Search Results : herbs » Edible Landscaping Made Easy With Avis Licht

Jan 042012
 
A garden full of herbs for birds, butterflies and humans

by Avis Licht

A garden full of herbs for birds, butterflies and humans

Herbs are wonderful plants for the edible landscape -beautiful and healthy

 Herbs have many uses in the landscape.  Many have a culinary use, many are used medicinally, they are generally easy to grow, their flowers are an excellent source of pollen and nectar for birds, bees and insects, often drought resistant and long lived.  Well, it doesn’t get much better than that for a multi use plant.

In the two previous posts, I talked about making garden design decisions based on your climate and place and on your desires. When choosing plants to fill in the landscape you not only want to use plants that are pretty and useful, but also “belong” there.  By belonging I mean that they fit in with the style of your garden, whether formal or informal, that they will thrive in the conditions and that they work in the scale of the garden.

A mixed herb and ornamental garden

Herbs are interplanted with ornamentals near the house for easy access

This is a newly planted garden.  The herbs are young and small. When mature they will fill in the area and create a feeling of beauty and lushness. When the herbs have been harvested at the end of the season, there will still be ornamental plants in the garden that keep it looking good over the winter. This is one of the best tricks in an ornamental edible landscape design.  Combine your annuals with shrubs and perennials so that you don’t have periods in the garden that look bare.

Purple and Green Basil

Mix your foliage colors for interest

Salvia, basil, parsley and thyme

Multiple herbs, both annual and perennials work together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This particular herb garden has thyme, sage, oregano, tarragon, dill, chives, parsley, cilantro and several varieties of  basil. We also used rosemary and thyme to cascade over the wall, with nasturtiums for added color.  Many of these plants have edible flowers. The herbs grow quickly and fill in the garden.

The ornamental plants in this bed include Azalea, Pieris, ferns, and Polygala. These are shade loving plants, which we put closer to the tree. We put the herbs in the sunniest part of the bed.  It was a little tricky, but you can see by the photos that the herbs grew well even in part shade.

Rosemary is larger and long lived

Give your Rosemary plenty of sun and room to grow

Nasturtiums cascading over wall

Mixed annual and perennial herbs cover the retaining wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few of the herbs that are planted more for beauty than culinary use include lavender, salvias, yarrow and ornamental oreganos.  By going to your local nurseries you will find appropriate herbs for your garden’s beauty and health. Peruse some of the catalogs in the Resource page of my website and you will find many herbs both common and unusual that will be just right for your garden.

Pink Yarrow - Achillea millefolium

Pink yarrow lives a long time and requires little care or water

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 202011
 
Oregano variegated

By Avis Licht

Oreganum vulgare hirtum

Whether you call it Oregano or Marjoram it tastes almost the same

It’s been confusing to a lot of people for a long time.  What is the difference between Marjoram and Oregano? Not exactly a life changing question, but certainly one that (at least some) gardeners need answered.

The oregano tribe  includes plants that are called both marjoram and oregano. Both are from the Mediterranean area and are attractive to bees and butterflies. Sweet marjoram (Oreganum majorana and O. hortensis) grow in zones 8-24. It has a mild flavor. You can use both the leaves and the flowers in cooking.

Grow all varieties in full sun with good drainage. You can plant most of the year from plants or propagate by division from older plants.  If you live in a very cold climate, with snow and long lasting frosts, this plant can be grown indoors in pots on a sunny windowsill. Choose a compact variety if you grow it in a pot. ‘Country Cream’ or or ‘White Anniversary’ are good for pots.

As with other Mediterranean herbs, this one does not need much water or fertilizer. Gardeners often make the mistake of giving too much love to their plants. Herbs in particular do not need to have high levels of nitrogen in the soil, or too much moisture.  These will dilute the flavor of the herb.

Oregano variegated

Mix your foliage colors in the garden to add beauty and interest

A beautiful form of Oregano is the variegated leaf, ‘Aureum’, ‘Aureum Crispum, or Oreganum variegatum.  In the edible landscape it’s good to combine both qualities of beauty and practicality.

If you decide to grow your herbs in pots, you might consider using self watering planters They have a reservoir at the bottom, that wicks up into the soil.  It keeps the plant moist, but not too wet.

