Growing Great Food and Community from the Ground Up

Fresh, healthy, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables grow from fertile, nutrient rich soil. Additionally, soil contains vitally important beneficial microbiology which helps plants uptake nutrients and helps defend against disease and pests. Building and maintaining fertile soil conditions should be the cornerstone of a gardeners efforts to grow successfully. I am excited to offer a Fall and Winter Gardening Workshop Series at Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens because they are equally committed to building healthy soils! Tim Heuer, the new executive director, has made soil building the core of his initial efforts at Fairview! I look forward to observing the transition back to a fertile, vital, productive operation at Fairview Gardens!! Please join me at one of the upcoming Fall Gardening workshops. Healing Grounds Nursery and Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens are committed to healing people and the planet one farm, one garden at a time!!

Fall And Winter Planting

Unlike the majority of the United States who are putting their gardens to rest over the next five or six months, we enjoy year round growing opportunities here in Santa Barbara and the surrounding South Coast.

Now is a great time to plant peas, all kinds of leafy greens (lettuces, mustards, arugula, mache, spinach) broccoli, cabbages, carrots and beets, Now is the time to plants bulbing onions, leeks, garlic and shallots which will over winter and mature in late Spring. Even with the expected El Nino rains the temperatures are expected to remain somewhat warm so plants will continue to grow over the Winter months quite nicely. You might even consider planting some late season cherry tomatoes and be harvesting fruit at Thanksgiving and even at Christmas!!!

Take time to mulch beds and pathways well so you will be able to get around in your growing areas at this time. Capture as much water in your garden as possible so that you will not need to water much over the late-Fall and Winter months.

Want to learn more about what to plant now? I will be teaching a Fall and Winter Gardening Strategies workshop Saturday, October 24, 2015 from 3-4 PM at the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, $15 entrance fee. RSVP to Oscar Carmona 805 689•3044, to reserve your space. See you there!!!

Worm Composting for Real – In 5 Easy Steps

[Join Oscar Saturday August 15, 2015, 3-4pm, for a Workshop on Worm Composting and Compost Tea Systems. Hosted at Explore Ecology. 30 East Cota St, Santa Barbara, Ca 93101. $10. Call 805-689-3044 for more info.]

by Oscar Carmona
Originally published on LoaTree

compost11-497x330Worm, or Vermi, composting is a process that allows any individual or family to turn kitchen waste into amazing soil amendment for plants in a garden or container.  Follow these five easy steps and you’ll be worm composting for real!

STEP 1.  Determine the type of worm bin you want to use.

Figuring bin size and or quantity of bins is important because a good system is a system that effectively deals with all of the kitchen waste you produce.  Your bin should be big enough to handle the kitchen green waste (napkins, egg shells, coffee grounds/filters etc) you produce on a daily basis.  If you are producing more than say a gallon container of green waste daily you may need a larger or multiple bins.  Bin overload puts more stuff in your bin faster than the worms can break it down.  You will soon be out of space to put more kitchen scraps.  The bin can also go ‘anaerobic’ (no air inside the green waste) and smell like rotten eggs.

Where you keep your bin is important.  The closer you place your bin to where you are creating the waste the easier and more certain it will be that you will use your compost bin regularly. I like a close-at-hand location like outside the kitchen door.  Worms will die out when they run out of food and/or their environment is too wet or too dry.  You need to use your bin regularly to see that those basic requirements are maintained.

32-gallon tupperware. ‘The Classic.’

Worm-composting-bins-1-copy-300x225Additionally, there are a few different types of worm composting systems available for home use.  Use a system you can get buy into.  Your enthusiasm will greatly aid success.  The 32 gal Tupperware container pictured with this article is one I recommend for a family or individual that produces a gallon of green waste or less daily.  It is a simple, cheap, light weight option.

STEP 2. Make sure your worm bin has these two key features.

-Holes high up on the sides of the bin small enough to keep critters out but also allow air to pass in.  Having holes down low can allow liquid (tea) accumulated in the composting process to run out and create a mess.  Especially no bueno if its near your kitchen door.

