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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How to Make a Native Bee Nesting Box

...I was only able to get these two blurry shots. No, they are not Chupacabras. With the success of this primitive native bee box, I decided to make more nesting boxes to see if I could attract other solitary, native bees. I put this one together with some small pieces of bamboo that I found in a neighbor’s trash can: I think there’s a great potential to create works of public art that double as insect nests. For a nice example of this...

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Gift Suggestions, from the Other Half

...You might remember me writing about them earlier.  Apologies for the California bias: Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West, by Celia Garcia and James D. Adams, Jr., Abedus Press, 2009 Co-authored by a Chumash healer and a USC pharmacology prof., both of whom write for Wilderness Way magazine. A fascinating resource documenting both historical uses and current scientific opinion on our native plants. My post on it is here. Tending the...

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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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White Sage and Bees and our other sage friends

...f the principle inducements toward living in Southern California. I enjoy the aromatics of our Mediterranean and native chaparral plants as much as the bees do. Here’s what we’ve got going right now–and I think I’m going to add more this fall. Below is our native black sage, Salvia mellifera, just coming into flower. The bees like this sage, too. (They like all sages). This one arranges its flowers in little sipping cups f...

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Eight Things to Consider When Saving Vegetable Seeds

...ay get a carrot/Queen Anne’s lace hybrid that won’t taste good. And some supposedly self-pollinating plants such as tomatoes have rogue varieties that can be cross pollinated by insects. 3. Consider your climate Bienneals require two years of growth in order to set seeds. If you live in a cold climate that could be a problem. 4. Population size Serious plant breeders often plant a minimum of sixty plants so that they can choose the...

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Creating a Moon Garden

...der moonlight. But yellow flowers stand out even more. We’re lucky in Southern California to have a lot of native plants with silvery grey leaves (an evolutionary adaption of dry climate plants). Masses of silvery grey leaves stand out well at night. Include a contrasting background. Light colored flowers and plants stand out better at night if they are in front of a dark background–a dark green bush or the shade of a large tree. It&#...

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Annie’s Annuals and Perennials

...nnie’s specializes in riotous color. Many of the spectacular gardens we visited on the Fling sourced their plants from Annie’s. And in addition to unusual and rare ornamental plants, Annie’s has a great selection of edibles. It’s first time I’ve ever seen Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) outside of a book. I had to keep a tight grip on my credit card to prevent myself from buying plants I had no way of getting home on my bike....

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Bees will love your Coyote Brush Hedge

...s Natural History Museum. Baccharis pilularis, called coyote brush, or chaparral bloom, is an unassuming Western native plant with a secret super-power: native and non-native pollinators love, love, love! its tiny little flowers. If you want to lavish affection and care on the pollinators in your garden, plant one of these babies, if you can. It really is one of the best plants for the purpose. (For more info on coyote brush, here’s a nice...

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Weeds into Fertilizer

...emania continues here at Homegrown Evolution. It is raining which means even more nettles are on their way! My plants have set seed and there are tiny nettle plants popping up all over the place. But I want to tell you about my latest nettle experiment. I am going to ferment nettles into a liquid fertilizer. I placed a bunch of whole nettle plants into a large plastic trash can. I am going to stir the mixture everyday for a few minutes to add...

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