Soil solarization in raised beds

For a while I was lucky with my raised bed garden, and had few problems with pests and diseases. But this summer, a vicious case of wilt (I’m guessing Fusarium wilt) weakened or stunted several of my plants (mostly peppers) and a hungry colony of flea beetles had taken up residence in my tomatillo crop.

Combined with the drought in California, a particularly hot season, and a month-long vacation looming, I decided to put all those problems to bed — under a sheet of plastic for the remainder of the summer.

Soil solarization is a highly effective, nonchemical method for controlling soilborne diseases. While it’s commonly used on commercial farms, it’s not as prevalent in home gardens because it does require part or all of the soil to lay fallow during peak summer. In a home garden where space is often limited, it’s hard to give up a raised bed for the four to six weeks it takes to treat the soil.

But if you plan ahead (or, like me, you know you’ll be away from the garden for an extended period), soil solarization is an ideal solution for killing weed seeds, controlling nematodes and pests, eliminating soilborne plant pathogens, and improving tilth and soil biology. Think of it as a solar oven in the garden, baking everything underneath it — and what comes out is sterile soil, free of the problems that used to plague your plants.

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September 6 2014      43 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín

The five little things that made my week…

Salton Sea

1. Road trip around the entire 116-mile coastline of Salton Sea.

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September 5 2014      11 comments     Linda Ly
Diversión

How to make nukadoko (fermented rice bran bed) for pickling

I’ve always been fascinated by fermentation in its many forms, from the souring of cabbage in sauerkraut to the souring of grains in a whole-grain feed made for chickens. The sourness happens through the proliferation of Lactobacilli in your food, and simply by letting this good bacteria accumulate over a few days or a few weeks, you (and your gut) will get all the benefits of these natural (and delicious) probiotics.

Long a fan of Japanese rice bran pickles, or nukazuke, I’ve wanted to make my own at home but knew that the art of fermenting food in nukadoko (a fermented bed of rice bran) required a long-term commitment in the kitchen.

While making homemade nukazuke is fast and easy compared to, say, sauerkraut, inoculating the nukadoko does take more than a few steps the first week, and then an everyday routine to keep your bed flourishing with beneficial bacteria. From the first day you mix your own nukadoko, it needs daily stirring by hand to aerate the rice bran and keep the microbes in check.

Yes, every day. By hand. And in summer, sometimes twice a day.

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen and your nukadoko lives in a spot where you see it every day, stirring takes no more than 20 seconds. Nukadoko thrives on the bacteria that naturally lives on your hands, the same bacteria that can turn a baby cucumber into a crisp, piquant pickle overnight or a handful of spring radishes into refreshing, tart little crudités in just a couple of hours.

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August 29 2014      16 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina

Summiting Mount San Jacinto

When Will and I volunteered for California State Parks Foundation a week ago, we knew that we wanted to end the weekend (or more accurately, start the week) with a summit of Mount San Jacinto, the highest peak of the San Jacinto Mountains and sixth most topographically prominent peak of the lower 48.

The dramatic rise of Mount San Jacinto

Mount San Jacinto is known as one of the “Three Saints,” the three highest points on the three highest mountain ranges in Southern California (Mount San Antonio of the San Gabriels and Mount San Gorgonio of the San Bernardinos are the other two). What makes these mountains so special is that on a clear day, you can actually view the other Saints from the summit or slope of each one.

Mount San Jacinto was my first ascent of a Saint (and hopefully not my last), but I’ll admit that we took the easy way up. It rises to an elevation of 10,834 feet but the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, combined with a couple nights of camping in Tamarack Valley, gave us quite a head start to the summit.

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August 25 2014      9 comments     Linda Ly
Aventuras

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a very special project with the California State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the California State Parks system through fundraising, legislative advocacy, and volunteer work days at understaffed parks.

My husband Will currently leads the work days at our “home” park, Rio de Los Angeles, but had been tapped to coordinate and guide a group of volunteers on a two-day backpack up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. This is the only overnighter that CSPF organizes and the weekend fills up every year, even with the number of volunteers doubled this year.

With how often I personally visit the parks and utilize trails all over the state, this was a small way for me to give back. Many people don’t realize that a portion of the trails they hike every year is maintained by volunteers; this includes rebuilding and reinforcing the paths, creating new paths, cutting back foliage, and diverting trails around natural features. The volunteers hike in to these trails with their backpacks and tools, and if you’re familiar with some of the trails, you know they can be quite a distance!

We “lucked out” in that our project site, Tamarack Valley, was only three miles from the trailhead with about 700 feet of elevation gain, and we were camping right where we were working. Tamarack Valley lies in the Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness at 9,200 feet. A network of trails spreads out from the designated campground, and our weekend entailed working on the trails (some of which were nearly nonexistent) and “freshening up” the outhouses (digging new holes and moving the structures — who knew that this was actually a job?).

I decided to highlight this project in a Five Things Friday post because one, I’m incredibly grateful for and impressed by the volunteers that made this event happen, and two, I hope to inspire you to give back to a community you’re passionate about, whether it’s the outdoors or even just your local garden club, food bank, animal shelter, or any cause that you strongly believe in and support. Many of us might feel encumbered by what little time we have, or think we’re stretched too thin already, but I am still amazed that it only took one weekend of work to provide years of future enjoyment for fellow hikers and campers in our state park. A little goes a long way!

If you want to spend a morning or two with wonderful people working with the California State Parks Foundation, you can join their Park Champions program as a work day volunteer. There are work days all over the state at various state parks; once you sign up, you’ll receive emails on upcoming work days and where volunteers are needed most. Their online calendar also shows scheduled work days, so you can find one closest to you. Monetary donations are great too, but bodies are always appreciated!

And now… the five little things that made my week! (You can see more photos on CSPF’s Flickr page.)

Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness

1. Though it was nearly 100°F in town, the mountain was at least 30° cooler and made for a fun, temperate hike to Tamarack Valley. Not a bad “office” for the weekend.

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August 22 2014      15 comments     Linda Ly
Aventuras   Diversión

Curing your winter squash for storage

Before I started gardening, I used to think winter squash referred to the squash that grew over winter. Only after harvesting my very first “winter” squash did I realize all the pumpkins, hubbards, butternuts, and turbans that arrived at the turn of cool weather actually took three or four months to get there!

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August 20 2014      26 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Verduras

Sparkling summer sangria with lemongrass, ginger and peach

If you’ve made my lemongrass-ginger syrup, you’re probably wondering what else you can do with it besides pouring bottomless lemongrass-ginger ales. (Not that there’s anything wrong with bottomless lemongrass-ginger ales!)

So, how about a spritzy white sangria filled with all of our favorite flavors of summer: tangy lemongrass, zippy ginger, juicy peach, and a hearty handful of fragrant basil.

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August 15 2014      22 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Frutas