Buy organic. Buy local. Think global. Impact the world.

8NHBORBRVR 3What eat organic?


Many people think, I should buy organic food because organic food is better for me. Well it is better for you because a bunch of nasty chemicals weren’t used to grow it, and weren’t subsequently absorbed by it to later get ingested by you, but that’s just part of the story.


When you buy organic food, you support organic farming. The more people buy organic, the more organic farmers we will have. That doesn’t just mean healthier people. If more food is grown organically, less chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used globally, which means less runoff of these products into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Our entire planet is healthier.


That’s why at Zukeeni, we’re keen on people growing their own, because that gives people the greatest control about what they’re consuming.


You might think all our food is safe, because we have governmental organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food & Drug Administration. Unfortunately, today’s farmers are legally allowed to use all sorts of known toxic chemicals in the growing process to boost yield, prevent insect infestations, etc. Any and all chemicals applied to a crop are absorbed by more than just the plants for which they were intended. Chemicals applied by aerial spraying, are affected by wind and can affect the ozone. Any chemical applied to plants also goes into the ground and makes its way into our streams, rivers and lakes. That applies to chemicals we use in our yard or garden, not just the thousands of acres of farmland managed by large, faceless corporations.


For example, the herbicide Atrazine, while banned in the European Union for nearly a decade, is still widely used in U.S. agriculture, primarily on cornfields. It’s estimated 80 million pounds are applied to U.S. soil annually. Studies show atrazine chemically castrates frogs (a key marker species to ecosystem health) and it’s associated with breast and prostrate cancer in humans. LINK And studies have linked the pesticide chlorpyrifos to childhood developmental delays. Chlorpyrifos has been banned from use in households in the U.S. but is still commonly used as an agricultural pesticide on fruits and vegetables. LINK


We all make budget, availability and risk/reward choices every time we shop, so if you can’t afford or choose not to buy organic all the time, try to buy organic where it matters most. Most healthcare professionals and healthy eating advocates agree that the meat and meat by-products you eat (such as milk, butter, and cheese) should be organic. As for fruits and vegetables, get familiar with the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” — the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides. According to the EWG’s review of 7,000 tests conducted in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the following 12 fruits and vegetables make up the current “Dirty Dozen”:


1. Strawberries

2. Apples

3. Nectarines

4. Peaches

5. Celery

6. Grapes

7. Cherries

8. Spinach

9. Tomatoes

10. Sweet bell peppers

11. Cherry tomatoes

12. Cucumbers


But let’s be clear—this isn’t a call to avoid fruits and vegetables for fear of ingesting pesticides. In fact, the EWG always makes a point of reinforcing its belief that the health benefits from consuming at least three recommended servings of vegetables and two of fruit per day far outweigh the risk associated with eating pesticide-laced produce.


And this doesn’t mean you need to buy organic all the time. Some plants have built-in insecticides, such as quinoa, so typically the plants are treated with very little if anything during their growing cycle. And let’s be honest, sometimes the price for organic is significantly higher, and particularly thick skinned fruits, such as bananas and avocados are naturally protected from pesticides getting absorbed into the part you eat. We like the motto, “Buy organic. Buy local. Think global. Impact the world.”


Zukeeni can help you grow your own vegetables without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. It also connects you to the food others in your community are growing.



The #1 mistake every new gardener can avoid (plus 6 other common mistakes)


Most of us have by now planted our garden, if we have one, or at least thought about it–the lengthening days and warming temperatures leading to thoughts of fresh-picked vegetables, fruit tarts and al fresco dining.

We talked with two experienced gardeners (and members of the Zukeeni community) to learn the most common mistakes new gardeners make.

Kristee Rosendahl, who founded SmartGardener (the genesis of Zukeeni), tends to a sizeable garden that supplies fresh vegetables to a high-end farm-to-table restaurant in Healdsburg. Bobby Groves, who also worked with SmartGardener, is an urban agriculture and vertical gardening expert who had a rooftop garden right out of college. According to Kristee and Bobby, these are the top mistakes made.

1. Over enthusiasm

Enthusiasm for gardening is great, but over enthusiasm typically results in people growing too much at once and/or growing the wrong varieties for where they live.

Plant what you know will grow well in your area. A good nursery will only stock what grows well in the particular region it sells to. Start out conservatively and figure out what you like.

According to Bobby, “People often think, ‘I’m going to grow everything this year!” They put in kale, tomatoes, beets and lettuces in a small raised bed, which leads to overcrowding and poor growth or simply too much stuff. He adds, “That’s the kind of situation that leads people to feel overwhelmed and abandon their gardens. It’s better to start small and don’t bite off more than you can chew—literally.” He recommends planting not more than 3-4 annual crops.

 2. Improper watering

Most people do a great job of watering right after they put their seeds or seedlings in the ground, but things tend to fall off after that. Says Kristee, “If seeds and seedlings can’t rely on a certain amount of water, they weaken and become more susceptible to disease and infestations.” Inadequate watering also produces fewer fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, people do a great job of watering often enough, but don’t use enough water or time for the water to soak down to where it’s needed.

Both our experts recommend putting your watering system on some sort of timer, and setting it to a consistent schedule. Kristee uses a new system called Hydrowise which she’s able to control from her computer and smartphone. What’s more, sophisticated systems like Hydrowise allow you to optimize water use, since you can set the system to water one part of your garden every other day, and another part every three days, for example.

3. Planting too early in the year

This often comes about because nurseries stock tons of landscape and garden plants well before it’s the ideal time to put them in the ground. People naturally get excited about planting when they see all the possibilities, and start envisioning the great bounty they think will soon be theirs. However, most garden plants don’t do well until the weather turns consistent. The temperature of the soil needs to be warm enough for plants to grow and thrive—approximately 60 degrees consistently. So you can go ahead and buy those gorgeous tomato plants early, but don’t put them in the ground too early.

4. Assuming your plants only need sun, water and dirt

Compost and mulch your garden to keep your soil healthy and your plants thriving. Even if you’re not up to the task of managing your own compost, these days, you can easily buy high-quality compost in bags from area nurseries. Sprinkle just a few tablespoons around your tomatoes and fruit trees.

Mulch to help your garden soil hold water. Kristee recommends mulching with straw—a 4-inch deep layer is most effective. Mulching also decreases the amount of water you need to use, and it helps keep weeds at bay.

Careful application of a good, organic fertilizer can also boost your plants’ chances of success. Follow the instructions carefully, and avoid chemical fertilizers which can burn your plants if improperly used.

5. Not following the directions on your seed packets or seedlings

Pay close attention to the directions on seed packets, particularly concerning spacing and lighting. For example, not all broccoli varieties are the same. One might spread significantly more than another, and maturity dates vary widely. Putting your plants too close together leads to overcrowding and poor growth.

Randomly laying out plants is one of the most common and most detrimental mistakes you can make. Take care in laying out your varieties so that plants that grow to be bushy won’t block the light from reaching other plants.

6. Not investing in the success of your garden

We all tend to be overly enthusiastic when it comes time to plant our garden, but it’s harder to maintain that enthusiasm. Take time to watch your garden grow—daily if you can manage it. Not only do most people find it rewarding to see new growth on their plants, but by looking over your garden regularly, you can catch problems early, e.g., wilting or yellowing due to a faulty irrigation line, too much or too little sun, bugs, etc.

In addition, whether you plant in the ground or use raised beds, start out with the best soil you can afford. High quality soil holds water better, and contains more nutrients, laying the foundation for seasons to come.

 7. Not monitoring the weather

Keep an eye on the weather. It’s especially important these days as our weather grows more and more unpredictable and extreme. If you set the watering system to water every three days, but there’s a period of extreme heat for three days, you could lose your more delicate or vulnerable plants—particularly new seedlings, or invite in pests. Frost can cause serious damage, too. Monitor the nighttime lows and be prepared to blanket citrus, avocado, and other similarly sensitive trees and plants.

Other tips for successful gardening:

  • Exchange extra food with neighbors (made easy with Zukeeni) because it gives you the opportunity to exchange tips specific to your area.
  • Remember to eat what you grow. Super local food contains the most nutrition, and food left to rot only attracts unwanted pests, such as rats.

We hope these tips help you and your garden flourish!

Starting a food-focused business has never been easier

Do you love to bake? Do you enjoy canning fruits and vegetables, or house a beehive in your backyard? Perhaps you’ve wondered if you could sell something you enjoy making and actually turn a profit. Like many others, you may find the idea of sharing your home-made goods with a broader community very appealing, but whether your cakes receive rave reviews from friends, or you love making jams and jellies, the thought of starting a small business can seem daunting. Many of us love the idea in theory, but simply haven’t the foggiest idea where to begin. Even a space at the local farmer’s market doesn’t come cheap. Thanks to new online platforms like Zukeeni, you can turn your passion into real money.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.32.46 PMYou might be surprised to learn that over the past three years, 43 states have changed their laws making it easier for artisanal producers to sell food out of their homes by decreasing the regulatory burden. These changes to the Cottage Food Operator (CFO) Industry allow budding entrepreneurs to test their products in local markets before investing significant dollars in their idea or product. Previously, in order to produce a non-hazardous product in your home and sell it in the community, most states required health inspections and cost-prohibitive licensing fees. Today, numerous foods fall under the approved list for CFOs, including most baked goods, such as cakes, pies, cookies and pastries, candies, nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruits, honey, teas, mustards and vinegars, cereals, trail mixes and salts to name some. What’s more, many county and city health departments are changing their policies in response to recent state-wide legislation defining and regulating “community food producers,” a category that includes many community gardens, backyard gardens and small urban farms.

In some states, such as California, it’s now as easy as registering online and paying a nominal fee for a Class A or B license. In most jurisdictions, you do not need home inspections, lists of production space and equipment or health code approvals.

Using a community-based platform like Zukeeni, and with a lot of passion and a little determination, anyone can easily test his/her product(s) in the local community, and get a chance to build a real business. Zukeeni is an online platform aimed at creating a marketplace for local homegrown produce and homemade goods. Enabling growers and makers to sell or trade their goods will help strengthen local communities, help budding entrepreneurs get their products to market and help reduce food waste.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.03.46 PMSharon Girdlestone, founder and owner of My Sustainable Table in Orinda, Calif. grew her business organically—almost by chance. Aside from making up dishes just to see how they would turn out, Sharon says she had very little cooking experience and absolutely no experience working as a chef. But all that changed soon after the birth of her son, when she began to notice he had behavioral problems. According to Sharon, “On his third birthday, I made a lovely organic cake, and put green fondant all over it. It was supposed to be a dinosaur, and was a beautiful green.” However, after the cake had been served and devoured, Sharon noticed an immediate behavior change in her son, as well as in some of the other children. Out went anything with artificial coloring or preservatives, and with no specific diagnosis offered, Sharon started started preparing all of her family’s meals from scratch using local, organic ingredients.

Ironically, despite the “crazy acting” kids, the birthday cake Sharon served that day received rave reviews. Friends at the party told other friends about Sharon’s cake making abilities, someone put it on social media, and soon after she started selling her organic cakes using a CFO license. Approximately two years after her cake business had taken off, customers started asking her to make healthy meals for them.

Today, Sharon sells her meals into Grub Market and Real Foods stores throughout the Bay Area. And while she now offers complete meals, her cake business, known as Lovely Little Cakes Bakery, continues to thrive. In addition to grocery stores, Sharon sells some of her soups, cakes and specialty products, such as granola and sauerkraut, on the Zukeeni site.

Sharon says her biggest obstacle to growing her business lies with her children. Both of her children are still in elementary school, and starting or managing a business while raising young children can make everyday challenges that much harder. She makes a point of ensuring that when she’s done for the day, she’s really done, and can focus 100% on her children.Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.38.14 PM

When asked what advice she would give to prospective makers and sellers, Sharon says, “Take the time to thoroughly research your city’s or county’s health department rules.” (While she only needs a CFO license to make cakes out of her home kitchen, the meals she prepares daily for stores and catering require her to use a commercial kitchen under a more complex license. “You don’t want to mess with people’s health, and you never know when a health department official might show up,” she adds. According to Sharon, her regular thoughts while she’s working include, “How long can that dish sit there?” or “Does that need to go into the fridge soon?”

What other advice does Sharon offer? “Make sure it’s fun!” she says.

So if you have passion for food, and have extra produce from your fruit trees or garden, or remember giving away canned goods to your neighbors last year because your pantry was overflowing, or keep getting asked by friends to make that special dessert, consider how much easier starting a business just got.

It’s all about the dirt


Ask yourself: Why do we have gardens? What do we grow fruits and vegetables for? Food. Nutrition and health. And what’s the key to growing healthy food?

It’s simple: it’s all about the dirt.

That’s right. Dirt’s not just the yucky muddy mess that kids track into the house. The dirt in your backyard lays the foundation for nutritious and strong plants. Literally.

So if you’re hoping for a bountiful spring garden this year (and who isn’t?), now’s the time to start prepping your soil. And the best way to get your soil in shape is with re-mineralization. Our choice: Andesite Mineral Complex. (15% off just for you!)


sprouts in gardenMinerals are crucial to the human body. Like, oxygen and H2O-status crucial. They’re present in virtually all our body’s cells and help build new tissues, balance pH levels, release energy from food, and regulate a ton of other processes. But while we need 45-60 different minerals for optimal health, we only get 8 minerals on average from most of the food we consume today – including fruits and vegetables. AKA we’re far from our best selves. So we should change that.


Nature has been re-mineralizing the earth’s soil since the beginning of time: volcanic eruptions scattered valuable minerals from deep within the earth, while volcanowind, rainfall and rivers helped redistribute them around the globe. Glaciers played a major role too, pulverizing rock and blending it into the earth’s soil. During this time millions of years ago, soils contained 80-100 minerals.

But today, our soils contain no more than 16-20. Think: centuries of over-farming and erosion. And without enough minerals, just like the human body, plants become weaker: they require more water yet produce less, contain lower nutrient levels, and are more susceptible to stress, pests, and disease.


Okay, that’s the bad news. The good news? If you’re growing your own food, you can be the change by re-mineralizing your soil.

Like we mentioned, we’re using Andesite Mineral Complex™ in our own gardens – and really, the difference is huge. Many growers focus solely N, P & K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium), which are important, but there are 90+ other natural mineral elements that are key to plant and soil health. Mineral complexes like Andesite’s give you cobalt, sulfur, copper, manganese, boron, carbon, molybdenum, calcium, magnesium, zinc, silica, iron, and more.

If you’re ready to re-mineralize, order your Andesite Mineral Complex here at the 15% discount until the 31st of March!

Happy growing.


Here’s a full list of benefits that re-mineralization offers your garden:

  • Provides a slow, natural release of elements and trace minerals
  • Improves nutrient uptake of plants
  • Increases yields
  • Produces more nutrient-dense fruits & vegetables
  • Enhances flavor in fruits & vegetables
  • Encourages earthworm and microbial activity in soils
  • Improves brix (sugar content) levels in plants
  • Improves resistance to insects, disease, frost and drought
  • Improves Cation Exchange Rates in soils
  • Helps balance soil pH levels 

All About Heirlooms

What are heirlooms?

In the general sense of the term, we all know what an heirloom is: an item passed down from generation to generation. An ornate wooden trunk that belonged to your great great grandfather during the Civil War. A hand-carved violin from the Victorian Age. They have a quality too special to be forgotten.

IMG_6610It’s the same with heirloom seeds. The “true” definition is open to dispute, but the term usually applies to fruit or vegetable varieties being grown before World War II. This was a time when agriculture was completely localized and decentralized (can you even imagine?), when regional and cultural differences inspired significant plant variety.

Why grow heirlooms?

For those of us who foster sentimental value in our lives, heirloom seeds play to our love of stories and the past. There’s something intrinsically fascinating about the “olden days” — a way of life long gone. Heirlooms allow us to stay connected to our history. You can buy carrot seeds developed by Massachusetts farmers in 1886, or squash varieties from seeds carried in the pockets of immigrants traveling to America in 1820. Crazy, right?

Planting heirloom seeds also protects biodiversity. Instead of relying on one seed, where a disease could wipe out the entire plant variety, heirlooms ensure that our favorite fruits and vegetables live long into the future.

UntitledOkay, sentimental value, biodiversity — that’s all wonderful and true. But there’s another reason to grow heirlooms. One that proves “heirloom” isn’t just a fluffy term tacked onto the tomato salad on a restaurant’s menu.

So what’s the biggest reason? Taste.

You can’t beat the sweet and tangy punch of a red-green heirloom tomato compared to a bland beefsteak from the grocery store. After all, heirlooms were developed at a time when people took great care and pride in growing their food. And because produce wasn’t being shipped thousands of miles, there was no need for a pear to withstand bruises or be a standard size.

Simply put, taste was king.

Finally, heirlooms are open-pollinated, which means you can replant an heirloom seed years later — and get the same result as the first plant that was ever grown. For a how-to on planting seeds, see here.

In the end, heirlooms have an intrinsic quality that can’t be beat. Like the surreal feeling of holding the very same string of pearls your great great great grandmother wore on her wedding day, with an heirloom plant variety, you’re literally eating something straight out of the past.

So will you grow heirlooms?

Stay tuned for a blog about the pros and cons of heirlooms vs. today’s hybrid varieties.

Top 10 (ok, 9) advice for beginner gardeners





Intention is everything and what usually inspires a new gardener. I speak from experience. With that, hindsight is 20/20. Here are the top mistakes a beginning gardener makes, so you don’t have to.

Sweat the small stuff
Don’t plant more than you can manage. Begin small, find out what’s best to grow given your location and time of year. Learn the types of plants you enjoy growing.

gardening-690940_1280Soil is Everything
Prepare the soil you plant in. Learn what makes it “good soil” and begin tending it in early spring. Come the summer, your veggies will show their thanks. For successful soil, check out our informative Know Your Soil article.

Location, location, light
Sunlight and warmth are pivotal to a garden. Notice where your yard get the most sunlight. Some plants require more than others. It’s good to know what your favorites need to thrive, our Spend Time on Site Selection article will help guide you.

Rich, but not too rich
That’s fertilizer, not money. Understand how much fertilizer is the right amount for what you plant. Some require more, some less. The same for manure, it can affect the time of harvest. Unsure? Consult a local Zukeeni.

“Water is the driver of nature.”
Leonardo DaVinci If over watered, a plant’s root system can rot. Once rotted? Let’s not go there. Too little and they begin to wilt. If you see this, add water– a much happier ending! Check out our Watering is Critical article for more specifics.

sprouts in gardenAre you deep or shallow? Don’t judge.
The larger the seed the deeper it should be planted. Most seed packets will advise. The flip side– who knew “shallow” could be good? Again, refer to the packet for a smart, healthy plant.

Give me some space, please
Seeds may look small but planting too many, too close means a grab for soil nutrients, sunlight and “agua”. No bueno. Go slow, see how things grow and then proceed accordingly.

How much is too mulch?
Mulch is good but everything in moderation. Light mulch after planting, good. Too much mulch? Not good. Add it lightly as a plant grows and it will help keep soil moist. It also discourages weeds, speaking of…

Weeds can be stingy
Talk about hoarding space, weeds grow fast and furious. Pull as soon as you see them. The longer neglected the more roots they grow and try to own your garden. Oh no, yank them quick and let your veggies dominate– you’ll taste their victory!

Zukeeni member advice: (Marin farmer) Pick something easy to start with. I would pick a squash or check out the plant selection and sort by winter months in your region… Your kids will love it.

Zukeeni member advice: (Mintyhorse 746) Pick things easy to grow, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers. Nothing that takes a lot of maintenance. Also, pick things your kids eat, care for and can help plant.

Five herbs perfect for indoor growing

image2All good intention for the New Year aside, the recent weather really had me second-guessing some of my planting goals for the first of the year. Frankly, it’s pretty cold and wet outside. A friend suggested I create an indoor herb garden, something I’d wanted to do and, the timing was perfect. I researched best practices and sought input from neighbors I knew had created lovely herb gardens in the past.Here’s what I came up with, note: it’s pretty easy! Five herbs perfect for indoor growing:

  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

The best way to grow herbs is to place them on a windowsill or wherever gets the most daylight. A minimum of four hours of light per day is ideal, next:

  • Buy plants or separate from one already in your garden
  • Manage the size of cuttings – consider the space you intend to place them
  • I transplant herbs into 4” pots – perfect for windowsills
  • Plant each herb in its own pot – use fresh, quality soil
  • Fertilize – garden soil contains natural nutrients many indoor plants lack

Soil from the garden can also contain our little friends from outside (see: pests) as well as other potentially harmful components, so fresh is always best! Some Tips:

  • Leaves may drop in the beginning – the herbs are adjusting to a new environment
  • Keep the soil moist
  • Rosemary can have difficulty adjusting indoors so be patient
  • Indoor herbs can attract aphids or spider mites, so here’s how I handle it:
    • I inspect the herbs as I water
    • If found, I cover the soil surface and flush the plant upside down in a container of insecticidal soap and water.
    • If persistent, I flush once a week until the pests are gone

Right now, I’m working on Mint. Smells so good, my daughter loves it and, you’ve got to have mint for mojitos, right? Stories and pictures of your garden are always encouraged: