Lucius Annaeus Seneca on Living Within Limits

...heating? Is it not living unnaturally to plant orchards on top of towers, or to have a forest of trees waving in the wind on the roofs and ridges of one’s mansions, their roots springing at a height which it could have been presumptuous for their crests to reach? -Letter CXXII from Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics) Apparently the Romans had a thing for ridiculous, energy intensive vertical gardening schemes. Perhaps it’s what ha...

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Least Favorite Plant: Asparagus Fern (Asparagus setaceus)

...ing nettles. Instead we’ll focus our horticultural wrath elsewhere. Asparagus Fern (Asparagus setaceus) is the scourge of my backyard gardening existence and a plant many will recognize from floral arrangements. The bozos who owned our house before us planted one of these nasty things underneath the avocado tree. It entangles itself through the branches of the tree, winding it’s way upwards as much as ten feet in a season. It’s...

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Plantago coronopus, a.k.a. Buckhorn Plantain, a.k.a. Erba Stella

Cruise down the produce isle of a supermarket in the United States and you’ll only find highly domesticated foods. Thumb through the pages of the Silver Spoon (the Joy of Cooking of Italian Cuisine) and you’ll discover entire chapters devoted to the use of wild or semi-wild plants. This summer I grew one of these semi-cultivated Italian vegetables, Buckhorn plantain (Plantago coronopus) also known as Erba Stella and Barba di frat...

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Animal Tracking

...n, precise measurement, gait recognition, animal behavior, etc. For me, this was rewarding–and intriguing. It took tracking out of a purely left-brain zone, into a place of deep connection with both the animal and the landscape. You can down load a free pdf on tracking basics from their website. Tracking and Gardening Now that I’m home, it strikes me that some of these skills I learned could be useful in the garden. Most anybody with...

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Vertical Garden Success!

Regular readers of the blog know that we’re dubious about vertical gardening, but this is a vertical garden we can really get behind. Here, a cherry tomato is growing out of a crack in a retaining wall in our neighbor’s yard. (It’s just off our front stairs, and is almost certainly an offspring of one of our tomatoes) It is thriving with no water whatsoever. You can’t see them in this picture, but there’s tons of f...

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Solar Garden Helper Thingy

From the always cool Build It Solar blog, a “garden helper machine” built by Randy, aka “PD-Riverman”. I really Love gardening but I have a bad back and when it comes to staying bent over in the garden it gets rough. So I built this Helper Machine. I  call it My P-Machine. Planting/Picking/Pulling weeds/Putting around the garden machine.  It’s powered by two 12 volt 80 watt solar panels that charge some golf c...

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Book Review: The New Sunset Western Garden Book

The Sunset Western Garden Book was one of the first gardening books we picked up when we bought our house back in 1998. A new version is out this month, now dubbed The New Sunset 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...

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Hops in Southern California

...217;s parking lot, in fact, has many small plastic barrels planted with hops vines growing up string attached to the east side of the building. Homegrown Evolution’s own hop farming experiment ended in the spring of last year after we accidentally plopped some home built scaffolding on top of the tiny vine while undertaking the heinous task of scraping and painting the front of the house. Planting it in terrible soil doomed it to failure an...

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Shiitake Happens

...of tasty shiitakes. Instead we got what mushroom folks call “aborts”, mushrooms that grow a bit and then stop. Aborts are potentially edible, but you need to pick them before they rot. Picking off the aborts can also prevent the rest of the growing medium from becoming infected with unwanted molds. It’s now way too hot in our house to grow mushrooms and we’ll have to wait until next winter for any further experiments. We&...

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