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

Jan 262012
 
Strawberry

by Avis Licht

Strawberry

Who can resist a ripe strawberry?

I recently wrote about fruits that you can grow in small yards. At the top of the list was strawberries. Here are some easy tips to get the best fruit from your plants.

There are many varieties of strawberries. June bearing produce one large crop a year in late spring or early summer. Pick the varieties best suited to your climate. Everbearing strawberries have smaller crops in early summer and fall. Day neutral bear intermittently through the summer.  Since you’re planting for your own use I think it’s best to have several varieties that bear throughout the whole growing season.

CLIMATE

You can find a strawberry for almost any climate. In very hot areas they should have mid day shade. Plants won’t flower over 85 deg F/29 deg C. If you live in extremely cold climates there is even a strawberry that can grow in -30 deg F/-24 deg C without mulch. During blossoming the weather shouldn’t go below 30 deg. F.

Everbearing strawberry

White flowering, red fruiting, beautiful in the edible landscape

SOIL

Topsoil of turf/loam amended with compost and well rotted manure is best.  Be sure not to get the manure near the crown of the plant.  Dress the bed with bone meal and wood ash. It should be well drained and slightly acidic.

WATER

Water the bed when the soil starts to dry out.  Keep the soil moist, but not over wet. When the berries start to ripen cut the watering in half.  Stop watering when they are ripe. If you give strawberries too much water they will get big, but not taste as sweet. Drip irrigation is best to avoid disease problems and fruit rot.

SITE

Full sun for standard strawberries and partial shade for alpine strawberries.

PLANTING

Dig a bed that is loose and friable with good drainage.  Make a hole for your plant and mound the center. Lay the roots around the pyramid of dirt in the hole.  Be sure to keep the crown above soil level or the plant will rot. Water your plant in well. Mulch to keep moisture in. I don’t recommend straw as a mulch because it will promote mildew and be a home for insects.

Description on strawberry planting

Spread their roots and keep the crown above soil level

HARVEST

Wait until the fruit is very red and harvest with the stem. Don’t wash the fruit until you’re ready to eat it.  Homegrown strawberries are like a completely different species than what you will find in the store.  Because you can harvest them ripe and eat them right away.  They will not last long off the plant.

Strawberry fields forever

Strawberries planted in the edible landscape

 

 

 

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.

 

Mar 222014
 
Douglas Iris

by Avis Licht

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

By the date on the calendar it’s Spring – but by weather it might be any of the seasons where you live. In warm weather areas it’s definitely time to start the garden work – from sowing seeds, getting beds ready, fertilizing your flowers and generally getting involved in the excitement of coming out of hibernation.

This is the time to make sure you have good tools that help you in your work. Visit my Store to see what tools I recommend and use myself.

 

In my garden the wisteria is blooming, the pear, cherry and apple trees are bursting with bloom. The strawberries and blueberries are putting out blossoms like crazy.

Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

I have a lot of flowers in my garden that the bees love to pollinate.  It is important to create  diversity in the garden to encourage beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies to create health and delight in the garden.

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Native plants are starting to bloom and are a great addition to all gardens. In California where we are experiencing severe drought conditions, California natives are the perfect solution – they are happy in this climate and can flourish in the most difficult of conditions.

Douglas Iris

This Douglas Iris is native to the California Coast. I love it.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can come and learn from me directly Hands ON! in the garden! I love to share my experience. Go to the Events page for all the dates.

You can sign up NOW right here.

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

Welcome

 

It’s time to start planning your Spring Garden!

Strawberries

And lucky for you I’ve written just the right booklet. It’s called The Spring Garden Made Easy.

At $4.99 it’s definitely the best deal around. Take 40 years of experience, condense it into 20 pages of easy to follow garden advice

and Voila, you’re ready to plant your beautiful, tasty and nutritious garden.

