Archive for the ‘eco garden’ Category


Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

June 17th-23rd is National pollinator week. Here are a few tips to attract these helpful feathered friends to your garden today!

1. Keep your feeder fresh.

Offer sugar water in a hummingbird feeder by mixing one part sugar to four parts boiling water. Change the water frequently since the “nectar” can spoil quickly, sending a hummer away no matter how hungry it is. Replace the solution every five to seven days during the cooler months, and as often as every two days in the summer.





2. Make sure your flowers are a favorite.

Plant annuals and perennials with different blooming periods to have a steady supply of flowers from early spring until fall to attract hummingbirds and keep them there. Red and tubular flowers are a favorite, but also consider native honeysuckles, most varieties of sages or salvia, and many types of columbine.


3. Leaving some insects can be beneficial.

While many people think hummingbirds feed only on nectar, the birds feed their young a diet made up almost entirely of small insects. In addition, adult birds need regular doses of protein from mosquitoes, spiders, thrips, gnats and other arthropods.


4. Don’t forget water.

If you have a birdbath, place a couple of flat rocks in it to give the tiny birds a chance to bathe. Running water seems to be a magnet to hummers—they will even fly through the spray of a sprinkler. Or, if you have a large clamshell handy, they make excellent birdbaths. Don’t forget to rinse them out often and replenish with fresh water and you will be rewarded with many beautiful feathered visitors!



12 ways I save water at home

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Water is essential to our quality of life. We can’t thrive without it. In California, we are in water crisis. For the first time in the state’s history, the water supply and delivery system may not be able to meet our growing needs.

There are several ways I have learned to reduce the amount of water my household uses by saving good water that is usually wasted, which in turn, also saves money by reducing my water bill. I’ve gone beyond turning the tap off when brushing my teeth, the 3 minute shower and turning the dishwasher on when it’s full.

Following are the other 9 ways I save water in my home:

In the back of the toilets, I’ve hung Toilet Tank Banks, which saves 0.8 gallons of water with every flush:



Available from Amazon

In the shower, I keep a Rubber Bucket, to collect the freezing cold water because I don’t want to get in until it warms up! After my shower, I empty the bucket in my garden on my non-edible plants, such the hedge:



Available from Amazon

The bathtub is used primarily for soaking and not for bubble baths, so I can easily use a Sump Pump to pump the water out through the window and into another part of the garden that doesn’t include edibles. Occasionally, I’ll fill up the water barrel outside my bathroom window and use that water when the garden needs it:



Available from Amazon



Water Barrel:  Available from Amazon

In the kitchen, I keep a Recycled Plastic Kettle near my sink, which I pour unfinished glasses of water into. When the Kettle is full, I pour that water into my orchids or other non-edible plants:



Available from Amazon

In my kitchen sink, I use my largest stainless steel bowl when rinsing fruits or vegetables under running water. I pour that water into one of my raised vegetable beds. In this image, I used a ceramic bowl!



Available from Amazon

In my kitchen, I also use a Salad Spinner to wash my greens such as lettuce, kale, spinach, dandelion, parsley, herbs, etc. That water gets added to the raised vegetable beds or any other plants that need water in the garden:



Available from Amazon 

In my garden, I have another Water Barrel to collect water coming down from one of my gutters when it rains. That water is used to irrigate the non-edible garden beds:

water barrel #1


Available from Amazon

In my garden, I’ve been switching to drip irrigation, which saves water from evaporation, which occurs when using a hose or conventional sprinklers:


I also have a water purification system by Lifesource, which takes care of the needs of my whole house, filtering out chlorine and retaining natural and beneficial minerals such as calcium and magnesium. To find out more, contact



Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Surprisingly, there are many fruits, vegetables and herbs you can grow in containers. I’ve had success with tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, figs, oranges, lemons. tangerines, lettuces, basil, kale, arugula and aloe vera. The make wonderful gifts: I’ve given friends of mine small fig trees and aloe plants I have grown from either a cutting or a seedling I have found in my garden.

