May 212012
 
Edible landscaping at its finest
Edible landscaping at its finest

Take out the lawn and put in fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, bees and rabbits and you may just have the garden of eden.

By Avis Licht – What do you imagine when you hear the term “urban farm” ?  To me it sounds big with rows of vegetables and possibly a barn with animals. But that’s not the reality of urban farms that I visited in Berkeley, California last week.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be high lighting a variety of gardens/farms in the city.  Some are backyards, some are vacant properties on loan to non profit organizations and some are community gardens.

Today I want to show you how one woman, Ruby Blume turned her backyard into a fully functioning mini farm, providing her with most of her food needs, including meat, honey, fruits and vegetables, mushrooms and plenty of beauty.

She co wrote the book Urban Homesteading with Rachel Kaplan and runs the Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland, California. They offer many classes in gardening, animal husbandry, kitchen skills, food preparation, handcrafts, permaculture and much more.

On Saturday, June 9th, 2012, they will be hosting an Urban Farm Tour from 11am – 5 pm in Oakland and  Berkeley. Details and descriptions at iuhoakland.com

vegetables in the backyard

A small backyard can produce a lot of food. Grow what you love to eat.

rabbits

When you raise your own animals, you know how they've been treated

Rabbits - 8 weeks old
Rabbits are ready to eat after 8 weeks
Honey Bees

A few hives can be safely put in a backyard for honey and pollination

 

Quails for eggs

Quails -They don't take up much room, are beautiful to look at and apparently lay good eggs for eating. Lovely quail house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak logs for growing mushrooms

You can grow mushrooms at home by buying spores and inserting them into the logs

 

Oak logs for mushroom growing

Ruby had her logs at the side of the house where nothing else would grow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers for beauty and food

Edible flowers add to the diversity and beauty of the garden

 

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

 

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