Search Results : herbs

Jun 122013
 

by Avis Licht

Mixed herbs in the landcape

Mixed herbs in the landcape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A  quiet shady place to read

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 042012
 
Path into the Garden

 

by Avis Licht – Designing your edible landscape can seem formidable. Here are a few ideas to help you move forward on your own yard.

1. Simplify your garden.  Remove any unwanted fences, structures, and unhealthy plants.  Open up your yard before you decide what you want to add.

Apple tree as the centerpiece of new landscaping

3.Here is the yard, fully landscaped. You can see the beautiful apple tree and you can stroll up the garden path.

Old fence, tree and lots of ivy

1.This is the side yard before we cleaned it up. You can’t see the apple tree behind the fence and old shrubs.

 

Fence and old shrubs removed


After removing the fence and old shrubs, we realized there was an open view to the old apple tree. It was previously  hidden, and now is the centerpiece of the garden. By clearing out the old, it will help you see what you want to keep and open up new vistas.

2. Once you’ve cleaned the place up, you can decide where to put your paths, retaining walls and any structures.Next decision: where to put paths.  It is important to be able to walk through the garden, to enjoy it and also to take care of it. The path on the right side of the house existed and we left it as is to access the house.  The path through the garden is a winding, informal path that encourages you to slow down and enjoy the view.

siting paths, sitting area and retaining walls

Lay out your paths, retaining walls and sitting area

 

View from gazebo

Sitting under the gazebo you have a fine view of the yard.

Gazebo and paths

Structures create outdoor rooms for eating, reading and relaxing in the garden

3. Finally, you can choose what plants you want to use. In this yard, there are a lot of low maintenance plants like herbs and California native plants.  You can see lavender, rosemary, Salvia, penstemon, thyme, oregano and California poppies.  Along the fence and for ground covers we used Manzanita, Ceanothus, Osmanthus and cotoneaster. At the top of the garden is a small vegetable and herb garden near the kitchen, where it is easily accessible.

An open fence invites you into the garden

An open deer fence lets you look into the garden.

I’m available by phone, skype or in person for hourly consultations.  Send me a note via this blog and we can arrange it.

 

Herbs and vegetables

Outside the kitchen are the herbs and vegetables

Looking down the garden towards the carport

From the vegetable garden you can look down the garden to the sitting area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use these three simple ideas to help you get started.  You’ll be surprised how they can open up your eyes to new possibilities.

To help you get started on your vegetable garden there is plenty of information in my ebook, The Spring Garden Made Easy.  It’s on sale for $4.99

Spring Garden Made Easy

 


 

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 092012
 
Japanese eggplant

Eggplant with basil and tofu anyone?

by Avis Licht

When deciding what to plant in your garden, in addition to the obvious parameters of site and climate, you can have fun with ideas based on what kind of food you like to eat.  Are you Italian/pizza lovers? Is your favorite dinner a Mexican style salsa/burrito/tomale? Why not plant a theme garden based on your favorite meals?  To make that homemade pizza sauce you could plant different heirloom varieties of paste tomatoes, with 3 different types of peppers and quantities of flavorful herbs.

When deciding on the vegetables for your style of garden, you can also look up recipes and find out the best herbs for your dishes.  Instead of  going from store to store trying to find the right herb, you could just go out and pick it fresh.

Asian herbs include: Chinese chives, coriander, cilantro, ginger, Thai basil, lemongrass, peppermint, sorrel  and dill. Asian cuisine is vast and covers many countries, but there are some herbs like the lemongrass that have a very particular flavor which can be hard to find in stores.  Although it is a tropical herb and doesn’t live in climates below 30 deg F. you can treat it as an annual and it will give you plenty of leaves.

Lemon grass

Beautiful in the edible landscape, Lemongrass is an unusual and wonderful herb for Thai food.

