The New California Garden: How to be water smart and keep your yard green year-round

By now most everyone in the Golden state has realized that we are running extremely low on our precious fresh water resources and more and more drastic measures are being taken as water companies big and small enact water usage restrictions to keep the taps flowing. Lawns everywhere are browning out and gardens beds are dying off. Nevertheless there is some relief to the situation in the form of rebate programs, smart irrigation technologies, and greywater and rainwater harvesting. The switch from overhead sprinklers to more efficient drip irrigation can save thousands of gallons of water per month in water use. Also installing a “smart” water timer with a weather based sensor or a greywater irrigation system will push the savings even higher.

Most local towns and cities have for several years now offered a cash rebate for lawn removal for homes and businesses. These “Lawn to Landscape” projects are great for California as it allows for low maintenance, drought tolerant flowering gardens to add more curb appeal and property value to our communities than a plain green or brown lawn ever could. Not to mention more much-needed beneficial habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees.

This is part of rain garden planting in Atascadero using California native trees, grasses, and flowers. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

This is part of rain garden planting in Atascadero using California native trees, grasses, and flowers. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

This 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. It filled up this spring on 4” of rainfall alone and is the sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per 1” of rain.

This 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. It filled up this spring on 4” of rainfall alone and is the sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per 1” of rain.

Josh Carmichael is the owner of Carmichael Environmental, a local landscape design & build firm located in San Luis Obispo. For more info on sustainable landscaping, water conservation techniques, or green building projects contact our office at (805) 544-3214, visit our website www.carmichaelenvironmental.com or follow us on Facebook today.

Summer Veggie Garden Planting - 2016

Summer is coming and it is a great time to plant your summer vegetable garden.  We use mostly starts to create a diverse and delicious assortment of herbs, flowers, and veggies to use in your kitchen from summer into fall.

Simply plant out any vegetable starts that you want to grow this season.  Summer crops include cucumbers, eggplants, hard and soft squash, hot and sweet peppers, melons, potatoes, and tomatoes along with any herbs and flowers you enjoy having around.  We enjoy including edible and medicinal flowers like calendula, marigold, pansies, and nasturtium.  Sunflowers make great poles for polebeans and tomatoes and basil benefit being planted closely together.

After you have planted your veggie starts, water them in well. And don’t be shy on filling your yard with garden mounds and planters to get a lot growing!  We suggest using drip irrigation to minimize water waste and to get the water straight to your planted areas.

This is what our summer veggie gardens look like in full bloom, most of the plants will be harvestable until November in our climate.  After harvesting all of that, you can start seeding and planting for your winter garden.

One of the few problems you will face with a summer garden is overabundance, so be prepared to share your food with friends and neighbors.  Get creative with recipes and keep in mind that pickling and jarring will be great for keeping your foods for longer since being able to consume it all can be a challenge. 

Any size container will do to grow food in your own backyard. Here is a featuring of our corten beds full of summer herbs, flowers, & greens. Happy growing and eating from your backyard this summer! Contact us today to help design, build, or prepare your gardens for seeding and planting. 

Summer veggies recipes include:
Caprese, bruschetta, pasta sauce, summer drinks, and many more.

 

Josh Carmichael
Founder of Carmichael Environmental

 

The following are examples of crops growing together simultaneously for at least part of their life cycle:

  • Sowing buckwheat between tomato plants keeps weeds suppressed, adds carbon to the soil, and improves soil structure. The buckwheat can be mowed before it competes with the tomatoes and left as mulch. This technique also works well with squashes and cucumbers, which have lots of bare soil around them as they develop. If you use floating row cover to control pests, the buckwheat can actually lift the row cover off the plants. Remove the row cover when the squash flowers and again, cut the buckwheat and leave as a mulch.
  • Transplanting lettuce into a stand of broccoli (or other brassicas such as kale or cauliflower) maximizes available garden space of two species that have different plant architectures but similar growing requirements. The lettuce is harvested as the brassica plants fill in, having acted as a living mulch to suppress weeds and hold soil moisture. The brassica plants also provide a little protection for the lettuce as it develops.
  • Planting radishes and carrots together allows for an early harvest of radishes followed by a later carrot harvest. The radishes also help to mark the slower germinating carrot rows so an early cultivation can be done before the carrots emerge.

There are many more examples of inter-planting for maximum production. Quick-growing plants such as radish, arugula, or cress can be sown into already-established beds of tomato, pepper, corn, or beans. Plants that are easily transplanted such as brassicas, greens, or basil can be planted into open spots throughout the garden to insure that no space is wasted. The primary limitation is the availability of water. If water is available, the only limitation is your own imagination!

Steve Peters
Seeds of Change Product Development Manager

Local Forages: Miner's Lettuce

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Miner’s Lettuce 

(Claytonia perfoliata)

 

“A California child’s first trailside food, the mild, succulent leaves of this easily recognized shade-loving annual have a long tradition of being appreciated in the Golden State” – Judith Lowry

Miner’s Lettuce is a simple and delicious Local Forage.  It is easy to identify and harvest and can be eaten as you are walking by or be put into a sandwich or salad for their cool, refreshing flavor.  It prefers shady and moist areas, especially under oaks, where it can be harvested for months before going to flower and seed.  Common times to see the plant is from December through April.

Identification:
Miner’s Lettuce has two leaves fused together with the stem and white flowers in the center.  They have a distinct look to them, looking like a circle or heart shape with a deep, smooth green color and little flowers or bulbs in the center.

