Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rain On Our Potluck!

Rain on a broccoli, and the photographer and his camera, has moved today's potluck indoors to Sivananda Yoga Center, 13325 Beach Avenue, Marina del Rey, 90292.  Just south of Washington Blvd, between Redwood and Glencoe Avenues - half way down the block on the north side.

We are grateful for the rain - even when we get the 'negligible precipitation.'


Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Email From Thomas Paccioretti

Note:  (I am amazed that anyone could have laughed at my greenhouse!)  I am reprinting Tom's email sent to those students for whom he has email addresses.  Please know I do not know, nor do I wish to find out!, who donates to our Garden.  The treasurer, Julie Mann, knows and respects a separation between my duties as the Gadenmaster and the man who assigns grades to UCLA students.

Thank you for understanding.


Hello fellow TLG classmates. I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season, maybe even enjoying some of the fruits of your labors at TLG. Yum.

It was unfortunate that I needed to be out of town on pot-luck Sunday, our last class. I hear you guys cooked up a storm. I was really looking forward to seeing you all and participating as you’re really cool and fun to be with. It’s our connections with people that makes this life all worthwhile, no? You all have been and will continue to be a great connection for me. One other thing I missed out on was giving my “I’ll match-you” presentation ( I practiced it for three days). It goes something like this:

I’ve been involved with TLG and have known David King and Julie Mann for less than a year, but I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen a lot in my days and there are few that I have met that match their commitment and excellence. They are doing good stuff. They struggle with financing, but you’d never know it. They make loaves for the hungry from our scraps. They make a difference in many people’s lives every stinkin’ day and I’ve never heard them whine. And they have good reasons to whine. They need stuff. They need stuff to help more people. And to help more people is their goal and passion. And now, to help them, has become mine.

To that end I have redirected my charitable contributions this year to TLG instead of the national charities I have previously donated to. TLG, we have seen, does good things and they do them well. We need more organizations like TLG and we need to help TLG help more people. So . . . you recall that greenhouse, without the glass, we made fun of? And you know who you are (one was me, of course). Well I’ve decide to start GRP, the Green house Restoration Project, and help raise the $25K David and Julie need to rebuild the thing right. It will provide TLG and all who benefit from it, the kids, us and those that wander in to enjoy a break from a hectic day, the facilities needed to go to the next step - propagation, production and preservation of precious plants (love the alliteration eh?). They have earned the right and our confidence to do this project. But, of course, they need some cash. Not a lot, as they have begged and bartered (don’t ask) for much of the labor and some of the materials, but not everything can be bartered for.

I want to motivate you to contribute to this project. I am fortunate enough to be in the position to match all of your donations to TLG from now until the end of the year. And I will make sure that all contributors will be permanently thanked with a lasting memorial at TLG. I haven’t figured out exactly what, but it will be something you’ll be proud of. And of course you’ll know that your tax deductible charitable contribution has been given to people that will do good things with it. I’ve have been moved by your involvement in TLG programs and the benefit TLG provides us and our community. Hail, hail and long live TLG. And long live you all.

Anything you can give will be greatly appreciated. You can use the TLG website -

All the best and happy holidays and here’s to wishing you a very happy new year.

So you signed up for the January propagation class, right? See you then there.


Tom Paccioretti
Grow what grows

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase!

The Learning Garden's patio is quiet on Thanksgiving morning getting ready for our annual feast.  Another sunny Thanksgiving and we are thankful for so many things - one of them is our neighbors here in Mar Vista - one of the most forward looking communities on the Westside.  And here, in the weeks just following Thanksgiving, we have even more reasons for our gratitude!

Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase is showcasing The Learning Garden this week.  You can hop on over there and see a photo from this year's pesto festival of the Gardenmaster making pesto! 


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Clases in the Garden - UCLA Extension

Even in the cold!  It was cold today and in the middle of Lorna Hall's expose on growing chickens in the city, it turned down right bitter.  

