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Friday, December 22, 2017

Heirloom Seeds, One Story

The large container goes back to the Pineschi
family, the large jar is for SLOLA and the small
jar is mine to plant!  Seeds are abundant! 
There are seeds and seed stories everywhere. Everyone has a relationship to seeds whether they own it or not, because the history of humans and human civilizations are intertwined so deeply, over so many hundreds of years, has made it so. Today's industrial agriculture obfuscates that which once was an intimate relationship into a commodity that we buy, sell, grown with poison and produced with the cheapest means to get to market.

But seed savers everywhere, want to hold the seed and know the story behind the seed – how did it come to be here? And it is the story that makes heirloom seeds “Heirlooms.” There are many old seeds – seeds of varieties that have been around for 100 years or more – but they aren't “heirlooms” without a story.

This is about a seed with a story. I don't know how old this variety is, but the story is good enough for the seed to be called an heirloom and the story seems to point to the fact that it is indeed an heirloom. It's starts out with a dental appointment.

My dental hygienist is married to a dentist. She sees me three or four times a year, if I'm lucky, he sees me three or four times a decade. Professionally at least. So this was one of those professional encounters where I get the question “are you numb yet?” I'm slow about getting numb. He has some stuff in my mouth and my hygienist drops by to say hi, and says to her husband, “David has started a seed library to save old seeds...” And the dentist gets very excited!

It turns out that his grandmother (great-grandmother?) had given him some seeds when he had graduated dental school and was moving to Los Angeles to set up his practice. He was charged with these bean seeds as they were the family bean. He had them for over fifteen years and was not so successful in growing enough to keep the seeds supply healthy and he asked if I would help keep his family bean alive. Of course I would! That's what being a seed savior is all about!

Within a week, I was given an envelope of about 55 seeds of a bean. They were small seeds and I was told they were old. I planted all that I had and presently had a crop of four plants – not a lot of beans. Once the plants were growing and the leaves were distinct, I realized this was not a common bean – Phaseolus vulgaris. And the beans themselves were too long as well. A little research and I figured I had Vigna unguiculata, a close relative, and edible, but not the common bean. It took more time to figure out how to pronounce “unguiculata” than it did to find the correct binomial for it.

This species is called 'cowpea' probably because they were used for forage for animals as well as human consumption. Cultivated cowpeas are known by the common names black-eyed pea, southern pea, yardlong bean, and crowder pea. Fairly common – and their ability to grow in sandy soil makes them a desirable species to have in our storage. They were domesticated in Africa and are one of the oldest crops to be farmed and not an American bean – like Phaseolus vulgaris, which is what one might suspect without digging into the history of beans. A second domestication event probably occurred in Asia, before they spread into Europe and the Americas.

Our 'cowpea' came from Italy and we call it the Pineschi Family Bean in deference to Dr. Pineschi and his wife that brought this bean to my attention. You can check this productive bean out from the Seed Library when we restock our summer seeds in March. It is a vigorous climber and a good producer of 10 to 12 inch long slender pods. Pick young pods, in the 10 to 12 range and just steam them. I, of course, add butter. Delicious!


Monday, November 13, 2017

** Very Important Notes for 19 November class!! **

Because of scheduling conflicts, we will not have our Chicken presentation on the 19th.  We will do the Bee Keeping segment this time.  We do not have bees, but we will act as though we do.

This Sunday, then:
1.  Do not wear perfume, cologne or shampoo or wash with heavily scented soap. Bees begin to think of you as a flower and get really close to investigate.
2.  Do not wear black or brown.  They are not normally excited, but when we  invade their hive, they see black and brown as possibly being their nemesis:  Bears!  And will treat you like an enemy.  
3.  Do not move quickly or erratically in front of an open hive.  All movement should be restrained and calm.  

I will be posting some more information later this week.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Changes to the Syllabus and Some Notes

First off, there is a threat of rain this Sunday - be prepared and have a jacket handy.  I'm probably going to make sure we have a warm soup.  Bring your own utensils and a bowl!  

DON'T FORGET TO "FALL BACK!" If you don't set your clock back, your  1:00 PM (class start time) will ACTUALLY be noon!  You'll be plenty on time!

There are changes to the syllabus reflected below: 

Course Schedule:

08 October
Introduction/Seed Starting/Urban gardening in context today/12 Points to a Better Garden
15 October
SLOLA/Seeds/Light/Soils/Water Garden Tour/
22 October
Tools/Varietals/ Soils and Fertilizers in the Urban garden/Plot Assignment/Urban Gardens Bigger Picture
29 October
Planting/Sheet composting/Composting/ Planting Timing and Design/
05 November
Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Supplies/ Sources/Annuals/ Soil Contamination and Remediation
19 November
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Beekeeping
03 December
Perennials/Bulbs as a part of your food supply/Chicken Raising with Sherilyn Powell/ Vermiculture with Danielle Pisano
10 December
Home orchard/Vines/
17 December
Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck/Submit your journal etc for a grade.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Suggestions for Cool Seasons:

Suggestions for Cool Seasons:

Artichokes (a perennial)
Green Globe Improved, Violetto

Burpee’s Golden, Chiogga, Detroit Dark Red,
Nutribud, DeCicco, Waltham, Calabrese
Brussel Sprouts
Long Island Improved
Cabbage (including Oriental cabbage-like greens)
Glory of Einkhuizen, Copenhagen Market, Mammoth Red,
Dragon, Nantes, Paris Market
Early Snowball
Large Prague Celeriac,
Chard (the 'Swiss' don’t really grow it.. why do we give them the honor?)
Fordhook Giant, Five Color Silverbeet, Ruby (or Rhubarb Red)
Vates, Georgia Southern

Fava Beans
Windsor; Aprovecho (sometimes appended with “Select”)
Florence Fennel (bulbing)
Garlic (this is a long season crop, plant in Fall harvest next Summer)
Chesnok Red, Music, Spanish Roja,
Dinosaur (Lacinato), Red Russan,

Carina, King Richard
more varieties than you can shake a stick at – or grow a mix!
Onions (also a long season growing; find “short-day” varieties)
Italian Torpedo (! you will love this on the grill!)
Other leafy salad things
Flat Leaf, Tripled Curled,
Hollow Crown, Harris Model
Dwarf Grey Sugar, Green Arrow, Tall Telephone, Mammoth Melting,
All-Blue, Caribe, Yukon Gold, many, many others!
French Breakfast, Fluo, Easter Egg, Purple Plum

America, Bloomsdale Long Standing, Viroflay
Purple White Top, Golden Ball

There are also other vegetables that are not commonly grown you might want to try – I've not tried all of them!

Include all perennial herbs and perennial flowers. In addition, try some fun annuals like calendulas, larkspur, poppies (bread, California or Iceland types), sweet peas, and venidium. Make room for cilantro! Lots of cilantro!!

All of the perennial herb (oregano, thyme, rosemary, mints and so on) are best planted in fall. Ready yourself for fruit tree (and shrub) planting after the first of the year.

The following would be planted in your Spring Garden....

Suggestions for Warm Seasons:

Lettuce Leaf, Genovese,
Beans - drying
Black Turtle, Cannellini
Beans – Lima
Beans- snap
Roc d’Or, Romano, Royal Burgundy
Sweet Corn
Golden Bantam, Country Gentleman
Lemon, Mideast Prolific
Diamond, Rosa Bianca
Clemson's Spineless, Red Burgandy
Peppers (Sweet)
Banana, Corno di Toro,
Peppers (Hot)
Ancho, Jalapeňo,
Sugar Pie,
Squash (Summer)
Black Beauty, Lebanese White, Yellow Crookneck,
Squash (Winter)
Acorn, Chiriman, Queensland Blue, Spaghetti,
Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Italian Gold, Orange Sungold, Norther Delight, Stupice, Sweet 100’s, Garden Peach, Persimmon and about a thousand others!

