Italian Dandelion Redux

Italian Dandelion (Cichorium intybus) It’s been a difficult winter growing season here in Los Angeles. Our unpredictable Mediterranean climate has thrown a few curve balls in the past few months courtesy of an ocean temperature phenomenon known as La Niña which has caused alternating periods of cool weather followed by 80º days and little rainfall. Our deciduous trees did not loose their leaves until after New Years, most of the winter ve...

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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...

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Aerated Compost Tea: Does it Work?

There’s a lot aerated compost tea brewers on the interwebs! I’ve been asked by Urban Farm Magazine to write a short piece on the pros and cons of aerated compost tea (ACT for short). I’ve been sifting through the peer reviewed literature on the subject. Most of the studies show, at best, mixed results. And, honestly, my bias is against gardening techniques that require gadgets or novel techniques with no analog in nature. I...

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On why our vegetable garden is such a disaster this year . . .

One of the front beds–soil problems, I think, are causing the gap in the middle of the bed. I’m having my annual gardening-caused mental meltdown. When it comes to vegetables this winter (the best time to grow them here in Los Angeles) if it could go wrong it did. Vegetables are needy, fussy plants and we’ve not had much luck with them recently. So I thought I would list the factors, natural and human that went into this year&#...

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Nesting Box Plans in SketchUp

SketchUp is a free and easy to use 3D modeling program. And users have created a library of 3D models you can download. Up until recently most of these models were not particularly useful to DIY urban homesteady types. Enter SketchUp model contributor Rick whose collection of models includes the chicken nesting box above, raised garden beds and a couple of other useful projects. I’m really looking forward to seeing more open source projec...

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Piet Oudolf’s Enhanced Nature

A garden designer has the difficult task of balancing texture, color, and space while simultaneously dealing with the unpredictability of nature. Long ago I gave up on the idea of ever being good at garden design. But help has come from an unlikely source, Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s revolutionary book Planting A New Perspective. High Line Park. Piet Oudolf is probably best known in the US as the plant designer for the High Line park...

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Black Widow or False Black Widow?

I have a family of widow-type spiders living in my outdoor worm bin. I like spiders and all they do around the garden, and have a no kill policy toward them in general. This particular situation, however, has had me a teeny bit nervous. They hang out on the underside of the lid of the worm bin for the most part, though I’ve seen them on the surface of the worm compost once or twice. Obviously my concern is that I will touch one when openi...

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Saturday Linkages: Sedum Stumps, Chicken Steadycams and the End of the World

Sedum stump via The Garden Professor’s Blog. Gardening Cool gift idea–plant a sedum stump: http://ow.ly/1PQqq2 Nature Meets Video Chicken as steadycam: http://n.pr/11bA7gl Fantastic slow motion video of sprinting cheetahs – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2012/11/26/fantastic-flow-motion-video-of.html … DIY Livin’ Sun Ray Kelly: An Ungated Community http://nyti.ms/Ut6Tb5 Modest Student Micro-Cottage is a Mere 12 Square...

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The Perfect Chicken Coop?

Do a Google image search for “chicken coop” and a solid majority of the results will look very much like this nearly 100 year old coop featured in The Gardener’s and Poultry Keeper’s Guide and Illustrated Catalog. Why is this basic design still with us? The attached run gives chickens some space to scratch around in while keeping them safe from predators if you can’t make it home by dark. You can hang a feeder in...

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The Homegrown Mailbox: How and Where Do I Get My Soil Tested?

When you write a book you get questions. In our case, due to the sinking economy in California, they are delivered by Kevin Costner on horseback rather than by email or regular federal postal trucks. No problem, we like questions. A caveat here: like Nancy Klehm, the Green Roof Growers and Black Swan author Nassim Taleb, we prefer the term “practitioner” to describe what we do as opposed to “expert”. We favor experience o...

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