Jun 072013
 

by Avis Licht

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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 212013
 
Edible landscaping

by Avis Licht

Bamboo poles for climbing plants

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

 

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

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

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

Artichoke, plum, alstroemaria

Raised vegetable box

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

California native plants

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

Native California plants

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

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

 

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

Container Gardening

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

Chicken coop

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

Fruit trees in containers

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

 

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

Cauliflower

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

 

 

tower of strawberries

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To find out more about growing strawberries read this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Back yard garden

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

 

 

 

 

The Entry Patio

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

Vegetable Garden

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

 

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Nov 102012
 

by Avis Licht – 

carrots

Beautiful, delicious carrots from a container planting

People who live in urban areas or in apartments often think they can’t grow food. But using planters can be a fun and easy way to grow certain crops.  Containers have their challenges, particularly because of limited soil and need for careful watering and fertilizing.  On the up side, you can put them in small places, in the right light conditions and keep the bugs away. For more on container growing, read this post.

A confession – for two years I haven’t been able to grow any carrots, though I’ve sowed a whole lot of seeds. I prepare the bed carefully, rake and smooth it. Sow it. Water it. Watch and wait.  Sure enough the seeds germinate, I give a victorious shout. The next day I come out and all the seedlings are gone. Some ravenous sow bugs, earwigs, slugs, snails or combination of any or all of the above have managed to decimate my crop. For gardening beginners, this could be very discouraging, especially if an experienced gardener can’t seem to have success.

See those carrots in the photo? Those are mine. I grew them. In a container! Here’s how:

1. Get a pot: clay, wood, plastic or cloth – doesn’t matter.  For carrots, the pot should be 10 -12 inches deep.

Container for planting

A cloth container – use and put it away when you don’t need it. These cloth pots are easy to transport, easy to store: a real plus in urban areas. Find them at this site: Smart Pots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Fill container with planting  medium

Carrot seedlings

A mix of seed starting medium and worm compost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Keep seed moist to germinate, keep pot watered, but not soggy. Thin seedlings: 1/2 -1 inch apart.

Carrots in pot

2 months after sowing, carrots have filled in container and are ready for harvesting

 

When harvesting, gently separate the greens and look for the largest carrots . Pull them out carefully, making sure not to disturb the neighboring carrots. It wouldn’t hurt to give them a little water after harvesting to settle the roots.

In a 3 gallon size pot (like the one on the left) I will harvest more than 50 small carrots.  They are were incredibly sweet and I had NO bug problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to read more about container planting in this post.  Sign up for an email subscription to this blog so you won’t miss a post.

container grown carrots

Even on tiny decks you can grow fun food. Not only herbs and flowers, but greens, salads and much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 232012
 
Strawberries


by Avis Licht

Strawberries

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

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

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

Can you have too many strawberry plants?

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

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

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

Mandarin orange in a container

It's easy to grow citrus in a pot

 

 

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

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

 

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

Fig in a container

Figs thrive in planting containers

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

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

 

 

 

Dec 202011
 
Oregano variegated

By Avis Licht

Oreganum vulgare hirtum

Whether you call it Oregano or Marjoram it tastes almost the same

It’s been confusing to a lot of people for a long time.  What is the difference between Marjoram and Oregano? Not exactly a life changing question, but certainly one that (at least some) gardeners need answered.

The oregano tribe  includes plants that are called both marjoram and oregano. Both are from the Mediterranean area and are attractive to bees and butterflies. Sweet marjoram (Oreganum majorana and O. hortensis) grow in zones 8-24. It has a mild flavor. You can use both the leaves and the flowers in cooking.

Grow all varieties in full sun with good drainage. You can plant most of the year from plants or propagate by division from older plants.  If you live in a very cold climate, with snow and long lasting frosts, this plant can be grown indoors in pots on a sunny windowsill. Choose a compact variety if you grow it in a pot. ‘Country Cream’ or or ‘White Anniversary’ are good for pots.

As with other Mediterranean herbs, this one does not need much water or fertilizer. Gardeners often make the mistake of giving too much love to their plants. Herbs in particular do not need to have high levels of nitrogen in the soil, or too much moisture.  These will dilute the flavor of the herb.

Oregano variegated

Mix your foliage colors in the garden to add beauty and interest

A beautiful form of Oregano is the variegated leaf, ‘Aureum’, ‘Aureum Crispum, or Oreganum variegatum.  In the edible landscape it’s good to combine both qualities of beauty and practicality.

If you decide to grow your herbs in pots, you might consider using self watering planters They have a reservoir at the bottom, that wicks up into the soil.  It keeps the plant moist, but not too wet.

For those of us who can’t grow a house plant for the life of us, this is a definite must have. These planters, are also great outdoors. If you have a sunny protected south wall, you can grow many herbs outside, even in cold climates. It doesn’t hurt to try.

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