Gardening Mistakes: Six Ways We’ve Killed Plants

our yard is no exception. The parkway, which gets a lot of foot traffic, is very compacted. Very few plants do well with compacted soil, including natives. The best way to break up compacted soil is with a broadfork, a spendy item. We use a garden fork instead. 3. Soil fertility When it comes to growing vegetables, in particular, you need rich soil. Get a soil test first. But soil fertility is a lot more than chemistry–it’s about life...

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2011 in Review: The Garden

It’s was a difficult year in the garden. A lead and zinc issue screwed up my winter vegetables garden plans. At least we managed to find some river rocks and put in a path. I found this photo from December 2010. I was certainly a lot more organized that year. For 2012, I’m putting in raised beds to deal with the heavy metal issue and we’ve already planted more native plants. But most importantly one of my New Years resolution...

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The Making of a Great Olive Oil

...e At the end of all this machinery the oil pours out of a spigot and into a steel drum: We all had the great privilege of tasting the freshly squeezed oil. I won’t soon forget that heavenly flavor. Matt told us that it takes around a ton of olives to make 25 to 30 gallons of oil. The olives come from a thousand trees that are tucked around the vineyards. If you’re ever in Northern California the Preston Vineyard is well worth a v...

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A Bustle In Your Hedgerow: California Natives for your Vegetable Garden

...ern Europe that biodiversity was maintained through the use of hedgerows. Now, thanks to a study conducted by UC Santa Cruz researchers Tara Pisani Gareau and Carol Shennan, we’ve got some solid advice on what sorts of plants can create habitat for beneficials. The study, “Can Hedgerows Attract Beneficial Insects and Improve Pest Control? A Study of Hedgerows on Central Coast Farms” looks at a set of specific plants used in hed...

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Back on the Yogurt Train: How to Make Yogurt

...what I can. Lately I’ve realized that one consistent source of waste plastic in our kitchen comes in the form of yogurt tubs. This is a little silly, because we know how to make yogurt. In fact, I do believe we covered it in our book. Thing is, back in the day when we made yogurt, it was Erik’s job. When he slacked on it, I didn’t even consider picking it up. Chalk it up to the mysteries of division of labor in a household. An...

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Advances in Gardening Series: The Fan

Yet another heat wave slowed our backyard redesign project, but the weather is looking more cooperative at last and things are coming along. What we thought we might do over the next few days is share some of the new things we’ve put in, and how/why we built them, just in case any of it might be useful to you. Everything is pretty rough and ragged right now, but it will be fun to report back in a couple months and do a compare/contrast. T...

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Resources

These are our favorite web resources on various topics, and books which you’ll find on our bookshelves: General Home Ec/Appropriate Tech/DIY Living Mother Earth News How to Homestead Backwoods Home Magazine  AfriGadget  The Urban Homestead Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World Radical Homemakers The Integral Urban House Made by Hand Farm City The Natural Kitchen Country Wisdom and Know-How Wendell Berry’s ess...

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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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LA’s Parkway Garden Dilemma: Not Fixed Yet

...to do the right thing, i.e. plant an attractive set of either edible or drought tolerant plants? There’s currently no permit fee to plant a water hungry lawn that needs to be “mowed and blowed” every week. It gets down to the simple fact that a human being has to decide what is a “nuisance.” Untended Bermuda grass with a couch and busted up bookcase: that’s a nuisance. But you can’t specify in the munic...

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Adventures in Gardening Series: Wrap up on the Hippie Heart: Growing lentils and flax

The Hippie Heart got a crew cut We’re clearing out our cool season crops for the warm season ones, so it’s time for some reporting on the new beds we’ve been profiling under the “Advances in Gardening” series. We’ll start with the Hippie Heart. The Hippie Heart is a heart-shaped bed where I was intending to experiment with planting seeds straight out of the pantry, ill-advised as that might seem,...

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