Feb 062015
 

by Avis Licht

I was going to write about rose pruning, since it’s that time of year in many places. Coming out of winter dormancy and going into Spring is a good time to prune roses and many other deciduous trees and shrubs.  But then I realized that before the pruning comes the tools. Right tools make a HUGE difference in the results of your work. Find great tools in my store: Avis’ Store

Pruning saw

You can make delicate cuts with this saw

When you’re working in the garden, it is so satisfying to have a good tool. Whether it’s for pruning, raking or digging, you want your tool to feel strong and make the work easier. It makes no sense to get a cheap tool that doesn’t last and doesn’t do the work

Since there are myriads of tools out there, I’d like to share with you my favorites. It’s also nice at this time of year to give a well made tool as a present.

Fiskar pruning shears

A well made tool is a great delight

Pruning tools include, hand pruners like this Fiskar:

When looking for a hand tool, you want it to fit into your hand comfortably, be easy on the wrist, and be adjustable at the blade, so that you can loosen or tighten it.

And don’t forget your hands. The best gloves for pruning roses and other dangerous plants with thorns are long sleeved rose pruning gloves.

Thick gloves with long sleeves really protect your hands and arms.

Thick gloves with long sleeves really protect your hands and arms.

Protect yourself. Wear gloves.

Protect yourself. Wear gloves.

Hand saws are important for pruning branches larger than an inch in diameter.  You need to make clean cuts. And you don’t want the blade to start getting loose.

For Fall pruning, loppers are also an important tool. You want the handle long enough to create leverage but not so heavy that you can’t use it for extended periods of time.

Loppers

Strong enough and not too heavy. Excellent for Fall and Winter pruning chores.

 

And finally for those hard to reach places you need a long handles pruner. You can extend the handle, prune or saw with the attached blade. This is helpful for branches where you don’t actually want to climb the tree.

The hardest part of pruning overhead, is looking up. By this, I mean that you can get a serious crick in your neck when working overhead. Be sure to take plenty of breaks and stretch.

 

 

 

 

Pruners for edible landscaping

Jan 222015
 

by Avis Licht

I never get tired of talking about compost. Those around me might become a little weary of my composting enthusiasm, but when it comes to alchemy and transformation, compost is right at the top of the chart. To the list of amazing contributions composting makes to the soil and plants, you can add that it is a mighty weapon against climate change. I am not making this up.

Worms make beautiful, healthy soil

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

An experiment in Marin County has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air and potentially turn the vast rangeland of California and elsewhere into a means of sequestering carbon into the soil and mitigating the effects of global warming.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle in October 2014, if compost from green waste were applied to just 5 percent of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries.

The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost. Plants pull carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis and transfer a portion of the carbon to the soil through their roots. Soil microorganisms then turn the carbon into into a stable form commonly known as humus.

This not only sequesters the carbon but improves the soil’s fertility, boosting plant growth and capturing more carbon while also improving the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water.

To find out more about sequestering carbon through rangeland composting, read the full article here.

This illustration comes from the Marin Carbon Project website. Find out much more about carbon farming  and it’s immense possibilities for doing good.

And don’t forget to compost your own green wastes at home!

Need some suggestions? Read about them in my blog: Easy composting.

Need a compost bin? Get one right here: Composting Resources.

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

May 082014
 

by Avis Licht

Herbs in Containers

Herbs in Containers

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

We just need to grow smart.

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

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

Bok choy in container

Bok choy in container

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

Interplant fast and slow growing vegetables together.

Interplant fast and slow growing vegetables together.

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

Use drip irrigation

Use drip irrigation

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

Young plants benefit from compost

Mulching keeps the yard looking good and provides a healthy environment

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

To buy this moisture meter go to my store:

 

moisture meter

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

Mar 282014
 
Wonderbag

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

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

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

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

Using fresh herbs from the garden

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

Chopped Herbs

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

Mushrooms

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

Onions and garlic

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

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

 

The chicken has been sauteed and then the broth added.

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

Pot with lid

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

Close it up tight

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

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

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

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

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

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 102014
 

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!

Jan 222014
 

By Avis Licht

I’ve enjoyed the music of Laurie Lewis for years and then lo and behold she wrote this song called Garden Grow. I think it’s a hoot and  want to share this great tune about her love of the garden and making it grow better. I announce this as my new anthem. Please enjoy her wonderful singing, playing and great good humour. Posted with her total approval.  Visit her site at: Laurielewis.com

Garden  Grow

Laurie Lewis

Jun 122013
 

by Avis Licht

Mixed herbs in the landcape

Mixed herbs in the landcape

In the garden my plants are bursting with happiness from the latest rains after some very warm days.  In northern California we rarely get rain in June, and when we do, it’s cause for celebration.  Irrigation from the municipal water that is treated with chemicals, is not the same as rain and the plants truly respond to the difference.  Read about nitrogen and rain in this post.

