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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Last Day of Class and Ciclavia

I am sad to say this will be our last class. :-( 

March 26 presents us with a challenge in that the Ciclavia route comes down Venice Blvd. Venice Blvd will be impacted from Culver City to Venice Beach - they have crossings at most major streets (see map below), however I have found when Venice was impacted by Ciclavia, it's best to avoid trying to cross Venice at the street level - coming down the 405, exiting at the Washington/Venice, turning left at the light at the end of the off-ramp and then taking a right on Washington Place, puts you on the correct side of Venice Blvd to reach the garden vs. trying to battle your way through.

It is currently believed that David's Most Famous Rhubarb pie will be available at this class meeting. If someone needs extra credit, vanilla ice cream would be a delightful addition to our scene. Eleu will have something as well.  Bring your bowls and utensils.  

Bring your checklists and be ready to turn them in. 
We will go over them.  

You might want to bring some of your work home.  Make sure I see it BEFORE you take it and get it on my grading sheet. Bring boxes or whatever will make that happen.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Collecting and Drying Local Seed


Make a point of picking only plants growing in prime locations. Individual plants with many insect holes and obvious poor health are probably located at the extremes of their preferred growing conditions and may also have distinctly atypical biochemistries as a response to their compromised growing conditions. Always check around the vicinity after you have located a desired plant.; in fact, it should be stated that the best collector has scouted the area weeks ahead of going to collect seed – this needs to be a thoughtful and deliberative process. However, there may be times when there isn't any 'wiggle' room – in that case, still maintain a considered posture. Remember, a thoughtless collector can wreck havoc on an ecosystem. There may be a whole field of your desired plant over the next rise or around the bend in the road. On the other hand, this plant may be the only one in the whole valley – and should absolutely be left alone. Furthermore, a plant common in one state may be a rare, protected plant in the next state, or even the next county, so check with a local California Native Plant Chapter first if in doubt.

Certain conservation practices are always necessary. If a plant grows in large stands, never take more than a third of the plants' seed. If it is a large, solitary bush or tree, never pick more than a fourth of the seed. If the plant is an annual, do not exceed these suggestions – perennials will have the chance to set seed again next year, but even then, leave ample seed behind.

Wherever you gather, presume that you will come back the next year to the same place and find the plants still healthy. Don’t make a common mistake of looking many days for a plant, finding it at last, and taking a whole load of its seed back with you – it’s like you are punishing the plant (indeed the species!) for your frustration. And most seed collected in gobs and gobs, mark my words, will go to waste. Do not collect beyond your ability to deal with the result.

    z Know a few plants well, know what you will need
    z Don’t try for the record amount of seeds never planted (and in a year, designated 'uncertain germination percentage').


Dry your seeds promptly upon return. Lay the seed on screens away from direct sunlight in a dry place and, above all, away from rodents and insects. Fear of insects and rodents have spurred me to use my food dryer to do the job as quickly as possible. Dry your seed as promptly as possible and, once dry, place in paper envelopes or in glass jars.


Store your seeds in a dark, dry and cool location, the darker, drier and cooler, the better. Make sure your seed stock is insect free before storing. It can be terribly disconcerting to find your stored seed has become insect larvae feed and you have nothing to show for your work.  


Friday, March 3, 2017

Rootstock!! Updated!!


UPDATE:  Eleu will NOT be with us tomorrow because of some filming of his project.  He will drop off a garden salad, but if we want more than that, we are on our own.  If a lot of us bring something, we'll have something to eat, if not, hope you can get along on salad only!  There might be rain - dress warm and dress to stay dry.  We can do a lot of our work in the classroom as we are not too many people, but I would much rather we fling dirt and stuff out in the rest of the shade house.  

A phone call this morning confirms that Raintree Nursery is shipping out our rootstock (MM111) today. We will have them for the March 12th meeting - on that day, please bring your knives and any sharpening device you prefer and be prepared to make new trees - those with budwood will want to make certain to have it at this class.

This Sunday, my friend and colleague, Katerina Erickson, will wow you and zow you with all kinds of interesting other worldly plants and their special requirements for growing them.  Kat was a long time gardener and propagation expert at the Huntington Library (I always think of it as the Huntington Gardens which also happens to have a library). 

We will start both weeks at 1:00 PM 


Monday, February 27, 2017

This Weekend Right After Our Class...!

If you missed SEED: The Untold Story when it came through LA a few weeks ago, here's another chance to see this movie – Seed Library Of Los Angeles will be there – organic gardener and great seed-savior Laura Maher doing a seed demo and sharing seeds before the movie with director Taggart Siegel and Founding SLOLA Chair David King hosting a Q and A after the show!

