Tell the Bees

Anderson removing a hive from a fence. Photo from the Backwards Beekeepers. Urban beekeeper Kirk Anderson has a vision: bees, kept without the use of chemicals, in backyards all over Los Angeles. Homegrown Evolution was lucky to be able to attend a beekeeping class taught by the very knowledgeable and entertaining Anderson, who has a theory: “There has been a lot of news stories about the bees dying. They became infested with a parasitic...

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The Homegrown Mailbox: How and Where Do I Get My Soil Tested?

When you write a book you get questions. In our case, due to the sinking economy in California, they are delivered by Kevin Costner on horseback rather than by email or regular federal postal trucks. No problem, we like questions. A caveat here: like Nancy Klehm, the Green Roof Growers and Black Swan author Nassim Taleb, we prefer the term “practitioner” to describe what we do as opposed to “expert”. We favor experience o...

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California Agriculture Journal Online

The University of California has put 63 years worth of its journal California Agriculture online for convenient downloading at californiaagriculture.ucanr.org. There’s plenty of detailed (peer reviewed!) nuggets for the home gardener between the pages of this scientific journal. Make sure to check out the article and video of UC Berkeley entomologist Gordon Frankie explaining what kinds of plants are best for attracting bees in your urban...

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City Farm Chicago

Chicago’s City Farm is a stunning bit of green smack in the middle of the concrete jungle, sandwiched between the remnants of the controversial Cabrini-Green housing project and the Gold Coast. A program of the non-profit Resource Center, City Farm sells produce to chefs, operates a vegetable stand and provides opportunities for economically under-developed neighborhoods. City Farm is a mobile endeavor. The basic idea is to take advantage...

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Garden Amendments as Placebos

I just finished writing an article for Urban Farm Magazine on the subject of aerated compost tea (ACT for short). It proved to be one of the most contentious subjects on which I’ve ever tried to, as Mark Twain liked to say, “corral the truth.” It got me thinking about other controversial soil additives popular in organic gardening and farming circles right now such as rock dust, mycorrhizae additives, and biochar. Now I pr...

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Native Plant Workshop

Vitus californica covering our ugly chain link fence There’s a couple of common misconceptions amongst novice gardeners about native plants: 1. If you use native plants the whole garden has to be natives. In fact, it’s great to mix natives with non-native plants. The natives bring in beneficial wildlife, are hardy and are efficient in terms of water use. Flexibility is key here–go ahead and mix natives with vegetables, fruit...

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Rubber Sidewalks Rescue Trees

Homegrown Neighbor here: I love trees and all of the things they do for us. They shade us, feed us, house us. Trees are something we just need more of here in Southern California. I used to work at an urban forestry non-profit, TreePeople. So I am familiar with the challenges of the tree/sidewalk interface. I have fielded calls from people frantically trying to save trees that are being ripped out because they are lifting the sidewalk. I hav...

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Piet Oudolf’s Enhanced Nature

A garden designer has the difficult task of balancing texture, color, and space while simultaneously dealing with the unpredictability of nature. Long ago I gave up on the idea of ever being good at garden design. But help has come from an unlikely source, Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s revolutionary book Planting A New Perspective. High Line Park. Piet Oudolf is probably best known in the US as the plant designer for the High Line park...

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Campfire Cooking: Fish in Clay (& Vegetarian Options!)

The foraging and culinary partnership of Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich continue to make amazing discoveries. I’d describe their work as elemental–start with wild, local ingredients, use direct but often novel techniques to create a cuisine at once sophisticated and neo-primitive. We blogged about their acorn processing workshop back in October. This month we were fortunate to have taken their class on cooking with clay. This is...

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Help us With a Fodder System for our Hens

A big commercial fodder system. We need something much smaller! I feel somewhat guilty about having our five hens in a confined coop/run. Ideally they’d be grazing on green pasture all day. But our abundant urban predators, lack of space and dry climate make the vision of hens clucking on verdant fields a challenge. I’m thinking of building a DIY fodder system but I’m a bit confused by the instructions I’ve seen floating...

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