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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lecture 1 Outline

  1. Call Roll – why take this class?
  2. Syllabus
    2.1. Books
    2.2. Meeting dates/make ups/late to class
    2.3. neighborliness vs individualism
    2.4. Grading - cooperation
    2.5. Sign the release!
    2.6. Greener Gardens on Facebook
  3. Parking
  4. Inclement weather
  5. The Garden will provide
    space, water, watering hose, shovels, forks, hand tools, compost and wood chips, some plants for cheap, some potting soil,
  6. You will provide
    plate, eating utensil, drinking glass, warm clothing, your favorite tool, something to take notes on/with, fertilizer – if you think you need it,
  7. 12 points
  8. Serve pesto with pasta


2013 Modern Backyard Food Production Syllabus

Course Number: Biology X 489.6  

Instructor: David King


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

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

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

Textbooks Required:

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

There will be no assigned reading from the book, but it really is essential if you are gardening in Southern California. The most recent edition is not really necessary, it does have more data in it and with each edition, Sunset pays more respect to food gardening.

This will be supplemented by liberal postings on my Garden Notes blog, . I hope to post most of the material in the days prior to the class when it will be used.

Textbooks, Recommended:

Title The Kitchen Garden
Author Thompson, Sylvia
Edition First
Publisher Bantam Books
ISBN 0-553-08138-1
*(She has a companion cookbook that is worth investigation too!)
Title Heirloom Vegetable Gardening
Author Weaver, William Woys
Edition First
Publisher Henry Holt
ISBN 0-8050-4025-0
Impossible to find – out of print
Title Pests of the Garden and Small Farm
Author Flint, Mary Louise
Edition 2nd
Publisher Univ of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
ISBN 978- 0520218108
Title The Resilient Gardener

Author Deppe, Carol
Edition First
Publisher Chelsea Green
ISBN 978-1603580311

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

Course Schedule:

29 September
Introduction/12 Points to a Better Garden/Garden Tour
06 October
Plot Assignment/Seed Starting/SLOLA/
13 October
Timing and Design/Tools/Intro to SoilsVarietals
20 October
Planting/Seed Starting in Containers/Sheet composting
27 October
Soil Preparation/Composting/Vermiculture
03 November
Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Supplies/Sources/Annuals/
17 November
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Chicken Raising Sherilyn Powell-Wolf
24 November
Perennials/Bulbs as a part of your food supply/Beekeeping
01 December
Home orchard/Vines
08 December
Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck

(Syllabus may be changed as needed to reflect reality.)

Please note that November has a few holidays – we will need to ensure that watering happens to keep the plants alive while we all enjoy the celebrations. Remember, plants do not take a holiday. We will make a schedule for watering.

Point Assignment Structure
Class participation (and cooperation)

A grade of A
> 90%
Garden Journal

1 page write-up*

Planting Project

D and F

  • A sample one-page write up is the final page of this syllabus.
Please note, I try to grade you on your personal improvement. Cooperation is counted more than competition in my classes.

Office hours are by appointment only – please call or email me. I am willing to meet with you; I want you to learn; I do not want you to struggle. Please do not hesitate to call me, rather than try to talk to me in class when I can't really give you undivided attention. Extra points are available if you need to earn more credit.

Every week, we will prepare some seasonal food to eat. There are no places to buy food while in class and we are here for four hours. Students are encouraged to bring in food to share with the class at all meetings. Students should bring in their own plate and eating utensils so we can have a minimum waste event. The last class meeting will be a potluck where we will all share local and fresh food! (That's the point, right?)

The Learning Garden is open daily, 10 to 5:00 PM, every day except Monday and Tuesday. You are welcome to come here and work on your plot or just come and hang out. It's always best to call ahead to make sure I'm here as sometimes I have errands or meetings off campus.

Criteria for your garden plot grade:
  1. You should experiment and try something you have never done – explore!
  2. Your plot and adjacent pathways should be cleared of weeds.
  3. Your plot and adjacent pathways should be well mulched.
  4. Your plot should be attractive and be growing some food.
  5. Your journal should indicate you learned something from the plot.

The person who starts from seed vs. bringing in growing plants, will have plants not nearly as far along as the others – but stands to make a better grade if they have experimented with growing from seed – I am more interested that you LEARN in this class – just doing what you already have done doesn't teach you anything. We are all gardeners here, if we don't have patience yet, we soon will. Cultivate patience with your plants while in The Learning Garden.

All handouts (including this syllabus) will be available on the blog site:

BEETS Beta vulgaris
Botanical Information:
Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot family
4 to 8” tall
Growing Season:
Spring, Fall and Winter
Seed to Harvest:
8 weeks or more
Spacing: 3” on a side
Seeds store: ~4

Choice Varieties: Chioggia, Burpee's Golden,

The sweet roots of beets are often over- looked because of their 'earthy' taste. The problem with most beets on dinner tables these days is that they've been out of the ground for a very long time – the earthiness overtakes the sweetness. These two beets, the Italian Chioggia and the Golden Beet from W. Atlee Burpee Co. breeding program in the late 1800's, are among the sweetest vegetables in any garden!

Starting the seeds: Direct sow in the garden, a short row every week or so all through the cool season

Growing: Keep the moisture as even as possible. Mulch the beets as soon as possible – don't cover their leaves, but bring the compost as close to the plants as you can without covering the leaves. Cut off the leaves of any that are too close together – throw the baby leaves in salads. Do try to give them enough space to make an edible root, an inch or so for those who want baby beets, two or more for larger roots.

Harvesting: Pull roots as you need them. Beets do not have to be pulled all at once and will hold in the garden for a few weeks – longer if it's cool out.

Preparation and Using: Beet greens can be used just the same as chard – they are, in fact, the same species, one bred for a root and the other for its leaves. They taste pretty much the same and can be cooked the same or used raw in salads.
Today, most folks don't realize that American sugar was beet sugar until the mid 1900's when we switched to 'pure cane sugar.' The roots, though, should be just par-boiled enough to get the skins to slip off. Slice them into convenient slices and sauté in orange juice until slightly al denté. This is a wonderfully sweet side dish. Cut red beets into heart shapes before sautéing and serve on Valentine's Day or another significant holiday for your love.

Problems: Not much in our climate, although snails will eat the baby leaves as they emerge.

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.