For those of us who can’t grow a house plant for the life of us, this is a definite must have. These planters, are also great outdoors. If you have a sunny protected south wall, you can grow many herbs outside, even in cold climates. It doesn’t hurt to try.

Dec 192011
 
Lemon Verbena in flower

by Avis Licht

Lemon Verbena in flower

One of the best herbs for tea and flavoring - lemon verbena

Growing your own herbs for tea and flavorings is easy and satisfying. Many herbs can be grown in pots and brought inside in the winter, to give you fresh, delicious taste. In the next series of posts I’ll go through a variety of my favorite herbs.  Today’s is about Lemon Verbena.

This delicate perennial can survive winters down to 20 deg F, but will lose its leaves in the the winter.  In mild winter areas, it may keep some of its leaves.  So if you have a place in your house for this plant, it is worth the space. We don’t always have lemons available, but you can have lemon flavoring with this plant.  It is tangy and lemony in a way you wouldn’t think a leaf could be.

In the ground, lemon verbena can grow to 8 – 10 feet. It looks better pruned, but is still kind of homely.  However, its flavor more than makes up for any  visual deficiencies.

Lemon verbena prefers  rich, well drained soil. It does better with regular watering, but can become fairly drought resistant with time. Full sun is the best.

In a container, make sure it has compost and well draining potting soil.  Water it regularly, but don’t leave it sitting in water. Put it in a sunny spot by a window.

Lemon verbena grown in the ground

Incredible lemon fragrance makes lemon verbena a favorite shrub

You can use the leaf as a substitute for lemon zest in almost any recipe. It is fine in both sweet and savory dishes. You can use the leaves to garnish fruit salad, or put it in with vegetables such as as broccoli, spinach or asparagus.  You can rub chicken or lamb with the leaf or lay it over fish while baking.

Pour boiling water over the leaves and you have a wonderful tea, or float a few leaves in cold water and have the fresh taste of lemon.

Its uses are really numerous.  Experiment – you can’t go wrong with this plant in your edible landscape.

 

Nov 192011
 
Tea pots for the Tea Party?

A variety of teapots will always come in handy

One of the easiest edibles to produce in your own home garden is a drinkable.  Herbal teas are easy to grow, delicious and good for you. One can always buy dried tea at the store, but fresh herb tea is another thing altogether. The fragrance and aroma goes straight to the brain and release those happy endorphins.

Mint in its many forms: spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, and other herbs:  raspberry leaf, lemon verbena, rose hip, chamomile, comfrey, nettle.  The list goes on and on.  Even the smallest garden can grow  herbs for tea. When you grow your own, you know that it is clean and organic.  And best of all, you can pick it and use it straight from the garden at its most nutritious.

After picking your leaves, wash carefully, then rub them together to let the essential oils out.  Add the herbs to a teapot or directly to a mug or cup. For each cup of tea, add approximately 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves and/or flowers. Slice rose hips in half before adding.

tea cup with strainer

This tea cup came with its own strainer.

A beautiful teapot or tea cup with strainer makes a wonderful gift. They don’t need to be expensive to be delightful. One of the signs  of a good teapot is a strainer to put the tea leaves in.  You can then remove it from the teapot or the cup when it is done steeping.

Everyone can enjoy their favorite tea if you have several small teapots available for making different teas. Glass teapots are very elegant. But apparently very breakable, which is why I don’t have a picture of mine to show you.

For those of you with a little Irish in your soul, you can add a little something to your tea to warm you up on those extra cold winter nights. I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out what that is.

Enjoy!

Tea Pot with strainer

Small and elegant with its own strainer. A classic look.

Tea cup with strainer and top

Who could resist this sweet cup with its own top

Sep 102011
 


$20 off $40

The Fall season in Northern California is the worst time for deer in the gardens. The grasses and other forage in the wildlands have dried up and intrepid deer come wandering into our gardens, looking for something good to eat. If you don’t have a 6 foot fence surrounding your garden, you’ll want to know some herbs that you can count on to be deer resistant.

lavender in the Edible landscape

Lavender (click to enlarge)

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs.  It is fragrant, easy to grow, doesn’t need much water and deer really don’t eat it. It does need sun and good drainage.  It is a perennial plant, that in mild climates, meaning no heavy snow cover, can live for 5 – 7 years.  After that, it starts looking worn out and old, and needs to be replaced.

