Sunset Magazine’s Take on Zones

A Sunset Magazine zone map Yesterday we posted a USDA zone based vegetable gardening planting guide. But the problem with USDA zones, as many readers pointed out, is that they aren’t specific enough. For instance, all of the city of Los Angeles is in USDA zone 10, but the difference between where we live and the coast is significant. This is where Sunset Magazine’s more detailed zones maps come in handy. Sunset has divided t...

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What We’re Going To Do About That Lead

White sage, yarrow, rosemary and aloe vera–the kind of plants we’ll be planting more of. Let’s assume that we have a lead problem in our backyard. That’s a big assumption at this point because we now have two very conflicting test results. But, for the sake of an argument, let’s say the first alarming test is true, what are we going to do about it? These are the options: Radical remediation: Remove all t...

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One Craptacular Week

It’s been one hell of a week. First we find out, via a soil test, that our backyard may have high levels of lead and zinc. We’ll write a lot more about this once I confirm the results–I’ve sent in another sample to a different lab. And my doctor has agreed to give me a blood test. Whatever the results, I want to help get out the word about this serious issue–ironically, next week is National Lead Poisoning Preve...

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Greywater Precautions

Before we continue our greywater series, we have a few precautions to lay down. The dangers of greywater have been exaggerated in the past and it’s important to remember that nobody in the US has ever gotten sick from exposure to greywater. The plumbing codes in this country are overly cautious in their restrictions on greywater use, as the Man, quite simply, wants you to throw perfectly good water down the sewer. On the other hand, a lot...

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Purple Sicilian Cauliflower

The Homegrown Revolution compound’s purple Sicilian cauliflower (Cavolfiore di Sicilia Violetto from Seeds from Italy) from our illegal parkway garden is now ready for the table after four months since planting from seed. Cauliflower needs some attention; it needs to be kept moist and it’s prone to aphids, but the little buggers can be blasted off with a hose fairly easily. While the plant takes up a lot of room and doesn’t yi...

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Pierce Disease Resistant Grape Vines for Southern California

Pearl River Grape–slightly critter chewed, but still tasty. At the risk of counting our chickens before they’ve hatched, I think we finally have grape vines that are immune to Pierce’s disease. Pierce’s disease is a fatal condition spread by sucking (and sucky) insects known as sharpshooters. Once a vine get it there is no cure. Pierce’s is why your glass of California wine may one day be genetically modified. Over...

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Farm Hack

Farm Hack is an innovative blog that synthesizes high tech and low tech in the service of growing food and community. The blog is run by the National Young Farmers Coalition. While geared towards agriculture, many of the posts will be of interest to backyard gardeners. Recent subjects include a project to develop an infrared camera to monitor plant health, smartphone tools for farmers and open source appropriate technology resources. It’s...

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Straw Bale Garden Update: Success!

Ladies and gentleman, straw bale gardening works. I left town for a week earlier this month and, during my absence, the vegetables in the straw bale garden exploded in size. The Tromboncino squash on the left, is threatening to envelop the entire yard.  The tomatoes are equally vigorous and covered in ripening fruit. Zucchini is on the menu. While it takes an input of outside resources in the form of straw and fertilizer, straw bale gardening i...

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The Elysium Delusion

If the futurist projections of my childhood had come true, by 2013 we should have all been living in a spinning subdivision in earth orbit by now. But space colonization is a concept that’s always bugged me. It strikes me an irresponsible escape: rather than fix things on earth, let’s all get the hell out–it’s the ultimate form of suburban flight. NASA’s 1970s era version of Elysium The heyday of space colonization...

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