Giving Back….Healthy Version

All too frequently, difficult financial times seem to equate unhealthy food choices with lack of options.  Needy families eat from the dollar menu or the processed food aisles because they think it’s the only way to get the most bang for their buck and local food drives reap an even greater bounty of unhealthy, often expired, processed food.

Below are some other options.  Feel free to chime in if you know of similar programs in your area.P.E.A.C.E. Garden at Saddleback will donate all vegetables and fruit grown on-site to the families that seek assistance from the Saddleback Food Pantry.

(No comment right now on the stupidity that is the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 (HR 875).

If you have your own edible garden and more veggies than you know what to do with, please contact The Harvest Club.  They will not only help you harvest your garden,but they will also donate the produce to needy families.  If they don’t serve your area, I’m sure they can refer you to someone who does!

On December 1st, The City of Irvine will be hosting the “Healthy” Food Drive.  I’m glad that they used the quotes because it will save me one or two facetious comments.  But they mean well and it could be a step in the right direction by making a point to indicate “healthy.”  Nonetheless, when you’re hungry (and I’ve been there), just about any food is greatly appreciated!  Please help out in Irvine or at your local food drive if you’re able to.

About this time last year, I had barely enough food to feed myself and was on the verge of losing my apartment and thinking that I’d have to quit school and pack it up to move back to Colorado.  I continue to be eternally thankful for the friends and family who came to my rescue and filled my tummy, lifted my spirits and gave me (and my zoo) a place to live until I could get back on my feet!

May you all continue to be blessed and, if you don’t feel like you are, please don’t go it alone but rather reach out for a boost up!  You are, but stress may be causing a little fog.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Playing for Change “One Love”

From Tilth to the Table – Mango Salsa

A couple of nights ago, I was unwinding while sprucing up the patio garden. Everything seems to be faring well given the weird weather that we’ve been experiencing in So Cal.  Then again, my plants are used to “tough love” (read “neglect”) when school gets busy so they’re no strangers to surviving in harsh conditions.

However, my red bell pepper plants are not only surviving but thriving!  In fact, they are downright perky due to the rains that we had a couple of weeks ago (please come back).  Red bell peppers are easy to grow and one of my favorite foods to eat alone or mixed in with something else… Mango Salsa!

Photo Credit: World of Crepes

Mango salsa pairs well with fish (Salmon, Tilapia, Mahi Mahi, Halibut), chicken, pork tenderloin or just scoop it up with some chips!

  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) diced mango
  • 1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a non-reactive medium bowl and stir to blend. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the salsa to macerate at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes or chill up to 6 hours.

Yield: about 2 cups…so double it because you’ll definitely want more.

Variations:  Add some diced avocado or slightly grill the mango.

Thinking about starting your own edible garden or adding to the one that you have?  Check out this list of seed companies compiled by Greg Holdsworth at Vegetable Gardener.

American Meadows
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Botanical Interests, Inc.
The Cook’s Garden
Evergreen Seeds
Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co.
Harris Seeds
Henry Field’s
Home Harvest Seeds (Ferry Morse)
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Jung Garden and Flower Seed Company
Kitazawa Seed Company
New Dimension Seed
Park Seed Co.
Reimer Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange
Seeds of Change
Stokes Seeds
Territorial Seed Co.
Thompson & Morgan
Tomato Growers Supply Co.
Totally Tomatoes

Not in Anybody’s Backyard!

What is this blog about?

I’m not really a big fan of labels but I did give it some thought a while back because, according to the experts on how to best build and support my future business, I need to identify my audience and zero in.

My conclusion?

Honestly, I don’t have any real desire to “zero in” too much because, for better or worse, I don’t believe that my mind is capable of doing that very well most of the time.

I’m studying to be a Landscape Architect so that’s very important to me.  My grandpa instilled the love of gardening in me…also important.  Many of my best memories have been formed while hiking & mountain biking the trails around my home and the great people that I’ve met in doing so!  Hugely important for my sanity!