I was surprised to taste how good a glass of ice cold water from a pitcher that had a sprig of mint and a sprig of lavender in it was.  As long as you don’t over do it with the lavender, it is really a wonderful flavor.

rosemary in the edible landscape

Rosemary at the bottom of steps (click to enlarge)

Rosemary is another absolutely fantastic herb for the edible landscape.  It is a multi purpose plant. It is also easy to grow, liking full sun and little to moderate water and doesn’t need much care. It’s evergreen and cold hardy to 20 deg. although some varieties are more tender. You can use it in many styles of cooking.  I’ve never seen a deer eat a Rosemary plant, which can’t be said for many plants.

Rosemary varieties can be found as upright shrubs to 6 ft tall, and as low as 1 ft. cascading over walls. The flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees and produce excellent honey.  I call this plant the work horse of all herbs.

Yarrow in the edible landscape

Free blooming pink yarrow (click to enlarge)

Yarrow, called Achillea millefolium, is a beautiful and carefree herb.  It grows in all zones in full sun, with little or no water.It has finely toothed leaves and a flower that can be used for fresh or dried bouquets.

You can find varieties of Yarrow with white, pink, red or yellow flowers. There are creeping varieties and ones that grow to 3 ft tall.

Thyme is a well known herb which comes from the Mediterranean. It is a low growing, plant in the mint family.  There are some wonderful flavors of different thymes, including lemon, lime, caraway scented and orange scented. I use it as a ground cover between stepping stones.  It has a beautiful flower as well as being fragrant when you step on it.  As with the other herbs I’ve talked about, this one also doesn’t need rich soil or much water. For maintenance it is best to shear or cut back plants after they flower.

Thyme in the edible landscape

Thyme between stepping stones (click to enlarge)

These are a few of my favorite herbs for the edible landscape.  But I promise there are more to come just as wonderful.

Aug 262011
 

Nasturtiums cascading over wall (click to enlarge)

There are some beautiful, easy to grow and fun to use herbs for the edible landscape. In the photo above, you see the Nasturtium (Traepolum sp.) hanging over a concrete retaining wall. This is one of the multi- purpose edibles that everyone should know about.  It is pretty, it grows easily and different part of the plant can be used. Leaves of nasturtiums are tangy and great in salads. The flowers have a spicy flavor and you can use them to decorate many dishes and also eat them. In mild climates they last through the winter, and in cold climates you should treat them as an annual.

Close up of Nasturtiums

Mixed herbs in the landcape

In the photo above, you will find thyme, sage, basil, both green and purple, parsley and tarragon. You should place these herbs close to the house where you can come out of the kitchen while you’re cooking and harvest them right as you need them. Fresh herbs are SO much better than dried herbs.

They make a nice edging along the deck and are easy to reach.

Purple and Green Basil

This is a close up of purple Basil.  It has a dramatic color in the leaf, but tastes the same as traditional Basil.  Green Basil can be seen in the background starting to flower.  Like Nasturtiums, Basil does not overwinter in cold climates. If you plant enough, you can make a great Pesto sauce and freeze it for a wonderful winter Pasta dinner.

Follow this simple recipe: so easy and so good!

1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Parmesan, grated

3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

Salt

Put the basil in the blender with the olive oil, cheese, walnuts, and garlic.  Blend until smooth: then season with salt.

This pesto can also be used to garnish pizza, soups or vegetable dishes.

More great herbs to follow,  check back soon.

 

Aug 262011
 

Parsley (click on picture to enlarge)

Parsley (Petroselinum sativa), seen in the picture above is a very under rated herb.  Most people just use a few leaves for decoration on the plate, then throw it away.  But in fact, it is tasty and incredibly nutritious. There are two types of parsley. Flat leaf, as shown above, is the tastiest type for cooking. You can substitute some parsley for basil in making pesto sauce. Curly varieties make the most attractive garnish and are appealing as a low border in a flower bed.

