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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Plant Propagation Syllabus Winter 2018


Please note that this syllabus may be changed as the quarter progresses.  We are working with live plants and we have to adapt to them to achieve our goals. Thank you for understanding and your patience.

Instructor: David King
Phone: 310.722.3656

There are no prerequisites for this course, although some knowledge of basic botany is extremely helpful. We meet on Sundays from January 11 through March 29 for 10 meetings, nine on Sunday and one Saturday field trip.
In our field trip we will attend the WLA chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers meeting on February 11th, from 10:00 to noon. This is the day of their annual ‘Scion Exchange’ and is not to be missed if you can help it. There is no other forum in Los Angeles that offers a better introduction to grafting!
All other meetings are on Sunday 1:30 to 4:30 PM to The Learning Garden, at the Venice High School campus. This site is close to the ocean and because we meet outside or in a poorly heated classroom, please dress appropriate to the weather, which is invariably colder than one would imagine. We will do what we can to mitigate the cold and rain, should it come, but the material of the class is best covered with live plant material in the garden – which, of course, is outside.
We will also be working with potting soils and cut plant material in almost every single class, gloves will probably be desired. Dress so that you can comfortably get dirty and still stay dry. Dressing in layers is probably the best idea when it comes to being outdoors at The Learning Garden.

Course Purpose

This course is an introduction to the principles and practice of plant propagation, both sexual and asexual, and the science and art of grafting and budding.

Course Objectives

  1. Understand the care and safe use of tools in plant propagation.
  2. Understand the biology of sexual and asexual propagation of plants.
  3. Understand and use the different styles of propagation of plants.
  4. Be able to create or craft and use a plant propagation system.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the above by propagating different species of plants.
  6. Understand the physiology of plants sufficiently to be able to successfully bud and graft a variety of plants.


The materials presented in this course will enable the student to start plants from seeds and cuttings, in an amateur or professional setting and graft woody plants with a working understanding of the scientific underpinnings of the process. While we are working mostly with food plants, these techniques cross easily to ornamental plants.

Texts for this course

Plant Propagation A to Z – Bryant; Firefly Books, 2003 It is readily available online. This is onlyl one of many texts that are useful references for all kinds of plants. You may choose a different reference that suits you, they are all about the same.
The Grafter's Handbook – Garner; Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013, is the current edition. It has been and still is the most authoritative book on propagation in or out of print. This book is a wonderful reference book for someone involved in grafting. Unlike the modern books that only show a few grafts, this one shows grafts for all kinds of plant work and as such, is essential for one who wishes to make this work a part of a skill set.
The Home Orchard – UC Press, Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication 3485, 2007 – While primarily a growing guide to deciduous fruit and nut trees, pages 101 to 122 cover budding and grafting. It does not go deep but the photos and hand drawings are excellent (as they are throughout the book) and this is a clear introduction to the art. If you intend to have a home orchard, this is the book for Californians.
There will be additional handouts from the instructor. There will be assigned reading.
All material for in class will be available online at Additionally, I invite all of you to join the group, Greener Gardens, on Facebook. Handouts are put there as well, and students use the group to contact one another – I also post other items of interest for you. I try to not have handouts in class to avoid wasting paper printing handouts you may not care to keep and I will occasionally link to internet site allowing the use of videos (especially of grafting) you may find helpful.

Class Meetings

To each class meeting, in addition to any note-taking tools you deem necessary (paper, camera, tape recorder etc), each student should bring propagation tools that will be described in our first class meeting; please don't purchase a lot of stuff until then. You will need pruners, a grafting knife, a regular pocket knife (or one knife with two blades for different purposes), a black, permanent Sharpie, a sharp pencil and a sturdy pair of gloves – leather preferred. If you are unsure of what to buy, buy NOTHING until after the first class meeting – we will not be using most of these items until later.


Your grade in this class is based on a checklist you will keep and one or two short exams. You need to be able to perform each of the tasks on the log with sufficient skill and understanding of the process in order to receive a passing grade in this course. The completed checklist must be turned in the last day of class unless other arrangements have been made before hand with the instructor. I reserve the right to administer quizzes throughout the course to insure comprehension. They will count in your participation score.