Gathering:
The leaves are edible and easy enough to pluck at any time, and depending on the soil, their stalks are edible and quite sweet if they grow sturdy, about a ¼” in diameter, and become pink.  Once the flowers start to grow, the leaves start to get a slight bitterness to their flavor.  One way to prolong the plant’s flavor is by plucking the off the flowers to stunt that development.

The seeds ripen inside green calyces, simply open them and check to see if there are tiny, shiny, pods.  If there are, pluck the whole plant and store in a paper bag until the seeds fall to the bottom on their own.  Over a couple of weeks, the leaves will dry and can be removed and the seeds can be collected.

For the Garden:
Miner’s Lettuce does a great job on spreading on its own and can grow quite vigorously, making its way throughout your garden’s shady, moist areas.  Miner’s Lettuce is an option for an annual, edible ground cover for December through April.  It grows abundantly under oaks and may already be under any of yours or in your garden!

Happy Foraging and Gardening.


The details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry

Our Roles and Services: Los Osos Septic Decommission & ​Repurpose Program

Carmichael Environmental is a full service, local landscape design and build company that is prepared to work on septic decommission projects as the sewer hookups are completed.  We are experts in rainwater, greywater, and stormwater collection (LID) systems.  We specialize in holistic design practices using edible and native plants and natural building materials.  We are SLO Green Build members, licensed to pull permits, and our employees have gone through the county training program. We are ready to sanitize and convert tanks for rainwater/greywater infiltration or catchment on your property. 

We offer the following services for septic tank repurposing:

  • Sanitation: We are certified to run sanitation tests on existing tanks so that they can be permitted for reuse.  We will file ePermits for all projects.
  • Rainwater Infiltration: We can run stormwater piping to your tank for groundwater recharge.  The water will flow into the ground through the existing leech field and/or a perforated septic tank.
  • Rainwater Catchment: We can run roof runoff piping to your tank and install a pump to connect to the landscape irrigation system.
  • Greywater Catchment: We can run greywater piping from the home sinks, showers, and washer to the tank for garden irrigation or toilet flushing.

Our general landscape services include:

  • Clean up and removal of on-site debris or excavated landscaping
  • New design plans following sewer connection
  • Installation of garden features from walls and patios to planting and irrigation
  • Greywater, rainwater, and stormwater collection systems for reuse
  • Organic Landscape Maintenance for year-round garden care

Call us today or visit our website for more info on our services, see our project galleries, find helpful articles & videos, or sign up for upcoming events & workshops.

* We do not do septic tank pumping, inspections, or lateral line connections to the sewer system.  We can refer you to one of our general engineering partners that are licensed strictly for this work.

CE_Letterhead_final_color_centered_-01.png

The New California Garden

How to be water smart
and keep your yard green year-round

 

It’s January on the Central Coast and we’re starting to see some of the rain El Nino promised to bring us this year. However, we are still enduring yet another season of this continued and severe drought cycle. By now most everyone in the Golden state has realized that we are running extremely low on our precious fresh water resources and more and more drastic measures are being taken as water companies big and small enact water usage restrictions to keep the taps flowing. Lawns everywhere are browning out and gardens beds are dying off. Nevertheless there is some relief to the situation in the form of rebate programs, smart irrigation technologies, and greywater and rainwater harvesting.

Most local towns and cities have for several years now offered a cash rebate for lawn removal for homes and businesses. These “Lawn to Landscape” projects are great for California as it allows for low maintenance, drought tolerant flowering gardens to add more curb appeal and property value to our communities than a plain green (or brown) lawn ever could. Not to mention more much-needed beneficial habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees. The switch from overhead sprinklers to more efficient drip irrigation can save thousands of gallons of water per month in water use. Also installing a “smart” water timer with a weather based sensor or a greywater irrigation system will push the savings even higher.

This home’s narrow, slanted front lawns were turned into a flowering edible garden full of yarrow, penstemon, citrus, pineapple guava, and Alpine strawberries among others. This adds great curb appeal, lower water use, and less garden maintenance for the homeowners.

This home’s narrow, slanted front lawns were turned into a flowering edible garden full of yarrow, penstemon, citrus, pineapple guava, and Alpine strawberries among others. This adds great curb appeal, lower water use, and less garden maintenance for the homeowners.

The state is now offering up to $2000 for any resident to join in, no matter your water source or location with its new Save our Water Rebate Program (www.saveourwaterrebates.com).  To start the process, continue to water your lawn until you contact the state water department and complete the application process. The rebate amounts can vary per project, but they will send approval within two weeks and the rebate within 8-10 weeks. Then you will have a 120 day window in which to install a new low water use garden plan.

Another local rebate available now to landowners in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, and Nipomo is through the Storm Rewards Program (www.stormrewards.org) sponsored by the San Luis Coastal Resource Conservation District. This group gives up to $999 per applicant to keep as much storm water on site as possible for residential and commercial properties. Their goals are focused at reducing water quality pollution in our local creeks, but this creates a great opportunity to further conserve this much needed resource for irrigation and aquifer recharge. They will fund permeable paving, rain garden, and rainwater tank collection projects.

Rainwater harvesting is quickly becoming a smart trend nationwide as people are looking to save money, protect water bodies, or keep their wells from drying up. There are many ways, simple to complex, to store rainwater for future irrigation use. Be it in tanks or allowing it to infiltrate directly into the ground in a rain garden or bioswale. These are both great ways to irrigate your garden with an environmentally friendly water source year round. You will appreciate the lower water bills as most all of your irrigation needs will fall from the sky for free and you’ll have enough water saved to grow your summer vegetables too. Happy gardening!

