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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Field Trip Info for 04 May: garden/garden and The Learning Garden

Field trip for this weekend, May 4th (gosh, it's May already!) is at garden/garden - from 1 to about 2:30, then 2:30 to 4:00 at The Learning Garden, the intersection of Walgrove and Venice Blvd.  The entrance is on Walgrove, just south of  Venice Blvd.  Parking on the street for both venues - bring quarters for the meters at garden/garden.

garden\garden 2013

garden\garden, a public demonstration garden at 1718 and 1724 Pearl St, shows that sustainable landscapes are cost-effective, environmentally beneficial, and easy to replicate. A nine-year case study documenting the resource consumption at the two gardens shows that the Native Garden (1724 Pearl St.) uses 83% less water; generates 56% less green waste and requires 68% less maintenance than the Traditional Garden (1718 Pearl St.).

The Learning Garden 

The Learning Garden is an eleven year old teaching garden located on the grounds of Venice High School at the intersection of Venice Blvd. and Walgrove Avenue.  A community resource, many classes are taught here from preschool field trips to Emiritus Courses at local colleges. It is an evolving garden, there is no pretense to being 'finished' nor does there appear to be any ambition towards that end.  It is strictly a teaching institution.  

Neither site has refreshments!  There is an accessible restroom at The Learning Garden, not so much at garden/garden. 


Monday, April 22, 2013

Field Trip to the Lyle Center This Saturday!

We'll be visiting the Lyle Center, Cal Poly Pomona, 9 to noon this Saturday.  

It will be hot, dress for blistering sun.  Bring water and someway to protect against the sun.  Most times for this field trip, after we've seen the center, Orchid and I and all who want to, go down the hill to the 'farm store' where we buy a loaf of bread, some sandwich fixins and have lunch in their patio.  Everyone is welcome to join us.

There's a lovely map here.  


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Soils; Notes from Week Three

(This, in general, describes the Week 3 lecture. As usual, many directions were taken inside this framework in response to questions. Get notes from other students if you were not able to attend.)

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

We will move in and out of three different scientific disciplines: physics, chemistry and biology. We can only talk about one subject at a time, because that is how we learn, but I want to stress to you from the very beginning that these are interconnected in a very intricate dance. Whatever you do to one will affect the other two as sure as cutting up beets will give you red fingers. Remember that and you will go a long way towards mastering the soils you garden with.

Air and water share spaces in the soil. After a rain, an event that has happened here once in a while, as much as 100% of the soil pore space may be filled with water; this same pore space may be 100% filled with air in the event of an extended drought – in which case, all the plants in that soil would be dead. Therefore the percentage allotted to water and air is always in flux. Approximately half of the volume of soil is pore space and can be taken up with water or air depending on the current weather conditions.

Except for a precious small number of you, most of you will garden in soils that have 5% organic matter. Maybe even less. These figures represent an ‘average’ soil. There are variations from place to place, but this representation is close enough for an average number through out.

Soil Formation

Soil forms over thousands of years and is an ongoing process. Soils in California are relatively young soils and haven’t, for the most part, developed any great depth.

The following factors inform the process:
  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.


Soil forms from the parent material. Climate participates in this process in many guises:
A mild climate forms soil more slowly than a non-forgiving climate


Organisms from lichen growing on a rock to a tree that sends its root hairs down into crevices of the rock and fissure it.


Soil forms more easily on a level surface. Look at the sheer face of a cliff and you’ll see the extreme proof of what I’m saying.

Parent Material

The rock underneath your garden. Granite becomes soil less rapidly than sandstone.


Because time ages everything.

Soil Composition

Sand/Silt/Clay – the physical sizes
Sand – from 2mm to 5 hundredths of a mm
Silt – from 5 hundredths of a mm to 2 thousandths of a mm
Clay – smaller than 2 thousandths of a mm

Characteristics of Soil Components

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

Notes on Clay Soil

Clay particles, though tiny, have a much larger surface area – clay particles are hollow with an interior that looks very much like Marina del Rey from the air, jetty and boat slip like interior contours creating a much larger surface area than would seem possible.

More particles fit into the same area (less pore space between them)

Clay particles are electronically charged and bind water (and therefore nutrients) to the particle while such water (nutrients) are washed away easily in a sandy.

