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News

E. coli found in Los Altos water indicated breach, but only low risk

E. coli found in Los Altos water indicated breach, but only low risk


Courtesy of Microbe World
Colorized low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria

When E. coli and other bacteria were discovered in some Los Altos water last week, officials from the local water supplier, California Water...

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Schools

BCS hosts Stretch to Kindergarten program for underserved youth

BCS hosts Stretch to Kindergarten program for underserved youth


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The six-week, tuition-free Stretch to Kindergarten program, hosted at Bullis Charter School, serves children who have not attended preschool. A teacher leads children in singing about the parts of a butterfly, above.

Local un...

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Community

Google car painting project calls on artists

Google car painting project calls on artists


Google self-driving car

Already known as an innovator in the tech field, Google Inc. is now moving in on the art world.

The Mountain View-based company July 11 launched the “Paint the Town” contest, a “moving art experiment” that invites Califo...

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Sports

Pedaling with a purpose

Pedaling with a purpose


courtesy of
Rishi Bommannan Rishi Bommannan cycled from Bates College in Maine to his home in Los Altos Hills, taking several selfies along the way. He also raised nearly $13,000 for the Livestrong Foundation, which supports cancer patients.

When R...

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Comment

The truth about coyotes: Other Voices

The Town Crier’s recent article on coyotes venturing down from the foothills in search of sustenance referenced the organization Project Coyote (“Recent coyote attacks keep residents on edge,” July 1). Do not waste your time contac...

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Special Sections

Grant Park senior program made permanent

Grant Park senior program made permanent


Photos by Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Local residents participate in an exercise class at the Grant Park Senior Center, above. Betsy Reeves, below left with Gail Enenstein, lobbied for senior programming in south Los Altos.

It all began when Betsy Reev...

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Business

New State Street rug retailer has downtown Los Altos covered

New State Street rug retailer has downtown Los Altos covered


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Los Altos Rug Gallery owner Fahim Karimi stocks his State Street store with a wall-to-wall array of floor coverings.

A new downtown business owner plans to roll out the red carpet – along with rugs of every other color –...

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Books

Book Signings

• Fritz and Nomi Trapnell have scheduled a book-signing party 4-6 p.m. Aug. 1 at their home, 648 University Ave., Los Altos.

Fritz and his daughter, Dana Tibbitts, co-authored “Harnessing the Sky: Frederick ‘Trap’ Trapnell, ...

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People

GRACE WILSON FRANKS

GRACE WILSON FRANKS

Resident of Los Altos

Grace Wilson Franks, our beloved mother and grandmother, left us peacefully on July 16, 2015 just a few weeks short of her 92nd birthday. She was born to Ross and Florence (Cruzan) Wilson in rural Tulare, California on Septem...

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Travel

Gearing up: Make travel more civilized with accessories

Gearing up: Make travel more civilized with accessories


Eren Göknar/Special to the Town Crier
San Francisco-based humangear Inc. sells totes, tubes and tubs for traveling.

In travel, as in romance, it’s the little things that count.

Beyond the glossy brochures lie the travel discomforts too mun...

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Stepping Out

Going out with a 'Bang'

Going out with a 'Bang'


Richard Mayer/Special to the Town Crier
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” stars, clockwise from top left, Alexander Sanchez, Sophia Sturiale, Deborah Rosengaus and Danny Martin.

Los Altos Stage Company and Los Altos Youth Theatre’s joint production of t...

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Spiritual Life

Build a 'light' house and get out of that dark place

Most of us have a place inside our hearts and minds that occasionally causes us trouble. For some, it is sadness, depression or despair. For others, it may be fear, anger, resentment or myriad other emotional “dark places” that at times seem to hij...

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Magazine

Inside Mountain View

Residents gather at NASA Ames for Pluto Flyby event

Residents gather at NASA Ames for Pluto Flyby event


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
NASA Ames’ Pluto Flyover event kindles the imaginations of young attendees.

Sue Moore watched the July 20, 1969, moon landing beside patients and staff members of the San Francisco hospital where she worked as a nurse...

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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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