It is a a biennial, meaning it last 2 years and grows in all zones. It is usually treated as an annual and planted every year. It is a great plant for containers and for small gardens.

Parsley is low in calories, high in fiber and high in Vitamin A,C and K. It is high in minerals, Iron and Calcium.  For more information on parsley read about it here:

Lavender

Lavender is one of the best ornamental herbs.  It doesn’t need much care. It grows in poor soil, doesn’t need much water and pretty much takes care of itself.  It does need sun and good drainage.

Our local Ice cream store makes an unbelievable Vanilla lavender ice cream. It’s not too strong, and tastes divine.  Most people know lavender for its use in perfumes and sachets. But when I visited my sister in law last week she had put a spring of mint and a stalk of lavender in a pitcher of water. Ice cold it was one of the most refreshing drinks ever. I can still be surprised how many new ways people find to use herbs.

Mar 172015
 
Lettuce and drip irrigation

by Avis Licht

row cover and drip irrigation

In warm weather you can cover your beds with row covers, and irrigate with drip irrigation

California is in its fourth year of devastating drought. All of us need to pay attention to our water use. But this does not mean that we have to give up growing some of our own food. Quite to the contrary, we can grow fruit and vegetables with much less water at home than large scale agriculture.

I have just come back from a road trip that took me to the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and then south to the Kern River and across the San Joaquin Valley, the agricultural center of California. It was an eye opener for many reasons.  Owens Lake held significant water until 1924, when much of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, causing Owens Lake to dry up.[2] Today, some of the flow of the river has been restored, and the lake now contains a little bit of water. Nevertheless, as of 2013, it is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.[3] 

To learn more about this read Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. Each action we take to conserve water, DOES make a difference.

We saw large reservoirs that were at 5 percent of capacity. Nearly empty. We saw farmers using huge machinery to take out fully grown orange trees and throw them on the ground to die because they don’t have enough water for irrigation. It was unbelievably sad to see.

But there are ways for you to grow food, that are water conserving and healthy for the environment and for you.

Here are 5 easy ways to conserve water for your garden and grow delicious food. Good for you and good for the earth.

1.Prepare the ground by loosening the soil and adding humus, in the form of compost and/or manure. The quality and health of the soil is vitally import to the health of your plants. Compacted soil will not absorb or retain water very well. This is a very underrated activity for water conservation. Building raised beds with wood or stone and then filling with organic topsoil is one way to do this. Another way is to dig the soil and add humus.

Small vegetable garden

Raised beds make for a healthy soil

2. Create paths and walkways through your garden. DO NOT WALK ON YOUR BEDS! I mean it. The fastest way to ruin your soil is to walk on it and compress it. You remove the air pockets and prevent air and water percolation. Try it. Step on the ground and water it. It will puddle and then most of the water will evaporate. Trust me on this.

3. Mulch, mulch, mulch.  Oh, and did I say mulch? Yes, this makes a huge difference in the evaporation rate of water through the soil surface. There are many kinds of mulch. Read about them here.

4. Plant some of your smaller herbs and veggies in pots and containers. When a pot is close to the house, it is easy to remember to water and you can use the left over water from the sink, or the shower.  I have had great success with herbs, carrots, lettuce, and peppers in containers. You can use self watering containers that let you go away for weeks at a time without worrying about your plants drying out.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

5. Drip irrigation is the easiest and uses the least water of any method of irrigation. Done well, it puts the right amount of water directly to the roots of the plants and has the least evaporation rates. Check out the book by Robert Kourik on Drip Irrigation. It’s great. Combine drip with a water controller and weather station and you will be golden for putting the right amount of water on at the right time. Many water districts give rebates on these controllers.

There are other ways to gather, store and conserve water in the garden. These are five easy ways to start. Don’t worry, I’ll talk about more ways to save water in future blogs. Right now, it’s important to get started from the ground up, so to speak.

the water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom.  Great use of space and water.

The water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom. Great use of space and water.

Edible landscaping

Enter the Edible Landscape using a PATH.

