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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Modern Backyard Food Cooking! A Bibliography

Gary Paul Nabham's book, Renewing America's Food Traditions, sports a rich cover of squash, corn and acorns promising a cornucopia of food our culture has failed to keep alive as we allowed chain restaurants to help pave our country with parking lots and cuisine that is almost as tasty and healthy as the concrete in those parking lots.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day, Hertzberg, Jeff and Francois, Zoë © 2007 Technically NOT involved with the preservation of food, the idea of having homemade bread somehow ties in with the possibility of having homemade preserves and cheese, doesn't it? This book will revolutionize the way bread is done because one can have fresh – good! - bread in five whole minutes a day. The bread we are eating today is from this recipe.

Complete Guide ot Home Canning and Preserving, 2nd Revised Ed. US Department of Agriculture, © 1999 Dover Publications, This is the official word on canning and preserving. It is the book with all the latest (as of 1999!) research in the field. It does include some wonderful recipes suitable for beginners on into advanced home canners. I have found I refer to it even when using a recipe from other books. A thin volume, but your tax dollars at work on at least this worthwhile project.

Home Cheese Making, Carroll, Ricki © 2002, Storey Publishing, Yes, cheese is preserving food too! Ricki Carroll,also called the Queen of Cheese, is the premier teacher for the neophyte. You can learn to make everything from cream cheese to Parmesan. Of course, most of us will stick to simple cheeses like the many soft cheeses.

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, The Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante, © 1999, Chelsea Green Publishing The introduction to the first edition written by Eliot Coleman, called “The Poetry of Food” is worth the price of the book alone. This book offers over 250 recipes enabling one to enjoy the garden's produce throughout the year. This guide is perhaps even 'essential' if this area interests you.

Preserving the Taste, Waycott, Edon, © 1993, Hearst Books, This little gem is out of print and the paperback is being sold for $95.00, used, on Amazon. If you find it more reasonably priced than that, it is truly a treasure. The recipes are all written to preserve not only the food, but, as the title suggests, also the taste. I have made many recipes from this book and all have been winners.

Small-Scale Grain Raising, Second Edition: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers 2nd Edition, Logsdon, Gene, © 2009 Chelsea Green Publishing, The original was published in 1977 has been out of print for a very long time, but Chelsea Green has brought it back almost in the original form. I have the first edition and I sat down one winter's night to compare the two. It is an uncannily written book that is spot on for learning exactly what it says it will teach you. Gene Logsdon remains one of my favorite writers and after just a few pages, you'll see why.

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, Costenbader, Carol (revised by Joanne Lamb Hayes), © 2002, Storey Publishing, This book covers all aspects of canning, drying, freezing, jams and jellies, pickles, relishes and chutneys, vinegars, and cold storage. It is a well referenced and is, in turn for me, a thorough reference on my shelf.

The Home Creamery, Farrell-Kingsley, Kathy © 2008, Storey Publishing, Just a step beyond (or is it a step before?) home cheese-making, there is homemade butter, sour cream and more. This book does include a lot of different cheeses, so in some ways it duplicates the cheese book, but it is still an interesting addition to the home library.

Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods, Nabham, Gary, Editor, © 2008, Chelsea Green Publishing, Nabahm has many books out that gardeners who eat should find fascinating and informative. This one, exculpates food that many of us have forgotten and actually lists those regional favorites (over 1000!) that are deemed 'at risk,' like endangered species, of ceasing to exist. The way to preserve foods is to eat them and make them a part of our lives again – just like the way to preserve seeds is to grow them and make them a vital part of our gardens!

You can notice from the above list that Storey Publishing and Chelsea Green Publishers are the two publishing houses to look to for many more books of these titles; I suggest you take a spin through their websites. Also, magazines like CountrySide and Small Stock Journal and Mother Earth News are two old time magazines that include a lot of information about things like this because their constituency is the modern homesteader.


Harvest Preservation

Persimmon jam from last Winter that everyone raved about.  Two afternoons of work netted us about 24 pints of this incredibly rich jam.  Will I do it again?  You bet!! 

Preserving the harvest has returned as an acceptable thing for one to do with one's time. It used to be that the only folks 'putting food by,' as it was called when I was a young pup, were survivalists and fringe lunatics that expected the world to end sooner rather than later. It had fallen out of style so badly that in 2005, Los Angeles Cooperative Extension disbanded their program and sold off the parts – I was there to buy their old Excalibur drier for $5 and various assorted canning jars for very little more. I drove away with a $45 investment and a Ford Explorer full of food preserving materials.

Now, however, classes are springing up all over, like weevils in beans, teaching various ways of preserving what one gathers from the garden. Many of the ways that are traditional ways of preserving food come to us in some of our most revered and traditional foods: cheeses, wines, beers, ciders, pickles, sauerkrauts, sausage, smoked meats and fish, jams and jellies and dried fruits like figs, raisins, apricots and many other delicious items that we buy in the store.

But that's the key: “we buy them in the store,” when only several years ago, our ancestors made them at home; and they made them without the benefit of preservatives that keep edibles looking fresh for months or even years.

“In our modern society, we don't have time to do any of this – we have to buy from the store,” is the wail of more than a few of the folks I have heard comment on this topic. I don't dispute this straightaway. I don't think that any of us have the time, the skill and the energy to do everything in this list or will be able the time investment to eat off their city lot every day. However, here and there, a batch of this, a little of that, and any one can evolve a more profound relationship with the food they grow.

I certainly do buy some jelly, jam and pickled vegetables at the store or the farmers' market when I see something that catches my eye, but on the other hand, I have been blessed with some outstanding blueberry, plum, persimmon, and mango jams I have made over the years. I have dried corn and beans for food and for seed and I've loved the chance to enhance my winter meals with a taste of my summer garden. The same is true for the vegetables I have pickled; beans, beets and peppers. The pickled beet recipe is one of the few of my mother's that I have, and she had gotten it from her mother who probably got it from her mother. The beans are a recent addition – Trader Joe's carried a pickled bean for year and I had gotten used to them on sandwiches and salads so I found a recipe for them and after a little refinement, it's one of my very best recipes. The peppers were done for the first time this year. I haven't even had the chance to try them yet.


Many things can be dried and solar drying has the advantage of super cost efficiency; once you buy your drier, it can run as long as the sunshines for free. Solar drying can be almost as fast and efficient as an electric drier when the days are sunny, and you can usually find a sunny day or two in Southern California.

Drying, either done with solar or electric power, is impressively efficient because, once you have the food preserved, there is no more power used to keep it preserved.

Food to be dried, must be dried quickly and kept from animals, insects and fungi that will devour it before you can seal it away. There are sad stories to tell of being a little too easy going on this step. The food you are drying must be DRY before you seal it away and during this stage is vulnerable to attack. I have learned through hard experience that one cannot simply put it out of sight and mind to dry over a period of weeks. It seems best to me to use a dedicated dehydrator and get it dry as quickly as possible and thence to secure storage with haste.

Beans and corn are sufficiently dry when your nail cannot dent them. This is the same test for most grains. Use your thumbnail and press hard enough to bend the nail somewhat. If you see an indentation in your food, continue drying. Corn must be tested in the white area towards the point of the kernel.

Once the item has reached the dry stage, place the sealed container of dry food in the freezer for at least two days (48 hours). This will kill any insect larvae or eggs that might hatch out in the sealed container. You don't want to store them with your grains or legumes because they will eat their way through your food and when you open your container, you will find only the remnants of what you had hoped was to be many dinners.

If you do use the freezer technique, remove the jar from the freezer, open it for about four hours to get rid of any moisture the freezer might have condensed. Cover the jar or bag with a screen for the few hours you let off this moisture.


A bit higher on the complicated scale, is freezing. Most of your vegetables or fruit can be frozen with very little effort. The main problem with freezing is that it requires constant energy to keep it frozen and a power outage can really ruin someone's plans in a few hours. The procedure for freezing is simple enough and if this appeals to you, find some good instructions on freezing for the plant you hope to freeze.

Canning and Pickling and Preserves

Pickling and preserves are easier subsets of canning.

Pickling stops spoilage through the acidity of vinegar. Preserves combat it through sugar. Both, because of the presence of vinegar or sugar do not need nearly the amount of heat to kill harmful organisms that regular canning does.

Regular canning requires a pressure canner and needs careful attention to detail to insure you don't kill yourself, family or friends off with botulism. Pickling and preserves, while not a totally care free process, is not as difficult and is often quite rewarding. Cost of equipment is minimal and I have had homemade preserves that are better than anything on the shelf of the most pricey of food retailers. From just last year, the persimmon preserves are remembered as the best thing to pass the tongues of many folks.

