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.