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Friday, May 17, 2013

Volunteer at Mt. Wilson Historical Society Garden Sunday, May 19, 2013

We will be putting in 200 native plants with volunteers at Lizzie's Trail Inn, the trailhead park of the Mt. Wilson Trail in Sierra Madre, with the Sierra Madre Garden Club and the S. M. Historical Society.  I will be placing plants at 6:30 am and could use your help then, or arrive at 8:00 am for instruction in planting, to start planting at 8:30 am. Wear a hat and sunscreen; bring gloves.  Bring a shovel and a baby pick if you have them.  Please email me to let me know that you are coming, and when I can expect you.  Lizzie's Trail Inn is at 165 E. Mira Monte.  Exit 210 Eastbound at Baldwin North (turn Left, then Right for dogleg to stay on Baldwin).  Go past the town and turn R at Mira Monte. Look for the park on the N side of the street.

Monday, May 6, 2013

LA River Field Trip for May 11

Saturday is our field trip to the LA River.  We are going to a place on the river near Glendale.  The main reason to spend this time at the river is to acquaint ourselves with this tremendous resource that has been alternately abused and neglected; sometimes abused with neglect, sometimes just abused and sometimes just neglected.  Discussions abound about what to do with the river and I hope we take a few minutes to speculate about what the LA River could be like and how it could be a resource again; preferably ecologically so.  The Los Angeles River, unique among American rivers has one of the most precipitous drops in elevation in its 57 mile run to the ocean - AND it does so with a major population center sitting on its banks.

We inhabit LA largely because of this river.  We have disdained it and feared.  It would stand us all in much better stead to become at least familiar with it and perhaps even come to appreciate, if not love, it.

The address is 3900 Chevy Chase Drive, Los Angeles, 90039.

View Larger Map  
This site is a little 'fun' to find - leave early with a Google map on your dash.  


Twelve Points to a Better Organic Garden

“Patience may well be a virtue for the general populace, but for a gardener, it is essential.” David King, Gardenmaster

I have been a successful organic gardener in Southern California for the last twenty five years with a good deal of dirt under my nails on the mid-West plains before that. I have evolved a style of gardening that works well in Southern California and is 100% wholly organic and sustainable, as “sustainable” as a person can be in a land where water is shipped in from thousands of miles away. There are no books written for our climate that are truly organic or sustainable.

The principles that I use to guide my gardening are quite simple.

  1. Very little fertilizer. In fact, the fewer things you buy for your garden, the better off you will usually be. It is the task of advertising, with which we are constantly bombarded, to create the desire for a thing. I want to tell you that a few packets of seed, a couple of really well made tools and patience are all you need to grow good, nutritious, uncontaminated food. The scientific community, as far back as 1936 was aware that fertilizers, organic and chemical, were harmful to soil biota, the organisms living in the soil that make soil truly fertile. This understanding was deliberately not popularized because you won't buy something if you've already got it. No, you don't need fertilizer – you do need compost and lots of it, but you don't need fertilizer.
  2. No pesticides. In many ways, chemical pesticides are better for the world than organic ones because the chemical pesticides at least target the species that we wish to deal with while most organic pesticides kill everything they come in contact with while they are active. The key to a healthy, pest free garden is not through war, but through cooperation with nature. The entire key is to be attracting more insects to your garden – not less.
  3. Continuous cropping. Our gardens are small and the idea of crop rotation can be a little ludicrous. We need to have as much diversity in our gardens as we possibly can have – this means interplanting species and using legumes and other plants to keep the soil fertile for this constant cropping.
  4. Composting. Compost everything that can be composted. Everything ends up somewhere, if it will break down, compost it. If you lack space, vermicompost, but keep this valuable 'waste' out of the landfill!
  5. Mulch. Three inches in planting season, twice a year. This is the key to the soil's fertility and vitality. I use unfinished compost on top of my soil, in Fall and in Spring. Three inches!
  6. Insure the survival of pollinators. In this world of uncertainty, the roll played by pollinators has become more and more critical – plant your garden to provide for their well-being. And provide a source of water.
  7. Diversity in your garden. No matter how small your garden, you have room to plant a variety of species and should take advantage of that. Interplant everything to the degree you can (corn and garlic should have their own space, but for different reasons).
  8. Grow your own plants from seeds. Don't buy transplants from the nursery. Buy seeds and plant them yourself – there are good reasons to do this and the fact that it saves you money is just one.
  9. Saving seed to plant next year. And that means allowing some of your harvest to go to 'waste' in that some of your cabbages will flower, some of your lettuce will bolt and some of your cucumbers will stay on the vine well past the edible stage. These are investments in your future. This also means you will need to leave behind hybrid plants.
  10. Preserve and share your harvest - help someone else grow . Nature is lusciously abundant, emulate Her! Learn how to dry, pickle, can and freeze the food that is overwhelming you – if you can't do that, share it with your neighbor and make new friends. Teach a child the importance of gardening and how food really tastes.
  11. Don't stop learning. Go buy my book. Better yet, write your own book: keep your own garden journal and learn from your mistakes. Join a club, find a website or two, subscribe to a magazine. Garden in a community garden.

