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

Mar 122014
 

by Avis Licht

chard

Chard can be sowed in the ground or in pots

 

chard

The larger chard in the upper part of the photo was planted in November. The baby chard seedling was sown in January and planted in March. They will provide delicious greens for more than a year.

 You might be surprised at how early you can start sowing and planting your Spring vegetables. Of course, I’m not talking about snow or frosty ground. BUT, still there are a few great crops that can withstand what nature throws at them. If you live in a really cold clime, then you can start sowing indoors in many places. For those of you who live where the snow has left or never been, then consider these great plants.

LETTUCE:  This is one of my family’s favorite foods.  Mixed with other raw vegetables it’s a sure winner. I love butter lettuce, like the Marvel of Four Seasons, Red romaine and baby Bibb.

BOK CHOY: An Asian green that has a delicate flavor and can be eaten  both raw and cooked. You can sow this either in pots or directly in the ground.

CHARD: One of the easiest to grow and most nutrious greens. And it’s not only green. It comes in rainbow colors of red, yellow, orange and green. The variety I like to grow is Rainbow chard, of course. You can sow it in pots early and then transplant them or sow directly in the ground when it’s above 50 degrees.

BROCCOLI: There are different varieties of broccoli. Kale, cabbage and cauliflower are included in this family. But it doesn’t matter which one you grow, they’re all great. After I harvest the main crown from the broccoli, the plant grows many, many side shoots that are just as good. Also, the leaves are good to eat as well.

Bok Choy

Grow small greens in containers for small gardens or decks. This is bok choy.

Seeds of Change

Red lettuce

Red lettuce seedlings are planted between the broccoli plants. They are a good companion plant to broccoli. The broccoli is planted 2 feet apart, which leaves a lot of room between them. While they are small, it’s good to plant the lettuce seedlings which will be harvested before the broccoli gets too big.

very young broccoli

Broccoli seedling started in January, planted outdoors in March. I also sowed radishes in between the broccoli. The radishes will grow quickly and be harvested before the broccoli covers the area.

Check out my Store for tools that I recommend and use myself.  A good tool should last a long time and make your work easier and safer. If you shop through my Amazon store I get a small fee that helps support this free blog.
Gardening tools and seeds

Mar 052012
 
Healthy, hardy beets germinating outdoors

by Avis Licht

Help your seeds with grow lights

If you don’t have enough light in your house you can use these simple grow lights

Yesterday I talked about seed starting medium and today I want to talk about light and heat.

When starting seeds early in the season, it is usually too cold to start them outside.  That means, they are either in the house, cold frame or greenhouse.  It’s a rare house that has enough sunlight to start seedlings indoors and not have them get leggy.  It’s an even rarer house that has a greenhouse or cold frame.

Light for starting seeds:

Most seedlings require 14 to 16 hours of direct light to manufacture enough food to produce healthy stems and leaves. The characteristic legginess that often occurs when seedlings are grown on a windowsill indicates that the plants are not receiving enough light intensity, or enough hours of light. If your seedlings are in a south-facing window, you can enhance the incoming light by covering a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and placing it in back of the seedlings. The light will bounce off the foil and back onto the seedlings.

If you do not have a south-facing window, you will need to use grow lights. When growing seedlings under lights, you can use a combination of cool and warm fluorescents, or full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs produce too much heat in relation to the light given off. They also lack the blue-spectrum light that keeps seedlings stocky and dark green.

To get excellent pots, potting soil, greenhouses and more, go to my store and you can find what you need easily.

Simple outdoor growing house

Along a protected south facing wall, this little house can provide protection for your seeds

Seedlings need a high intensity of light. The fluorescent bulbs should be placed very close to the plants—no more than three inches away from the foliage—and should be left on 12 to 14 hours per day. If you are growing your seedlings on a windowsill, you may need to supplement with a few hours of artificial light, especially during the winter months.

Temperature for starting seeds:

The temperatures for optimum germination listed on seed packets refer to soil temperature, not air temperature. Although seeds can vary drastically, most vegetable seeds need a warm soil temperature around 78 deg. F.

