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Sunday, December 19, 2010

As Promised (Finally) Moraccan Spiced Chickpeas and Chard

Chard can be prepared in many different ways, and in this respect it closely resembles its cousin, spinach. One of the ways that chard shines is in braises and stews, so...

This dish might seem to have daunting ingredient list. But don’t be put off; enough of the ingredients will already be lurking in your kitchen. And, if you leave out any one of the spices, it will probably still turn out well. In contrast to some meat tagines, which take hours to prepare and cook, this dish can be made from start to finish on a weeknight. And the flavor is a lovely mélange of spices, slight sweetness from the raisins, and savory flavors from the chickpeas; don't go skimping on the spices or it won't have the same ultra-zing that is so lovely! Serve with rice or quinoa for hearty vegetarian dinner.

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ sweet onion, minced
• 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked according to preference)
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon turmeric
• ¼ teaspoon thyme
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ cup golden raisins
• 1 tablespoon organic tomato paste
• 1 bunch chard (about 8 ounces) washed, center ribs removed, and chopped
• 1 cup cooked chickpeas plus 1 ¼ cups of their cooking liquid, or 1 can organic chickpeas with liquid plus ½ cup water
• 1 teaspoon hot sauce or ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Add the olive oil, onion, and garlic to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or 3-4 quart pot, and turn the heat to medium. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then add the paprika, cumin, turmeric, thyme, salt, and cinnamon. Stir together and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low.

Stir every 3-5 minutes to ensure that the bottom does not burn and that your ingredients are evenly combined. You can add a tablespoon of rice flour if you like your stew thicker, although I've never needed it. Remove from the heat after 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful holiday season! I hope to see all of you soon in the coming year!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Notes for Today's Class

(Note:  Extension has made available the evaluation forms for this class.  Please do fill out these forms and let me and Extension know how you perceived the class and how you felt you learned (or didn't).  Please, with all this, suggest ways to make this class better - I read all these evaluations and often incorporated suggestions in future classes.  Please fill the forms out in an effort to improve this class and program.  Thank you  for your input!)

This is also THE very time to begin to think about fruit trees. I urge you to think about fruit trees for a while before making the dive because they are a big investment, not so much in money, but in time and patience. Once one has planted a fruit tree, some will take several years to come into full production – if you find the fruit unsatisfactory, or you have a variety that doesn't fruit well for you, all that time is wasted.

Gather as much data as you can in order to choose the tree that is right for you. Here are some sources you will find helpful – I suggest you go online and order the printed catalog because you'll want to cross check facts and types with each different nursery before you commit.

Trees of Antiquity, ( is the place where we purchased most of our trees here in The Learning Garden. I found them extremely helpful and very knowledgeable. It was they who suggested Dorsett Golden as our apple here and it is truly one of the finds of a lifetime for our area.

Raintree Nursery, ( invariably is where I place my ongoing orders for my propagation class (that starts in January) because I need rootstocks for the class, but their selection is lovely too and their catalog is worth a read.

My old standby, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, ( is a great supplier of trees and fruit bushes, but their selection isn't nearly as complete and their catalog isn't a detailed as these others. Still, if you are already ordering something from Peaceful and they have the variety you want, you can't go wrong with them.

Dave Wilson Nursery ( has one of the most extensive websites around on fruit trees. It is really worth a good solid look, chock full of data.

The University of California has gotten in on the act with a website, The California Backyard Orchard (, that is a wonderful web site for a lot of answers about growing fruit trees in our climate. It also promotes the UC ANR publication, The Home Orchard which I recommend if someone is going to go into this head over heals – like I want to!

After looking through these catalogs, one might have narrowed their purchase down to a few trees. Once you get trees, these following sources are lovely to have in your library:

The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden, Otto, Stella, © 1995 Ottographics This is the oldest book in this list and probably the smallest too, so it isn't as chock full of data as the other two, but then it would be the least expensive as well. Otto covers a lot more, obscure, fruits and so this is a book for the adventurous and those who don't want to spend a lot of money. It is a gem of a book and she does not intimidate the reader.
The Home Orchard, Ingels, C. et al, © 2007, University of California, Agriculture & Natural Resources One of the very best books for learning about the home orchard. Well written, easy to understand, good photos, this one has it all. No shortcuts, I like this book. It is available through the address above (and on sale as of this writing – which means a new edition might be on its way out – because of the sale, it is cheaper from ANR directly than it is from Amazon).
The Organic Apple Grower, Phillips, Michael, © 2005, Chelsea Green Publishing Although written for the New England area of the country, he introduces tools of the trade with a flair and his way of doing things IS organic. Might be one to check out from the library, but you will find plenty of good information and lots of lovely reading about organic apple production. (And his description of finding a flat-head apple borer makes my fulminations over slugs seem very, very tame.)

