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.


IMG_0758

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.

IMG_0759

 

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.


IMG_0761

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.

IMG_0763

IMG_0764

IMG_0765

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

IMG_0766

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.

IMG_0768

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.

IMG_0771

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.

IMG_0772

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.

 

IMG_0774

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 272015
 

by Avis Licht

sowing seeds

Sowing seeds and germinating in the kitchen window

Seeds, though small in size are a force of nature.  They carry the future in their tiny form. All the information to grow a might oak is in that tiny acorn.  In nature, every seed is slightly different and allows for the possibility of change:  sometimes better, sometimes worse than it’s parent.  Depending on the conditions after sprouting, a seed can grow strong and healthy or be weak. Like a person with a strong immune system, a healthy plant can withstand disease and attack by pests.

Seed packets

Get seed from organic, reputable seed companies

 

I’m not going to get into a discussion here about hybrid seeds or GMO, but allow me the premise that healthy plants produce healthy seed and it is to your benefit to choose seed from reputable companies that sell healthy, organic seeds.

It is then up to you to make sure you give those seeds the right growing conditions: from the soil you use to plant them, to the sun and warmth for sprouting. In this post you’ll learn how to mix your soil, sow seed, cover it and water it. It sounds simple, and is, but there are a few basic things you can do to assure success.

earthworm castings

Earthworm castings are a wonderful medium for starting seeds

Soilless seed starter medium

Clean, light medium for starting seed is a good idea

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Choose your seeds: Pick the right plant for your climate it and sow it at the right time. Pick your favorite veggies and see if they are appropriate for your climate and the size of your garden. You can do this by googling your plant, reading seed packets, or talking to your gardening neighbors.  They often have the best information. In the U.S. you can get a lot of information at this site, SmartGardener.com by typing in your zip code.

2.Mix your seed starting medium: Seeds have enough energy in them to germinate and grow their first true leaves.  After that they need some, but not a lot of nutrition in their sprouting medium.  We can call this needing breakfast.  I mix my own compost or earthworm castings in with a medium like the Seed Starter from E.B. Organics. This starter is sphagnum moss, perlite, and gypsum.  It is clean, light and has no real nutrient.  Seeds will germinate and send roots quickly into the medium.  By mixing it with a little compost or earthworm castings you will add “breakfast”.

filled seed containers

Put the seed medium into container and tamp it down.

Seed starting medium - mix it up a little

Mix different materials in a container

 

3. Sow your seeds on the surface.  In the small six packs (recycled, of course from previous use), I put 2 seeds per section.  In the larger 2 inch pots I put 4 seeds per pot, and in the 4 inch container I put 6 – 8 seeds.  I use the larger pots for quick germinating larger plants, like chard and broccoli. I use the smaller pots for lettuce, spinach, bok choy and smaller plants. Lightly cover the seeds.  The smaller the seed, the less soil on top.  Your seed packet will tell you how deep to cover your seed.

Seed sowing under lights

Using flourecent lights and a heating pad, seeds get an early start

4. Lightly water your seeds.  A heavy  flow of water will displace your seeds. Use the lightest setting on your watering wand, a light sprinkling can or a spray bottle.  Be sure that your medium is moist before you put the seed in it.  You want it moist, but not soaking wet. Seeds need to be kept moist until germination.  If they are in the sun, be sure to water them a few times a day.

Lettuce seed

Tiny seeds need to be on the surface of the soil, and watered gently.

Broccoli seedlings

Seedlings this size are ready for planting outside

Next step will be how to prepare your garden beds.  We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

You’re ready to grow wonderful, delicious food in your edible landscape. Whether you have pots on the deck, a few square feet, or an entire yard for growing, only do as much as you can happily take care of. Remember, you’re trying to enjoy this project.

the ornamental vegetable garden

A vegetable garden doesn’t have to be square

 

 

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

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

MULCH IS GOOD FOR THE GARDEN

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

Rough compost is used for large areas

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

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

ADVANTAGES OF MULCHING

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

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

DISADVANTAGES OF MULCHING

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

TYPES OF MULCH

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

WHERE TO MULCH

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

Mulching keeps the yard looking good and provides a healthy environment

Jan 242014
 
Hemerocallis - Edible flowers - look good and taste good

posted by, not written by Avis Licht

I make it a rule to only post what I write unless I have a guest blogger.  A friend sent me this story about lawns and drought and some other crazy garden behavior.  We haven’t been able to find the author but hope you enjoy the story.

Japanese Maple leaves resting on the ground in the Fall.

Japanese Maple leaves resting on the ground in the Fall.

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

Plant food not lawns!

Plant food not lawns!