Father’s Day is coming up soon.  Be sure your favorite Dad has the tools he needs for his garden. Great Garden Tools

A few easy and useful tips for keeping your summer garden growing well:

1.Check your irrigation system for leaks and make sure all the plants are getting watered.  With overhead sprinklers plants can get missed by interfering foliage.  With drips, you need to check that they are working, haven’t popped off and that there are enough for your plants. Drip is good at conserving water, but you still need to check for moisture  around your plants.

I recommend Robert Kourik’s book on drip irrigation. He is the expert and as we say, wrote the book on it.  Read about it here. 

Here is the place to get drip irrigation at excellent prices: Drip Irrigation Products

2. Mulch your plants to keep the soil from compacting, to preserve moisture and reduce weeds.  Read this post about different types of mulch. I talk about how to pick the right mulch for your garden.

3. Keep Your Eyes Open.  By this I mean, walk around the garden regularly and look at the plants, the soil, and the birds and the bees. By noticing changes in your plants early you can rectify things. For example,  if they are being eaten by bugs, snails or birds, if they’re wilting due to lack of water, sun or even too much moisture, or just not thriving, you will be able to keep the garden healthy before it is too  late. Doing this one thing can be the difference be success and not so much success.

4. Enjoy your garden.  Take the time to sit back with a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  I’ve placed chairs in various places around the garden so that there’s always the right place to sit no matter what time of day it is.

A  quiet shady place to read

A quiet shady place to read or perhaps catch a few winks

Jun 072013
 

by Avis Licht

[portfolio_slideshow include=”2632,2630,2631,2629,2627,2628″]

I love carrots fresh from the garden, but I also have had some real problems growing them.  I get the beds beautifully prepared, raked and ready to go.  Sow the seed, water the bed, watch it germinate and bam! the next day the seedlings are all gone. What in the world?!?

Overnight, small and voracious insects come out and devour my delicate seedlings. Earwigs, sow bugs, snails and slugs are all culprits.  After several seasons of failure, I decided to grow my carrots in containers, where the little buggers can’t get them. Sure enough I have had incredible success.  Not only do the seeds germinate, but growing in potting soil, the carrots come out perfectly formed and absolutely delicious.

Purple Cosmic Carrots

Purple Cosmic Carrots

The pots I used are called Smart Pots.  They are made from fabric that is strong, light weight and come in many sizes.  It is perfect for  folks who don’t have place to store containers when not in use.  They fold up, last for years and create excellent growing conditions for your plants. You can buy them here at discounted prices: Smart Pots.

Baby carrots from Smart Pot

Baby carrots from Smart Pot

 

 

 

 

 

 

I tried some different kinds of carrots this year including, Cosmic Purple, which you can see is a lovely purple, Chantenay Red Core and Shin Kiroda, a baby Japanese variety with short 3″ -5″ carrots, just right for a container. I use only organic potting mix which you can get here: Organic Potting Soil.

You can buy organic vegetable seed packets from Seed Savers Exchange here: Organic Vegetable Seeds.

Be sure to give your carrots plenty of sun, at least 6 hours a day.Carrots need constant moisture – don’t let them dry out, but also, don’t drown them.

Children will love to eat these baby carrots, they are sweet and just the right size.

 

May 022012
 
Rose


Roseby Avis Licht – Do you want to make your mother happy? If she’s like me, she wants something useful and thoughtful. My sons have really nailed it over the years.  Each of the suggestions below are gifts from my sons. Of course, I’m not exactly a “normal” girl, but, hey, get a gal what she wants. If  your mom likes to garden consider getting her one of these:

wheelbarrow

Sturdy, lightweight and well balanced wheelbarrow

 

1: A light weight, well balanced wheel barrow. Seriously. Most wheel barrows are made for men and are too heavy and unwieldy. I use my wheel barrow all the time and it makes my life easier. I never want to do more work than necessary and that means never moving more weight than I have to.

Jeep Model HO-5P for Homeowners 

The perfect wheelbarrow solution for around the garden. Even with 150 pounds, this corrosion-proof 5 cu. ft. wheelbarrow remains light because the tub is up front over the wheel. A steep angle of inclination assures that even a “wet” load will never spill a drop.