Jan 292015
 

Red Poppies

by Avis Licht

The historic drought we are having in California has us thinking deeply about how to use less water in our daily lives, including, or maybe, especially in our gardens.  My passion in the garden is growing food beautifully.  Many of my clients and friends have said they won’t be putting in a vegetable garden due to the drought.  But this is not necessarily the best or only way to reduce our water uses.  Last summer, I was tempted to reduce the size of my veggie garden, but couldn’t bring myself not to plant it.  By careful observation of weather and soil conditions, and excellent use of drip irrigation, I managed to reduce my water use by 30 percent and INCREASE my yield. It’s all about paying attention.

Here are five easy to follow and powerful methods for reducing water use:

1. Soil: Incorporate compost and or manure into your soil and then mulch it.

The more humus you have in your soil, the better water and air retention you have – the healthier your plants will be and you will use LESS water! Read this post to learn more about compost. Here’s information on mulching.

Worms make beautiful, healthy soil

A little kitchen leftovers, a few worms, a small box, and voila – beautiful soil.

2. Sun: Put the right plant in the right place.

This may sound obvious, but many people do not actually notice the path of the sun in different seasons. Put sun loving plants in full sun, and partial sun plants in protected areas.  By watching where the sun is and where shadows fall in different seasons you will find that you are much better prepared in properly plant placement.  In the winter the sun is much lower in the sky than in summer and will cast different shadows.

lavender in the Edible landscape

Lavender

3. Wind: Wind causes plants to transpire more water.

The windier the day, the more water the plants use.  Consider different methods of wind protection including: fences, hedges, buildings, and row covers.

row covers

Row covers protect from wind, frost, sunburn and even insect damage

4.Drip Irrigation: The right irrigation system will make a huge difference in the amount of water used.

Drip irrigation needs to be done correctly to keep the plants healthy.  You need to divide your garden into different zones, so that plants with similar needs are together. Of course, you will then have to set the timer for the right amount of time for the water you need. And yes, this will take some time to figure out.  There seems to be no end to the information necessary to make good choices. Robert Kourik has written a wonderful book on best drip irrigation practices. You can buy it straight from the author.

Drip irrigation, raised beds and intensive planting

Growing food in well prepared beds, with drip irrigation and intensive planting use water wisely

5. Smart Controllers: Weather controlled irrigation timers automatically adjust for temperature and rain.

Not everyone can get a smart controller, but if you live in drought areas, you might really want to think about getting one of these. Some controllers operate from a site based weather station that comes with the timer or from a satellite feed. They read the temperature, the rain fall and automatically adjust the watering amounts.  You need to program your controller by hand for the optimum water needs of each station, then the timer can adjust the times.

This Hunter is what I use most often for my clients.  It is easy to set up and very reliable:

These are the easiest and most effective ways to start saving water and keep your garden healthy and strong.  Of course, there are many more parts to keeping the garden growing sustainably that I’ll talk about in future articles, including the pros and cons of rain water catchment, grey water and container planting.

Stay tuned and keep coming back for more.

Jun 112014
 

by Avis Licht

In California June is a busy time in the garden.  Some plants are already in and growing, some need to be planted and some need to be sown.

All the highlighted links will lead you to more information on that topic.  There is lots of information here. So come back often.

My broccoli has been setting beautiful heads for the last month and now the side shoots are ready to be harvested.  Chard, carrots, kale, lettuce, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are all making their colorful entrance to the table. Freshly harvested food makes even the simplest meal a taste treat.

Herbs are the piece de resistance of the garden.  Easy to grow, beautiful, healthy and tasty, they make every meal more flavorful and healthier.  If you only have time or space for one plant, make it an herb. Rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, tarragon, oregano, mint – they are easy to grow and add vibrancy and health to your food and to you and to your garden.

In June we really have beauty and bounty - Raspberries by the bowl and lillies.

In June we really have beauty and bounty – Raspberries by the bowl and lillies.

In June, I go out every morning to harvest berries of all sorts for breakfast.  It’s a great way to start the day.

Red poppies in the morning sun.

Red poppies in the morning sun.

I grow flowers not only for their beauty, but because they provide food for bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other important pollinators in the garden.  The more diverse your garden, the healthier it will be.

