SoCal Spring Garden Show

Flowers at SoCal Spring Garden Show from A Gardener’s Notebook (



Pinterest: Lovely Dry stream bed for garden

I came across this picture of this lovely dry stream bed in my Pinterest feed a few days ago. I love this as a way of giving some defined character and flow to a garden. It is really a great point of interest for people to explore and enjoy. I would love a real stream in the garden, too, if possible, but this at least gives a sense of it even in the driest garden.

Source: via Jill on Pinterest

In the garden this morning…the fortnight lily. (Dietes)

Found this this morning while wandering around the garden…

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Check out some of my favorite gardening books and tools in the WelchWrite Bookstore and more!

 Check out some of my favorite gardening books and tools in the WelchWrite Bookstore and more!

Agn bookstore

Homemade Potting soil and potting bench

Update: 20120426: I came across this link on making  your own seed compost today and thought is was a nice complement to this post. Enjoy! – DW

How to Make Your Own Seed Compost from My Tiny Plot

Another project we accomplished the other day, using our own homemade compost, was some homemade, peat-free, potting soil. I am getting a bit of a “bug-in-my-ear” about creating my own versions of some of the things we use in the garden everyday. I knew that I had compost, but while my compost is very rich and fine, it is also quite hydrophobic (water fearing). It isn’t quite dense enough to retain water and also support new root structures for starting seeds. My experiments with this were quite disappointing.

After a bit of research on the Internet, which has a plethora of possible potting soil recipes, I settled on my own combo to try. It uses my compost, coconut husk coir and a little perlite. I was unsure on what proportions to use, so I started with mainly compost and then added the coconut coir in batches.

Pots with new homemade potting soil

In this first batch I ended up with an equal mixture of compost, coconut coir and 1 part perlite. I did this by eye, so I won’t really know how well it works until the seeds we planted today, but from the look and feel of the potting soil, I think I am on the right track.

Recipe: (if you can call it that) (LAUGH)

  • 8 parts homemade, sifted compost
  • 8 parts coconut coir
  • 1 part perlite

I had thought about adding some sand to the mix and I might add some to a small batch this mix to specifically use for seedlings and for some cuttings that I am planning on trying.

Potting Soil Ingredients Coconut coir rehydrating

Sifted Compost

(L-R (clockwise) – Coconut coir and perlite as purchased, coconut coir rehydrating, homemade, sifted compost)

You can also see here my new, ad hoc, potting bench. I have never really had a decent bench, so for this project I decided to thrown one together. This is just a recycled closet door over some sawhorses that weren’t seeing much other use. This should serve me our needs for the next few months. We start doing more potting, we might eventually build or buy something more permanent.

New ad hoc potting bench

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Compost harvest with photos

We took some time today to harvest some compost for a couple of purposes. One is to augment a, hoped for, vegetable bed that needs some improvement. The other project is to create some homemade potting soil for starting some seeds for said vegetable plot.

I’ll have more to say about the potting soil in a future post. For now, here are a few pictures of our compost bins as they appeared when I opened them today. I like my Garden Gourmet composters, because there is no turning, no emptying, not much of anything really. For a lazy gardener like me, this is perfect. You put material in the top and eventually get you compost out of the bottom.

Here is my best producing bin, #1.

Compost Bin 1

You can see the line across the bottom of the bin showing the area where compost meets material yet to be composted. I reach in here with a shovel and start removing the finished compost.  Eventually, once I have removed the majority of it, the remaining material will slip down and continue the process.

This is compost bin #2

Compost Bin 2

This might not look like much, but there was actually a good layer of compost just under those leaves and pieces of straw.This bin has always been more problematical. It seems to be drier and less productive, no matter what we might do to it. Fortunately, it looks like things are finally working. Although the compost is less refined, it is compost and quite useful in the garden. It is good to see things finally cooking in this bin as well.

Here is some of the compost as I sifted it out. I could sift it through even finer mesh, but I don’t mind a bit extra material. I am doing this for usefulness not show. You can also see here a collection of sow bugs, grubs and other insects. I saw a couple of large spiders, but they skittered off before I could take a picture.

Compost sample before sifting

Anything that wasn’t quite composted completely was set aside and will either be thrown away or put back into the composter for another trip, too.

Finally, here is a handful of the finished compost that we spread on the vegetable bed. i wish I could take credit for it, but it is really just a matter of natural processes, insects, microbes and time.

Sifted Compost

I hope your composting adventures go as well, if not better than mine. It really isn’t that difficult.


Event: New Altadena farmers market starts May 30

Sounds like a great new Farmer’s Market is getting started in Altadena. My wife is a co-worker of one of the principals of  The Institute of Domestic Technology. We probably won’t be able to make until about the 3rd week of June unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts.

New Altadena farmers market starts in May

The Institute of Domestic Technology announced that the Altadena farmers market is set to launch May 30 at Loma Alta Park. The weekly Wednesday market will operate from 3 to 7 p.m., sponsored by Altadena Heritage and managed and operated by the Institute of Domestic Technology, a new organization that cites as its purpose reigniting “the passion of how we make food, the ingredients we source and the farms on which they originate.”

Read the entire article.

Wine bottle garden bed edging finally done

After a rainy and busy few days, a garden project called me out into the yard. I had been meaning to finish the wine bottle garden bed edging we started a few months ago, but we needed to collect another large group of wine bottles first. Thank to the help of several friends, who brought over their empties and a few bottles of out own, I finally had enough to complete the circle around our small rose bed.

Wine bottle garden bed edging done

I will get some precise figures for your in a few days, but I counted counted 50-60 bottles used over a space that I estimate to be about 25-30 feet. Those numbers seem a bit off, though, so I need to get out the tape measure and count the actual number of bottles used. Needless to say, wine bottles aren’t that large, so it is going to take a lot of them to line any significant distance.

I also discovered how much easier the process can be if the ground is wet, as opposed to the mid-Summer bone dryness. It has rained quite a bit over the last several days, so digging the trench for the bottles could not have been easier. I covered 3-4 times the distance in this run than either of the first 2 sessions. It was so easy to dig that the bottles went in at the right height almost immediately. In the last session, I had a difficult time getting the bottles to go deep enough to match the first set of bottles I had installed.

Wine bottle garden bed edging done

If you are going to be putting in edging like this — and I would imagine any garden edging that requires digging — wait until after a significant rain or wet the area heavily with a hose and give it an hour or so to sink in before you try to dig. Now that I know this trick, I am sure that that process will go much more quickly in the future.

I used all sorts of bottles in my edging, but if you wanted it to look a bit more refines, you could collect bottles of a certain type or color. I have seen this edging done with all blue bottles and thought it was quite striking.

Previous posts on wine bottle edging: