Nov 122013
 

by Avis Licht

Spring Garden Made Easy

A cover crop is an area of planting that is sown for the purpose of improving the soil and keeping the ground “covered” to prevent erosion.

The right plant can:

  • Increase the  organic matter content of the soil
  • Increase the availability of nutrients
  • Improve the soil’s tilth, which is the texture of the soil
  • Reduce weeds by choking out undesirable plants
  • Reduce soil pests
  • Enhance the soil’s biological activity.

Fava beans are one of my favorite cover crops. You can sow them late in the Fall even in cold weather.

Fava beans germinate quickly and grow even faster.  You can use the tops for compost, eat the beans, and when you’re done with the plants you can leave the roots in the ground.  Fava beans  will have put more nitrogen into the soil than it takes out.  I mean, this is a plant that keeps on giving.

It’s not a good idea to  leave any areas of your garden bare in the winter. Rain will compact the soil. The ground is subject to erosion and leaching of nutrients when nothing is growing. I sowed my Fava Beans in November and 3 weeks later they were over 8 inches tall. The moral here is better late than never.

In the Spring, when you’re ready to plant your veggies, you can cut down the fava beans even if you don’t harvest the bean for eating.  It will make an excellent addition to your compost pile and leave the soil in better condition.

Once we’ve got our garden planted, we can sit back and welcome winter back again.

And while you’re relaxing around the fire, it’s time to start perusing those beautiful seed and plant catalogs for Spring and even get a leg up on your spring garden with my ebook, The Spring Garden Made Easy.

Spring Garden Made Easy

 

 

To help you get started on your Spring Garden, there’s plenty of good advice in my ebook: The Spring Garden Made Easy. It’s only $4.99. If you’ve gotten useful information from my blog,here’s a way to keep me going. Thanks for reading. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I love to hear from you

Bell beans grow all winter long

Bell beans grow all winter long

The summer vegetables are gone and it's ready for fava beans as a cover crop

The summer vegetables are gone and it’s ready for fava beans as a cover crop

Jun 252013
 

by Avis Licht

It’s two days after the Summer Solstice and the garden is coming into fruition. I am feeling so grateful to have a garden, to spend time in it, and to have so much wonderful food come out of it.  We also have  flowers everywhere, to bring color and joy. And to invite our friends the birds, butterflies and bees. It’s a regular gathering place for the multitudes. This unusual June rain is a gift beyond compare. Those of you in other parts may get summer rains. Maybe even too many.  But here in California a summer rain is what we call a gift from heaven. Thank you to the Powers that Be.

Here are some photos I took this morning in the rain.

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.

 

Daylily

Daylily buds are edible and highly prized in Chinese cooking

 

Grapes

Thin the grapes early to make room for them to grow full size


Cherry Belle Radish

Radishes – Harvest early and often

Harvesting raspberries

In an unusual June rain, we adore picking raspberries.

Basil

Growing basil in pots is easy. In the ground sometimes basil gets eaten by earwigs and slugs. In the pots not so much.

Delicata squash

My seedlings of the squash have germinated beautifully and will start growing rapidly after this rain. The white flower is nicotiana, a fragrant night blooming flower.

Miniature rose

These roses have been blooming for months. After cutting them back a few weeks ago, they are starting all over again. I put these small roses all over the garden for beauty and delight. Rose petals are used in many culinary ways.

IMGP0058Variegated thyme

Variegated thyme provides a wonderful leaf contrast and I use it in cooking. I grow it near the strawberries as a companion plant.

Kale

Even though my kale has a few munching holes in it, it’s still great to eat. I don’t worry about a few pecks here and there.

Raspberries

Raspberries are easy to grow and I feel rich when we eat them. They’re expensive to buy, and cheap to grow! Watch out though, they like to spread themselves around the garden. Read about them in this post:

Squash blossom

Your plants will have many blossoms, and we often get way too many zuchinnis. So why not eat the blossoms? They’re delicious. Here are some ways to cook them: Squash blossom with ricotta.

Cucumber blossom

Once they start blossoming you can expect to get cucumbers soon and often. I plant 4 or 5 varieties, including lemon, Persian, Armenian,Thai and pickling. We love our cucumbers.

