Stella Natura: Planting by the Signs

Judging from the hostile reaction the last time I posted about Biodyamamics, we need some kind of woo-woo alert for this type of post. Perhaps an animated flash animation, like those mortgage ads, of Stevie Nicks dancing to Rhiannon . I’ll get the Homegrown Evolution IT department on it right away. On to the post: Timing planting according to moon, sun and zodiacal cycles is a very old tradition. Farmers and gardeners have consulted mys...

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Music to Grow Plants

From the The Secret Life of Plants era, New York dentist and horticulturalist Dr. George Milstein’s 1970 album Music to Grow Plants. Apparently it came with seeds. From the back cover, “As a result of present study, we were able to produce a sound which acts upon plant growth patterns. These sounds have been electronically embedded in this record. Every effort has been made to camouflage them, however, you may at times hear certain...

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Miner’s lettuce

Miner’s lettuce reminds me of tiny lily pads I was delighted to find a specimen of this delicious little weed growing in our yard among the poppies: miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), but I don’t think it will thrive. This plant is native to the West coast of the U.S. (and down into S. America, I believe) but it doesn’t do well in LA.* I never see it on the streets in my neighborhood, it’s too hot and...

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Natural Dyeing with Woad

Earlier in the month while the boys stayed at home with Eric, I attended a French General workshop on dyeing with woad (Isatis tinctoria). Woad (from the Brassicaceae family, a cousin to broccoli & cauliflower) has been cultivated in Europe since ancient times. Woad was prized by Napoleon and used to dye his army’s uniforms. At one time, the production of woad was the cornerstone of the economy of the south of France. Indigo o...

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Reasons and Resources for Growing Your Own Grains at Home

The world’s smallest patch of Sonora wheat Reasons to grow grain Why grow some of your own grain? I can think of a bunch of reasons: You can plant unusual varieties The large amount of biomass for your compost pile Forage for livestock Easy to grow and maintain Part of a rotational strategy for maintaining healthy, disease free soil Know that your grain is not contaminated with pesticides How to grow grain  Growing grain is p...

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A Sonora and Kamut Wheat Field in Los Angeles County!

Sonora wheat The Los Angeles Bread Bakers, of which I’m a co-founder along with Teresa Sitz and Mark Stambler, have teamed with farmer Andrea Crawford, of Kenter Canyon Farms, to plant what I think may be the first wheat field in Los Angeles County in many years. Wheat used to be widely grown here, especially Sonora wheat, a drought tolerant variety originally bought to the Southwest by the Spanish. Along with Sonora, we planted...

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Book Review: Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat

How can we save the world? Simple. Get everyone to read and understand the contents of a new book, Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat. Why? There’s the obvious–pollinating insects provide a huge amount of our food–but they also have a few unappreciated roles. Without pollinators, plant communities that stabilize river banks disappear. Ma...

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Peat-free Planting Mix Recipe With Coconut Coir

Nancy’s coconut coir-based planting mix. Here she’s doing the squeeze test, which we talk about below. From an environmental perspective peat moss is a nightmare. Mining of this material is unsustainable, contributes to global warming and destroys habitat for many plants and animals. But, for starting seeds, we’ve used it for years. Our friend Nancy Klehm taught us recently how to make a seed starting mix with coconut...

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Tree Tobacco as a Stinging Nettle Cure

Tree tobacco or Nicotiana glauca. Image from Wikipedia. Yesterday’s Solanum nigrum (Black Nightshade) post reminded me of a fascinating tidbit about another plant from the nightshade family that I learned from foraging expert Pascal Baudar: the leaves of tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) ease stinging nettle rash. We were out gathering nettles with Pascal, so the lesson was much appreciated–and field tested. All you have to d...

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How to Plan a Vegetable Garden

Today I did the unthinkable and made good on one of my many New Years resolutions: I planned our 128 square foot vegetable garden a year in advance. Here’s how I did it: Identifying Seasons Using an Ecology Action pamphlet as my guide, Learning to Grow All Your Own Food: A One-Bed Model For Compost, Diet and Income Crops, I divided the year into three seasons. Most of you reading this blog probably have two: a cool season and a warm seaso...

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