11 December, 2007

Winter Solstice Celebration!

Stop by The Learning Garden on the way to (or instead of) another holiday party... You can join your favorite tree huggers (that’s us!) for short and sweet celebration of the Winter Solstice (our 4th annual!)

Saturday December 22, 6:30-8:30PM or any portion thereof

We’ll share the fire, hot chocolate, (and some of your cookies if you care to bring any), tall tales, resolutions and song.

The only gift we seek this darkest night of the year, is the company of good friends.

See you at The Learning Garden
on the Venice High School Campus
13000 Venice


Culver City Garden Club: 2008 Schedule

(This was a handout I was to give to all students on this last Saturday, oops...)

NOTE: The ‘Garden Room’ is located in the Culver City Veterans Memorial Hall at 4117 Overland Avenue (the intersection of Overland and Culver Blvd.) Culver City. If you do nothing else with this information, do make it out to their annual club show and sale, I can’t say enough about it – it has a real ‘mid-American’ feel and is a virtually unknown treasure right here in the middle of West Los Angeles!

January 8 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room with Connie Vadheim Roth, “Beautiful in Blue/Pretty in Pink: A Wildflower Garden”

February 5 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room with Al Palacio, “Begonias”

March 4 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room, speaker TBA

April 1 – 7:30 PM Potluck: Garden Room

May 6 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room, Show Preparation

June 3 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room

June 27 – Show Set Up Culver City Auditorium, 3- 8 PM

June 28 & 29 – 54th Annual Club Show and plant Sale, Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 4 PM

July 1 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room

August 5 – 7:30 PM Potluck: Garden Room

September 2 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room

October 7 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room

November 4 – 7:30 PM Meeting: Garden Room

Dec 2 – 7:30 PM End of the Year Potluck: Garden Room

The Culver City Garden Club was founded in 1953 as a general-interest organization with an objective of sharing, acknowledging and appreciating the growing of flowers, trees and fruits & vegetables. It is a state recognized non-profit organization and is co-sponsored by Culver City and is a member of California Garden Clubs, Inc. The club usually meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM in the Garden Room of the Veterans Memorial Complex. The annual Garden Show & Sale held annually in the summer is one of the gems of the Southern California horticultural calendar. The club has also sponsored the planting of trees around the Auditorium and in Veterans Park. Yearly membership dues are $12 for one and $18 for two. Everyone in the area is welcome to our meetings and to join the club.

03 December, 2007

Pest Control Bibliography

Abiotic Disorders of Landscape Plants, A Diagnostic Guide, Costello, Laurence et al, ©2003 UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Publishing, Most of the problems one faces in the garden are not from pests – unless you count the two legged kind. More often than not, the problem is something to do with too much or too little water or other natural resource. These are ‘abiotic disorders’ and most of the time, this is the book you will need to diagnose the problem.

Common-Sense Pest Control
, Olkowski, William, et al © 1991, Taunton Press This is a well written comprehensive text dealing with pest control. No color pictures, but lots of black and white ones and charts. This one is better for learning how to strategize against pests and so is better for more advanced reading into the art and science of pest control – if this is the kind of subject that cranks your tractor. Taunton Press is the place of origin for Fine Gardening Magazine among others.

Find-It-Fast Answers for Your Vegetable Garden
, Bradley, Fern Marshall, ©2007, Rodale Inc. Arranged encyclopedic style, this book has entries on crops as well as pests, and one might find information either way. I am just becoming familiar with it’s many helpful suggestions (it boasts “1,241 ways to outsmart insects, diseases and weeds…” so it’s likely to take a few more days to cover the whole enchilada), and it’s useful to have this up to date volume on hand. The down and dirty pest illustrations towards the back of the book may well be worth the price of admission alone.

Good Bugs for Your Garden
, Starcher, Allison ©1995, Algonquin Books Written by a Los Angeles local, this book is a treasure for us here – with carefully executed drawings for which she has won numerous awards, Starcher magnificently draws each stage of beneficial insects to help you recognize what that strange critter in front of you really IS.

Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs, Dreistadt, Steve et al ©2004, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Publishing, Like the one below, this is a University of California book and represents one of the three ‘essential’ plant pest books listed here (the others are Abiotic Disorders and the next one on the list, Pests of the Garden and Small Farm). With these three books as references, if you can’t figure out your plant problems, you have something radically new and different, or you haven’t looked hard enough.

Pests of the Garden and Small Farm, A Growers Guide to Using Less Pesticide, Flint,. Mary Louise, ©1998, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Publishing This is the second edition and it’s even better than the first. Subtitled, “A Grower’s Guide to Using Less Pesticide,” it, and its sister volume, Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs, are loaded with color photographs of all the pest (including insects, rodents, diseases, fungi and all the things that make gardeners grow gray hair) and the effects of the pests on our plants. A very valuable resource! This one is targeted at growers of food plants.

Sunset Western Garden Guide 8th Edition, Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Editor, ©2007, Sunset Publishing This is the book that will help you grow healthy plants on the West Coast and if you have healthy plants, you’ll need to use the other books a lot less. Not a lot of data on pests and their management, but some color photos. (p. 704)

Trowel and Error, Lovejoy, Sharon, ©2003, Workman Publishing With lists from “Clever Uses for Ordinary Household Items” to “Tricks, Traps and Beneficial Helpers” this is one of the most clever compendiums of gardening lore and information you can find today. Written with humor and style, Lovejoy’s book is a must on any organic gardener’s shelf. It doesn’t cost much and it will save you that amount a thousand times over!


02 December, 2007

Saturday Field Trips!

This coming Saturday will be 'Field Trip Saturday' for both of my classes.

Culver City Adult School
- meet at The Learning Garden at 10 - we will be in class from 10 AM to about 1 PM. Parking will be available in the Venice High School back parking lots and on the street as well.

