Moringa!

Photo by Harvey McDaniel One of the big inspirations for starting our front yard urban farming efforts at the SurviveLA compound is a Philippino neighbor of ours who has turned his entire front yard and even the parkway into an edible garden featuring fruits and vegetables from his native land, most of which we have never seen before. This morning, while walking the dog, I found him cutting hundreds of long seed pods off of a small attractive...

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Everlasting Flower for Colds

...e 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 supposed to be good for colds. I’ve not had a chanc...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

...es. Since the lead scare we’ve pulled up those beds. They were semi-sunken beds, the soil in them a mix of native soil, compost and imported soil. When you have contaminated soil yet want to grow food, the easiest solution is to build extra deep raised beds and fill them with imported soil (soil which has, hopefully, been tested for lead!). Some people put plastic sheeting or rock barriers between the imported soil or native soil, which in...

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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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Seed Mania

...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 some sweet peas in the garden and this variety caught my eye, for its dark purple color and the fact that it’...

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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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Ridiculous New Parkway Planting Rules for Los Angeles

...221; Why not charge a permit and fees to have a lawn or lawn substitute and give a free pass to drought tolerant plants under 36 inches in height? Or, better yet, simply give a small property tax break to anyone who installs drought tolerant, plants that that provide habitat for beneficial wildlife. It’s a program that might pay for itself in reduced storm water runoff, just to name one benefit. And why can’t you grow edible plants? A...

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Advances in Gardening Series: The Fan

Yet another heat wave slowed our backyard redesign project, but the weather is looking more cooperative at last and things are coming along. What we thought we might do over the next few days is share some of the new things we’ve put in, and how/why we built them, just in case any of it might be useful to you. Everything is pretty rough and ragged right now, but it will be fun to report back in a couple months and do a compare/contrast. T...

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Greywater Precautions

...water is treated by moving through soil. Greywater tends to be alkaline, so avoid using greywater on acid loving plants such as citrus, ferns and other forest plants (pretty much anything that grows in the shade). Occasionally irrigate your plants with fresh water to prevent the buildup of salts from soaps and detergents. Do not distribute greywater with a sprinkler as you don’t want the potential bad stuff becoming airborne. Do not use the...

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Compost and Pharmaceuticals

...of pharmaceuticals in the compost made from sewage sludge may easily lead to the elevated concentrations in food plants, if the compost is used as a fertilizer. A slightly contradictory Estonian study concluded: In the current study, uptake of ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, ofloxacin, sulfadimethoxine and sulfamethoxazole was demonstrated in lettuce. The uptake of fluoroquinolones and sulfonamides by plants like lettuce does not seem to be a major h...

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