Search Results : herbs

Dec 122011
Glass teapot

Glass tea pot is elegant and beautiful

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

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

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

Good looking and tidy basket storage

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

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

fruit fly trap

Lures contain yeast, sugar and other natural ingredients

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

Under counter compost bucket

Finally a good compost bucket to store out of sight

Oct 182011
When planting, put the roots down. This is a crocus
Safron CrocusYou can order your crocus bulbs by clicking here     

One of the most prized and expensive spices: Saffron

There are many bulbs one can plant in the Fall, but only one is the source of a prized spice. The Saffron Crocus is the unlikely home of Saffron, an incredibly expensive and prized spice for cooking.

Crocus sativus thrives in the Mediterranean climates where hot and dry summer breezes sweep semi-arid lands. It can nonetheless survive cold winters, tolerating frosts as low as −10 °C (14 °F) and short periods of snow cover.

Crocus prefers friable, loose,  well-watered, and well-drained clay soils with high organic content. Traditional raised beds promote good drainage.

Harvests are by necessity a speedy affair: after blossoming at dawn, flowers quickly wilt as the day passes. All plants bloom within a window of one or two weeks. You need to carefully collect the threads off the stigma.     

Don’t expect to get rich harvesting your saffron, but maybe you’ll get enough for one delicious meal of Paella. Here’s a great and easy recipe.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover, and refrigerate.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and rice. Cook, stirring, to coat rice with oil, about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron threads, bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Stir in marinated chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and sausage; cook 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp; cook, turning the shrimp, until both sides are pink.
  4. Spread rice mixture onto a serving tray. Top with meat and seafood mixture.
Oct 062011

The Edible Landscape

Edible landscaping is the type of garden design I’ve been doing for 35 years.   With landscaping ideas based on the principals of organic, sustainable and beautiful, I will pass on my hard earned lessons to those who are ready for the edible journey. Scroll down the page for all the entries, or go to Click on a topic on the right and choose a category to read. I write about landscape design, ornamental and edible plants, tools, gardening books, critter control and more.

To get an update when I write a new post be sure to subscribe by filling in the subscription widget in the right hand column.

Be sure to comment and ask questions.  I’ll be glad to get back to you.

Yours in the joy of gardening,


Sep 262011

All plants do not require the same care.  This may seem like an obvious statement, but really how much do you know about what your plants really need?

Salvia is a sage

Hot Lips Salvia requires little water and poor soil

Many herbs that we commonly grow and use are from the Mediterranean area.  They need lots of sun and low rainfall and well drained, rocky soil.  Lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage: these plants do not want rich, high nitrogen soil or plenty of water.  You can literally kill your plant with kindness. Misplaced love, I call it.

The flavor and fragrance of these plants depend on their tough conditions, which favor the essential oils that give the plants their strength.

When you’re standing there with the hose in your hand waiting to give your plant love, think twice and check the soil moisture first.  

Many California native plants live in dry, hot conditions.They  don’t need too much water or rich soil.

Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn"

California Manzanita shrub (click to enlarge)

There is virtually no rain for at least six months of the year. Plants like the Manzanita in the picture on the right, do not need or want too much water.  Don’t treat them like your English perennials.

When you are grouping your plants in the garden, be sure to put plants that have similar water needs together on one station. Try not to mix up plants with very different requirements.  The same goes for soil, sun and light requirements.

Even in an Edible Landscape, your food producing plants will have different needs. Be sure to investigate your plant’s needs before putting them in the ground.

Sep 222011

Sheet Mulching for the Edible Landscape:

Former Lawn, now vegetables and fruit

Former Lawn, now vegetables and fruit

What is sheet mulching? Simply put, it is putting several different layers of materials on your soil to get rid of your lawn, weeds and unwanted plants.  It consists of manure, cardboard and  mulch.  You can use different kinds of manure and different mulches. The main purpose is to cover the weeds, allow worms to eat them and to create fertile conditions for growing your new plants. Let me tell you how I got rid of my old lawn.

The day I decided I could no longer stand to mow my lawn one more time, I also realized I wasn’t going to break my back digging it up either. Sheet mulching was my solution, and something you can also do fairly easily. Fall and winter is the perfect time to do this.  You can let the covered area sit over the winter and in spring it will be ready for planting.  Follow the simple directions below and you will be amazed at how easy it is turn turn old and in the way into new and the only way to go.