UCLA Extension Class - your field trip to The Learning Garden starts at 2:00 and goes until 5:00 PM - it is a potluck. Parking is the same as above. Please note that the original posting of this entry stated 1:00. Ah, not so! It is TWO PM to 5:00 PM. Bring food.

The VHS monthly Swap Meet will be going on from about 9 to 2 in the faculty parking lot just to the east of the Garden - if you like that sort of thing, come early, leave late and take a waltz through the vendors.

Wear clothes appropriate to the weather and expect to get dirty - both classes will be doing things in the Garden unless it's just pouring rain!

We will meet regardless of the weather because we need to finish the promised hours of instruction for both classes.
If it is a real 'gully washer' I'll locate some shelter for us and we'll figure out a way to make it work for us as best as we can!

Extension students: Never mind bringing a grading card or envelope - I have learned your grades will be available online as soon as I have posted all the grades for the class - expect that to be done close to the Monday following our last scheduled meeting.

Call me with questions.


26 November, 2007

Drip Irrigation Lecture Notes for 26 November, 2007


Drip irrigation was brainchild of farmers in the 1960’s – primarily Israeli farmers – needing to water their crops sufficiently and yet conserve water. Drip made it’s way into landscaping in the 1980’s and has continued to improve.

Drip irrigation saves water (and therefore money) in several different ways. The cost of a drip system is so much lower than conventional irrigation that one can install several successive bad drip systems and start over for less money than one bad in ground system.

Drip puts water close to the base of the plant and away from undesirable plants.

Traditional watering methods deliver water faster than most soils can absorb.

Anther advantage of drip is that you can deliver precisely predetermined amounts of water to plants over a wide area.


Minimizes water lost to evaporation before getting to plant Plastic parts wear out or come apart
Minimizes water lost to wind Doesn’t wash out salt build up
Water is directed towards desirable plants and away from undesirable plants Bad for golf courses
Excellent for pots! Many noodgey little parts that get damaged or lost
Easy to install and adapt Not efficient for established trees
No trenching! Tubing is exposed!
Can be easily used with other systems Rodent/human damage
First evidence of a system problems is usually a dead or dying plant

Another advantage of using a low flow drip system is that you do not need high pressure to supply the drippers and micro-sprinklers. Most drip systems run about 15 to 30 PSI (pounds per square inch). For comparison most houses have water pressure of anywhere from 40 PSI to 60 PSI. The benefit is that you do not have to worry about large pressure drops in your household water flow just because the irrigation system has turned on; for example you will not notice if the system goes on when you are in the shower!
Starting To Drip

How you will connect to your water source depends on several factors:
1. How large of a system will be needed?
2. Your expertise and desires
3. Water quality and pressure
4. Site requirements

Types of connections:
1. Simply screwed onto the end of a hose bib (use a Y connector)
2. Tee’d off the water supply

Valve type:
1. By hand
2. Inline controller, usually battery powered
3. Multi-station controller wired to valves

Pipe wrenches
Hack saw
Emitter punch
Electric drill
Masonry bits
Screw drivers
Several pliers

Emitters (aka drippers)
Poly tubing – ½” and ¼”
Anti-siphon device
Pressure regulator
A million adapters & noodgey parts
WD 40
Plumbers tape

Designing Your System

Rule 1: You cannot exceed your water supply!
If you only have 100 gallons per hour (GPH) of water supply (example only) then you cannot make one system/watering zone that uses 200 gallons per hour (GPH). Just common sense! What we can do in this case is to make more than one watering zone from the same water source – divide and water.
Rule 2: You must have some water pressure, but not too much!
Most homes have between 40 to 60 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch). This is just fine for a drip system, in fact it is more than you want but this is good! On a drip system we always want to have the pressure between 20 to 30 PSI. For this we have preset pressure regulators.

Rule 3: Only a certain amount of water can flow through a given size pipe at a set pressure!
This one sounds serious but it is simple and one of the numbers/rules to memorize. As an example, our .700 size polytube at 25 PSI can have only 220 gallons per hour (GPH) flow through it. So even if your water source can supply more the polytube cannot support it. This means that if you have a preset pressure regulator (which is 25 PSI) you can only have a maximum flow rate of 220 GPH from each polytube. This is important because all the water outlets (drippers & microsprinklers) cannot exceed this maximum flow of 220 GPH. All of our products have flow rates listed so it is easy to add up the total water usage from each emitter and microsprinkler.

Rule 4: You cannot go an unlimited distance on a single polytube!
Even if you have a single dripper at the end of a line you cannot run any distance you want. This is where the laws of physics get in the way again! For every "X" amount of feet you run the polytube (or any pipe) you will loose a certain amount of pressure due to "Friction Loss" (don't ask about friction loss only engineers need to know this stuff!). So anyway you have to obey the maximum line lengths allowed, these are listed for almost all the drippers and microsprinklers we sell.

To plan your system correctly you will need to find out your available water supply (how many gallons per hour your system produces).
To do this, follow these steps.
Turn on the water supply all the way
Place a 5 gallon bucket in the water flow for set amount of time. We will use 30 seconds as an example.
At the end of 30 seconds take the bucket out of the water flow.
Turn off the water supply. (we know, but..........we gotta say this!)
Check the bucket and estimate the amount of water in it. Or measure it with a gallon milk jug.
We will use an example: Let's say 1/2 of the bucket is full, remembering that our bucket holds 5 gallons......1/2 full must be close to 2.5 gallons. Take the amount of water in the bucket and multiply it out so you will know how much it would have been if you left the bucket under the water flow for a full minute. In our example we have 2.5 gallons in 30 seconds, or half a minute. Because we want the number of gallons per minute we use the calculation 2.5x2 = 5 gallons. If we had gotten 2.5 gallons of water in 15 seconds then we would have done 2.5 gallons x 4, because 15 seconds is ¼ of a minute.

