Advances in Gardening Series: A Garlic Mystery

  One of the new features of the garden this year is a long, trough-shaped bed that Erik installed along the edge of our patio. Its inaugural crop was garlic, which is generally a very easy plant to grow. We’ve done it before, many times, successfully. This year it didn’t work. The stalks failed to thrive. Many plants did not set bulbs at all, looking instead like green onions. The heads that were formed are quite small.  We’...

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Flowers from Vegetables

...and birds. The usefulness comes in two waves: the first being the pollinators attracted to the flowers, and once the flowers go to seed the birds will move in. Of course this means that I’m “wasting space” and making my garden “unproductive” but the rewards outweigh any inconvenience. New gardeners are often surprised to see what amazing flowers different vegetables make. People with no connection to food plants what...

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Advances in Gardening Series: We’re maturing

...rrounded by rain or snow with dreams of your own spring planting. Back in November, I cleared ground and planted the Phan/Fan with medicinal seedlings. See some of that history here. Now we’re at the end of February, and the Calendula and chamomile plants are mature. The Calendula (the yellow flowers in the pic) is giving off lots of blossoms, the chamomile–not so much. That’s garlic growing on the far right. It’s beginnin...

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Juicing Cane

At Camp Ramshackle, the plants that thrive are the ones that don’t require too much attention. Our sugar cane, started as a six inch start, is case and point. I harvested a stalk to add to lemonade. I first removed the thick tough skin. Once the skin was peeled, I sliced the cane stalks in half. Resident child labor juiced the stalks. Despite the mechanical help of the juicer it was an arduous task. Our yield was meager a...

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One of our favorite activities: Depaving

...his picture. Any opportunity to get rid of a few feet of ugly concrete or asphalt,  and replace it with soil and plants, is not an opportunity to be missed. Depaving increases growing room for green things and it also gives more points of access for rain to enter the ground and renew the water tables–rather than being lost down into the sewers. Think about your home–do you have sidewalks that can be replaced with mulched paths? Can yo...

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Our Winter Vegetable Garden

...year I addressed that grievance. Beets “Bietolo da Orto Egitto Migliorata” A repeat from last year, these are tasty red beets. Buck’s horn plantain also known as “Erba Stella” An edible weed. Stinging nettles One of my favorite plants. It’s begun to reseed itself in the yard. Useful as a tea and a green. For more information on when to plant vegetables in Southern California, see this handy chart. And let us k...

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Advances in Gardening: The Trough of Garlic

..., every new bed helps. Even small ones. This is one reason we squeezed this one out of our patio. Note that like The Fan, The Trough is also covered with hoops and netting to keep skunks and squirrels (and chickens) out until the plants get established. Grow Your Own! If you haven’t grown garlic, it’s super easy. Just break up a head of garlic and plant the individual cloves pointy end up under an inch or so of soil, about six inches...

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Borage: It’s what’s for dinner

...e edible flowers, which can be preserved in sugar for cakes, or tossed into salads. I’ve heard of freezing them in ice cubes for fancy drinks, which is a lovely idea. Obligatory health warning:  I’m going to quote this directly from the very useful Plants for a Future database, from their entry on borage: The plant, but not the oil obtained from the seeds, contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damag...

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Rearranging the yard, yet again!

...One advantage of establishing a path is that once the “people space” is established, all the rest of the garden becomes useable plant space. We actually have more growing space now. 2) Perennials: The last redesign put a lot of emphasis on growing space for annual plants. In turned out to be a little more space than we needed. Annuals are a lot of work, especially here, where we garden year round and a bed can cycle through 4 crops a...

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Accidental Garden Design: Pomegranate and Prickly Pear

...ited I didn’t get that gene, unfortunately. But at least a garden can sometimes put on a good show despite the gardener’s lack of design sense. Above, the view out our front window of our pomegranate tree (Punica granatum ‘Wondeful’) against our overgrown prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica). These two plants have a lot in common. They both produce abundant and nutritious food in a dry climate with little or no atte...

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