Plant from seed or buy transplants at a nursery of fun warm-season annual flowers like marigolds, cleome (watch the stickers!), cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias. These warm season flowers make cheerful bouquets. You can also grow everlasting flowers like statice and gomphrena. The widest selection of flowers and vegetables is available to those who start their own from seed and order by mail from the catalogs above and many, many others.   

Soil Triangle and Some Problems to Solve Before Class

Attempt to do the following exercises BEFORE class.  We'll recap in class!  

Your Name ________________________

Using the Soil Texture Triangle

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

1. Place the edge of a ruler or other straight edge 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 lines 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.

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.

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 (the sum of % sand, silt and clay should always add up to 100%) - the last line has been left blank for you to fill in the numbers you assign to your own soil sample.

sandy loam












Saturday, October 21, 2017

Course Update

First off, Tre' is OK.  It was mighty tough sledding for awhile.  After class last week, we drove straight away to an emergency vet hospital.  Tre' was unable to walk by the time we got there.  They got him to throw up the poison (it was rat poison someone had brought into the garden).  When we left a few hours later, he was still in pretty bad condition.

But he quickly improved.  Later in the evening I opened a yogurt and I could see him raise his head and look at me with one eye, clearly interested in some yogurt.  I fed him a spoonful and he wolfed it down, and from there on out, he has been improving and within 24 hours he was as active as he's ever been. 

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.  I would not have anyone lose a pet under those circumstances.

We will do soils next week.  I did not get the proper charts etc loaded earlier in the week and to proceed with that lecture would be unfair to all of you.  We will do some planting tomorrow - and take care of a few details for this coming hot spell.


Would also not hurt to have your own napkin.  Tomorrow's meal features cheese.

We expect unseasonably hot weather - dress accordingly (although I've felt it was plenty cool out there today.

See you at 1:00 tomorrow.


October/Alliums esp. Garlic

October in The Garden

In all the books from back east and England, you'll find fall as a season of 'going to rest,' 'putting the garden to bed' and other allusions to 'sleep' and restoration. It is not true for us! We are in our other Spring and this Spring is really much more like the Spring other parts of the world experience. This is our shot at carrots, peas, and other cool season plants. We either have all our space filled with plants, or we've just got a part planted with big plans (dreams) for the rest. So the Winter garden is just beginning its full swing.

I tried to plant one chard plant because I only need one to provide me with enough chard for all my needs, but there are so many colors to choose from, I feel a need to grow at least three: yellow, red and I love the orange. These plants provide continuous chard over a long season, negating the need for succession planting. Almost everything else benefits by being sowed at intervals throughout the season, a process called 'succession sowing' or 'succession planting.'

Succession planting is the mark of a really good gardener. This is a person who plants a garden to get to eat the very freshest of food – you don't pick your veggies and put them in the fridge to age before you eat them – that isn't the intent. To the degree possible, only plant enough of what can be eaten in a reasonable amount of time. As a single person, I have found that a twelve to eighteen inch row for most things is the perfect size to grow enough to supply fresh carrots, beets, parsnips, cutting lettuces, for any given time. A typical planting schedule for me might look like this (in parenthesis, I name the varieties I like):
Week 1 – carrots (Cosmic Purple) Week 7 - lettuce (Drunken Woman Frizzy Head)
Week 2 – beets (Golden) Week 8 – carrots (Nantes)
Week 3 – parsnips (Hollow Crown) Week 9 – beets (Red Ball)
Week 4 – carrots (Armadillo) Week 10 – spinach (America)
Week 5 – beets (Chioggia) Week 11 – turnips (Purple Globe)
Week 6 – turnips (DeMilano) Week 12 – beets (Golden)
Quickly you see that, though I do eat parsnips and turnips, I don't eat nearly as many of them as I do carrots or beets. Your situation might be different in that you could care less at all about ANY parsnips, but spinach is near and dear to your heart so you would have spinach in the rotation much more than I do. Also note, that only one of the carrots, Nantes, is orange. Cosmic Purple you have already guessed is purple and Armadillo is yellow. There are other colors and other varieties out there, don't get boxed in by what you are used to! Enjoy diversity! Diversity in nature is a a sign of strength and resiliency.
You can do the same thing, for a larger family by planting three different things per week – carrots, beets and spinach in week one; turnips, lettuce and parsnips in week two; carrots, beets and parsnips in week three. Or spinach, one row, every week all cool season long. Tailor the program to your needs! You might also find that you need longer rows – I wouldn't imagine that an 18” row would suffice for a family of four! Play around with the scheduling and the row length and the mix of plants you grow until you find what your family needs. At which point, their needs will change, but you'll have a lot more data with which to figure out the new schedule.
One of the marks of a very good gardener is succession sowing down to such a science allowing fresh vegetables on the table without lag time or a concentration of over-abundance and wild fluctuations leaving you with nothing from the garden for intervening weeks. Learning how to do this well has been the work of a lifetime for many and, as for me, I still find it a moving target. But at least I know what I’m shooting for!
Start These In Containers
Start These In The Ground
Move to the Ground from Containers
All cabbage family crops
Fava beans
Fava beans
Any cabbage family plant big enough to survive.
Potatoes (tubers)




