What to do with all those hot peppers: Harissa!

Lyn, a reader in Canada with way too many hot peppers on hand, asked us what we thought we should do with them. We have the same problem here this year, an overabundance of very large, hot Italian Long Peppers. Thumbing through some recipe books we realized that we had all the ingredients to make Harissa, a spicy Moroccan condiment. The recipe is simple and quick. We cut open five of our hot peppers, discarded the seeds, and combined them in a f...

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My Big Fat Greek Squash

Every time I visit my mom, her Greek neighbor pops over the fence to offer me seeds and plants. He visits Greece each summer and comes back with seeds for plants whose names he can’t translate into English. As a result I always have a few mystery Greek vegetables growing in the garden. This spring he gave me a squash seedling he had propagated. It grew into a massive vine and produced two winter squashes whose weight exceeded the capacit...

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How To Design a Garden Step IV: Clues to Care

rm, or anything that looks too “wild.” Clues to care include: Defined pathways Raised beds Mulched beds and paths (vs. bare soil) Artwork Trellises and other attractive supports Birdbaths Benches While the above items fall under the category of hardscape, clues to care also include aesthetic choices in planting and arranging the yard. For instance, it’s never a bad idea to plant lots of flowers, even if you’re more inter...

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City Farm Chicago

e 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 soil will move when the yuppie condos replace the salad greens and radishes. City Farm is an idea that makes sense in big U.S. cities which, despite astronomical real estate prices, have large...

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Italian Dandelion Redux

Italian Dandelion (Cichorium intybus) It’s been a difficult winter growing season here in Los Angeles. Our unpredictable Mediterranean climate has thrown a few curve balls in the past few months courtesy of an ocean temperature phenomenon known as La Niña which has caused alternating periods of cool weather followed by 80º days and little rainfall. Our deciduous trees did not loose their leaves until after New Years, most of the winter ve...

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

appy to take the letters from Kevin, the horse poop for compost and try our best. Here’s one question we get a lot: Q: Y’all know where I can get my soil tested? I’ve started HUGE garden in my side yard and it just occurred to me that it is where people used to park their cars. I’m concerned about Oil or other pollutants from the cars that might still be in the soil. Any experience with this? Can I test without it costing...

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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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Row Cover as an Insect Barrier

It ain’t pretty but it works. As one would expect, cabbage leaf worms love cabbage and nearly every other member of the brassica species.  Which  is why I’ve become a real fan of row cover material as an insect barrier. The perp in question. It rarely freezes here so I use the thinnest row cover possible, specifically a product called Agribon-15. If you live in a cooler climate and want to use row cover for frost pr...

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Rubber Sidewalks Rescue Trees

calls from people eager to remove trees for the same reason. Sadly, I have also heard from people that would call just to complain about a tree being messy and littering their sidewalk or driveway. My personal take on that is it isn’t the tree that should be removed- it is the concrete. Leaves falling off of trees is a good thing. Leaves make glorious mulch or compost and that hardscape is just in the way of some healthy soil. Nonetheless,...

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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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