A Thick Quilt of Mulch

“Nature abhors bare soil,” said French Permaculturist Emilia Hazelip. When you take a hike in the mountains, have you ever noticed how the shrubs drop a thick layer of leaves? In their natural state, shrubs make their own mulch. Peel back a thick layer of garden mulch, particularly in the springtime when everything is still

Smooth or Chunky

In the gardens of my youth, the soil texture was definitely chunky. Chunky then meant sandstone and shale rock pieces – chunks so hard you could not break them with a pick, let alone with the tender root of a seedling. Smooth was what was left over when the chunks of rock were removed and

Drop Yer Bloomers

Lately I’ve been growing impatient with impatiens. Petunias, snapdragons, bouganvilla, ficus, bird-of-paradise: our Southern California cities luxuriate in year-round ornamental gardens. Pretty bloomers, yes. But truly, a mix of non-functional tropical plants slurping water in what is really a desert climate, usurping land use where urban space is now so precious. Lawns and nonfunctional landscapes

Going Organic

Going organic is much more than just switching from Monsanto-manufactured chemical warfare, to herbal sprays and less-toxic powders. Going organic is an opportunity to rethink. It is a journey of rebuilding with different, yet similar, basic components. When we build our garden organically, we must leave behind the grow-what-I-wish-and-spray-the-bad-bugs domination mentality. There is a whole

The Lost Art

“Can she bake a cherry pie?” chants the American folk song. That didn’t mean opening a can of goo from the supermarket and dumping it into a frozen pie shell. It mean knowing when the cherries were sweet and ripe, harvesting and pitting them, creating the pie shell from scratch (perhaps hand-churning the butter), and

Places to learn about seed saving

An online booklet to get you started http://www.seedalliance.org/download-form-1/ (more cool stuff from them http://www.seedalliance.org/Publications/ ) A beautiful YouTube about seeds and genetic heritage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9K0cZGQgHA A graphic that explains F1 hybrids and why so few will breed true. http://scienceforhumans.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/punnet-square-mendel-results.jpg At my seed class they quoted 8% as the amount that breed true, and they did not

Watering the Garden

In the Community Garden at 83rd & Dunbarton, we use what we call “the one finger test.” That means you take your finger and stick it into the garden soil – about one inch down into the soil. The soil down there should feel moist, like a wrung-out sponge. If the soil feels moist, your