If the soil is too cold, seeds may take much longer to germinate, or they may not germinate at all. To provide additional warmth, you can use a heat mat or place the containers on top of a warm refrigerator, television, or keep them in a warm room until the seeds germinate. Just be sure to get your seedlings to a sunny window or under lights within 24 hours of seeing little sprouts emerging through the soil surface.

After germination, most seedlings grow best if the air temperature is below 70 degrees F. If temperatures are too warm (over 75), the seedlings will grow too fast and get weak and leggy. Most seedlings grow fine in air temperatures as low as 50 degrees, as long as soil temperature is maintained at about 65 to 70.

Healthy, hardy beets germinating outdoors

Some seeds can be sown directly in the ground like these beets

 Give them light and warmth and keep them moist, and your seeds will work hard on your behalf. At the risk of repeating myself, the best thing you can do in the garden is to observe your plants.  Keep an eye on them and they’ll let you know if they’re happy.

 

 

Mar 202015
 

Rose in the Rain

by Avis Licht

I have many favorite times of the year in the garden. What’s looking beautiful, (Roses in late Spring) what smells great, (Lilacs and Jasmine in early Spring), what’s ripe (everything in every season!), how the ground smells after a rain. Almost every day brings something new to enjoy in the garden. BUT, I have to say the Spring Equinox holds the most promise and excitement for me.

After the dark and cold of winter, (which was not very dark or cold this year), the excitement of Spring, with its promise of buds, new leaves, green hills, even the weeds jumping for joy out of the earth, holds a special place in my heart.  If ever there was a time for Hope, this is it. The sun rises a little earlier each day and sets a little later. There is more light, more growth, more Potential – for the garden and for us. Change happens in spite of us, and sometimes hopefully, because of us.

Here are a few photos from my Equinoxial Garden. HAPPY SPRING.  Let’s get growing!

Douglas Iris

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

Lettuce

Marvel of Four Seasons Lettuce – under protection from the birds.

Chard Stalks

Rays of red light are rainbow chard stalks

Broccoli

Broccoli in a pot. Even the smallest patio can have beautiful vegetables.

 

row cover and drip irrigation

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

Lettuce seedlings under grow lights

Seedlings get started early under grow lights.

 

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

 

 

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.

Feb 252015
 

by Avis Licht

All the good food in a week's box in Live Power Farm's CSA

All the good food in a week’s box in Live Power Farm’s CSA

Last winter I went to visit Live Power Community Farm, in Covelo, California. This farm is part of a movement called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, for short. The idea for this model, is that the people who eat the food support the farmers by guaranteeing them a fee for the food every week, so that the farmer is not left out on a limb of growing and then not knowing who will buy their food.  This model shares the risk involved with farming and allows the farmers to get on with their job of growing the best food possible.

Live Power Community Farm, the first CSA in California, is a unique model of how to sustain a farm through the power of relationship, community and a transformative economic model.  In effect, the community of people eating from the farm are not simply buying food, but also partnering with the farmers to sustain the farm. They deliver to the San Francisco Bay Area from May to November.

  They write: 
If you would like to be a part of this vibrant community farm, there are harvest shares available for the coming season.  The CSA season begins May 9th, 2015 and continues everySaturday till November 21, 2015.  Live Power’s vegetables are biodynamically grown on carefully husbanded soil kept healthy and fertile with compost generated on farm from the farm’s own livestock and crop residue. Water is pumped with a 30kw PV system and soil tillage is done with Belgian draft horses. This results in high quality food and a very low carbon footprint for our earth. Where else can you get vegetables that have been grown without a tractor?  Keep Live Power’s horses employed, join the community! 
 
Horse drawn plows

Using draft horses and old fashioned plows, the Decaters, gently work the soil.

And did I mention: all of the vegetables taste fantastic!  They’ve been picked usually less than a day before they arrive in your basket.  You get to try new foods and always eat what’s in season.  Particularly rewarding, you and your children can get to know the farmers and can even visit the farm (located in Covelo, Mendocino County).

