Tips on growing great garlic

This week I’m at the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California. Kelly is at home, tending to our herd of milk cats. Yesterday I learned a lot about garlic. Garlic is one of those crops well worth growing if you’ve got the space. Why? unless you know an heirloom garlic farmer, the stuff you buy at the supermarket is one of just three bland varieties. According to garlic expert Jeffrey Nekola, who spoke yesterday,...

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Kevin West’s Saving the Season

...I’m thinking of throwing out all my picking and preserving books. Why? Kevin West’s new book Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving blows all those other books out of the water bath. Full disclosure here: I’ve tasted a lot of West’s jams. I teach a bread making class at the Institute of Domestic Technology. After my bread demo West does a jam making session and I stick around to...

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Bad Forager: Mistaking Hemlock for Fennel

...our teacher, Pascal, “Here’s some fennel?” As I said it, I wasn’t entirely sure, because the seeds didn’t taste right. He said, “That’s not fennel, that’s poison hemlock.” At this point I’d already swallowed or spit out the seeds. You know, whichever. I said, “Oh…um…I just ate a couple of seeds.” The rest of the class made noises of dismay. Someone offered me wate...

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Dramm’s Breaker Nozzle: My Favorite Watering Implement

I can’t count how many cheap watering implements we’ve gone through since we bought this house fifteen years ago. Big box store watering widgets seem to last just a few weeks before heading to the landfill. I think I’ve found a solution. During the Garden Blogger’s Fling I attended back in June there was a demo by a Dramm Company representative. What impressed me most at the demo was Dramm’s simp...

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DIY Solar Space Heating

Photo: Build It Solar. Mrs. Homegrown, who spent her formative years in the mountains of Colorado, made fun of me this morning as I noted the “cold” temperature . . . 60°F. It was the first ironic “brrrrrr” out of her mouth, letting me know that we’ve transitioned from the hot smoggy season to the the less hot smoggy season here in Los Angeles. In the northern hemisphere it’s time to conside...

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Radish Surprise

...wers. Hummingbirds, honey bees and all sorts of flying insects visit it all day, every day. It has become one of the queens of the garden. The picture below is horrible. The radish plant really is quite pretty,  the equal of any ornamental flowering shrub–but as bad is the picture is, it gives you some scale. See the bales of our straw bale garden behind it?  I think it must be pulling water from there, which accounts for its size and longe...

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Straw Bale Garden Tour Part I

In this vide we take you into the backyard for a tour of our straw bale garden. We started rotting the bales in late April by adding blood meal. In May we added a balanced fertilizer and started planting the bales. In the video you’ll see the veggies we planted in early June. The soaker hose you see comes from Home Depot. I’m pretty sure it is this stuff. Every other week I add some fish emulsion to a watering can and hand water t...

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Supper for a buck?

...se it is also possible to buy flour in bulk and split it with a friend or two. A loaf of no-knead bread contains the following ingredients: 400 grams of flour, 300 grams of water,  1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt and, depending on the recipe, either 1/4 teaspoon of active yeast or a bit of sourdough starter. I figured out the cost for the flour (bulk purchased from Central Milling) comes to 52 cents a loaf. If I were a little more persistent, I could...

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How to Keep Squirrels and Birds From Eating Your Fruit

...lastic fruit containers that are used for packing strawberries and grapes. I personally don’t buy fruit in these containers but I asked some neighbors and friends to save them for me and in a short time amassed a large collection. They snap shut over most fruit like these mangos and this helps to control fruit damage. Since they have vent holes, they don’t collect water inside. They can be washed and stored and are durable enough to l...

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My Favorite Lettuce Mix

Earlier this week when I decried the sorry state of our winter vegetable garden, I neglected to mention the one big success: lettuce. We grow lettuce mixes almost every year and we’ve never been disappointed. Homegrown salad greens are much better than store bought. Plus, at least where we live, they are easy to grow. We just sow the seed directly and water them in. We thin by eating the seedlings. Judging from the crow...

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