In addition to these common ways of preserving food, there is a list of traditional food preservation techniques to consider using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar cold storage and lactic fermentation. A short bibliography follows.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Making A Scale Drawing

This was handed out in class last week. For those with drawing experience, just ignore it; if making a scaled drawing confuses you, this is designed to help with that confusion.

Once you have completed the dimensional survey and have a list of figures that comprise the measurements of your garden, you are ready to transfer this information to a scale drawing. This will form the basis of your final design and allow you to plan the features, planting and furnishings in accordance with the limitations of your available space. The plan will also be the basis of your total cost estimate – important to some people like clients and those of us on a budget.

As with the survey, the preparation of a scale drawing is a straightforward business, but one that confuses many people. Drawing something to scale is simply reducing in equal proportion all the dimensions of the object, in this case, a garden project, to a size that can be shown on a piece of paper. At it’s simplest, if you take a dinner plate that is twelve inches in diameter and draw it on a paper so that it appears to be six inches across, then you have reduced the plate by a scale of 1:2. If you reduced it four times, it would be a scale of 1:4 and the drawing would be three inches across; if twenty times, 1:20 etc. Of course, there comes a point at which any further reduction results in an object on a piece of paper that is entirely too small to be useful – or even legible, some folks are certain my handwriting fits into that category. Choose a scale that is small enough to fit on a piece of paper, but large enough to allow sufficient detail in your work and remain sufficiently visible to you as you age.

In the case of most gardens, this scale is usually 1:100, or each eighth of an inch of drawing represents a foot of garden. In smaller gardens, try to work with 1:20 or 1:25 or even 1:50.

Before you make the drawing, make sure the finished plan will fit on your piece of paper by checking the overall measurements and converting them to a scale. If the garden measures 40’ by 20’, then by using a scale of ” to 1 foot (for practical purposes, 1:100), the final drawing will be 10” by 5” and will fit on a typical piece of paper.

Many people prefer to tape graph paper down to a board or a table (in my experience a board is more portable and can be taken into the garden and on fact finding forays to a nursery more easily than a table) and tape a sheet of tracing paper over it. Start near one of the corners, number the grid in inches up and across the sheet. Take your survey information and transfer the measurements onto the scale drawing.
Once you have lain your lines on the paper to show the layout of the space that will become your garden, indicate important items like the placement of drains, faucets, power outlets, doors and windows that open into the garden. Then indicate the position of sunlight obstructions and views that extend beyond the garden.
Soon you will have a complete drawing that encompasses your garden in detail, but in miniature. Indicate the direction of north on your drawing. This will prove invaluable as your design progresses.

Do not use this original for actual work, but photocopy it several times and use the photocopies for different parts of your work – keep the original separate in a file that you can go back to for additional photocopies as needed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Designing A Garden: Considerations

Implementing some of my ideas about what makes a garden truly integrated to one's life, this little spot of heaven at The Learning Garden served us for a couple of years as 'the beautiful food garden' near the faculty parking lot gate - it was considered far too shady for vegetables until I harvested a bushel of tomatoes from three plants grown here!

There are a number of questions one must ask before one can even begin to look at seed catalogs in putting together a garden. This fact finding step is often overlooked and by itself can account for a good number of neophyte gardeners failing. Some of these questions seem silly perhaps but they are not.

It seems that one would know, but often one is only vaguely aware of, why they want a garden in the first place. But this question holds the key to progress in more ways than you can imagine.

If my 'why' of growing a garden is to produce 10 pounds of pinto beans to dry and store and I have a shady spot that is as big as a large tomato plant, then perhaps I need to reconsider where I will garden and begin by investigating community gardens in the area or a neighbor who would cooperate in my vision.

One important note that holds all gardeners in good stead is to list all the reasons why and keep them close at hand. And especially to include “to learn” as one of the big reasons, providing of course, you can learn from disaster. The really good gardener is not one who has had no disasters. The really good gardener is one who has had disasters and has continued to garden learning from the past and approaching the next season more sagaciously aware of the vagaries of gardening.

So... First order of business is to make a Why I Want This Garden List and populate it with every reason you can. On that day when the wiley world of popular culture calls you to come play when the Garden needs to be watered or else it will die, then you need that list to set your priorities straight. Obviously, I'm on the side of the garden, but in our very busy world of many choices, even I can admit to wandering away from my plants more than I should perhaps ought. Right now, instead of being a conscientious author and instructor, I should be weeding the area where I plan on planting garlic tomorrow. It is the way of this world. (It also explains why I believe in having a really good flashlight among my gardening tools!)

Beginning gardeners especially should not give this question short shrift. Those of us who have been at a while probably already have this list, even if it is only in the back of our minds. It wouldn't hurt to write it down before the mind begins to forget. Just saying.

Next, one has to survey the physical space. Questions that must be answered include the obvious, for example:

1.What is the size of my garden?
2.Where does the light come from or where is it blocked?
3.How many hours of sunlight does it get in a day in summer?
4.How many hours of sunlight does it get in a day in winter? (Ah, yes, the two are different!)
5.What is the nature of the soil? (This was in part answered for us in the first lecture.)
6.Where do I get water to water my garden? Is there a spigot nearby?
7.Can I plant near to where I will use the plants? I'm thinking of the kitchen...

Then there are a few less obvious that are no less important:
1.What do I like to eat?
2.How much do I think I need to sow to get a decent harvest?
3.What crops will have a higher value to me that will increase my pleasure from the garden?
4.What tasks in the garden do I find pleasurable?

And, in what might seem slightly incongruous to this discussion, the next most important question after 'why' for me is: where will I sit? This well may sound like an old man dithering about his knees or his back, but it's not. In my evolution as a gardener, the genesis of this idea came from the old saying, “The best fertilizer is the farmer's shadow,” meaning of course, the plants that are attended to by the farmer will grow better than neglected plants. I had the epiphany one day that I would be a more effective gardener, if I had a place to sit down and drink a cup of coffee, or sit down and have an ice tea, or sit down and just LOOK at my garden. The key ingredient is that “I would sit down...” I would spend more time there and be aware of subtle changes more quickly (like, 'gee where'd all my seedlings go?') and be able to interact with the garden on a much more intimate and immediate level.

So, I ask 'Where will you sit?' in your garden. I like a bit of shade, a small table to hold my computer or my pad and my drink. I don't need much else. But, simply by this one addition, I find my relationship with the space changed dramatically. No longer is the 'garden' a distant thing, it is now a part and parcel of my world and I can be a part of it – it will not only feed me, but it will soothe me, it will help to heal me after a day of being bashed by the slings and arrows of modern life. In fact, a large part of the stress of our lives today, I believe, can be traced back to the lack of this kind of plant interaction that used to be part and parcel of human existence. Whether it is the box that holds some tools, or a fancy little Parisian outdoor café set, find something to sit on where you can leisurely appreciate your garden for more than a few minutes at a time.

The importance of soil is covered elsewhere – but do allow for some different considerations in light requirements in the city. Typically, a southern exposure is the best for all forms of food gardening, a western exposure being slightly less so and an eastern exposure slightly even more less so (is that the proper way to say that?). However, a large tree or a large building on the near horizon can interrupt the amount of sun your garden receives. And note that the sun is much lower on the horizon in the fall and winter. This can result in a total lack of sun during those months.

On the other hand, I have discovered that city shade is often ameliorated by the presence of large light colored walls that reflect a quantity of light into spaces that seem as thought they should be dark. In one apartment, the front door faced north with a balcony 'in shade.' However, two light colored buildings (east and north) reflected light onto that balcony all day long which made that balcony the equivalent of a full sun exposure!

The bottom line, then is that an inventory of the light available for your plants can vary from what a person sees with just a cursory glance.

If you can't tell true north easily, you need to purchase a small, inexpensive compass. In Los Angeles, most of our street grid is NOT on a true north/south axis. This is actually very beneficial because that offset means that few spaces are truly in the shaded north side of a building. Almost always there is more light than one would think and that is good news.


For Class Tomorrow! Seeds

Those of you who have seed packets need to bring them to class. We will be planting them in six packs and you will need to have the seeds in order to participate!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yummy Kabocha Squash!!

What fun it is to experience food fresh from the garden. No question as to where it came from!!!

I find when we taste the goodness mother earth provides for us in it's most natural and simple form I get all giddy inside. I close my eyes and really connect with the flavors that are dancing on my tongue.

The KABOCHA Squash, is one of those vegetables that stands wonderfully alone because of it's distinct sweetness. It can be baked, stuffed, steamed or grated and added to cookies! NOW is the time to have some fun with your winter squash.

With the abundance left over from Sunday's sampling, I decided to make a soup, (and boy was that a great decision considering today's weather). Since I find it hard to follow recipes, I created something that enhanced this already tasty squash without measurements, but I will share and be as close as possible to the outcome that I enjoyed.