However, if I had to choose what I’d like to “zero in” on, it’s open and green space and how we interact with it.  Planning it, designing it, enjoying it and taking care of it (that narrows things down a bit, right?).  This leads me to why I’ve been a little sad lately (mini soap box coming up).

Citrus Ranch Park in Tustin Ranch, CA

I live in the Tustin/Irvine area and love it mainly because, in a matter of minutes, I have multiple county or state park options to hike or mountain bike in.  Our neighborhood & adjacent cities have many, great municipal parks within spitting distance (and I’m not good at spitting).

Goliath and I walk to and around most of these parks and I was very excited when a new one was built right next door to my complex (especially nice for those rainy morning/evening dog walks).  Even my overly-critical Landscape Architecture student eye appreciates that they installed some different plants such as Kangaroo Paws, Rush, Carex, Sage, Strawberry Trees, Chitalpas, etc  and I have a couple of different areas that I can visualize how great the transition spaces will be upon maturation of the Sycamores!   (Not so much appreciation for the Flower Carpet Roses planted everywhere that the maintenance staff hate and can’t seem to take care of properly).

As somebody who will be involved in park and urban planning/design in the future, I also enjoy watching how different people use these types of spaces (or don’t use them).  The buzz about this park’s opening was constant and, when they finally dropped the barricades, it was packed every day and still is!   There were, literally, mobs of small children and parents on the playground from sun up to sun down.  Families had picnics, others chose to just sit on the grass and talk and fitness groups started using the park as their regular meeting place.  For about a month, it was a little too crowded for my overly-excitable Labrador buddy but the park was and continues to be a huge success!

For you planning and design nerds (of which I proudly affiliate myself), the city of Tustin now has 2.6 acres of park for every 1,000 people. The next park the city will build is a 25-acre sports park in Tustin Legacy at the former Marine base, which will change the ratio to 3.5 acres of park to 1,000 people, exceeding the national standard.

Lately, however, the park seems to have some unwanted visitors.  Vandals.

Since the park opened in February, many of the young Australian Willow, Camphor and Eucalyptus trees throughout the park and in the parking medians have been hacked, ripped out or pushed over.  This morning, as Goliath and I walked through, I noticed that two more were damaged and will probably die.

There are tracks across the grass on both sides of the park, about 1-foot width, that look like someone rode a motorcycle through it while wet.  Broken beer bottles litter the grassy areas and the citrus grove. Goliath has already stepped on some.  I suspect the same people are responsible for pushing over the young Eucalyptus trees along the adjacent horse trail and pushing over all of the concrete site furnishings (benches and trash containers) at the large sports park down the road.

At school, we discuss the extreme measures that are taken to protect LA’s parks and their users and I remember the problems in the parks around my own neighborhood and my grandmother’s growing up in Altadena and Pasadena.  I listen to the stories and think about how fortunate we are in most of Orange County to not have to deal with those conditions.  No, vandalism of this park in Tustin and having to create “safe places” in parks to shield children from errant gunfire is nowhere near an equal comparison but it’s sad nonetheless wherever and whenever it happens.

I’m a little bristly about this today and am suppressing my colorful language. Obviously, the cost of replacing the trees is a concern with many communities paying hundreds of thousands to do so.  But, more importantly, I think, is the cost to the community.   I take it personally and it gives me a sense of feeling violated!  These amazing spaces are such a gift to us and it only takes a few idiots to ruin it for so many!  I believe that with each act of vandalism, they are taking something away from everyone who uses the space and because it belongs to everyone collectively, people need to check themselves before they go around wrecking things!

It’s important to take steps to stop this if you’re ever a witness because (1) your tax dollars are being used to install, maintain and now repair these spaces, (2) your tax dollars are now being diverted from the valuable recreational programs and/or facilities that they were designated for and (3) it just blows!

Please call 9-1-1 or the local police precinct if you see a crime in progress.  Or, when an immediate police response is not needed, still call the local precinct or contact your city’s Parks & Recreation Dept.

During one of our classes, we had to do an assessment of Palmer Park in Glendale.  It has been designated a “Smart Park” due to the surveillance measures installed with the intent of keeping the community users safe (of course, not all community members are pleased with it).  I, however, particularly like the visual of people getting doused by the sprinklers that come on after 10:00 pm if they hop the fence!  Joking aside, is that what it takes?

I think that, ultimately, good still wins out over evil in that the park users continue to come and interact with each other and the park is still a success.  Hopefully the police can catch the vandals but, if not, maybe the continuously destroyed landscape will ignite a sense of ownership in the user community and more people will get personally involved in protecting our parks and open spaces.  We’re lucky to have them.

Photos from OC Register

Paws in the Garden

If you have pets, you enjoy having them in the yard with  you and, to be honest, I don’t know what it’s like to NOT have a furry shadow (or two) following me everywhere!

"Duke" Courtesy of Kim C. Martin Photography

Occasionally, however, when some people think of pets in the garden, this is the image that comes to mind.

It doesn’t have to be this way and, with a design plan in place, everyone will be able to co-exist peacefully….you, pets and the plants!

We’ve all heard the quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  In regards to a haphazard landscape design, you can also add, “and you plan to throw some serious cash (and time) out the window!”

So what now?

Safety is, of course, the most important aspect to a truly successful design but think about where your pet likes to go now and how they use their current space. Do they stand at the sliding glass door staring at you like the Mervyn’s lady waiting for you to open, open, open and come play?  Do they lounge in the sun? Do they pace the perimeter to keep the compound secure?  These are just a few things to consider when designing a garden that is enjoyable for everyone!

I took an informal survey of my own zoo and here’s what they said:

Goliath’s preference for his “yard” would be that we owned beachfront property at Del Mar Dog Beach but he would settle for a swimming pool (with beach entrance, of course), grass to scratch excessively, bunnies, lizards and crows to chase and a sunny spot to sleep from 8:00-3:00 (yes, he has specific beauty sleep hours).

Zoe says that when he’s not plotting to take over the world, he prefers to eat grasses & grass-like plants (he seems to have misunderstood the question)

Zoe AND Goliath requested an on-site snack shack with an endless supply of  rotisserie chicken.

Rodney would like any place where Goliath can’t find him.


Obviously, the first line of defense for your garden is dog training.  If you know how to train cats, please contact me!  Not only can you train your dog to stay out of the garden but also to use their own designated area such as this dog run by the folks at CraftPro.


Pets, like humans, enjoying exploring their surrounding on paths.  The more turns the better!  If a path has already been worn through an existing planting bed or around the perimeter of the yard, this is great!  No, really it is!  You’ll avoid the hassle (and expense) of having to replant an area that you thought was the ideal location.  Lay down some pea gravel, brick, paving stones or mulch and design around it.  Your pet may help you come up with a great design that you hadn’t even thought about yet!

Planting larger or more mature plants in masses is another way to give your pets a visual cue to go around rather than through.

Raised beds and planters might be a solution to discourage a curious dog (or bunny).  Cats don’t care what we want so plan accordingly.

The Manchester Deck Co Ltd


The ASPCA publishes a list of toxic and non-toxic plants. Always consult here or another toxic plant database when designing your pet-friendly garden if your pets like to snack as much as my cat does.

Nikki Phipps, lead writer at Gardening Know How discusses some of these plants in her article, “Pet Friendly Gardens and Plants.”

“There are many popular garden plants that are quite harmful, even deadly, to pets. In fact, commonly grown plants such as foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, yew, oleander, and kalanchoe contain cardio-toxins and can cause heart failure if ingested by pets. Other common garden plants, such as rhubarb and daylilies, are particularly dangerous to cats as they can lead to kidney failure. The autumn crocus can cause multiple reactions in both dogs and cats, including renal failure and liver damage. Even plantings of rhododendrons or azaleas can prove harmful to pets as they contain toxins causing gastrointestinal problems. Other potential hazards to your pets include mushrooms and cocoa hulls. You should avoid placing any of these within your pet-friendly garden.”