Soil Texture

Is determined through the proportion of these differing components found in a given soil.

An ideal soil is a mix of all these different components, sand, silt and clay. 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.

Textural Triangle Exercise

Activity: Using the Textural Triangle

Sand, silt, and clay are the three particle sizes of mineral material found in soils. The percent of each of these in a given soil is called the "particle size distribution" and the way they feel is called the "soil texture". Soil Scientists have created classes which break these textures into 12 categories. The textural triangle is a diagram which shows how each of these textures are classified based on how much sand, silt, and clay is in each.

To get the sample you will use for this exercise, choose a spot in the area you wish to plant. If it is a large area, you may wish to take several samples to work with in different jars or you may take several samples and combine them together in one jar. In the first case, the soil might have several diffrerent textures that you wish to account for while the second case, the soil would be rather homogenous and consistent throughout the planting area. In this class, we will only work with one sample.

Using a pint jar, add soil to fill the jar about 3/4's full. Add water, leaving about ½ to one inch of headspace. If you have Calgone Bath Beads, or alum at home, add one teaspoon to your jar of soil and water; if not, wait until class where will have alum on hand. Shake the mixture up as thoroughly as you can. Allow to settle. The ideal amount of time the mixture should settle out for the most clarity is about 24 hours. We will not have that luxury in class.

Once it has settled, observe the layers. There will be three distinct layers of soil. The first will be sand, as it is the heaviest. The second will be silt and finally, on top, clay. Sometimes the difference from one to the next will be color. Other times, it is all the same color, but the texture is different. There can be a certain amount of art to finding which is what. Assign percentages to each layer, based on your best guess. Remember that the total of your three percentages MUST EQUAL 100. The soil in the water is the 100%.

The following directions assume you start with the sand. You do not have to; use the one you feel most comfortable with, always remembering to total to 100.

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 pen 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.

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

Practice Exercises:

Use the following numbers to determine the soil texture name using the textural triangle. When a number is missing, fill in the blanks (note: the sum of %sand, silt and clay should always add up to 100%):

sandy loam












We will do this in class, together, next week. BRING YOUR SOIL SAMPLE & TRIANGLE TO CLASS.

Carbon Sequestration

Wetland restoration
Wetland soil is an important carbon sink; 14.5% of the world’s soil carbon is found in wetlands, while only 6% of the world’s land is composed of wetlands.


Globally, soils are estimated to contain approximately 1,500 gigatons of organic carbon, more than the amount in vegetation and the atmosphere.
Modification of agricultural practices is a recognized method of carbon sequestration as soil can act as an effective carbon sink offsetting as much as 20% of 2010 carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Carbon emission reduction methods in agriculture can be grouped into two categories: reducing and/or displacing emissions and enhancing carbon removal. Some of these reductions involve increasing the efficiency of farm operations (i.e. more fuel-efficient equipment) while some involve interruptions in the natural carbon cycle. Also, some effective techniques (such as the elimination of stubble burning) can negatively impact other environmental concerns.
In practice, most farming operations that incorporate post-harvest crop residues, wastes and byproducts back into the soil provide a carbon storage benefit. This is particularly the case for practices such as field burning of stubble - rather than releasing almost all of the stored CO2 to the atmosphere, tillage incorporates the biomass back into the soil where it can be absorbed and a portion of it stored permanently.

Enhancing carbon removal

All crops absorb CO2 during growth and release it after harvest. The goal of agricultural carbon removal is to use the crop and its relation to the carbon cycle to permanently sequester carbon within the soil. This is done by selecting farming methods that return biomass to the soil and enhance the conditions in which the carbon within the plants will be reduced to its elemental nature and stored in a stable state. Methods for accomplishing this include:
  • Use cover crops such as grasses and weeds as temporary cover between planting seasons
  • Concentrate on perennial food production vs. annual production
  • Cover bare soil with hay or dead vegetation, protecting soil from the sun and incorporating much more compost into the soil so it holds more water and is more attractive to carbon-capturing microbes.
  • Restore degraded agricultural land, slowing carbon release while returning the land to agriculture or other use.
Agricultural sequestration practices may have positive effects on soil, air, and water quality, be beneficial to wildlife, and expand food production.
Typically after 15 to 30 years of sequestration, soil becomes saturated and ceases to absorb additional carbon, implying the extistence of a global limit to the amount of carbon that soil can hold.
Governments such as Australia and New Zealand are considering allowing farmers to sell carbon credits once they document that they have sufficiently increased soil carbon content

