Straw Bale Garden Part V: Growing Vegetables

It’s too early to call my straw bale garden a success but, so far, the vegetables I planted in the bales are growing. I got a late start on planting–I put in the tomatoes, squash and basil in mid May/Early June–just in time for the cloudy, cool weather we have here in early summer. Check out the difference between the tomato I planted in a bale on the left, compared with a tomato in one of my raised beds. The tomato in the ba...

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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 1886, continued for fi...

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Los Angeles Bread Bakers Blog

Just a short time after planting–a field of wheat sprouts in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles Bread Bakers, that I helped co-found along with Mark Stambler and Teresa Sitz, now has a blog: losangelesbreadbakers.blogspot.com. A big thanks to Saul Alpert-Abrams for putting it together and to Paul Morgan for blogging! Paul has been writing about the wheat we helped plant at Maggie’s Farm in Agoura Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles on t...

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Anne Hars’ Top Ramen Keyhole Vegetable Garden

“I call it my Top Ramen garden,” says gardener, Root Simple neighbor and artist Anne Hars, “I planted things that go well in Top Ramen.” Hars is referring to her keyhole vegetable bed that she created this winter. With the keyhole, Hars has made good use of a very small front yard with a dense planting of Ramen friendly veggies including bok choi, three kinds of kale, sunflowers, carrots, peas, garlic, radishes, spinach,...

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How To Manage a Compost Pile Using Temperature

I’ve always been confused about when to turn a compost pile. Some people suggest lots of turning while others don’t turn at all. I built a pile in December using a technique I learned from Will Bakx, soil scientist and operations manager of Sonoma Compost. Bakx recommends keeping the pile between 131° F (55° C) and 163°F (72°C) for a period of 15 days. The only time you turn is when the pile starts to dip below 131° F or to prevent...

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Fruit Tree Update: Flavor Delight Aprium

One of my big regrets is not planting a bunch of fruit trees when we first moved into our house in 1998.* Thankfully though, we got our act together eventually. In 2011, we put in a call local fruit tree expert Steve Hovfendahl for some suggestions. His advice was based on what would grow in our warm climate as well as fruit tasting results conducted by the Dave Wilson nursery. It’s been over two years since we planted the trees Hovfendah...

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Straw Bale Garden Part III: Adding Fertilizer

After watering our straw bales for three days our next step is to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer. We’re following West Virginia University Extension Service’s Straw Bale Gardening advice. They suggest a 1/2 cup of urea per bale or “bone meal, fish meal, or compost 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 water...

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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 bees can chew their w...

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Have We Reached Peak Kale? Franchi’s Cavolo Laciniato “Galega De Folhas Lisas”

I’ve heard murmurings of a kale backlash. Apparently, too many restaurants have kale salads and fancy city folks like us are losing sleep worrying what the next hip vegetable will be. I have a proposal. Let’s keep with the kale for awhile longer. I propose a Franchi kale “Galega De Folhas Lisas” as the new big thing. Translated, the variety name is something like “Galacian smooth leaf.” To add to the confusio...

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The Theme of a Great Garden

Today we toured one of the finest gardens in California, the new garden at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. The occasion was the opening of the new pollinator habitat. Head gardener Richard Hayden showed us around, taking us to the edible area as well as the new pollinator and Nature Gardens. This garden gave us so many ideas that we’re going to do several posts about it. One important design lesson I learned today is that great ga...

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