Take your answer from step 6 (above) and multiply it by 60. Our example would be 5 x 60 = 300. The 60 is for 60 minutes because we want to find the Gallons per Hour (GPH) total water available. In our example we have 300 gallons per hour (GPH) available for our system.

Take an overall look at the area to be watered. If the area slopes, one must consider how steeply it slopes and in which direction. Elevation change is another factor that leads to pressure variations. If the tubing runs downhill, pressure increases by .433 psi per vertical foot. An equal amount of pressure is lost when the system runs uphill. If the difference between high and low points of the system is no more than 25 vertical feet and pressure-compensating emitters are used, then the pressure variation is acceptable. On a hilly site with greater elevation changes, the main problem is that the pressure starts to strain the tubing and fittings. Our solution is to start with a 20 psi pressure regulator at the top of the slope, and install an extra 20 psi pressure regulator every 25 feet down. Decide whether each area is best watered with drippers or microsprays.

Factors to Consider Between Drippers and Micro-sprays
Can be completely hidden by mulch, protected from sun and human damage Cannot be completely hidden, vulnerable to disturbance by children, pets and other critters
Need a larger number to water annual beds or ground covers Can be placed 5 to 8’ apart ameliorating tubing use; easier to cultivate around
Precise placement of water Not as precise, poor choice for decks; wider wet area increases weed growth
Minimum water loss by evaporation 20-30% water loss due to evaporation
In a typical landscape, the water use by plants in a drip system improves as the plants mature. Roots growing deeper increase the depth at which water may be utilized by plants Coverage from spays deteriorates as plants grow and block spray pattern
Maintenance of a drip system requires careful attention and inspection Misters obviously are working or they are not

If you are contemplating watering your whole landscape, or collections of plants with wildly varying needs, with drip – and it’s an extensive project – you will need to divide your project into different zones, each one controlled by its own valve. This still doesn’t elevate installing a drip system to rocket science mode.
Design Considerations

Water moves downwards in soil due to gravity and from particle to particle in all directions due to capillary action. In coarse sandy soil, gravity affects water movement more than capillary action. In finer soils such as clay, capillary action is much stronger, so water will tend to spread before penetrating very deep. An emitter in sandy soil may suffice for an area 16" in diameter, while the same emitter in clay soil may wet an area 24" or more in diameter. A field test is useful: slowly drip water from a garden hose on the soil to be irrigated; after half an hour, check to see how deep and wide the water has spread. Be sure to dig down into the soil away from the obvious wet area on the surface to see the extent of coverage.

Drip emitters are typically available in flow rates of 1/2, 1, or 2 gallons per hour. Factors that influence the choice of flow rate include:
(1) different rates are used to give different amounts of water to plants on the same system;
(2) sandy soil takes a fast drip rate, while a 2 gph dripper in clay soil produces a puddle of water and may result in dirty water getting back into the drip tubing;
(3) choosing slower drippers allows you to use more in a single zone, and allows longer runs of tubing.


As lines are laid out, the tubing may have to be secured until it takes shape. This can be done with stakes designed for this purpose. Leaving a little slack in the lines will allow for expansion and contraction from temperature changes, and will help prevent emitters from moving out of position.

Emitters- Once the lines are in place and flushed, the emitters can be installed. Simply make a hole in the tubing with a hole punch, then pop the barbed end of the emitter into the hole. If you punch a hole in the wrong place, it can be fixed with a goof plug.

There are four ways to install emitters. The most common method is to place the emitter directly on the line. This way you only have to punch the hole and pop in the emitter. Another way is to install a connector into the line, run 1/4" tubing to the place where the water is desired, and push the emitter into the end of the tubing. A third way is to place the emitter on the tubing and use 1/8" or 1/4" tubing to transport the water to the base of each plant. Finally, you can cut 1/4" tubing and insert an in-line emitter that drips and also allows water to pass through to the next emitter.

To install a spray, first punch a hole in the main line and insert a 1/4" connector. A short length of 1/4" tubing then leads from the connector to a stake. The spray screws directly into the stake and can be raised with an extender if it is blocked by plants. Some misters are supplied already attached to a spike which pushes into the soil, and a barb to which you attach 1/4" tubing to supply water. Others are designed to be attached directly to tubing above the plants—in a greenhouse or above a hanging basket, for example.
Drip in Containers

All but the smallest containers need several emitters placed in them because soil is so much more loose than garden soil that water from each emitter moves downward without enough sideways spread. The irrigation strategy is to place drip emitters 6" apart, or to attach small adjustable bubblers to spread the water. Useful products include mini-inline emitters, 1/4" emitter lines, shrubblers, and vortex sprays.
If a new installation, tubing can be run up through the drain hole (and out of sight).

Adjusting the number and size of emitters in a container drip system takes some experimenting, especially if the containers are of different sizes. Run the system and see which containers the water runs out of first. You either have to decrease the flow in these or increase the flow rate to the other containers on the system. This process will also help you set the run time for the system.

Dripping Vegetables

While veggies want baseline of moisture in their root zone, frequent overhead watering encourages rust, mildew, blossom damage in more than a few species and these weaken plants leading to the possibility of disease.

Depending on your personal needs and likes, vegetables can be watered using in-line drippers – either in ¼” or ½” poly tubing – or by using soaker hose. If plants are more widely spaced and deeply rooted (for example, tomatoes and squash), plain poly tubing can be utilized with a single emitter placed at the base of each plant. Root crops such as carrots, onions, and radishes can be planted two deep on each side of a single emitter line. With plants such as corn, strawberries, and peppers, one row on each side is preferable.

You want a simple system that is flexible and can be easily moved for cultivation and replanting.

Ornamental Beds

Drip can really shine in the ornamental border. Established shrubs can have their own more or less permanent drip line and emitters, while smaller plants, or areas given over completely to annuals can be watered using small sprays or emitters on a ¼” line that is rerouted as needs change.

