Growing Strawberries in a Self Irrigating Gutter (SIG).

...ally PVC, which is an environmental and health disaster. I have two questions–how much PVC is leached into the growing medium and how much of it would be taken up into the fruit? I don’t have an answer to either. If you know of science-based information (i.e. not Livestrong articles) on PVC and growing food please leave a link. Generally, plants do not take up toxins into fruit so I’m not losing any sleep thinking about eating a...

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Greywater Guerrillas in LA this Weekend

With the prospect of at least ten more years of drought here in California, greywater is a hot topic. This weekend Oak-town’s fabulous Greywater Guerrillas are heading down to Los Angeles for a weekend of talks and workshops. If you’re not in Southern California, make sure to check out their informative website and their new book Dam Nation. We especially enjoy the GG’s project examples. Here’s the 411 on their LA appeara...

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Straw Bale Gardens

...el for reminding us of this possibility with his article. The biggest possible downside with this method is that the straw may contaminated with a persistent herbicide, like Dow Chemical’s Clopyralid. This is a type of herbicide that is not broken down by composting. It’s not even broken down in an animal’s digestive track. It can linger in organic matter for a year or two, stunting the growth garden plants. (See Killer Compost)...

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How Not to Grow Potatoes

...e to four tires high, and feast on many pounds of ‘taters. Just don’t do what we did and try to grow them from sprouting supermarket potatoes. Experts recommend buying special seed potatoes which are certified not to carry any of the diseases that plague this member of the nightshade family. We knew better but felt lazy about ordering seed potatoes. Our potato plants looked sad, failed to flower and eventually died. Much to our surpri...

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Plantago coronopus, a.k.a. Buckhorn Plantain, a.k.a. Erba Stella

Cruise down the produce isle of a supermarket in the United States and you’ll only find highly domesticated foods. Thumb through the pages of the Silver Spoon (the Joy of Cooking of Italian Cuisine) and you’ll discover entire chapters devoted to the use of wild or semi-wild plants. This summer I grew one of these semi-cultivated Italian vegetables, Buckhorn plantain (Plantago coronopus) also known as Erba Stella and Barba di frat...

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Garden Design Trends: Interplanting and Plant Communities

...21;  It’s a design aesthetic that mimics nature’s diversity, but in a somewhat more compressed form. The example he uses is the striking garden at Arthritis Research UK. You can see a video of that garden here. Rosalind Creasy has demonstrated, this same interplanting strategy can be used with edible and medicinal plants. Another related design strategy are gardens inspired by wild plant communities. The example Rainer cites is the Da...

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Bird Netting as a Cabbage Leaf Caterpillar Barrier

...don’t like that idea, I’ve got others.” Specifically, bird netting. I’ve got an untested theory that bird netting is enough to keep out the white butterflies that give birth to the dreaded cabbage leaf caterpillar, the only serious pest for us at this time of year. So far the bird netting seems to be working. I’ll note that it would be important to keep the leaves of plants well away from the netting so that butterfl...

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

...o focus. Erik and I have seen that over and over again around here.  It is possible for us all to take action on the local level to support the sale and distribution of healthy food. Here’s a few of his recommendations for policy change: Transparency in labeling, in agriculture practice Regulation of damaging foods: basically make it harder to eat poorly and easier to eat well, for instance: Make it illegal to sell soda to kids Tax the cra...

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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...

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Tips on Composting from Will Bakx of Sonoma Compost

...ould turn as little as possible, just enough to achieve that first period of 15 days above 135º F. I really like the simplicity of this method and will definitely use the turning sheet the next time I build a pile. I really makes it clear when you should turn and how often. Moisture Lack of moisture, according to Bakx, is the number one mistake made by beginning composters. He suggested an ideal moisture range between 40-­‐60%. You can check the...

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