This is part of rain garden planting in Atascadero using California native trees, grasses, and flowers. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

This is part of rain garden planting in Atascadero using California native trees, grasses, and flowers. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

This 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. It filled up this spring on 4” of rainfall alone and is the sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per 1” of rain.

This 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. It filled up this spring on 4” of rainfall alone and is the sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per 1” of rain.

Josh Carmichael is the owner of Carmichael Environmental, a local landscape design & build firm located in San Luis Obispo. For more info on sustainable landscaping, water conservation techniques, or green building projects contact our office at (805) 544-3214, visit our website www.carmichaelenvironmental.com or follow us on Facebook today

Local Forages: Oaks and Acorns

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Oaks and Acorns

(Quercus)

              

During the Fall season, it is clear that all of the oak trees around us are producing acorns by the hundreds and dropping them down to scatter their huge understory.  This makes for an abundant resource for food as long as you can take the time to collect and prepare them.

Collection:

Collecting acorns works best by either picking them from the tree, shaking the branches for freshly ripened acorns, or scouring the same understory of some oaks to ensure they were newly fallen (so to avoid the tiny hole from the larva of the oak weevil).  Newly sprouted acorns (less than 2 inches) also indicate they are good to use.

There are over 20 species of oak native to California, with a few being local to San Luis Obispo county.  They grow in various climates with a variety of leaf designs and acorn sizes and tannin volume.  Different oaks produce varying size and flavor of acorns, but are all generally harvestable and edible.

If you are interested in being a part of any acorn harvesting, propagation, and flour making events, contact the SLO Permaculture Guild at slopermaculture@gmail.com  and “like” their Facebook page to be informed about upcoming acorn events.

The details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry
http://honest-food.net/foraging-recipes/acorn-recipes/

 

Valley_Oak_Mount_Diablo.jpg
Valley Oak Acorn.jpg

 

It is best to research the kind of acorn you are collecting by comparing acorn and leaf patterns so you can more accurately leach out the tannins and process properly. Here is a good guideline to making Acorn Flour:

Acorn Flour: 

Crack your acorns into a bucket of water, then extract them from the shells into a large bowl of water. Keeping the nuts under water helps preserve the light color—acorns oxidize and turn dark easily.  One good trick is to freeze the fresh acorns before cracking, and then cracking the shells afterwards and putting the nutmeats into cold water. 

Fill a blender half full with acorns and cover with fresh water. Buzz them until you have what really looks like a coffee milkshake.

Pour the mix into large jars (big Korean kimchee jars are great) about halfway and top off with more water. Seal the jar and shake everything up. Put the jar in the fridge.

Every day, pour off the water, replace with fresh water, shake well, and set back in the fridge. You're done when the acorns no longer taste bitter (The blue oaks took a week).

Now you need to dry your flour. Start by pouring everything into a colander with cheesecloth set in it. Gather the cheesecloth and squeeze it tight to extract as much water as you can.

Now spread the still-damp flour on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Break up any clumps. Blue oaks have a lot of oil in them, and you will get "acorn butter," a very light, clay-like substance that you can skim off or incorporate into the flour. I mix it in, as it has a lot of flavor. Acorn butter clumps a lot, so you will need to break it up well.

Now you need to dry the acorns.  You can do so by putting it through a dehydrator, laying the flour on a cookie sheet and leaving out in the bright sun, or putting the cookie sheet in an oven set on "warm”, or about 200 degrees. Don't get the heat much higher than that, or you will bake your flour, and you don't want that.

Finally, you need to grind the dried flour one more time. Use a heavy duty coffee or spice grinder. Grind the flour into a fine powder, which took me about 35 seconds. Store in the fridge or freezer, as the fats in acorn flour go rancid rapidly.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/12/recipes-for-the-mighty-acorn-a-forager-experiments/67228/


Acorn Flatbread

Makes 6-8 piadine, depending on size

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
¾ cup acorn flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of water

Sift the flours and salt together in a large bowl and make a well in the center.

Add the olive oil and water in the center of the well and swirl to combine with a finger or two. When the dough gets shaggy, start bringing it together with your hands, then knead it on a floured surface for 5-8 minutes. Use a bit more flour if it is too loose.

Lightly coat with more olive oil, wrap in plastic and set aside for at least an hour. This dough can hold in the fridge for a day.

Take the dough out of the fridge if you’ve put it in there and let it warm to room temperature. Get a griddle or a well-oiled cast iron pan hot over medium heat.

Cut the dough into equal parts; I’d suggest between 6-8. Roll them out one at a time with a roller and then your hands – they need not be perfect, as this is a rustic bread. You want them thin, though, about 1/8 inch.

Lightly oil the griddle and cook the piadine one or two at a time for 2-3 minutes, or until it begins to get nice and brown. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Keep them warm in towels while you make the rest. Serve with some cheese, fresh herbs – green onions are excellent with this – and some high-quality olive oil.

http://honest-food.net/foraging-recipes/acorns-nuts-and-other-wild-starches/acorn-flatbreads/


Acorn Flour Cake

Serves 4.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

½ cup olive oil
1/2 cup acorn or chestnut flour
1/2 cup cake flour or all-purpose wheat flour
¼ cup toasted and chopped pine nuts (optional)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 separated eggs
½ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Butter for greasing pans

 

Grease the springform pan or ramekins. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the acorn flour, wheat flour, baking soda and powder and salt in a bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in another large bowl, beat the egg yolks, oil, honey and 2 tablespoons of sugar together until it looks like caramel. Mix in the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, add the egg whites and just a pinch of salt and beat into soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar and beat a bit more, so the whites are reaching the firm peak stage.

