What’s the dirt on soap nuts?

...s. Homegrown here: I’m trying to take a temperature reading on soap nuts. Have you used them? Did you like them? How do you use them–as laundry detergent, shampoo, soap? Do you use whole nuts or make a liquid? How long have you been using them? Do you find a big difference between brands? If you could shoot me a comment, I’d really appreciate it. On a more advanced level, I’m curious about their interactions with soil and...

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Poison in the Compost

...cupped leaves, wilting new growth and poor germination in tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuce and other garden crops. The chemical residues causing the problem can be present in grass clippings, in manure of livestock that has eaten sprayed plant matter or in compost made from contaminated materials. These herbicides do not biodegrade during composting and can persist in your soil for several years. Contaminated materials have been found in municipal,...

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Stella Natura: Planting by the Signs

...of in our fragmented times. You can get the same planting information here online, but you’d miss one of the best things about the Stella Natura calendar, the monthly essays. This month’s, by Laura Riccardi, says exactly what I’ve been thinking of late, “I do answer with practical, logical, agricultural language most of the time. There is plenty to talk about regarding soil building, diversity, insect and drought resista...

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Seeding Change

...t chicken coop paid for! Fellow Angelino Caitlin Flanagan be damned! It’s also a good moment to point out the reasons it’s best to grow from seed rather than buying seedlings at your local nursery. You get many orders of magnitude more selection, it’s much cheaper and you prevent the spread of soil diseases. Last year a fungal disease, late blight, infected gardens due to seedlings grown at large nurseries in the south and sold...

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Magenta Spreen Lambsquarter

...es I’m not concerned about oxalic acid in moderation. Cooking reduces oxalic acid as well as saponins that the leaves also contain. The Plants for a Future database entry on Chenopodium giganteum has a few cultivation details, “An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils but disliking shade. It prefers a moderately fertile soil. This species is closely related to C. album, and was probably derived from it through cultivation. The...

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Maintaining a Worm Bin

...y bin like mine, but can be managed in a smaller bin as well. Basically, once you’ve got a worm bin going, there will come a time when you’ll need to harvest some of the castings. Those castings are valuable in the garden, and the worms don’t want to live in their own waste. You’ll know its getting close to harvest time when you see pockets of scraps here and there, but mostly the texture of the contents looks like soil or...

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Karp’s Sweet Quince Update

...is variety comes from Peru and is unusual in that it can be eaten fresh. But my quince tree has struggled a bit. The soil it occupies is not the best and it’s been plagued with fungal issues. But I can report that you can, indeed, eat the fruit fresh. The texture was not the best, but the fruit I ate was damaged and immature so it was not exactly a fair sample. Quince is not the only tree I’ve been having trouble with. Thrips took out...

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Self Irrigating Pot Patent from 1917

...vi Solomon, sent me a surprising link to a patent for a SIP, dated 1917, by a Lewis E. Burleigh of Chicago. From the patent description: “My invention is concerned with flower and plant boxes, and is designed to produce a device of the class described in which the proper moistening and aeration of the soil in it can be easily and cheaply effected by simply pouring water into the funnel with which it is provided until the proper amount i...

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Showers to Flowers

...i.e. if easily accessible via a trap door or some other configuration), install a three way diverter valve like the one pictured above, so that water can be shifted back to the sewer, if needed, such as during a long rainy period. Keeping the minimum fall rate in mind, run the pipe out to where you want to water. 3. Choose plants whose watering requirements match the amount of water coming out of your shower. To do this you’ll need to esti...

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In the Gutter

...ble surface that prevents rainwater from going where it should go–to our edible landscape. We can minimize the surface area by living in as small a house as possible and trying to maximize open ground. At our own compound we’ve even gone so far as to remove some previous resident’s bad addition and reduce the footprint of our house. So called green roofs, which have soil and plants growing on them our an option for the wealthy, but at prese...

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