Native Pollinators


Syrphid Fly

Friend or Foe?

This issue is not nearly as black and white as we would like. Like all things, your garden must also have a dark and a light, literally and figuratively. Just outside your door there is a constant whirlwind of insect activity. Day and night ‘bugs’ are at work pollinating your flowers, decomposing organic waste and of course some are also damaging your plants. But many of the bugs you can spot on any given day are doing you and the nations food supply a great service.

Even though it may not seem like it, many of the insects in your garden right now are providing the service of pollination. Many people are surprised to hear the staggering numbers associated with these pollinators.

  • 90% of all plant species require animals to help start seed and fruit production in flowers, ensuring full bodied fruit and seed set
  • To date more then 199,000 invertebrate pollinators including bees, butterflies and moths have been discovered around the world
  • 75% of food, fiber, condiment, spice and medicine crops are pollinated by animals, 1 out of every 3-4 bites or sips of a beverage was brought to you by a pollinator!
  • This includes Asparagus, Broccoli, Cacao, Coffee, Lettuce, Olives, Black Pepper, Tea, Mustard, Cotton and many more!
  • This equates to a $40 billion agricultural industry in the U.S. alone

When I think of pollinators the first thing that comes to mind is honeybees but they are actually non-native and can out compete some of our 4,000 native north american bees for resources.

Sweat Bee

Bumble Bee


What can you do? 

  • Don’t make assumptions. Just because you don’t immediately recognize a bug as ‘beneficial’ doesn’t mean that it is a danger to you or your garden.
  • Do provide the basics of food, water and shelter.
  • In order to keep and feed all of the beneficial insects you hope to attract you will also need a population of ‘bad bugs’.
  • Also because a product claims it is safe to beneficial insects doesn’t mean that it is. Research a product and the ingredients in detail before choosing to buy.
  • Do use your best judgment with products that claim to be safe as long as they are not sprayed on the flowers or the pollinators, assume that all plants absorb what is sprayed on them, distributing it throughout their systems (even to pollen and then your food!).
  • Better yet eliminate sprays, soaps and chemicals altogether if you cannot be sure that they will not negatively affect the workers ensuring your healthy crop.

Swallowtail Butterfly


Your garden will thank you!


Blossom End Rot

Hopefully none of you have noticed the signs of blossom end rot which is easily identifiable by the brown, sunken patches on the blossom end of tomatoes. If you have, don’t fear this is one tomato disease that is easily cured and first and foremost easily prevented.

Most commonly blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in your soil, here in San Diego though we tend to have adequate calcium in our existing soil.  So who is to blame? Unfortunately, we are. In San Diego blossom end rot could be prevented and cured if we pay attention to how much and how often we water our plants. If our soil is not evenly moist then the roots have a very hard time pulling in their required nutrients. Therefore, our culprits are dry as a bone and soaking wet soils, two conditions that make it difficult for roots to get what they need.

What to do? You know your soil best and are the only one that can physically feel how moist it is. When you are watering tomatoes remember that they like more water, less often then your other plants. In the heat of the summer I give my plants a deep watering once a week. For those of you in containers or raised beds beware of soggy soils and check your drainage. Often times setting up a drip line at the base of your tomato will be giving the area directly below the plant way too much water on an almost daily basis, ignoring the surrounding soil where the roots have spread.

At home in my raised beds I keep the drip on water hungry squash, watermelon and eggplant, using the hose for infrequent watering.

If you have already noticed the disease pick off the afflicted fruits so that no more energy is spent trying to grow what you cannot eat. Employ new watering tactics as soon as possible and mulch around the tomato plant if your soil is more dry then wet to help hold moisture in.

Let me know how it grows!


June in the Garden

Sunflowers – Susan Entwistle

I hope you’re ready to grow! June is jam packed with everything you need to know to grow and enjoy a great garden.

Wednesday, June 6th – The San Diego Herb Club will be meeting from 7-9pm in the Casa Del Prado building, rm. 101, to discuss Herb Gardening Demystified“.

Saturday, June 9th – Low Water Plants will be the focus of a walk & talk hosted by South Bay Botanic Garden from 4:30 – 5:30pm.

Saturday, June 9th – Visit Seeds in the City at our Little Italy Mercato booth, just west of India Street from 8:00 – 2:00pm

Saturday, June 9th – Wild Willow Farms host a Summer Fermentation Workshop from 12 – 1:30pm where you will learn everything you need to know to properly pickle!

Thursday, June 14th – Enjoy specialty parings at Sea Rocket Bistro that will benefit the wonderful program at Seeds at City from 5 – 10pm.