But here, the Gardenmaster holds forth on the patio in front of UCLA Extension's fall class held at The Learning Garden, Modern Backyard Food Production.   Already there are a lot of folks lined up to take the winter class, Plant Propagation for Gardeners.  We'll have to figure out how to stay warm.  Maybe we'll have to retreat to a class room part time.  But we'll have to stay warmer than we were today - that's for sure!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving In The Garden

Thanksgiving 2009 at The Learning Garden!  Like the world we live in, this Garden is composed of so many different people of different sizes, attitudes, ideals and cultures.  Yesterday's Thanksgiving was a lovely affair with lots of food, conviviality and joy.  A Native American drummer provided the beat and chants for one young lady to take up a Native American dance and show it to several others. 

Our fifth Thanksgiving in the Garden.  We had a lot to be grateful for and we pray you do as well. 

Our next holiday will be Winter Solstice, we hope you can make plans to join us.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tomorrow Is Thanksgiving But This Is Christmas

Christmas Lima Bean, that is!  Called 'Christmas' for its lovely red and white markings, this is a prolific lima bean.  It needs a sturdy trellis to climb on and produces gobs of nice thick pods (like the one shown) with three or more beans per pod.  I believe these seeds came from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.

Lima beans can be enjoyed as a fresh 'shelly' bean (you shell the beans from the green pod while they are still soft) or you can dry them on the plant (until the pod is thoroughly brown and dry) and save them until winter when you would revive them in water just like a dried soup bean. 

Dried beans of all kinds are easy to store and can provide a household with a good deal of homegrown protein.  They come in a myriad of different shapes and sizes and flavors!  I will grow a LOT more next summer, and I will especially include a lot more 'Christmas' lima beans 

Hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving - if you are in the LA area and looking for a place to go, please come by The Learning Garden 11 AM to 2 PM for our potluck Thanksgiving hosting the Program for Torture Victims.  This is one of West LA's best community events this time of year held on the patio of The Learning Garden on the campus of Venice High School, Walgrove Avenue and Venice Boulevard, 90066. 

God bless us, one and all, and I pray your Thanksgiving is one of wonder and blessed with the bounty of the earth! 


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let There Be Light!

Mark Gibney, our volunteer electrician, shows Julie Mann, TLG co-founder and Treasurer, how the new solar light will light our sign at the intersection of Walgrove and Venice Blvd.  Through a grant from the Venice Community Council, The Learning Garden has been able to purchase several security lights, a light for our sign and several flood lights for the patio when we have events.  The solar collector is placed just behind the sign on an angle that nets it sufficent sun to power the light.  The light itself is an LED so it doesn't need a lot of juice.  

This just another step in the evolution of  The Learning Garden as a beacon of change for the community.  


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spring Is Springing in Southern California

If we need more convincing that Fall is really Spring in Southern California, this should silence all remaining doubts!  A lovely paperwhite blooms on the west side of The Learning Garden's shade house.  There are only about five fully opened paperwhites, others promise to open soon.  Unfortunately, the Unified School District painters are here to paint the shade house (along with all the other buildings on campus) and a lot of the paperwhites are getting trampled because they are underfoot.

Almost all the gardening books published tell you that paper whites (along with other narcissus) bloom in Spring.  That is true for folks living in more temperate climates, but that is not Los Angeles.  We are a classic case of a Mediterranean Climate and for us, Fall is our 'other' Spring with paperwhites blooming now and the other narcissus and daffodils will bloom soon after.  The freesias (one of my most favorite scents) will bloom in about a month.  It's a very exciting time for scent in the gardens of our area now.  Inhale the breath of Spring. 



Friday, October 30, 2009

Someone Is Being A Little Optimistic!!

Or, 'we were blowed around pretty hard this week!'

