Organic pest control

 Bugs in your garden are an indicator, not a “problem” to be fixed. They’re an indicator of an imbalance in your overall garden system.

It’s kind of like the indicator light on the dashboard of your car — when the red light flashes, it’s not the lightbulb that needs to be fixed, instead you need to fix the underlying problem that the light is telling you about.

For 11 years we ran the Community Garden at Holy Nativity organically. We didn’t use pesticides or pest treatments, we didn’t reach for sprays — whether purchased or homemade, organic or not. Instead we took a holistic approach. Continue reading “Organic pest control”

Which milkweed should I plant in Southern California?

I’ve caught the milkweed bug. It all started with an accidental visit to a City of Santa Monica building near Santa Monica airport. They had planted milkweed outside the building, 18+ plants by my count, and there were TONS of monarch larvae, with lines of chrysalises along the building’s siding. A few adult monarchs fluttered about, checking the place out. I wanted a milkweed patch at my place!

I’d heard some controversy about milkweeds, that we shouldn’t be planting Tropical Milkweed, but I wasn’t sure.

The catch was, what kind of milkweed should I plant? Continue reading “Which milkweed should I plant in Southern California?”

About Mycorrhizal fungus

I’ve been reading more about mycorrhizal fungus and how incredibly beneficial it is to our gardens — indeed to our long-term future.

If you don’t know much about this beneficial soil organism, grab a copy of Lowenfels and Lewis’ Teaming with Microbes, and prepare to be completely amazed.

If you’ve been to my garden classes, and heard me talking about “live soil,” this is what I’ve been talking about. As gardeners, we need to make a shift from “taking care of our plants” to being awesome caretakers of the live elements within our soil.  If we become awesome Worm Farmers, we’ll have a gorgeous and productive garden. Continue reading “About Mycorrhizal fungus”

What is a more-sustainable garden?

garden by mconnors via MorguefileHere’s how our gardens can become part of solving some of the world’s greatest problems.

LIVING ECOSYSTEMS.  Humanity is part of  a vast network of life on this tiny planet. The planet’s ecosystems operate as intricate interconnected and interdependent systems, so vast that scientists are only beginning to glimpse their magnitude and complexity. “The environment” is a life-support system – for us as well as for all living beings. Without functional ecosystems, we have no life.

As we, humanity, become more conscious, it is becoming increasingly apprarent that all design must support ecosystems. From pollinator populations to soil organisms, Nature needs our help.   Continue reading “What is a more-sustainable garden?”

What’s your get-ready-for-rain routine?

waterbarrelWe’re ever hopeful that we’ll get some rain.  Here in L.A., deep into this historic drought, that still remains a big hope!

But each time the weather forecasts call for precipitation, I run around doing my routine … garden tools away, close the sheds, buckets and wheelbarrows inverted.  Here are a few special ones … Continue reading “What’s your get-ready-for-rain routine?”

What benefits does your drought-tolerant garden provide?

A California Natives garden can be a beautiful haven for bees, pollinators, butterflies, beneficial insects, birds, and urban wildlife.

An edible garden can feed you and your family, perhaps with extra to share with your neighbors and the food pantry too. A drought-tolerant edible garden boosts the nutrition in your food, provides you with exercise and fresh air, helps reduce your food miles, and can sequester carbon (which helps to reduce global warming).

Just remember:

Gravel + suck-ulents do not equal sustainability.

Root knot nematodes

someone else’s photo, that looks like what we saw

Yesterday in the Community Garden, we discovered that we are experiencing an attack of Root Knot Nematodes.  The beets we pulled up had failure to thrive, failed to form a beet root, and had tons of tumor-like growths on the hair roots.  Yuck.

The excess of one organism — to the point that we call them a “pest” — is a system imbalance.  It’s probably due to something lacking in the overall micro-ecosystem.

I’m sure our beets this year were weakened from lack of proper rain, and from excess high temperatures this season, so they were particularly succeptible.  My guess is that we probably have had low levels of root knot nematode everywhere for years, but thus far the soil ecosystem had kept them from flourishing and becoming an out-of-balance pest.

We grow organically, so that streamlines our treatment choices.  The goal is to regain the soil-ecosystem balance. Continue reading “Root knot nematodes”

Backyard Wildlife Habitats

Zauschneria (California Fushia) is a hummingbird magnet

Elements of Backyard Wildlife Habitats

1. Food
2. Water
3. Cover
4. Places to Raise Young
5. Sustainable Gardening

–from the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program

* Water * Cover * Open ground * Mulch * Nectar sources * Fruit * Seeds * Annual wildflower seed
— from Las Pilitas native plant nursery

Continue reading “Backyard Wildlife Habitats”