Gorgeous, beautiful broccoli, fresh from the farm to you

Gorgeous, beautiful broccoli, fresh from the farm to you

How does it work? You sign up for a share. You will then be grouped into a cluster with others that live near you.  Each cluster sends one person per week to the sort, which will take place at the Waldorf High  School in San Francisco this year.  From 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings, the sort group joins together to distribute the vegetables and fruit for all members. The sort is a fun, community-building event. After the sort, each sorter delivers the baskets to the other families in their neighborhood, and most of the rest of the 29 weeks their basket will be delivered to them by the rest of the members in their cluster  
 
Each share is responsible for doing the sort about 5 – 6 times per year.  Some families split a share, meaning picking up baskets filled with veggies from our porch every other week and going into the City to sort 2 – 3 times per year.

For a list of the projected and actual quantities and varieties of vegetables received last year, please go to http://www.livepower.org/csa-overview/bay-area/ and look under the Live Power Offerings.  Also, attached is a list of prices.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call one of the delightful farmers, Gloria Decater, at (707) 983-8196 or livepower@livepower.org or one of the SF Bay area members, Amy Belkora at 415-596-2866 or abelkora@gmail.com  
Row after row of compost, from their farm, feeds the soil and powers their food.

Row after row of compost, from their farm, feeds the soil and powers their food.

 

Jan 312015
 
Seed sowing medium

by Avis Licht

1. Prepare your table for sowing: Potting mix, containers for sowing, seeds and labels.

I use organic potting mix from my local nursery. I try to use either bioegradable pots, like these coconut fiber pots, or reuse the plastic ones over and over. I save my cans and plastic containers from the grocery store to use for either sowing or transplanting.


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2. Choose your favorite seeds that will grow in your climate, and make sure you are sowing at the right time:

It’s late January, and I live in Northern California, where we can grow many vegetables year round.  It’s a good time to start Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chard, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Onion, Spinach and Peas. In my hand you can see Chard seed. As seed goes, they’re pretty big and easy to handle. To get an early start, I sow them indoors in pots for transplanting in late February. You can also sow Chard directly in the ground when your soil warms up a bit.

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3. Fill your pots to the top, then place a few seeds on the surface. My finger is pointing to the seed. For chard, which is fairly large, I will push the seed into the soil so that it gets a firm seating into the soil. Then cover lightly.


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4. Label your pots with the name and date of sowing. Believe me, this is an important step, as you will probably not remember what you sowed or when you sowed it.

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Push large seeds firmly into the soil. Peas can go half an inch deep.

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Leeks are small seed and hard to handle.  I use this seed sower which gently lets out seeds a few at a time.  Because leeks are small seedlings, you can sow many in a small pot. When they are ready to be transplanted you can easily pull them apart. More on transplanting later.

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Here’s Broccoli. It’s a favorite in our household and I like to grow a lot of it. It’s a small seed. I put 5 seeds in a 4 inch pot.  When they’re about 3 inches tall I take them out of the pot carefully and transplant them.

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Basil seed looks a lot like broccoli only smaller. If you are using small pots for sowing, then sow 2 seeds per pot. That way you can figure that every pot will have at least one plant.

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Here’s kale. It’s become very popular lately. There are many kinds of kale. Personally, I like it cooked.  It’s a little tough raw.  I really had a good laugh the first time someone told me I had to massage my kale for salad making! But it’s true.  If you rub your kale with a little salt and olive oil it gets more tender.

IMG_0773

 

5. Gently water in your seeds. You want the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Keep the surface moist so that the seeds don’t dry out.  As soon as they germinate you can cut back on the water a little.

6. Make sure your plants get plenty of light. I use flourescent lights in a shed to make sure they’re strong and sturdy.

Be sure to read more about lights and seedlings in this article to find out which lights and how long to leave them on.

Seeds

As soon as your seed germinates it needs plenty of light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that just about takes care of the steps to successful seed sowing.  Don’t be afraid. Growing your own plants from seed is one of the most satisfying and magical parts of gardening. If you’re having troubles or need advice, just go to the Ask Avis page and let me know what’s up. Or leave a comment or suggestion at the bottom of the page.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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Jan 152015
 

by Avis Licht

Help your seeds with grow lights

If you don’t have enough light in your house you can use these simple grow lights

 

When starting seeds early in the season, it is usually too cold to start them outside.  That means, they are either in the house, cold frame or greenhouse.  It’s a rare house that has enough sunlight to start seedlings indoors and not have them get leggy.  It’s an even rarer house that has a greenhouse or cold frame.

Light for starting seeds:

Most seedlings require 14 to 16 hours of direct light to manufacture enough food to produce healthy stems and leaves.  The characteristic legginess that often occurs when seedlings are grown on a windowsill indicates that the plants are not receiving enough light intensity, or enough hours of light.

1. Set up a stand with fluorescent lights over your seed trays. 2 – 4 inches is the optimum amount of room. As they grow you will need to lift them up. 

When growing seedlings under lights, you can use a combination of cool and warm fluorescents, or full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs produce too much heat in relation to the light given off. They also lack the blue-spectrum light that keeps seedlings stocky and dark green. The most efficient light is a T – 5 or T – 8 bulb that comes in 2 and 4 ft lengths.

2. Get a timer for your lights and set it for 12 – 14 hours. That sounds like a lot, but that’s what it takes to keep your plants strong and sturdy.


To get excellent pots, potting soil, greenhouses and more, go to my store and you can find what you need easily.

3.Temperature for starting seeds:

The temperatures for optimum germination listed on seed packets refer to soil temperature, not air temperature. Although seeds can vary drastically, most vegetable seeds need a warm soil temperature around 78 deg. F.

If the soil is too cold, seeds may take much longer to germinate, or they may not germinate at all. To provide additional warmth, you can use a heat mat or keep them in a warm room until the seeds germinate. Just be sure to get your seedlings to a sunny window or under lights within 24 hours of seeing little sprouts emerging through the soil surface

.

After germination, most seedlings grow best if the air temperature is below 70 degrees F. If temperatures are too warm (over 75), the seedlings will grow too fast and get weak and leggy. Most seedlings grow fine in air temperatures as low as 50 degrees, as long as soil temperature is maintained at about 65 to 70.

 Give them light and warmth and keep them moist, and your seeds will work hard on your behalf. At the risk of repeating myself, the best thing you can do in the garden is to observe your plants.  Keep an eye on them and they’ll let you know if they’re happy.

sowing seeds

Direct sow into the ground for best results

Plants with taproots like beet and carrot need to be sown directly into the ground

Jan 142015
 

by Avis Licht

seeds

Seed sizes

It’s January, and still feels like the middle of winter.  Of course, it is the middle of winter in many places.  But in Northern California, where I live,  Spring is right around the corner, and it’s time to start not only thinking about what to plant, but to start sowing seeds now.  I start most seeds indoors at this time of year.  Plants like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Kale, Chard and others like cool weather, but not the damp cold to germinate.  So January is a good time to get them started indoors and when they’re ready to transplant into the garden beds in Feb, they’ll be large enough to deal with the weather that early Spring brings.

 

If you’re thinking about your Spring garden and what to sow, you’re probably wondering if last year’s leftover seeds are good to sow this year.  Don’t waste money buying new seed if what you have is good. To be sure, you don’t want to waste time by sowing bad seed. Here is a simple method to see if your seed is still viable.

chard

Chard, one of the easiest and best vegetables to grow from seed in the early Spring.

 

1. Moisten a paper towel and place 10 to 20 seeds of one variety on it. Roll up the towel and place it in a plastic bag labeled with the seed variety. You can keep it on the kitchen counter at room temperature while you are testing. Check the seeds after 2 or 3 days, then every day for a week or two if needed; different varieties have different timing for germination. Be sure to make sure the towel stays moist. Count the number of germinated seeds and divide them by the number of seeds tested. This will give you the germination percentage. If 8 seeds out of 10 have germinated – you have 80% germination. Less than 80% germination means your seeds still have some viability but that you will need to sow them more thickly in order to get a good crop. Seeds with less than 50% germination may not be worth the trouble and you can go seed shopping!

If you do need to buy seeds try Seeds of Change. They are a great organization and provide organic, non – GMO seed. I definitely recommend buying their seed. You can do that by clicking here: Seeds of Change

2. Store unused seeds in a cool, dry place to ensure their maximum germination rates. I use empty herb and seasoning bottles to store my seed.  I try to collect as much of my own seeds as possible. The glass bottles are labeled and I can also see the seed inside to remind me what I have.

Here are some good Seed Catalogs – Resources.

