Apr 102015
 

Get the right tools for pruning your roses

by A. Non Y. Mous

A good friend sent this little gem to me.  I wanted to share it. Especially now that our governor, Jerry Brown, has declared war on lawns due to the extreme drought in California. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Then if you want to get rid of your lawn, we can talk about replacing it will low water use flowers and shrubs and some delicious edibles. I consult by skype and photos.

Of Lawns and God

GOD: St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the USA? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental! Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, sir — just the opposite. They pay to throw it away!

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You’d better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber,” Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about . . .

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.  Source: Unknown

Edible landscaping

This was a lawn and now it’s not.

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.

Jan 192015
 

by Avis Licht

If you’re in the winter doldrums, then now is a great time to start planning your Spring garden. From sowing seeds, to picking the right spot for each plant, composting, and getting your soil ready  for planting, I’ve got it covered in this easy to read booklet, The Spring Garden Made Easy.

Vegetable Garden

Zauschneria, edges an inviting path into the edible garden.

Get my book  and  be ready for Spring!

 

It’s that time of year – time to start the Spring Garden.  If you want to know what to grow in your own climate, how to start seed and how to make compost, be sure to get my e book.  Under $5 and you get all the information I learned in 40 years of gardening.  Well, maybe not all, but probably the best parts.

Robert Kourik, author of Your Edible Landscape – Naturally writes:
“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.”

If you would like a simple, easy to follow handbook on starting your Spring Garden, then you’re in luck. I’ve written a concise, 20 page manual for the novice gardener. Based on 40 years of gardening experience I’ve winnowed down the information to make it a straight forward process.Only $4.99.  You can’t afford not to have this helpful guide to start your Spring Garden!

Spring Garden Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Spring Garden Made Easy

The first book, The Spring Garden Made Easy, is aimed at helping you start out, one step at a time to be successful and inspire you to keep going. Yes, there may be set backs – snails, earwigs, gophers, deer, they all want a part of your garden. Learn to how to keep them from getting too much and even how to share. Click on the Buy Now button above  and you can download it immediately. My hourly consultation is definitely more than $5, which is the cost of the book.  Since I can’t be with all of you in your garden, take this opportunity to pick my brain by buying the book.  Be sure to sign up for the blog as well, it’s free and it’s got lots of information.  I always love to hear from my readers.  Leave me a comment and let me know how your garden grows. In the joy of gardening, Avis

lettuce

Mixed lettuce varieties

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 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.

 

Mar 132014
 

 

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

HOW TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL GARDEN
  Hands – on workshop 

 If you love to garden and want to have the most luscious, successful, beautiful garden, then don’t miss this great opportunity to study with Avis Licht; gardener, farmer, author, teacher, landscape designer and lover of worms. Avis has been a successful gardener and landscape designer for 40 years. 

We’ll cover all the topics you need to start your garden or get your existing garden in peak shape. You’ll get to take home all the plants you sow, divide or make cuttings from.

 

DATES: Saturdays -April 5, 12, 19, and 26th –  from 10 am to 1 pm.

COST:  $50 per class or $160 for all four classes 

LOCATION: Classes will be in Woodacre, Ca

Contact Avis at:

avislicht@gmail.com

Directions given when you sign up

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

Feb 242014
 

by Avis Licht

A curved path creates wonder and surprise. You can't see what's around the corner

A curved path creates expectation and surprise. You can’t see what’s around the corner.

When designing your garden, in addition to the obvious considerations of sun, soil and site, you want to make it beautiful  with harmonious color and form and movement . To this I want to add Expectation and Surprise.

I was happily reminded of this when a friend took me on a new hike. She said it was special.

We went to an ordinary looking trailhead and walked up the dirt road through the trees and across the hills.  At a certain point we came to a place in the road that had recently been worked on, with very large stones laid at the edge of the road. Two small seasonal creeks came together and went under the road through a culvert as is common here. Before going across the road my friend turned hard right down a trail.

“Where are you going?” “Just follow me,” she said. So I did.  After just a short walk down into the woods, we turned around, looking back to the road – excuse the phrase – Lo and Behold! we saw the most amazing stone egg sculpture set under the road and surrounded by a 360 degree circle of stones.  The sculpture was more than 6 feet tall.

The surprise was enormous and added to the joy of the vision in front of us. It was so out of the ordinary and so unexpected that we couldn’t stop exclaiming.

Andy Goldsworthy Egg

The Surprise in the Culvert

Although we cannot all present a surprise of an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture on our property, we can surprise our visitors with unexpected beauty and form. A fragrance, a place to sit, a view that is slightly hidden and then unfolds is a sweet gift.