Kabocha & Coconut Soup
1/2 roasted kabocha squash, cut into chunk size pieces, outside skin removed
2 Tbspns olive oil
1 medium size bulb shallot, finely diced
32 oz vegetable stock
1 tsp of turmeric or curry powder
salt & pepper to taste
4 oz coconut milk

(I would recommend roasting the whole squash, saving the other half for another recipe or freezing it until ready to use.)

Put olive oil into dutch oven pot, add shallots, medium heat. Saute shallots to a caramel color.

Add squash to shallots, warming up squash. Add 2 cups stock to shallot/squash mixture, salt/pepper to taste & add turmeric or curry, can lower heat. Add 1 more cup of stock until consistency of pudding. Remove from heat. Put mixture into blender or use immersion blender. Mix until smooth consistency. Add coconut milk to pot. Put mixture back into pot if using standing blender. Stir to combine. I like this soup thick, you'll notice 1 cup of stock left over, so I adjust the thickness with my stock to my liking. Bring back to temperature.

Serves 4

Remember to always have fun!!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

The New Seed Starters Handbook

This is the reference book for seed starting - it covers the subject in depth and throughout it's many permutations. Available used on Amazon for as little as $4, it is a worthwhile investment.

List price: $18.95, Amazon Price: $12.89.
# Paperback: 385 pages
# Publisher: Rodale Books (February 15, 1988)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0878577521
# ISBN-13: 978-0878577521
# Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1 inches

This data refers to the paperback. If you are in love with growing from seed like I am, may I suggest the hardcover?



Winter vegetables grow in The Learning Garden from a Fall 2008 planting.

The following list is a work in progress. The initial work was done by my good friend Katarina Eriksson, a Santa Monica horticulturist of note. She has listed her favorite varieties and I have added in my own; she prefers hybrids and I prefer open pollinated - both of which we'll cover in class.

ANGELICA: Annual or Biennial Herb. Direct-seed ordinary moist loam in in shady position in early autumn, in late August or early September; requires light to germinate. Transplant the Angelica seedlings when they are about 2 inches high to their permanent position in the autumn 18 inches apart. Plant 2' apart in semi-shaded spot with plenty of water. Angelica seeds should be sowed as quickly as possible as their germination ability degrades quickly. When planting in the autumn, sow the seeds where you wish to have the plants permanently reside or in a nursery bed. Seeds should be planted half an inch deep to ensure the seeds are covered. Transplantation. Our sources disagree a bit here. The older materials provide the following advice: Transplant your angelica seedlings when still small with a space of about 18 inches between each plant. If not already in their permanent location, transplant your angelica plants in the autumn 3 feet apart. A modern resource explains that with it's long taproot, Angelica can be quite temperamental if transplanted and recommends not covering the seeds.

HARVEST: harvest leaves or stems before flowering. collect seed in late summer and year-old roots in autumn. all are edible. Will self-sow if left to flower the second year. Cut the Angelica stems down to their base in late June or early July.


ANISE/ANISESEED: Annual or Biennial /Spice, Herb. Direct sow in fall to spring about 1' apart.

HARVEST: Leaves throughout the growing season. Flowers as they open. Ripe seeds as they turn gray-green. Anise is sweet and very aromatic, distinguished by its licorice-like flavor It is used in a wide variety of regional and ethnic confectioneries, including Greek stuffed vine leaves (Dolma), British aniseseed balls, Australian Humbugs, New Zealand Aniseed wheels, Italian pizzelle. German pfeffernusse and springerle, Netherland Muisjes, Norwegian knotts, and Peruvian Picarones. It is a key ingredient in Mexican "atole de anís" or champurrado, which is similar to hot chocolate, and taken as a digestive after meals in India.


ARUGULA, (Also known as ROCKET, ROQUETTE): Annual Salad Herb. Plant seeds in place, in fall thru spring, will bolt in summer heat. Space 8"-1' apart, if too crowded they will also bolt easy. Or try it in summer in shade.

HARVEST: as soon as 4 to 6 weeks, you can harvest young leaves as desired or cut plant in half. If cut at ground level, plant seed in its place. the older the leaves the more bitter the leaf.


BEETS: Annual Root vegetable. Plant seed, 2-3 weeks before last frost. Succession crop every 3 weeks, space 4" apart. Or 16 plants per square foot.

HARVEST: Baby beets when roots are just rounding out and tender and continue until they are full size. Leaves are usable at any size. days to mature 45-60 days.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Red Ace' one of the best all-around red beet, 50 days. 'Early Wonder' tall, bright, glossy green leaves and slightly flattened red roots. 'Detroit', 'Dark Red', 'Golden' has orange skin, rich gold interior. green leaves, yellow stems, good for salad (and won't stain your hands or clothing so it's good when working with children)55 days, 'White Blankoma' white, slightly conical roots with strong, tall all-green tops, 55 days, 'Chioggia' is an Italian heirloom with pinkish-red and white rings, sweet flavor. 'Bull's Blood' deep burgundy leaves for salad and beautiful, dark red root, good as a baby veggie or full size. 58 days.

Annual Vegetable. Plant seed in late summer for setting out in fall for winter harvest, plants take a long time to grow, but worth it. space 12-20" apart. Set out transplants into the garden slightly deeper than they were in the container, either use several varieties with different maturation dates or do multiple plantings for a longer harvest.

HARVEST: cut off heads when they are full but flowers not yet open. sometimes new side-shoots, (mini heads) will then form and grow in a few weeks from cut stem. days to harvest 40-120.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Blue Wind' 49 days. 'Packman' 50 days. 'Windsor' 56 days. 'Belstar' 66 days. 'Gypsy' 58 days, 'Arcadia' 63 days. 'Green Magic' 57 days. 'Diplomat' 68 days. 'Marathon' 68 days. 'De Cicco' 48 days. 'Happy Rich' 55 days and 'Small Miracle' 54 days are mini broccoli plants that are good for smaller gardens and container plantings. Nutribud, 58 days is an open-pollinated variety with a higher concentration of glutamine and lovely edible heads; you can save seed of this one.

BROCCOLI RAAB: Annual Vegetable. Plant seed in late summer for fall/winter harvest, plants take a long time to grow, but worth it. space 12-20" apart. Set transplants into the garden lower than they were in the container.

HARVEST: Clip and bunch entire plants when buds appear, or pick buds for extended yield.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Sessantina Grossa' early, large buds. Thick, tender shoots and buds. Fall, winter and spring crops 35 days.'Spring Rabb' big, slow bolting 42 days. 'Spigariello Liscia' Tender, deep blue-green leaves, harvest leaves or whole plant. 45 days. all from johnny's.

Annual Vegetable. Plant seed in summer for winter. spacing 15-20" apart, pinch off top 4-6" of plant when lower sprouts are 1/2" wide. Set transplants into the garden.

HARVEST: After frost for best flavor. Sprouts should be firm, round, 1/2" to 2" in diameter. Begin harvest by snapping off the sprouts at bottom of stalk and work your way to the top as they mature. days to harvest 80-120.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Jade Cross', 'Rubine Red' has unique dark red sprouts. 'Oliver' 90 days and ' Diablo' from Johnny's. 'Bubbles' is a good producer too.

CABBAGE: Annual Vegetable. Plant seed in late summer, plant out transplants in early autumn. Spacing 12-24" apart. Use different varieties or plant out several different times for a more continuous harvest. Also, one could set out the really late cabbages and harvest less then full grown plants through out the season. Cabbage holds well in the soil providing it doesn't get too hot or too dry.

HARVEST: Anytime the head starts developing and feels firm. Prevent splitting by harvesting as soon as heads are mature or giving heads a quarter-turn twist while still in ground. cut across base with a knife. leave remaining stem in the ground, and tiny heads may form later. days to harvest 65-100.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Fast-maturing spring types, savory types have wrinkled, curled leaves, they can be hard to clean and snails love them. 'Ruby' is red. For Fresh eating, 'Golden Acre,' 55 days is the open pollinated variety used as the bar, 'Farao' 64 days, and 'Tendersweet' 71 days. For Storage 'Storage No 4 (F1)' 95 days and 'Danish Ballhead' is an 0/P variety at 90 days. Some Specialty cabbages: 'Caraflex' 69 pointed. 'Gonzales' 66 days, round mini cabbage. 'Kaitlin' 94 days high in vitamin C. Red types: 'Red Express' 63 days, 'Super Red 80' 73 days, 'Ruby Perfection' 85 days, 'Integro' 85 days.

CABBAGE, CHINESE: Annual Vegetable Green. Plant seed in early fall, space 12-18" apart. Chinese cabbage is one of the preferred foods of snails and slugs.

