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 bi...

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Backwoods Home Magazine

Imagine Martha Stewart as a gun-toting radical libertarian and you’ll have some idea what the always informative and entertaining Backwoods Home Magazine is like. Even though its primary emphasis is rural off-grid living, every issue has something to offer for the urban homesteader. The current January/February issue features a detailed article on how city dwellers can maximize their vegetable production in small spaces. Even the article on runn...

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In Seattle, Headed to Portland

Photo from bikejuju.com Dig that tallbike, welded up by our host in Seattle Tom, a.k.a. “bikejuju” who has a blog at www.bikejuju.com. His wife Lyanda is the author of a book readers of this blog will enjoy, Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness . And they have the prettiest mixte I’ve ever seen in their living room. This afternoon we head to Portland. Hope to see you at one of our appearances....

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Photo Tour of the Root Simple Compound

...New, as yet unnamed, kitten enjoying homebrew. Photo by Emily Ho for re-nest. In case you’ve tired of the continuous coverage of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, how about a look at ours? Writer and photographer Emily Ho sure did a nice job putting together a photo tour of our crib over at re-nest in a post entitled “Kelly and Erik’s Urban Farm.” Funny, when I look at our house I see all the work I have left to do, t...

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Till vs. No-Till

...pading fork in moderately compacted soils. This is clearly a topic on which reasonable people can disagree, but the no-till folks seem to have the upper hand in terms of the science. As with all gardening problems, though, context is king. Environmental factors and economic issues (those expensive broadforks) intersect in our urban gardens in complex ways. You have to make up your own mind. I’d say if you’re going to double-dig do it...

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Root Simple and LA Bread Bakers at Artisinal LA

This Saturday Kelly and I will be joining a panel discussion on urban homesteading along with our good friends Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms and goat keepers and cheese makers Gloria Putnam and Stephen Rucidel. The panel will take place at Artisinal LA on Saturday April 16th at 2 pm in Santa Monica. I will also be taking part in a bread baking demo along with the LA Bread Bakers the same day at 1 pm. More information at artisinalla.com....

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Lasagna Gardening Simplified

First popularized back in the 1970s, “lasagna gardening” involves piling up thick layers of cardboard and uncomposted kitchen scraps on top of (sometimes) double-dug soil. The practice is touted as a way of removing lawns and improving soil with little work. Linda Chalker-Scott, Extension Urban Horticulturist at Washington State University, proposes a vastly simpler version of lasagna gardening.  Chalker-Scott suggests skipping th...

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SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Resource

...even a SoilWeb iPhone app allowing you to use the GPS capabilities of your phone to assist in shopping for, say, the perfect vineyard location. SoilWeb maps cover most, but not all, areas of the US (Los Angeles isn’t included for some reason). While highly technical, terms are explained via hyperlinks. You click on the table to the right of the map for more detailed information including suitability for farming. Of course in urban areas y...

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Emergency Toilet Sanitation

...long as you’ve got a carbon source you can keep Jenkins’ sanitation system going indefinitely. With the FEMA approach you’ve got a problem when you run out of those bags and proprietary enzyme mixtures. One problem with Jenkins’ approach could be finding a carbon source in an urban area, but I think that’s solvable (suggestions invited!). You also need water for the compost pile but it need not be potable. I’m...

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Free Preparedness E-Books

Camp loom, for making mats and mattresses from the 1911 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook Through a circuitous bit of aimless interweb searching I came across a huge list of downloadable urban homesteading/gardening/survivalist manuals on a site called hardcorepreppers.com. Unfortunately, this site is so popular that it seems to be down every time I’ve checked. But thanks to Google’s caching feature I was able to access a li...

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