Fold this into the dough a little at a time gently.

Pour, or really gently place, the dough into the ramekins (remember they will rise!) or the springform pan. Using a rubber spatula flatten out the top and place in the oven as fast as you can.

Bake for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, watch for burning, as acorn flour browns faster than chestnut flour. Remove from the oven, let rest 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

When they have cooled for a good 15-20 minutes or so, dust with the confectioner’s sugar.

http://honest-food.net/2010/01/03/acorn-cake-and-acorns-around-the-world/

Edible Landscapes - Information Press Article

Edible Landscapes

By Josh Carmichael
September 1st, 2015
You can see the article on Information Press by clicking here.

Photo by Carmichael Environmental This is a well-established food forest garden ripe with winter veggies ready to harvest. Cut in notches through the flowering greens and herbs every spring to plant  summer crops.

Photo by Carmichael Environmental
This is a well-established food forest garden ripe with winter veggies ready to harvest. Cut in notches through the flowering greens and herbs every spring to plant  summer crops.

One of the best reasons to irrigate a garden space is so you can eat from it. Using Permaculture practices and a culinary mind frees all of the delicious fruits, herbs, and veggies from the far corner of the backyard to where the front lawn used to be and everywhere in between.  It is best to approach edible garden designs the same way you would any ornamental plan, by creating an entire landscape full of different heights, colors and textures.

The key is to not segregate the edible plants into neat little rows or separate growing spaces. Use fruits, herbs, and vegetables not only for their taste, but also for their beautiful flowers and foliage. It is a great bonus to let plants bolt to collect seed, attract pollinators and add beauty and unique flavor to any recipe, as one can’t easily buy cilantro, arugula, or nasturtium flowers at the market.

Use traditionally edible plants for annual and perennial color and herbs and fruit trees as screens and specimens throughout the garden. Most cooking herbs like rosemary, sage, and lavender have very beautiful flowers and foliage and are very drought tolerant perennials, and the varieties of edible plants available are endless.

Photo by Carmichael Environmental The overgrown front lawns of a downtown Victorian home were removed and replaced  with new “keyhole” beds and a perennial food forest to create an old cottage garden theme with lots of home grown produce to share.

Photo by Carmichael Environmental
The overgrown front lawns of a downtown Victorian home were removed and replaced  with new “keyhole” beds and a perennial food forest to create an old cottage garden theme with lots of home grown produce to share.

These lavish gardens can be called Food Forests because they have several layers to them like a real forest ecosystem. Most trees do not exist alone in nature but are surrounded by an understory of edible plants. These include bulbs like onions, Achirra, carrots, and beets and groundcovers like oregano, strawberries and mint as well as edible shrubs like artichokes, guavas, and blueberries. Vine layers can be created with thornless blackberries, kiwis, and passion fruit and the canopy layer is made up of any fruit or other tree variety suited to the location. By growing these different types of plants together in specific guilds, there will be various forms, niches, and functions met and they will perform better with less inputs. An apple tree guild* is one good example of this process. It includes artichoke, dill, fennel, nasturtium, yarrow, comfrey, clover, walnuts and mulberries. As the plants mature each one fulfills a specific role from pollinator attraction, mulch accumulation, to nitrogen fixer or pest repellent to help its neighbor thrive. For instance, a mulberry tree acts as a physical buffer to neutralize the allelopathic affect from the walnut that would kill off the apple if planted too close. Another strategy is to include some ornamental flowering plants that fit into the guilds and serve multiple functions such as providing nectar sources, creating shade or reducing root zone competition.

Overall, this planting style equals higher yields with less costs in valuable water, time, and money resources. Using cues from Mother Nature we can all create highly abundant and beautiful food producing gardens that you will not only want to share with your friends and family, but all of the passing birds and butterflies as well. Happy Gardening!

Photo by RosenthalPhotography.com These clay pots filled with cooking herbs, edible flowers and fruit trees sit surrounded by Mediterranean flowers and numerous layers of edible plants.

Photo by RosenthalPhotography.com
These clay pots filled with cooking herbs, edible flowers and fruit trees sit surrounded by Mediterranean flowers and numerous layers of edible plants.

Josh Carmichael is the owner of Carmichael Environmental, a landscape design build company specializing in sustainable land use strategies. Created from his passion of art & science and love of the natural world, view results and read articles from Josh’s many years of experience in environmental consulting, green building, and community outreach projects at www.carmichaelenvironmental.com. For inquiries; to schedule a consultation or landscape services call (805) 801-6956.

Local Forages: Summer Veggie Garden

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant(s):
Summer Veggie Garden 

You do not have to go any further than your own backyard to forage plenty of delicious food this summer. Following our Summer Veggie Garden Planting article in June, your veggie gardens should be overflowing with many delicious herbs, flowers, and vegetables by now. It can be challenging to consume all of this bounty, so here are some ideas on what to do with it all from garden fresh main dishes to salads and drinks.

See our summertime recipes below that you can share with your friends, family, and neighbors to use up all of your backyard harvest.  Home grown tomatoes, basil, and other produce just can’t be bought at the store at the peak of perfection nor compare to the low cost and high satisfaction of growing your own.  Canning or pickling is also a great way to bring the summer treats into the winter months.  But for now, sit back and enjoy the great weather as you cook, eat, and entertain in your favorite outdoor living space.

 Happy Gardening and Boun Appetito!

 Summer edibles in season: Cucumbers, eggplants, hard & soft squash, hot & sweet peppers, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, basil, carrots, corn, herbs, stone fruit, and flowers.
 

