A Growing Passion (Create)

Join A Growing Passion host and garden expert, Nan Sterman, as she explores farms, vineyards, gardens, native habitats and more throughout California and the West.

A Growing Passion is produced by KPBS, and airs as part of Hometown Create, which features locally produced content from Create's member stations.

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Episode #101

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Episode #106

From Fruit to Nuts

Episode #107 · Who doesn't love a delicious peach, a juicy pluot, or a tangy apricot - especially when picked right off the tree. New varieties appear in the nursery every year, each more delicious than the last. In this episode of A Growing Passion, we taste our way through the experimental orchard of internationally renowned Zaiger Genetics, Modesto, California fruit tree breeders who revolutionized the world of stone fruits, apples, Asian pears, and almonds.

Intoxicating Plumeria

Episode #108 · In the 1950s and 1960s, the Aloha Spirit captivated Southern Californians. While the Beach Boys sang about surfing, homeowners planted Plumeria in their gardens. These big, tropical-looking plants produce fragrant, colorful flowers that are a staple of Hawaiian leis, despite their arid Mexican origins. Over the years, Plumeria popularity waned, but has recently made a comeback.

The Art of a Garden

Episode #109 · There's no question that gardening is an art. In fact, some of the most interesting and inspiring gardens belong to artists. San Diego has no shortage of wonderful gardens made by artists, five of which we visit in this show. We hear about how they use space, how they use color, how they select plants, and how they incorporate objects, sculpture, and other art pieces into their gardens.

From Farm to Fork

Episode #110 · If you enjoy dining out, no doubt you've heard of farm-to-table and farm-to-fork, the movement that connects farmers with chefs and restaurants. The term refers to fruits, herbs, vegetables, fish, meats and other products that are locally grown and produced and served in local restaurants. It sounds romantic, but how does farm-to-fork really happen? Who are the people making it happen? How do farmers and the restauranteurs find each other, and how do you know that your dish really did start its life on a local farm?

Growing A Greener Golf Course

Episode #111 · Golf courses are legendary for their perfectly manicured greens surrounded by lovely landscapes that are generously fertilized, treated, irrigated, and frequently mowed. But there is a new wave in the world of golf courses. Golf course designers, golf course landscape architects, and golf course superintendents are changing the landscape, driven by concerns for the environment and the need to control the bottom line.

Plants: The Endangered Species

Episode #112 · California has the largest number of rare plants and animals of any state in the nation. In California, San Diego is a hotspot of biodiversity. There are more species of plants here than almost anywhere else in the world. Or at least there were more species of plants than almost anywhere else in the world. As the region has developed, shopping malls, schools, roadways, office buildings, and homes cover what was once vernal pools, and other rare habitat areas. As a result, San Diego County is also on the hotlist for endangered species.

Homegrown Hops - Local Flavor for Local Brews

Episode #113 · Brewing is THE RAGE in San Diego County. At last count, there were 110 craft breweries and more in the planning stages. Many of these new microbreweries evolved from thousands of home brewers who make beer in their garages or on back patios. In this episode, we explore the process of planting, growing, trellising, harvesting, preserving and using local hops. Along the way, we visit a local home brewer and science teacher who grows his own hops in Escondido. Another stop is the area's largest and oldest hops farm, to see mechanized hops processing, then follow the harvest to a local commercial brewery where the brewer uses it in a wet hop beer. At a local brewing supply store, we discuss the history, purpose, and origins of hops in beer - as well as all the gadgets and doo-hickeys home brewers like to use. We end, in host Nan Sterman's garage-turned-brewery, where her husband demonstrates how he makes his own "special brew."

Distant Roots And Tasty Shoots - Plants At The Zoo

Episode #114 · San Diego Zoological Society has an international plant collection that is nearly unrivaled. In this episode, we explore Aloes and Cycads, two of the society's special botanical collections. We tour the orchid house where we ooh and aah over their fabulous and diverse flowers. We also learn about the browse program - plants grown strictly to feed the animals. In the world of zoos, San Diego Zoological Society is renowned for its browse program. An entire crew is assigned the task of growing and gathering plants to feed and entertain animals. It is no small task. The pandas eat 15 tons of browse each year. It takes 20 tons of acacia to feed giraffes, elands, bonobos, gorillas and other animals. We stroll through the zoo with some of the browse staff who point out plants they harvest on-site, then take us to the offsite farm where they grow and harvest more browse. What there isn't room to grow on-site gets collected along highways and in neighborhoods around San Diego County. We visit reserved koalas whose strict eucalyptus diet is prepared in a special kitchen, tortoises who enjoy a range of fresh greens, and more.