Saturday, June 16th – Visit Seeds in the City at our Little Italy Mercato booth, just west of India Street from 8:00 – 2:00pm

Saturday, June 16th – The third annual Farm Tour Day will be held from 9:00 – 3:00 pm and feature a choice of two tours that cover four San Diego farms each.

Saturday, June 23rd – Build your own ‘top bar’ beehive at Wild Willow Farms with instructor Paul Maschka. The $50 class fee will buy you the materials you need to get started.

Saturday, June 23rd – No farmers market for us this Saturday, see you with all new additions on 6/30!

Saturday, June 23rd – The Solana Center hosts a free composting workshop within the Otto Center at the San Diego Zoo from 8:00 -10:00am

Thursday, June 28th – Learn how to grow great veggies while saving water with the Incredible! Edible, Waterwise, and Beautiful workshop at CSSE from 6:00 – 7:30pm.

Saturday, June 30th – Attracting Birds, Hummingbirds & Butterflies will be covered at the San Diego Botanic Garden from 10:00 – 12:00pm. The class is $20 for non-members.

Saturday, June 30th – Visit Seeds in the City at our Little Italy Mercato booth, just west of India Street from 8:00 – 2:00pm.

May in the Garden Calendar

Ditat Deus - Marcela Camarena Lubian

Spring is officially here and with it many fun and exciting gardening events.

May 10th – Slow Food Urban host a class on fermentation. Learn how to make all your favorites; pickles, sourdough bread, yogurt and root beer! The class will be from 6-8pm and is $15 – $20.

May 12th – Visit Seeds in the City at our Little Italy Mercato booth, just west of India Street from 9:00 – 1:30pm

May 12th – Learn how to build your own aquaponics system and grow your own veggies with the Ecolife Foundation, the $30 class is offered from 10-12pm or 2-4pm.

May 14th – The SD Horticultural Society presents Lorene Edwards Forkner who is lecturing on Three Big Rules (and Four Small Ones) for Designing Small Gardens with impact. The event starts at 6pm and is held on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

May 19th – Visit Seeds in the City at our Little Italy Mercato booth, just west of India Street from 9:00 – 1:30pm

May 19th – Celebrating Community Gardens from the Ground Up is a free event from 11am-5 pm at the TLC Giving Garden, 11240 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, enjoy talks on composting & grey water recycling.

May 26th – Visit Seeds in the City at our Little Italy Mercato booth, just west of India Street from 9:00 – 1:30pm


Buying Plants at the Nursery

On a recent trip to local nurseries with a friend who was looking for drought resistant plants to complete her design I stopped over in the vegetables to check out the varieties. We stopped by one of the major home improvement stores as well two of the most popular nurseries in town. I was shocked by what I found, from the mega store to the small family owned stores the plants were in a sad state. I watched as people searched through the selections to find healthy plants. It made me think of all the times I have heard people say “I just don’t have a green thumb”, well no one would if they started off with sick and stressed plants!

Flowering Tomatoes

When selecting nursery plants try your best to choose plants in the variety that you want that are NOT flowering. If this task is impossible remove all flowers right after you plant it. Under no circumstances should you purchase plants that are already setting fruit. When a young seedling has been living in tight, cramped quarters on a shelf for too long it will start to flower. At this point the plant has received the message that it will not be able to mature and it rushes to bear fruit in order to essentially produce seed which will ensure its continued existence. All of this energy should have been going into developing healthy roots and a strong structure. The gardener will be the one to pay the price for these unhealthy, overgrown plants with lackluster production and high susceptibility to disease. Also plants brought home with signs of disease can put your whole garden at risk.

Start off on the right foot by selecting plants that are bright green with no signs of discoloration or pests and you are sure to have bountiful harvest this season.

Seeds in the City Squash
Seeds in the City Tomatoes
Seeds in the City Peppers
Seeds in the City Eggplant