Garbanzo beans

Garlic (bulbs)

Shallots (bulbs)

Here is the deal with winter sowing – you can continue to sow all winter crops through November. After November, we need to begin to look at the harvest dates. Before November is out, you will need to have all your onion family plants in the ground. These include garlic, leeks, onions and shallots. They take a long time. Celery and celeriac, another long season grower, should probably not be planted after November as well. Carrots and parsnips can be planted deep into December, but after that, look for smaller carrots that will be done before your world heats up.
You can cheat – this isn't mathematics where the answer is right or it's wrong. Often the answer in gardening is “it depends.” There are perimeters of hot and cold, sun and shade that we work with. There are no hard and fast rules about when to plant what – mostly just guidelines. You can lose – even when you don't cheat. I know, it is unfair, but it's part and parcel of growing food and you can see why many books from antiquity regularly address putting food in storage and consciously regard famine as an ever-present problem to be dealt with.
If you plant one thing on one date every year, in at least one of those in seven years will not work out for you. Not your fault. The weather is not the same every September 5th. Or any other day in the calendar. If you could predict the weather out for 6 months or so, you'd be very rich. But this has been the problem of food growers from the beginning. And climate change has made it even more forbidding. There are years when I'm watching baby tomato plants struggle in late May I wish I had planted beets instead – any we may well find that is the way we do things – start tomatoes AND plant beets at the same time.
Butternut Squash With Pecans And Blue Cheese
I've done this annually for many years and it's always been a hit! I know grilling in the fall seems like I missed the summer boat, but really, in Southern California, we can grill almost year round, avoiding windy days during dry season. Any sweet, hard skin winter squash will suffice; butternut is only one of the many that will work.
4-1/2 lbs butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 stalks fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup pecans
1 cup crumbled Roquefort or other blue cheese
Get the grill going and warmed up.
Halve the squash, leaving the skin on, and scoop out the seeds, then cut into two to three inch cubes; you don't need to be precise, just keep the pieces uniformly. Smaller, they fall thru the grill.
Mix the squash in a bowl with the oil adding thyme. Cook on the grill until just tender enough to eat.
From the grill, throw them into a bowl with crumbled blue cheese and pecans and mix. The hot cheese will hold pecan pieces to the squash. Serve at once. You may eat the entire squash, skin and all.
When we sow seeds of most of our food plants, they show up with two little leaves right off the bat. Those cute little leaves are technically called “cotyledons” and the ones with two leaves are appropriately called “dicotyledons” - the “di” meaning two. Gardeners often shorten this to “dicots.”
Alliums” refer to all plants in the “onion” family. All alliums have only one little leaf and therefore are called “monocotyledons” or, more often, “monocots.” This gives you some of the botanical background on these plants. As far as evolution goes, monocots are much newer on the scene than dicots. Monocots, like dicots, describes a very large group of plants, but we know dicots came first and monocots are the newcomers. Monocots include palm trees, grasses, all the grains (which are grasses) and are very diverse and adaptable. In fact, if you consider that dicots have been around a couple of thousands of years and then take note of all the land occupied by monocots, you can see with your own eyes how adaptable these monocots are! Who wrote that line, “I am the grass, I cover all...?” It was an honest and perceptive observation.
Allium is a group of plants that includes hundreds of species, including the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives. There are less planted species like clumping onions, 'walking' onions and others – but they share a sharp odor and taste. They are usually used in some moderation as flavor additives and not the star on their own. They appear in cuisines from all over the world.
The American food system has done a horrible job with these plants. The preoccupation with profit – often with merit given OUR preoccupation with the price of our food – has led most supermarkets to stock only one of two varieties of garlic - “California Early” or “California Late.” Read descriptions of these garlics and rarely does “taste” come up as an attribute – the number one quality of these two garlics is their ability to withstand rotting.