Ah yes, the cocoa hull.  Not only do you have to be careful of the plants that you select but your pets will also love the chocolaty goodness that is Cocoa Mulch.  It can also make them very ill!  Less toxic alternatives are shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark.


Planning for the worst while hoping for the best is a terrible way to go through life but useful when designing a pet-friendly garden.  Many plants can handle human and pet traffic although some may look a bit more ragged than others depending on the amount of traffic received.  Other plants are not as susceptible to animal’s, ahem, irrigation techniques.


Cats will chew on just about anything but, as Zoe mentioned, they especially love to chew on grassy-looking plants (real and synthetic).  Again, whether you have an indoor or outdoor kitty, be certain to check the toxic plant database to keep them safe.

Karen Nichols at The Cat’s Meow wrote a great article to help keep your feline happy in the garden, “13 Eco and Cat Friendly Gardening Tips.”


The high nitrogen content of dog urine is commonly a cause of lawn burn.  However, before your banish your pooch to the side yard,  be careful to identify the correct cause of the brown spots.  Various lawn diseases or grubs will produce symptoms that can easily be mistaken for urine burn.

Why does dog urine burn the lawn and what can be done about it?   See this handy article from Drs. Fosters and Smith.

Frequently, turfgrasses are paired up for seasonal reasons or durability.  For example, Bermuda grass is durable but can be sensitive to dog urine. Overseeding it with some Perennial Ryegrass, however, gives you a winning combination!  Here are some turfgrasses and a turfgrass alternative that could keep you and your pets happy!

In his new book, “The  American Meadow Garden,” John Greenlee points out that, once established, many species of grass are fairly resistant to dog urine.

(Note:  Children love tall meadow gardens too!)


copyright Anne Taintor

My sister and mother made a special request for information about how to  keep cats OUT of their yards because their allergies are going wild due to neighborhood cats using their yards as litterboxes.

Nikki Phipps offers some suggestions in this area as well.

This, too, can be fixed by keeping the soil in your pet-friendly garden moist. Cats prefer dry areas. Typically, the driest areas of the garden are close to the foundation of your home as concrete often takes moisture from the soil. Keeping this site moist with a layer of plastic and mulch should help alleviate any littering problems.

“Orange peelings work well with cats; they do not like the smell of citrus. You can also incorporate natural animal-repelling plants such as citronella or scented geranium.”

David Beaulieu, wrote this very informative article, How to Keep Cats Out of Your Garden: Cat Poop and Gardens Don’t Mix”

Another solution that I learned about recently seems like it’d be a little sadistic but, surely, is effective – a layer of Liquidambar seed pod mulch!  Note:  Be sure to microwave them first to kill the seeds or you’ll then have unwanted trees

Photo courtesy of Scott Robinson


So whether you’re trying to make the pets in your yard happy OR keep out unwanted visitors, there can be a lot to consider.  However, think about how relaxed everyone will be once you’re finished!


Your turn! Please share what’s going on (or will be going on) in your pet Shangri La?

From Tilth to the Table – Raw Spaghetti al Marinara

The heat in SoCal continues which means it’s the perfect weather for a Raw Food creation!  Just the idea of turning on the oven makes me sweat!

My friend, Gina, introduced me to the Raw Food lifestyle last year and while I was apprehensive at first, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt better!  The recipe that I’d like to share with you is very simple and appeals to both the Raw and Non-Raw alike!

If you’d like to learn more about it the Raw lifestyle, I have included a few links:

Raw Family – Official site of the Boutenko Family. Some of the pioneers of the Raw Food Lifestyle

Pam Sterling – A passionate educator, inspirational speaker, talented designer, and effective coach who is a strong advocate of the Raw lifestyle and offers a free ebook/starter kit on her site.

