Welcome fellow gardening enthusiasts!


Brrr! It’s starting to get a bit chilly here in Poway, California. Thanksgiving is a few days away and the holiday activities are starting to pick up here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes specializing in memory care at our 86- bed facility.

The deciduous fruit trees in our orchards are dropping their leaves quickly and soon they will be ready for their dormant- season pruning. The citrus harvest is starting to increase with tangerines, oranges and Oro Blancos leading the way. We had some delicious persimmons and figs a short while back, and the citrus harvest should be very good this season.

Roses are still a regular in vases at each of our homes. We are experimenting with a variety of Protea and Leucospermum. If they can handle the winter, we will be increasing our production of cut flowers for the homes those times of the year when roses are rebounding from their annual pruning and our sunflower collection starts top kick in to production. Our residents really enjoy making floral arrangements as an activity.


We picked our last bit of squash and cukes last week and the tomatoes will be the next to go sometime in December. In our five organic gardens, we have been busy harvesting some beautiful broccoli and cauliflower. We went in a little earlier this year, mid August, with our cruciferous veggie transplants and consequently we have had plenty of heads of the cole veggies this fall. Take advantage of the warm weather of September and October, to get those broccoli and cauliflower starts in the ground. You will be rewarded with a very bountiful crop of huge heads early in the fall.

Speaking of the vegetables in the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc.), I would like to spend some time to share a very exciting and nutritious addition to our gardens this year---the “Queen of the Greens”----KALE!!!

This nutritional powerhouse is extremely easy to grow and is relatively quick to harvest. Like all the members in the world of cole crops, Kale (also known as borecole-Dutch for farmer’s cabbage) thrives in soils that are rich in fertile organic matter. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet and good drainage is a must.

Kale is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group), with green or purple leaves, in which the central leaves do not form a head. The Acephala group also includes spring greens and collard greens.

Kale was one of the most common vegetables in all of Europe until the end of the Middle Ages. Today, kale varieties may be differentiated by the low, intermediate or high length of stem with varying leaf types. During WWII, kale cultivation was encouraged because it was easy to grow and a great supplement to the normal diet due to rationing. Healthy stuff!!

Kales are classified by leaf type- curly leaved, plain leaved, Rape Kale, leaf and spear (a cross between curly leaved and plain leaved), and Cavolo nero (also known as black cabbage, Tuscan cabbage, Tuscan kale, Lacinato and dinosaur kale).

Many varieties of kale are grown for their ornamental leaves. Their brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet colors in the interior of the rosette, can add some pop to your edible garden landscape and are edible also.

We are currently growing two different types of kale in our organic gardens. Starbor is a variety of curly leaf kale and Toscano, an Italian heirloom type, is a lacinato or “dinosaur” kale.

STARBOR is a 55 day variety that has finely curled, dark blue-green leaves and can be harvested with one cut instead of being stripped off the plant one leaf at a time, as kale is traditionally harvested. The compact plants produce leaves that are very uniform, resist yellowing, and are very flavorful. You can harvest the entire plant at 12”-18”. This variety fits in well with our program, grown in between our broccoli and cauliflower like we do with our lettuce. It also fills a planter box very nicely.


TOSCANO can be ready to harvest as “baby” in as little as 30 days or as mature leaves in about 65 days. It is a real “eye grabber” and resembles little black palm trees with leaves 2”-3” wide and over 12”inches long. The leaves have a blistered (savoyed)/crumply appearance. Its upright and open plant habit serves a dual purpose- very ornamental and extremely delicious. This variety is extremely popular in Tuscany and central Italy. It is very tolerant to hot and cold weather and actually can handle frosts very well. The colder it gets- the tastier is will be!

If you can’t find six packs or 4” pots of these types of kale at your local home and garden supply center, like Grangetto’s here in San Diego County, check out Johnny’s Selected Seeds and order a packet of 100 seeds for $3.95.

Watch out for pests like the bragrada bug in late summer and aphids in the spring.

Give them a shot of your favorite organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, like Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1, occasionally to keep them green and growing in the cool weather. Super Easy!!!