Also, check out the prices on shallots. One of the more expensive tastes in the fresh veggie area of the store. However, shallots are easier to grow than onions! Which are not that easy to grow in our climate.
No matter which alliums you choose to grow, they are, for the most part, easy. While they are all similar in many ways, there are details to know about each.
All Alliums: Plant in fall. Pointy end up. Scarred end down. No need to cover clove. Slow from seed. Usually can find sets/plants. Senescence of leaves indicates harvest time is nigh. Cut back water. Knock over tops that have not fallen. Allow to cure for a few days. Harvest should be dried for a further two weeks sheltered from direct sun and stored in a cool, dark place away from potatoes. Some folks swear by storing onions in small brown paper bags punched with holes. Do not plan on storing alliums for more than four months, unless you have ideal circumstances.
Let's start with this ubiquitous ingredient in our cuisine. Like all alliums, onions for us are a Fall/Winter crop. There are many different types – some of which have national recognition. Let's start out with the well-knowns, like Walla Walla, Vidalia and from California, Imperial Valley Sweet Onions. While the Imperial Valley Sweet might be able to be grown in your garden, most of the others cannot and if they could, would not have the same sweetness because their sweetness, in part, is a function of the particular soil and climate they are grown in.
Only a few years ago, seed catalogs used to indicate the different “day length hours” for each onion variety. Different types of onions have different light (and dark) requirements. The varieties of onions that require a shorter period (11 to 13 hours) of daylight to bulb are termed "short day" onions. Those that require the longest period of daylight (14 hours per day or more) to form bulbs are known as "long day" onions. Those with intermediate requirements (from 13 to 14 hours of light per day to bulb) are called, logically, "intermediate" onions.
In Southern California, we need short day onions – ones that will bulb up in our winters – the intermediates will work too, if planted later in the season, although an early hot spell can doom them. But with seed catalogs not telling us the day length, what do you do? Choose varieties that have names that indicate they would be short day onions; Texas grows onions in the winter, so anything with “Texas” in the name, you have a good bet it will be short day. About half the Italian varieties will be short day, or if you buy from a California company you have 50/50 chance of getting short-day onions.
The ways you can grow onions can be overwhelming. Each of these have benefits and once you understand them, you will adapt to the other alliums with ever-increasing enthusiasm and certainty.
Seed – sow seed at the beginning of September – or even earlier if you have a cooler protected area. They will look like grass as they start. You can sow almost a half packet of onion seed in a six pack, like 15 plus seeds per cell. And they will suffer the indignity of being forgot with more aplomb than the majority of plants. Once most of the extreme hot weather is beyond us, say the second week in October (he says wistfully), set the baby plants out about five to eight inches apart.
Sets – Sets are onions plants that were started and grew to a small onion size. They are harvested and sold and the gardener will pop these little dried onions into the soil, then water and poof. They begin to grow again. They will take less time than onions from seeds. You sacrifice choices, though, as you will find only one variety of yellow, white and purple. They come in a bag with enough for three or more city gardeners to share. Unless you really eat a lot of onions. Sets are put in the ground with about ½ to ¾ of the bulb showing. The only reason to bury it deeper would be to prevent frost damage. If you get frost damage, bury it deeper.
Plants – just like the name, you are buying small plant. Usually sold by the pound with a five pound minimum, this is a great way to get one of the most wonderful of onions, the Italian Red Torpedo. This is an intermediate onion, elongated, and not too fat of a bulb. It is sweet enough to eat fresh from the garden, but grilled, these onions are amazingly sweet and worth the effort. Biggest drawbacks: poor storage life, they rot soon after being pulled, expensive ($5.99/pound, 5 pound minimum order) and they always sell out! Can also be started from seeds. Because of expense, the Italian Red Torpedo is the only onion I would consider growing from plants.

