Extension Service Webinars on Organic Agriculture

When it comes to doing research for articles and books I lean heavily on research based advice from our Cooperative Extension System. It’s a great resource. I just discovered a treasure trove of Extension Service webinars on organic farming practices that you can watch here: http://www.extension.org/pages/25242/webinars-by-eorganic. You can watch archived sessions or sign up to participate live. While the webinars are aimed at small farme...

Continue reading…

Adopt an Indigo Plant in Los Angeles

Artist Graham Keegan is crowd sourcing an indigo project here in Los Angeles. You can help out by adopting indigo seedlings and growing them out–then harvesting the leaves and joining the other growers for a couple of indigo dyeing fiestas. We realize this is a highly local post, but it’s a great idea, and we hope it might inspire some of you to do group growing/harvesting projects in your hometowns. Here’s the 411 from his we...

Continue reading…

Ordo Ab Chao

There’s a lot of conflicting advice in the vegetable gardening world. You’ve got your square footers, biointensivists, permaculturalists and survival gardeners, just to name a few. The truth is these often conflicting techniques probably all work for someone. I’ve been thinking lately that the next book we write should be a version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Dis...

Continue reading…

DIY Project: Reconnect with Nature

Caspar David Friedrich, Woman Before the Rising Sun, 1818-20, oil on canvas, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany This is called a Sit. 1) Take yourself somewhere away from noise and people. It is possible to do this in a garden, or even among your potted plants, but it is easier to do in a natural place. A quiet beach. In a meadow. By a lake. Up in the mountains. Go alone, or have your companion(s) leave you alone for a while. 2) Walk to a place tha...

Continue reading…

Biochar Results: Mixed

Image: Wikipedia. Results from the first ever scientific study of biochar by researchers at the University of Southampton have been released. Plant growth was stimulated (up to 100%!) but, the positive impacts of biochar were coupled with negative findings for a suite of genes that are known to determine the ability of a plant to withstand attack from pests and pathogens. These defence genes were consistently reduced following biochar applicatio...

Continue reading…

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 four year study to...

Continue reading…

Laundry to Landscape 2.0

I just installed a “laundry to landscape” greywater system at the house of Lora “Homegrown Neighbor” Hall using greywater guru Art Ludwig’s free open-source plans. It was a cinch. And, thanks to a revision in the California plumbing code last year, it’s legal with no permit required. I started in the laundry room by rigging up a three way diverter valve so that Lora can route the greywater back to the sew...

Continue reading…

Joshua Tree Earthen Oven Class With Kurt Gardella

Kurt Gardella measures the radius of the horno dome. Joshua Tree Earthen Oven Class March 8-10, 2013 Earthen ovens are inexpensive to build, fun to use, and provide baking environment impossible to recreate in the kitchen. This Spring, Kurt Gardella returns to California for three days to teach you how to make your own earthen oven. Kurt has built dozens of these ovens in New Mexico, and has great expertise in both adobe construction and earth...

Continue reading…

How to Plant a Fruit Tree

It’s bare root fruit tree planting season here in California and this video, from the Dave Wilson Nursery, shows you how to plant your trees once they arrive in the mail. One quibble–it’s been proven to be not a good idea to amend soil when you’re planting a tree. Other than that, this is how we’ve planted our trees and they’ve all grown well. And I wish that I had done the radical pruning you see at the end...

Continue reading…

Hay Hooks–The New Hipster Accessory?

With so many city chickens I predict that hay hooks will become just as indispensable to the urban hipster as is the fixed gear bicycle. After years of hauling staw bales up the 30 steps to our house (to use as bedding for the chickens) I just broke down and bought a pair. A vaquero at the feed store intervened with a neat tip when he saw me struggling to use my new hay hooks to load some bales into a friend’s truck. Here’s what he...

Continue reading…