Rhodohypoxis

Rhodohypoxis

Be sure to visit my online store if you want tools, seeds, compost bins, gardening gloves and much more.  Whatever you find in my store, I personally recommend.

 

This hummingbird is going after the nicotiana

This hummingbird is going after the nicotiana

IMG_0079

Chard stalks are beautiful, too.

IMG_0127

I grow many kinds of bee friendly plants.

Red Poppies

Growing herbs in a container near the house is easy and convenient.

Growing herbs in a container near the house is easy and convenient. This planter has basil, oregano, tarragon and marigolds.

 

Jun 052014
 

by Avis Licht

Urban and suburban yards can be beautiful and productive

Urban and suburban yards can be beautiful and productive

Growing food in urban settings. When we think about where and how our food is grown, our first image is usually of large fields of one kind of crop: rows and rows of corn or lettuce or broccoli.  So the term “urban farming” may have a confusing connotation – rows and rows of broccoli down Main Street? Doesn’t quite fit.

rabbits carefully grown for food

Lean protein, grown with scraps from the garden

But imagine this – City parks with fruit trees, vacant lots with flowers and vegetables, small back  yards with herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, balconies from the first floor to the thirtieth with pots of herbs and edible flowers. Rooftops exposed to the sun with food, flowers and even bee hives. It’s the new view of farming and it’s  starting to happen all over the world. Roof top gardens in New York City

 

 

.London bees on roof tops

In the next series of articles I’ll show you how people are growing fresh, delicious, organic food within arms reach of their kitchen. And you can do it too.   From roof tops to vertical gardens, you’ll find ways to pick your food fresh off the plant.

Children learning to sow seed

Teaching children to sow seed.

Teach your children well.

Here is Urban Adamah, a city farm in Berkeley, California.  Find out more about Urban Adamah here.

March 2011

November 2011

 

May 082014
 

by Avis Licht

Herbs in Containers

Herbs in Containers

Many people have told me they don’t plan on putting in a vegetable garden this year because of drought conditions and wanting to save water. But I tell them, YES! To save water you should plant your own vegetable garden.  Sometimes we confuse water we save at home with water that needs to be saved state wide. A large scale farm uses much more water to grow, harvest, wash and transport to market the vegetable and fruit that you could grow at home using a fraction of that water.

We just need to grow smart.

Here are my top five favorite and easy tips to save water in your garden, and still have a productive and beautiful yard.

1. Use containers and pots for growing herbs and small veggies. You can control the amount of water they use easily. You can use water from the sink or shower that you collect while waiting for it to warm up.

Bok choy in container

Bok choy in container

2. Use raised beds and interplant with a variety of vegetables to make best use of all the area. An example would be broccoli, lettuce and radish. By the time you harvest the radish and lettuce, the broccoli will be big and cover the whole bed.

Interplant fast and slow growing vegetables together.

Interplant fast and slow growing vegetables together.

3. Use drip irrigation. Put water to the roots and not the air. 

Use drip irrigation

Use drip irrigation

4. Mulch the soil to preserve moisture and keep it from getting compacted.

Young plants benefit from compost

Mulching keeps the yard looking good and provides a healthy environment

5. Use a moisture meter, or at the very least, use a trowel to check the moisture of your soil. Just because the soil is dry on top, doesn’t mean it is dry down below. Be sure to check before you irrigate.

To buy this moisture meter go to my store:

 

moisture meter

Best tool ever. This will save you time, water and money.

Mar 282014
 
Wonderbag

by Avis Licht  – The Wonderbag and wine and flowers, ready for dinner The slow cooker Wonderbag is a wonderful find. Originally invented by founder Sarah Collins in South Africa with the intention of conserving cooking energy in developing nations, this cordless, power-free, gas-free slow cooker might just change the way we slow-cook forever. For every Wonderbag purchased in the US, one is donated to a family in need in Africa. Families in developing countries who use Wonderbags save up to 30% of their income otherwise spent on fuel for wood stoves.

Here is an opportunity to reduce your energy use, help women and children in poor countries, cook healthy meals in very little time and a side benefit for me – no burnt pots!