Organic Matter

The end process of compost is: humus

Humus is a complex organic substance resulting from the breakdown of plant material in a process called humification. This process can occur naturally in soil, or in the production of compost. Humus is extremely important to the fertility of soils in both a physical and chemical sense (see below). Physically it helps the soil retain moisture and encourages the formation of good soil structure. Chemically, it has many active molecules that can bind to plant nutrients, making them more available. It is difficult to define humus in precise terms because it is a highly complex substance, the full nature of which is still not fully understood. Physically humus can be differentiated from organic matter in that the latter is rough looking material, with coarse plant remains still visible, while once fully humified it become more uniform in appearance (a dark, spongy, jelly-like substance) and unstructured in structure; which is to say, it has no determinate shape, structure or character, it is not square, round or triangular.

Plant remains (including those that have passed through an animal and are excreted as manure) contain organic compounds: sugars, starches, proteins, carbohydrates and organic acids. The process of organic matter decay in the soil begins with the decomposition of sugars and starches from carbohydrates which break down easily as detritivores initially invade the dead plant, whilst the remaining cellulose breaks down more slowly. Proteins decompose into amino acids at a rate depending on Carbon: Nitrogen ratios. The humus that is the end product of this process is a mixture of compounds and complex life chemicals of plant, animal or microbial origin which has many functions and benefits in the soil as outlined below;

The process that converts raw organic matter to the relatively stable substance that is humus feeds the soil population of micro-organisms and other creatures which helps in maintaining high and healthy levels of soil life.

Effective and stable humus are further sources of nutrients to microbes, the former providing a readily available supply whilst the latter acts as a more long term storage reservoir.

Humification of dead plant material causes complex organic compounds to break down into simpler forms which are then made available to growing plants for uptake through their root systems.

Humus can hold the equivalent of 80-90% of its weight in moisture, thus increases the soil's capacity to withstand drought conditions.

The biochemical structure of humus enables it to moderate- or buffer- excessive acid or alkaline soil conditions.

During the humification process microbes secrete sticky gums- these contribute to the structure of the soil by holding particles together, allowing greater aeration of the soil. Toxic substances such as heavy metals, as well as excess nutrients, can be bound to the complex organic molecules of humus and prevented from entering the wider ecosystem.
The dark color of humus (usually black or dark brown) helps to warm up cold soils in the spring.

Humus which is also capable of further decomposition is referred to as effective or active humus. It is principally derived from sugars, starches and proteins and consists of simple organic acids. It is an excellent source of plant nutrients, but of little value regarding long term soil structure and tilth. Stable humus consisting of humic acids on the other hand, are so highly insoluble (or tightly bound to clay particles that they cannot be penetrated by microbes) that they are greatly resistant to further decomposition. They add few readily available nutrients to the soil, but play an essential part in providing it's physical structure. Some very stable humus complexes have survived for thousands of years.

Humus should not be thought of as 'dead'- rather it is the 'raw matter' of life- the transition stage between one life form and another. It is a part of a constant process of change and organic cycling, thus must be constantly replenished- for when we are removing prunings and crops for the kitchen we are depriving nature's cycle of potential humus. This is why we need to substitute compost and other sources of organic matter to maintain the fertility of our productive land.

Organic matter placed on the soil is called: mulch.

Organic matter dug into the soil is called amendment.

Some of either can be called humus, but not all.

Organic matter in the soil mitigates any negatives of that soil:

Too much clay is opened up by adding OM.

Too much sand is cohered by adding OM.

Micro and macro organisms live on OM.

There are several different schools of thought on how to get OM in to and used by the soil: from double digging, to using a tiller to sheet composting.

Soil Water

Nutrients enter a plant via soil solution.

Water coheres to itself (describe the miniscus).

Roots take up water one molecule at a time. Water molecules cohere throughout the plant – form the water column. That water molecule pulled into the plant root will pull along one behind it and one behind it.