Herbs that are common to many types of cuisine and easy to grow include: onions, cilantro, garlic and basil. Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sage, thyme and bay leaves are easy to grow and should be in everyone’s garden.  It’s hard to describe the difference between fresh and dried herbs to those who don’t use fresh herbs.  I guess it’s like the difference between breathing in the fresh air at the ocean and using an oxygen tank with tubes up your nose. Well, that may be a little extreme, but you get my drift.

Thai Basil

Thai Basil has a unique flavor- grown with beans in this photo

Some unusual vegetables that you would use in Chinese and Japanese cuisines include bok choy, Napa cabbage, daikon radish, green onions, snow peas and soybeans. You can find seeds for these plants in any of the catalogs in my Resource page.

For a Mediterranean garden you would plant all of the following:  tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers,asparagus, Tuscan kale, Savoy cabbage, radicchio, endive, artichokes, zucchini, fennel, bell peppers.

For Mexican cooking, legumes (black beans, pinto beans), corn, and a variety of peppers (poblano, jalapeno, ancho, serrano) are key. And don’t forget the squashes. They’re easy to grow, taste great and keep well, (that would be winter squash).

beauty in the vegetable garden

Themed gardens are beautiful as well as productive

Stay tuned for landscape plans for theme gardens. Subscribe to my blog and you won’t miss any of the information you need to keep your garden healthy, beautiful and bountiful.

Here’s a great recipe I found for Homegrown Pizza Sauce – all ingredients from the garden:

How to make Homegrown Pizza Sauce

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Ingredients

“I’ve always made pizza sauce based on my mother’s recipe, starting with a can of tomato sauce. This year, I started with paste tomatoes from my garden with great success. You’ll notice that the amounts in the ingredient table below are rough; please add veggies and herbs according to your taste

  • 3 pounds very ripe tomatoes, washed, stemmed, quartered, and seeded
  • 1 yellow onion, very small dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbl. dried oregano
  • 1 tbl dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • sea salt, black pepper, and sugar to taste.
  1. Place quartered tomatoes in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently. The tomatoes will let go of a surprising amount of juice.
  2. Remove from heat and strain off solids. Set solids aside and return juice to the stove.
  3. Simmer juices, uncovered, until reduced.
  4. Add tomato solids back into the saucepan and stir in all remaining ingredients except sugar.
  5. Bring sauce back to a simmer and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are translucent and the sauce has reduced to the desired consistency.
  6. Taste.
  7. Add a small amount of sugar, mix thoroughly, and taste again. Repeat until you achieve an acidity that tastes good to you.
  8. Sauce should keep in the refrigerator for about a week, in the freezer for a few months, or may be canned.” From www.opensourcefood.com.

Don’t forget, it’s not too late to start your Spring Garden. To help you I’ve put together a handbook on the steps you can take to be successful in your garden. Included is information on soil, sites, annuals, perennials, fruits and much more. This is a 20 page guide to get you started on your edible landscape. Forty years of gardening has given me plenty to share. If you have enjoyed my blog, be sure to get my booklet.

$4.99 – such a deal

Spring Garden Made Easy

Mar 282012
 
Honey bee in borage


Honey bee in borage

Borage blooms early and long - the bees love it (click to enlarge)

by Avis Licht

Often, when I design a garden people ask me if it will bring bees.  Usually, it’s because they are afraid of having bees in the garden. Bees, who are gentle creatures, are more interested in finding nectar and pollen than stinging you. Often people mistake yellow jackets, who come in late summer to eat your sweet fruit or meat at the outdoor barbeque, for bees.  They are not the same at all.

Bees are absolutely necessary to the health and productivity of your garden. We need them to pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  35%  of our food worldwide is pollinated by bees. Imagine a world without honey. Well, please don’t do that.

Recently there has been a disappearance of bees called Colony Collapse Disorder. Entire hives die without apparent cause.  By planting bee friendly plants you can personally aid in their resurgence.

The best plants are ones that are native to your locale or grow well in your climate. Herbs, flowers, and flowering trees all contribute to their food source.