This is my super simple recipe for chicken soup with fresh herbs.  You can buy this amazing Wonderbag from my store. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Here is the series of photos of the making of the soup.  It’s actually cooking on the dining room table in the insulated bag!

Using fresh herbs from the garden

Sage, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, marjoram and parsley are the fresh herbs I used. Plus onion and garlic. Plus a little salt.

Chopped Herbs

Chop the fresh herbs and place in the pot with the broth.

Mushrooms

Any kind of mushrooms can be used. In the slow cooker they don’t get too soft.

Onions and garlic

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil or coconut oil. The smell is divine and gives a better flavor to the soup than used raw.

Add clied carrots to the saute.  rich in color and flavor
Add sliced carrots to the saute. rich in color and flavor

 

The chicken has been sauteed and then the broth added.

The chicken has been sauteed for about 5 minutes and then the broth added.

Pot with lid

Bring soup to a boil then simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Put a close fitting lid on the pot and put into the bag.

Close it up tight

Close it up tight and leave for 5 – 9 hours. Don’t open and peek or you will let the heat out.

Open the top and check the soup. It's cooked and absolutely delicious.  Slow cooking   keeps the flavor.

Open the top and check the soup. It’s cooked and absolutely delicious. Slow cooking keeps the flavor.

A bottle of wine, some flowers, and fresh hot rolls, and you've got yourself a lovely dinner.

A bottle of wine, some flowers, and fresh hot rolls, and you’ve got yourself a lovely dinner.

Feb 262014
 
Rough compost is used for large areas
  • by Avis Licht –  Mulch is great for the garden, but it’s important to use the right mulch in the right place.  Here are some tips on how to pick the best mulch for your garden.
Mulch is great for the garden

. For vegetables I use organic compost.  It is pretty in the beds and useful for the plants.

MULCH IS GOOD FOR THE GARDEN

There are many kinds of mulch and each has its particular benefits and disadvantages. Sometimes it’s better not to use any mulch.  It can be from natural materials like bark and compost or man made from plastic and rubber.

Rough compost is used for large areas

We take our lessons on mulching from mother nature.  Falling leaves, twigs, needles, flowers and fruit fall to the ground, covering the soil.  They decompose, adding nutrient back into the earth. They also protect the soil from sun, wind and hard rains to keep the soil from eroding, blowing away and becoming compacted. In our desire to be “neat” we often rake up leaves and put them in the garbage in a misguided effort to keep the garden looking tidy. If you want to enjoy a very funny story on lawns and raking leaves, check this out: A Story About Lawns and God.

Here’s how to keep the garden looking good and stay healthy at the same time.

ADVANTAGES OF MULCHING

  1. Conserves water by preventing evaporation
  2. Reduces weed growth
  3. Keeps soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter
  4. Organic materials improve soil structure as they breakdown
  5. Reduces splash onto leaves and buildings
  6. Reduces erosion by slowing down water runoff and allowing water to penetrate the soil, reduces wind erosion
  7. Reduces soil compaction, which in turn allows water and air to penetrate into the soil
  8. Encourages worms.(Yes!)
  9. Looks good (Also Yes!)
Organic compost around herbs

Compost around herbs looks good and adds to the health of the soil and plants

DISADVANTAGES OF MULCHING

  1. Mulched beds are slower to warm up in spring – especially a concern for vegetable gardens
  2. Can import weed seed – especially in compost and manure that has not been sufficiently heated
  3. Can prevent native bees from creating homes in the ground. (Warning, this link doesn’t encourage mulching, but has some good points)
  4. Large and small bark mulches can take nutrient out of the soil as they break down. (This link has more information on problems with mulch)
  5.  Inorganic mulches like plastic and shredded rubber do not decompose, they just break up into  smaller pieces that are garbage.
  6. Mulches that are too thick can prevent water and air from entering the soil.
  7. Mulches too close to the trunk or crown of a plant can cause it to rot.