We have palm fronds galore around the Garden.  Three dumpsters have some fronds in each and there are these stacked on the compost pile.  If we wanted to wait for five or more years, we might be able to get these things to break down (less if we chopped 'em up), but I have to admit, I'm not that much of an optimist!  These would be quite a lot of work to deal with.

On the other hand, some high school students showed a little more initiative and some artistic potential as well by putting this 'bouquet' together near the over-full dumpsters. 

Yeah, we got really blown this week - but the air is now cleaner and its a bright sparkly day in Paradise! 


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Who Really Built The Learning Garden

I have been a part of the Learning Garden for just over seven years, almost every month it has been in existence.  I was not here at the beginning, but I have a credible amount of service in this Garden which makes me uniquely qualified having viewed the Garden's growth from almost the very beginning.. 

Over those years, a volunteer or two have come along and worked very hard on a facet here or a facet there of the Garden - and at some point have reported to me and others that they 'built The Learning Garden." 

What makes it all the more astonishing and poignant is that the one person who could really say that, hasn't. 

Operating mostly off site, in her home office a few blocks away, the real person who "built The Learning Garden" is Julie Mann, one of our founders and still serving on our Board of Directors as our Treasurer. 

Julie has written grants, sought funding, mediated disputes, cajoled reluctant participants to fulfill their promises and countless other tasks (like hawking pesto in the above photo) that remain largely thankless, day in and day out. Year in and year out.  For longer than I have been here. 

So when you hear someone say how important they are to The Learning Garden, they aren't.  The only one who can claim that title doesn't say it.  This little post doesn't acknowledge Julie enough, doesn't do her justice.  But really there is nothing we could do to really express our gratitude for all of her work and efforts to truly "build The Learning Garden."  And any post that exculpated all the work Julie has done, would go way too long for this writer who is due at 'work' soon.  

Thank you, Julie.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Bermuda Grass Root

You think you have persistence and determination?  Most gardeners do, but most gardeners feel a bit overwhelmed soon enough after fighting with Bermuda grass.  Here is one of the reasons it can be so difficult to get a handle on!  A Bermuda grass root has pierced this little bit of wood with apparent ease.   The roots not only can grow through wood, they have been reported as deep as four feet!  Along the length of the root, there are frequent nodes, each node capable of producing a whole new plant!  If you find a Bermuda grass root, you must pull on it gently, trying to find the ultimate end in order to leave no pieces behind that would respout the problem all over again.

Such persistence makes even hardened organic gardeners think, "Herbicide, just one time, maybe?"  But herbicide is the same seductress as heroin, fundamentally not changing the situation, setting one up to have to use herbicide again, while damaging the ecology of the planet (and your garden) and paying money to the people who would do that most harm of all to the planet and those of us who live here.


Vote Early and Vote Often

Just like Chicago!

The Learning Garden has applied for a grant from Tom's of Maine.  Tom's has five grants of $20,000 each and we were accepted to be in the final running.  Now we have to get out the vote to win the grant.  We got word this week we are close to the Top 10, but we have to be in the top fiveYou can vote once every 24 hours and we are asking everyone on our list to vote for us.  For a few minutes a day, just like at public radio, your vote will leverage $20,000 for The Learning Garden.  Using this link, please vote early and vote often - the contest closes October 30th and we  need to be in the Top 5. Vote every day until the 30th.

We thank you for your support!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Every Monday Matters (And So Does Thursday!)

Every Monday Matters volunteers showed up (on a Thursday!) and worked very hard in the Garden.  These hardworking volunteers are clowning around with an unplanted bulb of garlic.

Such volunteers bless and uplift our project and many others through their light hearted humor and joyful hard work.  The work they did in The Learning Garden this morning would have take the Gardenmaster about a week to have finished.  Gosh!  


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fresh Mulch Daily!

Well, not daily, but we did have fresh compost/mulch delivered today (21 October) and expect another load next Wednesday!

