Five Lessons We Learned About Lead in Soil

...ndred years of auto exhaust and dust from brake linings. Applying a little alchemy to turn lead to gold, I think the most productive thing I can do is to help get the word out about lead soil and how common this problem is in urban areas. Towards that end I though I would share five things that we learned from our backyard lead crisis: Buyer Beware. When you are shopping for a house do multiple soil tests. Once you buy the house it’s too...

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Secrets In Your Pantry?

...The first thing that came to mind is the occasional package of scary, deep fried, orange dusted cornmeal snacks. The truth is that we don’t often have them on hand more than a couple times a year (largely because I would go through them like a crack addict). But we do have plenty of other dodgy convenience foods picked up at Trader Joes and consumed on those evenings we’re too tired to cook. While the image of the urban homesteader i...

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Our New Chickens

When I put out the call to you, our readers, to name the ideal urban chicken I got a call from my friend Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms. He said something like, “Duh, the Barnevelder, of course!” Craig and his partner Gary Jackemuk have an ambitions breeding program to take the Barnevelder from show chicken back to farm chicken. So far the results are impressive. I took this as a message that I should fix my run and get ready fo...

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Meet the Gophinator

The Gophinator Thankfully, we don’t have gophers, but dealing with them is one of the first questions we get when teaching vegetable gardening classes.  You can use raised beds lined with hardware cloth. But, other than target practice (a no-no in urban areas), most people I know with gopher problems end up using traps or zealous cats. Several sources have told me about the Cadillac of gopher traps, the aptly named “Gophina...

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How To Design a Garden Step IV: Clues to Care

...of garden statuary. Particularly if your garden has a wild look or if you’re trying to grow vegetables in the front yard,  “clues to care” can go a long ways to keeping the neighbors happy. Dr. Susan J. Mulley, a landscape architecture professor at Cal Poly Pomona is doing some interesting research on how people react to alternative forms of landscaping such as native plants and urban vegetable gardens. She’s doing opinio...

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Lasagna Gardening Simplified

First popularized back in the 1970s, “lasagna gardening” involves piling up thick layers of cardboard and uncomposted kitchen scraps on top of (sometimes) double-dug soil. The practice is touted as a way of removing lawns and improving soil with little work. Linda Chalker-Scott, Extension Urban Horticulturist at Washington State University, proposes a vastly simpler version of lasagna gardening.  Chalker-Scott suggests skipping th...

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Los Angeles Announces Parkway Cemetery Program

Merging interest in “green” burials and urban land remediation, the City of Los Angeles just announced a groundbreaking new program: parkway cemeteries. Like many cities across America, Los Angeles has a huge debt, $350 million to put a number on it. So it comes as no surprise that city officials are seeking innovative ways of enhancing revenue sources.  Most often a tangle of weeds and compacted earth, parkways have seen attenti...

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Update on the Food and Flowers Freedom Act

Some thirty people showed up today for a Planning Commission meeting in support of the Food and Flowers Freedom Act. The commissioners loved us and approved the Planning Departments suggestions that the code be amended to allow “truck gardening” and off-site resale of produce and flowers grown in residential zones in the City of Los Angeles. The tide is turning. Once the poster child for urban blight and bad planning, Los Angeles ma...

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Birds on a Wire

A neighbor told me this morning that when the house next door to him was for sale the owners asked him not to hang laundry on his clothesline because it would, “bring down their property value.” And, of course, many housing developments have the same anti-clothesline restriction. Is it some distant cultural memory of 19th century tenement buildings, an id-based Ralph Kramden, an intense fear of anything urban? Maybe this clever desi...

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Food and Flowers Freedom Act Update

...geles, non-controversial. In fact, those of us at the meeting to support the act left before the vote was taken. It tuned out the council was pre-occupied with a contentious debate over rent control that ended in a fight breaking out and the council chambers being cleared. At least, it seems, we can all get behind locally grown fruit and flowers. For more information on the history of the Food and Flowers Freedom Act, see the website of the Urban...

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