Sun, March 5, 2017
4:00 PM – 8:00 PM PST
Come Seed the Movie ~ SEED: The Untold Story - Enjoy this
MOVIE SCREENING, DIRECTOR Q&A with our Founding Chair, David King and SEED WORKSHOP by Laura Maher
** Plus Ticket Price includes Snacks by Sqirl **
2231 S Barrington Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Please share this post and join us!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thoughts on California Native Plants Lecture 9 Notes

Before we begin to think about how to grow California native plants, let's think about why we might want to grow California native plants. The native vegetation, through evolution, is adapted to this climate, these soil types and interacts with other natives (insects, mammals, birds, reptiles) in an ecological dance that was going on long before humans arrived, and certainly before the present civilization of humans arrived on scene. Their niche in the ecology of California gain some advantages to the gardener:

They Save Water
Once established, many native plants need little or no irrigation. Not only does one save the limited amount of water we have available, that saves one money.

Lower Maintenance
Less pruning and no fertilizers mean less work for a gardener, saving time to learn more propagation and take more courses at UCLA Extension

Pesticide Freedom
Native plants interact with the insects of their environment in a way that eliminates pesticide use. The pests and diseases evolved with the plants and native plants have their own defense against them. Beneficial insects often become collateral victims when we spray pesticides (even more true if we use organic methods). Stop poisoning ourselves and our world.

Invite Wildlife
Native plants, birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and interesting critters are, as noted above, co-evolved to be here. Current research confirms what many have intuited for many years: native wildlife clearly prefers native plants. California’s wealth of insect pollinators can improve fruit set in your garden, while a variety of native insects and birds will keep your landscape free of mosquitoes and plant-eating insects. Open your garden to these wild living things that live among us, despite what we have done to their habitat.

Support Local Ecology
While creating native landscapes can never replace natural habitats lost to development, planting residential and commercial gardens, parks, and roadsides with California natives can provide a “bridge” to nearby remaining wildlands.

California native plants are a world unto their own, mostly because we have so little familiarity with them. By that I mean, our culture's experience with growing these plants is something like 250 years – many a good deal less, like 60 years. And that is also the time we've been selecting them for our gardens. On the other hand, beans, lettuce, cabbage, onions have been in cultivation for thousands of years. Over that time, civilizations have selected year after year those plants that adapt to our culture, or in the case of stubborn plants, we have figured out how to make that plant grow to suit us. This selection process has yet to occur for California natives. Add to that the fact that these are plants from the driest of the world's Mediteranean climate that have adapted to survive with cool, wet winters and long, hot, droughty summers, in a land ravaged by frequent wildfires and you have plants that are, by nature, not ready to accept the regimen we intend to use to make them grow.

The cycle that California native plants live by is almost perfectly backwards to the cycle by which we want to make them grow. We want to plant in Spring (along with our tomatoes and marigolds) and have flowers blessing our landscape by July, if we insist on this, we will spend much more money on therapy than plants! Plant California natives in fall, when we hope for rain to establish them, and enjoy the fecundity of flowers in March/April. Right now, in the California native garden, some salvias are blooming, I've seen Blue Eyed Grass and some poppies blooming. By mid-March, the scene is breathtaking!

In the wild, seed dormancy is usually overcome by the seed spending time in the ground through a winter period and having its hard seed coat softened up by frost and weathering action. By doing so the seed is undergoing a natural form of "stratification" or pretreatment. This cold, moist period triggers the seed's embryo, its growth and subsequent expansion eventually break through the softened seed coat in its search for sun and nutrients.

Meeting some of these conditions, for most gardeners can be a tad difficult. In order to imitate conditions that would ameliorate these inhibitors, one must understand the process the seed goes through in real life in order to mimic it.

Being essentially wild plants, these plants employ many different mechanisms to ensure that at least some of the seeds will find conditions acceptable to carry on the family name. These mechanisms can create wacky germination of their seeds that drive gardeners batty but can be imitated, if one knows the mechanisms a given plant uses to germinate at the most propitious moment for plant survival include:
germination after a fire
germination after cooler temperatures indicate winter
germination as daylight gets longer, indicating more longer days
germinating over a long period of time to have at least some of them hit ideal growing conditions

In most plants of the world, the process of stratification is to simulate cold winter conditions which most wild plants have mechanisms to prevent premature sprouting that would have small plants killed by cold while they are still very tender.

Stratification is the process of subjecting seeds to both cold and moist conditions. Typically, temperatures must be between 34°F and 41°F. The term can be traced to at least 1664 in Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber, Vol. II. where seeds were layered (stratified) between layers of moist soil and exposing these strata to winter conditions. Thus, stratification became the process by which seeds were artificially exposed to cold-moist conditions between layers of soil or peat to encourage subsequent germination in spring. Seed of many trees, shrubs and perennials require these conditions before germination will ensue.

