19 October, 2019

A Soils Bibliography by David King

Not all these books are "soil" books. "Out of the Earth" is a book about the history of soil as much as it is about soil, and likewise, "The Worst Hardtime" is about the degradation humans did to the soils of the mid-west in the 1920's resulting dust storms. Note, drive up the 101 for a few miles out of LA and look at how the fields and orchards are planted. It's the same way farmers plowed back in the 20's and 30's. (I just discovered that "Out of the Earth" now has quite a price. It must be out of print at this point.) 

Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil©1992 University of California Press , Hillel, Daniel. Hillel has written one of the most beautiful books on soil that has ever been published. This book introduces a little of soil science to the reader, but more than that, it fosters a love of the soil and an understanding about the magnitude and gravity of misuse and degradation; civilizations have paid little heed to the soil underfoot and it has cost them dearly. A delightful read!

Soils and Men, Yearbook of Agriculture 1938© 1938, United States Department of Agriculture, The Committee on Soils. A government publication, no sane person will read from beginning to end! It is referenced here because it clearly shows the US government knew about the soil food web as early as 1938 and chose to ignore that information in favor of more commerce in chemical based fertilizers. We are at a point where ignoring the soil food web is too costly to continue.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition, © 2010 Timber Press, Lowenfels, Jeff and Lewis, Wayne. This is the second edition of the book that blew my eyes open on the biology of the soil and how we cannot ignore that biology plays at least as big a part of soil fertility as chemistry. We ignore biology to our own detriment and destroy our soils.

The Rodale Book of Composting©1992 Rodale Press, Martin, Deborah and Gershuny, Grace Editors. This is the only book to read on composting. Everything else is compostable.

The Worst Hard Time, The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dustbowl © 2005; Mariner Reprint Edition, Egan, Timothy. Not strictly a soils book, but a real eye opener that shows how we are repeating many of the same mistakes today as what lead to the disaster we call the Dustbowl. This book is gripping reading and is not fiction. It really happened and it happened on a scale unprecedented in modern times. We can do it again if we fail to heed these words. A VERY good read on soils and man's relationship to them.

13 October, 2019

List of Seed Houses:

This a list, incomplete at least, is a good starting place. There are many, many more seed companies and sorting them can become a compulsive hobby. Oh but what fun!

BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS; www.rareseeds.com 2278 Baker Creek Road Mansfield, MO 65704; 417.924.8917 What a catalog! Beautiful pictures of the produce – vegetable porn for sure. I have found many off the wall and obscure seeds I've ordered from them. They are often the only source for some of these seeds. Anyone who works this hard in putting out a beautiful seed catalog is working with a great deal of love. Drooling is hardly optional here.

www.groworganic.com PO Box 2209; Grass Valley, CA 95945; 916.272.4769 I have purchased many seeds (and a lot of other things!) from Peaceful Valley – I love their catalog. They have an excellent selection of cover crop seeds as well as a lot of organic gardening supplies and tools. I have used their catalog to teach organic gardening because they clearly explain their products and how to use them. They are easily accessible for answering questions.

www.nativeseeds.org 526 N. 4th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85705; 520.622.5561 (Fax 520.622.5591) Specializing in the seeds of seeds of south western United States, concentrating on the ancient seeds of the First Nations People from amaranth to watermelon, a lot of them from the O'odam lineage. A worthy cause for your money. And good seed – some amazing varieties found no where else.
PINETREE GARDEN SEEDS; www.superseeds.com PO Box 300, Rt. 100; New Gloucester, ME 04260; 207.926.3400 Probably the best for a home gardener – small packets of very current seed and some open pollinated varieties, a very good value. The smaller packets mean a smaller price so a person can order a lot more varieties and experiment. I have been a customer for many years.

www.seedsavers.org Rt. 3 Box 239; Decorah, Iowa 52101; 563.382.5990 Membership fee $35. (You need not be a member to order seeds.) Free brochure. Some organic, but ALL open-pollinated. There are two ways to save seeds: one is to collect them all and keep them in a huge building that protects them from everything up to (and including) nuclear holocaust. The other way is to grow 'em. You can find the chance to grow them here. I have been a member for about 10 years and believe in their work.
SOUTHERN EXPOSURE SEED EXCHANGE; www.southernexposure.com P.O. Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117, 540.894.9480 (Fax: 540.894.9481) A commercial venture that is somewhat similar to Seed Savers Exchange, but really isn't an exchange. They do carry seed saving supplies - nice to have if you are going to save seed. And they sell some pretty different varieties. While they are in Virginia, most of their plants will do fine in our climate.

05 October, 2019

Urban Food Production, Fall 2019; UCLA Extension

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 garden space on the UCLA Campus near DeNeve Hall on the north west portion of the campus. It is not easy to find, I suggest going as a group the first time (at least) and getting your bearing that way. We do NOT have a classroom after the first meeting so we will meet at some picnic tables for all classes after the first. ** If it rains we meet any way. Most of our heavy rain is ahead of us, class will continue in a light rain.**

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 If You Plan on Gardening Here A Lot

Title The New Sunset Western Garden Book (NOT REQUIRED)
Author Brenzel, Kathleen Norris (Editor)
Edition Feb. 2012
Publisher Sunset Books
ISBN 978-0376039170

There will be no assigned reading from this 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. It is not required for the course.

This will be supplemented by postings on my Garden Notes blog, http://lagardennotes.blogspot.com/ . I hope to post most of the material in the days prior to the class when it will be used or immediately afterwards.

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 Second!!
Publisher Henry Holt
ISBN 978-0760359921
A NEW edition at last!!!
Title: Pests of the Garden and Small Farm
Author Flint, Mary Louise
Edition 2nd
Publisher Univ of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
ISBN-13: 978-1879906402
Title: The Resilient Gardener

Author Deppe, Carol
Edition First
Publisher Chelsea Green
ISBN-13: 978-1603580311

There will be no assigned reading from any of 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:

06 October
Introduction/Seed Starting/Urban gardening in context today/12 Points to a Better Garden,
Book Report/The Journal/Food crops of winter/succession plantings 
Soils and Hydrology 
Tools/Urban Gardens Bigger Picture
03 November
Planting/Sheet composting/Composting/ Planting Timing and Design/SLOLA/Seeds/Light/Water/
Sources/Annuals/ Soil Contamination and Remediation
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Beekeeping?
01 December
Chickens in the Urban Foodscape (Field Trip?)

Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck/Submit your journal etc for a grade. Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Visit Garden

(Syllabus may be changed as needed to reflect reality.)
Please note that in Fall quarter there are many 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

I have two over-arching goals in all the classes I teach:
      1. To teach folks how to grow some of their own food.
      2. To teach folks how to be a part of a community.
If you want a good grade, keep that in mind. These are the things we will need as a people in the very near future. If we don't learn this, we will be in deep trouble.

Therefore, 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 wish to earn more credit.

Each class, as we start, will usually begin with lecture and then proceed to the garden where we will share the garden chores and harvest.

You are encouraged to experiment in the 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 write a one or two page report. 

As often as I can, I 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?)

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 of plant sown from seed
  4. Choice of varieties sources and reasoning
  5. Success/failures discussed – alternatives to failures/expansion of successes
  6. Plans for the future
  7. Drawings (or photos) of the garden (either done by hand or by computer program) NOTE: this notebook is NOT your class notes – they might be included, but what I want are your garden observations!

Criteria for your garden plot grade:
  1. You should experiment and try something you have never done – explore – and make note of your experiment(s) in your notebook!
  2. Our plot and adjacent pathways must be cleared of weeds.
  3. Our plots and adjacent pathways must be well mulched. (Up to me to find the mulch.)
  4. All of our plot should be attractive and be growing some food.
  5. Your journal should indicate you learned something from the plot, your journal and your plot are intertwined and work together.
  6. When presented with the opportunity, you should cooperate with other students, help those in need and be a 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 in this class setting.

All handouts (including this syllabus) will be available on the blog site:

Please keep a sweater or jacket handy. Class is not canceled on account of rain. As long as you can hear my voice, class will go on, though I will try to get us out of the rain.

01 October, 2019

October Can Be Busy In The Garden!

