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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shown In Class Last Night

After watching this film, how do you feel about the "low hanging fruit" of conservation? 

Everyone, remember this Saturday at 2:00PM (not time change from our syllabus!) we will meet at Garden Garden  - details and probably a map coming in the next couple of days... 


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Greener Gardens: Can We Grow Enough Food to Avoid a Planetary Dieback? - Link

Can we grow enough food to avoid a planetary dieback? - Lambert Strether says we can  on Naked Capitalism

Quoting from the post above:

"And we three are not alone. David Blume writes:
On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere.
My point is not that everybody gets yields like this, but that yields like this are not exceptional. Do they take place on a larger, continental scale? Yes. Sharashkin, Gold, and Barham, “Sustainable Growing Practices in Russia,” University of Missouri – Columbia:
In Russia, microscale ecofarming is an extremely widespread, time – tested practice. Despite the minuscule size (600 m 2 ) of individual plots and absence of machinery, cultivators have demonstrated exceptional productivity, producing more potatoes, vegetables, berries, fruit, milk, and meat than commercial agriculture’s output of these products. Currently, with 35 million families (70% of Russia’s population) working 8 million [hectares] of land and producing more than 40% of Russia’s agricultural output, this is in all likelihood the most extensive microscale food production practice in any industrially developed nation.
So, 35 million into 8 million hectares is a bit less than a quarter hectare per patch, or an eighth of an acre (my size). And they get very good yield. (These numbers also suggest that my friend, David Bruce, and I are in no way exceptionally skilled.)
So, do these numbers scale up globally? On the back of the envelope, they do. From Prairie Soils & Crops Journal [PDF]:
In July 2009, the world population reached 6.790 billion and the global arable land area is estimated as 1.351 billion hectares (3.339 billion acres). This implies that arable land per capita on a global basis is 0.20 hectares per person (0.49 acres per person).
So, if Big Oil and Big Ag vanished from the face of the earth tomorrow — as perhaps, for the sake of mitigating climate change, they should do — we at least have the arable land to support 6.790 billion of us, on the back of the envelope; and if we consider I could support myself on 0.125 acres, and the Russian yields come with a growing season of around three months, we could have considerable margin. (See also here, here, and here.)"

I suggest reading the whole post for those in class interested in this issue as this small portion doesn't do justice to it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Greener Gardens: Site Analysis Homework

On your selected site, find at least the following: 

Distance to Geographic Features - Use Google Maps, Google Earth, or a map and a ruler.  
Plant Community
Soil Type
Water Source 
You may add any of the other constraints listed in class. 

Watershed - can be found here: 
Plant Community - can be found here: 
Slope  - Slope can be expressed in either in degrees, percentage or ratio. If in degrees, horizontal is 0 degrees, vertical is 90 degrees. Percentage is accomplished by measuring inches of fall in 100 inches. 2 inches of fall (measured downward from a level string) in 100 inches is 2% fall (or 2 cm of fall in 1 meter). Ratio is generally expressed in rise:run, so a 1:1 slope is one foot of rise to one foot of run. Rise is height, run is distance. A 1:1 slope is 45 degrees. Percentage is easiest for gentle slopes. 
Aspect - Which way does the slope face? If no slope, which way does the lot face?

Orchid Black

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

About Our Field Trip to the Lyle Center This Saturday

  • John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies
  • Address: 4105 S University Dr, Pomona, CA 91768

  • Phone:(909) 869-5188

  • Go West on I10 to US 57 South; Exit at West Temple Drive, turn Right.  Pass the light at Campus Drive South, the next light will be your left turn to the Lyle Center.  Make a left and follow the winding road to the end, park and you will meet all of us just above the parking area. 

    You have my phone number if you need it.    

    4105 S University Dr
    Pomona, CA 91768
    View Larger Map


    How To Take A Soil Sample and Read The Soil Triangle

    Taking soil samples for any kind of garden analysis should be done in a manner that will net you the results you need to make your garden more congenial to that part of the plant that lives in the soil – the roots. Roots for most of the plants in our gardens, live about 4 to 18 inches beneath the surface of the soil. Exceptions to this include most drought resistant plants (with roots that range some distance out and down) and other notoriously strong rooted plant – mention just about any weed and it will fall into that category. You want to take your sample around nine inches down. This method of taking a soil sample is effective for the soil triangle tests and is the preferred technique for soil samples sent to labs for testing.

    • Remove as much surface organic matter as possible before taking your soil sample.
    • Put approximately one cup of soil into a straight-sided quart jar with lid.
    • Add approximately one tablespoon of alum or Calgon bath beads – this is a surfactant to help the particles separate from one another.
    • Fill the jar with water almost to the top.
    • Shake vigorously for several minutes to get all the soil moistened. 
    • Let the jar stand undisturbed for at least one hour, separation continues for as long as 24 hours with some soils.
    • The soil mix will separate into layers. The longer it sits, the more distinct the layers will appear.

      Figure out the percentages of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter in the water – do not measure the water itself. The sand will be the bottom layer. Silt will be the next layer, followed by clay; the combination of these three should add up to 100%. Organic matter will float on top of the water and does not figure in the total of percentages..  
      Determine soil type by comparing percentages with soil triangle.
      Understanding soil type will help you know how to properly amend, fertilize, water, and plant so that you will have healthy, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant plants.

      What to do and How to do it

      Follow these steps to determine the name of your soil texture:

      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 water soluble marker 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.

      4.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 between your fingers.
      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 to which this soil corresponds; that will be the descriptive name of your soil.

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Greener Gardens Reading List Weeks One and Two, April 2014

    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.

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

    The Theodore Payne Garden Tour, April 5 & 6, 2104

    Can be found here:
    My gardens are numbers 23 and 25, in Sierra Madre and Altadena, on Sunday. However, visiting any of the gardens on the tour will help with the native palette portion of the class.

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    Owen Dell's Articles

    Owen Dell

    The following links give you the material I used for the last part of our first class.  All of what I worked from was in the second link, but the first link provides an excellent introduction to the meatier second.

    This first link, provides some background leading up to where we are today.  This second link, Imagining a Better Garden gives you the meat and potatoes of what I was addressing.  


    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Trophic Cascades


    While this doesn't necessarily comprise core information in Greener Gardens, I have found the concept intriguing and applicable over many different scenarios.  Can you think of other trophic cascades?  

    The only point I quibble with is the idea of that a trophic cascade tumbles from the 'top to the bottom.'  Such human-centric thinking often leads us down destructive paths. Because bacteria can decompose human corpses, if they had written the theory, they would have been at the 'top' not us. 

    'Top' is a construct.  Not an actual place.

    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.