Compost and Pharmaceuticals

We get this question a lot–will pharmaceuticals end up in my compost if I use human urine or animal manure? This is really three questions: Does composting break down pharmaceuticals? Are some pharmaceuticals worse than others in terms of their ability to survive the composting process? If pharmaceuticals persist after composting do edible plants uptake them in sufficient quantities to effect humans? A look at what science has to say W...

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Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya”

Image: Annie’s Annuals. The Annie’s Annuals and Perennials catalog has, as the hip kids say, “dropped.” and I’m wishing we had more space for some of the amazing plants shown on all those glossy pages. One, in particular, caught my eye: Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya.” Just imagine spotting this plant under the light of a full moon. Annie notes that Dudley brittonii requires excellent drainage, ca...

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Reseeding Vegetables for the Warm Season

So what edible/useful plants pop up in lead contaminated soil along a hot, dry alternately sun-baked and deep-shaded south side of a house in Southern California? After dumping a load of compost along our side yard, mother nature is doing her own food forestry experiment. This month the following things popped up out of that load of compost: stinging nettle cardoon tomatoes nasturtium fennel sunflowers Elsewhere in the yard, New Zealand spin...

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Rats

...em? We can think of some real estate agents we would like to give them to, but the rats would probably just run into some other poor sucker’s house. Rat poison is a really bad idea. First of all it is deadly to pets and native animals that might find it. Secondly it can kill a predator such as a hawk or owl, that might prey on a poisoned rat. Lastly, poisoned rats have a bad tendency to climb into a wall and die leaving an inaccessible, sti...

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A Prickly Harvest

...Angeles, prickly pear needs no additional irrigation, needs no pesticides or fertilizers, tolerates terrible soil and produces useful food. It’s the perfect plant for the lives of folks too busy to tend fussy non-native plants. On the first anniversary of Homegrown Revolution, formerly known as SurviveLA, and a year after our last prickly pear fruit harvest season, we can now announce why, ironically, we’ve been too busy to keep up wi...

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Anagallis monellii : A New Favorite

Last fall we planted Anagallis monellii “Blue Pimpernel” in a bed of mixed flowers and herbs. This plant is neither edible or medicinal, but we hoped the bees would like its many blue flowers. Anagallis monellii is a Mediterranean native, so it is well suited to the California climate, and it follows that it does not need much water. It is perennial in zones 9 to 11 (that’s us), but can be grown as an annual elsewhere. If you...

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Biochar: Miracle or Gimmick?

...plants and higher yield in others. In the Arboretum and St. Paul campus sites, we noted similar results, but more crops seemed to decline with biochar than without it. There’s nothing new about biochar. It was in use by native peoples in the Amazon region before Columbus. Hopefully this study will help clarify what types of soils and what crops benefit most from its use. Do you have an opinion about Biochar? Leave a comment . . . And thanks...

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Moldy Grapes!

We had a nice conversation with BoingBoing blogger and Make Magazine editor Mark Frauenfelder about how important mistakes are in the DIY life, so here’s two more recent blunders for ya’ll, courtesy of Mrs. Homegrown Evolution. Recent failure #1: Inedible Pickled Grape Leaves We have grape leaves. Lots of them. Our two table grape vines are a little hesitant to really bust out, but our native grape (Vitus californica) has taken over...

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Quick Relief for Poison Oak

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons I went camping in Poison Oak Central last week, and though I tried to be careful, I got a kiss on the back of the hand from our rakish woodland friend, Toxicodendron diversilobum (Pacific or Western Poison Oak). It was, miraculously, the first time I’ve ever had poison oak. I don’t know how I’ve been so lucky so far.  I’ve heard that rubbing native mugwort on the skin can prevent/treat...

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The Theme of a Great Garden

...tents inside the museum: dinosaurs, prehistory and the passage of time. There are no animatronic dinosaurs to be found in the garden. Instead, the theme is suggested through dramatic, rough stonework and the use of California native plants. The garden feels as if exists in a time before humans. It got me wondering how thematics would play out in a more modest home landscape. Perhaps, when it comes time to design a garden it would be useful to tos...

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