The Evolving Question

My personal garden has been a grand experiment. For the first 15 or so years I dabbled at growing vegetables. At first it was about novelty: How could I stretch the tomato season? Tangy mesclun, nutty Christmas limas, and smoky salsify – what unique tastes could I bring to table? Quinoa, cassava, favas – what

High-yield vegetable gardens

How to obtain incredible yields from a small urban square footage, and make it all look beautiful, too! 1. Plant edibles. It sounds really obvious, but Americans tend to plant way too many flowers. Fill your space with food plants and then add a few flowers in the left-over spaces. Learn which food plants are

Nourishing with Compost

When we broke ground at the Community Garden at Holy Nativity, the site was old grass and junipers. Not the nice kind of grass, but the scratchy stuff that kids won’t even romp on. Photographic records showed that the space had probably been grass and junipers for over 30 years. You can imagine what our

How Much Mulch

Emilia Hazelip, gardening near the fields of France, used straw — about 10 inches of it! A local homestead project once stated on their blog that they use 4 to 6 inches of mulch. Lowenfels and Lewis are far more conservative, specifying 2 to 3 inches, however they are in a cooler, moister climate. Regardless,

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