Jan 312015
Seed sowing medium

by Avis Licht

1. Prepare your table for sowing: Potting mix, containers for sowing, seeds and labels.

I use organic potting mix from my local nursery. I try to use either bioegradable pots, like these coconut fiber pots, or reuse the plastic ones over and over. I save my cans and plastic containers from the grocery store to use for either sowing or transplanting.


2. Choose your favorite seeds that will grow in your climate, and make sure you are sowing at the right time:

It’s late January, and I live in Northern California, where we can grow many vegetables year round.  It’s a good time to start Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chard, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Onion, Spinach and Peas. In my hand you can see Chard seed. As seed goes, they’re pretty big and easy to handle. To get an early start, I sow them indoors in pots for transplanting in late February. You can also sow Chard directly in the ground when your soil warms up a bit.



3. Fill your pots to the top, then place a few seeds on the surface. My finger is pointing to the seed. For chard, which is fairly large, I will push the seed into the soil so that it gets a firm seating into the soil. Then cover lightly.


4. Label your pots with the name and date of sowing. Believe me, this is an important step, as you will probably not remember what you sowed or when you sowed it.




Push large seeds firmly into the soil. Peas can go half an inch deep.


Leeks are small seed and hard to handle.  I use this seed sower which gently lets out seeds a few at a time.  Because leeks are small seedlings, you can sow many in a small pot. When they are ready to be transplanted you can easily pull them apart. More on transplanting later.


Here’s Broccoli. It’s a favorite in our household and I like to grow a lot of it. It’s a small seed. I put 5 seeds in a 4 inch pot.  When they’re about 3 inches tall I take them out of the pot carefully and transplant them.


Basil seed looks a lot like broccoli only smaller. If you are using small pots for sowing, then sow 2 seeds per pot. That way you can figure that every pot will have at least one plant.


Here’s kale. It’s become very popular lately. There are many kinds of kale. Personally, I like it cooked.  It’s a little tough raw.  I really had a good laugh the first time someone told me I had to massage my kale for salad making! But it’s true.  If you rub your kale with a little salt and olive oil it gets more tender.



5. Gently water in your seeds. You want the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Keep the surface moist so that the seeds don’t dry out.  As soon as they germinate you can cut back on the water a little.

6. Make sure your plants get plenty of light. I use flourescent lights in a shed to make sure they’re strong and sturdy.

Be sure to read more about lights and seedlings in this article to find out which lights and how long to leave them on.


As soon as your seed germinates it needs plenty of light









Well, that just about takes care of the steps to successful seed sowing.  Don’t be afraid. Growing your own plants from seed is one of the most satisfying and magical parts of gardening. If you’re having troubles or need advice, just go to the Ask Avis page and let me know what’s up. Or leave a comment or suggestion at the bottom of the page.  I look forward to hearing from you.



Jun 252013

by Avis Licht

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

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

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.



Daylily buds are edible and highly prized in Chinese cooking



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

Cherry Belle Radish

Radishes – Harvest early and often

Harvesting raspberries

In an unusual June rain, we adore picking raspberries.


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

Delicata squash

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

Miniature rose

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

IMGP0058Variegated thyme

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


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


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

Squash blossom

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

Cucumber blossom

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

Blueberries starting to ripen

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

Jun 072013

by Avis Licht

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I love carrots fresh from the garden, but I also have had some real problems growing them.  I get the beds beautifully prepared, raked and ready to go.  Sow the seed, water the bed, watch it germinate and bam! the next day the seedlings are all gone. What in the world?!?

Overnight, small and voracious insects come out and devour my delicate seedlings. Earwigs, sow bugs, snails and slugs are all culprits.  After several seasons of failure, I decided to grow my carrots in containers, where the little buggers can’t get them. Sure enough I have had incredible success.  Not only do the seeds germinate, but growing in potting soil, the carrots come out perfectly formed and absolutely delicious.

Purple Cosmic Carrots

Purple Cosmic Carrots

The pots I used are called Smart Pots.  They are made from fabric that is strong, light weight and come in many sizes.  It is perfect for  folks who don’t have place to store containers when not in use.  They fold up, last for years and create excellent growing conditions for your plants. You can buy them here at discounted prices: Smart Pots.

Baby carrots from Smart Pot

Baby carrots from Smart Pot







I tried some different kinds of carrots this year including, Cosmic Purple, which you can see is a lovely purple, Chantenay Red Core and Shin Kiroda, a baby Japanese variety with short 3″ -5″ carrots, just right for a container. I use only organic potting mix which you can get here: Organic Potting Soil.

You can buy organic vegetable seed packets from Seed Savers Exchange here: Organic Vegetable Seeds.

Be sure to give your carrots plenty of sun, at least 6 hours a day.Carrots need constant moisture – don’t let them dry out, but also, don’t drown them.

Children will love to eat these baby carrots, they are sweet and just the right size.


Dec 192011
Lemon Verbena in flower

by Avis Licht

Lemon Verbena in flower

One of the best herbs for tea and flavoring - lemon verbena

Growing your own herbs for tea and flavorings is easy and satisfying. Many herbs can be grown in pots and brought inside in the winter, to give you fresh, delicious taste. In the next series of posts I’ll go through a variety of my favorite herbs.  Today’s is about Lemon Verbena.

This delicate perennial can survive winters down to 20 deg F, but will lose its leaves in the the winter.  In mild winter areas, it may keep some of its leaves.  So if you have a place in your house for this plant, it is worth the space. We don’t always have lemons available, but you can have lemon flavoring with this plant.  It is tangy and lemony in a way you wouldn’t think a leaf could be.

In the ground, lemon verbena can grow to 8 – 10 feet. It looks better pruned, but is still kind of homely.  However, its flavor more than makes up for any  visual deficiencies.

Lemon verbena prefers  rich, well drained soil. It does better with regular watering, but can become fairly drought resistant with time. Full sun is the best.

In a container, make sure it has compost and well draining potting soil.  Water it regularly, but don’t leave it sitting in water. Put it in a sunny spot by a window.

Lemon verbena grown in the ground

Incredible lemon fragrance makes lemon verbena a favorite shrub

You can use the leaf as a substitute for lemon zest in almost any recipe. It is fine in both sweet and savory dishes. You can use the leaves to garnish fruit salad, or put it in with vegetables such as as broccoli, spinach or asparagus.  You can rub chicken or lamb with the leaf or lay it over fish while baking.

Pour boiling water over the leaves and you have a wonderful tea, or float a few leaves in cold water and have the fresh taste of lemon.

Its uses are really numerous.  Experiment – you can’t go wrong with this plant in your edible landscape.


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