Times and intervals for watering different plants are greatly affected by the factors of soil type, root depth, air temperature and humidity, wind and the plant’s maturity. The deeper the roots and the finer the soil, the longer the watering time must be, but you can reduce the frequency of watering because clay will hold the water tenaciously. Shallow root zones and sandy soil types will require frequent waterings of a shorter duration.
The object of each watering is to bring the moisture in the root zone up to a satisfactory level. Once the desired moisture content is reached, no more water should be applied. Too much water cuts off necessary oxygen and washes nutrients out of the reach of the roots. Before the soil has dried out too much the system should be run again. In this way the plants can be maintained in near optimal conditions.

The only way to come up with appropriate times for your garden is through observing plant and soil moisture conditions, asking local experts (agricultural extension agents, nursery personnel), and continuous twiddling with your watering times and intervals to maximize growth and minimize water use.

Some Suggested Watering Times to Start With:
Type of Plant Time (in hours) Intervals (in days)
Low Shrubs (2-3’) 2 3
Shrubs and trees (3-5’) 3 4
Shrubs and trees (5-10’) 4 5
Trees (20’ and over) 5 6
Flower beds 1 2
Ground covers 1 2
Vegetables – close spacing .5-1 2
Vegetables – wide spacing 1.5 2
Potted plants 1-10 mins 1

Selection, Number and Spacing of Emitters
Flow Rate (GPH) Number of Emitters Placement of Emitters
Low shrubs (2-3’) 1.0 1-2 At plant
Shrubs and trees (3-5’) 1.0 2 1-12” either side
Shrubs and trees (5-10’) 2.0 2-3 2’ from trunk
Shrubs and trees (10-20’) 2.0 3-4 3’ apart
Trees (over 20’) 2.0 6 or more 4’ apart
Flower beds 1.0 1 At plant
Groundcover 1.0 1 At plant
Vegetables, closely spaced 0.5-1.0 1 Every 12”
Vegetables, widely spaced 1.0-2.0 One per plant At plant


Occasional maintenance should be carried out on all drip irrigation systems. Inspect the flow from each emitter, flush lines by unscrewing the end caps and turning the water on, and clean the filter. The development of drip irrigation products now in their third decade has led to successful and trouble-free systems for both the farmer and the homeowner. The design of a system using filtration and quality emitters will make maintenance a simple quarterly task. Visual inspection of the system is the best way to observe performance, and can be done in minutes while gardening.

Plan a complete inspection of your system at the beginning of each season. This may be all that you need to do unless there is much foot traffic or animal damage. The other time to check your system carefully is after any new planting or garden maintenance that may have damaged the tubing. If you are having trouble with your system, conduct the standard maintenance procedures first. If the problem is a single emitter, replace it. If it is more widespread, look for a break in the lines. If the problem cannot be determined by observation, it may be a result of inadequate water supply or faulty system design.

Goof plugs can be used to plug holes from which emitters have been removed. They are very simple to use, and are indispensable when doing repair work or changing your pattern of plantings. Likewise, couplings come in very handy when any repair needs to be done on a damaged section of line. Simply cut out the damaged section and install a new piece using the couplings to connect the two pieces together. Goof plugs and couplings should be ordered with all systems. If they are not needed in the initial installation, they will form the backbone of your repair kit.

(Note: the actual handouts that follow should have illustrations and figures in them, but I can't figure how to get them out of Word into the blog. If you feel you need them, email me and I'll shoot you originals. david)

A Non-Exhaustive Drip Irrigation Glossary

Anti-siphon A device, required by most municipal codes, that must be located at the beginning of any irrigation run. There are several technologies, but regardless of how they work, they all are designed to prevent a sudden drop of water pressure (i.e. from a major pipe break) from allowing water that is in irrigation lines from being sucked back (“siphoned”) back into the potable water supply.
Aquapore Brand name of a soaker hose
Barbed fitting or barbed emitter A fitting or emitter designed to be placed into tubing and held in place by barbs.
Compression fitting Fittings to couple tubing (usually ½”) together – placed on the OD of the tubing
Coupler A fitting designed to bring two items of like size (such as ½” or ¼” tubing) together; coupling unlike items is called “adapting”
Downstream Further from the water source
Drip irrigation 1. The slow application of water directly to the plant's root zone. Because the water is protected from wind and sun until it is deposited at ground level, more water is brought to the plant without waste, usually resulting in a 50% savings on a given water bill. Drip irrigation water usage is measured in gallons per hour (GPH) vs. other irrigation practices that are measured in gallons per minute (GPM).
Drip irrigation 2. A modern methodology for reducing even above average intelligent human beings into extended states of blithering idiotry with very low cost and effort. In this sense, often referred to as “drip irritation.”
Dripper Technically called an “emitter,” a plastic device that is engineered to allow a set amount of water pass through it – often actually in visible drips, giving it its rather unfortunate name.
F Female, used with thread designation
Goof plugs Your new best friend. Any hole made in the wrong place can be plugged with one of these – and they are cheap!
GPH Gallons (of water) per HOUR
GPM Gallons (of water) per MINUTE
HT Hose thread
ID Internal diameter
Injectors Devices to put (inject) fertilizer (as well as pesticides if so desired) into the water of a system.
In-line drippers Tubing with the drippers (emitters) built into the tubing at set spacings.
In-line valve Valve placed into the system to allow one part of the system to be turned off. Valuable for flexibility.
M Male, used with thread designation
OD Outer diameter
Poly tubing Plastic (polyethylene) tubing that comes in a variety of sizes – usually measured by the ID, i.e. ½” or ¼” or even 1” – it can be painted to obfuscate its presence!
Pressure compensation (Usually applied to drippers.) Engineered to deliver a uniform flow rate even if the incoming pressure varies.
Pressure regulator Lowers water pressure to a pre-set level that is appropriate for a drip system. Must be physically higher than any emitter placed downstream.
PSI Pounds per square inch; the measure of pressure in a water line
PT Pipe thread
Soaker hose Tubing that ‘sweats’ or ‘weeps’ along its entire length that provides a convenient low pressure manner of watering row crops, perennial borders and raised beds. Easily configured and even more easily reconfigured.
Threaded barbs A fitting that can be used as a barbed fitting but has the advantage of having threads as well that can hold threaded attachments making it more universally useful – and more expensive.
T-tape Low cost tubing often used in agricultural applications.
Upstream Closer to the water source
Vacuum breaker An anti-siphon device
Valve On and off point; can be as simple as a hose bib or as complex as one valve among many wired to a controller with variously scheduled on and off times

General Drip Irrigation Guidelines (AKA Starting Points)

Some Suggested Watering Times to Start With:
Type of Plant Time (in hours) Intervals (in days)
Low Shrubs (2-3’)...........2...............3
Shrubs and trees (3-5’).....3...............4
Shrubs and trees (5-10’)....4...............5
Trees (20’ and over)........5...............6
Flower beds.................1...............2
Ground covers...............1...............2
Vegetables – close spacing .5-1.............2
(That's point 5, or 1/2 to 1 hour.)
Vegetables – wide spacing 1.5..............2
Potted plants..............1-10 mins........1

Selection, Number and Spacing of Emitters
Flow Rate (GPH) Number of Emitters Placement of Emitters
Low shrubs (2-3’)-------1.0-----------------1-2----------------------At plant
Shrubs and trees (3-5’) 1.0------------------2-------------------1-12” either side
Shrubs and trees (5-10’)2.0------------------2-3-------------------2’ from trunk
Shrubs and trees (10-20’)2.0-----------------3-4-------------------3’ apart
Trees (over 20’)---------2.0-----------------6 or more-------------4’ apart
Flower beds -------------1.0-----------------1--------------------At plant
Groundcovers ------------1.0-----------------1--------------------At plant
Vegetables, closely spaced 0.5-1.0-----------1--------------------Every 12”
Vegetables, widely spaced 1.0-2.0-----------One per plant---------At plant

Remember, actual amounts of water will depend on soil type, composition, air and soil temperatures and presence or lack of humidity and wind. NOTHING takes the place of thoughtful, informed decisions made by you on the scene.

To plan your system correctly you will need to find out your available water supply (how many gallons per hour your system produces).
To do this, follow these steps.

1. Turn on the water supply all the way
2. Place a 5 gallon bucket in the water flow for set amount of time. Let’s use 30 seconds as an example.
3. At the end of 30 seconds take the bucket out of the water flow.
4. Turn off the water supply!
5. Check the bucket and estimate the amount of water in it.

Or, somewhat more precisely, measure it with a gallon milk jug. Let's say 1/2 of the 5 gallon bucket is full. Which means it’s half full and that would figure to be close to 2.5 gallons. Take the amount of water in the bucket (~2.5 gallons) and multiply it out for a full minute. In this example, there is 2.5 gallons of water in 30 seconds, or half a minute. Because we need the number of gallons per minute, use the calculation 2.5 x 2 = 5 gallons. (If 2.5 gallons of water in 15 seconds then we would have done 2.5 gallons x 4, because 15 seconds is ¼ of a minute.)

Take your answer and multiply it by 60. Our example would be 5 x 60 = 300. The 60 is for 60 minutes because we need the Gallons per Hour (GPH) of total water available. In our example we have 300 gallons per hour (GPH) available for our system. At no point, can you exceed that limit of 300 gallons per hour and still have an efficient system. That would be the equivalent of 300 one GPH emitters on one valve at one time.

It is impossible to state an approximate of GPH available at any given tap in LA – some areas have tremendous water pressure, but you can be in such an area with old pipes and a poorly designed system that reduces that wonderful water pressure down to a drizzle. The only way to know is turn the water on and see what you have there.

If water pressure is a problem, which would be rare in a city setting, simply use more valves with fewer drippers.

23 November, 2007

Extension Recipe #3: French Lentil & Sorrel Soup

Adapted from Bittman's Best Recipes in the World - I tripled the amounts and I used my little stick mixer right in the pan for the puree.

· ¾ cup French green lentils Substituting one can cannelini beans
· 4 cups vegetable broth, essentially one 32 ounce box.
· 1 cup water
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 small bunch sorrel leaves, chopped (about 4 ounces)
· 1 teaspoon sugar

Simmer the lentils in the broth and water for 20 minutes. In a pan, sauté the sorrel leaves in oil on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes until the leaves wilt. Add the sorrel to the lentils along with the teaspoon of sugar and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Puree the soup and adjust for salt.

It needed pepper. And it's so quick!



This is the best way to have chard! We've had so much chard that I've gotten rather sick of it. Folks have scolded me on letting chard plants go to seed, but I tell them, if they insist we eat ALL the chard, they better get a truck and I'll fill it up for them. Sooner or later, everyone has too much chard. This was a good, hearty soup and we all loved it. Again, let the following be your guide and expect that I changed it as I went about making it.

This dish might seem to have daunting ingredient list. But don’t be put off; enough of the ingredients will already be lurking in your kitchen. And, if you leave out any one of the spices, it will probably still turn out well. This dish can be made from start to finish on a weeknight. And the flavor is a lovely mélange of spices, slight sweetness from the raisins, and savory flavors from the chickpeas. Serve with rice or quinoa for hearty vegetarian dinner.

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ sweet onion, minced
• 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked according to preference)
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon turmeric
• ¼ teaspoon thyme
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ cup golden raisins
• 1 tablespoon organic tomato paste
• 1 bunch chard (about 8 ounces) washed, center ribs removed, and chopped
• 1 cup cooked chickpeas plus 1 ¼ cups of their cooking liquid, or 1 can organic chickpeas with liquid plus ½ cup water
• 1 teaspoon hot sauce or ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Add the olive oil, onion, and garlic to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or 3-4 quart pot, and turn the heat to medium. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then add the paprika, cumin, turmeric, thyme, salt, and cinnamon. Stir together and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low.