HARVEST: in winter, cut off heads; remove outer leaves. days to harvest 45-90 days

SELECTED VARIETIES: Two types MICHIHILI TALL TYPE: 'Greenwich' 50 days. and NAPA TYPE: 'Minuet' 48 days. 'Rubicaon' 52 days. 'Bilko' 54 days. 'Napa-type', bolt-resistant varieties; 'two seasons' 'Blues', 'China Express', 'Pac choi', 'Joi Choi', grows fast. 'Dwarf Mei Ching Choi' is good in pots. grow in winter only, heats makes them bolt and flower, which is also edible. SAVORY: from Johnny's 'Alcosa' 72 days. 'Famosa' 75 days. 'Samantha' 85 days. 'Deadon' 105 days a beautiful red savory with
light green interior leaves.

CALENDULA, (pot marigold): Annual or Biennial flower Herb. Sow seed late summer for all cool season bloom. Direct sow or start pots indoors in late summer and plant out in fall. May bloom all year near the beach. The name calender is derived from this flower. The bright yellow and orange flowers add color and flavor to food and drinks. space plants about 6-9" apart.

HARVEST: leaves for salad greens as needed, the flowers for salads, soups, coloring rice, cheese, cakes, and vinegars.

SELECTED VARIETIES: The heirloom plants are wild and lanky, the new hybrids should be organically grown seeds. Touch of Red is a yellow variety with red on the reverse which is stunning.

CARAWAY: Annual or Biennial Spice, Herb. Has been a flavoring and medicine for more than 5,000 years. Sow seed in ground in fall to spring, spacing 8" apart.

HARVEST: Young leaves as needed. Seed heads as they turn brown. Roots in autumn after seed harvest.


CARROTS: Root Vegetable and salad green. Plant by seed in midwinter through spring and midsummer into fall. space 1/2" to 1" apart or 16 seeds per square foot.

HARVEST: When carrots are fully colored yet tender, and the ones with the largest tops, if not sure which are biggest, dug around the root with your fingers to test the size. Days to harvest 50-75.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Nantes and Imperator hybrids usually produce well in sandy loam. Danvers hybrids tolerate both heavy and sandy soils. Tendersweet, Yaya, are good fresh eating; Healthmaster is sweet, crisp root that juices well. Minis, are god in pots or heavy soils. Grow colorful varieties such as purple dragon', White Belgium, Sweet Sunshine and Nutri-red.

EARLY VARIETIES: 'Mokum' 54 days, 'Nelson' 56 days, 'Yaya' 56 days. 'Napoli' 58 days. MAIN CROP/STORAGE: 'Vitanan' 65 days, 'Sugarsnax 56' 68 days, 'Negovia' 69 days, 'Nectar' 72 days, 'Bolero' 75 days, 'Hercules' 65 days, 'Parmex' 50 days, 'Kinko' 52 days, 'Rainbow' 57 days, 'White Satin' 68 days, 'Creme De Lite' 70 days, 'Atomic Red' 70 days, 'Purple Rain' 73 days, 'Cosmic Purple' 70 days, 'Purple Haze' 73 days,

Annual Vegetable. Plant seed in late summer for fall harvest, and again plant in fall for winter harvest. Space 18" apart or 1 per square foot. Grow self blanching varieties or blanch heads by pulling outer leaves over it and holding in place with twist ties.

HARVEST: When head is full and firm, cut at bace, do not delay harvest, as the head will grow fast and pass the harvest point in just a few days. Days to harvest 55-90.

SELECTED VARIETIES: From Johnny's. 'Snow Crown' and 'Fremont' for spring and fall crop. 'Lime Green Panther' or 'Purple Violet Queen'. For most dependable when grown from late summer to fall. Snowball is a self-blanching with small heads.

CELERY: Annual, stem and leaf vegetable. plant from seeds indoors, set out transplants at 12" spacing. A really slow grower, I don't find it's worth the labor – and home grown celery usually has a bitter, pronounced taste that I find only good for soup or stew after it's been cooked to death.

HARVEST: cut off entire head at the base. In mild climates, allow some inner stems to remain to lengthen harvest. Days to harvest 80-135.

SELECTED VARIETIES: tall Utah types such as Ventura grow steadily and mature about 100 days after transplanting. A heirloom variety Giant red has strongly flavored stalks blushed with red, best used as a "cutting celery."

CHAMOMILE, GERMAN: Matricaria recutita: Annual flowering Herb. Direct sow in autumn to spring, about 6" apart

HARVEST: flower heads as they appear for tea; tranditionally flower infusion prevents damping-off in seedlings and speeds the composting process.


CHERVIL: Hardy Annual or Biennial Spice, Herb. Essential to French cooking and almost impossible to find fresh. Grown since Roman times. Sow seed in the cool months of autumn and needs light to germinate, repeat sowings every 2 week intervals. space about 6-8" apart. If the Chervil leaves are kept cut down to the roots the new leaves will shoot up again, or new seeds can be sown for succession at regular intervals, from the end of February to the beginning of October. During the summer, sow in a shady position. Chervil can be grown indoors in pots for winter use.

HARVEST: Leaves as needed until flowering. use fresh or freeze.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Curled chervil is the best variety.

CHIVES and BUNCHING SCALLIONS/ONIONS: Perennial bulbing green Herb. Set out seeds or plants in spring. Both types go dormant in summer, then new tops grow as weather cools. some bunching scallions may bear all year. If necessary, transplant in early Spring, lift the Chive clumps and divide every 3 or 4 years. Nip out the Chive flower buds as they appear. If the Chive leaves are not used regularly, occasionally cut them down so that fresh leaves are produced. 

HARVEST: Clip leaves from chives as needed. harvest bunching onion in fall. The flowers are edible and pretty on soups and salads.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Bunching scallions 'Red Baron', 'Evergreen Long White' and 'Evergreen Hardy White'. Chives 'Grande'.

CILANTRO, CORIANDER, or Chinese Parsley: Hardy Annual Spice, Herb. This a herb and a spice. Direct-seed in fall to spring, in shade in summer. space about 6" apart. transplant may make plants bolt. Sow the Coriander seeds thinly in the herb bed in rows about 5cm (2 inches) apart during February to June (to give ongoing supply). No thinning should be required. OR Sow Coriander seeds in September/October as above for autumn/winter supply - cover with cloches to extend crop into late autumn.

HARVEST: The leaves (Cilantro) as needed, the seeds (Coriander) when brown. Roots as the plant dies. If you plant seed form the spice jar you will get a type that bolts fast, not very good for leaf.

SELECTED VARIETIES: for rounded seed "Chinese', For leaves, 'SlowBolt' and 'Long Standing'. 'Delfino' is a new variety that shows a better ability to withstand heat.

DILL: Annual Spice, Herb. Direct-sow every 3 weeks from fall to spring. They will bolt in the heat and self-sow. Sow Dill seeds in open ground in shallow drills 12 inches apart, at the end of March or beginning of April. When the Dill seedlings are old enough, thin them out to 9 or 10 inches apart.

HARVEST: Leaves as needed; cut off flowers for more foliage. Flowers when fully open for pickles, Seeds just as they turn brown.

SELECTED VARIETIES: For ferny threadlike blue-green leaves try 'Fernleaf' it grows only 18" high and is good for containers.

ENDIVE: Salad Green. Direct sow seed in late summer or fall. Space to 6-12"

HARVEST: For milder leaves by pulling them together and hold with tie. cut leaves to mix in salads or Cut young plants off at the base. Older plants turn bitter.

SELECTED VARIETIES: look for self blanching varieties. 'Frisee' is a mature head that has to be blanched for two weeks prior to harvest. 'Neos' and 'Galia' are popular.

ESCAROLE: Salad Green. Is the same species as endive but has wider, scalloped leaves and milder flavor. It's best when it matures in cool weather. Hearts are often lightly braised, which reduces their
bitterness and brings out a sweet flavor. Space to 6-12"

HARVEST: Same as endive.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Batavian Full Heart'.

FAVA/BROAD BEAN: Annual vegetable. Among the largest and meatiest beans, favas are eaten fresh or dried, they prefer cool weather. Plant seed in fall for winter to spring harvest, day to mature, 75. Space to 6-12" Can be transplanted or direct sown. Harvest over a long period – keep them picked and they will keep producing – four plants can provide plenty of beans for two folks even if they are fava bean addicted.

HARVEST: Pick for green shelling when beans are plump inside the large pods.


FENNEL, FLORENCE: Hardy Annual or Perennial Spice, Herb. Direct sow, can continue sowing seeds through winter, space 2' apart.

HARVEST: Leafy stalks for flavoring soups and salads. Cut at soil level, when base of plant is about 3-4” in diameter and shaped like a bulb. Days to harvest 65-90.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Zefa Fino' bulbs are white, firm and highly aromatic. 'Zefa Tardo' prefers cooler temps so plant later in fall.

FENNEL LEAF/SEED:  Hardy Perennial Spice, Herb. Direct sow in fall, space at 2' apart. Sow Fennel seeds in April in open ground in a dry, sunny spot, cover thinly with fine soil. Thin the Fennel seedlings to 38cm (15 inches) apart or transplant to this distance.

HARVEST: Leaves as needed before flowering. Stems just before flowering. Seeds just as they turn brown.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Bronze' and 'Rubrum' both have edible, bronze-red leaves and are very ornamental.

GARLIC: Annual/Perennial bulbing Herb. Plant by individual cloves split from a bulb. Leave papery husk on and set cloves with tips up, in frost free climates, the tip can actually be visible above the soil. Plant from early November to January. space 6" apart. Elephant garlic (which is not really a garlic) 7-8" apart.

HARVEST: In summer when at least half of the leaves have begun to yellow and the "necks" are still soft. Cure bulbs by drying in a warm, well ventilated spot for several days. Cut tops off after curing. store in a cool, dry place. Soft Neck types keep for 6-8 months.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Softneck: 'California Early', 'Silverskin,' 'Red Toch,' 'Inchellium Red.' Hardneck: 'Chesnok Red', 'Persian Star,' 'Music,' 'Spanish Roja.'

KALE: Vegetable Green. Space 12" apart

HARVEST: pick individual leaves as needed from the bottom first, days to harvest 70-85.

SELECTED VARIETIES: The heirloom variety Green Glaze deters cabbage worms and other pests. Champion and Flash are fast growing, and hardy to winter cold. 'Dinosaur' (also called Tuscan Black Palm or Lacinato) is a wild looking plant that seems to be preferred by chefs. It 'over-summers' in our climate.

KOHLRABI: Vegetable Root. Space about 4-8" apart, fast growing plant whose stem swells into a round ball just above soil line.

HARVEST: Spring and fall harvest.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Grand Duke and Winner for fall and winter harvest. Plant Early White Vienna or Early Purple Vienna.

LEEKS: Annual/Perennial bulbing herb. lant seed indoors 8 weeks before last frost date. Transplant around the last frost date. Or direct-seed 4 weeks before last frost. space 1-4" apart, thin to 4" and use the thinned out ones. Blanch the bottom on the leek by mounding soil or mulch around stems as leeks grow,

HARVEST: Pull when stem base is about an inch in diameter. Days to harvest 70-120.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Fast growing 'King Richard'.

LETTUCE: Salad Green. Plant by seed in late summer/early fall for winter harvest, plant every 3 weeks for succession crops. Space 6-12" apart or 4 plants per square foot.

HARVEST: For heading types remove entire head at the base with a knife. For other types remove outer leaves and let inner ones grow for continual harvest. Days to harvest 45-85.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Leaf lettuce is faster and the best for home gardener. Head or Bibb, type is more difficult to grow, Butterhead is a loose head and can be difficult to grow in warm weather, Romaine or Cos, which is a loose, upright head with a much sharper and coarser texture than the leaf and bibb types. Many, many types and colors. There are so many varieties to choose from, it is almost obscene - grow your own and you can have salads of 10 different lettuces!

LOVAGE: Perennial vegetable Green Herb. Perennial Herb. The parent of celery. Seed sown in late summer or early autumn. Division in spring to early summer every 4 years. space 1' apart.

HARVEST: Leaves as needed. The Seeds when fully ripe in late summer. And 2 -3 year old roots just before flowering.


MACHE (Also known as LAMB'S LETTUCE): Annual Salad. Is a mild gourmet salad green. Plant seed directly in fall as soon as weather starts to cool, space 2-4" apart.

HARVEST: Cut young plants off at the base or pick leaves as needed.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Vit' is more upright habit and adaptable to cold and heat.

Salad Green. Has mild-flavored rosettes of pencil-thin leaves. plant in fall for all cool season young leaf picking. Space 6-12" apart

HARVEST: Young leaves as needed.


Salad Green. The leaves are used in salad greens, plant seed in fall for winter harvest Space 6-12" apart

HARVEST: Baby and young leaves are best, older leaves are too strong.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Osaka Purple' is a large plant with broad spicy leaves, very showy.

ONIONS, (bunching, green onions or scallions):
Annual Root Vegetable. Plant by seed, transplants or sets in fall. sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before setting out. space sets 4" apart or 16 plants per square foot.

HARVEST: Harvest scallions about 8 weeks after planting or when 12" tall; bulbs when tops begin to fall over. Cure by drying in warm, dry area. Seed to harvest 20 weeks.

SELECTED VARIETIES: For the south choose short-day varieties, 'Yellow Granex', 'Vidalia', and 'Texas Grano'. Or Day-neutral types, 'Candy' and 'Super Star' for white or yellow onions. 'Red Burgermaster' and 'Stockton Red' are widely adapted red onions. 'Italian Red Torpedo' is a sweet variety that is delightful eating raw or just off the grill even though it is not a heavy producers.

Biennial or Perennial herb. Plant seed indoors 10 weeks before average last frost date. Direct sow in fall. Parsley is a biennial. If allowed to flower it may reseed (is this bad?). Space 6" apart or 4 plants per square foot. (Biennial best treated as annual) Thinly sow parsley seeds in a moist, sunny or partly shaded position of open ground in half an inch drills 12 inches apart during March for a summer supply. Or sow parsley seeds outside in a sheltered position June to August for Winter and Spring use. To aid germination, soak the seeds in tepid water for several days before sowing. Cover the drills with finely sifted soil only half an inch deep. Thin the seedlings (or transplant them) to 8 or 9 inches apart. Cut off flowering shots to prolong the life of parsley plants.

HARVEST: Pick outer leaves as needed or cut across, the plant will continue to grow.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Curley parsley grows less than 12" tall, mild flavor. Flat-leaf or Italian parsley has a stronger flavor and grows to 18" tall. Hamburg or parsnip-rooted parsley bears flat-leaf flavored leaves and long, white edible roots, Sow these in fall for a spring harvest.

Annual Root Vegetable. Plant seed in late summer to mature during winter. Sow seed directly 6" apart, keep sowing 3 weeks apart for continuous harvest.

HARVEST: After frost, dig roots all at once or mulch plants and pull as needed through winter. Days to harvest 90-120.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Lancer' and 'Harris Model'. Parsnips are biennial and die early in their second year.

PEAS: SPRING (English), SNAP, SNOW, AND DRY PEAS: Annual Vining vegetable. Plant seeds in the fall and late winter. space 2" apart or 8 plants per square foot, use trellis.

HARVEST: Carefully pick or cut pods off their stems. Harvest 'English peas' when pods fill out, 'Snap and Snow peas' when peas are full, yet tender. 'Dry peas' let them dry on the plant, harvest whole plant, allow to dy, then remove peas form pods. days to harvest 55-75

SELECTED VARIETIES: English spring types 'Maestro' 'Green Arrow', 'Alderman', 'Little Marvel' is 2' high. and a leafless 'Novella' and the baby pea 'Petit Pois'. You can eat the pods and the seeds of snap and snow peas. 'Snow peas' 'Oregon Giant' and 'Oregon Sugar pod II'. For 'Snap peas' 'Sugar Ann', 'Sugarsprint' and 'Sugar Star'. For 'Dry peas' 'Alaska' is good.

POTATOES: Annual Root Vegetable. Seed potatoes are available at local nurseries, and mail order, which provides a wider selection. Don't try growing grocery store potatoes because these have been treated with a sprouting inhibitor. Expose the seed potatoes to a sunny area then cut into pieces, each containing two eyes. Dust with sulfur. Dry pieces for up to 2 weeks, plant in shallow, 4” deep trenches with eyes facing up. Plant in fall of winter. Space 2' apart. As stems grow, mound soil loosely around bases, repeating several times throughout the growing season. mulch with straw or hay.

HARVEST: Harvest about 6-8 weeks after planting for new potatoes. Do no disturb plants, dig gently along the sides, then replace soil. To harvest mature potatoes wait until tops die down. In dry soil, use a digging fork. gently remove soil, harvest tubers by hand. Dry, then brush off soil. store in a cool place, avoiding exposure to sunlight to prevent solanine production. Discard any green potatoes; cut out green patches before eating. Don't wash potatoes after picking.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Plant both early and midseason potatoes. The midseason group includes a wide selection of colors and types, such as oblong 'Desiree' (red skin, yellow flesh), round 'Red Gold' (red shin yellow flesh), 'Norgold Russett' (brown skin, white flesh), and 'All red' (red skin, flesh). For small fingerling potatoes try 'Rose Finn Apple' is a disease-resistant fingerling's that stores well.

RADISHES: Annual Root Vegetable. Super easy to grow. plant seed directly in the ground all year except in extreme heat of summer. Plant every 2 weeks for continuous harvest, space about 1-2" apart or 16 plants per square foot.

HARVEST: Pull roots once size is appropriate for the variety. Heat intensifies pungency.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Red, round salad radishes, 'Cherry Belle', 'Cheery Bomb II' 'Cherriette'. French radishes, 'French Breakfast' 'D'Avignon' form 4" long cylinders with white tips and red shoulders. Oriental Daikon form carrot-shaped roots that can weigh several pounds. Grow in fall; they bolt in heat.

Annual Root Vegetable. Direct-sow in fall with lots of mulch, space them 8" apart.

HARVEST: Dig roots as needed when about 4" in diameter. Days to harvest about 90.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Varieties differ mostly in terms of color and disease resistance. 'Marian' resists clubroot; 'Joan' develops yellow-fleshed roots with purple tops.

Annual Bulbing Vegetable. Shallots split into a cluster of 3 to 10 tiny, teardrop-shaped -onions. Save the largest ones for replanting, plant in the fall. Space 6" apart. Some varieties can be successfully grown from seed.

HARVEST: When tops die back, store in a cool, dry place.

SELECTED VARIETIES: You can grow Bonilla, Olympus or Picadore varieties from seed and find they are a LOT easier to grow than onions. Varieties available to grow from bulbs are even more limited.

SHUNGIKU, (Edible Chrysanthemum): Annual Salad Herb. is a tangy salad green leaf and edible flowers. Space 6-12" apart

HARVEST: Young leaves as needed, for soup and salads.


Annual Salad, Vegetable Green. Sow in fall and then throughout the winter to spring. Soak seeds overnight and plant directly in ground 1" apart the thin to 6-12" apart or 9 plants per square foot. For continuous harvest sow every 2 weeks. Does not tolerate heat. Smooth leaf varieties are easier to clean. Better to direct sow spinach.

HARVEST: Pick outer leaves as needed small inner leaves will continue to grow rapidly.

SELECTED VARIETIES: Smooth-leaf types grow best in spring, 'Space', 'Whale' and 'Olympia'. Semisavoyed varieties such as 'Tyee' and 'Melody' have slightly crinkled leaves. Savoyed spinach 'Bloomsdale Longstanding' is thick, heavily crinkled and makes an outstanding fall and winter crop. Heat-resistant spinach look-a-likes (not really a spinach)such as 'Red Malabar' produce smooth spinach-like leaves on vining plants that thrive in heat.

Perennial Herb. leaves used in salads, soups, cakes, fruit desserts. Direct-sow in autumn, Division in spring. Space 2-3' apart. Needs cold temps, does not grow well in hot climates.

HARVEST: leaves as needed. Seeds either green or brown. Dig year-old roots in autumn.


Perennial Vegetable Green. Any time of year. Plant sow seeds in spring for fall harvest, or fall for winter. Space 12" apart, can be direct sown, but also works well from transplants. In cooler areas (near the beach), chard will over-summer.

HARVEST: Tear leaves as plants age and they'll send up new leaves. Days to harvest 50-55.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Lucullus' and 'Fordhook Giant' have white ribs. 'Rhubarb' has bright red 'Bright Yellow' has all yellow, 'Orange Fantasia' is, obviously, orange, and 'Bright Lights' (also called 'Rainbow' or 'Five Color Silverbeet') is a mix of all above colors with salmon, apricot and cream colors. Delightful!

TATSOI: Annual Vegetable Green. Space 6-12" apart



Annual Root Vegetable. Plant direct-sow 4-6 weeks before last frost. Sow in late summer for fall harvest; in fall for winter harvest in So. Cal. Space 5-6" apart.

HARVEST: Pull when roots are about 3" in diameter. Leaves are also edible, days to harvest 35-75.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Hakurei' for sweet salad turnips. 'Shogoin' and 'Tokyo Cross' for tender turnips and greens, and 'Purple Top White Globe' for storage. Heirloom 'Gilfeather' forms a large, sweet root with a green tops.


ARTICHOKE: Perennial. Plant root divisions after last frost, sow seeds in fall, harvest next in spring. space 3' apart.

HARVEST: Clip mature buds midsummer to midfalll depending on location.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Green Globe' is the standard; 'Violetto' an Italian purple variety with sharp spines at the tips of each sepal make it essential to trim the ends before serving; 'Imperial Star' from Johnny's produces artichokes the first season from seed. typically 6-8 mature buds per plant.


Perennial plants are most often planted in fall.

Perennial. Plant crowns 4-6 weeks before last frost, spacing 5-6" 14-18" apart.

HARVEST: Do not harvest the first year after planting, The second year harvest for 2-4 weeks. Subsequent years, harvest for 5-6 weeks. for highest yields plant only all male cultivators. Harvest by bending spear until it snaps or cut 1" below the soil.

SELECTED VARIETIES: 'Purple Passion' sweeter and more tender than green types. 'Jersey Supreme' all-male plants, 'Jersey Knight' from seed, all three above from Johnny's.

RHUBARB: Perennial. Plant by dormant crowns in spring. sow seed indoors in small pots in winter, transplant seedlings into the open or a larger pot in spring. space plants 36" apart or incorporate into your landscape. Or in Spring or fall, you can divide an old plant 3-4 years old and plant new ones or give away. Not all rhubarb turns reliably red in our mild winter climate.

HARVEST: Don't harvest the year after planting to let the plant get established. In spring, harvest only several stalks the second year after planting. Allow the stalks to get 10-15" long with a pink or red blush to harvest starting in spring through summer. You can cut the stalks with a sharp knife, but be careful not to injure any new stalks that are just beginning to poke through the ground. A simple harvesting technique is to grasp the stalk near its base, and pull it down and slightly to one side.  All parts of the rhubarb plant contain oxalic acid, a toxic substance that persists even after cooking. The quantity contained in the leaf stalks (petioles) is small enough to render it safe for eating. However, the leafy blades of the plants have a higher concentration of the oxalic acid, making them poisonous throughout the growing season. Be sure to remove the leafy blades and toss into the compost pile. About the middle of June or so, the rhubarb planting should be given a chance to rebuild its food reserves so it can make a good comeback next year. Discontinue the harvest, apply mulch around the plants to help control weeds and water as needed if weather gets droughty.  Your rhubarb should be used as soon as possible after harvesting, in order to get the best results from the plant. The stems can be frozen once they have been prepared.

SELECTED VARIETIES: The best strains are propagated by division rather than from seed. For red stems, try 'Valentine', 'Ruby', 'Canada Red' and 'Crimson Red'. Old standby cultivars such as 'Victoria' and 'Linnaeus' have green stalks that blush a little red near the base.

GARLIC OR CHINESE CHIVES: Perennial herb. Start divided plants in spring or fall, they have flat, solid leaves with a mild garlic flavor and 2" heads of white edible flowers. Space 6-12" apart.

HARVEST: leaves as needed like chives.


Katarina (Kat) Eriksson
Horticulturist, edible and water-saving Landscape designer

additional notes by
David King
The Learning Garden,


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sheet Mulching

Cardboarding Pasadena Backyard © 2008 Orchid Black

At times it is necessary to eliminate plants from a large area - in Los Angeles, this is most often grass - and sheet mulching is the way to do it. Here is a lovely post about ridding a Bermuda grass lawn - one of the most persistent weeds a garden can have. Without chemicals and without a lot of heavy sweating, any lawn can be history.

This technique not only doesn't use chemicals and hard labor, it also leaves the soil in much better condition than it was as a lawn. It seems to me to be a win/win/win situation. It does require patience, but, while patience may be a virtue to the general population, in gardeners it is essential!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An Introduction to Garden Journals

A simple downloadable garden journal is available from Northern Gardening. You can download the PDF file, print it and hand write your own notes on the pages produced. This is just one of the many ways you can help your memory and learn the vagaries of garden craft.

All our attempts at gardening are more or less personal experiments and there is no book written on gardening that will prove more helpful to you than the one you write about your own garden. Gardening, I heard said, teaches one to think ahead a few months in meal planning – if you buy that statement, in some ways, gardening will even push someone to plan ahead in terms of years about what’s eventually for dinner.

There are more ways to keep a garden journal now days than there are varieties of apples to grow.

Everyone’s journal should be as different as gardens are different and that’s part of the wonder of gardening. And garden journaling.

Some possible choices for a garden journal:

An internet based format
A computer based format
Or a good old fashioned ‘write with a pencil and glue in photos from a camera’ kind

An Internet Based Garden Journal

You can create a blog with any one of over a dozen sites that host blogs. Just so we are on the same page a blog is only a log of your thoughts or observations and can be on any subject your heart desires. They couldn’t call it a “log” as that word already had a specific meaning, so the ‘b’ was pulled off the word “web” and appended to “log” and that’s how we are all talking about ‘blogs' these days.