We get this from the city of Los Angeles. Though it smells as though it ought to have manure in it, that's just the smell of decomposition - this is nothing more than Los Angeles green can waste, sorted to remove trash and non-compostable items, ground up to a finer texture and set to compost for an interval of time (depending on temperature etc the amount of time can vary considerably). The compost is turned at least once in this process and may be sifted again as well.

When it arrives here, the pieces are still somewhat discernible - you can tell the bits that were leaves although it can be hard to identify species of tree a given leaf is from. I like chunks like this - it will take longer to break down and the way I use this stuff is to spread it on top of my soil as a mulch, to feed the soil biota; because it is chunkier, it will take longer to break down. So this is perfect stuff for me. I like to see it go on 4" deep or more, depending on the plant.

In my experimental plots, I've not used any fertilizer in about six years and we are still getting super yields. We have mulched and mulched - this compost and wood chips have been used by the barrow full and the soil is as lovely as any garden could hope for. We are moving this experience out into the rest of the Garden and getting beyond the cycle of fertilizer leading to low fertility necessitating more fertilizer ad nauseum. Our fertility stays in our Garden (rather than being washed away) because it is a natural biological process and not something added as a powder or a liquid. Our fertility is in the bodies of the critters of the soil and doesn't become run off that pollutes our waterways or ground water.

I was thinking this morning how wonderful this life is when I can make a phone call and 48 hours later, a big truck pulls up and dumps 30 cubic yards of compost for my garden for free and they'll do it again next week! Truly this is a precious resource from the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation. One reason The Learning Garden continues to get such quantities of this stuff is because we give it away to other sites(i.e. local residents, schools, shelters and half-way houses with gardens) that don't have a storage area like our little alley. You can pick up this material from us, or from one of several yards around the LA area for free - as much as you want as often as you can!

I am very grateful to Pete Robinson and the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation and this compost project! Without this material, The Learning Garden wouldn't be half of what it is today.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If You Don't Like The Way I Drive My Wheelbarrow...

Several Extension students work in their new gardens this last Sunday. Several of the more industrious have a wheelbarrow lifted up and headed 'cross country' with it. Whatever works, aye?

So, complete the sentence, "If you don't like the way I drive my wheelbarrow,..." 10 points for the best ending!


Gosh! Woodja Look At That?

We had a lovely rain last Wednesday - nothing too hard, the usual Southern California typical drool. It lasted through out the day (off and on) and night. On Thursday morning, we were treated to this sight. This is the pepper tree near the student entrance over south of the pond. That gate is not working at all now and will be out of service until the Unified School District repairs it. If you're in the hood, take a look at the gate, it's impressively smashed up.

The tree just missed the stack of twin-wall stored near the gate for the repair of the greenhouse.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Farewell To The Garden Mascot

After five years of faithful service as Lord of The Learning Garden's Patio, the inscrutable and ever alert Casey died yesterday losing the fight with a tumor in his spleen.

Those that knew him, recall him as a feisty force to reckon with; like all Scottish Terriers he did not suffer fools gladly and if he didn't know you, he was pretty sure you were one of them. An abused rescue when he came to us, over time we watched him turn into a little butter ball who accepted the love and adoration of all who came around. Everyone who knew Casey is grateful for Carol Herd and the work of all Scottish Rescue volunteers. Carol was the one who went to the pound east towards the City of Industry (sorry, I don't remember the actual city) and found our little fellow there in pitiful condition, hair so matted he had to be shaved with an additional diagnosis of kidney stones. She had to make the call to spend the money to save him, or put him down. Our success story is entirely dependent on Carol's compassion and choice of that day.

Carol, from the first meeting with him could see that he had a neurological problem: Casey was born with Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA), a population of Scottish Terriers that has gotten alarmingly large in the past few decades. The Scottish Terrier Clubs of America have funded research into the problem. The dogs are affectionately called Wobbly Scotties with their own website. An old photo of Casey is on page three of their website.