Some Fruit Varieties That Do Well Here:

Apples -

Dorsett Golden – as mentioned above, is our heavy cropper. It takes about 3 years to really settle in (although it will bear fruit, they are tiny for the first three or so years with full sized fruit beginning to show up in year three). We have Dorsett Golden on half size fruit stock and it's a fair sized critter.
Gala – we have this on a dwarf rootstock – she's about five feet tall at this point and not likely to get much larger. Lovely apples with crisp texture and that is what I prize in an apple.
Fuji – one of my all time favorites, but the one we have in the garden is a 500 chill hour plant and in three years I harvested one small apple. It WAS good, but it wasn't worth all that time. Sadly, ours will have to be replaced. (There are newer Fuji trees that have less chilling requirement and I may buy one of those.

If I had known better, I would have planted more varieties with a wider range of fruiting times to extend the harvest – as it is now, we get a ton of apples in late June/early July and then we are done for the year. Although, a quick look at the literature I have at hand shows that I have few apples to choose from that will fruit here at all.

Apricot -

Gold Kist – hands down, the best apricot I have ever eaten! A self-pollinated variety, this one tree stands out as the best fruit in our garden. While Royal Blenheim is the touted variety for our climate, I just love Gold Kist and have no desire to look beyond it.

Pear -

Seckle is usually the only one suggested for our area of the European pears. We have one, but it ended up in a neglected area and I've got nothing to report. Although, I don't think a ripe pear can be beat by much for shear hedonistic eating!

Figs -

Violettte de Bordeaux – is our tree that has been a champion for five years. It bore fruit the first year and it has not stopped since. A deep black skinned fruit, the flesh is a gorgeous red and has a smoky richness that is heavenly.
White Genoa – is an Italian variety that took forever to fruit. Once it finally put on a crop by which it could be judged, I began to appreciate its lighter and sweeter amber flesh. A really lovely fig.

Nectarine -

Double Delight – not to be confused with the rose of the same name, this is a yellow fleshed freestone nectarine, heavily bearing and needs a LOT of thinning – we almost lost several branches because it just over set fruit. I know Peaceful Valley calls it 'sensational' but I think that's a little over the top. It's good and with vanilla ice cream it's really good. But not 'sensational.' It is self-fertile.

Peaches -

Red Baron – this is one of our two peaches – this is a yellow freestone and a very good producer of large fruits. The other one is a clingstone and I like its flavor better, but I can't find the record on it and don't know which one it is. The importance of keeping good records, where you can find them is not to be overlooked. (I do have this all written down and saved in a computer file from 2003, but I can only find files back to 2005 right this second.)

Plums -

Santa Rosa – this is one of the thousands of plants that Luther Burbank created (he lived in Santa Rosa and gave us the Burbank potato, the Shasta Daisy among thousands of others), and I find this to be the best and most prolific producer of any tree in our gardens today. It makes a fabulous sorbet, delicious jam and fresh eating cannot be beat. There are several other plums that will do well in our region, but I haven't got past this one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Perennials For Food Production


Jerusalem artichokes
Onions, walking and others


Blueberries (Southern Highbush, low chill) – to about 4 feet, prefer acidic soils and lot’s of water. Other than that, easy to grow
Ribes sp.


Berries/Rasp and black, boysenberry
Passion fruit 

The following herbs are perennial as well:
Anise hyssop
Some basils
Burnet, salad
Lemon Verbena
Sweet margoram
Oregano, Greek (Origanum heracleoticum)
Tarragon, French

What are the advantages of perennial plants being a part of your food growing mix, besides just being plain delicious?


Friday, November 19, 2010


Under almost any conditions afforded by the climate in Southern California, we can have class no matter what.  However, this weekend, I have heard reports of up to two inches of rain in a 24 hour period.  IF that happens, we will have to schedule a make up class - probably 11 December (afternoon).  If we have just a bad drool or even a light rain, pull on your boots and jacket and come on out - we will have class.  The prospect of flooding is the only thing that bothers me.

ADDENDUM, 8:00AM Sunday - Class is going forward - although we will not be able to garden, we will do some lecture, and maybe do garden inspections...  I would rather meet today and not have to postpone.  


Sunday, November 14, 2010

COMMON Seed Viability

Seeds are the basis of all we eat.  Failure to maintain access to seeds could become one of the biggest failures of our generation.  Grow open pollinated plants and save their seed to plant again next year.  Insure the safety of your food sources. 