Here are some reasons to add kale to your diet-

  • Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup has only 36 calories and 5 grams of fiber.
  • Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef.
  • Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. It helps fight arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
  • Kale is great for your cardiovascular system by lowering cholesterol levels.
  • Kale is high in vitamin A to help your vision and skin and some ward off some cancers.
  • Kale is high in vitamin C which helps your immune system, metabolism and hydration.
  • Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids, again cancer fighters.
  • Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk to help build strong bones.
  • Kale is a great detox food to keep your liver healthy.

Another great reason to eat kale, and one that is very relative for helping our residents here at Sunshine Care- Kale is high in Vitamin K where increased levels can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s (the number one affliction of all of our residents).

So grow the “new beef”, kale, and get healthy. Whether juiced, in smoothies, dehydrated for chips, as a spinach replacement or in soups, these two varieties of kale have a place for eye appeal in the garden and tummy appeal in the dining room.

If you are in the area, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail and I would be elated to show you around our gardens.

Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture for Sunshine Care, a Community of Assisted Living Homes

858-472-6059, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Check out our web-site to get a better feel for what we do and offer, www.sunshinecare.com


Watch for the next article in “The Mulch”, which will inform you of our monthly garden lectures that are free, open to the public and held on the 3rd Saturday of the month starting in January again, at 10:30 am. Knowledgable speakers on timely horticultural topics, along with refreshments, door prizes and a stroll through the gardens, make our classes a hit. These are also posted on our website so- DON’T BE A STRANGER!!

Happy Holidays

Please contact me, if you have any questions or would like to tour our gardens.

Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care- 12695 Monte Vista Rd, Poway CA 92064

858-472-6059, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or www.sunshinecare.com.


Roy Wilburn

Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts and greetings from Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes, nestled in beautiful Poway, California.  Even though we are still in the winter season, the weather has been favorably mild this year.  Last month, we talked about pruning your roses and we even had a hands-on workshop to get local rose lovers a chance to learn by tending our roses.  We had a couple of Consulting Rosarians, from the San Diego Rose Society, share with us their knowledge on rose pruning and general care.  I’m feeling good, knowing that our 40 plus roses bushes are pruned correctly, fertilized with Dr. Earth Organic Rose Food and sprayed with liquid copper as a dormant spray.  I can already see the new blooms start to peek out, as they set forth to give our residents some beautiful flowers to enjoy in a couple of months.  In a similar fashion, all of our deciduous fruit trees are also pruned, fertilized and sprayed.  We will attack, in short order, our citrus trees once we finish the winter harvest.


As far as winter veggie production, we are still constantly harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and romaine lettuce.  I shared some of our secrets on cole crop (cool season crop) production in our November and December blogs.  We will continue planting these crops through March, plus our spring goodies such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and eventually peppers.  Our greenhouse is packed with all these transplants.  Next month we will start talking about our spring vegetable production, but let me end our winter endeavors with a few unique crops related to the broccoli and cauliflower families.


At the end of last year, my friend Ramiro Lobo, a University of California Farm Advisor for San Diego County asked me if Sunshine Care would like to get involved with a project he was heading up in conjunction with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing- The Original Ranch.  Hidden Valley has started a campaign and committed over 1 million dollars to schools and organizations across the U.S. Their goal is to help seed and grow a “Love for Veggies” in kids. We here at Sunshine Care are always excited about growing and eating our vegetables but we understand that kids might need a little more of a nudge. 


Ramiro knew that we are very active with local churches, schools and volunteer organizations within our organic fruit and vegetable production world.  On the first and third Thursdays of each month, we have a group of local children come to Sunshine Care and learned about the world of organics. We have a “Children’s Garden” on site and the youngsters handle all aspects of fruit and vegetable production.  We provide education so the kids learn to plant, weed, harvest and perform cultural practices. They play with worms, compost and eventually get to taste the produce they grew and take some to enjoy at home.  They work hard and it is a total joy to participate in the field with them.  After we are done in the field we go to the greenhouse where they bond with some of our residents, their “Grandmas and Grandpas”, and enjoy other activities with them such as seeding vegetable trays, watering plants in our greenhouse and releasing ladybugs to control possible aphid outbreaks. When we are done the residents are showered with Handshakes, High- Fives and the ever popular HUGS!  It’s a beautiful thing.


