Book Review: The New Sunset Western Garden Book

...set Western Garden Book, and it’s a significant improvement over our old copy. Lavish photos have replaced the drawings of my 1998 copy. The new edition has significantly more coverage of edibles, including a vegetable planting schedule as well as nice photographs of veggies worked into ornamental landscaping schemes.  One of the improvements I’m most pleased to see are lists of plants for attracting bees, butterflies, birds and benef...

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Lead Update

...l lead level needs an update. I asked my doctor do a blood test to check for lead levels since we’ve eaten plants grown in the backyard and done a whole lot of digging over the past 13 years. The good news is that no lead showed up in my blood. In the interest of “testing the testers,” I took one soil sample and split it in three, sending one sample to Wallace Labs, one to the University of Massachusetts and the other to Timber...

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Lead Update

...y, it has been considered safe to use garden produce grown in soils with total lead levels less than 300 ppm. The risk of lead poisoning through the food chain increases as the soil lead level rises above this concentration. Even at soil levels above 300 ppm, most of the risk is from lead contaminated soil or dust deposits on the plants rather than from uptake of lead by the plant. If the Wallace Labs report is correct, we’ve go...

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Picture Sundays: Giant Crops of the Future

From Paleofuture, some 20th century notions about the factory farms of the future, from Arthur Radebaugh’s Sunday comic strip “Closer Than We Think” COLOSSAL CROPS — In addition to dire threats of destruction, the atomic age has also produced many brighter horizons for mankind’s future. One such happy prospect is the use of radiation to create more uniform and dependable crops that will end famine everywhere in the world. Gamma ray fi...

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Three Front Yard Vegetable Gardens

...r front yard. Not pictured is a little strip of  established food garden at the front of the yard. It looks like they wanted more room and said, “To heck with the lawn!” I’m going to keep checking progress on this one. In this front yard, the lawn has been replaced with drought tolerant perennial shrubs and grasses arranged around gravel paths. It’s very pretty. I like that the landscaper included some artichoke plants i...

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Comopost, Compost, Compost

...ntal water in hard-packed clay soil contaminated with lead and zinc in a hot side yard. Why did it do well while the rest of my vegetable garden did not do as so good this summer? Homemade compost. I didn’t have enough compost for the rest of the veggie garden so I bought some at a nursery. The homebrew compost obviously had much more life in it.  And life is the point. Soil is a living thing. Plants, particularly vegetables, need microbia...

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Tips on Composting from Will Bakx of Sonoma Compost

...le. 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 moisture level using the following technique: Take handful of material. Squeeze firmlyWater escapes: >60%Shiny ball: 55%–60%Ball remains when tapped: 50–55%Ball falls apart when tapped: 45–50%N...

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A Question About Gophers

...se galvanized hardware cloth or gopher wire as an underground barrier. We even mentioned this in our first book. The main problem I have with this advice is that the galvanized metal used for hardware cloth and gopher wire leaches significant amounts of zinc as it breaks down. Zinc, in high quantities, is toxic to plants. And, when using cages for trees, I’d worry that the cages would not break down soon enough, causing the roots to circle....

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Saturday Linkages: Pig’s Milk, Hot Sauce, Clutter

...ation: washing chicken or any meat is a bad idea | barfblog: http:// bit.ly/M4pybB   Making hot sauces with wild plants: http://www. urbanoutdoorskills.com/wildfoodlab.ht ml  …   How to Restore an Heirloom Axe | The Art of Manliness http:// artofmanliness.com/2012/07/17/how -to-restore-an-heirloom-axe/  …   Of all the linkages this week this is the most important: please consider helping one of Los Angeles’ bike activists, Shay Sanchez, def...

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The Good Stuff at Dwell on Design

...uilt in olla he calls simply Planter which is avaliable on his website for $45. Ollas are ceramic jars buried in the ground to deliver a slow drip of water to plants. Roth’s design is elegant, simple and effective–take an olla and make it integral with a pot. Particularly on a hot day, conventional ceramic pots dry out quickly and Roth’s planter would be great on a hot balcony or porch. His teapot is also an object of great beau...

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