Can be grown from seed – most of that seed, though is hybrid which I try to avoid. Shallots are easier to grow than onions and cost way more at the store. Save your time and your back: grow shallots and ditch onions!
They also can be grown from sets and that is the most common way to purchase shallots to grow. You can find shallot seed at and Johnny's Selected Seed, but shallot sets are all over the place. I haven't grow enough of them to consider myself an expert – yet. Planting of sets is described above.
Garlic “Before embarking on a gourmet garlic expedition, remember each variety yields experiences as unique as its name.” Laura Maher, garlic writer/expert
If you have not grown your own garlic and you do not hang out in gourmet circles, you might have been missing one of the greatest culinary delights in your life! Garlic you can buy to grow includes much more flavor that that stuff in the grocery.
There are two types: hardneck and softneck. There are further divisions and classifications, but lets just start here. Articles will tell you you cannot grow hardneck garlic here. That's not true. I did it before they told me and I've been doing for over twenty years. Hardneck: try Chesnok Red – mild; Spanish Roja – my favorite, a light bite (Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste variety) and Music – slightly hotter than Roja and the current fav of chefs every where! Softneck: Inchellium Red is memorable – by “memorable” I mean it will take you time to get that spicey out of your mouth! Also on the Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste.
Elephant garlic is a form of leek. It has a leek- like soft allium flavor, but nothing like the real garlics above.
From seed or sets. Plant tiny plants at the bottom of a foot wide trench. You are trying to grow the leek so more of the bottom is white (blanched) so dig your trench down about six inches, plant the sets or baby plants at the bottom – as they grow, pull more and more of the soil back into the trench to keep most of the plants out of the sunlight – this will give you more blanched leek to eat! Pull as needed – you aren't going to dry these and save them in a cool, dark place.
Chives are a perennial onion grown for the green leaves which are chopped fine and used as a onion flavored addition to many dishes – in fact, can make an ordinary dish take on a little more polish with a pinch. Plant clumps of up to six chive bulbs 5 to 8 inches apart. Divide large clumps about every 3 years. Dig up the plants and divide them into small clumps with four to six bulbs each.  Harvest as needed leaving enough leaf for the plants to keep producing. Remove flowering stalks – flowers are edible too.
Perennial and bunching onions – There are many.
You will see “Walking Onions” - sometimes with “Egyptian” on the front. They are small onions, baby onions grow in the foliage, eventually becoming heavy enough to pull the foliage down low enough for the baby bulbs to hit the ground, where they grow roots and give the impression that the onions are “walking.” Use in place of shallots – a bit more oomph and not to everyone's taste.
Perennial onions divide at the base. One plant becomes five plants, five plants become 25 plants. Share them as well as eat them. They need that kind of attention. I grow walking onions as well as I'itoi onions, which rarely flower or set seed. They are propagated by division of the bulbs. When the greens dry down, the bulbs can be dug up and divided. Enjoy a few, but be sure to save a some for the next planting. The name I'itoi signifies the Elder Brother, who is the creator deity in Tohono O'odham legends.

Grow these plants. They do not take a lot of room, although do keep them somewhat separate as they will have to remain unwatered at the end of their season – that can be hard on other plants.