Herb Grilled Chicken with Lemon Dressing
By: Josh Carmichael

Chicken

Bone-in or skinless, boneless breast and thighs
1-2 Cup Chopped fresh herbs*
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Cup Alcohol (white wine, beer, or tequila)

Season heavily with Salt, Pepper, Cayenne, or rub mix to taste
 
Snip herbs from garden including tarragon, parsley, chives, oregano, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, basil, bay, sage, or any other varieties you grow.
Marinate chicken with alcohol, lemon juice, seasoning, and herb mix.
Grill and top with lemon dressing recipe below, serve hot and enjoy!

Dressing

Juice of 1 Lemon
Vinegar (Tarragon or Apple Cider, optional for tang)
1 Tbs Honey
1/3 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbs Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh chopped herbs (we suggest Tarragon)

 Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and serve over the top of grilled chicken or veggies

  Grilled Peach and Avocado Salsa
By: Josh Carmichael

 1/2lbs Multi-colored Cherry Tomatoes
1-2 Ripe Avocados
½ Purple Onion
1 Bunch of Cilantro
1 Lime
½ Orange
1 Grilled Peach
1 Fresh Peach

Several Pinches of Salt

 Cut peach in half, season with oil, salt, and pepper, and grill on BBQ until marked. 
Cut cherry tomatoes in half and dice all other ingredients above. 
Squeeze in citrus juice and add pinches of salt to taste.
Use as topping over grilled meats or veggies, or use as a dip.
Substitute peach with any stone fruit or any other fruit in season.  Serve and enjoy!

  

Grilled Summer Veggies
By: Josh Carmichael

Zucchini
Yellow Squash

Eggplant
Bell Peppers
Olive Oil
Herbs and Spices

 Pick fresh produce from your veggie garden, slice into quarter inch thick slabs, season with olive oil, mixed herbs and spices. Grill until well-marked.  Also try as a kabob mixed with meat or fruit.

Serve as warm or chilled side dish.

 

Summer Salad
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

 ¾ cup lemon pepper dressing
1 bunch celery, finely chopped

2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered lengthwise and finely chopped
2 bunches green onions, finely chopped
2 green peppers, seeded and finely chopped

1 bunch radishes, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon parsley or chives, finely chopped

 Add celery, cucumbers, green onions, peppers, radishes, tomatoes, and chopped parsley and chives with the dressing and toss well.  Refrigerate or serve immediately. Serves 6.

Lemon, Verbena, and Mint Mojito

10 large lemon verbena leaves
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
4 cups ice, blended (or on the rocks)
2 limes
1/2-3/4 cups lemon flavored rum (Bacardi Limón works well)
15-20 fresh mint leaves
10-15 small lemon verbena leaves

See more at:
http://www.mykitchenaddiction.com/2009/10/frozen-verbena-mojitos/#sthash.UkDv35CS.dpuf

The New California Garden - InfoPress Article

This home’s narrow, slanted front lawns were turned into a flowering edible garden full of yarrow, penstemon, citrus, pineapple guava, and Alpine strawberries among others. It adds great curb appeal, lower water use, and less garden maintenance for the homeowners.

This home’s narrow, slanted front lawns were turned into a flowering edible garden full of yarrow, penstemon, citrus, pineapple guava, and Alpine strawberries among others. It adds great curb appeal, lower water use, and less garden maintenance for the homeowners.

It’s August in California and we are enduring another season of this severe drought cycle. By now most everyone in the Golden state has realized that we are running extremely low on our precious fresh water resources and more and more drastic measures are being taken as water companies big and small enact water usage restrictions to keep the taps flowing. Lawns everywhere are browning out and gardens beds are dying. However, there is some relief to the situation in the form of rebate programs, smart irrigation technologies and greywater and rainwater harvesting.

Most local towns and cities have, for several years now, offered a cash rebate for lawn removal for homes and businesses. These “Lawn to Landscape” projects are great for California as they encourage low maintenance and drought tolerant flowering gardens which add more curb appeal and property value to our communities than a plain green (or brown) lawn ever could. They also provide much-needed beneficial habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees.

Using California native trees, grasses, and flowers, this is part of rain garden plantin. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

Using California native trees, grasses, and flowers, this is part of rain garden plantin. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

The switch from overhead sprinklers to more efficient drip irrigation will save 100’s of gallons of water per month in water use and installing a “smart” water timer with a weather-based sensor or a greywater irrigation system will push the savings even higher.

To start the process, continue to water your lawn until you contact your local water purveyor and complete the application process. Then you will have a few months window in which to install a new low water use garden plan. The rebate amounts vary, but are $1/sq. ft. on average.

Another local rebate available now to landowners in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, and Nipomo is through the Storm Rewards Program  sponsored by the San Luis Coastal Resource Conservation District. This group gives up to $999 per applicant to keep as much storm water on site as possible for residential and commercial properties. Their goals are focused on reducing water quality pollution in our local creeks, but this creates a great opportunity to further conserve this much needed resource for irrigation.

A 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. The sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens, last spring It filled up with four inches of rainfall. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per one inch of rain.

A 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. The sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens, last spring It filled up with four inches of rainfall. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per one inch of rain.

Rainwater harvesting is quickly becoming a smart trend nationwide as people are looking to save money, protect water bodies, or keep their wells from drying up. There are many ways, simple to complex, to store rainwater for future irrigation use be it in tanks or allowing it to infiltrate directly into the ground in a rain garden or bioswale. These are both great ways to irrigate your garden with a local, free, environmentally friendly water source year round. You will appreciate the lower water bills as almost all of your irrigation needs will fall from the sky for free and you’ll have enough water to grow your summer vegetables too. Happy gardening!

