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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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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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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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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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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Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya”

Image: Annie’s Annuals. The Annie’s Annuals and Perennials catalog has, as the hip kids say, “dropped.” and I’m wishing we had more space for some of the amazing plants shown on all those glossy pages. One, in particular, caught my eye: Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya.” Just imagine spotting this plant under the light of a full moon. Annie notes that Dudley brittonii requires excellent drainage, ca...

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Gardening Tip: Senecent Seedlings

With seedlings, small is good. Mrs. Homegrown here: Senescence is the “change of the biology in an organism as it ages after it reaches maturity” (see Wikipedia). I believe I’m experiencing it right now. What we’re here to warn you about today is buying plants which are old before their time. Seedlings which are senescent. What are senescent seedlings? Basically, these are seedlings whose roots have met the botto...

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Gardening Mistake #12: The Annual That Ate Your Backyard!

Is that a lavender bush cowering under the monster squash leaves? I just thought of another mistake: allowing annuals, whether they be volunteers or valued vegetables, to overrun the garden and smother your perennial plants. This happens to us more than we’d care to admit. It’s really easy to miss. In the spring, you’re so happy to see lush growth erupting all over your yard, that you’re not looking at it with a critical...

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Compost and Pharmaceuticals

We get this question a lot–will pharmaceuticals end up in my compost if I use human urine or animal manure? This is really three questions: Does composting break down pharmaceuticals? Are some pharmaceuticals worse than others in terms of their ability to survive the composting process? If pharmaceuticals persist after composting do edible plants uptake them in sufficient quantities to effect humans? A look at what science has to say W...

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Reseeding Vegetables for the Warm Season

So what edible/useful plants pop up in lead contaminated soil along a hot, dry alternately sun-baked and deep-shaded south side of a house in Southern California? After dumping a load of compost along our side yard, mother nature is doing her own food forestry experiment. This month the following things popped up out of that load of compost: stinging nettle cardoon tomatoes nasturtium fennel sunflowers Elsewhere in the yard, New Zealand spin...

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