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Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day and Other Learning Garden Events of Interest

APRIL – all through the month! – summer seedlings on salecome and see what we have available for you. All our plants are appropriate to be planted now. $1 and up...

April 25th – 2 to 6 PM 2nd Annual Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase – Celebrate the 40th Earthday with a free self-guided garden tour of drought tolerant gardens, edible gardens, rainwater capture systems and homes transitioning to sustainability! Stop by The Learning Garden for our plant sale and relax in the shade of our Chi Patio!  Visit to plan your very own tour...
April 25th – 6 – 9 PM Potluck for Gardens of Gratitude Whether you volunteered for this or your garden was one of the new ones installed, or you just want to hang out with the Westside Permies, bring a dish to share, your own plate and tableware and join in the party! 

May 1st  –  9 AM to Noon The next installment of What To Do and When To Do It  April is THE time to get all our summer garden planted – you won't want to miss this class because if you miss April, you will be behind the rest of the year! Still only $25 for one class, $100 for five... Plants and other things available too! Look for the possibility of a seed swap reappearing at Noon! 

May 2nd 10 to 11 AM – The Lost 'n' Found Band (the Garden's own!) on stage at the Westside Farmer's Market's Bandstand playing originals and more! Acoustic guitars and harmony on the Americana homefront and free!! Get a cup o' joe, your veggies for the week and listen to the tunes - what else are you doing on Sunday morning.  OK, other than that...

Ongoing In The Garden

Friday --12:30 PM, The Garden Feast, a potluck with staff and volunteers (and anyone else who show up with a good attitude) at our picnic tables.  The food is always fresh, delicious and abundant.  It is the essence of the SLOW Food Movement, so come prepared  with a tasty bite, a healthy appetite for the bounty of others  and a desire for eclectic conversation. Be sustainable and bring your own plate, tableware and cup!

Saturday – - 10AM Henry Jun Wah Lee, L.Ac. Medical Qigong Classes Return Saturday Mornings in the Garden; Henry, a long time Qigong instructor, will be starting a new set of classes in the Learning Garden starting mid April. Weekly Saturday classes will start May 1.  9-10am for beginners and 10-11am for more advanced practices. $10 per class. Half of all fees will be donated to the Learning Garden. Please contact Henry to RSVP if you plan to attend either the introductory class or the weekly ongoing class.  Phone: 323-540-4180. Email: Web:

Sunday --10 AM Seth Leon has an informal Harmony Style Qigong practice on our Chi Patio. It is free.

13000 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066

A Soils Bibliography

Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations, Montgomery, David ©2007, University of California Press Although this has been out for a few years, I never looked at it, in part because because I had confused it with another book called "Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth" that I didn't much care for.  This is a good book - chapter one is one of the few introductions to soil science that doesn't feel like a root canal.  Nice!  

Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the SoilElements 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!
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: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition 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!

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.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reading List Week Two: Books About Sustainable Design Principles

Principles of Ecological Design, Ludwig, Art, ©1989 Oasis Design, This short manual gives rules for ecological design that are both simple and profound. An excellent companion to his other books which deal with greywater and water storage.

Gaia’s Garden, Hemenway, Tony, © 2000 Chelsea Green. This is the most accessible book about Permaculture for gardeners, especially for the West Coast.

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren, David, © 2002, Holmgren Design Services. A more theoretical approach to sustainable design concepts.

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, Mollison, Bill, © 1988 Tagari Publications. This comprehensive book is the textbook for the Permaculture Design class. A reference for those who have already been introduced to the principles, as well as a dual duty doorstop and blunt instrument :-). It is on this list for the sake of comprehensiveness.

Design with Nature, McHarg, Ian, © 1982 John Wiley and Sons, Inc. This book is more a lanscape-level and regional-planning book, but has beautiful graphics and exposition about where to site projects. This book addresses the too-rarely asked question, “where is this project?” when designing.

The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture, Gyorgy Doczi, © 1981 Shambhala Publications, Inc. How the Fibonacci sequence and other aspects of the golden mean underlie proportions in nature, and how this has been used historically in good design.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

David's Background Bibliography for Sustainability

Deep Economy, The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, McKibben, Bill, ©2007 Times Books Want a dose of hope? Here. McKibben has delved into a variety of alternative choices to find examples of human civilizations that actually approach creating a viable economy and lifestyle that considerably reduce man’s impact on the world.  Like most of the books following, this is not strictly a book on sustainability, in the main, - however, this is one of the MOST hopeful books that brings some of these issues to light.  One thing rings through out this book:  community is key to many of the answers of the future.

