A Prickly Situation

...y cutting it in half, holding it with thick gloves and scooping out the flesh with a spoon. This is one of those plants that should be everywhere here in Los Angeles. Propagate the plant by cutting off a leaf and sticking it in the ground – it’s simple – no fuss, no pesticides, no watering once established. And note that not all prickly pear varieties produce edible fruit so when you look for cuttings seek out plants that are pr...

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Getting started with worms

...material is food waste. This is unfortunate, because food waste is full of nutrients which will make your house plants, your landscape plants and your vegetable garden grow strong and healthy. Worm castings and vermicompost, the products of a worm bin, are superb soil conditioners and plant tonics. Some quick definitions: Worm castings , also called vermicast, are worm poo. Vermicompost is the product of a worm bin, and it’s made mostly of...

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How To Stop Powdery Mildew

My winter squash has what Mud Baron once described as “jock itch for plants:” powdery mildew. I’ve tried all kinds of notions and potions in the past, but this year I decided to see what the science says about powdery mildew. Our climate where I live in Los Angeles is, unfortunately, ideal for producing this vexing fungus. IPM Let’s begin with some condensed advice from UC Davis’ Integrated Pest...

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Getting Hardscaping Right

A water feature at Keeyla Meadows’ garden in Berkeley. One of the many lessons I learned on the tour I took of Bay Area gardens as part of the Garden Blogger’s Fling is that you’ve got to get the hardscaping right before even thinking about plants. When I asked garden designer Keeyla Meadows about the large stones in her garden she told me that they were craned in above the house. It was clear that at some po...

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The tale of the worm bin celery

This is related to my recent post about our flowering radish. It’s a tale of botanic dumpster diving and another reason why you should let your food plants go to flower when you can. Last year I threw the crown (which is to say, the bottom) of a celery plant in my worm bin. I probably should have chopped it up for the worms’ sake, but I didn’t. Later, sometime in the fall,  I rediscovered the celery crown....

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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

We just got our hands on Gary Paul Nabhan’s newest book, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty. It couldn’t have arrived at a better time. In the spirit of full disclosure, I heard about this book on the grapevine a good while back, and requested a review copy from the publisher because we’ve met Gary and like his work. Getting free books once in...

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Dumpster Herb Score

...r. She tells us that: “Master gardeners encourages gardeners to arrange pick up times with TJ’s for plants. They will tell you when they are putting out the plants so you can get them. Lots of mg’s do this and bring them to various garden projects all around LA county.” So that’s cool. And then in the comments there’s an anon comment from a TJs employee explaining the issues around composting for the stores,...

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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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Growing Artichokes on the Sly

...dwack everything to lawn level. If you can negotiate with them, or somehow put a protective barrier between your plants and the whirling cord of death, you can grow stuff. Take this lovely artichoke. It was a sprout off of one of our own plants, which we gave to a friend who lives in a courtyard apartment. She tucked the sprout near a wall, between some permanent shrubs. It flourished through our wet winter–she says she didn’t give it...

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Vertical Garden Success!

Regular readers of the blog know that we’re dubious about vertical gardening, but this is a vertical garden we can really get behind. Here, a cherry tomato is growing out of a crack in a retaining wall in our neighbor’s yard. (It’s just off our front stairs, and is almost certainly an offspring of one of our tomatoes) It is thriving with no water whatsoever. You can’t see them in this picture, but there’s tons of f...

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