The Story of Seeds - from Breeding to Eating

Episode #115 · In this episode, we discover the world of vegetables seeds, starting with breeding. We learn about the four different target markets for vegetable breeders: commercial farmers, home growers, farmer's market farmers, and the growers who grow the seedlings that we buy in the nursery. Each of these markets demands a different kind of tomato or a different kind of eggplant or a different kind of squash. Some focus on flavor, others are concerned about production or uniformity of the fruit, or how fast the plants grow, their disease resistance and so on.

Aquaponics - Fish Poop to Plant Roots

Episode #116 · It's an ancient practice with a new twist. Aquaponics is a mashup of hydroponics (growing plants in a water medium) and aquaculture (fish farming). It is the practice of using fish wastewater as fertilizer for plants, whose roots filter the water, cleaning it sufficiently to be returned to the fish. In this episode, we visit homeowners, non-profit, and even a restaurateur using this highly efficient system to grow a stunning array of fruits, vegetables, and freshwater fish. In the city of Santee, we meet an engineer who grew frustrated with his backyard raised beds and set out to find a better way. Today, he has two fishponds, one that holds 800 gallons filled with catfish and tilapia, and an ingenious series of vegetable growing bins made of recycled beverage containers. Pumps and timers keep it all going, whether he is home or out of town. He grows enough to provide most of the produce and a significant amount of protein for his family of four. In Escondido, Eco-Life Institute has a history of creating conservation programs that regard the environment and humans as a whole. Aquaponics to them is a way to grow food in regions with little arable land and a minimum of water. Their prototype system in Escondido is part of a larger educational program that also puts demonstration aquaponics systems into schools. We visit a middle school garden club and science program in Vista that is one of their sites. We spend a day with the students, learning to assemble a medium sized aquaponics system in the school garden. In Brea California, we visit chef Adam Navidi, owner of Ocean and Earth Restaurant. Navidi's aquaponics system fills 10 recycled greenhouses on 65 acres of former nursery land. There, Navidi raises 20,000 tilapia along with thousands of heads of lettuce, basil, and other produce that he uses in his restaurant. Navidi is an avid recycler and reuser so the greenhouses have many different styles of aquaponics systems, some invented by Navidi himself. After touring the facility, we head to Ocean and Earth in nearby Yorba Linda to enjoy the products of Navidi's efforts (and they are delicious!).

Urban Forests - Trees and Plants in the City

Episode #117 · The words "urban" and "forest" may sound like contradictory terms but our urban environments are, or could be, vast forests of street trees, park trees, and backyard trees. Trees are very important in the urban environment, where they serve many valuable purposes.

Wild and Wooly - Native Bee Pollinators

Episode #118 · Honeybees are the best-known and most recognizable insect pollinators in our farms and gardens. Without them, we'd have no peaches, nectarines, apples, almonds, lemons, oranges, eggplants, tomatoes, etc. In this episode, we'll explore California's native bees and their role in native ecosystems, farms, and gardens. We'll visit with a young researcher at UCSD doing critical work identifying and assembling an inventory of California native bees, many of which are threatened by habitat loss as a result of human development.

Flowers and Floats - The Rose Parade

Episode #119 · Pasadena California's annual Rose Parade is world famous for spectacular floats covered in petals, seeds, leaves, grasses, and bark. We follow a group of Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo college students who together design, build, and drive the Universities' 68th annual contribution to the float flotilla. We show the entire process, from concept to construction, decoration to operation. Along the way, we take a side trip to one of the dozen California flower growers who supply the project with more than 50, 000 flower stems. Viewers get a look at how the preparations involve hundreds of volunteers who handle each bloom individually as it is prepared and applied to the float. We get a bird's-eye view of the 44 floats as they roll down Colorado Boulevard, and afterwards, get up close to examine the details and work that goes into these masterpieces of floral artwork.