Blueberries starting to ripen

Given plenty of water, the blueberries are growing large and plump and we will harvest them over a long period of time. One of the best shrubs for the edible landscape. Read more on blueberries in this post.




Jun 032013
 
Morning dew on poppies

Morning dew on poppies

Guest blog by Charlene Burgi from Marin Municipal Water District

I enjoyed Charlene’s post so much that I asked her if I could use it in my own blog and it turns out she and MMWD are happy to share her writings.  I hope you  enjoy it also.

Early this morning, Jack and I observed the prairie dogs scampering across the donkey’s pasture. The morning sun found the droplets of last night’s rainfall sparkling like diamonds clinging to the plants surrounding the deck. I was at peace as our two darling golden retriever puppies, Sassy and Misty, slept at our feet.Golden retriever puppies

During those quiet moments, my mind drifted to a conversation recently shared with Wendy, who I used to work with at MMWD. She had come up for a visit and driven off minutes before, but her words about what a healing place the ranch was for her reverberated in my mind. I have heard these words before from other visiting friends and wondered what healing elements found here might be captured in other gardens.

It is quiet here. In fact, I was once told it was “too quiet.” Nonetheless, as we savored the morning I found peace with the chirping birds flitting to the feeding stations set within the trees. Fragrance wafted through the air from the peonies in bloom. The spires of deep purple, sunshine yellow and pure white iris captured my attention as they gently swayed in the breeze. Below were shades of lavender and purple flowers from the sage and catmint. It was these elements that set the stage for the peace found here.

I thought back to meditation gardens I had designed in the past. What were the commonalities within those plans? Serenity was the primary thought. A quiet sitting area was essential, as well as exposure to the sun and shade to meet the varying needs of the garden visitor. The focal point of a bird bath, small fountain, or garden art always found its way into the design.

A simple bird bath can be an important design element as well as good for your birds.

A simple bird bath can be an important design element as well as good for your birds.

Plants in these gardens were chosen to offer year-around interest. Spring, summer and fall color and fragrance provided a sense of peace, attracted beneficial insects, and offered a place for our feathered friends. Winter elements included an Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku,’ better known as coral bark Japanese maple, which impressed the winter visitor with its magnificent red bark; or a Corylus avellana ‘Contorta,’ better known as a Henry Lauder’s walkingstick, whose growth twists and contorts to capture the attention of anyone viewing this uncommon aberration.

Sassy and Misty soon broke my thought process as they ran in a “ring around the rosy” chase through the lavender and flopped down on the daffodils that once added to the grace of the garden. The pups seemed to know those bulbs had completed their cycle for the year, as they avoided the daylilies planted amongst the daffodils.

Are you in need of a quiet place to recharge your batteries at the end of the day, but hate the thought of another work pill of maintenance? Consider finding a quiet place in your garden. For ease, choose a native plant palette that offers low maintenance, beauty, fragrance and color. You will be one step ahead if a large tree exists. If not, consider planting a cercis redbud. Add drifts of Pacific Coast iris, various heights and shades of blues found in ceanothus, or the diversity and subtle pinks of arctostaphylos. Include mimulus, cistus rock rose, salvias, ribes, poppies and Carpenteria californica. While it is from Chile, consider adding Berberis darwinii to provide winter berries for the birds and a thicket for their protection. Include a few well-chosen boulders, garden art, or a simple shallow garden bowl for a water feature. And don’t forget that bench or seat to provide a place to unwind.

You, too, can find that healing place right in your backyard—and a native garden can help heal a strained summer water bill from an otherwise thirsty landscape. Give it a try—you won’t regret it!

spring flowers

Bearded iris in Spring

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 192012
 
lettuce

by Avis Licht

In Northern California where I live, we can grow many crops over the winter. I’m getting my seedlings in for the Fall and Winter garden.  In this slide show I’m planting lettuce seedlings.  I’ll show you how to gently pry to roots apart and plant them to reduce shock.

Getting the soil ready is an important part of growing healthy plants. In my book The Spring Garden Made Easy, I set forth a simple, straightforward guide to planting that you can use in any season. Check it out!

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Using a group of seedlings

Take a clump of seedlings

Gently break apart in half

Gently break apart in half

Open hole and let roots dangle straight down into opening

Open hole and let roots dangle straight down into opening

Firm in gently around the leaves

Firm in gently around the leaves

Water in gently to settle the roots and get the plants going.

Water in gently to settle the roots and get the plants going.

After they are planted you need to make sure they don’t dry out. Check the soil for moisture if it doesn’t rain. Just looking at the surface of the soil doesn’t tell you if it’s moist underneath.  Check with a trowel down a few inches.  If it’s dry at 2 inches or if the plants are wilting, be sure to water them.

You can find out more about extending your season in this article on row covers.

Oct 082012
 

by Avis Licht

Tomatoes, apples, squash

Bring in the harvest from summer to make room for winter crops

 

The changing seasons in the garden can leave us with  mixed feelings .  The end of the summer season means that we need to clear the beds for the winter garden while it’s still warm enough to plant. The regret is that we have to take out plants that are still producing.

I still have tomatoes, but they are ripening verrrry slowly due to the cold evenings and shorter days. Sadly, I’ll be pulling them out. You can bring in the green tomatoes and they will ripen, though not as perfectly as they did on the vine in the middle of summer.

tomatoes in October

Even cherry tomatoes are slow to ripen in the Fall.

Happily, this will make room for my winter crops, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce. I’ll be writing about what to grow for winter and how to do it. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so that you can get updates every time I write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Indian Valley College Farm and Garden, the students were busy pulling out the summer crops like cucumbers, beans and squash to make room for the cool weather crops.  They were making wonderful piles of compost.  Layering greens, dry material, manure and water. Nothing goes to waste in the garden.  We may loose a few cucumbers, but gain a lot of compost.

 

Compost

Starting the compost pile.

Layering compost piles

Take the plants that are done producing and start your compost!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In areas that you won’t be putting in food crops, be sure to cover the ground with cover crops to enhance fertility and protect the soil.  Use fava beans, bell beans, vetch, clover and buckwheat.

direct sow your fava beans

Large seeded plants like beans and peas can go directly into the soil.

Sep 212012
 
4 varieties from one tree
Lots of apples

We love our apples, but they come in all at once. Here are some ways to preserve those apples.

by Avis Licht

Fruit trees are one of the easiest ways to incorporate edible plants into an ornamental landscape.  They flower, they fruit, they’re relatively easy to take care of, they provide shade and beauty BUT they give all their fruit at one time.  One of the biggest complaints I have from my clients is that they don’t want to deal with all the fruit that falls.  Here are a few really easy ways to preserve your harvest.  It’s so worth it.

 

4 varieties from one tree

Choose apples carefully for storage: no cuts, bruises or bites.

1. The easiest: Cull your fruit for perfect apples that have no worms, cuts, bruises or bites.  These fruits will last for months in a cool, dark place. It’s important to make sure they are perfect or else they will start to rot and cause other apples to go bad.

2. Cut your apples and make applesauce: This is a good way to use “imperfect” fruit.  Cut your apples into slices and remove any bad parts.  I leave on the skins. I add a little fresh lemon juice which adds flavor and keeps the apples from turning brown.  In this batch I used a little Rose water for flavor.  Add a couple of tablespoons water and cook on simmer until the apples are chunky.  Store in the refrigerator up to a week. It is divine.

Cut apples for cooking

Use only a few tablespoons of water and put on simmer until cooked into a chunky sauce. Put in the refrigerator and it will last a week.

 

rose water

You can find this in Mediterranean food markets.

 

3. Freeze your fruit:  Put a little lemon juice into your bowl of cut fruit and stir it around.  Put fruit into ziploc bags and throw them into the freezer.  They’ll be ready for pie, sauce or smoothies any time. I wrote a post last Fall on freezing. You can read about it here.

4. Dehydrating fruit: This takes a little more time, but can offer some really tasty treats for later on. This dehydrator is not expensive and is small enough to store when not in use.

Dehydrator

A small scale dehydrator can be used for many fruits and vegetables.

I use fresh lemon juice and mix it with water.  Using a sharp knife I cut the apple in half and remove the core. Slice in 1/4″ layers. Laying the fruit in a shallow dish I put the fruit and lemon juice mixture together.  This keeps the fruit from turning dark and gives it a great flavor.