 

Nov 192013
 
feijoa sellowiana

by Avis Licht –

feijoa sellowiana


Pineapple Guava

Fruit that ripens in the Fall

 

The Pineapple Guava is one of my favorite plants.  It serves many purposes in the edible garden. It’s an easy care, evergreen shrub that has edible flowers, edible fruits and somehow, the deer DON’T eat it.  It almost sounds to good to be true.

Where I live, deer eat almost all our plants, so having one that does all these good things is a real treasure.

Climate:The Pineapple guava grows in Zones 8 – 10.  What this really means is that it likes some cool weather, can go down to 10 deg. F, likes rain in the 30″ – 40″ range, and doesn’t like super hot daytime weather – not so good in the desert.

Soil: It’s adaptable to a wide range of soils, including acidic soil, but prefers a humus rich soil that is well drained.  Adding compost and not manure works for this plant.

Water: This is considered a drought tolerant plant, meaning it survives with relatively little water, but needs adequate water for good fruit production. During dry spells you should give it additional water.  In real terms, this means observe your plant. No matter what the books say, you always need to observe your plants in your own garden setting to see how they are faring and what they need. Everyone’s garden is different from the norm that all these books talk about.  You’ll always want and need to adjust requirements to your own situation.

by Avis Licht – If you need some great information on starting your Spring Garden, have a look at my new ebook, called The Spring Garden Made Easy

See these pretty pink petals? They are edible. Just gently pull them off and leave the rest of the flower so that it turns into fruit. The petals are really delicious. Take my word for it.

Sun: Full sun is best – but it can tolerate partial shade

Wind:The Pineapple guava makes a good windbreak. It can take some salt air, but I wouldn’t put it on the dunes as a first line wind break.

Care:  What I really love about this plant is that it needs so little care.  It just grows happily on its own. You can prune it for shape or let it alone. If you prune it back hard, you will lose some fruit production.

Pests: Almost none. Well, I haven’t seen any.

Be sure to check out my store of favorite reliable tools and implements for the garden.

Fruit and flowers:  The flowers which bloom late Spring are edible. The thick petals are spicy and are eaten fresh. The petals may be plucked without interfering with fruit set. The fruit ripens in late Fall, which is a great boon, since almost everything else in the garden is gone.  The fruit in the picture below, came from my garden on November 19th. They taste fresh and tangy. We eat them by scooping out the fruit with a spoon.  Or you can  cook them in puddings, pastry fillings, fritters, dumplings, fruit-sponge-cake, pies or tarts.

Scoop the fruit of the pineapple guava

Scoop the fruit of the pineapple guava out of the skin.

Don’t forget to check out my ebook: The Spring Garden Made Easy. It’s only $4.99 and gives a mountain of information.

Apr 302012
 

by Avis Licht – Growing food in containers is easy and straightforward. Here are some tips that will give you greater success.

Ornamental containers can grow herbs and food.

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

1. Site your pots so they get enough sun for the type of plant you are growing. Lettuce doesn’t need to be in full sun, but most of your herbs prefer it sunny. If you’re planting on a deck with an overhang be sure to watch what the sun does during the day. If you have a choice, morning sun is better for plants than afternoon sun, which can be really hot.

2. Choose plants that you like to eat and will be sure to harvest. Herbs are a great choice for containers, as you can cut a little bit off regularly and the plant still looks good and grows well. Herbs suitable for containers are: Rosemary, parsley, thyme, chives, basil, cilantro, lemon verbena, oregano, lavender, tarragon, sage and mint.

Blue violas

These violas have been blooming for 5 months

3. Edible flowers, of course are a great plant for containers. They are ornamental as well as edible. You can decorate your meals with them. Some of the easiest to grow include, nasturtiums, dianthus, calendula, Lemon Gem marigold, Citrus Mixed marigold and Tangerine Gem marigold. Scented geraniums have leaves and flowers that you can use to garnish food. Pansies are well known, can grow in shade and are easy to find. Pansy and violet leaves and flowers are edible and nutritious.

Nasturtiums

 

 

 

Pansy and lavender in pot

Pansy and lavender combine nicely in pots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. IMPORTANT TIP! Plants in containers dry out quickly. Sun on the pots heats up the sides and causes them to dry out.  It is important to keep them moist.  When soil dries out water goes through the soil without being absorbed. People think they’re watering when they put the hose to the pots, but in fact, if the soil is dry, the water goes through the pot and out the bottom.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this.  If you have a drip system, put the pots on their own schedule and water them 5 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day. This allows the water to soak in and not drip out the bottom.

One of the best solutions to container planting that I’ve found are self watering pots.  They have a reservoir at the bottom and the moisture wicks up into the soil.  Some of these pots only need watering once a week or even once every two weeks and your plants stay healthy and strong.  It is a great solution.