Easy Green Living, Loux, RenĂ©e ©2008, Rodale Inc. Breeziness belying a difficult resource book that will help you shop through the sustainable hype. A compendium of little helpful hints (the Heloise of our time?) and deciphering clues of labels and claims. She covers everything from the bathroom to light bulbs and beyond, helping delineate what the labels mean with all those fifteen syllable words on them.  However, this book like all the other books in this vein are limited by what we know today - the solution we learn tomorrow may well contradict the solution we applaud to day.  Still, we have to start where we are now - we really can't start anywhere else! 

Kitchen Literacy, Vileisis, Ann, ©2008 Island Press, Along the lines of the Pollan books, Vileisis brings us back to the knowledge every cook had in days before we let the ‘experts’ and the government tell us what to eat and why. Turns out it was better for us and for the earth.  This book is the history of eating dinner in America.  It also reflects on woman's role in society and the evolution of that role by virtue of how our lives have changed as regards to eating and effort of putting food on the table. 

Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil, Hillel, Daniel,
© 1992, University of California Press, There has been a recent spate of books on soil in the past ten years.  Preceding this glut by almost ten years, Hillel wrote the best of the lot - all the others are second rate.  Not to say they don't have a story to tell, but Hillel's book is not only science, but reads at times like poetry and his love of the subject is steeped in a deep knowledge that encourages affection and respect.  There is no other book on soil that teaches so much about soil with a deep spirituality and yet is science-based and science driven.  I truly love this book and it has been an inspiration for many years.

The Unsettling of America:  Culture and Agriculture, Berry Wendell, ©1997, Sierra Club Books,  Anything by Wendell Berry is worth reading.  Everything from Wendell Berry can be life-changing.  Wendell Berry, quirky and profound, looks at the world with a lens many of us only aspire to.  His writing is eloquent, his thinking eclectic.  Of the authors that have been instrumental in bringing me to where I am today, Berry is the one whose ability to see a much larger picture is the most constant and his range of vision deeper than anyone I can name at this moment. 

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver, Barbara et al © 2007 Harper Collins, When less is really more. Kingsolver and her family agree to eat only foods produced within 100 miles of their West Virginia home (everyone was allowed one exception and her husband chose coffee marking him as a sensible man) for one year. The story of how they did it and the results they achieved makes delightful reading and food for thought. One of the easiest books to read on this list, not only is it inspirational and a harbinger of hope, there are some passages that I recall as being some of the funniest stuff I've read in a while.  I still can be doubled over by someone with a thick Italian accent saying, "the seeds, senora, are in the squash!"

The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook, De Rothschild, David, ©2007, Rodale Inc. A lot of statistics that just overwhelm a person, but a viable list of Things To Do Today and beyond. Probably one of the more easily digested books of this contemporary genre. The most sustainable thing to do, however, is to get it from the library.  (That hold's true for all these books.)

The Lost Language of Plants, Buhner, Stephen Harrod, ©2002 Chelsea Green Publishing,  Humans getting well should not get the earth sick. This is the ecological ‘why’ of alternative medicine, but be warned, you will never look as a fashionable layer of mascara the same way again either! Buhner's message is critical and crucial.  This work shows that how we think about the earth and our relationship to it absolutely needs a comprehensive overhaul in ways most of us have yet to imagine.  I think Buhner's writing is a little obtuse, but he is the only one out there with THIS message and it must be heard.

Orchid's list is below...


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sustainable Gardening Reading List Week One

Overview of Sustainability and Gardening

Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, Schumacher, E. F., ©1973 Blond & Briggs. This classic inspired much of the current thinking in sustainability. Although it does not relate directly to gardening, it explains the basis of the idea of natural capital. E.F Schumacher Society website: Their resource page is comprehensive.

Lazy-Bed Gardening: The Quick and Dirty Guide, Jeavons, John and Cox, Carol, ©1992 Ten Speed Press. A more accessible book than Jeavons’ “How to Grow More Vegetables: etc.” Written by pioneers in the U.S. of Biodynamic French-Intensive gardening, it tells how to create fertility on a closed-system basis, that is without inputs, by growing both calorie crops for humans and carbon crops for compost.

The Contrary Farmer, Logsdon, Gene, ©1995 Chelsea Green, and The Contrary Farmer’s Invitation to Gardening, ibid. How to garden (and farm) with the least effort and inputs possible, by someone who has been farming all his life, and fighting big ag at the same time. All of his books are worth not only reading but owning.