The Spring Garden Made Easy

“Avis has condensed over four decades  of gardening skill into one information-packed handbook. This is important reading for the beginning gardener. You will skip making many mistakes by reading this attractive handbook first.” Robert Kourik, Author of Your Edible Landscape – Naturally

Be sure to sign up for regular updates to my blog:

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  Avis, this is beyond helpful! You have surpassed Sunset Magazine with your blogs and  images. I’m making many of the mistakes you listed above and will be starting over in  the garden this weekend. Thanks so much! G.N.What a beautiful websight! I look forward to sharing it as it will be an inspiration for all. Also, our Fava Beans just came in…. you missed them by about twenty minutes. W.B

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Jun 252013
 

by Avis Licht

It’s two days after the Summer Solstice and the garden is coming into fruition. I am feeling so grateful to have a garden, to spend time in it, and to have so much wonderful food come out of it.  We also have  flowers everywhere, to bring color and joy. And to invite our friends the birds, butterflies and bees. It’s a regular gathering place for the multitudes. This unusual June rain is a gift beyond compare. Those of you in other parts may get summer rains. Maybe even too many.  But here in California a summer rain is what we call a gift from heaven. Thank you to the Powers that Be.

Here are some photos I took this morning in the rain.

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.

 

Daylily

Daylily buds are edible and highly prized in Chinese cooking

 

Grapes

Thin the grapes early to make room for them to grow full size


Cherry Belle Radish

Radishes – Harvest early and often

Harvesting raspberries

In an unusual June rain, we adore picking raspberries.

Basil

Growing basil in pots is easy. In the ground sometimes basil gets eaten by earwigs and slugs. In the pots not so much.

Delicata squash

My seedlings of the squash have germinated beautifully and will start growing rapidly after this rain. The white flower is nicotiana, a fragrant night blooming flower.

Miniature rose

These roses have been blooming for months. After cutting them back a few weeks ago, they are starting all over again. I put these small roses all over the garden for beauty and delight. Rose petals are used in many culinary ways.

IMGP0058Variegated thyme

Variegated thyme provides a wonderful leaf contrast and I use it in cooking. I grow it near the strawberries as a companion plant.

Kale

Even though my kale has a few munching holes in it, it’s still great to eat. I don’t worry about a few pecks here and there.

Raspberries

Raspberries are easy to grow and I feel rich when we eat them. They’re expensive to buy, and cheap to grow! Watch out though, they like to spread themselves around the garden. Read about them in this post:

Squash blossom

Your plants will have many blossoms, and we often get way too many zuchinnis. So why not eat the blossoms? They’re delicious. Here are some ways to cook them: Squash blossom with ricotta.

Cucumber blossom

Once they start blossoming you can expect to get cucumbers soon and often. I plant 4 or 5 varieties, including lemon, Persian, Armenian,Thai and pickling. We love our cucumbers.

Blueberries starting to ripen

Given plenty of water, the blueberries are growing large and plump and we will harvest them over a long period of time. One of the best shrubs for the edible landscape. Read more on blueberries in this post.




May 212013
 
Edible landscaping

by Avis Licht

Bamboo poles for climbing plants

For a front yard, make sure your structures are ornamental as well as useful.

 

Edible landscaping has become more popular than I ever thought it would or could. Every day we hear about some new project in cities all over the world. We’re seeing gardens that are both beautiful and have delicious, healthy produce. I mean, it only makes sense.

In Marin County the municipal water district has been encouraging people to conserve water by planting low water use plants as well as food gardens.  In May they have a tour of the best gardens that use principals that they call “Bay Friendly”:  organic, drought resistant, permeable surfaces, habitat friendly for beneficial birds and insects, and lovely to look at.

On the tour last weekend I took some photos from a few of the gardens that incorporated some good edible landscaping ideas.  See if anything inspires you for your garden. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Artichoke, plum, alstroemaria

Raised vegetable box

Raised vegetable boxes define an area and let you put good growing soil into a small area. It’s also easy to maintain.

California native plants

These California native plants look good, are low maintenance, provide flowers and habitat. They go beautifully in an edible landscape.

Native California plants

Another view of the same yard. This shows that the native plants create a small patio area and the vegetables are at the far end of the yard near the fence.

To read more about designing your edible landscape, read this post. 

 

Be sure to leave a comment or shoot me a question by going to the Ask Avis page.

Container Gardening

This suburban backyard is all raised beds and container plantings. Easy to maintain and very productive.

Chicken coop

This tiny chicken coop in an unused side yard provides fresh eggs for the owners.

