Episode 110: Annie’s Annuals and Urban Tilth

Annie's Annuals & Perennials

This week finds Joe, Patti and Nathan in Richmond, CA for a behind the scenes visit with Annie Hayes of world-renowned Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. From humble beginnings in her own back yard to two and a half acres of prime San Francisco real estate and a tremendous following, Annie now offers some 3,000 varieties of hard to find and rare heirloom annual and perennial plants preserving them for generations to come.
Just what is an heirloom? Although definitions vary somewhat, generally it is a plant 30-50 years old that has been handed down from generation to generation and comes true each year from seed. Searching for these seeds is an interesting challenge for Annie and her team and the stories behind the plants fascinating.

Each and every plant in her repertoire is grown organically from seed exposed to the elements, not protected in a greenhouse environment. Her philosophy, and she has the successful plants to prove it, is that plants perform better in the garden if they are not forced into blooming early as with the typical nursery trade. Because her focus is on developing a strong root system rather than flowers or fruit, her plants are therefore healthier and establish more quickly.
One of the more unusual aspects of her business is that they only sell plants in 4” pots. So, Joe wants to know what happens to them when they’ve outgrown that space. Annie donates the plants to local community organizations, local schools and Urban Tilth.

Urban Tilth is an organization dedicated to teaching children the skills they can use to grow their own food. They have agriculture programs for youth from kindergarten to twelfth grade and offer free workshops to the community on gardening and sustainability. Located along a bike path nearby these gardens are tended by the children but the harvest is open to anyone in the community.
This part of their Mission Statement says it all “Urban Tilth has a deep commitment to West Contra Costa County. We believe that environmental restoration is inextricably connected to economic and social restoration. As a result we are committed to training and employing local people, working collaboratively within community, establishing cross sector coalitions, engaging in local policy decisions and growing our food (and ourselves), locally and organically using the principles of permaculture to take into consideration waste reduction as well as water and soil conservation, preservation and restoration”.
Also in this episode Patti shows us that having a bountiful harvest doesn’t have to take up tons of space. It can be accomplished with a self-contained, self-watering kit that is easy to set up and a cinch to maintain. And Nathan whips up a delicious summertime treat using one of his favorites…tomatoes. Enjoy the show!
For more information
Urban Tilth
Annie’s Annuals and Perennials
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange