Gardening in 1906 or The Good Earth

A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg

March, 2004

In 1906, Alexander Eells, a successful San Francisco lawyer, began weekend gardening on his 8-acre property, situated between LaVerne and Montford on both sides of Reed Creek below Three Groves.

In January, he had the willow swamp at the east end of the property cleared of brush roots, and all the flat land plowed and harrowed. The soil consisted of decayed vegetable matter and black gravelly loam.

In February, he ordered five varieties of pecan trees from DeWitt, Georgia, and brought back Matilija poppy roots, olive cuttings, fig cuttings and grape roots given to him while he was on a business trip in Santa Barbara.

In March he set out grape, gooseberry, currant, raspberry and loganberry vines, plus pecan, chestnut, lemon, walnut, plum, pistachio, apple, pear, cherry, peach, apricot, nectarine and almond trees. He also planted a few early potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes.

On April 8, Fostini, who worked part time on the farm, planted an acre of potatoes. On April 21, three days after the earthquake, Eels, his wife and their two daughters moved to the farm from their damaged home on Haight St.

In May, they were eating lettuce, peas and various greens from the garden. July brought more peas, beans, carrots, spinach, beets and lettuce than they could possibly eat.

In early August, Fostini dug about half of the potatoes he had planted in April, yielding 20 sacks. Eells was given one fourth of the crop. In late August, the sweet corn was ripe.

In September, tomatoes, peppers, brussels sprouts and artichokes were ready. In early October, they ate the last batch of corn, but there were still plenty of tomatoes. They had used almost no hay during the summer because fodder corn, mangel wurzel beets, white carrots, cabbage and pumpkins had sufficed for the milk cow.

Between 1937 and 1942, Eells’ son-in-law, Dr. Edward G. Vandevere, became famous for raising 200 varieties of rhododendron on the property. He won international prizes for new types.


If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.