Imagination and Surprise

Imagination and Surprise

 

Feb 182014
 
Romanesco caulofloer

click to enlarge photo

by Avis Licht

Fractals and the fibonacci sequence – two of natures amazing design schemes. Here they are demonstrated beautifully in the Romanesco cauliflower.

A fractal is a geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry.

To understand more about  fractals and biomimicry read this article in Livescience. Biomimicry looks to nature and natural systems for inspiration. After millions of years of tinkering, Mother Nature has worked out some effective processes. In nature, there is no such thing as waste — anything left over from one animal or plant is food for another species. Inefficiency doesn’t last long in nature, and human engineers and designers often look there for solutions to modern problems.

For more on the Fibonacci Sequence in nature read this: Fibonacci in Nature.

I harvested this head of cauliflower today, February 16th. It’s been a cold and dry winter. But this beauty carried on and turned into a wonderful head. The brassica family is a sturdy and incredibly healthy food. I found this article on the Brassicas and their nutrient value to be eye opening. It will make you a believer.

If you live in a moderate climate, it’s time to start thinking about sowing your seeds for  broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and the other brassicas. I wrote about seed starting in this post: Starting Seeds in your Edible Landscape.

To find out which Hardiness Zone you live in click here. See if it’s time for you to start getting your Brassicas, otherwise known as the cabbage family, into the garden.

The Fibonacci Sequence manifested clearly in a simple(?) vegetabke

The Fibonacci Sequence manifested clearly in a simple(?) vegetable

When choosing plants for your edible landscape, it’s good to consider unusual varieties like this Romanesco Cauliflower. They look beautiful, are easy to grow and taste wonderful.  And your friends will ask, “What in the hell is that?”

You will find my ebook, the Spring Garden Made Easy, a straight forward guide to getting your garden going and growing.

sunflower

Another example of the Fibonacci sequence

Cauliflower-Fibonacci

Feb 102014
 
Seeds packets will have directions on them.

by Avis Licht

Size of your seed may determine how you sow it

Large seeds often go directly in the ground, and very small seeds do as well.

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. Everyone wants to know. Don’t waste money buying new seed if you’ve got what’s good but you don’t want to lose precious time by sowing bad seed.

Here is a simple method to see if your seed is still viable.

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.

Seed storage containers

Empty seasoning and herb bottles are used for storing seed.

20% Off e-Gift Cards with code AFFBVALD until 2/14 only at Burpee.com!

 Seed Savers is also a good company. Rainbow Chard is delicious, beautiful and super healthy.
Seed storage bottle was old salt container

With these bottles you can even sprinkle out   the seed evenly. Perfect use for an old salt bottle.

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.


20% Off e-Gift Cards with code AFFBVALD until 2/14 only at Burpee.com!

Feb 032014
 
The Italian Garden

by Avis Licht –

Paths save the soil

Paths create a line of view and protect the soil from compaction.

Here is one ridiculously simple way to save your garden from compaction, drought and confusion.

Create paths exactly where you want people to walk. That’s it. That’s the ridiculously simple and effective way to save water, improve your soil and avoid confusion.

Compaction makes it difficult for water to penetrate, for air to infiltrate and for roots to grow in a healthy manner. Different soil types react differently to being walked on.

Sandy soil has the largest particles among the different soil types. It’s dry and gritty to the touch, and because the particles have huge spaces between them, it can’t hold on to water and does not compact so easily. So you folks near the beach can worry less about this. The rest of you, listen up.

Silty soil has much smaller particles than sandy soil so it’s smooth to the touch. When moistened, it’s soapy slick. When you roll it between your fingers, dirt is left on your skin.

Silty soil can also easily compact. It can become poorly aerated, too.

Clay soil has the smallest particles among the three so it has good water storage qualities. It’s sticky to the touch when wet, but smooth when dry. Due to the tiny size of its particles and its tendency to settle together, little air passes through its spaces. This type of soil is also prone to major compaction.

Just the one action of NOT walking on your soil can help immensely. Reducing compaction allows water to penetrate, saving water; increases root growth, creating conditions for healthier plants, reduces confusion by showing people where to walk.

By building paths, you tell your guests, and yourself exactly where to walk, thereby reducing all confusion. (See first sentence).

Here’s a post I wrote on how to make a simple, safe and sturdy path. The Well Made Path.

Raised beds are a great way to keep your soil from being stepped on continuously.Click here to see a variety of Raised Beds.

Mulch, stones, brick, wood rounds set in a clearly marked path will all work to reduce compacted soils.

This image comes from the University of Kentucky; 

They write: “Compaction results when soil particles are pressed together, reducing pore space and aeration.  The damage to the soil structure reduces the soil’s ability to hold and conduct water, nutrients, and oxygen.  Rate of water infiltration is decreased and more water is lost to runoff.  Other effects of compaction include decreased organic matter, reduced microbial activity, poor drainage, increased erosion, and nutrient leaching.

