The Learning Garden, on the corner of Venice Blvd and Walgrove Avenue,
on the campus of Venice High School, has been a neighborhood resource for over 18 years
serving people of all walks who want to grow at least some of their own food and learn more
about nature. We have workshops in many different subjects all at a very reasonable price.
Thursday, January 16, 2020
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Seed Library of Los Angeles Invites all seed savers to join in this
project. Before bean season starts, we will have an inventory of the
beans discribed below, in addition to our own bean, the Pineschi
Seed One Community aims
to strengthen our community by providing
Friday, August 24, 2018
Thursday, June 15, 2017
|Instructors Orchid Black and David King, offering|
Greener Gardens This Summer
Greener Gardens: Sustainable Garden Practice will start this Tuesday evening, June 29 and runs through August 24. This class is one of the elective classes for the Gardening and Horticulture Certificate Program and the Sustainability Certificate Program.
Orchid and I have taught this course for several years at this point. We are ever astounded at the quality of our students and their willingness to approach a different way of looking at our everyday life and how our gardens are a point of impact on the world. Every action we take in our lives aligns our lifestyle with
This is not the definitive course on being sustainable, but it does impact the way we act in our immediate environment and with our food. Students have told us, this course features more than just a few aha moments!
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
This type of gardening might be called messy, but that is a response to what we grew up knowing of raising food. We thought those straight lines were done for the plants but they no, they suit a human paradigm. Today in the garden, we like how the breaking of straight lines leads us toward breaking up our old ideas about agriculture. The straight lines of the past were done to increase production and the ease of work for the farmer – but that was always predicated on tilling the soil. We don't till the soil (and we strongly urge you not to as well) and automatically, we are free to plant our plants anyway we want and not using rows allows us to fit more plants in per square feet. The increase in plants helps shade the soil and make the immediate microclimate more forgiving.
We aren't into a clean field – meaning, weeds are tolerated. In fact, in fallow beds we let them grow with impunity. There is nothing worse than bare soil and so we would rather have weeds growing up until the time we plant it. Furthermore, many of those "weeds" are fantastic forage for insects - and we want more insects not less. Leaving the weeds to flower - along with our crop plants to flower - provides sustenance for a bee population declining in free fall and for butterflies and birds. The idea is to have a large insect population to reach homeostasis in the soil.
Instead of tilling the soil, we put out 3 inches of compost in Fall and three more in Spring. This feeds the critters in the soil and they "plow" this material into the soil. Thousands of trips of worms and other critters mix our compost with the soil, feeding themselves in the process and causing vast multiplication of their kin. From this, we get soft loamy soil that absorbs up to 40% more water than unamended soil, with less loss of topsoil. Furthermore, the soil is pliable, soft and easy to plant. The critters in the soil increase the fertility of our soil without adding costly petroleum-based fertilizers and we get the compost for free!
We import large quantities of this material – turning waste products from other households into rich, fertile soil instead of being dumped into land fills. This composted material without tilling actually sequesters carbon in the soil. If farming were to do this kind of agriculture, we would be over 50% on our way to ameliorating the excess carbon in the atmosphere. (Put another way, the old style of agriculture - that is to say the agriculture from the 1950's to today - is the largest contributor of carbon in our atmosphere! Our little garden does not sequester that much carbon - but it shows the way.)
So, while we don't look like a conventional garden, our way offers a number of benefits:
- There is no need for tilling and all that expense of energy, mechanical as well as human.
- Plants are grown without the addition of expensive fertilizers and in the complete absence of pesticides. (These two points and one above are all reduction of our dependency on fossil fuels!)
- What was once a waste product going into our ever fuller landfills now becomes an integral part of food production – nothing is really wasted.
- The lack of tilling the soil means our garden is a carbon sink removing carbon from our atmosphere and sequestering it in the soil, where it once was before modern farming released it into the atmosphere at such an alarming rate.
- Allowing weeds to persist in unplanted areas helps keep insect populations high and in homeostasis.
- Permitting some plants in our garden to go to seed further supports our insect populations and allows us to save seed for next year's crops - increasing the number of locally adapted seeds that will produce in the LA Basin with its soil, water, and Mediterranean climate - all different from the rest of the country.
The benefits we create for ourselves and the world are too important to ignore. In the future, this is what gardening and farming will look like, not so far away. The expense of fossil fuels and their lack of availability is going to increase the price of fertilizers and pesticides to the point that they will no longer be efficient enough to be worthwhile. We will let the insects reach a point of homeostasis where there are no significant losses from insects as they take care of one another. Tilling with fossil fuels will become as rare as hand-writing letters are today. Food will be grown locally and the food miles will be measured in steps.
And carbon will be sequestered in the soil and the soil will once again hold water for a much larger space of time.
We can take a little mess for all this good.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
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 and your set. 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 pair to fit the different tasks you do in the garden.
A. Stand up gardening/Mulch, Compost moving
- Double digger, aka broadfork
- Spading fork
- Compost fork
- Grain Shovel
- Round point shovel
- Poachers spade
- Long handle vs. short handle
- Wheelbarrow/gardeners cart
B. Kneeling gardening
- Hand fork
- The Stick tool
- Kneeling pad/etc
- Wire brush
- Sharp serrated knives
- Watering can or hose
- Tape measure
- I include a radio with my kit
C. Container gardening
- Hand fork
- Kneeling pad (?)
- Watering can or hose
- Pot brush
- Container knife
- Seeding tool
- Swiss Army Knife
- Plastic tags
- Containers – baskets, bags, dishpan – to wash and clean produce (as needed)
- Pruners that fit your hand
- Folding saw
- Pole Pruner
- Large saw
- Sharp knife
- Specialty gloves if needed
G. Tool care
- Linseed oil for wood
- Any oil for metal
- Sharpening devices
- Sandpaper in different grades
H. Almost all kits have
- Knife or knives
- Measuring tape of some kind
Tool And Supply Sources
Lee Valley is primarily a Canadian company with some interesting ideas – things you'll NEVER see elsewhere. Some of them have proven really handy while others that I've bought have been duds. This is a catalog you'll mostly look through, wistfully hoping you have a rich uncle who is near death.
Gardeners Supply has some good items, I like them. If you see something you like, wait. It will be on sale and will be at a much more reasonable price. Avoid the plastic crap.
|A Half Moon Hoe... One Day it will be mine!|
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply always carries some good tools, their prices are reasonable, but their shipping can kill any buzz you might get on price. Their website is a nightmare to use – go there, find their phone number and call for a print catalog.
John Jeavon's company has stuff you can't usually find anywhere else, like old-time wooden flats (instead of plastic).
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has small quantities of seed saving supplies – if you play in that field – everything from corn shellers to self-sealing seed envelopes.
Frost Proof Supply is mainly for professionals, but they have things that are hard to find and they carry a full line of tools. I have found them reasonable. Their website sucks and they don't have a print catalog.
And I get a lot of my tools and supplies online through eBay, twine, dibbers (from England!), good prices on Haws Watering Can (yes, you can find the FineAsRain roses with the rubber back there too) and service is usually quick. The drawback is that many of these folks are there to sell sell sell and they really have no concept of the actual product, but, on the other hand, I have bought a LOT of stuff on eBay and I've been less dissatisfied than I have been with companies here in LA where I could walk in the store! Often times there is no such thing as service and eBay is well policed and hats off to their policies that make the consumer really King.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
|Our almost completely cleared out driveway that was loaded with compost and wood chips!|
We estimate that almost 140 cubic feet of compost went into the high school garden beds!
Those of you who had seen our driveway lately might be kind of shocked to see it so empty. It took a crew of about 20 people to clear all that compost and wood chips out of our drive and put them all to work in the garden.
More than half went into the high school students' beds raising the level of organic matter by inches. Organic matter - in this case, compost that wasn't quite finished - is essential for the growth of good plants and it helps the soil sequester carbon - besides making for the sweet yummy stuff gardeners all over the world love to have in their garden!
This work could not have been done without the 20+ volunteers that stepped up for The Learning Garden in the annual Day of Service that is put on by the Agape International Spiritual Center. We count ourselves privileged to be able to participate year after year because these folks come out with the attitude that they are here to change the world - and they do change ours.
Gardeners know, though it cannot be seen today, the work we did yesterday will be seen by the students when they return in August. The soil we were able to cover with unfinished compost topped off with wood chips, will be moist and full of life while the areas that remain bare to the elements, will be chalky dry and difficult to work. The mulched areas will also be more free of weeds.
Our volunteers got the majority of the high school beds covered in one day! We'll get restocked with material and we'll go at the rest of the beds and try to have the entire high school garden area covered before school starts again.
Thank you, Agape volunteers! Your work was outstanding! Thank you thank you thank you for your work, for your joy and for your willingness to take a tough project and do the work with laughter and enthusiasm!