In its most basic form, when the stratification process is controlled, the pretreatment amounts to nothing more than subjecting the seeds to storage in a cool (ideally +34° to +36°F; just above freezing) and moist environment for a period found to be sufficient for the species in question. This period of time may vary from one to three months.

To accomplish this you merely place the seeds in a sealed plastic bag with moistened vermiculite 
or even a moistened paper towel
and refrigerate it. Use three times the amount of vermiculite as seeds. It is important to only slightly dampen the vermiculite, as excessive moisture can cause the seeds to grow moldy in the bag.
The medium must be sterile and must be appropriate to the seed's habitat.  We would probably find vermiculite or sand to be most appropriate while peat will not be as appropriate for CA natives.

The medium must be sterile and must be appropriate to the seed's habitat.  We would probably find vermiculite or sand to be most appropriate while peat will not be as appropriate for CA natives.

After undergoing the recommended period of stratification, the seeds are ready to be removed and sown in the nursery bed for germination. Alternatively, the seed may be sown in small pots filled with moist soil and then the whole thing enclosed inside a plastic bag before placing inside a common refrigerator.

In the case of fire causing germination, is it the heat, the chemical residue left by the fire or both that causes the seed to germinate when there is less competition for natural resources? If it is chemical, the commercially available 'Liquid Smoke' could be added via the initial watering and that might unlock germination.

If it is heat, one will need to start a fire over the seeds to get the heat. For example, in germinating Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri) the fire that would burn around these seeds in nature, would be composed primarily of Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) leaves. When I want to start Matilija Poppy from seed, I cover them with dry Live Oak leaves, combined with few dried pine needles, and set them on fire. My thought is that the temperature, the chemistry needed for the poppy to sprout will best be approximated by those leaves of the oak that is a predominant species in the Matilija Poppy's habitat. I might be just a little too fixed on this, but my poppy germination has been excellent. Remember, should you do this, you must not use a plastic container!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Meeting Today And Other Notes

Arnold, the gentleman at the California Rare Fruit Growers who did most of the demonstration work for us, has invited the class to his orchard in Malibu to see his grafted fruit and talk to us about his perspectives on grafting and budding trees.  You already know that he and I disagree on many points, BUT, this is where the art comes in and I'm fine with you doing whatever to get the results we want. Today, I would like to vote on setting up a field trip or just continuing with our syllabus.  

We had talked about meeting at 1:00 for a few weeks to clear up our missed hours when I was sick and it was raining cats and dogs.  If we do the field trip, we could clear that in one fell swoop and that would be a nice clean finish.  We'll talk about that today - arrive at the normal 1:30 and we'll set this straight. 

Today we will NOT be grafting for real - leave your scion wood in the fridge.  The rootstock is stuck on the other side of a very cold front and cannot be shipped.  They are talking about shipping next week and they know that my order is for a class and is on the top of the stack.  And I call them every other day and sob on the phone.  We'll get it soon - no one likes to hear a man cry.

I'm packing the day with fun stuff... Wear your rubber booties for tramping through the garden today.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Because of winter weather, for the first time in over 10 years, we will have to rearrange the order of our class and plan on finishing grafting after the first of the month - I do not yet have a delivery date for the rootstock we need for grafting.

Please note I will be redoing the syllabus today and tomorrow and expect to have a new order of business posted before class this weekend.  

Sorry for the inconvenience - but we will get this figured out.  We might have the chance to do a field trip to a grafted orchard in Malibu.  Do you, as the ones who will go on that field trip, have any thoughts about this?  It is a property owned by the man who demonstrated grafting to you on our field trip to California Rare Fruit Growers last week.

Saddle Graft

Saddle grafting is a relatively easy technique to learn and once mastered can be performed quite rapidly. The stock may be either field-grown or potted. Both rootstock and scion should be the same diameter. For best results, use saddle grafting on dormant stock in mid- to late winter. Stock should not be more than 1 inch in diameter.

Preparing the Stock

Using two opposing upward strokes of the grafting knife, sever the top from the rootstock. The resulting cut should resemble an inverted V, with the surface of the cuts ranging from 1/2 to 1 inch long.

Preparing the Scion

Now reverse the technique to prepare the base of the scion. These cuts on the rootstock and scion must be the same length and have the same slope so that a maximum amount of cambial tissue will make contact when the two halves are joined.

Inserting the Scion

Place the V-notched scion onto the saddle of the rootstock. If rootstock and scion are the same diameter, cambial alignment is easier; otherwise adjust as needed.

Securing the Graft

Wrap the graft securely to keep it in place, being certain it is well sealed from air by using wax or other materials.


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