In practice, this meant that Casey walked with a wobble, had difficulty running (his back legs would refuse to run at the same pace as his front legs which made some amusing acrobatics) but he could trot straight as an arrow. His condition worsened under stress, so we did everything to keep his stress level down. With the tumor taking over his body, his control over his limbs was severely diminished and added to the challenges he faced over the last few weeks.

He fought the tumor with all he was worth dying peacefully yesterday afternoon in my arms. Of all the things he wanted, he wanted to be near his 'puppy pile' and it was the job of the humans around him to be the puppy pile. He could be put on a lap with a pad on his back and serve as a writing desk, or a reading desk with a book. He would sigh that particular 'satisfied dog' sigh that so warmed my heart.

Many stories are told by Learning Garden volunteers who came to the Garden Patio and not finding me there, would ask Casey "Where's David?" and Casey would look out to the Garden to where I was. He did keep good track on me at all times.

The Garden will not be the same without him. Known by many aliases (among them: Killer, Butterbutt, Magellan, Compost King, Happiness, da Puppy and Love Muffin), he will always be remembered for his loyalty and devotion to me and his huge presence that was way bigger than his 25 pounds.

He was my big, beautiful dog in so many ways and I will miss him more than I can describe.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pesto Da y 2009

Our pesto sign hauled out of storage waits to be placed announcing our 7th Annual Pesto Day before we got it hung out on Saturday. (The only free time I had to take photos...)

This year's Pesto Day was a success by many measures! First of all, it was the least stressful Pesto Day for everyone on my side of the serving line: we have gotten the plan down pretty well grooved and we had a superb group of volunteers manning all the different stations. We don't yet have a final tally, but we didn't go into the red - which is always the bottom line - if we make money (it IS a fundraiser!) we are very happy; but if we at least pay our way, it means we can do this again next year, which we want to do because it is FUN! And tastes great too!

A friend of mine who has been in the non-profit world once said to me, "David, you don't really have fund-raisers so much as you have friend-raisers..." Well, I hope we made a few new friends in The Learning Garden on Saturday. And I hope we see even more folks at The Learning Garden on our next adventure!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pesto Day - Excellent Yumminess On Its Way!!

It's not just basil and garlic, but that is the most important part of pesto - if you don't have spectacular basil and garlic, you won't have spectacular pesto. Our basil is Italian in origin, Genovesa Profutissimo and our garlic is an heirloom hardneck, usually Spanish Roja (if not, then we substitute Chesnok Red or Inchellium Red). Combine these ingredients with some good pine nuts, olive oil and some quality Parmesan cheese and you have a treat that is hard to beat.

Just to prove you can't make the same pesto at home that we sell at The Learning Garden, here's the Rockenwagner recipe that I started with about seven years ago. It makes a good pesto, but if you add in Genovesa and Spanish Roja, you have something to celebrate!

Always try to process as little basil as possible at one time. If you use a food processor, chill the bowl and the blade so they stay cool while you make the pesto. Make sure to cover the pesto tightly or store in an airtight container imediately after making it. The top layer will discolor faster than the rest you can keep a thin layer of oil on top to stop oxygen from getting to the pesto and causing discoloration, but this will add more oil to the pesto each time you use it. Some of us think this is not a problem.

2 cloves of garlic
1½ Tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
¾ cup plus ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients, except the ½ teaspoon olive oil, in a food processor and process until a puree forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer to an airtight container and pour the remaining ½ teaspoon of olive oil over the pesto, covering completely. Cover and refrigerate until needed (the pesto keeps for several days, tightly covered, but loses it’s bright green color after the first day).

Come on over to The Learning Garden this Saturday, September 26th, 2-5 PM and pick up a jar of our famous pesto, or just sample it in an Italian meal on our patio in the company of our neighbors and good folks. Troop 2131 is providing the lemonade!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last Tuesday - It's Been Busy Around Here!