Be sure to stir every 3-5 minutes to ensure that the bottom does not burn and that your ingredients are evenly combined. You can add a tablespoon of rice flour if you like your stew thicker. Remove from the heat after 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Extension Recipe #1: Dolmas

(As I sat down to do this, I realized that it might be damn near impossible to get the REAL recipe to you! I KNOW for a fact, to start off, that I don't use a quarter teaspoon of any spice, so PLEASE, realize folks, these instructions that follow only represent a starting place.)

Stuffed Grape Leaves

1 cup long grain rice
¼ t ground cinnamon
¼ t cardamom
1 ½ T olive oil
1 medium onion
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup golden raisins (go to a Mediterranean market for these - they have these huge delicious raisins - I had soaked mine in water for about half an hour before using them to plump them up a tad)
2 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
½ t salt
fresh ground pepper
juice of lemon
@ 7 dozen fresh grape leaves – choose large young leaves – older leaves will be too chewy – you can also buy a jar of leaves from a Mediterranean market

Blanch your leaves until they change color. Just a moment. Drain and cool.
Cook rice however you like to cook rice - use salt, olive oil, whatever makes you happy.
In another pan, sauté onions in olive oil. After they are translucent, add pine nuts and toast them a bit, then add raisins and spices and herbs. Sauté till it smells good, remove from heat.
Combine with the rice to make the filling.

Place a layer of smaller leaves in the bottom of a large heavy bottomed kettle or sauce pot, with a cover.
Lay each large grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up. Trim away stem. [v cut into bottom of leaf}
Put about a tablespoon of rice mixture into grapeleaf, sprinkle on parsley. Roll the leaf into a cylindrical shape apx, 1/2 x 2 or three inches. Depends upon grape leaf.

Fold up the bottom, [stem side] up. Fold in both side. Roll top over for tight fit.

Place in pot. Place tightly next to each other so they won't unwrap. Place plate over layers. Add enough water just to cover the bottom and add lemon juice. Steam dolmas until heated through. Serve with yogurt and/or lemon juice.



21 November, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Thanksgiving was first declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln in the November following the three day battle of Gettysburg, which had been fought the previous July. Lincoln thought to create a holiday for a nation predominated by farmers and farming society. It made sense at that time, to celebrate the conclusion of a successful harvest season.

As we take time out from our rush around work a day life, pause for a moment to recall our own personal “harvests” of 2007 with gratitude for our progress, however small. In my world, it is always 'progress not perfection' that is evidence of a life well-lived.

Tomorrow will be the fourth year the Learning Garden has hosted the Program for Torture Victims for Thanksgiving. Whether you can join us from 11 to 2 or not, please enjoy your holiday. Though this holiday is very much American in its flavors, we will have food from all over the world, and people from faraway places will join us. Come join us if you can (dress warmly, we won't be much warmer than 60F even for lunch!)

May the spirit of Thanksgiving truly be with you through out the coming year.


14 November, 2007

Theodore Payne Foundation Field Trip This Saturday

Culver City Adult School Class:

Our field trip to Theodore Payne Foundation is this Saturday, November 17th. Below are the directions to the Foundation Nursery – we will meet there at 9:00. There is no good food near the Foundation – certainly carrying your own snack (and WATER!!) is advised.

Tuxford Street does the same kind of meandering there as National Boulevard does here so please do follow their instructions to the letter. If you stay on the 405 and drive across the valley, exit at Roscoe Blvd and head east. It becomes Tuxford somewhere near I-5. My cell phone is 310.722.3656 and it will be on that morning.

Telephone: (818) 768-1802

10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley, CA 91352-2116

Directions to the Theodore Payne Foundation:

From the 5 Northbound
Exit Sunland Blvd. (in Sun Valley)
Go right (North) on Sunland Blvd.
Go right at La Tuna Canyon, one block
Go left on Wheatland, one block
Go right on Tuxford, @ 200 yards
Go left at the TPF sign and up the dirt road

From the 210 Eastbound
Exit Sunland Blvd. (in Sunland), turning right on Sunland Blvd.
Continue down Sunland Boulevard several miles.
Go left at La Tuna Canyon, one block
Turn left on Wheatland, one block
Go right on Tuxford, @ 200 yards
Go left at the TPF sign and up the dirt road

If you come from the north or the east on this day, go to their website (www.theodorepayne.org/) for more directions. Clicking on the map above links to a larger image.


09 November, 2007

Spirituality and Plants

Every blade of grass has its Angel
that bends over it and whispers:
“Grow, grow.”
The Talmud

What we do in botany is fact-find, analyze and classify. A botanist, a paid botanist, that is, finds facts, analyzes and classifies; or the botanist writes about such fact finding, analyzing and classifying. We have seen it weekly, as we named and classified the gymnosperms and angiosperms, dicots and monocots. Reflecting on all this botanizing, I am drawn to Thomas Moore’s thought: “As we approach nature as fact finders, analysts, and classifiers, we tend to lose sight of the story we are living, the myth that gives shape to our very investigations.”

The purpose behind a botany class, especially in the context of this institution, needs to remain in the forefront of our work especially as we progress toward the end of the term when you take your tests and move on to consider plants, specifically parts of plants, as the healing agents in your practice. You will be challenged, with every bit as much pressure as a modern day molecular cell biologist, to remember there is a whole plant behind what you are using – you have the same trap of compartmentalization to avoid in your day-to-day activities. You may call it healing, but you may find yourself considering it “work” as well. You may call a prescription “herbal” and know that it is not concocted in a chemist’s lab and does not line the pockets of a plurality of pharmaceutical industrialists. But will you maintain your connection to the plant itself?