Since produce loses at least 40% of its nutrients when being transported, we should try and grown as much as we can ourselves.

All these 66 fruits, vegetables and herbs need is:

*Plenty of sun

*Plenty of room to stretch and grow their roots in their pot

*Occasional fertilizing ( sometimes monthly)

*Regular watering since plants in pots dry out faster than those planted in the ground.


Tree fruits

1. Apples

2. Kumquats

3. Avocados

4. Blackberries

5. Blueberries

6. Pomegranate

7. Cherries

8. Figs

9. Pears



Citrus fruits

10. Dwarf oranges

11. Grapefruit

12. Tangerines

13. Meyer lemons

14. Limes


Tropical fruits

Tropical fruits can also be surprisingly easy to grow indoors, even in non-tropical climates. Such as…

15. Bananas

16. Pineapple

17. Papaya

18. Guavas


The Good Stuff

19. Hops

20. Aloe Vera

21. Strawberries

22. Tea (well, herbal tea)

23. Quinoa


The obvious

24. Tomatoes

25. Summer squash

26. Other squashes, like acorn and pumpkin

27. Hot Peppers

28. Sweet peppers

29. Cucumbers



30. Small cantaloupe

31. Jenny Lind melon

32. Golden Midget Watermelon



33. Basil

34. Oregano

35. Parsley

36. Rosemary

37. Chives

38. Catnip

39. Thyme

40. Sage

41. Parsley


Leafy Greens

42. Kale

43. Mesclun greens

44. Spinach

45. Swiss chard

46. Lettuces

47. Mustard greens

48. Collard greens

49. Arugula


Root Vegetables

50. Carrots

51. Beets

52. Potatoes


Other healthy stuff

53. Sprouts

54. mung bean and lentil sprouts

55. Wheatgrass

56. Kohlrabi

57. Turnips

58. Rutabagas

59. Celeriac

60. Parsnips

61. Jerusalem Artichoke

62. Sugar snap peas

63. Rhubarb

64. Mushrooms

65. Pole Beans

66. Asparagus

This list comes from the fabulous blog:



Friday, August 30th, 2013


I recently took a culinary workshop at The Getty Center in Los Angeles called “From Garden to Table: Dining in the Renaissance.” It was fascinating to learn how gardens and food evolved during that period!

One of the art forms to undergo a big transformation during the renaissance (circa 1400-1600) was garden design. The renaissance garden was designed to be a place of beauty and relaxation and promote physical health. Studies of ancient botanical, and medical writings underscored the importance of diet to a person’s well being, so the culinary arts were suddenly deemed worthy of examination and reinterpretation. A food revolution was happening in Italy, and simply prepared dishes of local, fresh and seasonal ingredients were gaining popularity over the heavily spiced meals so common elsewhere in Europe.


Four o’Clock, Brown Hairstreak, Herb Robert, and Chanterelle-1591-by Joris Hoefnagel


Great teachers of that time were monks who lived in monasteries, where they tended to their gardens daily and planted them with medicinal herbs used in the healing of illnesses. Over time, they became so educated in medicinal herbs that the first medics studied under them. In Padua, Italy, in the 16th century, a University Medical School was established to study plants, and a large medicinal plant garden was created, enclosed by a large wall, to prevent thieves from getting in and stealing the precious herbs.

Italian cooks started sharing their recipes in books, and the first cookbooks came out of Italy during the renaissance period, and became very popular in Europe, where people were learning about eating salad and vegetables.


Speckled Wood, Talewort, Garden Pea, and Lantern Plant-1591-ny Joris Hoefnagel


Following is an authentic recipe dating to that period from Maestro Martino:


Asparagus Frittata


Asparagus have been a delicacy throughout the Mediterranean area since ancient times, where they were a sign of elegance and had been recognized for their medicinal properties, for being ” cleansing and healing.”