-A tight fitting lid will help keep your bin free of bothersome flies or other visitors like rodents or raccoons.

STEP 3. Provide bedding of some type for your worm bin.

Newspaper strip bedding

Bedding-in-the-bin-copy-300x225Peat moss, shredded newspaper or dried leaves are materials most often used for bedding.  It provides worms with an interface between the kitchen waste, the worm castings they produce and the worms themselves.  I use newspaper strips because newspaper is an easy to get material.  Rip newspaper sections lengthwise to make long narrow strips as the pulp fiber of the newspaper sheets run that way. You’ll get random pieces if you try to rip the paper sideways. Oh, and don’t worry about lead in the print – it’s all soy based ink now – but avoid using the glossy sections.  Make sure to moisten the bedding sufficiently (like a fully charged sponge) but not enough to leave standing water at the bottom of the bin before you put the worms in. Place newspaper on bottom of bin when ready.

STEP 4. Place worms and their food together in your newly set up bin.

Once the bedding is in place, spread the worms out in an area on top of it.  You can start with a small amount of healthy worm culture (worm babies, adults, cocoons with some organic matter in various states of decomposition), say a handful, and nurture the colony along slowly.  You can also put in a good amount of worms, a 2-gallon bucket full, for faster action.  Place kitchen waste next to the worms so they have something ready to eat soon. Place a healthy amount of newspaper strips over the worms and food.

STEP 5. Harvest Worm Castings when bin is full.

Typical food waste/green waste

When the green waste that you’ve been putting into the bin looks mostly like black rich soil it’s done!  It usually takes about two to three months to end up with a bin full of worm castings.  Worm castings, finished worm compost, can be taken out of the bin to use for your garden or container soil environments. Worms can be separated out by dumping the bin onto a tarp.  Worms are light sensitive and will move into the pile and away from light. Pull away the outer edges.  If you get a few worms mixed in just include them in the soil mix.  Make sure to return about one fourth the amount of worm culture back to the bin with fresh bedding and food to keep the process going.


If you’d like to learn more about worms and worm composting, my wife Tahara and I will be giving a worm composting workshop in Santa Barbara, Ca. on February 2nd at Art From Scrap. You can get worms and worm composting systems at the workshop.  You can also get them from me at the Saturday or Sunday Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market.  For more information about me, Healing Grounds Nursery or home food production, go to my website


-Oscar Carmona

Healing Grounds Nursery.

Oscar Carmona, owner and operator of Healing Grounds Nursery, has spent the last 25 years helping connect people, plants, and the planet. He has taught sustainable landscape courses, gardening classes and home consultation for better living throughout California. 

Santa Barbara Spring; Late Summer in Santa Barbara

The months of August and the first part of September are a great time to do a planting of all your favorite vegetables that you have been enjoying for the past few months. Tomatoes, peppers, melons, pumpkins beans, cucumbers can all be transplanted now into your garden and enjoyed as the days start slowly shortening into the Fall season. I call this time of year Santa Barbara Spring because we typically get Spring-like weather at this time of year with even more consistent heat and dryness that all these vegetables really like. Last year, with the quirky weather we experienced late in the year, many people reported harvests well into December.

I do recommend that you select Early season varieties which tend to be smaller fruited types that do well as the days shorten and the evening cool down a bit. For tomatoes, that would be Early Girl, Jetsetter, Stupice and any number of Cherry varieties such as Sungold or Sweet 100. Zucchini squash is a great choice as it matures pretty fast. Baby Watermelon and Small fruited pumpkins, if transplanted before Labor Day, will typically yield a good late crop. Peppers tend to be pretty hardy and can withstand a little coolness at night as long as they get full sun during the day.

And remember that you can also start planting Broccoli, Lettuces, Peas Cabbages and other leafy greens especially as we move past labor day into early September! Healing Grounds Nursery has all the best late Summer varieties available for sale now! Catch me at the Farmers’ Markets on Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara or on Sunday in Goleta. Hope to see you soon and look out for my workshops offered seasonally year around at different venues throughout the South Coast. Happy and Fruitful gardening everyone!!!!

Edible Container Gardening 101

Edible Container Gardening 101
Workshop at Eye of the Day Garden Design Center

4620 Carpinteria Ave, Carpinteria, CA 93013 (805) 566-0778
Saturday June 27, 2015 3-4pm – $10
Healing Grounds’ all organic plants and nutrients will be available to purchase at the event

Edible Container Gardening 101


Container gardening is a great way to grow in-season vegetables especially if there is no space to have a traditional garden. If you live in a condo or apartment, containers can provide valuable growing options in patios, balconies or court yards. If you have a shady yard, containers can offer space along brick walk or driveways or against fences. A container on casters provides movability to where the sun or shade is prevalent depending on what you want to grow and the time of year. And with a good fertile potting soil and a good topping of protective mulch you can get by with minimal water.

If you have never tried to grow edibles in a container or have not had much success in the past here are five key things to consider that will greatly enhance your efforts.

1.) What size pot is good for growing vegetables successfully?

It is important to match the size of your pot to the types of veggies you would like to grow in them. Bowl shaped pots that are somewhat shallow, say about eight to ten inches, can be great for growing lettuces and other leafy greens. Peppers, cucumbers, beans and larger growing herbs need a deeper pot, about 12- 18 inches deep. Tomatoes like pots that are 18-24 inches deep and about 12-14 inches in diameter.
2) What kind of potting soil is good to use?

I highly recommend choosing an organic potting soil that has lots of good compost, organic nutrients and important beneficial soil microbiology included. EB Stone’s 420 blend has all of the before mentioned ingredients.(Ask Brent what they sell). Plants can grow well in pots when they have a rich growing medium (potting soil) to grow in and regular waterings. Purchasing top quality potting soil is key to growing healthy, productive plants in containers.

3) Match the edible container with plants appropriately suited for the space you have available.

Sunlight and favorable temperatures are key to growing healthy plants.
It is important to observe how much sun exposure the area you have selected for your plants gets. Some plants can tolerate less sun than others. Morning sun exposure with shade in the afternoon is probably good for growing leafy greens such as lettuces, arugula or kale. Sun all day is great for tomatoes, peppers. Shade loving plants generally like ambient temperature range of 56-75 degrees. Full sun loving plants love temperature range 60’s to the mid to upper 80’s. You may find that you have spots in and around your home to grow a bit of both. Remember that the sunlight and temperature will vary throughout the year. So you may need to make adjustments to your growing selection and/or move containers around from season to season.

4) Good plant nutrition is essential for healthy, nutritious plants

As I mentioned above, a good organic potting soil will contain key organic nutrients in it. These nutrients not only provide an important food source for the plants they also provide nutrition for the beneficial soil microorganisms. Beneficial soil microbiology greatly help plants grow strong, nutrient dense and more disease resistant. I also recommend an all-purpose fish/kelp liquid fertilizer applied once weekly throughout the growing season to ensure that your edibles have access to a full range of organic nutrients in addition to what’s in your potting soil.

5) Efficient, consistent watering conserves a valuable resource and also aids healthy plant growth.

It is important to water plants in pots regularly, but efficiently. Contained environments can dry out more quickly than in regular gardens. While pots may require a bit more frequent watering, you do not need nearly as

much water at any one time. Water until you see it coming out of the drain hole at the bottom of the pot. This means that you have watered completely through the root zone which can adequately absorb it. Put a saucer under the pot to catch the outflow and retain it so the pot stays moist longer. The fertile potting soil will help retain moisture. Also adding a layer of mulch to form a protective coating on the surface will aid water retention. A plastic pot may dry out sooner than a terra cotta one. I do not have a preference to one over the other and feel that each has its advantages. As you get to know your growing environment you will be able to fine-tune your watering schedule.