October Garden Calendar in San Diego

Within the Garden – William Templeton
Summer has drawn to a close as cooler temperatures and shorter days takeover. Luckily our mild climate still allows for abundance in the garden and there is no shortage of events to inspire your fall plantings this month. 
October 8th – This Saturday learn how to Design your Garden with Native Plants with Greg Rubin at the SD Botanic Garden from 9 – 12pm at a cost of $25-30.
October 8th – Learn how to Grow Your Own Food for free with VGSD at Olivewood Gardens. Class 1 of 3 is from 8 – 12pm and introduces you to all of the basics.
October 8th – Stop by the booths at The 4th Annual Sustain La Mesa Environmental Festival which is held from 10 – 2pm.
October 10th – The SDHS host highly entertaining author of Wicked Plants Amy Stewart who will present her new book Wicked Bugs. The event starts at 6pm and is $10 for non-members.
October 13th – The Center for Sustainable Energy host arborist Leah Rottke as she speaks about Planting Fall Trees for Spring Vigor from 5:30 – 7:30pm.
October 15th – The SD Farm Bureau host the 2nd Annual Farm Tour from 9:30 – 3:30 pm. This tour features 6 farms and the opportunity to see how mushrooms get their start, visit the Stone Brewing Farm, learn how to best grow avocados and finish with a wine tasting. $20 for adults, $10 children.
October 15 & 16th – The SD Botanic Garden will hold their 29th Annual Fall Plant Sale from 10-4pm that is free with admission.
October 19th – Enjoy pumpkin carving, food, music and the film Nourish at Seeds at City Fall Festival from 11 – 2pm.
October 22nd – Help to sustain the Seeds at City Urban Farm through their Young Farmers Fundraiser starting at 3pm within the Wild Willow Farm.
October 22nd – Learn to build a Hydroponic Fall Garden with AGPals at the SD Botanic Garden from 9 – 12pm. $70 pays for the class and materials.  
October 23rdPlanning and Planting Fall crops will be the topic of this free class taught by Farmer Bill at City Farmers Nursery from 1:30 – 3:00pm.
October 29th – Learn How to Compost for free at the San Diego Zoo from 8 -10am at this event sponsored by the Solana Center.

Did I miss your event? Email me at

June Garden Calendar in San Diego

Marcela Camarena Lubian

The gardens are in bloom and the calendar is chocked full of fun and inspirational garden happenings this month.

June 2nd – The Best Sustainable Fruit Trees will be discussed from 5:30 – 7:30pm at this free class which will be held at the CA Center for Sustainable Energy.
June 4th – Succulent Reproduction is the focus of this class that teaches how to revive old plants and start new ones for $35.00 from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm.
June 4th – This free Gardening 101 class will cover seed starting, irrigation systems and water harvesting from 9:00 – 12:00 pm at the Solana Center.
June 4th & 5th – SD Cactus Society’s Annual Show and Sale will be held at Balboa Park from 10:00 – 4:00 pm.
June 5th – Choosing the Best Irrigation System is covered at Liberty Farms from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm for $35.00 and covers what irrigation will best meet your needs.
June 7th – Learn How to Start & Manage Community Gardens with the Solana Center at this free class from 6:00 – 8:30 pm that is taught every Tuesday of the month.
June 7th & 14th – Aquaponics Workshop will be held over at the Ecolife Foundation for $30.00 which includes lunch.
June 11th – This free class covers Xeriscape: Low Water Use Plants at the Walter Andersen Nursery in San Diego at 9:00 am. On the same day Summer Vegetable Care and Planting will be covered at the Poway store from 9:30-10:30 am.
June 11th – The final, free Gardening 101 class will cover pest, weed management and cooking and sharing from 9:00 – 12:00 pm at the Solana Center.
June 12th – Beehive and Frame Assembly will be the focus of this 11:00 am class taught at Liberty Farms for a fee of $35.00.
June 12th – Free Winemaking Demonstration will be held at Curds & Wine from 1:00 – 3:00pm, RSVP online.
June 18th – SD Master Gardeners Summer Plant Sale will be held from 10:00 – 3:00pm at Balboa Park. Arrive early for the best selection!
June 25th – Planting for Challenging Areas will be covered in this free class at City Farmers Nursery from 1:30 – 3:30pm which includes hills, shade and areas with poor drainage.
June 26th – Poultry Care and Management is the topic of this 10:00 am class taught at Liberty Farms for $35.00 that covers selecting the best breed for you and how to care for your chickens.

Did I miss your event? Email me at

Inspiring San Diego Home Gardens

The last month of garden tours have been full of inspirational design. It was such a delight to see how many people have converted their lawns and other water hungry plants through the creative use of succulents and drought resistant plants.

Combinations of color brightened up containers and landscaping.
It was also great to see how many people are now keeping backyard chickens!

And finally a few words of inspiration…


What the heck?

Before the heat of the summer takes over I tend to do alot of hand watering in the garden. Even though it takes considerably longer, because it really does no good to spray blasts of water in the direction of your plants, it has its benefits. When you hand water you tend to notice slight changes in your plants and even notice new visitors which will be the topic of the next post.

Insect activity is in full swing so you will no doubt have similar calling cards left in your yard.

