cool summers, especially with cool summer nights. In their catalog I discovered many varieties that were to become staples over the years. They had purple-podded bush beans, which are your best bet to grow regular garden beans in near-coastal microclimates because they germinate well in cold soil. If those worked in a particular location, then I tried 'Roma II', a bush romano bean, the kind with broad, flat pods and a buttery texture. If the garden was too chilly for the purple bush beans, then I knew I had better plant Scarlet Runner beans, because they are, as the Nichols catalog states, "an excellent cool weather variety." If I had great success with the Roma II beans, it was time to try some regular pole beans, like 'Goldmarie', a yellow-podded pole romano or old standby 'Kentucky Wonder Pole'.

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Left to right: Scarlet Runner climbing bean, 'Royalty Purple-Podded Bush Bean, and 'Goldmarie' yellow-podded pole Romano bean.

               Nichols still carries all of these bean varieties, all open pollinated, all heirlooms, and many more. And they still carry 'Early Sunglow' corn, a variety listed at 62 days to maturity. It succeeds in milder San Francisco neighborhoods, taking 90 days due to the cool microclimate, but still allowing two plantings a summer--one in May and another in July. That second planting comes out in mid-October, right before the usuals start of the rainy season. The stalks are short, but bear 2 ears. The ears are smaller than supermarket corn, but worth it for the chance to eat fresh, fresh, corn-on-the-cob.

               They also still carry overwintering cole crops like 'Purple Sprouting' broccoli, the beautiful and the delicious 'January King' cabbage. And many kinds of kale, including two packets of kale mixes that let you see the wonderful diversity of this nutritious leafy green.

               It was also the place I first found 'Stupice' tomatoes, early and tasty in cool summers. They carry 'Early Girl', 'Green Zebra', and 'Oregon Spring', all of which have borne fruit well in my Mission District community garden. And they have kept up with the times, now the sweet golden cherries 'Sungold', and offering late blight resistant 'Jasper' cherry and larger-fruited 'Mountain Magic'.

               There are many other choice varieties in this catalog that I discovered since I first saw it. They have sweet, orange cherry tomato 'Sungold', reliable and early 'Snow Crown' cauliflower, the choice color-mix 'Bright Lights' chard, striped and ribbed heirloom zucchini 'Costata Romanesco', red-splashed and long-bearing 'Flashy Butter Oak' lettuce, and 'Bull's Blood' beets, the red leaves of which seem not to interest leafminers in my garden.

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'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard

               They have also kept up with the issues of the day when it comes to garden seeds. They signed the Safe Seed Pledge, which promises they will not carry seed that is transgenic or genetically engineered. They have also joined the brand new Open Source Seed movement, offering many of the varieties that are pledged never to be patented, keeping seed these open-pollinated varieties available for seedsaving and further selection by gardeners and farmers.

               The first page that attracted me to Nichols was the "New and Unusual Vegetables" page. Here I found the uncommon crop, the surprises, unusual varieties and little-known crops. Many unusual crops are also in the rest of the catalog. They have 5 varieties of hops roots, 4 kinds of potato starts, walking onion bulbs, seed for the exquisitely flavored herb, Shiso, 'Lemon Gem' edible marigold, 3 varieties of Quinoa, miner's lettuce, magenta-leaved orach, and Tromboncino climbing summer squash.

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Walking Onion is a scallion (green onion) that propagates by stem-top bulblets.

I have only ordered seed from Nichols Garden Nursery, but they sell many other products, from essential herb oils, herbal teas, and 2 kinds of sourdough starters to ingredients and equipment for making beer cheese and wine.

               Nichols Garden Nursery is a family-owned business founded in 1950 by Nick and Edith Nichols and run currently by their daughter Rose Marie Nchols McGee. They are located at 1190  Old Salem Road, in Albany, Oregon. At their brick and mortar nursery, they sell herb plants and seasonal seedlings, including many specialty plants they don't sell through the mail. You just missed their annual Plant Day, with the traditional serving of Lavendar/Ginger ice cream, but it is the Saturday after Mother's Day, in case you are planning a trip through Oregon next spring.

               The website of Nichols Garden Nursery is nicholsgardennursery.com. Pay it a visit and discover a treasure for our west coast gardens.


A New Protector Against Burrowing Animals

This spring I found that a burrowing animal was eating plants, roots and tops, in my small front garden. I know it was not a mole, because moles don't eat plants, just insects and earthworms. Could have been a gopher, but by the amount it ate in a night, I thought maybe something smaller, maybe a RAT! (The rats that burrow are called sewer rats; the ones that don't, roof rats. Rats have burrowed in my backyard before so this seemed a good guess.)

Whatever it was, my Chinese forget-me-nots, the ones I grew lovingly from seed and transplanted into the garden, were disappearing night by night. Then whatever it was started in on the primroses I just bought and set out, and the large 'Moonglow' yellow yarrow was losing branches, then roots. Then it ate most of the tops off of two x kellereri yarrows!  These were divisions of my original plant-which is one of my favorites. Something had to happen.

I dug out all of the yarrow, both 'Moonglow' and  Kellereri, and what was left of the primroses and put them all in pots on the back porch. Then I cleared away and found the place the varmint had blocked up the opening of its burrow. I dug it out, exposing the hole. The varmint had replugged it the next morning. I repeated. It repeated. I repeated. After many repeats, over several days, I decided I had to escalate. I have heard that water down the burrow can discourage a burrowing pest, but doubted it in a large garden, but in my 10 x 12 foot front garden, maybe it would work. I wanted to tell the varmint that this was not a good place for a home, before it ate everything left there. At this point about a quarter of the tiny space was a wreck. My husband was beginning to ask whether maybe I should be looking for a trap. I said hold on, let's see if this works.

So, the next day, I dug the plug out again, got the hose, attached a jet nozzle, and put it down the hole. Turned on the water. Most of it stayed in the hole. But the next say, the plug was back.

Over the course of a week or so, I dug out the burrow plug 8 or 10 times, used the hose 3 times. And then the varmint stopped replugging the hole. 

During the battle, I decided to replant a couple of plants in gopher baskets. And here is where my problem led to a discovery that will be useful to other gardeners. When I went over to San Francisco's Flowercraft nursery, they offered me a new kind of basket, made of a soft stainless steel wire mesh. So this is what I have used, and have written about it in my May 8th, 2016 SF Chronicle column.They are called Grow Master Baskets. To learn more about them and see who sells them, see westernplantingsolutions.com or call 530-751-3366.

These baskets are less expensive than the old kind, easier to handle, and come in many sizes.  The company suggests fitting a basket over the rootball like a glove, but I have used baskets that are a bit larger than present rootballs, spreading the baskets in a wider planting hole, and putting some soil in them, then setting the plants in the soil.That way the plant has room to grow more roots and still be protected.

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'Moonglow' yarrow plant in a Grow Master anti-gopher basket

When I first used the basket, the varmint was still active. Because I had used a somewhat larger basket than the rootball, there was enough of it to roll up over the plant and secure with some plant-tie that I ran through some of the openings in the mesh. This protected the top of the plant as well as the roots while it got re-established, and while I figured out what to do next.

But now I have uncovered all of the protected plants. The 'Moonglow' yarrow is about to bloom. The x kellereri yarrows are still recovering in pots, but they shall return. And one Chinese forget-me-not survived to bloom beautifully!