Decide on an area that you would like to replant.  In  many cases, an old lawn really suits the bill. First you mow the lawn, or cut weeds and leave them on the ground. Next, spread manure 2” deep over the whole area. If you live near horse stables, they will usually be happy to give you the manure for free.  Be sure it has composted and is not fresh.  You don’t want to bring in weed seed. If you can’t find local manure, then you can buy manure in bags from your local nursery. Thirdly,  cover the manure with large pieces of cardboard (obtained free from a nearby appliance store).

On top of the cardboard you can lay another 2 inches of manure. Cover it all with six inches of fluffy hay or any other good looking mulch.  Once done  it looks fine. Your next  help comes in the form of hardworking earthworms.  Imported in the manure they make themselves right at home under their cardboard roofs, and over time (that would be Fall and Winter) they turn the lawn into beautiful soil.  I  sheet mulched my old lawn in the fall and when spring came, I planted varieties of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as well as lilies, roses, herbs and flowers.  It turned into a cornucopia of beautiful food. The best news was that I didn’t have to dig up the lawn at all, the worms just ate it and turned it into perfect soil.

This is really turning your yard into a beautiful Edible Landscape.

P.S. If you prefer to use custom made fabrics for your sheet mulching, Amazon and Gardeners Supply
icon sell some good products. Both of these links I’ve provided will take you directly to fabrics for sheet mulching.


Close up view of new area for fruit and vegetables, used to be lawn

Close up view of new area for fruit and vegetables, used to be lawn


Sep 152011
Heirloom tomatoes

Amazing Heirloom tomatoes at the Expo in Santa Rosa

On Tuesday, September13, I went to the Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California. It was truly amazing.  There were many vendors from seed companies, tool companies, produce, nurseries, irrigation, master gardeners, farms, gardens, restaurants. And everyone there was interested in healthy, organic food.  The ripple of movement towards healthy food is becoming a tidal wave.

The keynote speakers were Jeffrey Smith from the Institute of Responsible Technology, talking about genetically  modified foods and the dangers they pose to human health and the environment, Alice Waters, the pioneer of the local food movement and the Edible School  Yard, and Dr. Vandana Shiva from India, who founded the movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds.

Heirloom gourds

A mountain of gourds at the Expo defies description

Seed Savers Exchange defines heirloom seeds and plants as follows:

The genetic diversity of the world’s food crops is eroding at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. The vegetables and fruits currently being lost are the result of thousands of years of adaptation and selection in diverse ecological niches around the world. Each variety is genetically unique and has developed resistance to the diseases and pests with which it evolved. Plant breeders use the old varieties to breed resistance into modern crops that are constantly being attacked by rapidly evolving diseases and pests. Without these infusions of genetic diversity, food production is at risk from epidemics and infestations.

This is just the tip of the heirloom iceberg. How we grow plants, what we grow, how we take seed, how we harvest, sell and preserve this food is all part of the big picture of growing healthy, safe food, that is good for all living beings and good for the earth.

The simple act of planting food in your own home garden is an important step you can take to make a difference in your lives and your children’s lives. Choosing what to plant and how we take care of our gardens is up to each one of us.

Over the next few days I’ll be telling you about the wonderful seed companies, tool companies and more that I found there.  Just know, that you’re on the cutting edge.

Herbs in box

Herbs in box

Even a small wooden planter box can supply you with healthy, delicious herbs for the season. Start small and keep on going.

Aug 052011
  • Edible Front Yard
  • Fruit trees, herbs and flowers in the front yard(click on pictures to enlarge)


Creating a beautiful front yard is always challenging, and adding the parameters of “Edible” and “Deer Resistant” can make it even more challenging. At the house in the photo above, the houses were close together, all had white picket fences, and home to roaming, munching deer.

This is what the yard looked like before we started:

Where's the front door?

From the side walk you can’t get through to the front steps without going into the driveway.  An oak tree also hid the front entry.

This is looking at the yard from the corner of the yard standing in the driveway:

Weeds and a picket fence block the front yard

Once you clear out everything you don’t need/want, it is easier to imagine the changes that you can make. Here it is all cleaned up:

A clean slate

At this point, we decided where to put in a front path leading to the stairs, so that people visiting didn’t have to walk onto the driveway. We also laid out a side path to the backyard. By removing the picket fence, we made more room for planting, but more importantly, made a small front yard seem much larger and more in proportion to the two story house.

Here’s what the yard looked like right after we planted. On the left of the walkway is a Pineapple Guava bush, which is a flowering, evergreen, fruit baring shrub.  It looks good all year long.  It is planted with deer resistant flowering shrubs.  I always recommend plantings in front that look good most of the year.  Avoid large plantings of annuals and perennials that die back in the winter.