The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural, Wendell Berry, ©1981, San Francisco North Point. This prolific writer and farmer articulated the problems of the loss of small farms and the tragedy of large ones while ag policy was changing to ‘get big or get out.’

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods, Nabhan, Gary Paul, © 2002, W.W. Norton. One of the original books on eating local which inspired many others, including Barbara Kingsolver. All of his books are worth reading.

Eat More Dirt: Diverting and Instructive Tips for Growing and Tending an Organic Garden, Sandbeck, Ellen, © 2003 Broadway Books. This small book tells how to actually accomplish the act of gardening, including how to use tools, how to move big rocks, and why herbicide doesn’t work on concrete.

Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, Dell, Owen, © 2009 For Dummies. Dell has been telling the truth about the impacts and inputs of gardening for a long time. 

A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil, Astyk, Sharon and Newton, Aaron, © 2009, New Society Publishers. Explores the world food crisis and why conventional ag can't solve it., environmental news website.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Greener Gardens: Sustainable Garden Practices BIOLOGY X498.10


Instructors: David King and Orchid Black
Phone: redacted

COURSE TITLE AND NUMBER: Greener Gardens: Sustainable Garden Practices BIOLOGY X498.10

There are no prerequisites for this course. We will meet from April 05 through June 12 for 12 meetings. There are three field trips as indicated in our schedule (below). All class meetings on campus occur 6:30 PM in Boelter Hall, Room 2760 on Monday evenings.

Course Purpose:

Sustainability is today's buzzword and many people seek to create a lifestyle with a more favorable impact on the environment. From home gardens to school and commercial sites, our gardens present the perfect place to start. Designed for horticulture students, gardening professionals, educators, and home gardeners, this course focuses on turning your green thumb into a "greener" garden. Topics include composting, irrigation, water harvesting, water wise plants, eating and growing local produce, recycling, and moving towards a sustainable lifestyle when choosing materials and tools. Includes weekend field trips to the Los Angeles River to see our relationship with water in the L.A. Basin, as well as a native garden with sustainable features, focusing not only on California native plants but also on water-conserving planting design. Students also visit the John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona, which advances the principles of environmentally sustainable living through education, research, demonstration, and community outreach. This course will enable students to understand and appreciate the changes we will need to make in our gardens to achieve ‘sustainability.’ A multitude of differing strategies will be presented allowing students to choose the extent of their involvement with more sustainable gardens and, ultimately, a more sustainable life style.

Course Objectives:

  1. Understand the concept of sustainability and its relevance to the modern garden.

  2. The reasons to consider sustainability.

  3. Be able to use the concept of sustainability in the creation of a garden and its maintenance.

  4. Understand and be able to present to others the concepts and ideas of sustainability and the myriad of alternatives to an overtly consumptive garden style.


This course is designed to be practical. Upon completion, students will be able to employ many different strategies to reduce consumption of water and oil-produced products and create beautiful and productive gardens that comprise a much smaller carbon footprint than most contemporary gardens.

Text for this course:

This course will not have a text. There will be an extensive bibliography from which the material presented has been gleaned; some books will be practical, some books theoretical, while others will present an overview of our current situation and the problems that affect our daily lives and the gardens we grow.

Course Schedule:

Mtg. Date Topic
1 05 April Introduction to Sustainability
2 12 April Design for Conservation of Resources
3 19 April Soils, Composting and Worm Bins
4 26 April Water I: Water Conservation
5 03 May Water II: Water Harvesting
6 08 May Garden Garden Field Trip
7 10 May Habitat and Hardscape
8 17 May Sustainable Planting Palette
9 24 May Sustainability of Front Yard Food
10 29 May LA River Field Trip (or 15 May) Unconfirmed
11 07 June Sustainable Gardening: The Next Frontier
12 12 June Lyle Field Trip

Your grade will be predicated on class participation and your choice of two papers of no less than 5 pages or two projects (or a combination of one of each) on aspects of sustainability; topics and project possibilities will be discussed in class. We encourage students to use their own area of interests when choosing their topic or project.

Office Hours:

We will have no set office hours, however, we will be available by phone and by email. We are willing to meet with students by appointment.

After class is usually not a very good time because that’s when all students vie for answers and we are all tired after a long day. You can get a more thoughtful answer by contacting us another time.

Updates and Handouts

For this course we will utilize a blog page ( to post handouts and extra material to the class. There is an RSS feed through which each posting is automatically forwarded to your email so you can have access to handouts whenever they are posted. This approach is most handy when dealing with field trips because links to maps can be posted and any last minute updates are easily available. If this technology is new to you, another classmate or David will guide you through it. It is not difficult.

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.