Aliums: Garlic


  • Harvest time depends on when you plant, but the clue is to look for yellow tops. Harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over, before they are completely dry.
  • In our climate, harvesting will probably be in late May or early June.
  • Check the bulb size and wrapper quality; you don’t want the wrapper to disintegrate.
  • Dig too early and the bulb will be immature.
  • Discontinue watering.
  • To harvest, carefully lift the bulbs with a garden fork. Gently pull the plants, carefully brush off the soil, and let them cure in an airy, shady spot for two weeks. Hang them upside down on a string in bunches no more than six bulbs. Make sure all sides get good air circulation.
  • The bulbs are cured and ready to store when the wrappers are dry and papery and the roots are dry. The root top should be hard, and the cloves cracked easily apart.
  • Once the garlic bulbs are dry, you can store them. Remove any dirt and trim off any roots or leaves. Keep the wrappers on—but remove the dirtiest wrappers.
  • Garlic bulbs may be stored individually with the tops removed, or the dried tops may be braided (provided you planted softneck garlic) together to make a garlic braid to hang in the kitchen or storage room.
  • Bulbs should be stored in a cool (40 degrees F), dark, dry place, and can be kept in the same way for several months. Don’t store in your basement if it’s moist!
  • The flavor will increase as the bulbs are dried.
  • If you plan on planting garlic again next season, save some of your largest, best-formed bulbs to plant again in the fall.
There are three types of varieties of garlic: Softneck, Hardneck, and Greatneck (Elephant).
  • Softneck varieties, like their name suggests, have necks that stay soft after harvest, and therefore are the types that you see braided. It is less winter-hardy than other types and cannot be grown where there are harsh winters. A good flavor, but shine as good keepers. Recommended varieties: ‘Inchelium Red', ‘Purple Italian’
  • Hardneck varieties grow one ring of cloves around a stem, there are not layers of cloves as there is in softneck varieties. They are extremely cold hardy, but do not store as well or long as other varieties. Many hardnecks have strong flavors and are among chefs are some of the most sought after garlics in the market. Recommended varieties: 'Music', 'Spanish Roja.'
  • Greatneck varieties are not recommended. They are more closely related to leeks than other varieties and their flavor is more like onion than traditional garlic. Bulbs and cloves are large, with about 4 cloves to a bulb. Big bulbs, but a flavor bust.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Introduction to Tools and Their Jobs

Categories of Tools

The most important tools you use are the different parts of your body – your hands, your skin, your back, your knees and your legs. Chemical sunblock may be bad for your body, but it most certainly does nature no good once you've washed it off. A long-sleeved cotton shirt and cotton pants are cool and, if you can find organic cotton that costs less than the US Military budget, you are doing Gaia a good deal. Wear a hat (it's stylish anyway!) and comfortable shoes. Get gloves that will stand to the work you are doing – digging with shovels almost always means a heavy glove, gardening in containers is a piece of cake with cotton gloves or some of the new plasticized gloves. Get more than one type.
Have on hand muscle rub (I use stuff with arnica in it) and hand creams if you worry about callouses grossing you – or someone else out. Do some stretches to prevent injuries.

A. Stand up gardening/Mulch, Compost moving
  1. Double digger, aka broadfork
  2. Spading fork
  3. Compost fork
  4. Grain Shovel (aka Grain scoop)
  5. Spade
  6. Round point shovel
  7. Poachers spade
  8. Leaf rake
  9. Broom for clean up if needed
  10. Long handle vs. short handle
    1. Long handles – more leverage (easier to break), better for tall people
    2. Short handles – easier to fit into smaller spaces and more appropriate for short people
  11. Wheel barrow/gardeners cart
  12. Tarps (either the blue plastic or burlap) to make clean up easier

B. Kneeling gardening
  1. Trowel
  2. Hand fork
  3. Weeders
  4. Japanese hori hori knife can be used as a trowel and a weeder
  5. The Stick tool (my 'invention')
  6. Scissors
  7. Kneeling pad or a small stool
  8. Dibbles
  9. Wire brush
  10. Sharp serrated knives
  11. Watering can or hose
  12. Tape measure
  13. I include a radio with my kit

C. Container gardening
  1. Trowel
  2. Hand fork
  3. Weeders
  4. Kneeling pad (?)
  5. Tarp
  6. Watering can or hose
  7. Machete
  8. Pot brush
  9. Container knife

  1. Seeding
      1. Widget
      2. Seeding tool
      3. Small Swiss Army Knife
      4. Pencil
      5. Marker
      6. Plastic tags
      7. Flats
      8. Newspapers
      9. Containers
      10. Journal or notebook!
      11. Chopsticks
      12. Soft nozzle for the hose or a Haws watering can

E. Harvesting
  1. Knives
  2. Scissors
  3. Pruners
  4. Containers – baskets, bags, dishpan – to wash and clean produce (as needed)

F. Pruning
  1. Pruners that fit your hand
  2. Folding saw
  3. Loppers
  4. Pole Pruner
  5. Large saw
  6. Sharp knife
  7. Specialty gloves if needed

G. Tool care
  1. Linseed oil for wood
  2. Any oil for metal
  3. Rags
  4. Sharpening devices
  5. Sandpaper in different grades
  6. Listerine to sterilize your tools

H. Almost all kits have

  1. Knife or knives
  2. Screwdrivers
  3. Pliers
  4. Measuring tape of some kind
  5. And a radio to listen to the baseball game....

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Syllabus: Urban Food Production Fall 2017

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. Class will meet regardless of the weather. Expect to get wet or cold as we will be outside for a portion of every meeting.

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 The New Sunset Western Garden Book
Author Brenzel, Kathleen Norris (Editor)
Edition Feb. 2012
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, however, it does have more data in it and with each edition Sunset pays more respect to food gardening.

This will be supplemented by 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
Almost 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 think deserve your attention. From the bibliography, you will choose one book to read and report on. This report will be turned in at the end of class; see the point assignment structure on the next page.

Course Schedule:

08 October
Introduction/Seed Starting/Urban gardening in context today/12 Points to a Better Garden
15 October
SLOLA/Seeds/Light/Soils/Water Garden Tour/
22 October
Tools/Varietals/ Soils and Fertilizers in the Urban garden/Plot Assignment/Urban Gardens Bigger Picture
29 October
Planting/Sheet composting/Composting/Vermiculture Planting Timing and Design/
05 November
Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Supplies/Sources/Annuals/
19 November
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Chicken Raising Sherilyn Powell/
03 December
Perennials/Bulbs as a part of your food supply/Beekeeping
10 December
Home orchard/Vines
17 December
Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck/Submit your journal for a grade.

(Syllabus may be changed as needed to reflect reality.)
Please note that November has a few holidays and plants do not take a holiday. – we will need to ensure that watering happens to keep the plants alive if there is no rain while we all enjoy our celebrations.

Point Assignment Structure
Class participation (and cooperation)

Grade of A
> 90%
Garden Journal

1 page book review

Planting Project

D and F

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.

Each class, as we start, will usually begin with lecture and then proceed to the garden where you will have your own small plot. As the sun sets earlier, the order will be reversed – everyone starts in their garden and then we go in to lecture.

You are encouraged to experiment in your garden plot. Your process should be thoroughly documented in your journal – your thinking and your understanding of what is happening in your garden. If you have a problem, research a solution.

Pick one book from the ones presented in class to read and report on.

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, 3 to 5:00 PM, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 10 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday. 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 journal grade:
  1. Documentation of what you planted when
  2. Documentation of weather elements – temperature (minimum and maximum) as well as an precipitation and noting humidity or dryness, especially of Santa Ana winds.
  3. Germination per cent.
  4. Choice of varieties sources and reasoning.
  5. Success/failures discussed – alternatives to failures/expansion of successes
  6. Plans for the future
  7. Drawings of the garden (either done by hand or by computer program)
  8. Photos/drawings of garden's progress

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.
  6. When presented with the opportunity, you should cooperate with other students, help those in need and be team member of this class.

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:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our Final Field Trip: Atwater Creek

When trying to find this on a map - search for North Atwater Park and you'll get the right directions.

We are meeting at 1:00 PM.  We are hopeful you will make it and enjoy this opportunity to learn about this ecosystem and how it has been created to clean water before it flows into the Los Angeles River.

We'll see you there!

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.