Juicing lemons

Juice some lemons and mix with a little water.

apples in lemon juice

Cut in 1/4 inch slices and dip in lemon juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lay out in trays and let the machine do its thing. Mine took overnight to get most of the moisture out.

Apples in dehydrating tray

Lay out sliced apples.

When done they should be flexible and leathery, but not watery.  Let them cool and put them in ziploc bags in the fridge for storage.  They are really sweet and make a delicious snack for kids.

dried apples

Check your dehydrator periodically to make sure the apples are drying evenly.

5. Share, share and share some more.  Bring your extra fruit and veggies to your local food bank.  They’ll love you and love the food.

 

 

Sep 042012
 
Hummingbird

Hummingbird

 by Avis Licht – Yesterday was Labor Day, the time we honor all manner of hard working folks. From those who till the earth, to those that sit at desks making  society function,  it takes a multitude of people to keep  the world working. None of us could do it alone, all of us rely on the work of those who came before us.

I hope to leave my little plot of ground better than when I found it. Healthier, more abundant, more beautiful. If you love to garden, and want to learn more,  then each of you can do this in your own way and in your own time. I love sharing the information I’ve gathered over the past 40 years, from my teachers,  my mistakes and most of all from the garden itself.

Fruits of our labor

Food from the garden is flowing in at the end of summer. We are all so grateful. It tastes so good and there’s plenty to share.

 Here comes the squash, heading into the house…

 

One of my other passions is playing music.  I’m lucky to have found a group of musicians of similar inclination that get together weekly. Our motley crew plays for community gatherings, at farmer’s markets, weddings, wakes and at our local saloon. Celtic music and traditional American tunes are what we mostly play.  Hoping to get the feet dancing and the smiles beaming, we love to share our tunes.

Here’s what I was doing on Labor Day, playing music at a street festival in Bolinas, California. (I’m the one in the middle playing the mandolin.)

Bolinas, Ca - Labor Day Festival

Playing music on Labor Day – Enjoying more fruits of our labor!

Silver Anniversary Jig – This link will let you listen to a tune I wrote for my husband in honor of our 25th wedding anniversary.  It’s being played by the wonderful Rodney and Elvie Miller, a father – daughter duo. I hope you enjoy it.

Jun 132012
 
Edible Flowers

Early summer the flowers of the pineapple guava are beautiful and edible

by Avis Licht – Edible flowers aren’t the usual fare for most people. But I have some favorites that even the most dubious of  eaters would enjoy. The pineapple guava, Feijoa sellowiana, has beautiful as well as delicious flowers. You eat the succulent petals that are almost sweet. Not the red stamens.

I’ve written about Feijoa in another post, talking about the tart and tasty fruit, but now is the time it is flowering in the northern hemisphere, so we’re talking about edible flowers.

How to use Feijoas. The sweet, fleshy white and purplish flower petals can be added to salads. Pluck them carefully and the fruits will still develop. The fruits have a delicious minty-pineapple flavor. Cut them in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon.

The fruit ripens towards winter and the best fruit drops to the ground when ripe.  If you pick it off the bush it’s likely not to be quite ripe.

Those of you with this shrub in the yard, check out the tasty petals and put them in a salad. The rest of you – go run to the nursery and get one of these amazing plants. I know you won’t regret it.

Get all the information in this post on how to grow the Feijoa.

 

Pineapple guava flower

Carefully pluck the petals and leave the rest of the flower to make sure you get fruit.

Just to remind you, the Pineapple Guava is an evergreen shrub, that grows to 15 feet if left unpruned.  But you can prune it any way you like. It is easy to care for, doesn’t need much water and best of all around my neighborhood – THE DEER DON’T EAT IT!.  Don’t ask me why, but it’s true.

 

 

Jun 082012
 
citronella grass

Grow a natural mosquito deterrent with Citronella grass

by Avis Licht

Many of us gardeners like to sit outside in the evening to enjoy the fragrance and beauty of the garden, only to be attacked by the tiny but insidious mosquito. Here are a couple of plants that you can grow for both beauty and also to repel the mosquitoes.