Tina Gruen (curly hair on the right) and teachers gather at one of our picnic tables in The Learning Garden to go over the scheduling and plans for the first term of CASAA (Culinary Arts and Sustainable Agriculture Academy) at Venice High School. This new academy, Tina's brainchild and baby, will take students through a regular high school curriculum but will emphasis our relationship to food from the growing, preparing and getting it to the kitchen, through cooking it in a nutritional and appetizing way.

We in The Learning Garden are excited because this will be an important part of our Garden and will encourage students to see the whole food process beyond ordering a burger at McDonald's! Whatta concept!


Sunday, September 13, 2009


I'm very pleased to show this picture of corn from this year's harvest. A flat of unidentified corn plants had come to me needing the space to grow and I planted them out in June unsure of what I had on hand, except some vague mumblings from woman who gave them to me that she thought they might be some 'Indian corn.'

Like there was some other kind? But I took it to mean she thought they were a flour corn, not a 'sweet' corn. As they grew, the kernels did not look like sweet corn, some had neat rows, some were jumbled (like Country Gentleman). I never looked at all the corn, but I knew there were some different colors in the mix.

When I harvested the corn last week, I was dumbfounded pulling the shucks off the ears by the variety and beauty of the kernels! Look at the ear at the bottom of the photo, or the one on the right above the red ear! It is as if each kernel was hand painted by a meticulous painter, each one a true work of art. I am making sure I've got them dried enough to keep and I'll be planting the seeds of those two ears for certain in the coming year!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

PTSA Teacher Welcome Back Brunch

Teachers in the Garden! It's the end of Summer for sure now - the Venice High School PTSA has their annual Back To School Brunch for the teachers out on our patio. Lot's of good food and the teachers all seem to be eager to be back. Many compliments on the Garden, like "never looked better." I am grateful to all the volunteers who have spent so many hours in this Garden over the summer months! We have sent over 900 pounds of fresh food from this Garden so far this year and more will be sent off soon.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let Us Experiment; Post 2

It was just a couple of weeks ago I posted the cute little plants that comprise this summers' "Lettuce Experiment" tiny in their temporary six pack homes. A few weeks along and they look a lot more like lunch. Four of the five lettuces chosen for the project are happily growing on to size in our Garden

It hasn't turned out to be much of an experiment! This summer has been so darn cool that we're not getting a good look at which lettuce varieties are really heat-resistant. Smoke resistant maybe (some really bad wildfires are burning on the fringes of LA, but our skies are covered over with smoke and ash making breathing difficult, but proving which lettuces taste best growing under smoke and ash was not the point of this experiment!), but not so much heat resistant. We have had precious little heat until these last few days when it finally soared into triple digits. In this photo, green Jericho, is nestled in among the very dark red Bughatti, the vigorous Red Fire and the much more reticent Red Sails. Missing from this photo is Summertime which had very poor germination and hasn't made it out of its first six pack yet!

These photos which are making my mouth water to try, don't tell the story. A big ol' head of lettuce isn't worth the act of harvesting if it is bitter or tough. That's where the judging will really happen - by the forkful!

That's the point of growing your own.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Solar Oven Building Workshop, Cook Off And Party!!

Saturday, August 22
at the Learning Garden at Venice High School
corner of Venice Boulevard at Walgrove Avenue (Zip code is 90066)
(Enter Garden on Walgrove)

Build a Solar Cooker
Make a portable solar cooker with cardboard and foil with Joanne Poyourow of Environmental Changemakers. Please RSVP ( if you would like to make a cooker. There are only 20 places available, with a $15 materials fee. You are welcome to watch or help someone else. Written instructions will be provided so you can make your own at home.

