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

...ers or stick to ornamentals. You could also try bioremediation: each season plant a cover crop, let it grow, and then pull it up and dispose of it. Test the soil until it comes out clean. This works well, but it can take many years to get all the contaminants out. For those of you in Los Angeles, our local Extension Service agent Yvonne Savio kindly sent me the following list of labs with comments. Biological Urban Gardening ServicePO Box 76Citru...

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As Above, So Below

...eople how to make their own low-cost telescopes. As a monk, Dobson could not afford expensive materials. He kept the design inexpensive by using a simple mount and cheap materials: wood and cardboard. My Dobsonian was made by the now defunct Coulter Optical Company out of particle board and a cardboard concrete form. Its large 13.1 inch mirror makes it perfect for looking at nebulas, galaxies and star clusters even in light polluted urban areas....

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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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A New Reality

...yle as something impossible to accomplish. The underlying message? Stay on that couch, don’t try to change the world, just buy the crap our advertisers sell. These type of realty shows are also a rigged version of the prisoner’s dilemma in which the cooperative option (what most people tend to choose in stressful situations) is not allowed. We need to tell a different story. Bloggers in the urban homesteading movement can join togethe...

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The Horror

...waster. Fellow LA Bloggist and committed bike commuter Will Campbell (his mileage indicates that he’s got the Kool-aid in those bottle cages), has smacked down Cato institute stormtrooper Randall O’Toole in an ongoing debate on cycling in the pages of the L.A. Times. Urban Velo #5 is available for download and it’s free. Lastly, Commute by Bike has some tips on how to ride in cold weather without opening the wallet for expensiv...

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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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City Farm Chicago

...stand and provides opportunities for economically under-developed neighborhoods. City Farm is a mobile endeavor. The basic idea is to take advantage of some vacant land and, when the inevitable development comes, pull up everything and move on. Assuming that urban land is contaminated, the City Farm folks simply piled up about three feet of compost, soil and mulch right on top of the broken concrete and asphalt of its current location. All that s...

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Native Plant Workshop

...riate plantings. 2. Natives aren’t edible. Many natives yield edible and medicinal crops. In North America the best way to delve into this topic is to figure out the plants that Native Americans in your area used. 3. Southern California is a desert and native plants are desert plants. Coastal Southern California has a Mediterranean climate not a desert climate and native plants adapted to this region do not look like desert plants. Coastal...

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Italian Dandelion Redux

...alvae” (“As for me, olives, chicory, and mallows provide sustenance”). It’s a comfort in these uncertain times to observe such a hardy plant. While my cabbage and kale wither under the hot sun and an army of aphids, the Italian Dandelion seems immune to both pest and disease. And, nearby, volunteer mallow hints at a spring of easy foraging. Horace was on to something. And to all who responded to my call for urban homestead...

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In Praise of Disorder

Loose chickens in Houston A neighborhood whose demographics fall somewhere between the extremes of the crack den and the country club presents just the right level of civic inattention to allow the urban homesteader to get away with many of the illegal projects profiled in this blog: greywater, backyard poultry, and front yard vegetable gardening, to mention just a few. Ideally you have a balance between order and disorder–neither gunfir...

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