The rest of the country is talking about putting perennials "to bed" and in our gardens we are madly planting all the cool season plants we love so much - garlic and all those wonderful alliums, and all the cabbage/broccoli family members as well as garbanzos and loads of other delicious food!

Do be weather wise!  While this is our cool season, it can still pack awfully hot days! How do you deal with that kind of a change? We've got this solved in a dynamite way that increases food production in the garden without a lot of extra effort. October we will focus on composting as one of our principles and an introduction to some of the science of gardening - all in a form that won't have you trying to stay awake!

Bring your questions and twenty bucks and you'll go home smarter with less tension cause you'll be more prepared for October in the Garden!

In the Garden this Saturday, October 5th, 10 to Noon, in our garden classroom - enter off Walgrove.  Come in layers of clothes for optimum comfort this close to the ocean!

See you there!


16 August, 2019

Getting Viable Seeds from Tomatoes

When tomatoes left the Americas for Europe, the pollinators were not imported with them. Tomatoes adapted by becoming inbred, that is, self-pollinating – a process we see continue in that older varieties of tomatoes are more likely to expose the inner parts of the flower while still fertile, whereas the more modern hybrids are more unlikely to expose the inner flower until after they have self-pollinated.

Joseph Lofthouse, a self-described “food shaman,” has set about to change that and allow tomatoes to cross in order to increase the wild genetics and support their genetic intelligence for dealing with insects, soil, climate and other environmental changes.

A few years ago, Lofthouse, crossed a domestic tomato to a wild relative. He intends to select for 100% out-crossing and hoping for huge flowers like the ancestors (note that tomatoes were first grown in France not to eat, but for the flowers!).

Black Krim Tomato - this is not a good variety for coastal
gardens - they need temps above 80͒° over all 24 hours!

Tomatoes as we know them in our gardens, are mostly self-pollinating. Each flower has both male and female parts and self-pollinate in the flower before the flower opens. Some of the older varieties, while being mostly self-pollinated, still expose the inner flower with its pollinating parts, to bee activity and will cross. Almost all the modern tomatoes will not do this which gives rise to the idea that tomatoes do not cross.

This is important only if you are saving seeds. If you merely want to eat tomatoes, it doesn't matter. But to save seeds, and not be surprised by what fruits you get, this is important.

Tomato plants that do expose the pistil and the stamens before you figure it out, will cross pollinate via bees to whatever pollen the bee has onboard. You don't see it in the first generation, but you will on down the line.

For most of us, inspecting the flowers almost daily for any exposed sex parts should be fine. If you go through the hassle of saving seeds, this is a minor inconvenience, but important to the work. You want to be sure what you are saving is what you think you are saving!

Once you have on hand a good specimen of the tomato you want to save, imagine the top part (where it was attached to the plant) is the North Pole and the other end, the blossom end, is the South Pole, cut the tomato in half thru the Equator.

Into a small bowl, squeeze the juice and the seeds. If it is an older variety tomato, you might find the seeds rather scarce, but work to get all you can – sometimes I use the point of my knife to get out those stubborn and hidden seeds.

Insure you have enough liquid to cover the seeds – if not, add a little water so they are covered.

Use cloth or paper towels to cover the dish and place it out of the way – in an area where you don't smell it. For me, it's no biggie because I don't have a really good nose for smelling, but for sensitive types, it is not pleasant I am told. Leave this alone for a few days – in hot weather, it will be quick, on cooler days, it might take three days or so. You are waiting for a scum to form on the surface of the mixture. Once this has begun, you are ready to move on to the next step.

Pour the mixture into a sieve, or a meshed strainer to thoroughly wash the goop that covers the seeds and lay them out on a surface to dry out of the sun. I use paper towels or sometimes, newsprint.

Once they are dry, really dry, put them in a protective container, with detailed info on what they are and the date, one on the inside and one on the outside. Believe me, this doubling up is really necessary – I have seeds all over from my early days that I have no idea what they are because of missing labels! All this work should not be for ought!

Store in a cool, dark and dry place until ready to plant again, or return them to the Seed Library to be shared next summer!


30 July, 2019

This Saturday: Growing Food in Southern California!

