Favorite Plants- New Zealand Spinach

New Zealand Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides. When the lettuce wilts in the heat, caterpillars and aphids destroy the kale and your swiss chard is plagued by powdery mildew…. there is New Zealand spinach. It is not a true spinach but is in a genus all its own. The leaves are triangular in shape, and very succulent. They grow on long, rambling stalks. The seeds are triangular as well and the plant will reseed if you let it. It tends to...

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Mutant Squash

Today’s incredible picture comes from photographer, bike cultist, and composting Culver-Town revolutionary Elon Schoenholz. It’s a freak squash that grew out of his regular old household compost. The funny thing is that nobody at the Shoenholz Compound – neither Elon, wife Bryn nor new bambina Nusia eat squash – so the origin of this new hybrid compost squash is a mystery. This brings up a bit of botany. Plants “...

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A Warning About Straw

Claude Monet used straw (or is that hay?) for art. We use straw to catch chicken droppings! Straw is a very inexpensive and useful material for composting, mulching and animal bedding (we use it for all of these purposes). If you use it for mulch you’ll probably get some seeds that will germinate, but I’ve never found it to be a big problem in a small vegetable garden. I get my straw from the feed store, but you can often get it fo...

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The Cat Poop Portal: Litter Box Composting, Installment #1

...y. We’re just going to do straight up, classic composting, Humanure Handbook style. The only difference between this style and ordinary composting is that we’ll let this compost rest for two years before we spread it, to be sure the bad beasties die off. And in case they aren’t gone, we won’t spread the finished compost around edible plants. No, this is not orthodox practice. It is not considered “safe” to comp...

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Getting Hardscaping Right

A water feature at Keeyla Meadows’ garden in Berkeley. One of the many lessons I learned on the tour I took of Bay Area gardens as part of the Garden Blogger’s Fling is that you’ve got to get the hardscaping right before even thinking about plants. When I asked garden designer Keeyla Meadows about the large stones in her garden she told me that they were craned in above the house. It was clear that at some point in the evolutio...

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Update on Los Angeles’ Backwards Parkway Regulations

It looks like Councilman Wesson has temporarily suspended enforcement of parkway planting rules. This is in response to Steve Lopez’s LA Times column that profiled two parkway vegetable gardens that the city busted. A tip of the hat to Mr. Lopez for his good deed. We will all need to keep our eyes on the council and the Bureau of Street Services to make sure that the changes they make reflect common sense. And at the risk of tooting my own...

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Straw Bale Garden Tour Part II

In this video we take a tour of our straw bale garden as it appears this week. The vegetables varieties you see growing are Tromboncino squash, Lunga di Napoli squash (growing up into a native bush), Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato, Celebrity tomato, eggplant and Swiss chard. And just to take down my smugness a notch I also included a shot of an unsuccessful cucumber plant. Other than the cucumber, though, this is one of the most productive ve...

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Delicious Cauliflower

For me, cauliflower is a vegetable which eludes inspiration. I eat it raw. I roast it. I’ve made soup with it once or twice. That’s about the sum of my historic use of cauliflower. Now, everything has changed. I’ve found a recipe for cauliflower which I love. It comes from a book called Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East, by Arto der Haroutunian. I think I’ve mentioned it before. It’s a good, reliable book. Lat...

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Growing and Preparing Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus)

It’s the ultimate pain in the ass vegetable to prepare and I’ll probably get in big trouble in native plant circles for even mentioning it, but just last night I fried up my first successful plate of homegrown cardoons (Cynara cardunculus). Not the most attractive blanching job, admittedly. All ready to prepare The cardoon is a close relative of artichoke, identical in appearance, except that the flowers are much smaller and t...

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