Fruit trees in containers

I’ve never seen this many fruit trees in containers. Lots of varieties but also a smaller harvest from the containers. When growing in pots, be sure to give plenty of water and nutrients. It is easier to find the right growing conditions when you can move the pots to the right micro climate. Since they will be dwarf simply by being in pots you can grow more trees in a smaller area.

 

To find out more about growing in containers read my post on self watering planters.

Cauliflower

This huge cauliflower was in a raised planter. You can get huge results when you have the best soil and perfect growing conditions.

 

 

tower of strawberries

This tower of strawberry pots is fun to look at and certainly easier to harvest the strawberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To find out more about growing strawberries read this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Back yard garden

Path, flowers and bird bath highlight the backyard garden. This yard has many fruits and vegetables, yet is entirely enchanting. At least I think so.

 

 

 

 

The Entry Patio

Entering the garden, you are led by a curving path, under fruit trees, by flowers, herbs and native plants.

Vegetable Garden

I love that this vegetable garden looks like a garden garden. It’s not just utilitarian.

 

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Jan 082013
 

by Avis Licht

Every little hair has frost on it.

Strawberries with frost

In the middle of a cold and wet winter day it’s hard to think about what needs doing in the garden. But there are a few items on the to do list that will give your garden a jump on  the spring rush.

Be sure to take a walk around the garden and check for erosion from rainy day run off. We’ve had some amazingly strong downpours this year that caused some unwanted waterfalls.  Read these posts to correct drainage problems. Sometimes there’s just too much water at once and you have to clean up after the fact. Take a look at my veggie garden: (click to enlarge)

Protect tender garden plants by covering them on frosty nights. You can use row covers, sheets, blankets or plastic.Succulents, citrus, bougainvillea and fuchsias are among the frost-sensitive plants. Use stakes to keep material from touching foliage and remove the coverings when temperatures rise the next day.

Many deciduous trees, shrubs and vines can be pruned now. Do not prune spring-blooming plants until after they bloom. Consult a pruning guide that lists optimum pruning times for different species.


 

 

 

Order seeds for your spring and summer garden. Read these posts I wrote on catalog offerings and seeds choices. Be sure to order my e book : The Spring Garden Made Easy. It will help you get your garden going in Spring.  It’s only $4.99 and you can download it right now!

It’s perfect timing to plant those hardy perennials during this season of rain and plant dormancy. It’s important to get down to your local nurseries to check out their stock of bare root fruit trees, soft fruit, and more. Think asparagus, artichoke, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate and all those great fruit trees. Just don’t work the soil when it is too wet.

It won't be long before the spring garden starts to grow.

It won’t be long before the spring garden starts to grow.

 

 

Jun 012012
 

Save 15% off on $50 or more at Gardener’s Supply Company! Valid thru 6/28/12
[really-simple-share]

Thinning clumps of apples

This is a cluster of fruit from one node.

by Avis Licht- It’s always hard to throw away fruit, whether it’s on the tree or in the kitchen. But for best flavor, health and size of apples, be sure to thin them early in the season. You should do this for pears, peaches and plums also. Here’s how to do it.

1.Fruit is usually born in clusters of 2 – 6 fruit.  When they are small, around the size of a dime, cut out the smallest, damaged, misshapen, or wrinkled fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Carefully prune out the fruit at the base of the stem. Use a sharp clipper or scissors.

Thinning the little apples

Clip carefully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.Be sure to leave one good apple.

Thin to one apple

Leave one apple per cluster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all there is to it.  Now you have to be patient until it’s time to harvest.

Here’s an easy, delicious recipe for apple crisp.

Going out into the garden to pick fruit is a really sweet thing to do.  You can be sure the fruit is fresh, organic, and ripe.  I needed something really quick to bring to a family gathering.  So I stepped out into the garden and picked a bowl of strawberries, a bowl of blackberries and some wonderfully tart apples.

Apples, blackberries and strawberries from the edible gardenBeautiful fruit right from the garden (click to enlarge)

All I had to do was rinse them off, slice the apples and put them in the pan.  If you want you can squeeze a little lemon juice over the apples.  I didn’t have any, and no harm was done. I confess to sprinkling a tiny bit of sugar over the top of the fruit.