Discuss water pulled across a moist soil and watering away from the plant’s base. Water not making across differing soil types.

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


Nutrients Available (via atmosphere or water)


Primary Nutrients


Secondary Nutrients





NPK – a ‘complete’ fertilizer and what do the numbers mean..

Nitrogen; Phosphorous; Potassium
The difference between fertilizers and amendment.

A Soils Bibliography

Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil; ©1992 University of California Press , Hillel, Daniel. Hillel has written one of the most beautiful books on soil that has ever been published. This book introduces a little of soil science to the reader, but more than that, it fosters a love of the soil and an understanding about the magnitude and gravity of misuse and degradation; civilizations have paid little heed to the soil underfoot and it has cost them dearly. A delightful read!

Soils and Men, Yearbook of Agriculture 1938, © 1938, United States Department of Agriculture, The Committee on Soils. A government publication, I challenge you to read from beginning to end! It is referenced here because it clearly shows the US government knew about the soil food web and chose to ignore that information in favor of more commerce in chemical based fertilizers. We are at a point where ignoring the soil food web is too costly to continue.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition, © 2010 Timber Press, Lowenfels, Jeff and Lewis, Wayne. This is the second edition of the book that blew my eyes open on the biology of the soil and how we cannot ignore that biology plays at least as big a part of soil fertility as chemistry. We ignore biology to our own detriment and destroy our soils.

The Rodale Book of Composting, ©1992 Rodale Press, Martin, Deborah and Gershuny, Grace Editors. This is the only book to read on composting. Everything else is compostable. Only.

The Soul of Soil; A Guide to Ecological Soil Management, 2nd Edition, ©1986; Gaia Services, Gershuny, Grace. This fabulous and passionate book is injured by being targeted to farmers (only) and therefore all recommendations are written in “pound per acre,” when we need ounces per 100 square feet. When I used this book, I wrote up a formula in Excel to convert all these into a usable figure.

The Worst Hard Time, The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dustbowl © 2006; Mariner Reprint Edition, Egan, Timothy. Not strictly a soils book, but a real eye opener that shows how we are repeating many of the same mistakes today as what lead to the disaster we call the Dustbowl. This book is gripping reading and is not fiction. It really happened and it happened on a scale unprecedented in modern times. We can do it again if we fail to heed these words. A VERY good read on soils and man's relationship to them.

Also note, not included in the lecture, because I didn't see it until the day following, look at this article on perennial grains and the work currently being done on them.


Saturday, April 13, 2013


Instructors: David King and Orchid Black
Email: greenteach at gmail dot com  teach at nativesanctuary dot com
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 01 through June 17for 12 meetings. There are three field trips as indicated in our schedule (below). All regular class meetings on campus occur 6:30 PM in Botany Bldg, Room 325 on Teuesday 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 overly 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 more practical, some books theoretical, while others present our current situation and the problems that affect our daily lives and the gardens we grow.

Course Schedule:


01 April
    Introduction to Sustainability

08 April
Design for Conservation of Resources

15 April

22 April
Water I: Water Conservation

27 April
Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies

29 April
Water II: Water Harvesting

04 May
Garden/Garden/The Learning Garden
Afternoon Field Trip
06 May
Sustainability of Front Yard Food

11 May
LA River Field Trip

13 May
Sustainable Planting Palette

20 May
Habitat and Hardscape

03 June
Sustainable Gardening: The Next Frontier
The Learning Garden

Your grade will be predicated on class participation and your choice of one project (or a combination of one of each for extra credit should it be needed or desired) or one paper of no less than 5 pages 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 project or topic.

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 that sends each posting automatically 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. Those of you on Facebook, there is Greener Gardens Group. While not specifically composed of UCLA Extension students, it includes students from all of David's classes, the preponderance are Extension with some talented professional contributors as well. Handouts are posted there as PDF files.

Please provide both of us with your email address as soon as you can!
Include your cell phone number and your reason for taking this course.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Homework Help: Site Analysis

 We ran long on Monday night and didn’t get to spend a lot of time on the Site Analysis homework. Site analysis has two components. The first component is to describe your site without reference to political boundaries.