In the culture of my family, farmers all to this very generation, botany was the premier science for several centuries – my Grandfather, though only a share-cropping farmer, knew the Latin names of the plants on his farm – not only his crops, but the weeds as well. And he knew those plants in ways that confound many of us today.

What Is Lacking Conventionally?

Still, knowledge of botany was not enough. For all his knowledge, common sense and willingness to learn new things, he still was a participant in the destruction of the mid-western plains in the first third of the 20th century. Even in their genesis, industrial farming practices created the dust-bowls of the nineteen-thirties through the wholesale destruction of the ecosystems of the Great Plains of America. This occurred on much the same scale we see the rampant destruction of the tropical rain forests today. The destruction in both ecosystems came from people unable or unwilling to see the long term effects of their behavior and was simply a search for a way to make some money. I don’t know the whole story behind the destruction of the rain forest, but in the case of the Mid-western Plains it was simply small farmers trying to make more money from their own land holdings egged on by a government and the enthralled institutions and universities paid from that government who were the complete and total idiotic embodiment of arrogant disregard for the future – it was stupidity, not conspiracy. Certainly not at the level of the common farmer. One cannot be angry with a mother and father wishing to feed their family; not that I condone the economics and politics that created – and creates still – the dependencies that nurture this tragedy.

So we won’t go there. Among dissected plant parts and notes stained with plant juices, I don’t want to lose site of Thomas Moore’s dynamic conclusion, in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life: “One of the great challenges we face as we develop technology and expand scientific knowledge is to preserve nature as a source of spirituality.”

Honestly, it comes back to the old saying, “When you are up to your hips in alligators, it’s hard to remember your purpose was to drain the swamp.”

Healing Plants

Not only are plants the major source of more than one pharmacopoeia, of food and clothing, something more is there in how we relate to plants. Only in recent years have researchers made discoveries that demonstrate somewhat the extent plants play in our lives, beyond mere fodder for industry or food for ourselves and the economy.

At long last, in this “modern” time, the healing dimensions of people-plant relationships are being explored across many disciplines in the science world of our culture. At the People-Plant Council at Virginia Tech, Dr. Diane Relf co-ordinates between researchers at many different institutions approaching plants and the impact they have on our lives over a wide range of disciplines, socially, psychologically, and economically as related to our physical and emotional well-being. The overall context of this research only hints at our spiritual connection to the plants in the world around us, especially in terms of a soul-involved ecology. University of Michigan psychologist Stephen Kaplan asserts that his studies prove that, “Nature is not just ‘nice’… it is a vital ingredient in healthy human functioning.” Wait! Read that again!

The impact of plants on our lives in a purely economic context has been extensively covered – in terms of clothing, food and economic raw material. Botany has been defined as: “a. the study of plant life b. the study of the properties and life phenomena exhibited by a plant, plant type, or plant group and c. plant life.” Flowers have been torn apart in order to count stamens and pistils, families of flowers, genus and species have all been identified, classified and labeled. But in all of this, the underlying point hinted at by research from Texas A & M that shows simply looking at a plant can reduce stress, fear and anger – lowering blood pressure and muscle tension, isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

In another study, prison inmates in cells with windows overlooking greenery needed less medical care and reported fewer symptoms of stress, such as headaches. Hence, lack of consideration to the plants that grace the walkway to our homes or our offices, the plants we all will meet day after day, especially in all the circumstances and challenges faced by all of us through the woof and warp of our human existence, is entirely unacceptable. How can you, healers in this world fail to focus on our place within the context of this world? If not here, where?

It is proven and accepted fact in the real estate market, that communities with greenbelts and homes with attractive landscaping demand a higher market value than communities and homes absent these features. Research now shows that plants and green spaces have the following distinct roles in community development:

- providing a more livable environment by controlling physical factors such as noise, temperature and pollution
- create a community image – perceived as positive by outsiders and residents alike, for example, evidence exists that areas redolent with greenery are less likely to have graffiti marking
- create opportunities for the community to work together

These factors translate directly into tangible economic and social benefits including reduced crime, the aforementioned higher property values and increased business and social interaction in greened communities and neighborhoods. Psychological studies have shown that “the most important factors in neighborhood satisfaction were the availability of nearby trees, well-landscaped grounds, places for taking walks…” these factors “…were significantly related to the sense of community”.

We need to leap beyond the simple consideration of nature as only an example of the material world and bridge the concept that nature can be the fundamental opening to a spiritual world . Noting that mountains, rivers and ecological systems, and, indeed, many plants, have lifetimes that well exceed even the longest living human being, we can acknowledge the brevity of our own lives. Upon this basis we can glimpse our own mortality and observe the immense proportions life encompasses. This, then, can be a basis for building a spiritual life.

A Spiritual Life?

For all the asphalt and concrete of our civilization, we are beings from gardens, from nature. All the evidence above points to an underlying connection with plants and greenery that our society’s predisposition for building skyscrapers and asphalt parking lots attempts to belie. Research is underway to help us better understand this connection as a cellular memory captured in our evolution as an upright walking hominid. But that this connection exists can no longer be the subject of speculation. It is “real” as declared by modern Western science and it is measurable. We are on the threshold of a new era in Western thought; although it would be best not to hold your breath in anticipation of universal acceptance of these postulates – you wouldn’t look good in that shade of blue. There is a long road ahead. While some of us can see that any answer that does not include a spiritual element is no answer at all, remember that Galileo first postulated the round earth back a few years ago and I’ve met people in my lifetime that were willing to prove to me that the world HAD to be flat. No, I’m not THAT old.

And this is merely the beginning of it. This hints only at a spirituality connected with plants. What do we think about a spirituality IN the plant? Do we think of a plant having an innate spirituality that is its very own?