Approximate age at which seed of good initial viability stored under cool and dry conditions will still give a satisfactory germination. Seed stored dry and cool will last longer. Remember, a researcher at UCLA germinated lotus seed found in a pyramid that was over several thousand years old.

Common Name Binomial Family ~ Age
Asparagus Asparagus officinalis Liiaceae 3
Beans Phaseolus vulgaris (& others) Fabaceae 3
Beets Beta vulgaris Chenopodiaceae 4
Broccoli Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Cabbage Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Cardoon Cynara cardunculus Asteraceae 5
Carrots Daucus carota sativus Apiaceae 3
Cauliflower Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Celeriac Apium graveolens rapaceum Apiaceae 5
Celery Apium graveolens dulce Apiaceae 5
Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium Apiaceae 3
Collards Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Corn Zea mays Poaceae 2
Cress Lepidium sativum Brassicaceae 5
Cucumbers Cucumis melo Cucurbitaceae 5
Eggplant Solanum melongena Solanaceae 5
Endive Cichorium endivia Asteraceae 5
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare Apiaceae 4
Kale Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Kohlrabi Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Leeks Allium porrum Liiaceae 3
Lettuce Lactuca sativa Asteraceae 5
Muskmelons Cucumis melo Cucurbitaceae 5
Mustard Brassica cretica Brassicaceae 4
Okra Abelmoschus esculentus Solanacea 2
Onions Allium cepa Amaryllidaceae 1
Parsley Petroselinum crispum Apiaceae 1
Parsnips Pastinaca sativa Apiaceae 1
Peas Pisum sativum Fabaceae 3
Peppers Capsicum annuum Solanaceae 2
Pumpkins Cucurbita maxima Cucurbitaceae 4
Radishes Raphanus landra Brassicaceae 5
Spinach Spinacia oleracea Chenopodiaceae 5
Squash Cucurbita moschata; C. pepo and C. maxima Cucurbitaceae 4
Swiss Chard Beta vulgaris Chenopodiaceae 4
Tomatoes Lycopersicon esculentum Solanaceae 4
Turnips Brassica rapa Brassicaceae 4
Watermelons Citrullus lanatus Cucurbitaceae 4


Month By Month Planting Guide for Southern California: A 'Cheat Sheet'

These generalizations are for The Learning Garden, located in Sunset Zone 24, less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean in an alluvial plain that is just above sea level. Cold air from the near-by hills drains into our area and we are reliably cooler than much of the surrounding areas. If you are growing inland from us, your temperatures fluctuate more than ours. As one gardens further from the ocean, the temperatures are less moderate and the effects of heat and cold are more pronounced. While we can grow some cool season crops year round (kale and chard come to mind first), this becomes more difficult without the ocean's pronounced influence. (Photo:  Bundles of fresh food are being sorted into individual packages for distribution with the Westside Produce Exchange for redistribution.)


Plant in the ground: lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac, radishes, spinach,
Plant in containers: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, (these last two can be started now, but they would have been better started earlier – their production will be reduced by the coming warmer weather), peas, fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans


Plant in the ground: lettuce (and other salad greens), carrots, beets parsnips, radishes, spinach, purple beans,
Plant in containers: early tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, summer squash


Plant in the ground: purple beans, lettuce, radishes, purple beans, beets, radishes, spinach, set out plants of basil, early tomatoes, later in the month, sow early sweet corn,
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, all squash,


Plant in the ground: beans of all colors, lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, set out plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, you can start planting all corn now
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons & squash, okra,


Plant in the ground: all basil, eggplant, all melons and all squash (including cucumbers, set out plants of same and all tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) green and yellow beans and all the dried beans; corn too, if you have room
Plant in containers: As in April, but it's getting late – peppers, eggplants and basil are still OK to start, but it's getting late, did I say it was getting late?


Plant in the ground: all the above, but it's getting late... you can still get a crop, but it will be cut shorter by any early cool weather; the last of the corn can go in early in the month
Plant in containers: after starting pumpkin seeds, take a nap


Plant in the ground only out of necessity – extreme necessity
Plant in containers: continue napping


Plant in the ground: nothing if you can avoid it
Plant in containers: towards the end of the month, in a shaded location, the first of the winter veggies can be started, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, fava beans, leeks, shallots, onions...