My example was: I live in Southern Oak Woodlands on the alluvial fan of the south face of the San Gabriel Mountains between the Los Angeles River Watershed and the San Gabriel River Watershed (about 2 blocks from the boundary of both). How far are you from mountains? Which mountains? The coast? The river? Which river? Google Earth, or even Google maps, can give perspective on this.

How to find your watershed: pick “what grows here” from Choose watershed. Working with this tool is not intuitive, and takes a little back and forth, but you can find the name of your watershed with it.

To find your plant community, go to the website: 

The second component should be figured out on the site. Find a longtime resident or a gardener in your neighborhood if you need help. A friend in construction can help with slope.
Sun/Shade areas
Aspect (which direction the property or the slope faces)
Additional reflectance from walls or paving
Slope in degrees or in ratio. A 45 degree slope is a 1:1 ratio. A 90 degree slope is a cliff. This can be worked out with a plumb bob and a protractor. A plumb bob is a string with a weight on it. One way is to set a string level for 100 inches, then measure down from the level. How many inches down does the slope fall in 100 inches? Do not worry about precision, but try to get a good idea.
Soil Type (as best you can before soils)
Drainage (how fast does a 1’ x 1’ hole drain 1 gallon of water? Boundaries (fences, hedges, block, sidewalk)
Dry/Moist areas
Water Availability
Prevailing Winds
Movement of Wildlife through the site

Example: This property has high filtered shade in the front, which is about 20x30 with a small area less than 5x5 of full sun. The front faces north, but slopes to the back southeast corner at about one foot in 10 feet. The entire east side of the property is vegetated, and the front is hedged at the sidewalk. Wildlife moves through this hedge, and through a fence at the back. The back has a sunny area of 9x12 with additional reflectance from the driveway and the south side of the house. The soil is D. G. with nearly perfect drainage, as a 1 gallon hole drains in less than 3 minutes. The back also has a shady area under an existing persimmon of an additional 9x20. Fences and structures enclose the back. This is deciduous shade. The only moist area is under the hose bib in front. There are hose bibs front and back.

I won’t provide the prevailing winds, as they are the same for everyone on the south side of the mountains.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Greener Gardens Reading List Weeks One and Two, April 2013

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 excellent.  Gene has a blog at

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 big conventional ag can't solve it., environmental news website.

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.

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.

 The previous books  address permaculture and the following, the natural farming methods of Fukuoka.  Though starting from opposite philosophies (permaculture is enthralled with the brilliance of human logic, Fukuoka tried to distance himself from human logic and rely on nature to show the way), both came to strikingly similar results. 

Fukuoka Farming Bibliography

One Straw Revolution, An Introduction to Natural Farming, Fukuoka, Masanobu ©2009, a reissue of his 1978 classic, Fukuoka's first book on his extensive work in Japan. Decidedly with a Japanese bent (his main crop is rice and barley), he still presents a lovely description of his farming efforts that began as a reaction to the Western idea of agriculture and more that began to infiltrate Japanese society in the 1930's. His work continued until his death in 2008 (at 95).  His grain raising techniques became THE grain raising techniques in permaculture.

The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy, Fukuoka, Masanobu © 1985 Also out of print. And expensive. ($61, used on Amazon) Can be downloaded as a PDF, I had success at this site, but I do not warranty it to be 100% safe from commercial interests. 

The Road Back to Nature, Fukuoka, Masanobu © 1988 Out of print, but you can find copies reasonably priced on eBay, used copies are almost $70 from Amazon. From the back cover: Fukuoka's reflections on his trips to Europe and to America, his sense of shock at seeing the destruction wreaked in the name of agriculture. A collection of his lectures, articles and essays which outline his thinking on nature, God and man and his underlying optimism that good sense can still prevail and we can still turn it all around. This is a collection of articles, lectures and essays recording his impressions as he travels the world talking about his revolutionary 'do-nothing' agricultural methods. There is a spiritual side to a lot of his thoughts and an optimism that a change in lifestyles and farming methods could yet heal the Earth's wounds.

Fundamental Realities, an article by Hazelip, Emilia was found at the Fukuoka Farming Website – but as of this writing that website is no longer in existence.  However, You Tube has several videos with Hazelip describing how she has adapted Fukuoka's principles to a Western market garden.
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