TYPES OF MULCH

  1. Bark, either shredded or sized (1/4″, 1/2″ or larger) can be very ornamental and tidy.  They do not add nutrient value to the soil.  It is also hard to clean up falling leaves from areas mulched with bark. Bark can be expensive.
  2. Compost is excellent for most plants.  It can be bought or you can use your own.  I found it difficult to make enough of my own compost to cover all my garden.  So I used it on the most important plants – my vegetables and strawberries. Be aware that compost can have weed seed. There are many sources for good looking, safe compost. (Contact your local soil and amendment supply store.)
  3. Manure that is well composted is an excellent mulch in most parts of the garden.  Horse stables have different methods of composting their piles.  Test it in one area of your garden to make sure you don’t import unwanted weeds.
  4. Straw and hay. Hay has seeds and you don’t want to use it.  Straw on the other hand, is basically weed free.  It isn’t particularly pretty, so use it in the vegetable garden.  It can create habitat for slugs and worms if kept  moist.  So have an eye out for that.
  5. Leaf mold is from leaves that have decomposed. I rake up all my oak leaves and put them in a big pile over the winter.  In spring I move aside the top leaves and underneath is a beautiful  amount of composted leaves, known as leaf mold. Don’t worry it’s not moldy! I put this on my fruit, raspberries, strawberries and currants.  You can also use it in your perennial garden. Don’t use leaves from Eucalyptus, Walnut, Bay or diseased trees. Their leaves have allelopathic elements that inhibit the growth of plants.
  6. Living mulch is a low growing ground cover.  It protects the soil by covering it, and also increases soil health by growing roots, which creates humus, aeration and water penetration. Live plants also create a healthy atmosphere of transpiration, moisture and habitat for birds and insects.
  7. Rocks, stones and pebbles can also be used as mulch. They can be very ornamental, while still preserving moisture, protecting the soil and reducing weeds.  Stone will absorb heat and release it into the ground.  This kind of mulch is excellent for desert plants, succulents and alpine plants.

WHERE TO MULCH

  1. New plantings – Cover areas that are exposed until the plants fill in
  2. Vegetable garden – Use compost to mulch around your young plants. This will keep the soil surface from compacting and will add nutrients and worms.
  3. Put around trees
  4. All shrubs, flowers and perennials
  5. Basically everywhere, except those special parts of the wild garden where you want to leave soil for your native bees to take up residency.
  6. Replace mulches as they decompose, faster for composted areas, longer for bark.
Young plants benefit from compost

Mulching keeps the yard looking good and provides a healthy environment

Jan 162014
 

by Avis Licht

Mulch

Good soil preparation and mulching are essential for holding moisture in the soil

In Northern California we’re experiencing a record breaking drought this winter. The rainy season isn’t over – yet, but there is no rain forecast for the rest of January, and reservoirs and streams are very low.

There are a few simple and easy steps you can take to prepare your garden for  drought conditions. And you should start as soon as possible.

1. Cover your exposed soil with mulch or compost. By covering your soil, you allow rain, when and if it comes, to penetrate into the soil and not run off.  There are many kinds of mulch for different conditions.  Please read this post to find out more about which mulch is the right one for your garden.

 

 

 

Sheet mulching is an excellent method to turn water hungry lawn into efficient, beautiful and water conserving plantings.  Please read my description of sheet mulching here.

 

Sheet mulching

Layers for sheet mulching

 

 

2. Check your irrigation system for leaks. Every year your system needs to be checked.  Digging in the beds, gophers, raccoons, plants, freezing weather: all can break or loosen your irrigation pipes and cause leaks.  Those leaks can lose LOTS of water.  Please read this great article by Robert Kourik – drip irrigation expert.

Lettuce planted for winter harvest

In line emitter irrigation pipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Container planting produces great crops with very little water. You might want to consider planting in pots and containers for certain crops. You can control water use easily and get your food and flowers easily. Read here for more about container planting.

the water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom.  Great use of space and water.

The water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom. Great use of space and water.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

Ornamental containers can grow herbs and food.

Colorful pots mixed with herbs, lettuce and flowers are easy to harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.Convert high water use plants to native plants. There are many beautiful native plants that can serve the same purpose as your water hungry plants. Winter is a good time to do that planting. Here are a few ideas for native plants in this post: California Native Plants

Manzanita and Ceanothus are easy to grow and use very little water

Manzanita and Ceanothus are easy to grow and use very little water

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