Sat08022014

News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Special Sections

Long live the lawn: Los Altos native offers drought-resistant strategies

Long live the lawn: Los Altos native offers drought-resistant strategies


Bill Steiner’s grass is green, left, even amid the drought. He followed Max Todd’s water and maintainence instructions after having his lawn aerated, Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Green lawns are not necessarily on the endangered list during the d...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Down and dirty: Growing healthy soil is important


Photo By:
Photo

Molasses, left, stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the soil, and liquid seaweed products add a range of trace minerals, both of which help plants resist pests and diseases. Photos by Tanya Kucak/ Special to the Town Crier

Organic gardeners like to say they’re growing soil, not plants.

The basis of a healthy garden is soil and the life in the soil. To evaluate soil, you can feel it, smell it, look for worms and see if plants growing in it seem healthy. Clay soil is a wonderful soil to start with because it can hold onto lots of minerals and release them to plants.

But ultimately, whether you’ve been gardening a few years or are just starting, you may want a soil test. Soil tests are problematic for organic growers because the recommendations focus on synthetic fertilizers. The solution is to analyze the soil-test results yourself.

Two new books that discuss amending your soil to produce nutrient-dense food advocate soil tests. Though the authors’ approaches are different, they are complementary. Both stress the importance of adding minerals to the soil, and both recommend far less compost than many organic gardeners are accustomed to using (at most, add a 1/6-inch layer of  compost per year). Both authors avoid dolomite lime, because its calcium/magnesium ratio is bad for most soils. Instead they recommend calcitic lime (also known as agricultural lime). Both discourage gardeners from adding too much of anything without a soil test, because even moderate amounts of some amendments can throw the soil chemistry out of whack.

In “The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient Dense Food” (New Society, 2012), author Steve Solomon (with Erica Reinheimer) takes a linear approach, once you get past the opinionated and curmudgeonly first chapters. Solomon recommends a specific $20 soil test from Logan Labs. You can analyze your own soil by completing worksheets, conveniently available online at tinyurl.com/c45cfsb, and then purchasing amendments. Solomon explains which amendments to include and how to use the worksheets. He also includes his formula for Complete Organic Fertilizer, which he considers a reliable alternative if you can’t conduct a soil test.

But soil chemistry is as far as he goes. If you’re more interested in the life in the soil, then Phil Nauta’s “Building Soils Naturally” (Acres USA, 2012) is the book for you.

Nauta presents a more detailed and nuanced discussion of stimulating the soil food web, covering soil biology as well as soil chemistry. He includes cutting-edge topics such as Brix testing, seawater, mycorrhizae, paramagnetic rock dust and culturing essential microorganisms.

The most useful part of the book is at the end – a five-page summary of Nauta’s recommendations. One of his most valuable suggestions is to add rock dust to the compost pile, where it can get chelated with organic matter to make the minerals more biologically available to plants.

He also recommends adding smaller amounts of minerals two to four times during the year, rather than all at once.

“Plants and microbes need continual access to a small amount of nutrients rather than everything at once,” Nauta writes.

He also stresses the use of molasses and other biostimulants to unlock soil nutrients.

For gardeners who don’t do a soil test, Nauta said, “it’s rare to find a soil that wouldn’t benefit” from 1/2 pound of calcitic lime per 100 square feet.

He includes a recipe for the foliar spray that he recommends using with new seeds and transplants, and throughout the garden every one to four weeks.

Tanya Kucak gardens organically. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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