Using only organic controls in the garden is another way of protecting your bees.

 

Don’t forget to buy my ebook on The Spring Garden Made Easy 

Spring Garden Made Easy

 

There are many wonderful bee plants.  These are a few of my favorites.

Lavender and violas

Lavender can be planted in the ground or in containers. Beautiful everywhere.

1. Lavender: For millenium lavender has been used in soaps, balms and sachets as well as medicinally for its calming effect. My local ice cream shop makes the best honey lavender ice cream.  Grow it in full sun, well drained soil, in climates that don’t go below 20 deg F.

2. Salvias: In the sage family there are many herbal and ornamental varieties of Salvias.  Bees and hummingbirds love them and they come in many colors.

Salvia Hot Lips

This bi colored Salvia, Hot Lips, is just one of many varieties. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lemon Balm, Melissa officinale – In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderfully lemony flavor for tea. It is considered one of the premier bee plants. Melissa is a Greek word meaning honeybee.

Lemon balm

In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderful lemon flavor and is easy to grow

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Ceanothus– California lilac (many varieties). Many native plants are helpful to the bees. The California Lilac grows on the hills in California and as its name suggests is wonderfully fragrant. It flowers in the blue, purple and whites and  can be a very low growing shrub or up to 15 ft. Well drained, sunny sites are what it needs to thrive. It requires very little care.

Rosemarinus officinalis

This rosemary is planted next to my Apple tree. It brings the bees to pollinate the tree.

5. Rosemary – One of the most loved herbs for cooking, rosemary is easy to grow and long lived.  The bees love it. In my garden it starts to bloom early in Spring and is under the apple trees which are just starting to bloom.  This companion planting encourages the bees to pollinate my fruit trees.

In the herb family you can plant Basil, Catnip, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage to encourage your friendly bees.

In the ornamental flowers, try Agastache, Salvia, Bachelor Button, Black Eyed Susan, Clematis, Coreopsis, Lantana, Larkspur, Sweet William , Yarrow, and Zinnias.

In shrubs, Ceanothus, Manzanita, Arbutus, Mahonia and Philadelphus are beautiful and useful.

The Crab Apple tree blooms early and is absolutely buzzing with activity.

California lilac

The buds on this Ceanothus are just getting ready to open. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing

 

Mar 262012
 
Lettuce and parsley in a pot
Lettuce and parsley in a pot

Herbs and lettuce grow well in pots on the deck.

by Avis Licht

In other posts I’ve written about seeds; where to get them, and how to sow them. Now that they’ve turned into sturdy little seedlings, I’ll show you how to plant them.

1. First thing is to make sure your bed is ready for the seedlings.  This means that the soil should be worked up into a fine tilth so that it is soft and crumbles easily off your trowel. Add whatever amendments you have at hand, like compost, bone meal or manure into the soil before you transplant your seedlings.

2. Depending on how your seeds were started, you will either take them out of their little six packs, or as in the case of these photos, from a bunch of seeds sown in a container.

Pulling apart lettuce seedlings

Gently open the root ball to separate the seedlings (click to enlarge)

Lettuce seedlings

Hold your seedlings gently (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep separating the seedlings until you have them one at a time. Lay them so that the roots are straight down, not crunched up. Gently hold the leaf, open up a hole deep enough to let the roots dangle straight down and not get crunched up. (if you get my drift).  Slowly let the soil back into the hole to cover the roots. Gently firm in the soil around the crown of the seedlings.  You want the roots too make contact with the soil, but not rip the roots by pressing too hard.

Firm in the soil

Gently press the soil around the seedling. (Click to enlarge)

Hold by the leaf and let the roots dangle

Gently hold the leaf and dangle the roots (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep the soil below the crown of the leaf so that it doesn’t rot. Be sure to water in your seedlings.  Put the water at the base of the plant slowly so that the water seeps into the soil.  This will allow the roots to make contact with the soil and get moisture. If roots are not in contact with the soil, but are in air holes, they will dry out.

