Straw Bale Garden Part IV: Almost Ready to Plant?

Over the past fifteen days I’ve been “conditioning” my straw bale garden by adding blood meal and a lot of water. During the conditioning process we had both a freak rainstorm (helpful) and a freak heatwave (not so good). The bales did not heat up as much as I expected–as of this morning they are around 80° F, around 15° to 20° higher than the ambient temperature. Several sources I checked, however, su...

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Ridiculous New Parkway Planting Rules for Los Angeles

...ves in addition to approved street trees and drought tolerant turf species. It sounds great . . . until you read the fine print. Those drought tolerant turf alternatives, which include chamomile, yarrow and even strawberries, must be kept “mowed.” If you want to grow any of these plants taller than 2 inches or ones not on the list you’ve got to submit drawings, apply for a permit and pay at least $400, possibly more. Ironically...

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Help save our oaks

Mrs. Homegrown here: Sometimes I hate this city. And county. Tonight I learned two things: the first, that the city thinks it would be a great idea to create a parking area for idling buses in the center of one of our most vibrant pedestrian zones; the second, that the county plans to allow the Dept. of Water and Power County Department of Public Works to level a gorgeous oak grove this Wednesday, Jan. 12th to make a dumping area for flood deb...

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Advances in Gardening Series: The Perennial Herb Bed, Patience and Plant Spacing and Breaking Your Own Rules

...om each of the plants regularly. If I fail to do that, yes, the bed will look too tight. Right now, crowding ia the last of my problems. Even if the plants aren’t quite far enough from each other, they are still small, and there is a heck of a lot of bare dirt between them. Ordinarily I’d recommend to anyone in a similar position to fill in all that empty space with a thick layer of mulch. It represses the weeds, saves water, and mak...

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Advances in Gardening Series: The Fan

...riginal soil, because while it’s not bad soil, it was compacted. Poppies have deep taproots. Like carrots, they need loose soil, so I really worked their wedge deep. If it hadn’t been so hot, I would have done the same for all the wedges. Then I spread 1″ of good homemade compost over the whole area and a bit of alfalfa meal and forked that in about 3 inches deep. Then I watered deeply to prepare for planting. By the way, I made...

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Learn How to Compost Via the Humanure Handbook

...book contains excellent directions on how to easily maintain a hot n’ healthy compost pile. You can access the free edition here. Jenkins also has a bunch of great how-to videos here. On the subject of humanure, news coverage of the terrible cholera outbreak in Haiti only gets half of the story. I keep hearing the press refer to the problem as one of a “lack of access to clean water.” True, but the other half of the problem is...

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Bean Fest, Episode 4: Frijoles Refritos

...be dictated by your own personal preference. So if you’re smashing up well drained beans, you’d add the reserved liquid back in 1/4 cup at a time, until the beans had reached the consistency you like. In my case, I couldn’t separate the beans and liquid in my leftovers. As it turned out, they mashed up a little too wet, but the excess moisture quickly cooked off. If they’d seemed too dry, I would have just added a little...

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Squash Baby Reconsidered

...arden where squash baby once resided. Some thoughts: 1. Rather than try to keep people from taking vegetables in the parkway garden, why not encourage them instead? Put up a sign describing what’s growing and when it’s ready to pick. One problem I’ve had in the past has been folks pulling up unripe vegetables. So some education, in the form of signs, might help. Maybe a chalkboard could detail when things are ready to pick. 2. I...

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Volvo Camper by John Ross

Volvo Camper (in front of a vintage Spartan trailer) Spotted in the Museum of Jurassic Technology’s parking lot–a Volvo-based camper created by über tinkerer/genius John Ross. Ross started with a 1,200 gallon underground water cistern like the ones below: He insulated the tank with polyisocyanurate foam-board and covered the whole thing with a $70 tent to block out light. You access the tank through a hole in the roof of...

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Sun Bleaching Really, Really Works

Line drying in the sun is a time honored means of brightening whites. But I had never guessed how effective it can be. I have a pair of white bath towels which developed mysterious, spreading yellow stains all over them, stains which I could not remove no matter what I tried (Borax, oxygen bleaches, stain removers), and which I may have actually worsened by a final, desperate flirtation with chlorine bleach a few years ago. The towels were in...

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