Instructor’s Office Hours

Please avail yourself of my willingness to meet with you at any time to discuss your progress in the course or to clarify instructional material or to answer any difficulties you are having. My preference is to meet with you at my office at The Learning Garden where we can cover material without distraction but I am willing to meet with students anytime, anywhere to assist you in learning; after all, that is the point your taking the class and my teaching it. It is my wish that all students learn and are profited by their enrollment in this course. Do not struggle; I am here to help.

At The Learning Garden:


Remember its location.
I’m very serious... So far only three students have had to have emergency medical treatment. I don't like adding to that number. It's hard enough to get students without killing them off.

A garden is filled with uneven surfaces, rocks, plants with thorns and other armaments and an infinity of possibilities for injury; most of the time in this course we will be using very sharp tools which deserve your utmost attention at all times, please give due attention and consideration of this. Remain on pathways and do not walk into planted beds unless it is absolutely necessary. Do not pick anything without permission.

Food and drink are allowed, but the removal of any trash or waste is entirely incumbent on the eator and/or drinkor. I will hold you responsible.

We will probably have hot tea and coffee to mitigate the cool weather we anticipate needing to endure. Bring your own cup or mug and any eating utensils you feel you need. I drink it black – if you want sugar or cream, it's on you.

Appropriate clothing is essential. Remember, Venice can be hot and cold by turns. Layering is suggested; a jacket or sweater close at hand is essential, pay attention to the forecast, but remember, this close to the ocean, we are usually 10º cooler. We will meet regardless of weather. If it is a light rain/mist, we will continue work. If it is a gully-washer (as though we get those in Southern California), we will meet in the classroom and carry on.

Point Assignment

For Credit Students. It is more important to me that you learn the material above all other considerations. I will endeavor through point assignment, lecture and demonstration to teach you in a way that will facilitate learning the material. If you aren’t understanding, please allow me to help you. Tools You Will Need
Each student should provide:

Pair of pruners – secateur type, like Felco #2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 or 13. No anvil pruners allowed EXCEPT for those students with hand pain or arthritis that must use the ratcheting type of pruners. Felcos can be bought on the internet (eBay) for much less than most local sources; I am also a Felco distributor and carry several models at a very competitive price. Coronas and other secateur pruners are OK, although if you have ever used Felcos, you can appreciate why I am so fond of them.

Pruning knife – only used for plants. It is suggested that everyone also have a second knife for all the other needs in a garden. If one does not plan on doing a great deal of propagation needing a sharp knife, an inexpensive knife with break-away blades available from many local stores may be used. Grafting knives and horticultural knives are also found for reasonable amounts on eBay and other internet connections; I also have a selection of inexpensive pruning knives from Swiss Army. No one should feel pressured to buy my items – I only have them because they can be hard to find locally and often all you can find are the really expensive Felcos which you don't need.

A utility knife – for all other cutting needs.

Pair of gloves – leather is preferred, some folks like to have more than one.

Sharpie – fine point, only black will not wash off

Pencil sharp, wooden (the Learning Garden does have a sharpener)

You will need to take notes, so paper is necessary – may I suggest you take notes in pencil because it won’t run if it gets wet and a pencil is a small dibber in a pinch.

The Garden (or instructor) will provide as needed:
Cactus mix and potting soils
Watering devices
Root stimulating gel
Other tools and supplies as needed
Oil, sharpening devices, cleaners and rags for pruner and knife maintenance
Alcohol wipes, Listerine and hand soap.
Plant material/seeds
First aid kit
Plant markers
Lecture: Introduction – roll, Extension policy, meeting time and place, attendance and tardiness, tools etc. Tour Garden. Tool selection, care and safety. Sexual and asexual propagation defined. Introduction to the different arts of propagation. Botany as applied to propagation.
Demonstration: Cutting scions for the exchange
Practical: Harvesting scionwood
Lecture: Meristematic tissue and the principles of propagation by cuttings; Pages 92-113; soil mixes for propagation; knives and tools, care of etc
Demonstration: Different kinds of cuttings
Practical: Making cuttings - Lycium chinensis
Lecture: General Propagation Methods and Application; Pages 47-91; pests and diseases and methodology to deal.
Demonstration: Division of perennials
Practical: Dividing perennial plants
TEST: Primarily on Cuttings and Safety *
Field Trip to California Rare Fruit Growers
>>> NOT TO BE MISSED <<< your Valentine will forgive you....
Lecture: Seeds, structure, germination and viability, collection, storage. Propagation, pages 47-74; seed starting problems and their solution.
Demonstration: Scarification/Seed sowing
Practical: Sowing seeds of different sizes
Lecture: Grafting
Demonstration: Grafting
Practical: Practice Grafting
Lecture: Budding
Demonstration: Budding
Practical: Grafting
Lecture: California Native Propagation
Demonstration: Fire scarification of a California native
Practical: Transplanting seedlings
Lecture: Propagating ornamentals; Katarina Ericksen
Demonstration: Ornamental propagation
Practical: Propagating something unusual.
Lecture: Uses and Varieties of Grafting
Demonstration: Air Layering
Practical: Air Layering
TEST: Grafting Principles and Seeds
Field Trip: TBD

Our Class Meeting Locations

The Learning Garden

13000 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
310.722.3656 (my cell)
The Garden is located on the south east corner of Walgrove Avenue and Venice Blvd. It is the first gate on Walgrove south of Venice – there is a small amount of parking inside the gate, there is no other secured parking, other than those few spaces, you are on the street and on your own. DO NOT PARK ON THE CAMPUS PROPER. If parking on the street is onerous for you (i.e. you have a cane etc) see me.

California Rare Fruit Growers, West Los Angeles Chapter

Scion Exchange meeting on February 11 10:00 AM, Veteran's Community Building, Overland Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232

Tool Suppliers: Search online at eBay and other buying services, but the following companies, in addition to myself, reliably have the tools you need and prices that are competitive.
A.M. Leonard (AKA The Gardeners Edge) They have everything and they make good house brands of knives and pruners. Frost Proof Garden Supply A good source for many common garden tools including pruners and grafting knives and associated supplies. Peaceful Valley Farm Supply Felco and Corona pruners, inexpensive Swiss Army grafting knives. A good choice.
Scoring For Grading in This Class Grading is as follows:

Class Participation

In class exams
80 and <80 p="">

If you forget your pruners or knife, I do have a few of each, and while I do have gloves, a pair that fits your hand is preferred (and a pair of gloves are somewhat personal too). I can sharpen your pruners and knives and we will learn how in this course.

* Please note: ALL students take any test or quiz even the not-for-credit students, I want to gauge your learning/my effectiveness in teaching this material. The same is true of pop-quizzes when given.

Checklist for Plant Propagation

    Name _________________
    Term _________________­_

This paper must be turned in the last day of class to receive course credit!

Please note: not all tasks will be checked. I do know what I have assigned and you will only be graded on those tasks.


Sow small seeds (one six pack)

Sow medium seeds (one six pack)

Sow large seeds (one quart)

Pot on seedlings


Plant Type
Divide perennial 1

Divide perennial 2


Plant Type
    1st rose

2nd rose

Fig tree ( 4 cuttings)

Grape (6 cuttings)

Pomegranate (4)

Root stock (8)

Leaf cutting

Grafting (three only)

Scion/Root stock
Chip Budding


Saddle graft

Cleft or Bark Graft

Whip Graft


Friday, December 22, 2017

Heirloom Seeds, One Story

The large container goes back to the Pineschi
family, the large jar is for SLOLA and the small
jar is mine to plant!  Seeds are abundant! 
There are seeds and seed stories everywhere. Everyone has a relationship to seeds whether they own it or not, because the history of humans and human civilizations are intertwined so deeply, over so many hundreds of years, has made it so. Today's industrial agriculture obfuscates that which once was an intimate relationship into a commodity that we buy, sell, grown with poison and produced with the cheapest means to get to market.

But seed savers everywhere, want to hold the seed and know the story behind the seed – how did it come to be here? And it is the story that makes heirloom seeds “Heirlooms.” There are many old seeds – seeds of varieties that have been around for 100 years or more – but they aren't “heirlooms” without a story.

This is about a seed with a story. I don't know how old this variety is, but the story is good enough for the seed to be called an heirloom and the story seems to point to the fact that it is indeed an heirloom. It's starts out with a dental appointment.

My dental hygienist is married to a dentist. She sees me three or four times a year, if I'm lucky, he sees me three or four times a decade. Professionally at least. So this was one of those professional encounters where I get the question “are you numb yet?” I'm slow about getting numb. He has some stuff in my mouth and my hygienist drops by to say hi, and says to her husband, “David has started a seed library to save old seeds...” And the dentist gets very excited!

It turns out that his grandmother (great-grandmother?) had given him some seeds when he had graduated dental school and was moving to Los Angeles to set up his practice. He was charged with these bean seeds as they were the family bean. He had them for over fifteen years and was not so successful in growing enough to keep the seeds supply healthy and he asked if I would help keep his family bean alive. Of course I would! That's what being a seed savior is all about!

Within a week, I was given an envelope of about 55 seeds of a bean. They were small seeds and I was told they were old. I planted all that I had and presently had a crop of four plants – not a lot of beans. Once the plants were growing and the leaves were distinct, I realized this was not a common bean – Phaseolus vulgaris. And the beans themselves were too long as well. A little research and I figured I had Vigna unguiculata, a close relative, and edible, but not the common bean. It took more time to figure out how to pronounce “unguiculata” than it did to find the correct binomial for it.

This species is called 'cowpea' probably because they were used for forage for animals as well as human consumption. Cultivated cowpeas are known by the common names black-eyed pea, southern pea, yardlong bean, and crowder pea. Fairly common – and their ability to grow in sandy soil makes them a desirable species to have in our storage. They were domesticated in Africa and are one of the oldest crops to be farmed and not an American bean – like Phaseolus vulgaris, which is what one might suspect without digging into the history of beans. A second domestication event probably occurred in Asia, before they spread into Europe and the Americas.

Our 'cowpea' came from Italy and we call it the Pineschi Family Bean in deference to Dr. Pineschi and his wife that brought this bean to my attention. You can check this productive bean out from the Seed Library when we restock our summer seeds in March. It is a vigorous climber and a good producer of 10 to 12 inch long slender pods. Pick young pods, in the 10 to 12 range and just steam them. I, of course, add butter. Delicious!


Monday, November 13, 2017

** Very Important Notes for 19 November class!! **

Because of scheduling conflicts, we will not have our Chicken presentation on the 19th.  We will do the Bee Keeping segment this time.  We do not have bees, but we will act as though we do.

This Sunday, then:
1.  Do not wear perfume, cologne or shampoo or wash with heavily scented soap. Bees begin to think of you as a flower and get really close to investigate.
2.  Do not wear black or brown.  They are not normally excited, but when we  invade their hive, they see black and brown as possibly being their nemesis:  Bears!  And will treat you like an enemy.  
3.  Do not move quickly or erratically in front of an open hive.  All movement should be restrained and calm.  

I will be posting some more information later this week.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Changes to the Syllabus and Some Notes

First off, there is a threat of rain this Sunday - be prepared and have a jacket handy.  I'm probably going to make sure we have a warm soup.  Bring your own utensils and a bowl!  

DON'T FORGET TO "FALL BACK!" If you don't set your clock back, your  1:00 PM (class start time) will ACTUALLY be noon!  You'll be plenty on time!

There are changes to the syllabus reflected below: 

Course Schedule:

08 October
Introduction/Seed Starting/Urban gardening in context today/12 Points to a Better Garden
15 October
SLOLA/Seeds/Light/Soils/Water Garden Tour/
22 October
Tools/Varietals/ Soils and Fertilizers in the Urban garden/Plot Assignment/Urban Gardens Bigger Picture
29 October
Planting/Sheet composting/Composting/ Planting Timing and Design/
05 November
Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Supplies/ Sources/Annuals/ Soil Contamination and Remediation
19 November
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Beekeeping
03 December
Perennials/Bulbs as a part of your food supply/Chicken Raising with Sherilyn Powell/ Vermiculture with Danielle Pisano
10 December
Home orchard/Vines/
17 December
Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck/Submit your journal etc for a grade.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Suggestions for Cool Seasons:

Suggestions for Cool Seasons:

Artichokes (a perennial)
Green Globe Improved, Violetto

Burpee’s Golden, Chiogga, Detroit Dark Red,
Nutribud, DeCicco, Waltham, Calabrese
Brussel Sprouts
Long Island Improved
Cabbage (including Oriental cabbage-like greens)
Glory of Einkhuizen, Copenhagen Market, Mammoth Red,
Dragon, Nantes, Paris Market
Early Snowball
Large Prague Celeriac,
Chard (the 'Swiss' don’t really grow it.. why do we give them the honor?)
Fordhook Giant, Five Color Silverbeet, Ruby (or Rhubarb Red)
Vates, Georgia Southern

Fava Beans
Windsor; Aprovecho (sometimes appended with “Select”)
Florence Fennel (bulbing)
Garlic (this is a long season crop, plant in Fall harvest next Summer)
Chesnok Red, Music, Spanish Roja,
Dinosaur (Lacinato), Red Russan,

Carina, King Richard
more varieties than you can shake a stick at – or grow a mix!
Onions (also a long season growing; find “short-day” varieties)
Italian Torpedo (! you will love this on the grill!)
Other leafy salad things
Flat Leaf, Tripled Curled,
Hollow Crown, Harris Model
Dwarf Grey Sugar, Green Arrow, Tall Telephone, Mammoth Melting,
All-Blue, Caribe, Yukon Gold, many, many others!
French Breakfast, Fluo, Easter Egg, Purple Plum

America, Bloomsdale Long Standing, Viroflay
Purple White Top, Golden Ball

There are also other vegetables that are not commonly grown you might want to try – I've not tried all of them!

Include all perennial herbs and perennial flowers. In addition, try some fun annuals like calendulas, larkspur, poppies (bread, California or Iceland types), sweet peas, and venidium. Make room for cilantro! Lots of cilantro!!

All of the perennial herb (oregano, thyme, rosemary, mints and so on) are best planted in fall. Ready yourself for fruit tree (and shrub) planting after the first of the year.

The following would be planted in your Spring Garden....

Suggestions for Warm Seasons:

Lettuce Leaf, Genovese,
Beans - drying
Black Turtle, Cannellini
Beans – Lima
Beans- snap
Roc d’Or, Romano, Royal Burgundy
Sweet Corn
Golden Bantam, Country Gentleman
Lemon, Mideast Prolific
Diamond, Rosa Bianca
Clemson's Spineless, Red Burgandy
Peppers (Sweet)
Banana, Corno di Toro,
Peppers (Hot)
Ancho, Jalapeňo,
Sugar Pie,
Squash (Summer)
Black Beauty, Lebanese White, Yellow Crookneck,
Squash (Winter)
Acorn, Chiriman, Queensland Blue, Spaghetti,
Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Italian Gold, Orange Sungold, Norther Delight, Stupice, Sweet 100’s, Garden Peach, Persimmon and about a thousand others!

Plant from seed or buy transplants at a nursery of fun warm-season annual flowers like marigolds, cleome (watch the stickers!), cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias. These warm season flowers make cheerful bouquets. You can also grow everlasting flowers like statice and gomphrena. The widest selection of flowers and vegetables is available to those who start their own from seed and order by mail from the catalogs above and many, many others.   

Soil Triangle and Some Problems to Solve Before Class

Attempt to do the following exercises BEFORE class.  We'll recap in class!  

Your Name ________________________

Using the Soil Texture Triangle

Follow these steps to determine the name of your soil texture:

1. Place the edge of a ruler or other straight edge at the point along the base of the triangle that represents the percent of sand in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.
2. Place the edge of a second ruler at the point along the right side of the triangle that represents the percent of silt in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.
3. Place the point of a pencil or pen at the point where the two lines meet. Place the top edge of one of the rulers on the mark, and hold the ruler parallel to the horizontal lines. The number on the left should be the percent of clay in the sample.

The descriptive name of the soil sample is written in the shaded area where the mark is located. If the mark should fall directly on a line between two descriptions, record both names.

Sand will feel "gritty", while silt will feel like powder or flour. Clay will feel "sticky" and hard to squeeze, and will probably stick to your hand. Looking at the textural triangle, try to estimate how much sand, silt, or clay is in the sample. Find the name of the texture that this soil corresponds to.

Practice Exercises

Use the following numbers to determine the soil texture name using the textural triangle. When a number is missing, fill in the blanks (the sum of % sand, silt and clay should always add up to 100%) - the last line has been left blank for you to fill in the numbers you assign to your own soil sample.

sandy loam












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