Here’s a great chart that Roger Doiron from Kitchen Gardeners International posted, which came from Colorado State University. It covers many common vegetables for your home garden. Of course, viability also depends on the conditions that the seed has been stored in. Too wet, too cold, too hot, too dry – all these can affect your seed germination, BUT, generally you can follow the chart.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about starting plants with grow lights.

Help your seeds with grow lights

Jul 282014
 

by Avis Licht Hummingbird I love watching hummingbirds zoom, dive, drink and zip around my garden. Not only are they beautiful and fanciful, they are an integral part of the health of our gardens.  While researching information on hummingbirds I came across a great article on the Las Pilitas website, which is a source of California Native Plants. “Hummingbirds prefer the native species (commonly Sambucus,Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos) for nesting. They prefer a mixed diet of nectar from multiple sources for their daily diet. I read an article that showed a correlation between nectar (pollen) proteins and hummingbirds’ immune systems. “So, although they can live on bird feeders they probably can not survive on bird feeders (sugar diet) as you’re messing with their immune system and, since there is no pollen in sugar water, their reproductive ability. Basically, the bird feeders are making winos out of proud birds. If they attack you, give them a break, it’s the ‘Twinkie’ syndrome.

Hummingbird going for the nectar from Zauschneria californica, the California Fuschia

Hummingbird going for the nectar from Zauschneria californica, the California Fuschia

If you’re tempted to go out and buy a bird feeder for these lovelies, think twice.  I personally feel that it’s more work to keep a feeder full, clean and safe, than planting some easy care flowers like the Zauschneria, above. From the Las Pilitas website: “Just plant, Zauschneria species, California fuchsia everywhere (well maybe not everywhere, but in a lot of places. avis.) in your garden. The California fuchsias can flower from July through December. They flower and flower, trim off the old flowers, and they flower more. They are excellent in rock walls. California fuchsias can tolerate garden water as well as being very drought tolerant. These flowers come in white, pink, and red with gray or green foliage. The vary in with from a couple of inches tall to a couple of feet.”

this is Salvia greggii, Variety, San Antonia.

This is Salvia greggii, Variety, San Antonio.

The Salvias are easy to grow, have low water requirements and are long blooming. Hummingbirds love them. To find out lots more about their life cycle and plants they enjoy, read this article from Las Pilitas.

the high wire act

Resting is important to hummingbirds as they have such a high metabolism.

Shady resting spot

Shaded branches in nearby trees are perfect for hiding from predators and resting between dive bombs on the flowers.

Vegetable Garden

Zauschneria, edges an inviting path into the edible garden.

Hummingbirds need fresh water, shelter and safe nesting sites in order to thrive, in addition to flowering plants. The greatest diversity of hummingbird species is found in areas where plant life is more diverse, which in turn leads to more diverse insect life – both plants and insects are critical food sources for hummingbirds. As you can see in the photo above, of my garden, diversity is paramount. Trees, vines, shrubs, flowers, annuals, vegetables, are all designed into a small area. A well thought out form is important for the visual enjoyment of the garden. Read this article for design elements in the edible garden.

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Resting hummingbird on a tomato cage

Habitat conservation is critical for protecting all hummingbird species. Creating a backyard habitat can nurture local hummingbirds as well as provide a rest stop for migrating hummingbirds, but if those migrants have nowhere safe to go, your efforts could be useless. Supporting conservation programs in tropical regions where hummingbirds are most diverse is critical for preserving these beautiful birds, and many birding organizations such as the American Bird Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society work to preserve habitat in many areas where hummingbirds thrive. By understanding hummingbirds’ habitat needs and knowing what makes a good hummingbird habitat, it is possible not only to enjoy these birds close by, but also to ensure their survival throughout their widespread ranges.

Jun 112014
 
This hummingbird is going after the nicotiana

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

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Chard stalks are beautiful, too.

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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.

Events

 

Events in April 2014

Date:  Saturday, April 5 – 2014 – How to Have a Successful Garden – A Hands on Workshop

Time: 10 am – 1 pm 

Place: Avis’ Garden, Woodacre, California – (address given when you sign up)

Cost: $50 per class or special rate of $160 for all four classes

Register:




Description: Talk on how to use your site for best results. 2 hours of hands on: seed sowing, bed preparation, best soil practices, how to deal with weeds, best organic fertilizers, watering during drought – best practices of water use. There will be time for questions on your own garden.