The next step is the crumble for the top.  You can use a variety of ingredients.  I use 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup  flour, both whole wheat and white, 1/4 cup  sugar mixed in with 1/4 cup butter and a pinch of salt. A little cinnamon and nutmeg goes well with this. Mix these ingredients over the top and voila, you’re ready to go.  Thirty minutes in 350 deg oven and you will have the best crisp you’ve ever tasted.

Special ingredients for the best apple crisp

Mar 262012
 
Lettuce and parsley in a pot
Lettuce and parsley in a pot

Herbs and lettuce grow well in pots on the deck.

by Avis Licht

In other posts I’ve written about seeds; where to get them, and how to sow them. Now that they’ve turned into sturdy little seedlings, I’ll show you how to plant them.

1. First thing is to make sure your bed is ready for the seedlings.  This means that the soil should be worked up into a fine tilth so that it is soft and crumbles easily off your trowel. Add whatever amendments you have at hand, like compost, bone meal or manure into the soil before you transplant your seedlings.

2. Depending on how your seeds were started, you will either take them out of their little six packs, or as in the case of these photos, from a bunch of seeds sown in a container.

Pulling apart lettuce seedlings

Gently open the root ball to separate the seedlings (click to enlarge)

Lettuce seedlings

Hold your seedlings gently (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep separating the seedlings until you have them one at a time. Lay them so that the roots are straight down, not crunched up. Gently hold the leaf, open up a hole deep enough to let the roots dangle straight down and not get crunched up. (if you get my drift).  Slowly let the soil back into the hole to cover the roots. Gently firm in the soil around the crown of the seedlings.  You want the roots too make contact with the soil, but not rip the roots by pressing too hard.

Firm in the soil

Gently press the soil around the seedling. (Click to enlarge)

Hold by the leaf and let the roots dangle

Gently hold the leaf and dangle the roots (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep the soil below the crown of the leaf so that it doesn’t rot. Be sure to water in your seedlings.  Put the water at the base of the plant slowly so that the water seeps into the soil.  This will allow the roots to make contact with the soil and get moisture. If roots are not in contact with the soil, but are in air holes, they will dry out.

It’s best to plant into moist soil that crumbles in your hand, not too wet and not too dry.

A bed of lettuce

Closely planted lettuce in Spring

lettuce newly planted

This seedling will start growing immediately

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After they are planted you need to make sure they don’t dry out. Check the soil for moisture if it doesn’t rain. Just looking at the surface of the soil doesn’t tell you if it’s moist underneath.  Check with a trowel down a few inches.  If it’s dry at 2 inches or if the plants are wilting, be sure to water them.

Don’t forget to take your walkabout in the garden to keep an eye on your seedlings.  If anyone is causing trouble, like birds or snails, you’ll want to catch them right away. Now all you have to do is be a little patient, then the eating begins.

I took this photo this morning after a gentle rain.

rain on strawberry blossoms

It's late March and the strawberries are starting to blossom

Mar 232012
 
Deer fence with copper art

 

Deer fence with copper art

A beautiful open fence keeps out the deer and lets in the sunlight

by Avis Licht – Designing a front yard can be a little tricky. Designing it so that it is also a productive food garden makes it even more challenging. What makes an edible landscape work, is that not only does one get food from it, but it must also be lovely to look at in all seasons.  Using a few basic  design tenants and some good gardening sense will help you get started.

1. Always note your sun/shadow in all seasons.  This can change drastically between summer and winter. Be sure to place your shade plants in shady spots, and your sun loving plants where they will find the light. In the garden in these photos, the house casts a large shadow – almost completely in winter, but only partially in summer.

Since this was the only open area for my client’s vegetables, we noted the best sun areas during the main growing season between April and October.

Finding the sun/shadow line

Note your sun/shadow in the main growing season. This photo is the new garden. (click to enlarge)

The old garden fence and site.

This is what the front yard looked like before we renewed it. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to look at my book on The Spring Garden Made Easy.

2.If you need a fence, be sure it looks good, lets the light into the garden and keeps the deer and other critters out. Wood fences can look good, but can also create shadows that prevent plants from getting enough light.

A simple post and wire fence that looks good

A good looking wire fence lets the light in and keeps the neighbor’s dogs out.