Au Lac – The BEST vegan and raw vegan restaurant around! (in my honest opinion)


This recipe comes to you from a site called The Best of Raw and can be prepared with the tools you  currently have in your kitchen. Buon appetito!

2008-2010 copyright © margaret roach inc.


Serves 4



3 yellow summer squash or zucchini

Marinara Sauce

6 large tomatoes
5 sun-dried tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch fresh basil
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup cold-pressed olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 dates, pitted
1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt


For The Pasta

There are several ways to make pasta from a squash. I use a julienne peeler (sold at better kitchen appliances stores – about 10 USD/Euro). It looks like a cheese slicer or potato peeler. With this fancy but inexpensive and easy to use tool you make the most beautiful raw spaghetti strings in seconds.

You can also use an ordinary (potato) peeler: Peel thin slices of the squash, then with a fork or knife, create thin strands of “pasta”.

Another way is using a kitchen tool often used in the raw food kitchen and by chefs: a spiralizer. Cut the zucchini in about four pieces and by putting them in the mandolin, you can create beautiful thin angel hair pasta. But I have to be honest, it never works for me…

Put the pasta strands in a bowl and sprinkle with a mixture of olive oil and some salt. Set aside.

For The Marinara Sauce

Put all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until creamy. Add purified water if you feel the consistency is too thick.

For serving

Take off the excess oil of the pasta. Put the pasta on a plate and top with the sauce. You may add additional toppings such as slice olives, chopped tomatoes, onions or basil leafs.


  • This is one of the most flexible raw food recipes. You could serve this pasta with other sauces like a pesto or Alfredo sauce. Just replace the marinara sauce with a pesto sauce or Alfredo sauce.
  • This pasta tastes delicious with “meat balls” made from walnuts.
  • For creamier sauce, I’d like to add a few almonds or some hemp seeds.
  • You can heat up the pasta up to about 118 degrees F if you feel like eating a warmer dish. You can do this by rinsing it with warm water or by leafing it a few minutes in the dehydrator at 50F or oven at 70F.
  • This is one of the best raw food recipes to make in case you also have to cook for not raw family members. You can make them ordinary – or better: whole wheat spelt – pasta and share the sauce and topping.
  • If you or your family members are used to processed ketchup or tomato sauces, you may not think this sauce is sweet and salty enough. (Heinz ketchup is 30% sugar). In this case you may want to add a few more dates or drops stevia and some more salt until your taste buds are adjusted.


Sucky Soil = Sucky Plants

Remember when you were a child and your parents took you to Dairy Queen (or insert any other soft-serve ice cream place). There was NOTHING more magical than seeing that ice cream squish out of the machine as you anxiously awaited the joy it would bring!

While I believe my obsession with ice cream got started at Baskin Robbins, there’s something about being forced to wait….and wait…and wait for the soft-serve machine that just whips a kid into a frenzy!!!

It’s quite possible that some gardeners have a similar experience when they go to the zoo or farm (don’t act like you didn’t see that coming)!

Of course, the animals are cool and it’s alway fun to watch the zookeepers feed them but, for a gardener, the magic happens at the other end!

Organic gardening has really taken off and become more accessible for the everyday gardener. It’s a great thing too because do we really need any more going into the ground and ocean?!  Another rant for another day…

It’s definitely the less glamorous side of gardening although my friends, Kym and Gerrit (aka “Fastest Couple on Two Wheels”), have a DIY compost bin system that would rival anything Martha Stewart’s servants could whip up!

Sure, Martha, I always wear white when I'm working in the yard!

Much like fine wine, a proper compost takes time and patience and isn’t as simple as just walking behind your dog (or farm animal) with a bucket.  However, if created properly, the payoff is well worth the wait!

Adding organic material to your soil helps to improve the structure and boost nutrients! Good drainage helps prevent root rot and fungal disease. Beneficial microorganisms and insects will scratch your back if you scratch theirs and work hard to help eradicate harmful microbes like nematodes and certain soil borne illnesses.