Plant in the ground: nothing, until late in the month, start sowing turnips, parsnips, radishes, beets and carrots – keep seeds moist! Peas, lentils and garbanzo beans can be sown...
Plant in containers: Cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, favas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,


Plant in the ground: by now you can begin to set out some of your cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, chard and so on. Continue with seeds as above... you can also direct sow favas if you want. Potatoes can usually be found about now as well as sets or seed bubls of onions, garlic and shallots and they all should be planted from now until late November.
Plant in containers: More Cruciferae and favas, celery and celeriac,


Plant in the ground: More of September's plants can be sown – you still have time for all of them except onions, this will be the last month to plant peas, lentils, garbanzos, shallots, garlic and fava beans. Their growing season is too long to get the harvest you would want. Although the legumes can be planted if you are willing to take a lesser harvest or are using them as a cover (green manure) crop.
Plant in containers: I'm still sowing cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower, but Brussels sprouts are a longer season item so they're not a part of my efforts until next season's planting begins.


Plant in the ground: Too little light and too many parties make it difficult to find garden time – but if you have some things left over from November, try to get that done.
Plant in containers: Pretty much the same story, if you have time, do more of all that's listed from November.

There are two big shifts in Southern Californian gardening: At the end of September, beginning of October it's all about the winter crops. At the end of February, beginning of March, the focus all shifts to summer and the heat lovers. Seeds get started slightly before then (if you have the right conditions, up to six weeks before then!). 


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Quick Notes for November 7th Class

1.  The menu has changed: rhubarb pie will be a different day.
2.  It will be cold.
3.  Soup will be hot.
4.  We will meet a chicken, not in the soup.
5.  We will discuss bees, using an empty hive.
6.  I hope you remember to set you clocks back!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Shelia's Curry Squash Soup

Serves: 4
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion or 1 shallot finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 Tbsp curry powder or more if you like...
4 cups roasted or boiled squash
4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp butter (optional)
S/P to taste

Saute onion & garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until lite golden brown.
Add curry powder and mix well.
Add cooked squash, coating with onion and curry mixture.
Add vegetable broth and integrate items well with salt & pepper.
I used an immersion blender in the pot or you can do in smaller batches slowly ~ add to a blender & mix well. Be VERY careful, the mixture is hot.
Add back to pot, test for seasonings & add butter if you like.

Serve with the following options: a dollop of cream and/or croutons

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Designing a Garden

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 from 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, but will change based on your reasons for growing a garden:
  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 incongruent 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 bitching about his knees or his back or something yet again, 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 write something, 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 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 about in the office or any of the other slings and arrows of modern life. In fact, a large part of the stress of modern life, 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 (is that a proper way to say that?) so. 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 full sun!

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. 


Making A Scale Drawing

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.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vanishing of The Bees: Movie Showing

 I have been able to flesh out more details on the upcoming showing of the movie, Vanishing of the Bees.  The facts:  it will be shown Saturday, October 16 2010 7.00 PM to 9.00 PM - 13325 Beach Avenue, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292.  It is free and we expect someone from the production staff to be on hand to answer questions that might be raised by the movie.  

Beach is the first street south of Washington Boulevard running parallel to it; 13325 is just west of Redwood Avenue, so it is extremely close to the Garden.  

This should answer all questions before we see the movie, except, who is bringing the popcorn!  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saving Tomato Seeds - An Understandable How To

A few of the easier seeds to save, like corn, stored in closed glass jars - out of the sun!

Chiot's Run, a blog from north eastern Ohio, often has sound gardening advice and this time it's about how to save tomato seeds.  I've seen many other articles on how to save tomato seeds - this one was one of the most easily understood and straight forward.  I hope you find it interesting as well.


Edible Plants Bibliography

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, I'm sorry to say.

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 comprehensible 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.

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).

There will be more books to follow.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Short List of Seed Houses

This is a freshly revamped seed list in an effort to avoid seed companies that carry Seminis (Monsanto) products. To my knowledge, none of the following companies carry GMO seeds.

BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS; 2278 Baker Creek Road Mansfield, MO 65704; 417.924.8917 What a catalog! Beautiful pictures of the produce – vegetable porn for sure. I have never ordered from them, but I have heard good things about them.

BOTANICAL INTERESTS; 660 Compton Street, Broomfield, CO 80020; 720.880.7293. I 'have been dealing with these folks for only a couple of years - I have seen their seeds on seed racks here and there, but I really got to know them for the quantity of seeds they donate to Venice High School and other educational programs. If you order using one of the links on this blog, you benefit the garden because a portion of your purchase goes into The Learning Garden's seed fund.  Good seed.  Clean.  Good variety and a good price.

BOUNTIFUL GARDENS; 18001 Shafer Ranch Road; Willits, CA 95490; 707.459.6410 Organic seed; open-pollinated. A part of the work done by John Jeavons, a proud and active member of the population of organic and open-pollinated gardeners. If you see him, he owes me a laser pointer.

