Advances in Gardening Series: Thoughts on The Fan, and the problems of overabudance

The Fan late in the season, about to be pulled out. See earlier photos of The Fan here. Mrs. Homegrown here: Last fall we dug up a sort of feral herb bed and replaced it with a more formal, three-part bed that I call The Fan. The idea is to use this bed to plant annual herbs and flowers. While some of these plants are medicinal, it is also a bed dedicated more to aesthetics than the rest of our garden, so it’s also a place where I...

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Propagating herbs via cuttings

Mrs. Homegrown here: Say you have one lavender plant, but you’d like to have more. Or your trusty sage plant is getting old and woody and needs to be pulled, but you wish you could save a bit of it and start fresh. One way to accomplish this is to grow new plants from cuttings taken from your existing plant. This is process called taking softwood cuttings. You cut small bits of plant, dip them in a rooting hormone, then baby the cuttings...

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Warning: This Blog is Based in a Mediterranean Climate

A fresco from Pompeii depicting many familiar plants. I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time: write up a sort of this-blog-is-in-a-Mediterranean-climate disclaimer. There’s a certain amount of awkwardness when discussing vegetable gardening in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months. I imagine that most of the readers of this blog are either taking some time off from gardening or gardening under a hoop house. But for us h...

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Everlasting Flower for Colds

Dried California Pearly Everlasting. The flowers are small, about the size of a buttons on a shirt collar. Last summer I was happy to be able to take a class on native plant use taught by Cecilia Garcia and James Adams, co-authors of Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West. One of the many things I learned in this class was that the flowers of California Pearly Everlasting, Gnaphalium californicum, aka cudweed aka rabbit tobacco, are...

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Indigo 101

...opping for indigo dye you’ll probably see either Indigofera tictorium, which is native to India, or Indigofera suffruticosa, which is native to Mexico and South America. • You can grow your own indigo (any seeds you buy labeled as Indigo will probably be tictorium or suffructicosa). Indigofera is a pretty plant from the legume family. That family is valuable in the garden because it draws nitrogen into the soil. It would be nice to grow jus...

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Picture Sundays: Toyon in Bloom

Our young Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) had its first bloom this year. What’s so great about Toyon? Native bees and honeybees love it.  UC Santa Cruz researchers found that Toyon is one of the best plants for attracting beneficial insects.  Native Americans dried the red berries for use as food. It doesn’t need much water. It will grow as far north as Southern England. Get one for your food forest! ...

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Arundo dorax

My native Los Angeles and Houston, where Homegrown Evolution is in temporary residence, have a lot in common. Both are real cities, unlike the Disneyfied theme parks that New York and San Francisco have become. Both Houston and Los Angeles have lots of heavy industry and working ports. Visit the docks in Manhattan or San Francisco and you’ll find expensive restaurants and boutiques. Like the port of Los Angeles, along Houston’s Bayou...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

The new compost pile is covered with a tarp to keep moisture in. Eventually it will fill this whole space. In the background you can see our leftover adobe bricks. So–our regular readers will know that we have high levels of lead in our back yard soil. We’re dealing with this by filling most of our yard with mulch and perennial natives to lock down the soil (lead laden dust is bad) and to diversify the local ecosystem. Mea...

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Seed Mania

...o that plan is to gift the seeds to the TF folks and hope that they give us seedlings (an evil plan, I admit). I also picked up some crimson clover and globe artichoke seeds from the Bountiful Gardens folks. Desert Chia from Native Seed Search. Yes it is that chia, of Chia Pet fame. Chia is an ancient herb used by Native Americans for medicine and food. Chadwick’s Sweet Pea from Seed Dreams out of Port Townsend, WA. I really like having so...

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Seaweed, Salmon and Manzanita Cider

Mrs. Homegrown here: I fell into temptation and bought Seaweed, Salmon and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast at the Theodore Payne Foundation this week. I should know by now not to look around that book store. Like Ulysses, I should tie myself to the mast–pay for my native plants and get out. Somehow it never works. Seaweed, Salmon is a pretty little book. Paperback, thin, but coffee table worthy, because it’s so interesti...

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