1 bunch of green asparagus

1 small bunch of Italian parsley

1 small bunch of marjoram

1 small bunch of mint

2 tablespoons of olive oil

6 eggs beaten

½ cup of milk

¼ cup of Parmesan

salt & pepper to taste




1-Trim the tough ends of the asparagus so that each spear is 4″ long. Blanch the asparagus by boiling them in salted water for a few minutes, until barely soft; then plunge them into ice water and dry on an absorbent towel.

2-Finely chop the parsley, marjoram and mint. Mix the eggs with milk, Parmesan cheese in a large bowel and add the chopped herbs.

3-Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan until quite hot, making sure the oil is spread out over the entire surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly into the pan. Arrange the asparagus spears on top of the frittata like spokes of a wheel with the delicate tips facing the outer edge of the pan and the ends touching in the center.

4-Set the heat to medium/low. Cover the pan to allow the eggs to cook completely through. Check often to make sure it’s not burning or sticking.

5-When set, slide the frittata onto a large round serving platter and cut into wedges, one asparagus spear per slice.


Serves 6.



The second recipe is from physician and botanist Costanzo Felici:

Insalata Mista Di Erbe E Fiori (Herb and Flower salad)


The Italian word insalata literally translates as “salted” and refers to “every raw green or mixture of raw greens or something else dressed with oil and salt,” as proudly defined by Costanzo Felici. Northern Europeans were wary of raw vegetables and fruit, warning those who traveled south to take care to avoid these potentially dangerous foods. The English Boke of Kervynge of 1500 even advised court chefs to “beware of green salletts and raw fruytes for they wyll make your soverayne seke.” But Italian botanical and medical research was insisting otherwise, and the inclusion of such simple, earthy dishes in Renaissance banquets is proof. They also learned to wash all salads, vegetables and fruit before eating them, to wash off any bacteria, just as we still do now.




1 head of romaine lettuce

1 head of radicchio

¼ pound of fresh spinach

¼ pound arugula leaves

¼ cup each chopped herbs: parsley, mint, marjoram, thyme)

½ cup of rose petals

1 cup of mixed edible flowers (violets, marigolds, nasturtiums, calendula)

¾ cup of olive oil

¼ cup of wine vinegar

salt & pepper to taste



1-Wash the romaine, radicchio, spinach and arugula leaves well, and dry in a salad spinner. Cut into bite sized pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

2-Coarsely chop the parsley, mint, marjoram and thyme; add this to the salad bowl.

3-Add the rose petals and edible flowers

4-Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss well to mix all the flavors and serve at once.

Serves 6-8



* I shared from notes I took during my culinary workshop, and also from from a helpful and very informative handout that was given, which included the recipes as well. Many thanks to the wonderful instructor Robin Trento.


To find out about other culinary workshops: The Getty Center Culinary workshops:

Straw Bale Vegetable Garden

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013





Hay Bale by Jamie Wyeth


When I was little, and spending my summers in Maine, I used to play hide and seek amongst the bales of hay in the hayloft in a big old barn on my family’s farm.

I’ve since learned that Straw bales can be turned into wonderful vegetable beds for anyone who has a concrete yard, patio or deck. It’s inexpensive and works very well for growing all sorts of vegetables and herbs like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, or basil, and annuals like pretty, colorful and edible nasturtiums.

Use a Straw Bale instead of a Hay bale, as Hay has too many grass seeds, though the heat may kill the grass seeds so you could be fine. I used a Straw Bale, and put it down in a spot that gets plenty of sun.



Water the bale the first day, giving it a good soak. On the second day, sprinkle the surface with ½ a box of Blood Meal, which is an organic nitrogen, and soak it again, allowing the blood meal to seep into the straw bale, creating the ideal growing environment for what you plant. Repeat the following day, until the box is empty and blood meal is soaked all the way into the bale.

Every day, over the next 10 days, water the top so the straw will soften up.



On the 10th day, using a serrated knife cut 4 – 4″ x 4″ holes, along the middle and sprinkle each hole with a little organic potting soil. I planted tomato plants and made a simple growing frame out of bamboo poles.



