Apr 26, 2006

Liquefied Toads?!

Oh yeah, I want to eat tree fruit that was fertilized with liquefied toads.

From Landscape Online:
"The cane toad, introduced to Australia from Hawaii in 1935 to control two beetle species feasting on sugar cane have spread south and west across the continent in great numbers. The toad is an invasive species, attaining high population densities and consuming large numbers of invertebrates.

"Cane toads have venom-secreting poison glands on each shoulder where poison is released when they are threatened. If ingested, this venom can cause rapid heartbeat, excessive salivation, convulsions and paralysis and can result in death for many native animals.

"Frog Watch, a conservation group in the Northern Territory that seeks to greatly reduce the cane toad population, approached Moeco Pty Ltd. with the idea to produce a fertilizer from the unwanted pests. A preliminary batch of cane toad fertilizer was processed in February 2006 from 200 kilos of frozen toads. Greening Australia will test the fertilizer. The manufacturer asserts the liquefied toads, an organic goop blue in color, is a high potassium fertilizer good for all types of fruit trees and recommended for flowering plants to enhance their size and coloring."

Apr 22, 2006

Ahhh, Bernardus...

I'm off relaxing at my favorite local getaway, Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley.

Every time I come here--and it's approaching 10 visits in the last four years--I am awed and inspired by the landscape architecture. Designed by Jack Chandler, it is as timeless as it is tasteful... even as the plantings have been evolved over the years, it still retains a classic beauty. This is a testament to what a well-thought-out landscape should be: not so much a statement of ego as an evocation of place.

As enamored as I am with the planting plan, perhaps my favorite piece of architecture here is the fireplace sited at the center of the social areas. Even when it's not in action, it's a gorgeous anchor; and at night, it is rarely enjoyed by fewer than half a dozen people.

By some standards, the resort's design is conservative; but by mine, it's a perfect blending of ancient and contemporary--and most importantly, it is well liked and well used. Come down some time, and be inspired yourself!

Apr 13, 2006

Landscape Architecture in China

China’s top landscape architect believes the country's dramatic urban development, said to be the largest in human history, is not only dull but ecologically reckless. How interesting it would be to sit in on those meetings! Read the abstract here.

Apr 12, 2006

The Good-For-You Garden

USDA and the Mercury News have determined the everyday foods that are best for your health. Some, like wild salmon, aren't so practical to grow in your garden. But others are so easy and/or beautiful to include in your landscape, there's no reason not to grow your own! A sampling, from the Merc:

"Blueberries. Why? Blueberries provide more anti-oxidants than any other fruit or vegetable. Phytonutrients include anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, ellagic acid, catechins and resveratrol, substances that fight cancer, heart disease and age-related memory loss. How much? If possible, eat 1/2 cup fresh or frozen or 1/4 cup dried blueberries every day. Eat any type of berry at least three times a week.

"Broccoli. Why? Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with anti-oxidants. Broccoli contains cancer-fighting sulforaphane, indoles and carotenoids plus beta carotene, lutein and zeathanin that promote eye health and ward off macular degeneration. How much? Eat 1/2 cup raw or one cup cooked broccoli every day.

"Spinach. Why? Spinach contains more than a Popeye-sized dose of iron. When it comes to anti-oxidants, it's packed with carotenoids such as beta carotene and lutein for eye health. How much? Eat at least one cup cooked spinach or other dark leafy green vegetable a day.

"Tomatoes. Why? Tomatoes contain lycopene plus a range of phytochemicals that protect against heart attack, cancers and age-related macular degeneration. How much? Eat one serving a day with a bit of healthful fat, such as olive oil. Serving sizes are one medium raw tomato, one cup cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup sauce, 1/4 cup puree, two tablespoons paste or six ounces juice."

And it's not exactly garden material, but it's a personal favorite I've gotta include:
" Dark chocolate. Why? Dark chocolate has the highest anti-oxidant content of any food. The darker the chocolate, the higher the count. How much? Eat a one-ounce serving daily. Also, try grapes, red wine and green tea, all high in polyphenols, which boost good cholesterol. In addition to dark chocolate candy, try raw cocoa nibs, which have an intense, tannic flavor, like wine."

Apr 6, 2006

The Cost of Rain

"Oh well, it's better than a drought."

That's the mantra of rain-soaked long-timers like my neighbor, who remember the devastation a prolonged dry spell can wreak on California's normally verdant landscape and easy lifestyle.

But there are direct costs to all this rain, too. The Sacramento Bee reports, "for area farmers who depend on specific soil content and dry days for spring planting, the ever-changing weather patterns have transcended bothersome and become a burden. From fruit farmers to wheat growers, a majority of those in the agriculture business have suffered planting delays and are facing harvest and yield uncertainty because of the wet weather plaguing the state."

Rice, cherries, tomatoes, melons, and strawberries are some of the top crops being monitored closely for losses. Almonds, a $2 billion crop, are particularly vulnerable, as the bees necessary to pollinate them only work during a short season of warm, still, dry weather that has been elusive this year.

According to the most recent data available from United States Department of Agriculture, California leads the nation in agriculture with about 26.4 million acres of farmland dedicated to 350 crops, generating $31.8 billion in 2004. Although the costs of this year's planting delays won't be known until June, almost every crop -- as well as the $1.6 billion livestock industry -- has been affected.

Cattle "may benefit later in the season from lush grazing pastures due to above-average rainfall," says the Sacramento Bee, but right now "ranchers [must supplement] their cattle's diet with hay, an added expense, as well as worrying about hoof rot and the cattle not gaining the 3 pounds per day that they usually average this time of year." That means that prices of beef and milk, as well as all the other crops affected by the weather, probably will cost consumers more at market in the months to come.

Oh well, it's better than an earthquake.

Apr 3, 2006

OK, Thanks For The Rain, Bye-Bye

In rainfall terms, the "season" lasts from July 1 of last year to June 30 of this year. Makes sense, since California gets most of our rain in the middle of that period.

But enough is enough.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, rainfall in The City has reached 135% of normal; in San Jose, the total is 149% of normal. More than 8 inches of rain fell in March alone. And rain is in the forecast for at least 2 more weeks. Ex-CUSE me, but, like, didn't anyone get the memo that this is, like, Cali-FOR-nia?

On the other hand, I suppose it could be worse: L.A.'s rainfall this season is 259% of normal... in other words, more than Seattle.