It’s best to plant into moist soil that crumbles in your hand, not too wet and not too dry.

A bed of lettuce

Closely planted lettuce in Spring

lettuce newly planted

This seedling will start growing immediately

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Don’t forget to take your walkabout in the garden to keep an eye on your seedlings.  If anyone is causing trouble, like birds or snails, you’ll want to catch them right away. Now all you have to do is be a little patient, then the eating begins.

I took this photo this morning after a gentle rain.

rain on strawberry blossoms

It's late March and the strawberries are starting to blossom

Mar 232012
 
Deer fence with copper art

 

Deer fence with copper art

A beautiful open fence keeps out the deer and lets in the sunlight

by Avis Licht – Designing a front yard can be a little tricky. Designing it so that it is also a productive food garden makes it even more challenging. What makes an edible landscape work, is that not only does one get food from it, but it must also be lovely to look at in all seasons.  Using a few basic  design tenants and some good gardening sense will help you get started.

1. Always note your sun/shadow in all seasons.  This can change drastically between summer and winter. Be sure to place your shade plants in shady spots, and your sun loving plants where they will find the light. In the garden in these photos, the house casts a large shadow – almost completely in winter, but only partially in summer.

Since this was the only open area for my client’s vegetables, we noted the best sun areas during the main growing season between April and October.

Finding the sun/shadow line

Note your sun/shadow in the main growing season. This photo is the new garden. (click to enlarge)

The old garden fence and site.

This is what the front yard looked like before we renewed it. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to look at my book on The Spring Garden Made Easy.

2.If you need a fence, be sure it looks good, lets the light into the garden and keeps the deer and other critters out. Wood fences can look good, but can also create shadows that prevent plants from getting enough light.

A simple post and wire fence that looks good

A good looking wire fence lets the light in and keeps the neighbor’s dogs out.

 

We removed the wood fence from this garden, as it cast a heavy shadow in winter when the sun was low in the sky.  Because this is California, there is a long growing season and we wanted to make good use of the little space available. Many neighbors stop by to admire the beautiful vegetables and flowers in the front yard.  Keeping this garden well tended all year makes it a neighborhood delight.  Everyone wants a fresh pea in spring and tomato in summer.There are plenty of flowers to keep it cheerful.

 

3.Create permanent beds and paths. Permanent beds create pattern and form in a garden even when the beds may be empty. The same is true for paths. They are cleaner, safer and create form in the garden.  Paths also keep people from walking on the beds. Here are a few different solutions.  Stone paths are more expensive, but last longer and are beautiful. Chipped paths look good and are inexpensive.  They also allow the water to seep into the soil for water retention.

raised stone bed

Permanent beds give form and interest even without all the plants. Chipped paths are easy to lay and inexpensive.

Stone paths are safe, beautiful, long lasting and also more expensive.  Choose a material appropriate for you and your budget.

Stone path

A winding path leads you through the garden to the front door.

4. Choose plants the grow well in your climate and in your site.  Choose appropriate sized plants. Meaning, if you have a small front yard, use dwarf or semi dwarf trees, or small shrubs. Fruit trees, blueberries, currants, strawberries mixed with flowering shrubs all make wonderful front yard plants.  They look good in most seasons.  Use perennials in your front yard and keep the annuals to a minimum. When growing vegetables in the front yard, keep them well tended if your yard is open to the neighborhood. It’s all part of being a good neighbor. The more you share the bounty, the  more your neighbors will want to imitate your garden.

Edible front yard

Summer in the edible front yard still looks great. (click to enlarge)

side view of the edible front yard

Herbs, flowers and a simple fence for the edible front yard. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a few ideas to help you plan your edible front yard. There will be more ideas to come. Sign up for my blog and you won’t miss anything.

Mar 022012
 
Spring Garden Made Easy


Finally! Here at last! A streamlined, easy to follow e-book on how to start your spring garden. It covers climate, choosing your site, soil types, what to plant,  compost and irrigation.  After forty years of gardening it’s hard to know what not to share.  In this book I’ve winnowed down the information for novice gardeners to encourage and guide them to successful food growing at home.

Alan Chadwick was a visionary: eccentric, knowledgeable and formidable. He was also my gardening teacher.  He was a master and we were the apprentices, in the old fashioned sense of the word.  We worked long hours, from before the sun rose to sunset.  We learned about seeds, soil, flowers, herbs, fruit and service.  Service to the earth.  Following the laws of nature to ensure healthy, beautiful and bountiful gardens. Always organic, but much more than that, Alan looked deep into the relationships between plants, animals and humans.  My blog and this e-book is the culmination of years of gardening.

Robert Kourik author of  “Your Edible Landscape – Naturally” has this to say:

Avis has condensed over four decades of gardening skill into one information-packed handbook. This is important reading for the beginning gardener. You will skip making many mistakes by reading this attractive handbook first.”

You can buy “The Spring Garden Made Easy” now for only $10, by clicking on the button!

Buy this e-book for the price of a movie. It will be just as entertaining, only without the popcorn.

Those of us who had the privilege of working and studying with Alan now have the obligation to share what we’ve learned.  I hope in this blog, to do just that.  Each topic, a window into a way of working in the garden, simply, carefully and with intention to do no harm. I hope in the e-books that I write, that you can begin to see a little into that world. Of course, the most important part, is the teachings of the gardens themselves.  Open your eyes, ears, nose and mind and learn something new everyday in the garden.

Spring Garden Table of ContentsThe first book, The Spring Garden Made Easy, is aimed at helping you start out, one step at a time to be successful and inspire you to keep going. There will be set backs – snails, earwigs, gophers, deer, they all want a part of your garden. We learn to how to keep them from getting too much and even how to share. Click on the Buy Now button above or on the right side of the web page and you can download it immediately.My hourly consultation is definitely more than $10, which is the cost of the book.  Since I can’t be with all of you in your garden, take this opportunity to pick my brain by buying the book.  Be sure to sign up for the blog as well, it’s free and it’s got lots of information.  I always love to hear from my readers.  Leave me a comment and let me know how your garden grows.In the joy of gardening, Avis

P.S. If you’re reading this in your email, you won’t see the website.  So click on the title and it will take you to all my posts.

Feb 082012
 
New plantings in the spring garden


by Avis Licht  –

New plantings in the spring garden

Pots near the kitchen are great for herbs

 

 

Early Spring is the time for gardeners to get ready for their early vegetable garden.Here are a few things to think about to help you get started.

SITE

1. Pick a place near the house for your vegetable garden so that you will see it everyday. Out of site is out mind for most people. Visit your garden for at least 10 minutes a day and you will keep up with the maintenance and see how plants are doing.  You’ll discover if there are any problems before it’s too late.

2. Pick a sunny site that gets at least 6 hours of sun. Most vegetables need this amount to grow well.

3. Make sure there’s water near by for irrigating.

SIZE

Raised bed gardening

Easy to reach, easy to plant, easy harvest, it's a raised bed

1. Keep it Small and Simple, as the saying goes. First time gardeners should start small and be successful.  Graduate to a larger plot next year. A couple of beds, 3 ft x 6 ft, will give plenty of delicious vegetables.

2. Consider growing your herbs in pots near the kitchen where they are easy to harvest.

SOIL

1.Whatever kind of soil you  have, be sure to loosen it and add compost. By aerating your soil and adding humus you will increase oxygen, nutrients and drainage, which will help your plants grow. You can loosen your soil by digging, rototilling or bringing in topsoil and adding it to a raised bed.

2. Check your soil for drainage. If you see standing water on the surface, or if you dig a hole and there is water in the bottom, you need to make some adjustments. Vegetables don’t like to grow in standing water.  There are several ways to improve drainage.  Dig into the hard soil with a digging fork and loosen it. Raised beds provide better drainage. You can also dig a small ditch and direct it away from the growing area. This will help move water away and improve your soil.