Since I started my plants late in the season, they have just started producing the sweetest tomatoes.

The straw bale will start to naturally biodegrade and once the tomato plants are done, I’ll spread the straw throughout my vegetable garden and add a bit as well to my Valentina composter. Nothing will get wasted.






Armand and Augustine-The Tale of Two Swallow Tail Butterfly Caterpillars

Friday, May 31st, 2013


Every May, The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles hosts an Insect Fair. This year, I came home with 2 Swallowtail caterpillars, which I named Armand (the larger one) and Augustine.




Back at home, I gently placed them on anise (fennel) from my garden, which stayed fresh in a small vase of water that I placed on my windowsill, out of direct sunlight. Caterpillars have powerful jaws that are ideal for biting through tough plant material. Armand and Augustine fed nonstop and put on weight quickly.




They ate their way through the anise until Augustine had enough and bound herself to a plant stem with silk that she produced. She shed her skin and spun a cocoon, another step towards her final transformation into an adult butterfly, which can take up to two weeks. Augustine is going through her transformation in a large netted bag suspended in the shade outside my kitchen. She is expected to emerge from her cocoon around June 7th. As soon as she does, I will release her.













While Augustine’s was busy making her cocoon, Armand went missing. I searched the entire area where he was last seen and I couldn’t find him. Then, 2 days later, he was spotted:



Armand had decided that he didn’t want to spin a cocoon on the anise like Augustine but preferred a wood shelf from Ikea instead. Armand has suspended himself among my Moroccan tagines dishes and wood bowls. As soon as he is ready to emerge, I will keep all the doors and windows open so he can safely fly out into my garden to look for Augustine.




Armand and Augustine will have to make the most of their time together as it will be a brief 3-4 weeks, during which they will have to mate and Augustine will lay her single sphere shaped egg, hopefully on the anise in the garden.

To attract butterflies to your garden, plant their favorite flowers:

Lantana (Lantana camara and hybrids), Butterfly bushes (Buddleia’s), Marigolds (tagetes species), Zinnias (Zinnia elegans), Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), Wild Buckwheats (Eriogonum species), Milkweeds (Asclepias series), Glossy Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) and Anise (Fennel).

Next month, I hope to share photos of Armand and Augustine! Stay tuned.

RePurposing Knee High Stockings

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


For years, I’ve been tying back my gorgeous climbing wisteria on my pergolas with all manner of string, but recently, I found a much better way of securing those same vines: old knee high stockings. Cleaning out my sock drawer recently, I came across these sad socks with runs in them, which turns out make the best ties for the wisteria, which have tender vines to start when they first start growing. The sock does for the plant what string cannot-it not only doesn’t cut into the bark but it also stretches allowing the vine to grow.

Not throwing the socks into the trash, does make a difference in reducing the monumental amount of waste in our dumps as these socks aren’t remotely biodegradable and will be around forever. Rather good for garden ties, because those knee highs will be used over and over again.

2 of my stash of old knee high’s


All tied up


The socks may be permanent fixtures, if the wisteria needs ongoing support…



Harvesting Flower and Vegetable Seeds

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012


I’ve been collecting flower seeds since I was little, during my summers spent in Maine. I loved walking through my grandmothers rock gardens, and snapping off the dried pods from Lupines, Columbines and Coreopsis and shaking the seeds into a paper bag. When I became a mother, I would take my daughters Arielle and Lucie through the gardens and they helped me harvest those same seeds and we dropped them all through my family’s place, anticipating lots of flowers the following summer. We wanted flowers everywhere!

Harvesting flower seeds is one of my favorite garden tasks. I love collecting the dried pods, spreading the seed out on newspaper to dry and putting them in a labeled glass jar, with a silica gel packet to soak up any bits of moisture. I store them in my fridge until I’m ready to plant them again or in a cool, dry place.