 


Josh Carmichael is the founder and owner of Carmichael Environmental, a local landscape design & build firm located in San Luis Obispo. Their team is made up of Cal Poly horticulture and landscape architecture graduates and others focused on improving our environment with a hands-on approach. For more info on sustainable landscaping, water conservation techniques, or green building projects call: (805) 801-6956, visit www.carmichaelenvironmental.com or follow Carmichael Environmental on Facebook. 

Greywater Packet

Here is our greywater packet that we hand out at all greywater workshops and presentations we go to.  This gives you a very well-rounded introduction to what greywater is and other details.

Visit our Greywater Gallery as well for visuals on what a greywater system could look like and what it could produce for you!

New Times article: Shower to Flower

Josh Carmichael started installing simple gray water systems with landscaping to accompany it in 2009, after California plumbing laws changed to encourage gray water use. At first, he constructed about one system per year as part of his environmental landscape and design work, but gradually, as the reservoirs emptied, that part of his business picked up, and then it exploded. In the second week of July alone, Carmichael installed three new systems around SLO County—laundry-to-landscape systems that irrigate a garden. He said he averages about one per month now. 

“It’s just more acceptable now,” said Carmichael, who owns Carmichael Environmental Landscape and Design serving the Central Coast. “Recycling water is just another way to recycle. You recycle everything else, why not learn how to use this too?” 

Gray water’s a class of water that has been used, but not spent. The water we drink is called potable. The stuff that flows from faucets and flushes toilets is, for the most part, potable water. Once it leaves the pipes, however, it becomes gray water or black water, depending on how it’s used. Water used in kitchen sinks and toilets is considered blackwater—it’s got too much bacteria and solid waste, so it’s no longer safe to re-use, unless it’s treated. Water from laundry, non-kitchen sinks, and showers has less harmful bacteria, and can be used to water landscapes. That’s gray water: lightly used water that can be reused without being treated. 

On a side note, water recycling is not the same as “recycled water,” which many cities are beginning to use. “Recycled water” is black or gray water that’s been treated at a waste treatment plant, and then reused for irrigation or to support fish in streams. The Damon Garcia sports field in SLO, for example, uses recycled water to irrigate the grass. 

Reusing water isn’t a new concept. Many people already use gray water by putting a bucket in the shower and catching water for flushing the toilet or watering plants. That’s about as simple as a system can get. What’s new is the systematic, automatic approach. Not everyone wants to carry a sloshing 5-gallon bucket to the garden every time they shower. What Carmichael and other gray water installers provide is ease and convenience. 

“I’m not telling people to change their lifestyle,” Carmichael said. “I am saying change the materials they use to live better.” 

... Read More Here ...

Source: http://www.newtimesslo.com/cover/12620/sho...

Local Forages: Lemonade Berry

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Lemonade Berry 

(Rhus integrifolia )

Lemonade Berry is a drought-tolerant, native, evergreen shrub that makes delicious fruits that ripen around the end of August through the end of October.  It can commonly be found on north-facing bluffs in coastal shrub and chaparral with beautiful leaves and flower clusters that bloom from May to August.  

Bush 2.jpg

Identification:
Lemonade Berry is an evergreen shrub that varies widely in size by location (but can grow up to 10 feet tall), but can be identified by its thick, leathery, flat leaves and clusters of small, white to pale pink flowers which become small, red, sticky fruits.

Gathering:
Gather the berries once they are ripe (between the end of August and the end of October) and keep in a non-stick container because they are covered in a gooey, sugary coating. Simple as that!

Uses:
You can just add the berries to your water to make a lemony drink. Seeping one cup of berries in two cups of hot water will make a strong, lemonade-like beverage as well.  You can also suck on them right after picking.  Just a warning, they are quite sour, like the sourest candy made (AKA Warhead candy) and can make your mouth pucker at the very thought of eating them. If you wish to save the seeds, they can be ground and roasted. 

For the garden:
Lemonade berry is useful for erosion control, as a hedge, and it is fairly fire resistant. It can tolerate from full sun to mostly shaded areas with little water as well and is an appealing evergreen shrub that makes delicious berries.  Some companion plants include: Toyon, Chaparral Mallow, California Sagebrush, Salvia spp., Yucca spp., Buckwheat spp., and various cactus species.  All in all, it can be a great addition to the garden if you have the room for such a large shrub!

 

The details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry
http://calscape.cnps.org/Rhus-integrifolia-(Lemonade-Sumac)

Water Reuse Powerpoint

Here is the Powerpoint from the June 23rd SLO Grange Permaculture Guild meeting Josh Carmichael used for his talk.  This provides a brief overview on ways to responsibly recycle water on your property.  Feel free to ask us any further questions or if you are interested in getting graywater or rainwater catchment for your property!

Summer Veggie Garden Planting

Summer has begun and there is still time for planting your summer vegetable garden.  We use mostly starts to create a diverse and delicious assortment of herbs, flowers, and veggies to use in your kitchen from summer into fall.

Planter Mound Drip.jpg

Simply plant out any vegetable starts that you want to grow this season.  Summer crops include cucumbers, eggplants, hard and soft squash, hot and sweet peppers, melons, potatoes, and tomatoes along with any herbs and flowers you enjoy having around.

After you have planted your veggie starts, water them in well. And don’t be shy on filling your yard with garden mounds and planters to get a lot growing!  We suggest using drip irrigation to minimize water waste and to get the water straight to your planted areas.

This is what our summer veggie gardens look like in full bloom, most of the plants will be harvestable until November in our climate.  After harvesting all of that, you can start seeding and planting for your winter garden.

Share.jpg

One of the few problems you will face with a summer garden is overabundance, so be prepared to share your food with friends and neighbors.  Get creative with recipes and keep in mind that pickling and jarring will be great for keeping your foods for longer since being able to consume it all can be a challenge.

Corten Planter.jpg

Any size container will do to grow food in your own backyard. Here is a a featuring of our corten beds full of summer herbs, flowers, & greens. Happy growing and eating from your backyard this summer! Contact us today to help design, build, or prepare your gardens for seeding and planting.

Local Forages: Manzanita

Local Forages
Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Manzanita 

(Arctostaphylos sp.)

“Manzanita’s ripe fruit, the “little apple,” are appreciated for the surprisingly sweet cider that can be made from their brittle, dry red or red-orange skin” -- Judith Larner Lowry, California Foraging.

Manzanita is located throughout the western coast from Oregon to San Diego and from the coast to the Sierra Nevadas.  With a smooth, red to mahogany bark, this gorgeous, sun-loving California shrub makes berries great for a hiking snack or to make into cider later. 

Identification:
Manzanita is easily identifiable, with its unique, smooth, dark red bark to its evergreen, leathery leaves and beautiful, crooked growing.  Once it is flowering from January through April, you will find white to pink, bell-shaped, waxy flowers which become a mahogany-red fruits that appear like little apples ripening early summer through fall.

Gathering:
Gather the berries once they are just ripe or completely sun dried on the bush. Berries are usually ripe from late summer through fall and the leaves are always available.

Uses:
Manzanita’s berries are good dried and have a sour apple candy like taste. The berries can also make a fantastic cider which is in the recipe below (can also be made into an alcoholic version if needed).  They can also add a tart flavor to salads or wherever creativity takes you.  Other uses of the manzanita include making lotion from the berries to treat poison oak, tea from the leaves have been used for stomach relief, and chewed leaves can be applied to sores.

Manzanita 3.jpg

Manzanita is a highly drought-tolerant native shrub that supports butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees as well as many native insect species. This makes it a great ecological addition to your sunny garden space and it grows in many forms from ground cover to small tree species. It blooms in the winter months when few other plants do and we commonly plant them with chaparral companions like Coffee Berry, Ceanothus, Sage, Holly-leaf Cherry, Toyon, and Monkey Flower. Happy Foraging!

 

Some details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry
http://www.plantsofcalifornia.com/manzanita-arctostaphylos/

 

Featured Recipe:
Manzanita Berry Cider

  • Pick and wash the ripe berries.
  • Boil 4 cups water for every 1 cup of berries. Pour water over the berries and let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Use a potato masher, or something similar, to crush, bruise, or lightly break the berries and let this steep at room temperature overnight.
  • The next day, pour the cider through a fine sieve into a mason jar and repeat this with a cheese cloth. Save the berries, because you can make another batch of cider with them if desired.
  • Now let your cider sit in the fridge overnight. More sediment will fall to the bottom. Carefully decant the good cider from the jar, leaving as much of the fine sediment in the original jar as possible. The sediment is loaded with tannins, so you want it out of your cider.
  • Sweeten to your liking and enjoy!

Source:
http://honest-food.net/2010/08/22/manzanita-cider/

Local Forages: Nasturtium

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

 

Featured plant:
Nasturtium

(Tropaeolum majus)

This plant from Peru can be invasive if grown unchecked. It is weedy but beautiful and grows abundantly locally. It can be overwhelming both at home and for native species in the wild, so harvesting and eating Nasturtium is a great way to help regulate its growth while adding something new to the table.  Nasturtium has both edible leaves and flowers which can add color and a spicy, mustardy flavor to your salads.  Nasturtium is high in vitamins A, C, and D, but also can have a heat to it that may be a bit much, so try harvesting it in shadier areas if you prefer less spiciness.

Identification:
Nasturtium is pretty easy to identify with its red, orange, or yellow 5-petal flowers, with a vine-like growing pattern and round leaves with visible white veins connecting in the center.

Gathering:
Leaves can practically always be gathered and the flowers usually appear from July to September.  Seeds ripen from August to October as well.  Gather the younger leaves and flowers and wash under cold water to prepare.

Uses:
Beyond adding zest to your salad, the leaves and flowers can be used in pesto, compound butters, and stir-fries as well.  The flowers are also good for stuffing and the seeds can be eaten raw and used as a pepper substitute.

In the garden we use this plant mainly as a quick-growing groundcover under fruit trees in our food forests where it has room to spread out. It is a great companion plant for: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kale, melons, mustards, pumpkins, radishes, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and watermelon.  It is also great for deterring pests like aphids, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, wooly aphids, whiteflies, cucumber beetles and other pests of the cucurbit family. The yellow flowering variety functions especially well as a trap crop for aphids as well.  Nasturtium likes poor soil with low moisture and no fertilizer, so they also do very well as a potted plant as well.

The details above were excerpted from:

 

Featured Recipes:

Stuffed Nasturtium Flowers
Mix 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 2 Tablespoons finely minced chives or other herbs of your choice. Stuff the mixture into nasturtium flowers and place on a tray that has been lined with nasturtium leaves. Serve at room temperature.


Nasturtium Lemon Butter
This lovely butter has a mild lemon/pepper flavor and a colorful appearance. It is wonderful on fish, chicken and vegetables. This is also great on those small party breads, pumpernickel especially.

