Biochar: Miracle or Gimmick?

Cornell University illustration showing biochar as a means of sequestering greenhouse gases. I’m always skeptical of what I call the “notions and potions” school of gardening. Every few years there is some new substance touted as the secret to a lush vegetable garden. One such substance is biochar, a kind of charcoal used as a soil amendment. The University of Minnesota Extension service is in the midst of a...

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Our New Straw Bale Garden–Part I

Straw bales–ready to prepare. Pot in the center will be a solar powered fountain. We’re going to experiment with a straw bale vegetable garden in our backyard, inspired by Michael Tortorello’s article in the New York Times. The plan is to grow in the bales and harvest the resulting compost for use in permanent raised beds (that have yet to be built). We’ll keep growing in bales until we have enough comp...

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Lady Urine, Water Conservation and Halfway Humanure

I approve of the oval shape of the opening of this funnel– and the sporty color. Fact 1: Human urine is an excellent source of nitrogen for your garden. It can be applied directly to a compost pile, or diluted 10:1 and used on plants. Fact 2: Nature has equipped the male of the species in such a manner that it is easy for him to contribute nitrogen to the compost pile. For women, it’s a bit more tricky. So, how do...

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Saturday Linkages: Tall Bikes, Za’atar and So Much More

Growin’ Why Your Supermarket Only Sells 5 Kinds of Apples http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/04/heritage-apples-john-bunker-maine … Taming the Wild Thyme: A Visit to a Za’atar Farm in Lebanon http://ow.ly/kqeoi  New Farmer’s Almanac for 2013: http://boingboing.net/2013/04/21/new-farmers-almanac-for-2013.html … Plants as Education: Kit Brings Gardening Back to the Masses http://dornob.com/37885/  Fo...

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Watering 101

This is watering 101. Those of you who have been gardening for a while have probably learned this the hard way. Those of you just starting out may find it helpful. Soil lies. It looks wet, but it’s bone dry a fraction of an inch beneath. Or it looks dry on the surface, but it’s actually quite wet below. Or it’s wet, but only for one inch down. The only way to find out if you’ve watered your garden enou...

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Getting Things Done

One of the side benefits of the Age of Limits conference, that we attended back in May, is that whenever we tired of what was going on in the main tent, we could always find Archdruid John Michael Greer holding court outside on everything from HAM radio to vegetable gardening to the history of obscure fraternal societies. He’s got another good blog post this week. My favorite quote from that post: . . . if the global e...

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Saturday Linkages: Controversy Edition

Gardening Homegrown polenta? Floriani corn plants deliver ‘amazing flavor’ http://fw.to/2ju3QtE The High Line in Person by Susan Harris http://gardenrant.com/2013/08/the-high-line-in-person.html?utm_source=feedly … Knocked Out—and not in a good way by James Roush http://gardenrant.com/2013/08/knocked-out-and-not-in-a-good-way.html?utm_source=feedly … Hackin’ Open Tech Forever: permaculture/open tech startu...

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Extreme Low-Tech Communication

This has to be the ultimate achievement in low-powered long-distance communication. Ham radio operator Michael Rainey, AA1TJ, transmitted a message over a distance of over 1,000 miles by yelling Morse code with his own voice into this primitive home-made transmitter, nicknamed “El Silbo.” No power was used other than that generated by his own voice vibrating the microphone (which was a re-purposed speaker). If you...

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How to Answer the Question, “What Should I Do With My Life?”

Yes, that kitten is Phoebe, back in her blue-eyed days. I headed down to San Diego County earlier this summer to do a talk at Growcology. Bianca Heyming, who runs Growcology along with her husband Nick, told me some advice her dad passed on to her about how to figure out one’s path in life. It’s the best wisdom I’ve ever heard on the subject. Her dad told her, “Look at what books are on your bookshelf a...

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LA’s Parkway Garden Dilemma: Not Fixed Yet

A parkway vegetable garden on Sunset Blvd.. The City of Los Angeles’ crackdown on parkway vegetable gardens made international news thanks to an article by LA Times columnist Steve Lopez. Lopez was reporting on two parkway gardens that were issued citations by the LA Bureau of Street Services. This crackdown came two years after Ron Finley was busted for being a vegetable gardening outlaw. Over the weekend I started seei...

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