 

We removed the wood fence from this garden, as it cast a heavy shadow in winter when the sun was low in the sky.  Because this is California, there is a long growing season and we wanted to make good use of the little space available. Many neighbors stop by to admire the beautiful vegetables and flowers in the front yard.  Keeping this garden well tended all year makes it a neighborhood delight.  Everyone wants a fresh pea in spring and tomato in summer.There are plenty of flowers to keep it cheerful.

 

3.Create permanent beds and paths. Permanent beds create pattern and form in a garden even when the beds may be empty. The same is true for paths. They are cleaner, safer and create form in the garden.  Paths also keep people from walking on the beds. Here are a few different solutions.  Stone paths are more expensive, but last longer and are beautiful. Chipped paths look good and are inexpensive.  They also allow the water to seep into the soil for water retention.

raised stone bed

Permanent beds give form and interest even without all the plants. Chipped paths are easy to lay and inexpensive.

Stone paths are safe, beautiful, long lasting and also more expensive.  Choose a material appropriate for you and your budget.

Stone path

A winding path leads you through the garden to the front door.

4. Choose plants the grow well in your climate and in your site.  Choose appropriate sized plants. Meaning, if you have a small front yard, use dwarf or semi dwarf trees, or small shrubs. Fruit trees, blueberries, currants, strawberries mixed with flowering shrubs all make wonderful front yard plants.  They look good in most seasons.  Use perennials in your front yard and keep the annuals to a minimum. When growing vegetables in the front yard, keep them well tended if your yard is open to the neighborhood. It’s all part of being a good neighbor. The more you share the bounty, the  more your neighbors will want to imitate your garden.

Edible front yard

Summer in the edible front yard still looks great. (click to enlarge)

side view of the edible front yard

Herbs, flowers and a simple fence for the edible front yard. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a few ideas to help you plan your edible front yard. There will be more ideas to come. Sign up for my blog and you won’t miss anything.

Mar 072012
 
spring flowers

by Avis Licht

spring flowers

Flowers, trees and shrubs love wood ash spread lightly around the base

Just like humans, plants need food to grow well. Where we use protein, minerals and carbohydrates for fuel and growth, plants need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and a slew of micronutrients. Over the next few posts, I’ll be writing about different organic amendments. Before you add to the soil it’s important to know at least something about your own soil. Since most of us don’t  know what is in our soil, here are a few  ways to figure out a little about your soil.

You can buy a soil testing kit at your local nursery, or online at Gardener’s Supply. This is a simple and easy to use kit to find out the basics of your soil needs including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Existing plants, also known as weeds, are a good indicator of soil health and type. If you have lush plants, that are green and healthy looking, you can probably deduce that you’ve got fairly good soil. If plants seem small and stunted, this could mean several things. Compacted soil, low nutrient level or lack of water are the main culprits. This article on Weeds as Indicators of Soil Conditions will tell you much

more about plants as indicators.

Spring Garden Made Easy

 Here’s my new ebook on starting your Spring Garden. 20 pages to help you figure out where to put, what to put in it, and how to keep it healthy.

 

 

 

For those who use a wood stove, wood ash is a free and excellent source of nutrients for the garden.  There are some caveats, so listen up.


Wood ash as fertilizer

Lightly spread wood ash around your plants

 

1. Wood ash is a source of potassium, lime and trace elements

2. Since wood ash is derived from plant material it contains most of the 13 essential nutrients that soil must have for plant growth.

3. When wood burns, nitrogen and sulfur are lost as gases, but calcium, potasium, magnesium and trace elements remain.

4.After wood burns it has liming agents which raise the pH, this neutralizes acid soil. That means if you have acid soil as in the Northwest of the United States, adding ash wood reduce the acidity.  This is good news for some plants and bad news for others. Read on.

5. If you have acid loving plants like blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas and gardenias you don’t want to use ash around them

6. Do use ash on flower beds, fruit trees, lawns and shrubs.


7. The fertilizer value depends on the type of wood you burn.  As a general rule hardwoods like Oak produce 3 times more ash per pound of wood and contain 5 times more nutrients than soft woods like Douglas Fir.8. Use one half to one pound of ash per year for each shrub or rosebush.

