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.