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.


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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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.

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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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!


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



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.

Sep 102011

$20 off $40

The Fall season in Northern California is the worst time for deer in the gardens. The grasses and other forage in the wildlands have dried up and intrepid deer come wandering into our gardens, looking for something good to eat. If you don’t have a 6 foot fence surrounding your garden, you’ll want to know some herbs that you can count on to be deer resistant.

lavender in the Edible landscape

Lavender (click to enlarge)

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs.  It is fragrant, easy to grow, doesn’t need much water and deer really don’t eat it. It does need sun and good drainage.  It is a perennial plant, that in mild climates, meaning no heavy snow cover, can live for 5 – 7 years.  After that, it starts looking worn out and old, and needs to be replaced.

I was surprised to taste how good a glass of ice cold water from a pitcher that had a sprig of mint and a sprig of lavender in it was.  As long as you don’t over do it with the lavender, it is really a wonderful flavor.

rosemary in the edible landscape

Rosemary at the bottom of steps (click to enlarge)

Rosemary is another absolutely fantastic herb for the edible landscape.  It is a multi purpose plant. It is also easy to grow, liking full sun and little to moderate water and doesn’t need much care. It’s evergreen and cold hardy to 20 deg. although some varieties are more tender. You can use it in many styles of cooking.  I’ve never seen a deer eat a Rosemary plant, which can’t be said for many plants.

Rosemary varieties can be found as upright shrubs to 6 ft tall, and as low as 1 ft. cascading over walls. The flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees and produce excellent honey.  I call this plant the work horse of all herbs.

Yarrow in the edible landscape

Free blooming pink yarrow (click to enlarge)

Yarrow, called Achillea millefolium, is a beautiful and carefree herb.  It grows in all zones in full sun, with little or no water.It has finely toothed leaves and a flower that can be used for fresh or dried bouquets.

You can find varieties of Yarrow with white, pink, red or yellow flowers. There are creeping varieties and ones that grow to 3 ft tall.

Thyme is a well known herb which comes from the Mediterranean. It is a low growing, plant in the mint family.  There are some wonderful flavors of different thymes, including lemon, lime, caraway scented and orange scented. I use it as a ground cover between stepping stones.  It has a beautiful flower as well as being fragrant when you step on it.  As with the other herbs I’ve talked about, this one also doesn’t need rich soil or much water. For maintenance it is best to shear or cut back plants after they flower.

Thyme in the edible landscape

Thyme between stepping stones (click to enlarge)

These are a few of my favorite herbs for the edible landscape.  But I promise there are more to come just as wonderful.

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