9. Don’t leave ash in lumps or piles, it can leach too many salts in one place.

10.Use wood ash in compost piles to help maintain the best environment for micro organisms.  Spread a little ash out in layers between adding weeds and kitchen waste to the pile.

11. Don’t use as on newly germinated seeds, it has too many salts for little plants.

(If you are reading this in your email because you are subscribed to my blog, you may want to click on the title and read it in my website.  You’ll have access to all the other posts AND My Book! the Spring Garden Made Easy.)

Wood ash in metal container

Be sure your ashes are cool and in a non flammable container

Jan 232012
 
Strawberries


by Avis Licht

Strawberries

You can have great fruit growing in a small garden.  Here are some of my favorite and easy to grow fruits. Each of them has their own particular needs, so be sure to look up which varieties are best for your climate.

Strawberries are at the top of my list. They can be grown in small areas, they can be planted in pots and they can be spread around the garden.  Commercially strawberries are one of the most heavily sprayed plants both with herbicides and pesticides.  It’s much better to grow your own.

How can a bamboo stick keep a large dog out of the strawberries

Can you have too many strawberry plants?

If you want a fruit tree for a small space, consider a genetic dwarf fruit tree.  They are bred to be smaller without pruning. You can have a full sized apple, cherry, nectarine and more that is only 6 ft tall.A small space is fine for an espalier fruit tree

An espaliered tree can be trained to grow against a wall or fence and take up very little room.  This requires some real attention and work to keep the tree properly pruned and still produce fruit. But once you learn how, it can be incredibly productive in a small space.

Citrus trees can be grown in large pots in a sunny spot near the house or on a deck. Choose naturally dwarf varieties so that they won’t outgrow their containers.

Mandarin orange in a container

It's easy to grow citrus in a pot

 

 

Citrus are wonderful for the edible landscape because they are evergreen, fragrant, produce fruit and look beautiful.  Another winner.

Whenever plants are put in pots, be sure they get enough fertilizer to keep them healthy, and regular water.  Pots can dry out quickly because  they are exposed to the sun and wind.

 

Surprisingly, fig trees can be happily grown in pots.  Normally a fig will grow quite big, but it can be tamed to fit your small garden in a pot and still be healthy and produce plenty of fruit.

Fig in a container

Figs thrive in planting containers

Dwarf blueberries  stay small in the ground and are good for container plantings.

These are a few of my favorite fruits for the small edible landscape.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Jan 032012
 
Deer fence with copper sculpture

by Avis Licht

Deer fence with copper sculpture

A front yard fence that is beautiful and functional

Yesterday I talked about the steps involved in making a landscape plan.  Today I want to share with you a small front yard garden that used those guidelines.

The first parameters you need to look at are your climate, sun/shade, slope, access, existing structures and plantings.  Don’t forget that the sun moves not only east and west, but north and south. The sun is high in the sky in summer and low on the horizon in winter.  Be sure to locate north and watch the sun/shade patterns in your garden over time.  You will be amazed how little sun you have in the winter compared to summer if you have any tall trees or structures.

Path divides garden into shade and sun microclimate

The path divides the garden into edibles and ornamentals based on the sun

In the photo above you can see a 2 story house that creates a lot of shade on the garden. The garden is on the north side of the house.  This means that in winter almost the entire garden is in shade.  In summer the garden has plenty of sun from the path to the fence. Using this information, I created vegetable beds in the sunny part of the garden for Spring to Fall crops.  The beds closest to the house are landscaped with shade loving ornamental shrubs and flowers.

Raised stone bed and bird bath

Using beds with stone to create form and structure keeps the garden looking good all year

The yard is curved to use as much of the available ground the gets sun in the early Spring.  The fence is 6 feet high and keeps the deer out.  The fence is also used to grow climbing vegetables such as peas, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Because it is on the north side of the garden it doesn’t shade the other beds.

Once you’ve determined your site functions, based on climate and position, it’s time to start looking at your desires and finances. In this case the owner was a single person with a limited income as a teacher, but who hopes to live here the rest of her life and wanted to make it a special place to come home to every day.  She wanted something beautiful as well as functional.   The vegetable garden is big enough to supply plenty of veggies for her and her rabbits, as well as strawberries, blueberries and apple and pear trees. Once the garden was installed, it is easy to maintain.  The initial investment will pay off many times over in the joy of coming home to a beautiful garden, in addition to the healthy food.