Citrus - California's Second Gold Rush

Episode #120 · Citrus is one of the crops that "made" California. In the late 1800s, Riverside County was the seat of California's citrus industry, and the wealthiest county in the country. We go back in time to discover the beginnings of the industry, then fast forward to citrus today. We see how new citrus genetics entering the country are evaluated and treated by the USDA before being conserved for the future, and shared with breeders. We visit a " living citrus museum" at the University of California Riverside, where there are 1,000 kinds of citrus, both historic and modern. After a sneak preview of upcoming varieties, we head to a commercial grove in Pauma Valley to meet the third and fourth generations of a successful family citrus orchard. In Northern California, we visit a nursery that offers the widest selection of citrus varieties for commercial and home growers. There, we learn how to plant and grow citrus in our backyards.

Beneficial Insects

Episode #121 · What's so bad about "bugs?" Some may cause problems but the majority of bugs play important roles in nature, pollinating plants, preying on pathogens, aerating the soil and more. In this episode, we explore the world of "good bugs" by visiting the pollinator garden at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum where children count bugs as part of a nationwide assessment of pollinators, an insectary (bug farm) in Ventura that grows "good bugs" to combat the "bad bugs," a seed company in Salinas that uses flies in their breeding programs, and a researcher at UC Riverside who traveled the world to find the "good bugs" that prey on insects that carry citrus greening disease, a disease that threatens California's entire citrus industry.

Bye, Bye Grass - How to Remove Your Lawn

Episode #122 · Lawns are the thirstiest and most resource intensive plants in our gardens and frankly, they don't belong in our climate. The combination of four drought years, state mandated water restrictions, and water agency rebates have finally inspired Californians to remove their lawns. We visit several home gardens, each of which uses a different method to kill and/or remove their lawns, with the intent of replacing each with a waterwise landscape.

After The Lawn Is Gone - Waterwise Gardens

Episode #123 · Once the lawn is gone, it leaves behind a blank slate ready to be reimagined to meet the homeowners' needs and desires. In this episode, we learn about planning a new waterwise garden, the features of a waterwise garden, and watch the process of waterwise garden installation. We head to the nursery for a glimpse at beautiful waterwise plants, then visit a just-planted garden to see the characteristics of these climate adapted plants. In the process, we visit a selection of gardens that demonstrate how beautiful and aesthetically diverse waterwise gardens can be.

All About Algae

Episode #124 · Algae are probably the most overlooked of all plants. These are aquatic plants that can be a single cell, or a 20-foot long seaweed, yet they live mostly out of sight. Still, algae play huge roles in our day to day lives. Algae extracts are ingredients in an enormous number of products we use, from cottage cheese to skin cream. Algae are used in biofuels, pharmaceuticals and even surfboards. Much of this research happens in San Diego's laboratories. In this episode, we'll talk about what algae are, visit UCSD's research laboratories and field stations, see a farm that grows algae for human food supplements in the desert, head to Mexico to see how algae surfboards are made, and much more.

Coming to a Nursery Near You

Episode #125 · You walk into a nursery, pick up a beautiful plant in one-gallon container, pay for it, take it home and plant it in your garden. Ever stop to think about how that plant got to the nursery? We aren't talking about the truck that delivered it, but rather about what it took to breed, trial, propagate, grow, and then deliver that plant to the nursery. The process of bringing a new plant to market is astonishingly complex and sophisticated. It is a years-long, sometimes decades-long process, during which each plant is touched by dozens of hands. This behind the scenes tour of how plants come to market will give you a whole new appreciation for the industry and for the plants in your garden.

How Water Flows

Episode #126 · Water is serious stuff, particularly in California where drought is on everyone's minds Water flows into our houses and it also flows into our farms and gardens. With supplies growing more limited, how do farms and gardens factor into the water equation? What are the environmental issues? We take a look at California's water supply, where it comes from, where it goes to, and how it supplies the farms that feed us and gardens that delight us.