We agreed to get involved with the Hidden Valley project and the UC Cooperative Extension and called our project the “Great Veggie Adventure”.  The crops we are growing have a definite, different eye appeal, as far as veggies go.  They are meant to grab a kid’s attention. We are growing-


Veronica, a Romanesco lime-green spiraled cauliflower

Panther, another lime-green cauliflower, normal in shape

Graffiti, a purple- headed stunning cauliflower

Cheddar, a bright orange headed cauliflower

And a variety of colorful carrots and radishes.


Let’s go through these crops one by one.


Veronica Romanesco is actually a broccoli but referred to as a cauliflower.  Heads are pointed, spiraled pinnacles that are lime green in color.  For those of you that are a bit nerdish when it comes to math, the bud has an approximate, self-similar character.  The branching meristems form a logarithmic spiral.  In this sense the broccoli’s shape approximates a natural fractal.  Each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral.  This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels.  Bottom line- IT IS WEIRD LOOKING AND DELICIOUS!!  Veronica is high in vitamins C and K, dietary fiber and carotenoids.  The heads have a milder flavor and are more creamy and nutty than conventional broccoli and cauliflower.


Panther, green cauliflower is easy to grow and produces a unique, tight lime-green head, 6”-7” wide, that holds well and tolerates cold weather stress.  They have a delicious mild flavor when cooked and a definite crowd pleaser and attention grabber when served fresh.


Graffiti, purple cauliflower is absolutely brilliant and stunning in color.  It tastes just like white cauliflower and it is a great colorful addition to your crudite platters.  It produces a true cauliflower head on large plants.  The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group, anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.


Cheddar cauliflower is bright orange in color, like cheddar cheese.  The color indicates that the curd, or head, has elevated beta-carotene levels.  It is a medium –sized plant that produces smooth, domed heads.  This variety doesn’t require “blanching techniques” to obtain the deepest, orange color.  Cheddar cauliflower has 25 times the level of vitamin A over regular white cauliflower.


To grow these varieties requires exactly what most broccoli or cauliflower varieties need- soils rich in organic matter and well drained.  Refer to past blogs of October and November of last year on cool season crops, and grow them the same way.  To purchase seed, pull out your Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and call them up.


Veronica seed is $5.95 and $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds, depending if you want conventional or organic seed.


Panther seed will cost you $5.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Graffiti runs $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Cheddar cauliflower will set you back $12.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


While you have your catalog out, look at all the varieties of colorful radishes and carrots.  Our kids love the Rainbow Carrot mix along with Atomic Red, Purple Haze and Deep Purple varieties.  As far as radishes, try the Red Meat, otherwise known as Watermelon Radish (50 days) and the Easter Egg multicolored variety (30 days).  These are no-brainers.  Work the soil, spread some seed, water and thin them out when about an inch tall according to the variety’s directions.  These are crops your children will get quick satisfaction growing and eating.


For those of you in the San Diego County area, I personally invite you to attend our February Garden Lecture on the 18th at 10:30 am, here at Sunshine Care.  We will be covering all the cool season and spring crops, we grow for our residents.  Our workshops are free and include refreshments, raffle prizes and end with a tour of our gardens and orchards.  So bring a friend and come on by.


Call me, Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture (858) 472-6059 or e-mail me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Lisa Lipsey, Director of Community Relations (858) 752-8197 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , for more info and to RSVP.If you can’t make it, we would be happy to show you around anytime at your convenience. Hope to hear from you soon!

About the Author
Farmer Roy
Since 2010, Farmer Roy Wilburn has been Sunshine Care’s Director of Horticulture. You can usually find Roy in one of the five organic gardens, producing high quality organic fruits and vegetables for the residents and those in need in the Poway area. Roy maintains Sunshine Care’s beautiful greenhouse, fruit tree orchards, Memorial Rose Garden and the landscaping of its 32-acre facility. Roy is a regular guest speaker about numerous horticultural topics.
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