3. Create paths for walking in the garden.  Every time you walk on the soil you compact it. This prevents air and water from entering. Just by using paths and not walking on the beds you will increase the health of your soil and your plants.

CHOOSE YOUR VEGETABLES WISELY

Choose your plants wisely

Early spring you can sow and plant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower

1. Choose your favorite foods to grow. Zucchinis are easy to grow, but if you don’t like them, don’t grow them! Peas, carrots, beans and tomatoes taste better when harvested ripe and fresh. They are easy to grow and harvest.

2. Choose what grows best in your climate and your site. If you’re in the cool Northwest  U.S. you might want to pass up on the hot peppers and melons.  Cooler climates are good for broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, chard and kale. If you’re in a hot climate go for the peppers, melons, squash and eggplant.

3. Look for micro climates in your garden to give you more opportunities to grow plants that you might otherwise leave out. A micro climate will be a place that is sunnier ( on the south side of the house), cooler (on the north side), calmer (on the lea side of a fence or windbreak), shadier (under a tree) and so on. Check out your garden for mini climates.

RESOURCES

1.Your local nurseries will be carrying plants appropriate for your climate.  Ask them questions.

2. For the Western United States, consult Sunset Western Gardening Book.  It is amazing in it’s information for so many regions in the West.

3. Seed Catalogs and Online companies. Check out my list in the resource page.

Raised beds

Double dug beds are raised and need no edging

 

Jan 302012
 
Mint in the garden

by Avis Licht

Mint in the garden

Mint is wonderful, but don't let it escape into the rest of the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mints are quite possibly the easiest, most useful and most annoying herb in the garden. They are tough, unfussy, grow almost anywhere, are incredibly good for your health, can be used in drinks, cooking, insect repellant, digestive aid and more. And they will spread like the dickens in your garden.

PERENNIAL 

Mint is a perennial and will die back in the winter in cold climates. In mild climates you can expect to harvest it all year long.  To have mint in the winter, put it in a pot (you probably want to do this anyway to keep it from spreading) and put it in a protected spot.

VARIETIES

You can find all kinds of mint flavors without resorting to artificial color and flavorings. Imagine – chocolate mint!(M. x piperita “Mitcham”) It tastes like a peppermint patty. Orange ( M. x piperita citrata) or bergamot mint has a slightly orange flavor. Apple mint, pineapple mint, and golden apple mint are all easy to grow. Pennyroyal (M. pelugium) is a small creeping mint that has a very strong flavor and is used  to keep fleas and insects away. Peppermint (M. piperita) and spearmint  (M. spicata)are the most commonly used mints for teas. By growing your own mint you can match the mints with your own preferences. These are just a few of the mints. Go wild!

SOIL

Almost any soil will grow mint, but it prefers a rich, moist soil.  Amend with compost. If you plant it in the ground, consider putting it in a pot or bucket to keep it from spreading. A root barrier around the plants also helps to keep them in check.

PROPAGATION

The easiest way to propagate mint is to dig up some from the garden and divide it into as many pieces as you want plants. In this photo, I literally ripped it out of the ground.  It has roots and can be plopped into a pot or a safe place in the garden.

Roots of a mint plant

Pull them out of the ground and replant , as simple as one - two

HARVEST

Clip off the the tender new growth. Use it fresh, as mint loses much of its flavor and healthful qualities when dried. If your plants get old and woody, just cut them back to the ground and they’ll send up fresh new shoots.

Never say you weren’t warned!

MINT IN THE LANDSCAPE

I’ve let this mint grow as the edging to my garden fence.  Cars regularly run over it, but it doesn’t seem to care.  I only use the mint inside the garden for my edible use. Roadside herbs are not the best for eating. But it sure smells good when you step on it.