I always recommend that my clients balance their desires, with their budget and their long term goals. If you plan on living in your home for a long time, it is worth spending more money on a strong and safe infrastructure like paths, fences and retaining walls. If you think you may be leaving soon, or are a renter, consider simple beds, containers and annual plantings.

Baby lettuce in raised bed

Vegetables in the raised bed

The raised bed has several functions.  Not only is it a beautiful form that looks good in all seasons, it is strong enough for the owner to sit on while gardening.  For someone with a bad back  this allows for  much easier access to the beds.  We lined the bottom of the bed with hardware cloth, which is a 1/2 inch wire mesh that keeps the gophers out of the bed, which were a huge problem. We also brought in some excellent organic topsoil to fill the raised beds, which produced a wonderful, bountiful harvest.

In considering the “sustainability” factor, we looked at two levels of sustainability.  On a personal level, the garden had to be small enough that she could maintain it in an ongoing basis and that she could afford it. We definitely feel that we accomplished that goal.

On the north side of the house: shade loving plants

Observe your site and put the right plant in the right place

On a “global” level we kept the materials as simple as possible.  The paths are permeable, and covered with old sheets and towels that keep the weeds down, but eventually decompose.  They are covered with free chips from the local tree service.  The beds are built with locally sourced stone.  The irrigation is drip, using a controller that is connected to a local weather station that determines how much to irrigate based on evapotranspiration rates.  And finally, we installed a 2,000 gallon rain water harvesting tank, that stores winter rain from her roof runoff.  This water can be used as back up in times of drought or for fire  safety. In California we are faced with drought, fire and earthquakes.

There’s a lot of information in this post, but it will give you some ideas that you can use in your own garden.  Take time, don’t rush it. The more observation you do in your garden at the front end, the less changes you’ll have to make at the back end.  Your edible landscape is worth the effort.

A welcoming entry into the garden

Copper gate invites you into the garden

 

 

Dec 162011
 
Frost on strawberries

by Avis Licht

Frost on strawberries

Frost comes in different forms, not all are bad for the garden

 

Some plants actually like a bit of frost. Knowing what to plant for the winter garden will help you be successful. And all frost is not created equal.  A little frost on the plants, like the strawberries in the picture above, doesn’t hurt many plants. Prolonged cold below freezing can cause problems. Be sure to observe your garden for frost pockets as cold settles into lower areas and valleys.

Here’s what you can do if you live in a frosty neighborhood:

1. Choose cold hardy plants for your vegetable garden.  These include: chard, kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots, beets, kholrabi, peas and turnips and some varieties of lettuce. These plants work if there is thaw during the day.  If they stay continually frozen, you need to put them in an unheated greenhouse  or under hoops that are covered.

Frost on chard is okay

Frost doesn't harm chard if it doesn't go below 20 deg F.

2. Make sure the soil is moist before a big frost.  Moist soil holds 4 times more heat than dry soil.

3. Cover  tender plants with a woven material, blanket or sheet. Preferably not plastic, as this does not protect very well. You can lay the material over the plant, or put up stakes and keep it slightly away from the leaves.  Bring the material down to soil level, as the heat rises up into the covered area.

4. Place tender plants in pots and put in protected areas in south facing walls and under eaves, to get reflected heat from buildings. These would include lemon, lime, lettuce and herbs.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do during frosty days:

1. Don’t prune during frosty days.

2. Don’t prune frost damaged plants like trees and shrubs. Leave the damaged tips and buds on the trees and wait until Spring and let the plants start to grow. Otherwise you stand the chance of having the frost do deeper damage.

3. Don’t use chemical sprays that say they will protect your plants from frost.  There is no evidence to support these claims.

4. Don’t leave your gloves out to get frosted.  They will make your hands cold.  I know, I did this.

Bring your gloves inside, or they'll get frosted too

What good will frosty gloves do you in the garden?

To find out more about growing in winter you should read these books by Eliot Coleman from Four Seasons Farm in Maine.  Winter Harvest Handbook will give you many ideas. Your edible landscape can still produce wonderful food in winter. It may take a little more attention, but can be very rewarding.

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