A Warning About Straw

Claude Monet used straw (or is that hay?) for art. We use straw to catch chicken droppings! Straw is a very inexpensive and useful material for composting, mulching and animal bedding (we use it for all of these purposes). If you use it for mulch you’ll probably get some seeds that will germinate, but I’ve never found it to be a big problem in a small vegetable garden. I get my straw from the feed store, but you can often get it fo...

Continue reading…

Straw Bale Gardens

...ity with his article. The biggest possible downside with this method is that the straw may contaminated with a persistent herbicide, like Dow Chemical’s Clopyralid. This is a type of herbicide that is not broken down by composting. It’s not even broken down in an animal’s digestive track. It can linger in organic matter for a year or two, stunting the growth garden plants. (See Killer Compost). Despite this risk, we’re goi...

Continue reading…

Vegetable Gardening for the Lazy

One of the problems with growing vegetables is all the labor involved–starting seeds, composting, watering and watching out for bugs. It’s worth it, of course, for the tasty rewards, but many busy folks are simply too exhausted after work or corralling the bambinos to pick up a shovel and garden. For those who’d rather sit on the porch with a martini than laboring in the field, and we often include ourselves in that category, p...

Continue reading…

Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

...n the oven, the pit has grown to be about 12 feet wide and 2 feet deep. This pit is going to be our new planting area, but obviously it needs to be filled in. Instead of buying imported soil, we’re going to grow soil by composting on a grand scale. We’re going to compost right in the pit and fill it up bit by bit. When it’s done, we’ll have a big round area where it will probably be safe enough to plant food crops. Might t...

Continue reading…

How To Design a Garden Step I: Identifying Goals

...cts and birds beauty a place to sit and hang out with friends a place to sit and work with a laptop space for our chickens flowers for bees space for native plants areas that are semi-wild and not often visited  space for the composting Think and meditate on your goals before drawing up a plan.  And for those of us in the urban homesteading movement, I think it’s important to measure productivity in more ways than just the amount of food...

Continue reading…

Other People’s Poo: Biosolids in the Garden

...he soil test showed high levels of: zinc 196 ppm copper 76 ppm sulfur 5,752 ppm The problem isn’t human waste, it’s all the other stuff that ends up in the sewer. I see a future when we’ll be responsibly composting human waste (see Joseph Jenkin’s website for how to do that). But watch out for that free city compost. Update: A blog reader, Helane Shields, left an interesting series of links about biosolids in the comme...

Continue reading…

Yet More Urban Homesteading Mistakes

My new excuse: I didn’t write it, the kitten did! Three of my favorite Root Simple compound blunders happened this week. Yesterday I announced a “Vermincomposting” class. I meant vermicomposting, of course, but I’d point out that it is good to remember that vermin are actually compostable, along with everything biological –including bloggers. Earlier this week I meant to mention Native Americans  but, due...

Continue reading…

Compost pail failure

We have one of those standard, stainless steel compost pails–the kind you keep on your countertop to collect scraps. It’s a couple of years old. Last week, it began to leak from the bottom. This mystified me because a) it’s stainless steel and seemed a quality item and b) it had no seams on the bottom. For a while I wondered if there was a miracle at work–you know, sort of the composting version of a weeping Virgin Mary....

Continue reading…

Root Simple Edible Gardening Classes at the Huntington Ranch

...ganic vegetable garden in this hands-on series led by Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne of Root Simple. Sessions will take place entirely outdoors on The Huntington’s Ranch site and will cover all the basics of planning, planting, composting, soil science, pest control, and harvesting. Members: $120. Non Members: $135. Registration: 626-405-2128...

Continue reading…