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Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates


Nine candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Mountain View City Council in the Nov. 4 election – none of them incumbents. The Town Crier asked them to introduce themselves to readers in the following Q&A format. We knew the...

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Schools

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s newly expanded Facilities Advisory Committee met for the first time last week. The 28-member committee’s first task is to prioritize campus improvement projects.

The Los Altos Scho...

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Community

Sports

New-look Lancers find their footing

New-look Lancers find their footing


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Jenna Adams, left, and Carly Deale attempt to bump the ball Friday night. The juniors combined for 28 kills.

This year’s St. Francis High girls volleyball team faintly resembles last season’s squad ...

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Special Sections

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
An estimated 75 supporters of higher teacher pay turned out for the Sept. 4 Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

Teachers, trustees and administrators are recovering from a dramatic Mountain View Whism...

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Business

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Esthetician Marjan Kashi showcases one of the treatment rooms at her new studio, Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center. Kashi provides services including microdermabrasion and various light and heat energy the...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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People

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

Resident of San Jose and Los Altos, California

July 21, 1931 to August 4, 2014

Born in Arimo, Idaho, to Jerald Emmett and Rebecca Henderson Nelson Christiansen. Raised in Davis and Riverside, California, with summers in Downey, Idaho, and in Loga...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

Pear puts on a pair of plays

Pear puts on a pair of plays


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Dan Kapler (as Teddy) and Betsy Kruse Craig (Trish) star in Pear Avenue Theatre’s “House.”

The Pear Avenue Theatre production of two interlocking comedies by Alan Ayckbourn – “House&...

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Spiritual Life

Back to Church Sunday offers opportunity to recommit

The children in Los Altos are back to school, and I can still hear parents cheering. Summer is officially over, even if the calendar doesn’t quite think so.

Parents have attended Back to School nights to meet their children’s teachers. B...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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Planting seeds: Common Ground manager offers tips for local gardeners


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Patricia Becker, above, is manager of the Common Ground Garden Supply and Education Center, bottom right, which sells everything gardeners would need to start and maintain their outdoor havens, such as plants and edibles, below left, and seeds, below right.

The Town Crier recently conducted an email interview with Patricia Becker, manager of Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center in Palo Alto. The 42-year-old nonprofit organization’s mission is to provide education and resources to support the local community in growing gardens sustainably through the cultivation of edible and native plants.

For more information, visit commongroundinpaloalto.org.

Q: What is Common Ground?

Becker: Our full name is Common Ground Garden Supply and Education Center. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit serving the San Francisco Bay Area. We offer classes and events in sustainable gardening and lifestyles. We sell seeds and plants, organic composts, tools, natural disease and pest control products, books, magazines, cards and local gift items.

Q: How many people does Common Ground serve annually?

Becker: We had over 400 participants in one day for our Annual Edible Landscaping Tour in July 2013. An estimate is close to 100,000.

Q: What sort of products can someone expect to find at Common Ground?

Becker: Everything for your gardening needs, organic and sustainable from A to Z. And if we don’t have it, you probably don’t need it!

Q: What are the five most important tools for gardening?

Becker: High-quality pruners, a digging fork, a spade, a hand trowel and gloves. No. 6 would be comfortable, tough shoes.

Q: What is the best time of year to start planting a garden?

Becker: California has two optimal planting seasons – in all honesty, gardens can be planted here in the Bay Area at any time of year. Except December. We sell a “Common Ground Planting Guide” for this area that lists what to start in flats or directly in each month. It is a best-seller and highly recommended.

Q: Which plants grow best with maximum sunlight, and which do best with more shade?

Becker: Most edible plants prefer six to eight hours of sun per day. Certainly, plants will grow with less light, but the amount of flowers and fruit one receives usually correlates with how much sunlight is provided.

Q: Which plants flourish in local yards?

Becker: Plants that have come from Mediterranean climates will do very well. But overall, most plants find our climate quite amenable.

Q: What are some foolproof plants for the novice gardener?

Becker: Culinary and medicinal herbs, Nasturtium edible flowers, Calendula edible flowers, mints, lavenders, salvias. Most edible plants and California native plants are relatively easy to grow.

Q: What should you consider before replanting or redesigning your garden?

Becker: How much time will you truly spend in your garden? Who is going to care for it, and is that person up to the task? If the garden includes edible goodies, which fruits and veggies will the family actually eat?

Consider taking a Common Ground class that can help answer your questions.

Q: Gov. Jerry Brown recently declared a drought emergency in California. What are some ways gardeners can conserve this year?

Becker: Water at night. Mulch, mulch and more mulch. Rosalind Creasy, author of the wonderful book “Edible Landscaping,” suggests that we consider taking out our lawns and replacing them with food gardens. She points out, “Lawns require 1 inch of water per week; at that rate, using irrigation only, a 25-by-40-foot (1,000-square-foot) lawn can suck up about 625 gallons of water weekly, or approximately 10,000 gallons of water each summer.”

Q: What are your favorite ways to maximize a smaller garden space?

Becker: Growing plants like peas on a vertical support is fun, wise and attractive. Also, in our arid climate, it’s possible to grow plants closer together than might be suggested by a book or seed packet.

Q: What is the best way to fertilize the garden? Is it different for flowers than for edible plants?

Becker: If an organic fertilizer is used, then there should not be any difference in application between edible or ornamental plants. Different plants do require different foods, so it’s best to know those differences before they’re fed. The best way to fertilize is up to each individual gardener, but most opt for either broadcasting handfuls of fertilizer or spraying it with a hose-end sprayer.

Q: What are some bee-friendly plants? What are the benefits to having bees in the garden?

Becker: A beehive near your garden is said to improve yields of fruit and vegetables upwards of 35 percent. Most flowering plants will be visited by bees. Lavenders are particularly reliable attractors.

Q: What is the most challenging part of gardening, and how do you overcome the challenges?

Becker: The best garden is the garden that is paid attention to. Finding time to tend the garden is typically the greatest challenge. Otherwise, gardening is a pastime that can be enjoyed by essentially anyone.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who insists they have a “black” thumb?

Becker: You are what you say you are. Pay attention to your garden and your thumb will green up in no time.

Q: What are some great potted plants/edibles that work well in smaller garden spaces?

Becker: Citrus is a good potted fruit tree. Blueberries do well in pots. Lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, just about every type of edible plant can be grown in a container. We sell a popular book, the best book for growing edibles in container, “Container Gardening” by Rose Marie Nichols.

Q: What are some good guidelines when it comes to watering? Every day? Twice a week? Does it depend on what is growing or the season?

Becker: Typically, one waters less in the winter when the days are cooler and shorter (maybe twice a week max), and then in the summer, perhaps three, sometimes four times per week.

Q: Where can local residents find answers to their gardening questions?

Becker: By taking classes at Common Ground, where you learn and meet gardening friends. Our classes really educate the students.

Q: What are some upcoming Common Ground events that might be useful to local gardeners, expert or novice?

Becker: We have a superb Edible Garden Series beginning Saturday and running into late spring, which covers most aspects of organic gardening, all the way from design to harvest. We’re also offering a class Feb. 15 that will give gardeners ideas and strategies for how to get more from their garden in less time, taught by a Common Ground staff member.


Common Ground Garden Shop readies for Spring - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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