Winter Squash
I noticed the lower leaves of this squash were starting to resemble freshly skated ice with strange looping trails going in every direction. Up close I could see that the leaf was literally mined as the insect moved over the surface. Which brought me to one conclusion;
Vegetable Leafminer Larvae
The pale green larvae of the vegetable leafminers adult form is a tiny fly that will lay its eggs on the underside of leaves. These tiny larvae can be spotted inside the tunnels they make which gives you an idea of how small they are. Not to worry though because the leafminer will rarely do enough damage to harm production. If the damage seems to be limited to a few leaves you can remove them which will limit spreading but if the damage is widespread the plant will still able to photosynthesize. The leafminer is also dinner for ladybugs and lacewings. 
I noticed while watering this eggplant seedling that it had lost the upper edge of it’s leaf. I looked for a nearby insect or slime trails and found nothing so I inspected the bite marks. The insect here only ate from the outer edge which meant caterpillar or grasshopper. On further inspection you can see that the entire leaf was a meal, veins and all. This meant we were looking at something with strong jaws.
We were dealing with a grasshopper which everyone will inevitably find in the yard and they are unfortunately hard to catch. The more time you spend in the garden the more likely you are to inadvertently stumble into one as I have many times. Luckily the chickens prize this gourmet treat and make a fast disposal system. 

The damage on this young yellow fin potato literally showed up overnight. In order to determine the culprit I looked for clues at the scene of the crime. The most telling are slime trails or a pest that is still enjoying it’s meal. I had neither here so instead I had to rely on the holes in the leaves. They were closer to the center than the edge and small to medium which either pointed to an earwig or caterpillar. On closer inspection you can see that the bite marks are irregular in shape meaning one thing:

Cabbage Looper

 The Cabbage Looper caterpillar is thankfully very easy to spot and can normally be found on the underside of the leaves on the plant showing signs of damage. You can just pick them off and in our case feed them to the chickens who love these tasty treats (another great reason to keep chickens). You will want to provide a happy home for lacewings, ladybugs, solider bugs and wasps who dine on this insect. Also cabbage lopper is deterred by compact thyme which makes a great addition to the garden.


This tomato has not been attacked by a virus or bacteria, instead it been discovered by skeletonizers. Skeletonizer damage can be distinguished by sunken in, chewed away areas of a leaf where the veins are still intact. There are many variations of this species whose moth form is also spotted in the garden. I easily controlled it by handpicking them off the leaves and the tomato has grown exponentially with no new damage.

Here is the culprit

Keep in mind for most pest there is a predator and in order to lure and keep these beneficial insects we should not eliminate all of their food supply. Also if you take away one thing from this let it be that the only spray I utilized was a hard blast of water and most damage on plants, up to 20% of the plant above ground, will not harm production. 

Any mysterious damage has you stumped? Email us at and we will get on the case.

May Garden Calendar in San Diego

May Flowers
Marcela Camarena Lubian

There is truly something for everyone this month…

May 1st
East County Earth Day will be held from 11:00 – 3pm at the Mt. Helix Amphitheater and the free event will include lectures on such topics as growing your own food and hummingbirds in San Diego.
Replace that thirsty lawn just in time for summer with City Farmers free class from 1:30 – 3:00pm that focuses on cost and water saving alternatives.
May 3rd
Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center will offer their free one hour guided tour of the gardens and spectacular education program. Go on the website to RSVP.
May 5th – 8th 
Garden Festival at the San Diego Zoo celebrates the 700,000 different plant species and teaches guest about the many uses of edible varieties. Free with admission.
May 7th
Aquaponics – find out how you can GROW your own fish and create a closed loop system by means of Tilapia and their emulsion which becomes the perfect fertilizer for your vegetables at this free class taught from 1:30 – 3:00pm at City Farmers Nursery.
Mission Hills Garden Tour – “A Walk Down Sunset Boulevard” will showcase 12 homes and runs from 10:00 – 4:00pm. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.
May 11th
Beginning Beekeeper class will be taught at Liberty Farms from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at a cost of $35.00.
May 12th
Re-imagining the California Lawn will be presented by author Carol Bornstein at the SD Botanic Garden from 7:00 – 8:00pm. The lecture will be $10 for members and $12 for non-members.
May 14th
Organic Gardening classes will be taught in a free four part series from 9:00 – 12:00pm by the Solana Center. Classes cover everything from garden design to cooking and sharing.
Historic Coronado Garden Tour from 10:00 – 4:00pm features 8 homes and is $20 in advance.
May 15th
Learn how to Make Your Own Cheese in this free class taught at City Farmers Nursery from 1:00 – 4:00pm.
May 19th
Growing up Vertical: The Future of Farming will be discussed by Gordon Smith at SD Botanic Gardens from 6:00 – 7:00 pm, this class is a must for apartment dwellers and is $10 for members and $12 for non-members.
May 21st
Ladybug Day at the SD Botanic Garden from 10:00 – 3:00pm.
May 22nd 
Hive Management will be taught at Liberty Farms from 10:00 to 1:00 pm at a cost of $35.00
May 28th
Palm & Cycad sale at the SD Botanic garden will feature many rare and unusual varieties, free with admission. 9:00 – 3:00 pm

Did I miss your event? Email us at