Blogspot, of course, hosts this blog, but there are many others one can use. Blogspot has the most robust tool kit that is also easy to use – that’s why I use it.

I also use the Kitchen Gardeners’ International site; and this has place for your observations too. The Learning Garden’s space could be used as a blog/journal for gardening information, though it's not right now.

If that seems a little too much information to share to the world at large, there are other ways to create a garden journal that is useful to you.

A Computer Based Garden Journal

As in all categories, there is a lot of variety in how one can use a computer to construct a garden journal.

Unlike the internet based journal, this one is more private and you have a variety of tools to make this a viable journal.

I like a computer based journal, I have used a Word document in the past (I am now using Open Office Writer, which really is the same thing without the huge price tag), because I can paste digital photos; I can include web links and make tables and import data and charts from Excel. If I choose. Typically most of my journal is text because I am a writer and that’s what works for me.

Others who are much more detail oriented will find Excel, brimming over with pinpoint control in every cell, fills the bill. That’s just too much work for me. If you use Word 2000 or later, this link lists a lot of templates you can use to create your journal in Word.

You'll find the various garden journal templates mixed in with various other kinds of journals including cigar journals and others.

Some overtly techie gardeners have used software available for the Palm computer platform. Unfortunately, as of this writing I don't have a Palm devise to offer any advise on them.

The Hand Written Journal

The advantage of using a hand written journal is that it can be taken into the garden easily without fear of expensive computer parts being destroyed. It isn’t ‘nice’ to get water all over your garden journal, but computers are positively allergic to dirt and water and expensive to repair or replace – and a hassle if anything goes wrong.

I have used three ring binders, spiral bound notebooks and special little notebooks that are very artsy-craftsy. The latter can be very fun, but aggravating to use over the long haul because they tend to be smaller and, while artistic, about as practical as storing charcoal briquettes in the freezer.

With the three ring binder, I had several different tabbed sections; one was devoted to seed starting, anther to suppliers. But the bulk of it was composed of tabs by month in which, I made entries (nothing like daily, but that was the goal) in what was happening today in the garden.

In those leisurely days, I cut out the “Local Weather” column from the LA Times – there was the minimum/maximum temperatures, as well as the forecast for the immediate future. Next to that pasted in information, I wrote my observations. Also pasted in were the plant tags for plants I had bought (the descriptive sales tool tag with all the information about that variety) and, every so often, the pilfered tags of plants I intended to buy.

The Homestead Garden website offers a free download journal template in the Portable Document Format (PDF), which you cannot change, but you can print out and create your own garden journal. Once you have downloaded the file, you can print off multiple copies of the pages you need the most. In fact their list of pages provides a wonderful glimpse of what one can put in a garden journal, as follows:

Seed Starting Journal
Dates, days to germination, varieties, quantity, seed packets’ information, planting mix used… started indoors or direct sown?
Catalog Wishlist
Not only for seeds and plants, but also tools!
Monthly Journal
Which presumably would be a monthly collection of “Daily Journal” entries?
Plant Description Journal
Divided into “Plants I Want” and “Plants I Have” – most useful to ornamental gardens
Printable Garden Sayings
As opposed to “unprintable garden sayings?”
Daily Journal
Layout and Design
Every garden journal needs some place for even rudimentary drawings
Plant Information
This would be a helpful division for information on trees or perennials.
Garden Contacts
Specialists you might need (tree pruners, specialty growers) – your fellow classmates? Garden clubs nearby – other resources…
Future Reference
What's Blooming (Wouldn’t this be a part of the daily journal entries?)
Garden Chore List (I always thought making a chore list was such a chore… I mean, I do make a ‘chore list’ but I refuse to call it a chore list.)
Wildlife Sightings (Many gardeners get into birding – I look for smaller ‘wildlife’ – like cabbage looper, Lady Bugs and so on… Ma Possum making her “run” through the garden…)
Garden Reference List
And whatever else you like to refer to…

Other pages they don’t include that I would include:
Books – to read and have been read
Magazines – those that are helpful
Grafting – what I used and what was successful and what was not
Cuttings – as with seeds, this is one way to get a LOT of plants
Harvest report – amount harvested, was it tasty? Different parts of the garden vs. other parts; different years production
Recipes of what to do with the harvest
Insect control – dates and weather information of infestations; observations on beneficial insects in the garden

Garden journals of the artistic often include drawings of wildlife in the garden as well as plants or layouts. For myself, I am grateful for the advent of digital photography which affords me a wonderful tool to circumvent my lack of drawing talent. Alison Starcher turned her drawings of insects she found in her Santa Monica garden into a book – a lovely little book too on beneficials we find growing in the Los Angeles basin.

But all the pages in the world do nothing if you find it too cumbersome to use.
Go with as much control as you can deal with combined with the amount of data you find most compelling and you’ll begin to suss through the myriad of choices to arrive at Your Garden Journal.

For a class grade, I will anticipate no less than half a page per week with some weeks totaling several pages. It should include some photos, some text, and some observations of your garden. I would expect your journal to be close to 10 pages long for a passing grade.

One entry earlier this year for example:

17 March 2009 72° | 54°
A lot done at the Garden today. Mark and I planted out lettuces (Red Fire, Marvel of the Four Seasons, and the Red Oakleaf – that is really Green Oakleaf), onions (Red Long of Tropea) and shallots (Olympus and Bonilla). In the greenhouse, I transplanted more lettuces from plugs, Sean and Mark continued the double digging and Mary and Mary showed up in the afternoon replacing me in the greenhouse transplanting more basil (the Genovese for pesto day), tomatoes, and whatnot. Mark, Sean and I contemplated the problem of sealing the greenhouse and decided we needed some help with that. More will be revealed. I hope.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Notes on Soils

We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot. Leonardo da Vinci

Soil Formation

1.Climate – including temperature and rainfall
2.Organisms – from the itty bitty (microscopic) to the biggies (macroscopic)
3.Topography – (the book calls relief) – land surface
4.Parent material – the original rock
5.Time – the factor that weathers us all.

Components of Soil

50% Air and water in a continuum
5% Organic and living matter
45% Parent material (the underlying minerals (rock)

Soil Composition

Characteristics of Soil Components.................Property/Behavior

Water holding........Low.......Medium +......High
Drainage rate........High......Medium.......Slow/Very slow
Soil organic matter..Low.......Medium +.....High
Decomposition of organic matter
Speed of warming....Rapid......Medium.......Slow
Compactability.......Low ......Medium.......High
Storage of nutrients.Low.......Medium.......High
Resistance to pH change.Low....Medium.......High

Soil Texture

Is defining how the proportion of these differing components are found in a given soil. An ideal soil is a mix of all these different components. While it is possible to have a soil that is composed of one or the other component, the likelihood is that it will be a combination of all three. The proportion of one to the next determines how you call your soil.

Each shovel of soil holds more living things than all the human beings ever born.


The following books were used in the development of this lecture with my notes on each.

Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
, Logan, William Bryant, 1995, Riverhead Books; A series of passionate essays pleading to respect the earth and to rethink how we define ‘dirty.’

Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils, Brady, Nyle et al, 2000, Prentice Hall; This is the simple version of the text I had in my soil class. It is really dense and a good reference when you settle in to teach soils, but unless you have a lot of organic chemistry under your belt, it will probably serve you as a door stop more than a book.

Out Of The Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil,
Hillel, Daniel. 1991 Free Press; The paperback is published by University of California Press. Not strictly a soils text, I recommend this book very highly. It is a grand overview of how soils shape civilization and how failure to understand and conserve them has resulted in the fall of civilizations – much more than even losing battles! Worth every second you invest in it! Read this book.

Soil Science Simplified, 4th Edition, Dohnke, Helmut et al, 1995, Waveland Press; Just like the title says it is very much a simplification of the concepts and scientific principles of soil. A lot of big scientific words, and not light reading, but still highly recommended.

Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Lowenfels, Jeff et al, 2006 Timber Press; Look up all the titles in the Timber Press catalog – one of the more important horticultural publishing houses in business today! I wish I had this book when I started gardening – this book presents the latest research on the ecology of the soil. A must read! My next book review in Touch the Soil will be on this book and, after careful reconsideration, I think this is one of the most important books to come out on soils and gardening in many a decade. This is the second most important book on this list.

The Gardeners’ Guide to Better Soil, Logsdon, Gene, 1975, Rodale Press; The first book to turn me on to soils and a real page turner, although it’s out of print and a real bear to find. Gene Logsdon is brash, outspoken, political and opinionated. He goes on tangential tirades about the price of gas (in 1975!), but, in part because he is brash, outspoken and opinionated, still he pulls off a book that is informative and easily read and digested.

