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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How to Make a Native Bee Nesting Box

Back in the spring I made a native bee nesting box by drilling a bunch of holes in the long end of a 4 by 6 inch piece of scrap wood. I cut one end of the 4 x 6 at an angle so that I could nail on a makeshift roof made from a piece of 2 x 6. I hung the nesting box on an east facing wall or our house with a picture hanger. I used three sizes of holes to see which ones would be most popular: 1/4 inch, 3/16 inch and 1/8 inch. All were moved into b...

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Capparis spinosa – Capers

...her than against her, or as we prefer to say–don’t fuck with nature. For those of you who live where it gets cold, fucking with nature means trying to grow a fig tree. For us it meant trying to grow a lawn, a foolish water-wasting mistake we made in our pre-SurviveLA days. Working with nature means finding plants that belong in a climate similar to your part of the world. We’re not native plant fascists and will gladly source pl...

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The Strange World of Artificial Plants

...even have a very large (and suspiciously shiny) fake zucchini: But I think my favorite fake plants come from a company called New Image Plants, providers of  “The World’s Best Artificial Marijuana.” Customers? Marijuana dispensaries, the set decorator for Weeds and law enforcement! From their website: Across the world law enforcement finds itself with the continuous dilemma of having to train new recruits to...

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Remember to Label Those Jars!

...ult of some late night canning frenzy two years ago. At the time I probably thought to myself, “I’ll label them in the morning.” Not only should the jars be labeled, but it would also have been nice to have some notes on the recipe I used and where the fruit was sourced from. To this end I’ve started a preservation diary in a useful program called Evernote. Perhaps I should get a tattoo on my forearm that says, “Lab...

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How to make a Calendula oil infusion

...ndula Harvesting and drying Calendula Oil infusion is as simple as can be.  Oil infusion is soaking. Think of it like making sun tea. You take a nice clean jar with a good lid, and fill that about half way full of dried herb, top it off with oil, and let that sit in the sun. The resulting oil is medicinal. It can be used straight on the skin, or fashioned into salves and balms. I’m particularly fond of Calendula. As a skin treatment it...

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A Common Sense View of Invasive Plants

...Professors blog a sensible letter in Nature from Mark Davis and 18 other ecologists on the tired, in my opinion, native vs. invasive species debate: It is time for scientists, land managers and policy-makers to ditch this preoccupation with the native–alien dichotomy and embrace more dynamic and pragmatic approaches to the conservation and management of species — approaches better suited to our fast-changing planet. Clearly, natural-resource agen...

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Gardening Mistakes: Six Ways We’ve Killed Plants

...n areas and 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’...

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Weeds into Fertilizer

...e soil. Nettles are rich in iron, silica, calcium, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. These are all things that plants need for healthy growth. This makes nettles useful for making your own fertilizer. They can accumulate nutrients and minerals in their biomass. When they break down in a compost pile, or in this case in the water, they release the nutrients. Many of these elements can be difficult for other plants to access in the soil. Nettles...

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Harvesting and Drying Calendula

...nt to monitor them carefully and collect ripe seed for planting the next year (you want to collect the seed when it’s brown, not green).  And if you want to keep track of such things, if you make a point of saving seed only from the plants with the best blooms, your favorite colors, etc., over generations you can breed your own line of Calendula. Alien beauty. A seed head in its early stages. The seeds are the green things that look l...

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