Vegetable gardens can be beautiful

Vegetable gardens can be beautiful

Date:  Saturday, April 12, 2014 How to Have a Successful Garden – Part two

Time: 10 am – 1 pm

Place: Avis’ Garden, Woodacre, California(address given when you sign up)

Cost:  $50 per class 

Register:




Description:  Talk on how to keep your plants growing successfully through the season. How to recognize damage from bird, snails, insects and then how to deal with them organically and successfully. Dividing, propagating and lifting perennial vegetables and flowers. Composting – with bins, worms and your kitchen waste. Turning garbage into gold.

Radishes grow quickly and are delicious in salads.  They make a colorful addition.

Radishes grow quickly and are delicious in salads. They make a colorful addition.

 

Date:  Saturay, April 19, 2014 – How to Have a Successful Garden – Part three

Time: 10 am – 1 pm

Place: Avis’ Garden, Woodacre, California – (address given when you sign up)

Cost:  $50 per class or special rate of $160 for all four classes

Register:




Description:  Maintaining your garden; how to water, using drip, spray or by hand. Moisture meters, reading your water meter, smart controllers – what are they and why we use them.  and of course, bring questions about your own garden.

An inviting path into the edible garden.

An inviting path into the edible garden.

 

 

 

Mar 172014
 

by Avis Licht

All the good food in a week's box in Live Power Farm's CSA

All the good food in a week’s box in Live Power Farm’s CSA

This winter I went to visit Live Power Community Farm, in Covelo, California. This farm is part of a movement called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, for short. The idea for this model, is that the people who eat the food support the farmers by guaranteeing them a fee for the food every week, so that the farmer is not left out on a limb of growing and then not knowing who will buy their food.  This model shares the risk involved with farming and allows the farmers to get on with their job of growing the best food possible.

Live Power Community Farm, the first CSA in California, is a unique model of how to sustain a farm through the power of relationship, community and a transformative economic model.  In effect, the community of people eating from the farm are not simply buying food, but also partnering with the farmers to sustain the farm. They deliver to the San Francisco Bay Area from May to November.

  They write: 
If you would like to be a part of this vibrant community farm, there are harvest shares available for the coming season.  The CSA season begins May 10th, 2014 and continues every Saturday till November 22, 2014.  

Live Power’s vegetables are biodynamically grown with a low carbon footprint. Where else can you get vegetables that have been grown without a tractor?  Keep Live Power’s horses employed, join the community! 
 
Horse drawn plows

Using draft horses and old fashioned plows, the Decaters, gently work the soil.

And did I mention: all of the vegetables taste fantastic!  They’ve been picked usually less than a day before they arrive in your basket.  You get to try new foods and always eat what’s in season.  Particularly rewarding, you and your children can get to know the farmers and can even visit the farm (located in Covelo, Mendocino County).

Gorgeous, beautiful broccoli, fresh from the farm to you

Gorgeous, beautiful broccoli, fresh from the farm to you

How does it work? You sign up for a share. You will then be grouped into a cluster with others that live near you.  Each cluster sends one person per week to the sort, which will take place at the Waldorf High  School in San Francisco this year.  From 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings, the sort group joins together to distribute the vegetables and fruit for all members. The sort is a fun, community-building event. After the sort, each sorter delivers the baskets to the other families in their neighborhood, and most of the rest of the 29 weeks their basket will be delivered to them by the rest of the members in their cluster  
 
Each share is responsible for doing the sort about 5 – 6 times per year.  Some families split a share, meaning picking up baskets filled with veggies from our porch every other week and going into the City to sort 2 – 3 times per year.

For a list of the projected and actual quantities and varieties of vegetables received last year, please go to http://www.livepower.org/csa-overview/bay-area/ and look under the Live Power Offerings.  Also, attached is a list of prices.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call one of the delightful farmers, Gloria Decater, at (707) 983-8196 or livepower@livepower.org or one of the SF Bay area members, Amy Belkora at 415-596-2866 or abelkora@gmail.com  
Row after row of compost, from their farm, feeds the soil and powers their food.

Row after row of compost, from their farm, feeds the soil and powers their food.

 

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

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