Why is My Squash Bitter?

“Long of Naples” squash growing in our backyard. It’s the bees. Squash is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, one of the most difficult vegetables to save seeds from. Cucurbitaceae have both male and female flowers and lots of wild, inedible relatives. Cross pollination is what Cucurbitaceae want to do. If you want to save seed and you take the precaution of taping up the flowers, bumblebees and solitary be...

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Grubs in your acorns? Meet Curcuio, or the Acorn Weevil

I’m pretty fascinated with acorn weevils these days, since I’m seeing a lot of them while processing my acorns. I finally looked them up, and it turns out they have a fascinating life cycle. There are two types of acorn weevils (beetles), long snouted and short snouted, Curculio and Conotrachelus, respectively. They both plant their eggs in acorns, but the short snouted one seems to do this in cracked acorns once they are on the g...

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Straw Bale Garden Update: Success!

...#8217;ve heard from other gardeners: Some straw bales may be contaminated with herbicides. Do a bioassay before planting. Here’s some instructions (scroll down to the end of the article). One gardener I met did not know that the bales need to be prepared by adding nitrogen–you can’t just plant straight in the bales. Once the bales have been prepared you need to add fertilizer periodically. I’ve been adding fish emulsion e...

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Pierce Disease Resistant Grape Vines for Southern California

...217;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 the years we’ve lost too many vines to Pierce’s to count, so I’m relieved to say that the ones we have seem to be immune or at least very resistant to Pierce’s and are now producing fruit. LA County...

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Anne Hars’ Top Ramen Keyhole Vegetable Garden

...hole. Straw wattle is a (mostly) biodegradable material made out of rice straw and plastic netting. You can find it at irrigation supply stores and on order at Home Depot. It comes in 25 foot lengths. Soil for the bed came from the ground, from bagged soil that used to be in the wooden raised beds and from compost that Anne makes herself. “I’m going to plant things under things,” says Hars. As the winter gard...

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Picture Sundays: Harvard’s Glass Flower Collection

Photo ©President & Fellows Harvard College, photo of Blaschka Glass Model by Hillel Burger. This cactus is made out of glass. Root Simple reader tworose tipped me off to the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s collection of glass flowers. According to the museum’s website: This unique collection of over 3,000 models was created by glass artisans Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolph. The commission began in 188...

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How To Manage a Compost Pile Using Temperature

...r. The graph above is the result that I got from a pile made out of horse bedding, chicken manure from our hens, plant materials, straw and brew waste from a local brewery. The red area on the chart is the thermophilic temperature range (135° -160° Fahrenheit). The dip you see at day 15 is the one time I turned the pile so that I could keep it in the thermophilic range. Using temperature as a clue to when to turn the pile has a number of advantag...

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Straw Bale Garden Part III: Adding Fertilizer

...st for a more organic approach.” (I think they mean blood meal as bone meal does not have much nitrogen in it.) Choosing the organic approach, we’re watering in two cups of blood meal a day to each bale for days four to six. Days seven through nine, we’ll cut back to one cup of blood meal per bale. By day ten the bales should be almost ready to plant. Once the bales are conditioned I’ll need to add a balanced organic ferti...

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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 re...

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Radish Surprise

...n burst out into hundreds of tiny purple flowers. Hummingbirds, honey bees and all sorts of flying insects visit it all day, every day. It has become one of the queens of the garden. The picture below is horrible. The radish plant really is quite pretty,  the equal of any ornamental flowering shrub–but as bad is the picture is, it gives you some scale. See the bales of our straw bale garden behind it?  I think it must be pulling water from...

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