Mint along the road

Mint as an edging in the edible landscape

 

 

Jan 092012
 
Red Raspberries

by Avis Licht

Raspberries are growing in the wooden stake area

Raspberries have their place in a large garden, but beware - they will spread like wildfire!

Raspberries are delicious and easy to grow, BUT they have some very big drawbacks. So before you go buying and putting those puppies in the ground read this cautionary tale. Then I’ll tell you how to prune them. Remember, this is a pruning post, not a planting post.  How to plant and care for your raspberries, will be another day.

Red Raspberries

These are everbearing rapsberries, that produce in Spring and Fall

Raspberries grow from perennial roots that produce thorny canes.  They spread horizontally underground. If you live in a climate where it rains during the growing season, or if you irrigate  near the raspberries, you will find that they spread rapidly outside their growing bed.

You can do one of two things to control the spread of underground runners.  Next to your bed you can dig a trench 12 inches deep and put in a root barrier. This would be a material like aluminum, wood or plastic that will keep the runners from spreading horizontally.

Or, you can dig up the runners as you see them springing up in the garden. To my chagrin, I have found runners throughout the garden. Especially in late Spring, you can find me running around like a mad woman digging up unwanted canes. Sometimes it feels like they’re growing as fast as I can dig them up. Some people say it’s easy to dig them up, but my experience is that their roots get entangled with other plants. It’s a pain in the butt to dig them up, so Planter Beware!

If you have a small garden, with room for only a few plants, I don’t think it is worth planting raspberries.  It takes at least 10 original plants to produce enough fruit to make it worth the trouble. That would be a bed 3 ft wide by 20 ft long. Not to mention the maintenance.

On the other hand, once you’ve decided that you have enough room and can keep up with the maintenance, I say, you can’t have too many.  They cost a lot of money in the store, and when you grow them at home, you can eat as many as you want. Who can argue with that?

The most common plants are “ever -bearing” or “twice- bearing” raspberries.  You plant them in the Spring and they produce their first crop in the Fall. Prune these shoots back  in the Winter, and they produce new shoots in the spring that produce a second crop.  These canes will die back after their Fall harvest.  New shoots that come up in the Spring will produce your Fall crop.

In the winter you want to cut back all the dead canes to the ground, prune out any weak shoots that are smaller than a pencil in diameter, and cut the live canes back to 12 inches. Dead canes are brown and live canes are green.  If you have trouble telling the difference in your canes, make a quick cut towards the top of the cane. If it has green around the stem, it’s a live cane.  If the whole cross section of the cut is brown, yep, it’s dead – cut it all the way to the ground.

The pictures below show how mine look before and after pruning.

dormant raspberry canes

BEFORE: Canes of everbearing raspberries before pruning

 

Pruned raspberry canes

AFTER: Canes have been pruned to about 12 inches above ground.

Raspberry canes, pruned and thinned

Cut out all dead and weak canes. Cut back to 12 inches

In these photos you’ll notice that I have them growing inside a simple wooden structure.  I took some old Redwood pickets, and put them in the ground around the raspberries. The cross pieces are at 2 ft and 4 ft high.  This simple training structure keeps the canes inside, upright and easy to pick.  There’s no tying or drooping.  Anything that grows outside the structure gets dug up. It also looks nice in winter when the canes are dormant.

Despite my warning about raspberries, I think they are a great plant for the edible landscape as long as you know what you’re getting into.

To find out more about raspberries read this excellent article from Fine Gardening Magazine, How to Grow Raspberries.

 

 

Dec 222011
 
winter savory - Satureja montana

winter savory - Satureja montana

Introduction:

As the title of my blog suggests, I like to do things the easy way whenever possible. Winter Savory is one of those herbs that rank right up there in the easy column. It grows with little care, has no pests, requires little fertilizer or water – what more could you ask of a plant? Winter savory is a perennial herb that grows in all zones.   It has a tangy flavor similar to thyme but is a gentle herb when used in cooking.