The term citronella plant applies to both citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus) and citronella geraniums (Pelargonium citrosum). Both plants boast the insect-repelling aroma but are grown and cared for in slightly different ways. Citronella grass is an ornamental grass that is used commercially to create citronella oil — a potent insect repellent with a lemony aroma. Citronella geraniums, also known as mosquito plants, are hybrid plants that were created by crossing citronella grass with geraniums. These plants release citronella fragrance when they are crushed or rubbed.


1.Citronella grass is a coarse, clump-forming tropical grass that can grow 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) tall. The stems are canelike and the leaves are grayish green, flat, about 3 ft (0.9 m) long and 1 in (2.5 cm) or so wide. It does not spread by runners, as some grasses do, but the clump increases in size as the plant matures. You can find it online at Colonial Creek Farm. This grass is closely related to Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus), which is used in Asian cooking.

Do not rub the citronella grass on your skin. Some people experience a dermatitis with contact. You can crush it and rub it on your clothes. Some folks claim that just growing it in the garden seems to keep the mosquitoes away. I guess you’ve just got to try it for yourself.  At least it will smell good and look good.


Light: Does best in full sun.
Moisture: Citronella grass needs at least 30 in (76 cm) of water a year.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 – 12. Citronella grass is perennial in USDA zones 10-12. It needs a long, warm growing season, and may not survive cool, damp winters. Citronella grass usually is replanted anew each spring after the ground has warmed.
Propagation: Propagate citronella grass by dividing the clumps. Do this before winter and keep some of the smaller clumps indoors to insure live plants come spring.

citronella geranium

Scented geraniums are easy to grow - in pots or in the ground

2.Citronella geranium is a drought resistant, tender perennial. It is evergreen in climates above 25 deg F. You can find it at Mountain Valley Growers nursery online. It also makes a great container plant. You can rub this plant on your clothes to repel mosquitoes. I’m not sure about rubbing it directly on your skin.

I happen to love all scented geraniums. They’re easy to grow and when you crush them in your fingers they smell so good.  I use rose scented geraniums in baking.  Yummy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers for a fundraiser

I picked these flowers this morning. What a great way to spend the morning.

Jun 062012
 
rolling self watering planters

 

tomato in self watering container

Plants thrive with good moisture in planters

 

by Avis Licht – When I gave a talk recently on edible landscaping, many people had questions about container planting.  For gardeners with decks, small gardens, or special climate conditions, containers are a simple and easy solution.  However, there are a few tips for helping you grow your plants more successfully. People don’t realize how fast pots dry out and how hard it is to get them moist again.  Once soil has dried out, if you water the pot with a hose, it just runs on through.

Keeping your soil moist is a trick that requires some practice.  Using drip irrigation in your pots, for 3 or 4 minutes 2  or 3 times a day often works.  If you don’t have your pots on an irrigation system try these self watering planters.  They really work!

1. Make sure there’s enough room in the container for root growth of your plants. 

Here are some suggestions for what plants to grow in different size pots.

  •   6″ depth is the minimum – chives, lettuce, radishes, other salad greens, basil, coriander, Asian greens, mint, thyme
  •    12″ for larger veggies – pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary,beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass, bush beans, garlic, kohlrabi, onions,  peas,
  • 18″ -24″  for miniature trees like lemons or limes.
organic tomato fertilizer

From your local nursery or online, find organic fertilizers

2. Use the right soil mix. For self watering planters I suggest you use the mix from Gardener’s Supply formulated just for that.  You’ll need to add nutrition in the form of compost, aged manure, blood meal and other organic fertilizers. The plants rely on you 100% for their nutrition. Be sure to feed them.  Read up on what your plants need and add it to the potting soil. Using foliar feeding or a liquid fertilizer like seaweed solution works well.Don’t just put soil from the garden into your pots.  It will be too heavy and dry out easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Place the planters where they will get the best light and be protected from wind or blasting hot sun. Gardener’s Supply even has self watering planters that have castors on them so you can move them around to catch the changing light and heat conditions.

rolling self watering planters

Pots can look good and be easy to move

Jun 012012
 

Save 15% off on $50 or more at Gardener’s Supply Company! Valid thru 6/28/12
[really-simple-share]

Thinning clumps of apples

This is a cluster of fruit from one node.

by Avis Licht- It’s always hard to throw away fruit, whether it’s on the tree or in the kitchen. But for best flavor, health and size of apples, be sure to thin them early in the season. You should do this for pears, peaches and plums also. Here’s how to do it.

1.Fruit is usually born in clusters of 2 – 6 fruit.  When they are small, around the size of a dime, cut out the smallest, damaged, misshapen, or wrinkled fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Carefully prune out the fruit at the base of the stem. Use a sharp clipper or scissors.

Thinning the little apples

Clip carefully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.Be sure to leave one good apple.

Thin to one apple

Leave one apple per cluster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all there is to it.  Now you have to be patient until it’s time to harvest.

Here’s an easy, delicious recipe for apple crisp.

Going out into the garden to pick fruit is a really sweet thing to do.  You can be sure the fruit is fresh, organic, and ripe.  I needed something really quick to bring to a family gathering.  So I stepped out into the garden and picked a bowl of strawberries, a bowl of blackberries and some wonderfully tart apples.

Apples, blackberries and strawberries from the edible gardenBeautiful fruit right from the garden (click to enlarge)

All I had to do was rinse them off, slice the apples and put them in the pan.  If you want you can squeeze a little lemon juice over the apples.  I didn’t have any, and no harm was done. I confess to sprinkling a tiny bit of sugar over the top of the fruit.

The next step is the crumble for the top.  You can use a variety of ingredients.  I use 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup  flour, both whole wheat and white, 1/4 cup  sugar mixed in with 1/4 cup butter and a pinch of salt. A little cinnamon and nutmeg goes well with this. Mix these ingredients over the top and voila, you’re ready to go.  Thirty minutes in 350 deg oven and you will have the best crisp you’ve ever tasted.

Special ingredients for the best apple crisp

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.

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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.

Apr 242012
 
Delicious homegrown tomatoes
Delicious homegrown tomatoes

We love a salad of different kinds of tomatoes

by Avis Licht – A fresh picked, ripe, delicious tomato is one of the best foods in the garden. They are soooo much better than store bought and so easy to grow, that they are one of the most widely grown vegetables. Here are a few tips that will help insure you get the best, tastiest and healthiest tomatoes.

1. Pick a sunny site. You can’t make up for lack of sun.  Look for at least 7 hours of sun per day.

2. Tomatoes prefer well drained, neutral  to slightly acid soil.  Add lime to acid soil and sulfur to alkaline soil. Make sure your soil drains well. They don’t like sitting in water.

3. Pick several varieties that are suitable to your climate.  For instance, if you live near the coast and fog, it’s better to grow cherry tomatoes that don’t need a long, hot season.  The larger the tomato, the longer the season. There are plants known as determinate and indeterminate.  Determinate types are bushier, need little or no staking and tend to bear all their crop at once.  They do well in pots or containers. Indeterminate grow taller and need staking.  They bear their crop over a longer period of time.  If you plant some of each you will have tomatoes over a longer period. Check out this site for varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Young tomatoes

Stake your tomatoes early and keep them off the ground to reduce rot and pests

4. Set out your plants after all danger of frost has passed.  The biggest mistake people make is putting out their tomatoes too early, during a warm period in early spring. They get whacked by a late frost, or just cold weather.  Tomatoes like warm soil.  Put the plants in and after the weather warms up a little, then mulch them.

5. Give tomatoes well aged manure or compost.  They don’t need a lot of nitrogen, but do need the micronutrients in the compost for good flavor.

6. HERE’S AN IMPORTANT TIP: Give your tomatoes regular water.  If the roots dry out, they don’t take up the calcium in the soil, which results in cracked fruits and end rot.  However: when the plants are getting ripe, you can cut back on the amount of water. Mealy, watery tomatoes are usually a result of OVER WATERING!


moisture meter

Best tool ever. This will save you time, water and money. Click on the picture to buy it!

I use this simple, inexpensive gauge to let me know how moist the soil is.  You can’t tell by looking at the surface if you need to water.  The top of the soil can be dry and the soil at a few inches below may be wet.  Check first before you water. Believe me, this is one of my most used tools.

 

7. When you finally get your delicious tomatoes – DON’T put them in the refrigerator.  It ruins their flavor. Keep them out on the counter out of the sun. Hardly anyone knows this. But you know it now.

Cherry tomato

These cherry tomatoes start bearing early, give a lot and last until the first frost.

 

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