The Soul of Soil; A Guide to Ecological Soil Management, Gershuny, Grace et al, 1986 Gaia Services; This is a small book, only 109 pages including back notes, but is chock full of information about how to care for your soil. The ‘ecological’ in the title cues you to know that it’s a total organic approach. A great text and easy to read. This is a classic.

How to Take A Soil Sample Test

Remove as much surface organic matter as possible before taking your soil sample.
Put approximately one cup of soil into a straight-sided quart jar with lid.
Add approximately one tablespoon of alum or Calgon bath beads.
Fill the jar with water almost to the top.
Shake vigorously for several minutes to get all the soil moistened.
Let the jar stand undisturbed for at least one hour.
The soil mix will separate into layers. The longer it sits, the more distinct the layers will appear.
Figure out the percentages of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter. The sand will be the bottom layer. Silt will be the next layer, followed by clay. Organic matter will float on top of the water.
Determine soil type by comparing percentages with soil triangle. Follow arrows in example—15% sand, 70% silt, and 15% clay—to merge at silty loam category.
Understanding soil type will help you know how to properly amend, fertilize, water, and plant so that you will have healthy, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant plants.

What to do and How to do it

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

1.Place the edge of a ruler 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 water soluble marker at the point where the two rulers 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.
4.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.

Feel the texture of a moist soil sample. 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.

Edible Plants Bibliography

The cover of William Woys Weaver's seminal work on heirloom vegetables displays the promise of some delicious reading to come. The book delivers. However, it is out of print as of this writing and, even as a used book, is no mean investment. It IS a good book!

All of these books have contributed to the lectures in this class.

Designing and Maintaining your Edible Landscape Naturally, Kourick, Robert © 1986, Metamorphic Press, Santa Rosa, CA Probably the bible for this kind of garden. I own a first printing and a quick check shows that Amazon has it new for $33.46 (Permanent Publications; March 30, 2005), so it’s still a winner, after all these years.

Designing the New Kitchen Garden, Bartley, Jennifer © 2006, Timber Press, Portland, OR Lots of wonderful ideas and source material for a good many daydreams. And the source of some important lessons in creating a garden that can sustain more than just your spirit. By the way, you’ll know you’re a real gardener when you begin to receive the Timber Press catalog – they have a comprehensive list of gardening books that will help you get into the details of any aspect of gardening that you can imagine!

Edible Flowers, From Garden to Palate, Barash, Cathy Wilkinson, © 1995 Fulcrum Publishing, This is the only really comprehensive book on growing edible flowers – it’s a fascinating cuisine we have largely lost through neglect. Have an adventure and a nasturtium for dinner!

Heirloom Vegetables
, Stickland, Sue, © 1998 Fireside Books, A wonderful introduction to heirloom vegetables and how and why to grow them! A fabulous read for all prospective vegetable gardeners. And now that the Weaver book is no longer easily available, this is the runner up.

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History, Weaver, William Woys © 2003, BookSales Inc, Originally published in 1997, it is now out of print and getting a copy can be hellish. The book sells for almost $300 used on Amazon! It is a wonderful book that needs to be put back in print because the research he put into the book allows this to be one of the most informative books on heirloom vegetables that has ever been published. Good luck in finding it! If I had known it was going to command this much money, I would have kept closer contact with my copy!

Sunset Western Garden Guide 8th Edition
, Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Editor, ©2007, Sunset Publishing All of the recent editions have their merit, but each successive edition has more plants and updates the scientific undergirding of gardening, so I encourage you to invest in the most recent edition you can afford (used copies are usually easy to find, either locally or at, I have a few for sale!). This is the number one go-to book for horticulture in Southern California; no other book is as authoritative as this one for our area. We cannot take advice from most gardening books and apply it to what we do in Los Angeles because our climate and soils are nothing like the rest of the world – especially those on the east coast and England where most books about gardening originate.

The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques, Creasy, Rosalind, © 1982, Sierra Club Books – This is where edible landscaping began! Still a good book!

The Grape Grower, Rombough, Lon © 2002, Chelea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT. Of several books on the subject of growing grapes, this is the most thorough, the best written and covers the most material. And they all cost about the same money. You’ll come to think of it as your very favorite, if you get into growing grapes for table or for wine. Chelsea Green is another publishing house you’ll want to investigate – especially if you get into sustainable living. Truly a pioneer publishing house with many wonderful titles to entice you into curl up with a good book.

The Home Orchard, Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, © 2007, Another great book from UC’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources – search out their website and you’ll find a wealth of free information there as well as publications like this one to purchase. This book is about the most thorough book on home orchards you will ever find - it is no only comprehensive, but comprehendible and easy to follow. There is no aspect of home orchards that is not covered in this volume.

The Kitchen Garden, Thompson, Sylvia © 1995, Bantam Books, Sylvia is from our area (she has written for the LA Times) so she knows a bit of gardening here. This is a great book that I refer to frequently.

The Old-Fashioned Fruit Gardener, Gardner, Jo Ann, © 1989 Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, Nova Scotia A wonderful resource to learn how folks used to use small fruits of their garden complete with growing instructions and recipes.

Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, Reich, Lee © 2004, Timber Press, Portland, OR If you are not familiar with Timber Press, check out their website, they are one of the best publishing houses in the field of horticulture today and their catalog will make your eyes twirl. We can’t grow all of these fruits, but this book is an eye opener for what can be grown vs. what IS grown. Each plant’s fruit is described with directions for cultivation and a list of desirable cultivars. This is the ‘expanded sequel’ to the book that drove me nuts trying to find a way to grow currants in Los Angeles (an as yet unfulfilled dream).


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Modern Backyard Food Production

Course Number: BIOLOGY X 489.6

Instructor: David King
phone number redacted
I am at The Learning Garden reliably from 10 to 5, Tuesday through Friday and 1:00 to 5, Saturday and Sunday.

There are no prerequisites for this course, although some experience with gardening will prove useful.

All classes will meet at The Learning Garden on the Venice High School campus where it can be hot and cold by turns – but reliably MUCH COOLER than other parts of Los Angeles. For your own comfort, please bring a sweater or coat to every class meeting. We will have access to a classroom for any possible rain events; class will meet regardless of the weather.

The production, packaging, and transportation of food are large contributors to our global carbon emissions. Throughout the Los Angeles Basin, food gardens have sprung up to produce local healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables while contributing energy and financial savings in difficult economic times. Using the history of growing food in the city in times of need as a template, this course explores how homegrown food can reduce your food budget and address environmental concerns. Participants are each given a small plot for growing food where they can experiment with new ideas and enjoy their harvest. Topics include fruit trees, vegetables, and berries that do well in our climate as well as often overlooked food-producing perennials and how to grow food in modern city lots where the "back forty" describes square feet and not acres.

Textbook Required:
Title Sunset Western Garden Book
Author Brenzel, Kathleen Norris (Editor)
Edition Feb. 2007
Publisher Sunset Books
ISBN 978-0376039170

Textbooks, Recommended:
Title The Kitchen Garden
Author Thompson, Sylvia
Edition First
Publisher Bantam Books
ISBN 0-553-08138-1
*(She has a companion cookbook that is worth investigation too!)

Title Heirloom Vegetable Gardening
Author Weaver, William Woys
Edition First
Publisher Henry Holt
ISBN 0-8050-4025-0

Title Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs: An Integrated Pest Management Guide
Author Dreistadt, Steve H.
Edition 2nd
Publisher Univ of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
ISBN 978-1879906617

There will be no assigned reading from these books, however, as references, they will prove invaluable to any serious student in this field. There will be bibliographies describing other books as the quarter progresses, I am a ferocious reader and not at all shy about suggesting books I like.

Course Schedule:

04 October, 2009 Introduction/Garden Tour/ Garden journal/Garden layout/tools/Soils
11 October, 2009 Sowing from seed/Care of seedlings/Compost and mulch/ planting skills
18 October, 2009 Garden design and Planting Schedules
25 October, 2009 The Keys to Food Production in a small space
01 November, 2009 Supplies/Sources/Annuals
08 November, 2009 Annuals Continued
15 November, 2009 Perennials/Bulbs/Exceptional Eating/mycology*
22 November, 2009 Trees/Vines; The Modern Orchard
06 December, 2009 Irrigation/maintenance
13 December, 2009 Wrap Up and Eat! Credit Students turn in journals
(Syllabus may be changed liberally as needed to reflect reality.)

Point Assignment Structure

Class participation 30
Journal 30
Planting Project 40

All notes will be published at for your convenience. I hope to get the notes up in advance to allow you to print off the coming week's topic before you come to class - IF you feel you need it.

*This topic will be held in reserve as it works well on a rain out day.
Contents of this site, text and photography, are copyrighted 2009 through 2017 by David King - permission to use must be requested and given in writing.