FEDCO; PO Box 520, Waterville, ME 04903 207.873.7333 They are rabidly anti-GMO, though they do carry hybrids in addition to open-pollinated seeds. A wonderful and extensive selection. Someone who writes this beautiful deserves to get some of our money!  And they signed the Safe Seed Pledge - in fact, if was from them, I received my education on the Safe Seed Pledge. 

PEACEFUL VALLEY FARM SUPPLY; PO Box 2209; Grass Valley, CA 95945; 916.272.4769 I have purchased many seeds (and other things!) from Peaceful Valley – I love their catalog. They have an excellent selection of cover crop seeds as well as a lot of organic gardening supplies and tools. Although they have not signed the Safe Seed Pledge, by being 100% organic and open pollinated, they do not support anything close to GMO's and Monsanto.

NATIVE SEED/SEARCH; 526 N. 4th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85705; 520.622.5561 (Fax 520.622.5591) Specializing in the seeds of seeds of south western United States, concentrating on the ancient seeds of the First Nations People from amaranth to watermelon. A worthy cause. Non-hybrid.  Non-Monsanto.

PINETREE GARDEN SEEDS; PO Box 300, Rt. 100; New Gloucester, ME 04260; 207.926.3400
Probably the best for a home gardener – small packets of very current seed, a very good value. The smaller packets mean a smaller price so a person can order a lot more varieties and experiment. I have been a customer for many years, but I buy less now than I used to because they have not signed the Safe Seed Pledge.

SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE; Rt. 3 Box 239; Decorah, Iowa 52101; 563.382.5990 Membership fees $35. Free brochure. Some organic, but ALL open-pollinated. There are two ways to save seeds: one is to collect them all and keep them in a huge building that protects them from everything up to (and including) nuclear holocaust. The other way is to grow 'em. You can find the chance to grow them here - all seeds are heirloom and are 100% non-GMO and non-hybrid. 

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE SEED EXCHANGE; P.O. Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117, 540.894.9480 (Fax: 540.894.9481)
A commercial venture that is somewhat similar to Seed Savers Exchange, but really isn't an exchange and is much pricier. They do carry seed saving supplies - nice to have if you are going to save seed.

If you want to know who to more or less avoid, surf on over to the Seminis web site for a list of seed suppliers to home gardeners that are dealers for Seminis.  Mind you, not all those listed are selling GMO seeds.  This list will have seed suppliers that sell hybrids owned by Seminis (they have bought the majority of big seed suppliers operating in the United States, why the government hasn't looked at this as establishing a monopoly lies in the number of Monsanto employees that have held office, appointed and elected, in our government), and when Seminis bought those other seed companies, they acquired the patents held on hybrids.  Thus, while Big Boy Tomato was not created by Seminis, or Monsanto, and is not a GMO product, Seminis now owns the patent and purchases of Big Boy Tomato seed 'feeds the beast.'  

To be truly independent from this kind of chicanery, one must purchase open-pollinated seed that can be saved and will grow out 'true.'  These are concepts we will discuss in next week's class.


As Promised: Vegetables Grouped by Season

Suggestions for Cool Seasons:

Artichokes (a perennial)
Burpee’s Golden, Chiogga
Premium Crop, Shogun
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage (including Oriental cabbage-like greens)
Mokum, Parris Market
Cauliflower – there are purple ones too!
Argentata, Five Color Silverbeet,
Fava Beans
Windsor; Aprovecho (sometimes appended with “Select”)
Florence Fennel (bulbing)
Romy, Zefa Fino.
Garlic (this is a long season crop, plant in Fall harvest next Summer)
Dinosaur or Black Kale
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)
Other leafy salad things
All-Blue, Caribe, Yukon Gold
French Breakfast, Fluo, Easter Egg, Purple Plum
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!!
Suggestions for Warm Seasons:

Lettuce Leaf, Genova Profumatissima,
Beans - drying
Black Turtle
Beans - lima
Beans- snap
Roc d’Or, Romano, Royal Burgundy
Sweet Corn
Early Sunglow, Golden Bantam, Peaches and Cream, Country Gentleman
Lemon, Mideast Prolific
Asian Bride., Rosa Bianca
Peppers (Sweet)
Peppers (Hot)
Squash (Summer)
Zahra, Lebanese White
Squash (Winter)
Acorn, Spaghetti, ornamental gourds
Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Italian Gold, Orange Sungold, San Remo, Stupice, Sweet 100’s, Yellow Pear 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. 

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