Outstanding in his field.
Gardenmaster David King 
Yup, it's the first Saturday of the month, which means 10 to noon, David King offers his monthly 2 hour class, Growing Food In Southern California - that's the real title, but most of us call it What To Do And When To Do It because that is the crux of the class. 

We have several different approaches this Saturday, mainly revolving around doing things that don't require a lot of effort when the thermometer is up towards the top of the gauge. A general workshop on sowing seeds of different sizes and a list of what you can plant now and strategies to help them survive. 

All this and some free seeds (some real gems too!) and your questions answered! Still only $20 at the gate - enter at the little pedestrian gate on Walgrove that says "Enter." We are clever that way!  

See you there! 


24 July, 2019

Grow Your Own Plants From Seed

Starting your own plants from seed is often treated as a mysterious and bedazzling craft that is up there in the same stratosphere as wizard work. It's not. It does require a little learning and more patience and attention, but other than that it's pretty simple and straight forward.

A seed wants to grow – it's not like you are trying to get your teenager to clean up their room – a seed really wants to grow and fulfill its mission in life. All you need to do is to provide the right conditions, and keep providing the right conditions, until the plant is definitely on its way. And, of course, at that point, you are keeping it alive in the garden. You see, it's not that much different.

Choosing your own seed allows you not only to choose varieties your local nursery isn't carrying, but allows you to choose multiple varieties that extend the length of your harvest or the breadthy of your harvest. It allows you to be organic from the very first drop of water the seed imbibes all the way to placing it before your family and friends at the dinner table.

All you need is some good seed catalogs and a little self-restraint (don't buy hundreds of dollars worth of seed at once – a little here, a little there would be much more realistic!); a potting medium (garden soil is NOT a potting medium for any plant and especially seedlings!); a place to make a mess and a bright area that gets enough sun (or light of some kind) to sprout seeds.

Long before you begin, go on some websites of seed purveyors and obtain a current catalog - get as many catalogs as you feel comfortable having and peruse them to your heart's content. What do you want to grow? What qualities do you admire in a tomato or a squash? Choose only a few the first time out. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, peas and other common vegetables are the best for learning. Order single packets!  Here's where I like Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine; they have a good selection of seed, but each package is packed with fewer seeds and sells for less – for most home gardeners, this is a godsend! I want to grow several varieties of tomatoes and don't need but a few plants of each, Pinetree makes that more possible and don't require an expenditure similar to a down payment on a home.

In reading the catalogs, you are looking for traits that suit your needs – I like to grow paste tomatoes, early tomatoes, and a couple of cherry tomatoes. I look all through my catalogs and compare maturity dates and size and descriptions of productivity to find the best finalists from which I will whittle down to my nine 'gotta haves' for this year.

The easiest way to do this is to place your seedlings in a bright spot that won't be too cold and is protected from critters of all kinds. This can be a simple table under a shade tree near your back patio, on the back patio, or, if all else fails, in a spare room in the house with fluorescent lights and a timer. I have done them all - including starting some plants in a professional greenhouse. It's still the same formula with slightly different tweaks. 

For containers, I typically recycle six-packs, four inchers (sometimes called quarts) and one gallon nursery pots. I also have some small terra cotta pots I use, but the plastic ones are (sadly) a lot easier. I fill these up with potting soil – if I can't find a brand as smooth as I want, then I sift out the big pieces and make a finer mix that way. Fill the chosen pot almost all the way full with the potting mixture and press down firmly. You will want to end up with a container in which the potting soil is below the outside edge of the pot – when you water, you want standing water on the top that remains there until it sinks in; a fully topped off pot would allow the water to run off without wetting the soil.

This will lead you to the next step nicely and smoothly – there is little chance you will ever learn to save seed if you don't grow your own plants from seed. I think this is essential to really becoming a gardener. In fact, most gardeners, who think they are good, will sheepishly confess when they don't feel competent growing from seed; like they know they haven't quite lived up to their own standard of being a 'good gardener'. It takes some learning to grow from seed, but it's not impossible or difficult – any more so than any other part of gardening. And once you learn to do it, you will be proud of your skill level and the plethora of choice you now have.

In the near past, some plants were grown in diseased greenhouses and the entire tomato crop in the east was affected. Don't import insects and disease into your garden - start from seed and have a good harvest!