These undesirable effects on the soil directly affect plant growth.  Roots have increased difficulty when penetrating the soil which often results in reduced root growth and reduced ability to take up water and nutrients.  Compacted soils can slow forage establishment, cause short and stunted plants, decrease drought tolerance, and reduce overall yields.  Severely compacted areas often have sparse growth or are bare due to these problems.”

Even a simple stone path, planted with ground cover is beautiful and effective. Paths: you don’t want to live without them.

Jan 292014
 
wpid-CAM02057.jpg

By Avis Licht

Mulch

Use mulch, plant drought resistant plants, and drip irrigation

On the west coast of the United States we’re experiencing the worst drought in over 150 years. With more people needing more water, food and goods it is important that all of us do our part to reduce our water use.

Gardeners love their plants and don’t want them to die. I’ll continue writing posts on best gardening practices to help you keep your garden healthy and happy using less water.

Most plants absorb almost all their water through their roots. A well-developed root structure will be your insurance for survival in drought conditions.

 

The best way to get excellent roots is to have loose, friable soil with plenty of humus and organic matter. By working the soil with a fork or rototiller and incorporating compost and/or manure you create the conditions for the soil to be like a sponge that holds and then releases water. Read more about compost here.

Big Mother earth worm

Worms are important for soil health.

A note on roots. When soil moisture varies widely from wet to dry it damages the delicate root hairs that are responsible for taking up moisture. Using mulch is very important to maintain the moisture in the soil by slowing evaporation.

mulched garden

Protect your roots by protecting the soil with mulch.

A note on leaves on the plants. Leaves don’t absorb much moisture but they do transpire moisture; The hotter and more windy the day, the more water the plants lose through their leaves . Row covers or shade cloth put over the plants in hot weather will reduce transpiration rates. You can find row covers and hoops to put them in your garden at this link: Row Covers for the Garden. You can buy shade fabric here: Shade Fabric.

Be sure to sign up on my subscription or feed burner to get notified when I put up more posts. You won’t want to miss any of this great information. I’ll keep writing about drought conditions and ways to keep your garden healthy and happy.

Jan 212014
 

by Avis Licht

Combine your raised bed with a top and voila! a cold frame and bird protector

Combine your raised bed with a top and voila! a cold frame and bird protector

This raised bed has many positive attributes. Let me count the ways.

1. It is easy to build. Using either recycled or new wood, you only need to put the four sides together with angle brackets. I suggest that you make the bed small enough that you can reach over to harvest and weed; not more than 3 feet deep. It should be long enough to grow the kind of crop you want and fit into the area that you want to put it.

With simple corner piece, you can make your box and top strong

With a simple corner piece, you can make your box and top strong

 

 

 

 

2. You can put wire underneath the bed easily to keep the gophers out. I suggest using hardware cloth, as it is strong and won’t rust out for a long time and the opening is small enough to keep the gophers from coming through.

Hardware cloth

Put wire under box to keep the gophers out

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. You can fill the raised bed with the best topsoil for your needs. You can buy organic soil and add compost or manure depending on your crops. Basically, you have more control over the soil when you bring it in, but it can also be expensive.  If you have reasonable topsoil in your garden, you can mix it with amendments. Bought topsoil also has the advantage of being weed free.

4. The beauty of the cover is that it can be used as a cold frame when covered with plastic, a shade bed when covered with shade cloth or as bird protection when covered with bird netting. With hinges it is easy to open and close. This makes for better control of temperature in the bed: you can prop it all the way open if the sun is out or just a little bit for air flow.  A hinged top makes for easy harvesting. Take a look at this picture of my kale, that the birds are using as a bird feeder. Yikes! Gotta get a cover on them.

This raised bed is covered with a plastic top, but it could also just be wire for bird protection

This raised bed is covered with a plastic top, but it could also just be wire for bird protection

Bird damage to a mature kale plant.

Bird damage to a mature kale plant.

Let me know what beds you use and if they work well for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMGP0501

IMGP0501

corner attachment

corner attachment

Hardware cloth

Hardware cloth

Raised Bed and Cold Frame

Raised Bed and Cold Frame

IMGP0497

IMGP0497

IMGP0498

IMGP0498

Raised bed with cover

Raised bed with cover

Kale

Kale

IMGP0501With simple corner piece, you can make your box and top strongHardware clothCombine your raised bed with a top and voila! a cold frame and bird protectorIMGP0497IMGP0498This raised bed is covered with a plastic top, but it could also just be wire for bird protectionBird damage to a mature kale plant.

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