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (according to taste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons finely chopped nasturtium blossoms
Mix all of the ingredients well until smooth and well blended. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Makes 3/4 cup flavored butter.

Source: http://www.herbalgardens.com/archives/articles-archive/nasturtiums.html

                                                                                          

Local Forages: Yerba Buena

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Yerba Buena 

(Satureja douglasii)

“‘Refreshing’ is a word that is used frequently, but I never really knew what it meant until I started drinking yerba buena tea.” -- Judith Larner Lowry, California Foraging.

Yerba Buena, translates to “good herb” in Spanish, is a ground-hugging, fragrant perennial that is great for tea.  Found in chaparral, oak woodlands, coastal shrub, and mixed evergreen woodlands, yerba buena enjoys the shade and can be gathered from early spring into the summer. This herb has been used medicinally by native people for indigestion, insomnia, fevers, colds, arthritic pain & toothaches.  From making tea to using the fragrance as perfume, yerba buena is a great plant to collect, use, and grow.

Gathering:
Avoid pulling by the roots as tip-pruning will produce further growth which is also the most flavorful part for tea.  The leaves and the flowers may all be used for tea, so do not be shy when collecting Yerba Buena!

Uses:
Rinse off the leaves and they can be used to flavor your water or make tea.
For tea, simply pour boiling water over the stems in a tea pot and leave for ten to fifteen minutes, or sun tea can be made by leaving it in a mason jar over a day in direct sunlight.  Simmering the leaves is another way to make the tea.
Leaves can be removed, redried, and used again after steeping as well, and it is difficult to ever ruin the tea.
You can also put a sprig or two into bottled water while hiking to keep the water tasting fresh! Bonus: Yerba buena can be put in clothes as a little fragrance-booster.

In the garden we use this plant as a groundcover in shaded areas and it can take light or occasional foot traffic. It can be grown from root divisions or seed. It also mixes well with Fragaria vesca (Woodland Strawberry) to make a more dense and edible groundcover. Due to the low maintenance it requires, it can easily be grown in a pot with a drainage hole, it may just need a bit more water.  It is also clay, sand, and shade tolerant, so whether in a hanging pot, for ground cover, or trailing a shaded wall, this plant is not invasive and can be easily maintained. Growing dimensions can be up to six feet outwards and two inches high.  Yerba buena’s scent is also a deer deterrent.

The details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry

Local Forages: Woodland Strawberry

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

 

Featured plant:
Woodland Strawberry

(Fragaria vesca)

“When California’s Woodland strawberries ripen to perfection, they soften, sweeten, and turn a rich, deep red color… but to me, this strawberry is the sweetest and most flavorful in the world. Harvesting these tiny berries, the diameter of a dime, or sometimes, if you’re lucky, a nickel, is a form of meditation” -- Judith Larner Lowry, California Foraging.

Woodland strawberry has flexible, thin leaves and looks like a smaller version of the domesticated strawberry and the berry plants spread to form masses of plants in full sun at the coast and in part-shade inland. The fruits are mature at a very small size, but have a highly concentrated sweet flavor; more so than all domesticated commercial fruit.

The woodland strawberry is found in open woodland edges throughout the California. It blooms February through May, and the fruit ripens from late March through June.  Pick the berries and do not ignore berries that have begun to dry up, because strawberries can be extremely sweet.

You may eat the berries fresh or freeze them and use like any strawberry.  The leaves, fresh or dried, are even usable to make an herbal tea, steep for about 30 minutes.

We like to plant these tasty treats along pathways and as groundcovers under trees or shrubs throughout the backyard garden. The like to be in filtered shade to part sun areas or wet and sunny locations. This plant may be found labeled as Alpine Strawberry which is the same species found throughout Europe. There are also some cultivated varieties that are also fun to use like ‘Pineapple’, which ripens to a white or pale yellow color and is tart like pineapple.  of Woodland strawberry to add variety in color and taste to create beautiful and delicious ground cover.

The details above were excerpted from: California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry

Local Forages: Blue Elderberry

Local Forages
Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Blue Elderberry

(Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea)

 

Blue Elderberry's large, cream-colored flower heads in spring are followed in summer by clusters of juicy, deep blue berries high in vitamin C. Our local variety is related to elderberry species around the world and its berries are considered among the best. Blue Elderberry is a deciduous, semiwoody, large shrub to small tree with compound green leaves comprising five to nine leaflets per stem; the entire leaf is 6 to 8 inches long. It can be a single-trunked small tree or a multitrunked shrub.

 

Harvesting:

Elderberries are found in many parts of California, from suburban backyards and along freeways to remote woodland edges. They can grow in full sun to part shade as well as damp areas and can be used for making hedges.  Berry ripening and bloom times depend on where in California you live.  On the coast, flowers can be cut in late May through July, with fruit ripening from late July to August.

 Uses:

Remember, eat only the flowers and berries, and eat the berries only when fully ripe.  Stems, leaves, and twigs are toxic and should not be included in any elderberry preparation.  NOTE: All parts of Red Elderberries (Sambucus racemosa) are toxic. To separate the berries from the stems, put the whole flower head in the freezer.  When frozen, the berries separate easily from the stems. Drying the berries brings out their sweetness and flavor, eliminating the bitterness found in the fresh fruit. Elderberries are good in baked goods as well in sauces, syrups, and jellies and even in winemaking (combine with the wild grape to add acidity).
Elderflowers have also been a long time remedy for colds, flus, and fevers used as teas or salves.

The details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowr

We also suggest making syrup with the flowers!  There are plenty of recipes online, this article is very descriptive!