D handled spade

I've had my spade for 40 years. It looks like this only dirtier

 

 

2. A strong, well balanced spade. This one should last the rest of her life, hopefully a long one. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  It’s worth spending more now on a good tool and having it last than having to replace one that breaks, or gets wobbly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. You can never go wrong with flexible, well fitting gloves.  A woman’s got to keep her hands looking good and still keep them in the dirt. These gloves fit perfectly, allowing you to use your fine motor skills, unlike some of those gloves that make you want to rip them off your hands so you can get some actual work done. (Click on the photo to order a pair!)

Don’t forget to tell your mother you love her. She’ll like that too.

 

Dec 122011
 
Glass teapot

Glass tea pot is elegant and beautiful

In a previous post I wrote about herbal teas from the garden and the fun of having nice tea pots.  Here is a glass teapot that really shows off your tea.

There are many  wonderful reasons to grow your own food. But when we harvest the bounty of onions or potatoes, we’re also left with the problem of what to do with the food that’s piled up on the kitchen counter.

One way to store tubers and bulbs is in a beautiful basket. These baskets work for onions, potatoes, small winter squash, yams and garlic.

Good looking and tidy basket storage

There are different ways to store your harvest. Baskets are great.

Another vexing problem can be fruit flies.  When you bring in a basketful of tomatoes or apples you can find your kitchen visited by fruit flies. Extremely annoying. These pretty glass containers will take care of those pesky flies with no harmful chemicals.

fruit fly trap

Lures contain yeast, sugar and other natural ingredients

I’ve saved the best for last though. We’re always looking for a good way to store composting scraps in the kitchen and finally someone has made a bucket that fits under the sink with a good tight top. I mean really, it’s about time. You can find all these useful kitchen helpers at Gardener’s Supply Company.

Under counter compost bucket

Finally a good compost bucket to store out of sight

Dec 052011
 
Colorful rubber boots
work gloves

Warm work gloves

Whether the weather is windy or whether the weather is cold, we gardeners still love to be outside.  Winter rarely holds us back. But still, even an Englishman needs warm attire for the cold and rainy days.

A good pair of gloves can almost literally save your life.  Ok, maybe not your life, but certainly your fingers. These insulating, strong work gloves will serve you or your favorite gardener well outdoors.  And they are not expensive.  A glove seems like such a simple thing, yet it is important that it fits your hand for flexibility and dexterity.

I highly recommend these gloves! When you go to The Gardener’s Supply website you’ll find lots more styles of gloves.

 

Next after your hands – your feet! One must have warm, dry feet to stay outside in the cold and damp.  Women like to look good no matter where they are. Even slinging mud in a rain storm to clear the sidewalk.  Why not get her a pair of lively rubber boots?

Don’t forget your head! Really need to keep that warm. This monkey hat will help you stand out from the crowd. What kind of hat do you like to wear?

Hat, anyone?

Different strokes for different folks.

Colorful rubber boots

What lovely lady wouldn't want these wellies?

Nov 192011
 
Tea pots for the Tea Party?

A variety of teapots will always come in handy

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

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

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

tea cup with strainer

This tea cup came with its own strainer.

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Tea Pot with strainer

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

Tea cup with strainer and top

Who could resist this sweet cup with its own top

Nov 182011
 
Pruning saw

You can make delicate cuts with this saw

When you’re working in the garden, it is so satisfying to have a good tool. Whether it’s for pruning, raking or digging, you want your tool to feel strong and make the work easier. It makes no sense to get a cheap tool that doesn’t last and doesn’t do the work well.
Since there are myriads of tools out there, I’d like to share with you my favorites. It’s also nice at this time of year to give a well made tool as a present.

Fiskar pruning shears

A well made tool is a great delight

Pruning tools include, hand pruners like this Fiskar:

When looking for a hand tool, you want it to fit into your hand comfortably, be easy on the wrist, and be adjustable at the blade, so that you can loosen or tighten it.

Hand saws are important for pruning branches larger than an inch in diameter.  You need to make clean cuts. And you don’t want the blade to start getting loose.

For Fall pruning, loppers are also an important tool. You want the handle long enough to create leverage but not so heavy that you can’t use it for extended periods of time.

Loppers

Strong enough and not too heavy. Excellent for Fall and Winter pruning chores.

 

And finally for those hard to reach places you need a long handles pruner. You can extend the handle, prune or saw with the attached blade. This is helpful for branches where you don’t actually want to climb the tree.

The hardest part of pruning overhead, is looking up. By this, I mean that you can get a serious crick in your neck when working overhead. Be sure to take plenty of breaks and stretch.

 

 

 

 

 

Pruners for edible landscaping

Long handled pruners and loppers

With these tools you can do most of your winter pruning that doesn’t require a chain saw or climbing ropes!

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