Use Your Solar Cooker
Various seasoned solar chefs will present the art and science of cooking a meal with the sun. It is amazing how many dishes you can make using this slow cooking method.
While the food is cooking we will do some karma yoga in the garden or you can learn how to can, pickle or preserve some of the excess produce from the garden with David, the Gardenmaster. Take home a jar of your favorite pickles. (There will be a small materials charge if you choose this option.)

Celebrate Vidya's Birthday

5:00pm til dark
The real party starts! A solar-cooked feast! Feel free to join us at this time and bring a contribution to the vegetarian potluck meal. Music provided by The Lost and Found on their powered-down instruments. No gifts! Bring a story to share about what is was like in the '50s when Vidya was a little girl. We will continue until dark or until the candles run out.

Please RSVP

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Pretty Flower/An Obnoxious Garden Weed

It's not exactly a photographic gem, but this cute little white flower washes out too easily in sun (even on a cloudy day like today). This is Moonflower, Ipomoea alba and it is one of the most obnoxious weeds we have in our Garden. At least this honey bee has found it useful - I followed him through five different flowers before getting him to stay still long enough for my old camera to snap this shot. Most of the foliage in the photo belongs to the moonflower, but there are some grass leaves there as well. The moonflower shows the same leaf as it's twining sister, morning glory (and yams as well).

It spreads by seeds, like most members of the morning glory family, lots of seeds that are spread freely by birds. But this one also spreads by underground runners like Bermuda grass, except that these runners are very thin and break very easily making removal a tedious and timely process. All volunteers at this time are being sent down to weed this vigorous climber that has taken over the rose garden and threatens to ruin the high school beds. If allowed to persist, it climbs up the plants we want and smothers them by interdicting the sunlight. It won't kill most plants, but it will ruin production. I don't think this is a pest of much note in the rest of the US, but where there is no frost to kill it back, like here, it just engulfs a garden.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Harvest Basket

Red and yellow tomatoes co-mingle with green, yellow and orange peppers that is just a glimpse of our harvest right now! An awesome year of production with tomatoes getting hauled out of the Garden every day! In addition, I have been collecting the yellow banana peppers getting ready to learn how to pickle them this coming Saturday. There are few red jalapenos that I'm going to slice up and dry and the tomatoes, we're just going to eat. There are a bunch more in the Garden that are better for preserving and those will be the ones we roast and freeze (more on that in another post) and make sauce from.

Oddly enough, this has been a lousy year for tomatoes for a lot of nearby gardeners. I'm not sure why that should be so, but we haven't had as good a harvest as this since I started working here in 2002!

My paste tomatoes (San Marino) are being eaten by a mammal. As the remains are being left on the vine, I doubt it is the human mammal, more like squirrels, racoons or something along that line. One portion of corn near the tomatoes has been smashed down, and the corn stalks are all splayed out in all directions. It looks to me like a great fight or some mating took place in the middle of my corn. No dead critters, so I'm thinking the latter. Just don't tell school administration!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Lettuce Experiment

Lettuce is a fickle summer crop, usually refusing to grow into a decent sized plant before turning bitter and sending up a seed stalk. Seed catalogs always list a few lettuce varieties they describe as being 'heat resistant.' I always think, "yeah, 'heat-resistant' in northern Maine, but Southern California's heat is probably a different critter."

To satisfy my curiosity, I started five different types of lettuce offered by Pine Tree Seeds (of Maine) for a trial. Three of the five are in this photo, Red Sails, Red Fire and Bughatti. The other two, Summertime and Jericho haven't been transplanted like these three into one per cell six packs. We sowed each lettuce, initially five per cell, which should net us 30 seedlings. Summertime's germination was so lousy, we won't even get five. Jericho's germination was sufficient, but slower than these three.

Bughatti is the very (very) dark lettuce in the upper left, with Red Sails the smallest lettuce in the upper right. The bottom two six packs are filled with the vigorous Red Fire.

But the main criteria will be that they perform well enough to grow an edible head that is not bitter even in Los Angeles heat.

We'll have further updates as they mature.