There are many soil testing options if you’re the hands-on type or want to leave it to the experts.  For you do-it-yourselfers, you can pick up tools and, probably, some valuable advice from places such as Orange County Farm Supply.   Many nurseries will also provide soil testing for free or a nominal fee.  Additionally, your Cooperative Extension can also be a source.   When only an expert will do, Soil and Plant Laboratory is a reliable and affordable way to go!


They call this “Black Gold,” ladies and gentlemen!
  • Soil University – Gary Matsuoka of Laguna Hills Nursery is known for his passion about soil and his informative workshops.


  • Starbucks – For those of you currently trying to cut back on your Starbucks habit due to tough economic times, here’s a little help in justifying why budget cuts should be made elsewhere.
  • Malibu Compost – Everything about this site is cool but also check out how the company came to be and what they do to give back!
Love a cow, love the earth


Black Thumb Gardening

Long before it was chic, you knew that watering your plants wasn’t cool!

Slave away in your garden when you’d rather be….well…anywhere else?
H-E-double hockey sticks NO!

Oh, slayer of plants, Joe Schmo with his bright green, lush lawn has finally had his “come to Jesus” moment upon receipt of his most recent water bill and is now running alongside your wagon in his soggy, pesticide-filled shoes pleading and begging for you to show him the way!

I say we let him ride and he can keep his palm tree-print Hawaiian shirt because, after all, many varieties of Palms, once established, don’t guzzle water like a thirsty Labrador who slops water all over the kitchen and needs a towel under his….sorry, I digress.


Back to my story….

It was a beautiful morning. The sky was blue; birds were chirping and, hark, my first phone call of the day!

“You killed my garden! Because of you, my entire garden is DEEEAAAD!”

“Good morning to you too, my little ray of sunshine!” I thought.
And so the day began…….

I was doing an HR job at a local water agency when I received that call. This particular agency serves a largely unincorporated area where people have a lot of land and exercise their right to water it (and the street)….often. This particular week, residents received their first bill since the recent rate increase and notification of scheduled increases over the next year. Let’s just say, that wasn’t the first phone call of its kind for the day. Landscape Armageddon was upon us! Probably the best comment repeated throughout the day was, “I don’t want to have to grow cactus in my yard!” (Note: when emotionally charged, logic doesn’t always run rampant).

No, nobody is limited to rocks and cactus, drama queens (and kings)!

There are many plants (some shown below) that, when established, are fine to be neglected. I’ll post more down the road but wanted to give you a few that I like to start off with. Of course, always check your Sunset gardening book to make sure that it grows in your area.





And not one cactus in sight (maybe a rock or two)!

Many, ok, most of these will not be found at Home Depot so you’ll need to venture out to a local nursery but that’s part of the fun!! Everybody can plant Agapanthus and Bougainvilleas. Don’t be a sheep and stop being so serious!! Go out and buy something different and have fun!

I hope this has provided you with a little bit of inspiration. As you look at these pictures and others on the web, pop them into a program such as PowerPoint or Publisher where you will be able to slide them around and have fun making your own combinations.

What’s Your Style?

I’m asked this frequently and, to be quite honest, I have no concrete answer. It changes constantly! If my garden looks coordinated, believe me, it’s not planned. I’ve never met a plant that I didn’t like (ok…maybe a few) and if it’s calling me to take it home (and they all do), I will find a place for it…budget permitting.

I grew up gardening with my grandpa and believe that it should always be fun! You think you have a black thumb? Plants die..some easier than others. Get over it. Try again or try something different! Never stop experimenting and leave the excessive agapanthus and palm tree usage to the gas stations and shopping centers! Stretch a little and let Tammy Martin Landscape Design help you dream something up!

What’s YOUR style?
I say don’t worry about it so much! Get dirty, mingle with the bugs, loosen up and have fun! Let us know if we can help!