An inviting path leads you to the front steps

To the right of the path is a pear tree and farther right is an apple. The rest of the yard is planted with native California plants, California strawberry and Pt Reyes Creeping Manzanita.  These plants require little water and make a neat carpet under the trees.

Here’s what is looks like from the corner.

Corner view after one year

The paths were interplanted with creeping thyme, which is beautiful, fragrant and also deer resistant.

Stepping stones with creeping thyme

Although the yard is quite small, we managed to put an apple, plum, pear and pineapple guava in with herbs and natives and it looks good too! The kids can’t wait to eat the fresh fruit from their own trees.

Here’s what it looks like two years later.

Edible Front Yard

Fruit trees, herbs and flowers in the front yard

The side path reflects the front entry, but is smaller.

Slate stone entry and stepping stones to the back yard

One final design note.  We planted fragrant jasmine to climb up the front posts. It adds one more quality to the welcoming entrance.

Most of the yards in this neighborhood had lawns in the front.  Here is one plan that can inspire you to try something different.



Aug 012011

Paths are important

Getting started with your edible landscape really begins with you sitting down and writing up a list.  It will have two parts.  One part is what exists.  One part is your wish list. I suggest walking around your yard at different times of the day. Remember that some areas which are in full sun in the summer, are in shade in the winter.  These areas are on the north side of a house, a tree, or any structure. Take stock of your property and find the easiest, sunniest most accessible place to start planning your edible landscape. Take pictures. Take your time. Take a stroll around the neighborhood and see what catches your eye that looks good.

Copper relects the morning sun on this front yard fence

After you list what exists on your property, start thinking about what you would like to have. Is there room for fruit trees, or berry bushes? What perennial vegetables would you like to have? Asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes are just a few. Herbs are some of the best edible plants in terms of how much we use them and how good they look in the landscape.  Create places to sit, eat, read, look at a view.  Set out destinations in your garden.  Morning sun is different than the setting sun and if you can find a few special places to sit, that would add a lot to your design.

At this point, make a wish list and then prioritize it. Everyone has a budget, and we can’t always get what we want but we can usually get what we need. Later we can talk about the different ways to use new and recycled materials to get the most out of your garden budget.

Before you start digging and cleaning and planting you want to make sure you’ve got your plan. Measure your area and put it on paper. Get a compass and notice where North is.   This is an important step, as it will remind you where the sun and shadows will fall. In the winter the sun is low on the horizon and the north side of anything will be in shade. Even a low fence will cast shade on winter days.

Open fence lets light into garden and keeps out dogs

Draw your garden  and place the important elements that won’t change. These would include the house, sheds, trees and shrubs, paths, and fences.

Note any slope and retaining walls, or areas that need retaining walls.  Note drainage issues.  Rain in winter can run off in different patterns. Look for erosion areas. There are many issues associated with water which we will talk about in following posts.  They include drought, storing water, irrigation methods and costs, winter storms and runoff and much more.  Let’s get started with your plan and not worry about those pesky little issues right now.

Fruit trees and herbs are part of an edible landscape

Pull out your paper and pencil, and make your lists.  Next step: make a drawing of your garden site.  There’s lots of information to pass on, but we have to start, one blog-step at a time.  See you tomorrow!

Jul 122011
mulched garden


The Edible Backyard

The Edible Landscape

Edible landscaping is the type of garden design I’ve been doing for 35 years.  I’ve been gardening and designing gardens for all those years.  And boy do I have stories.  With landscaping ideas based on the principals of organic, sustainable and beautiful, I will pass on my hard earned lessons to those who are ready for the edible journey.

I will share garden tips, favorite plants, and how to easily and simply design and implement your own bountiful garden.

Some of you may be wondering “What in the world IS edible landscaping?” It is combining the best of both worlds of gardening and landscape design.  It is a way for you to get deep satisfaction out of growing healthy, tasty foods for you and your family AND make your yard look beautiful.

Bright and Beautiful- the Sunflower

I take the elements of good landscape design and infiltrate them with plants that we can harvest year round. The trick is putting the right plant in the right place.  Of course, we know that not all plants are created equal and some are more beautiful than others and some are just too darn good not to plant.  I will teach you how to skillfully incorporate those plants that look good with those that provide great food, but are too homely to be seen front and center.

A healthy plant is a beautiful plant.  We’ll be talking about how to keep all your plants healthy and productive, using simple organic methods.  But it’s still good to remember to always plant a little extra for the birds and others that come to the table to taste.

Who can resist a ripe strawberry?

What I will do with this blog is set out in a straight forward and simple way, how to help you move forward with your plans to turn your own yard into a beautiful and productive paradise.



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