Once you have experienced some success you can take growing to the next level by planting up new pots of your favorite crops in succession over the course of the growing season. Which is all year in our neck of the woods So don’t plant everything all at once. Start a little at a time with strategic new plantings at four, eight and twelve week intervals. Leafy greens can be successively grown every four to six weeks. Longer growing crops can be successively planted every eight to twelve weeks. So now you are ready to get started or advance your edible container gardening efforts With some good observation for growing potential in and around your home and care to provide your edibles with a good growing environment you will enjoy successful harvests on-going into the future

Plant Nutrition Workshop

Plant Nutrition Workshop

Saturday May 9th

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church Gardens

909 North La Cumbre Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110

3 – 4 pm
$10 – – 689-3044


Interested in maximizing on peak nutritional content in your home garden harvest?

Learn the fundamentals of creating optimal gardening conditions so your crops can maximum contain nutrient content.

Fertile soil, favorable growing conditions, timed harvests, and proper storage are important concepts covered during this workshop. Biodynamic compost, worm castings, essential organic nutrients and fertilizers will be available for sale after the workshop. 10% of sale will go to support the Trinity Garden programs.


Spring Gardening Workshop March 28th

Spring Gardening Workshop

Join Oscar Carmona, owner of Healing Grounds Nursery and local gardening expert with over 30 years experience!

Saturday, March 28, 3:00pm.  Spring Gardening Workshop
Explore Ecology 302 East Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 

This workshop will cover everything you need to know to grow the best Spring vegetables. Workshop will cover water saving tips, how to prepare your beds for growing healthy, strong plants and what to grow now.  After the workshop you can purchase everything you need to get started!  Compost, essential minerals, organic fertilizers the best tomatoes  and many tried and true pepper varieties, cucumbers, summer squash and much more will be available for sale at the workshop!!!
$10 entrance fee.

Cost:  $10 per workshop, at the door
Co-sponsored by Explore Ecology.
Healing Grounds seedlings, worms and worm compost kits will be sold at the end of each workshop.  

(10% of proceeds benefit the Explore Ecology Garden Programs).

Farmer’s Market Holiday Schedule 2014

Season’s Greetings From Healing Grounds Nursery
Please call or email for special holiday requests (805) 689-3044 –

Farmers’ Markets Holiday Schedule

Saturday, November 22 YES, I WILL BE HERE
Saturday, November 29 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE
Saturday, December 6 YES, I WILL BE HERE
Saturday, December 13 YES, I WILL BE HERE
Saturday, December 20 YES, I WILL BE HERE
Saturday, December 27 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE
Saturday, January, 3 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE

SUNDAY GOLETA MARKET (Camino Real Marketplace)
Sunday, November 23 YES, I WILL BE HERE
Sunday, November 30 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE
Sunday, December 7 YES, I WILL BE HERE
Sunday, December, 14 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE
Sunday, December 21 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE
Sunday, December 28 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE
Sunday, January, 4 NO, I WILL NOT BE HERE

Fall Home Gardening Workshop Series

Fall Home Gardening Workshop Series

Come learn from organic gardening expert, Oscar Carmona, who has 30 years experience teaching home gardening in Santa Barbara to area residents.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church 909 North La Cumbre Road (corner of La Cumbre and Cathedral Oaks Road)

Fall and Winter Gardening Strategies $10

Saturday, October 11, 3-4PM
Learn basic gardening technique and what to plant now.

Waterwise Gardening $10

Saturday, October 18, 3-4PM
Learn water saving techniques and basics about plant water needs.

Worm Composting $10

Saturday, November 8, 3-4 PM
Learn A-Z about home composting, including how to make your own bin.
(complete bin kits worm batches will be sold at the workshop)
Vegetable and herb seedlings, compost, mineral and fertilizer for sale 4-5 PM after each workshop.

Sol Food Festival

Oscar will be speaking at the Sol Food Festival on September 27th. The Sol Food Festival is a one day community created festival to raise awareness of the Sustainable, Organic, and Local food systems of Santa Barbara County. It is a place to connect, learn, create, network, and play our way to a brighter food future.