How To Add Thousands To Your Home’s Value For Only $100

"Cornelian Cherry" Edible Dogwood (Cornus Mas)

What exactly does a hundred bucks buy you in terms of increasing your home's value? Maybe a mid-range new faucet, or a new vanity light. A new coat of paint on the entry way (paint only, no labor), a slightly used door knocker, a brass street number sign, several fruit trees... Stop right there. Yes, that's right, not one, but several fruit trees, planted strategically on the property, growing and yielding fruit after a couple years. By the time you're ready to downsize and move out of the suburban ghetto back up to a midtown condo, the apple or peach or pecan trees are mature and a nice little tack-on feature to the property, something to stand out from the other characterless two-Bradfords in the front, Bermuda-in-the-back … [Read more...]

Gardening Interlude: Observe and Interact

Raised Bed Under Construction, Spring 2012

Diversification is a good thing.  As in investments, so in garden soil. Organic gardening is more than eschewing chemicals and chanting hippie-dippie mantras at dusk to attract garden faeries (seriously, some people do this).  Organic strives to feed the soil.  Good soil is alive with billions of microorganisms active within the strata of a typical garden bed, all busily eating, excreting, getting on about their business of life and death, and in the process contributing to soil fertility. The no-till method builds fertility from the ground down.  Layer enough organic matter on top, and bacteria and fungi and microorganisms do the rest. Earthworms aerate the soil with air tunnels, eventually distribute biomass downwards, creating … [Read more...]

Building Raised Garden Beds, Part 1

Future tomato bed, infested by bermuda grass

I really had no intentions of adding any new raised garden beds this  year.  We're busy, I'm traveling more for work, more house projects. Hadn't even started any seedlings. But gardening, as they say, is a gateway drug to ... more gardening. And that's how I ended up with a new 4' x 15' bed for the onions, a rebuilt hugelkultur 4' x 12', a 5' x 7' bed for the squash, and a new long strawberry patch. It all started with one of the tomato raised garden beds from last year.  I mistakenly planted it too close to the lawn, and the bermuda grass saw an opportunity to colonize fresh new ground. The restoration of this bed I detailed in a post a few week ago ("Gardening Interlude").  It was essentially to surround the bed with … [Read more...]

Gardening Interlude

Operation Reclaim

Last year I posted on some worthwhile goals for the spring garden.  Some I accomplished, and some I modified along the way. This year, I have no goals except for putting plants in the ground.  Work has kept me extremely busy with more travel than usual, and frankly the writing I've been doing for this blog has taken away time from other activities. Nonetheless, I've managed to do a couple little projects that will pay dividends down the road.  One of them has been to reclaim/salvage a bed out at the hacienda's remote garden. Last year, this bed produced a bumper crop of potatoes, tomatoes and ground cherries.  The soil was a mix of aged cow manure, rotted hay and "forest soil" I dug up from under old oak trees around the … [Read more...]

Pepper Plants and Permaculture Design Principles


I noticed something pretty neat in my garden the other day. The first frost has come and gone. The basil, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, tomatillos and beans have all been killed off by the cold temperatures. That's OK, they're all warm-weather summer plants, and this just one more sign that the seasons are turning and we shift into new activities for the year. So, all are dead, leaves blackened and shriveled, waiting to be cut down and made ready for the compost pile. Except one little “hot apache” pepper plant. This little guy volunteered, meaning the seed was carried by winds or rain into the little crevice between the paving stones and border stones. Seemed like one day, hello!, he was just there. The photo of the … [Read more...]