Climate:

As far as I can tell, Winter Savory is hardy to -20 deg F.  That’s pretty darn cold.  It comes from the temperate regions of the Mediterranean, but survives in much colder climes. Since it is a perennial it will die back in the winter to the ground. So I’m  not sure why they call it winter savory, since it doesn’t have any green leaves in winter.  Oh well.

Care:

Like other Mediterranean herbs it likes a simple, well drained soil.  Remember, not too rich – no manure or heavy fertilizer. It makes the plant lose it’s aromatic oils which produce the flavor and qualities of the herb. It is a very drought tolerant plant.  I’ve put in places where it got almost no water and it thrived.  I’ve also put it in areas with regular water and it did fine there as well.  Don’t over water, or let it sit in damp places.

In winter I cut it back to the ground.  In  very cold climates you should wait until spring to cut back the plant.  The dead growth on top will help protect the plant.

Winter savory in winter

The top of the plant dies back in winter

Winter savory cut back to the ground

Cut all the dead growth down to the ground

Close up of new growth at the base of the plant

These new shoots will overwinter and begin to grow in Spring

Harvesting and Uses:

You can harvest the leaves and the flowers from this plant. Use the leaves fresh in savory dishes like chicken, fish and pork.  It is renowned for it’s work with beans (by this I mean reducing the flatulental qualities).

You can also make a gentle tea from the leaves which some say helps with sore throats. It couldn’t hurt.

In the edible landscape I use winter savory as an edging plant along paths.  I have a lot of rocks in my garden, that I use to edge paths.  I plant the savory next to the rocks and they do a lovely job of edging and growing over the rocks.

Books About Herbs:

Encyclopedia of herbsRodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs is an excellent source of information on herbs.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Western Garden book of EdiblesSunset Western Garden book of Edibles has a very detailed section on growing common herbs.

 

 

Dec 162011
 
Frost on strawberries

by Avis Licht

Frost on strawberries

Frost comes in different forms, not all are bad for the garden

 

Some plants actually like a bit of frost. Knowing what to plant for the winter garden will help you be successful. And all frost is not created equal.  A little frost on the plants, like the strawberries in the picture above, doesn’t hurt many plants. Prolonged cold below freezing can cause problems. Be sure to observe your garden for frost pockets as cold settles into lower areas and valleys.

Here’s what you can do if you live in a frosty neighborhood:

1. Choose cold hardy plants for your vegetable garden.  These include: chard, kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots, beets, kholrabi, peas and turnips and some varieties of lettuce. These plants work if there is thaw during the day.  If they stay continually frozen, you need to put them in an unheated greenhouse  or under hoops that are covered.

Frost on chard is okay

Frost doesn't harm chard if it doesn't go below 20 deg F.

2. Make sure the soil is moist before a big frost.  Moist soil holds 4 times more heat than dry soil.

3. Cover  tender plants with a woven material, blanket or sheet. Preferably not plastic, as this does not protect very well. You can lay the material over the plant, or put up stakes and keep it slightly away from the leaves.  Bring the material down to soil level, as the heat rises up into the covered area.

4. Place tender plants in pots and put in protected areas in south facing walls and under eaves, to get reflected heat from buildings. These would include lemon, lime, lettuce and herbs.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do during frosty days:

1. Don’t prune during frosty days.

2. Don’t prune frost damaged plants like trees and shrubs. Leave the damaged tips and buds on the trees and wait until Spring and let the plants start to grow. Otherwise you stand the chance of having the frost do deeper damage.

3. Don’t use chemical sprays that say they will protect your plants from frost.  There is no evidence to support these claims.

4. Don’t leave your gloves out to get frosted.  They will make your hands cold.  I know, I did this.

Bring your gloves inside, or they'll get frosted too

What good will frosty gloves do you in the garden?

To find out more about growing in winter you should read these books by Eliot Coleman from Four Seasons Farm in Maine.  Winter Harvest Handbook will give you many ideas. Your edible landscape can still produce wonderful food in winter. It may take a little more attention, but can be very rewarding.

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