I’ve been using these containers for years with huge success. You can get them from Gardener’s Supply along with a light weight soil medium for growing your plants. They have a special container and mix just for tomatoes

tomato in self watering container

Self watering containers keep plants from drying out.

.

self watering  pots

Keep plants moist and healthy with self watering containers

Gardener's Supply Company

Let me know what are your favorite plants to grow in containers.

Feb 152012
 


by Avis Licht

Wire fencing covered with bird netting

To completely protect plants, cover with bird netting

 

We love the birds in our garden, but we don’t love how they eat the young seedlings. Here is the best way I’ve found to keep the little rascals from wrecking your garden.

1. Plant the seedlings, like lettuce, beets or broccoli in a raised bed. When you plant intensively in a bed it is easier to protect more plants than if they are in single rows.

2. Place wire  fencing over the bed in a hoop like fashion.  You can also use heavy gauge wire, flexible plastic tubing or bender board.

 

 

 

Hoop shape over bed with netting

Keep your netting off the plants to allow room for growing

3. Pin the edges down with wire staples that are used for holding down irrigation tubing.

4. Lay bird netting over the wire. Pin it down carefully along the edge of the bed.  If you leave any openings the birds will sneak in.

Seedlings under protection

 

One little thing. You need to be sure that it’s birds eating your seedlings and not some other pests, like snails or slugs. Bird netting will NOT keep the snails out. A bird will bite the plant and leave a v shaped mark like this > .  Snails and slugs eat both the edges and the middle of the leaf in curves.

snail damage to leaf

Snails and slugs will chew the edges and center of a leaf

 

Nov 112011
 
Redwood Picket Gate
Gate and Arbor from recycled materials

There are times when you build something for your garden when you want it to look new and times when you want it to look like it’s always been there.

Hand hewn pickets make a beautiful fence

A garden gate from old Redwood pickets

When picking a gate design, you need to consider:

  • Form of the gate
  • Existing structures and style in your garden
  • Security issues
  • Strength and durability

 

These pickets were hand hewn and many years old. They came from a job where the owners wanted a new fence that looked more modern. Style changes. Into the back of my truck and home they went with me.

In the case of my garden, which is very informal and has Oak trees that are hundreds of years old this picket fits in perfectly.The hand hewn form of the pickets create a beautiful look that you can’t get from  milled lumber.

Since this is an interior gate, going from one part of the garden to another, it did not need to be terribly strong.  Just strong enough to keep the dog on one side.

Close up few of picket

Hand hewn pickets create interest

Another use of the pickets was for the railing coming down my stairs. When seen up close as in a railing, the pickets add interest and history to the stairs.

Using recycled pickets for railing

Hand hewn pickets for stair railings

It is becoming more common to find recycled materials. The trick is to find what works for your particular situation. When making design decisions, pay attention to what already exists in your garden so that there’s not too much mixing of styles. Find materials that are easy to work with. Have fun coming up with new ideas.

 

Nov 102011
 
Recycled Brick and wood go together well

Recycled brick steps with wood edge on a wood deck

 

When adding new structures to your garden such as steps, paths, trellises and gates be sure to consider using recycled materials. 

For the steps above I used bricks that someone else didn’t want anymore and that I had been storing for some “future” project.

We did a small remodel  in the living room, putting in sliding doors. This then required some steps down to the existing deck.  My first thought was to use the same wood as the deck.   But  I had the bricks and we needed something right away.We laid the bricks in front of the door on the wood deck.  They looked good, but posed two problems.  Though bricks are heavy, they tended to slip a little and were not entirely safe.  The second problem was bricks on wood held in moisture and would rot the deck.

brick step in process

Wood framing and metal shelf keep the steps dry and in place

Solutions to these problems were straight forward. We built a wood frame around the bricks with 2 x 4 Redwood and laid an old wire shelf underneath for drainage.  The wire shelf had just enough height to keep the bricks off the wood, but not so much as to change the height of the steps.

The final decision on the steps was an aesthetic one.  How many different materials can you use in one area and have it look unified? Using recycled materials is great, but throwing whatever you have at a project won’t work if it doesn’t look good.

Keep your design simple and it can look very elegant. Look around with an open mind and you might surprise yourself with what materials are available.

Mixed media works for me - Brick and Wood

Brick steps with wood edging look good on a wood deck

Tomorrow I’ll show you how I used someone’s throw away fence pickets to build a gate and a railing.

Ask Avis

CLOSE

Your question has been sent!

Ask Avis any questions about your garden.

Name *
Email *
URL (include http://)
Subject *
Question *
* Required Field

© 2011-2018 Edible Landscaping Made Easy With Avis Licht All Rights Reserved