How to collect seeds:

1-With garden sheers, cut and collect seed pods from your flowers, herbs and vegetables into a bucket, paper bag or whatever is handy. I love aprons because it’s so easy to stuff the pockets full of pods as you wander through the garden.

2-Try and keep the seed pods separate. Open up the pods and dry the seeds separately as well on newspaper in a cool/shade spot indoors or in a ventilated box outside. Make sure to keep the lid on, to discourage birds and rodents from serving themselves.

3-When the seeds feel dry, which can take a few days, I either put them into paper envelopes, labeling each one or I store them in re-purposed glass jars. I have loads of mustard and jam jars, which are perfect for seed storage. Drop a silica gel packet inside the jar-I save those packets whenever I find one in a parcel or in something I bought.

For beginners, this is my list of the easiest  seeds to harvest, dry and replant: Sunflower, Lupine, Columbine, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Marigold, Zinnia, Lettuce, all Beans, all Peas, Sorrel  and Cilantro.

It’s more important than ever that we all save seeds from our organic gardens, especially the herbs and vegetables and share those with our friends. Being able to grow your own food, year after year, using seeds from plants that you have grown is very satisfying, and feels fantastic being so self-sufficient. With GM seeds, you can’t do that. Long live organic seeds!

Just harvested Cosmos from my garden-A fun and  easy seed to collect

Cosmos seeds drying, with a few Mexican Sunflower seeds mixed in

Sunflower seeds are easy to harvest, just don’t let them dry out too much

Lovely dried Zinnia seeds

Herb and flower seeds in jars, ready to be given to some of my friends for Christmas

Mexican Sunflower seeds from my garden given to a fantastic gardener, my friend and film director Robert Dornhelm

My purple string beans growing from last years harvest. Just gorgeous!


For more info about seed collecting and buying:

The Seed Library of Los Angeles:

Seed Savers Exchange:

The Organic Seed Alliance:










1 Gun Ranch

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

A few weeks ago, I met the very cute Lady Gaga, Waffle, Winston,  and Churchill who are all residents of 1Gun Ranch, the coolest biodynamic farm located high up in the hills above Malibu, California. Apart from all the furry and feathered friends (I love that many of them are rescues), I saw very nicely designed enclosed vegetable gardens, with huge tomato plants, basil, and cilantro all growing in dark, rich super soil that 1Gun Ranch makes and also sells to the public, which is fabulous for all of us who love to grow our own produce in chemical, additive, hormone and pesticide free soil. The brain behind One Gun Ranch is the lovely Alice Bamford, who herself grew up on the Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestshire, England.

I was so thrilled when Alice told me she loves my monthly almanac, and especially the “Gardening according to the phases of the Moon calendar,” but I’m also so inspired by her work and vision for 1Gun Ranch, as a resource for educating children from various local schools about how to grow vegetables organically and connect with nature around them, both such healthy and enriching experiences that stimulate creativity. Something I myself would love to learn one day at 1Gun Ranch: foraging for local wild greens like mugwort and dill! I want to keep learning on how to be self-sufficient and live the most enjoyable sustainable lifestyle possible.


Classic entrance gate

Waffle the donkey


Winston and Churchill

Blessed Teepee

Fresh eggs

Love this bulb + fixture

Lady Gaga and friends



Enclosed vegetable gardens

Frida Kahlo inspired guest house

One of my eco heroes: Alice Bamford

Thank you so muchxo

















Wednesday, May 30th, 2012


This homemade acidic fertilizer was so easy to make. Use it on plants like Azaleas, Roses, Rhododendrons, Blueberry, and Hibiscus which love acidic fertilizers. Eggshells are almost 100% calcium carbonate, one of the main ingredients in agricultural lime, which increases the pH of acidic soil. In case you live in Los Angeles, did you know that the soil is predominately alkaline…


Start by saving your eggshells in jars


Let them dry by the window-sill on some newspaper


Place the dried eggshells in a blender and pulse until they have turned into a fine powder.


Sprinkle in your garden.


P.S. I learned how to make this from a site called