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 enough is to stick your...

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Gardening Mistakes: Six Ways We’ve Killed Plants

In the years we’ve gardened we’ve killed our share of plants. I’d like to think we’ve learned from our errors. To that end, I thought I’d run down some of the big mistakes we’ve made. 1. The right plant in the right place Our front yard is a hillside. Our backyard has two tall trees that cast shade towards the north. The soil varies in color, texture and quality largely due to almost a hundred years of constr...

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Urban Chicken Enthusiasts Unite!

Creating community is a vital part of the urban homesteading movement. For why should one make jam or grow zucchini without people to share it with? In a big, crazy city like L.A. there are lots of interesting people doing inspiring things, you just have to find them. I’m always excited to meet new people who are interested in all the things we write about here at Homegrown Evolution. I was lucky to move a block away from Mr. and Mrs. Home...

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What laundry detergent should I use for greywater applications?

When your laundry water is going to the soil instead of to the sewer (or a septic tank) you need to make sure that detergent is friendly to soil life. Your big brand detergents are a no-go. And even the various eco-detergents, even ones marked “biodegradable”, are not appropriate for the soil because they are essentially salt-based. They play well with aquatic life, bless them, and they’re a great alternative to more toxic det...

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SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Resource

One of the highlights of the California Master Gardener Conference I just spoke at was a lecture by Toby O’Geen, Ph.D., Assistant Soil Resource Specialist at UC Extension. O’Geen mentioned an amazing online soil resource called SoilWeb, avaliable at http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/drupal/node/902. SoilWeb overlays detailed soil information on Google Maps and Google Earth. There’s even a SoilWeb iPhone app allowing you to use...

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Roundin’ up the Summer Urban Homesteading Disasters

Everyday loaf on the left, “charity” loaf on the right. As we’ve noted in our books, part of the deal with this lifestyle is persevering through the inevitable disasters. Which means it’s time for a regular blog feature, the disaster roundup.   Loafing Around I agreed to bake a few baguettes for a charity function this evening. Problem #1 is that I can’t do baguettes in my small oven so I decided to do a s...

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Urban Homesteading Mistakes: Landscape Fabric

Since you all seem to enjoy accounts of our many failures around the Root Simple compound, I thought I’d share what must be one of the worst mistakes I’ve made. It’s a error up in our great chandelier of failures along with buying a 91 year old house on a hill with a bad foundation. Two words for you: landscape fabric–that plastic stuff sold in rolls at big box stores that allegedly blocks out weeds. Just after we bough...

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Urban Farm Magazine

We have a article on urban farmers across America in the premiere issue of a magazine bound to appeal to readers of this blog, Urban Farm. Our article, Where Urban Meets Farm, profiles the efforts of our friends the Green Roof Growers of Chicago, Em Jacoby of Detroit and Kelly Yrarrazaval of Orange County. All of these fine folks have repurposed urban and suburban spaces to grow impressive amounts of food, a common sense trend popular enough to...

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SIPS and Kraut at Project Butterfly

We’ve got an event tomorrow–that’s Tuesday August 25th at 7:30 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles at Project Butterfly. There will be a lecture followed by two demos: how to make a self irrigating pot and how to make sauerkraut. Cost is $20. RSVP to [email protected] Here’s the 411: Step into the 21st century by making your house, apartment and kitchen a center of production. This lecture/workshop by the authors of The...

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Lead Update

This week I thought I’d do a series of posts about soil and heavy metals beginning with a few more details about the possible lead contamination situation in our backyard. Two weeks ago Darren Butler, who is teaching a vegetable gardening series at our house, led a class project where we took four samples from different locations in the backyard, mixed them together and sent them off to Wallace Laboratories, a local soil testing lab with...

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