Garden Design Trends: Interplanting and Plant Communities

The Daily Telegraph garden designed by Sarah Price. Landscape architect Thomas Rainer has a new post on his blog looking at some current garden design trends. Two of these trends intrigued me: what Rainer calls “interplanted everything” and another he calls “community gardens” (by which he means plant communities not allotments). Rainer says, “Massing is out.  Highly interplanted, mixed schemes are in.”  It...

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Growing Strawberries in a Self Irrigating Gutter (SIG).

I got this idea from Larry Hall, who made a video showing how he uses gutters as self watering containers. In the first part of the video Larry shows how to use a gutter to supply water to a row of pots. In the second part he shows a two gutter strawberry growing system. I decided to build Hall’s self-irrigating gutter (let’s call it a SIG) to grow strawberries. Here’s how I did it: With some scrap wood I made a support system...

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Straw Bale Gardens

Tasha Via’s straw bale garden. Michael Tortorello (who profiled us when Making It came out) is one of my favorite writers covering the home ec/gardening subjects we discuss on this blog. He had an article last week in the New York Times, “Grasping at Straw” on straw bale gardening. We’ve very tempted to give the practice a try in our backyard. Why? We have lead and zinc contaminated soil so growing veggies in the ground...

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Hornworm meets alien!

So much better than that pointless Prometheus movie, is this glimpse into the kind of parasitism Hollywood just can’t match. In this Purdue Extension Entomology Service produced video, you’ll see a hornworm devour a tomato and then fall prey–Alien-style–to a species of parasitic wasp (Cotesia congregata). Not only do these parasitic wasps devour their host but in order to overcome the caterpillar’s defenses, mama...

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Notes on Mark Bittman’s “Behind the Scenes of What We Eat”

Last week Erik and I went to see well-known food writer Mark Bittman speak on food policy. He spoke in a huge room in The California Endowment–and it was a full house. Afterward, Erik and I compared it to being in church. We were surrounded by people of the same faith, being told things we already know, and being reminded to be good. And I don’t mean that in a bad way! It never hurts to meditate on how to be better, to do more. Bitt...

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Why You Should Avoid Staking Trees

The correct way to stake a tree. Image from the Vacaville Tree Foundation To answer the question of why tree staking should be avoided, one can turn to the latest Extension Service advice or to the nearly 2000 year old words of Seneca: No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley. It...

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Bird Netting as a Cabbage Leaf Caterpillar Barrier

UPDATE: This idea is a complete failure–see the ugly details here. Last month I sang the praises of floating row cover as an insect barrier. The only problem is that floating row cover retains heat, and so when our fall and winter days turn hot, as they so often do, it gets way too hot and humid inside the “tent.” So as Marshall McLuhan was fond of saying, “If you don’t like that idea, I’ve got others.”...

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Plymouth Rock Monthly

What magazine had 40,000 subscribers in 1920? Answer: the Plymouth Rock Monthly, a periodical devoted to our favorite chicken breed. We have two “production” Barred Plymouth Rocks in our small flock of four hens, and we’ve found them to be productive, friendly and, with their striped plumage, an attractive sight in our garden. While the internet is an amazing resource for the urban homesteader, there are a few holes in this ele...

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The Perfect Chicken Coop?

Do a Google image search for “chicken coop” and a solid majority of the results will look very much like this nearly 100 year old coop featured in The Gardener’s and Poultry Keeper’s Guide and Illustrated Catalog. Why is this basic design still with us? The attached run gives chickens some space to scratch around in while keeping them safe from predators if you can’t make it home by dark. You can hang a feeder in...

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Gardening in an Apartment Windowsill

Photo courtesy of Helen Kim Without exaggeration, this is the most amazing garden I have ever seen. It’s easy if you’re the king of France to create the gardens of Versailles, but a much greater achievement to bring nature’s abundance to an apartment windowsill in Los Angeles. It’s the handiwork of a talented photographer named Helen Kim who, in this tiny space, grows cucumber, basil, lemon verbena, alfalfa sprou...

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