  12. Garden for yourself. Plant the foods you will eat or the foods you eat that are expensive or unobtainable in the market. Do not plant what the books tell you to plant if you don't like it, except you really should have some kind of legume – for you and for the soil. Above all, put a chair in your garden so you can sit with a cup of tea, coffee, a beer or a jug of water (is that really water?), and just hang out in your garden. You can use it to rest when you over-do it, or you can make it a place where you read a book. I love to have a bottle of sparkling water or a cup of coffee (depending on the time of day and the season), with my radio tuned to the Dodger station and my notebook in hand. Some of the finest moments of my life have been spent this way – certainly, some of the most peaceful! Make your garden a part of your life, just like your living room is! Ditch the TV, watch insects fight for their lives in your garden, butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other critters doing their daily chores in your garden. It is peaceful and oh so refreshing.
And take care of yourself while you garden. Drink plenty of water (that's the best), protect your skin from the sun with long sleeved shirts and a hat. Stop to catch your breath and look around, your garden will soon team with life so get to know it and don't fear it.

As a society, we have left so much of this behind. Don't get so caught up in 'working' on your garden, that you miss the peace and wonderment of watching Nature do her thing right in front of you. Allow the garden to be so much more than just a place to 'make food.' A garden can heal. Let it happen for you!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Easy Native Plants Lecture, Thursday 7:00 pm, Brea

I will be speaking for the Rio Hondo Group of the Sierra Club, Thursday May 9, 7:30 pm, Dinner at 7:00 pm. Please plan to order at least a coffee if you are coming. I will be doing my 'Easy Native Plants' Lecture. The Coco's Restaurant where they meet is at 1250 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea 92821    Their phone number is: (714) 990-0671

Reading List and Resources for Sustainable Water

Handout from Water Saving Strategies Lecture at Saddleback College; somewhat cryptic:

Mulch Suppliers that deliver:
Soil and Sod, Pacoima, 818-686-6445
Foothill Soils, Sylmar, 661-254-0867
Rainwater catchment supplies from Gardeners Supply (also upscale but small tanks):

Tanks (Tank Depot) choose tanks that ship from CA. Also sells first flush systems. Etanks is another option.

California Native plants that can be used as lawn:
Carex praegracilis: Clustered Field Sedge, more runner-forming and faster cover than Carex pansa, which is also sometimes sold as a lawn alternative.
Festuca rubra: Red Fescue, the lumpy lawn, requires much more water than above, but easily available in conventional nurseries.
Bouteloua gracilis: Blue gramma grass is also very lumpy, looks like a bluer Bermuda, great for desert/hi-elevation applications.

Books and other resources:
Shawna Dark et al,  Historical Wetlands of the San Gabriel River   I believe this is the newest link to the above research showing how dewatered the landscape of the San Gabriel River watershed has become in the last 100 years.

Art Ludwig
You can buy books, plumbing supplies, etc. from this website, Reading the articles on the website is an education in water storage and reuse. The only source of salt-free dish and laundry cleanser that I am aware of, "Oasis Biocompatible." Remember, all "natural" or "biodegradeable" detergents contain Sodium as a major ingredient, thus are bad for your soil.

Ludwig, Builder's Grey Water Guide, Oasis Design

Another excellent resource for water use.
Lancaster, "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands" Vol 1 & 2, Rainsource Press
Vol. 1 is overview, Vol. 2 is earthworks

Mollison, Mia Slay, "Permaculture: A Designers' Manual," Tagari Publications

Hemenway, "Gaia’s Garden," Chelsea Green, especially good for theory of constructed wetlands
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