In his book, “The Healing Energies of Trees”, Patrice Bouchardon, notes “All of the indigenous peoples of the world have built up cultures and social structures framed around their concepts of nature, concepts woven from their direct experience of the natural world. They draw from the world about them those things they need to sustain life, to feed and to heal the body and to build the beliefs that nourish the soul. From this inexhaustible resource come their concepts of life and inspiration for healing and religious practices.” Even the Chinese tradition originated through a shamanistic association with trees and other plants, though as an actual, separate healing methodology it is no longer included in your Traditional Chinese Medicine studies. It is now a separate body of knowledge that needs exploration.

Our Uncharted Journey

The problem faced in presenting this information and asking you to make this leap is that one cannot chart a journey for you. Our society abounds with restrictions and chains to ensure the conformity of us all – often, it is only at the expense of struggle a with the risk of ridicule that we venture into a world where spirituality – and plants – can be regarded as more than a fringe element with only a fringe value. But as written in Man and Superman, by George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” To enter through this door, we need to drop our “reasonableness” and rely on some other knowledge – a knowledge I believe is inner and ever present no matter where you were born or in what year. I think it is a deep cellular knowledge that persists underneath our culturing and posturing for mass-consumption.

In Plant Spirit Medicine, Eliot Cowan writes, “Modern life opens a path not to the soul but to the shopping mall and the force of growth has been diverted onto this path. The result is economic growth – the rapid conversion of Nature into toxic junk. This is what we call the ‘gross national product’ and unless it gets grosser every year, our ‘economy’ founders. There is a word for out-of-control growth: cancer. Cancer continues to spread in our bodies and on the earth because, like trees, we must have growth. The only way out is to rediscover that material growth is a youthful phase that prepares the way for real growth into elderhood.”

Examine how our lives and the plants of our lives are intertwined. Grasp for a moment that many of us know the price of a gallon of gasoline – or know the cost of a favorite sandwich from the corner deli, yet cannot put a price on a rose that smells divine, or a night scented jasmine conjuring dreams with us in our sleep, or the price we would pay for more oxygen if our city had no plants. What would life be completely devoid of plants? Not worth living – certainly not for very long.

An Indian Myth Pre-visions Modern Paleobotany

The Snohomish Indians, living in what we call the state of Washington, had a myth they passed from generation to generation dating back deeply into their past. The myth told of the animals getting together and saying among themselves that they felt the time had come for all the animals to join together in a pact to destroy all of the human race. “They have abused us and used us for their own selfish prosperity without regard to our needs and wants – we should just get rid of them all.” And most animals were pretty eager to get on with the project, but an older, wiser animal spoke up and said, “No wait, we should go the really Old Ones and ask for their opinion on what to do with the humans.” And so all the animals agreed to ask the really Old Ones to decide the course of action; they went to the plants.

The underlying knowledge of the myth that ascribes to plants the sobriquet of the “Old Ones” gives pause for reflection. Even ancient cultures understood that plants came before animals and prepared the way for animals to live on this planet. The really Old Ones told the animals that they must allow the humans to live so that the plants and animals could teach the humans how to live with nature and not to exploit the earth or the other inhabitants. Patient fellows, those Old Ones, patient still. I suppose when you’re really old, it’s just natural to embody that virtue.

By now it is common knowledge, because you’ve heard me say it and you’ve read it throughout our material, that ancient earth’s atmosphere was toxic for mammals. The arrival of green plants created the change that cleared the air for the advent of animals and, at the same time, provided food for the animals to eat and the food chain we recognize today was established. It is so sad to see so much evolution end up in fast food chains proliferating across the world. The Snohomish myth so accurately delineates the time line for life on this planet it is allows for some conjecture.

Your Own Relationship With Plants

At this juncture, students who would progress, must create their own relationship with plants. I believe that simply having a relationship with the Latin binomial names, just having a basic understanding of the cellular membrane and all that is studied as a part of botany is not enough. While it is an introduction to the plants that gives a sense of “knowing” plants, it still leaves us with only a compartmentalized relationship to plants and it does not satisfy our soul or allow us a more sacred union with other forms of life. A licensed acupuncturist who has no relationship to the plants in his garden is arguably no more “natural” than the biogeneticist who supplanted the genes in the engineered corn that turned up in Taco Bell taco shells.

But how can we teach the relationship to these plants I cherish? What mechanism triggers affinity? What actions delineate understanding, because in my world, actions speak louder than words?

So we can start right here. It’s an old saying that “The best fertilizer is the farmer’s shadow,” and we can use that as the basis on which to begin. Go to the plant. Look at it. What does it really look like? Is the stem thick or slender? Could you call the leaves entire or are they serrated? Why would they look like that? How are they arranged? Does that mean something to you? Can you smell the plant? Do you recognize that smell? What is the texture of the leaves? What does that mean to you? Is the stem woody or smooth? Has secondary growth begun or is it all primary growth? Through the physical appearance of the plant, what is indicated to you how this plant might be useful or what kind of action it may have on your body? Do you discern a feeling from the plant? Be with the plant.

This is the avenue I believe that must be taken in making a connection to what I am calling a “whole plant” – we can talk until we are exhausted from talking, we can think until our brain aches from over-thinking – and we will have still missed the point. The only way I know to make the connection to plants that cements a relationship to plants is to actually do something about the relationship to plants – practice having a relationship with plants. To this end, I have prepared the walking meditation exercise and the adaptation of questions from Plant Spirit Medicine for you.

However, it is not enough to read the material and claim you understand it. Although much of this essay leans toward being overly cerebral, this cannot be a cerebral exercise. Our societal training tends to take us that direction and it is difficult to resist. If you think your way through the exercises, you miss the point – and still, even with that warning, a good many of you will make ill-fated attempts to think the exercise through.

Practice is what is essential. Practice being aware; “being aware” is practice itself. Our society attempts to circumvent this practice. It is no surprise that our popular culture disdains depth and understanding. It is no mistake that this is the same culture that embraces youth and tries to deny aging as if enlightenment itself could be short-cut and bottled and sold – or at least revealed in the deft cuts of a skilled plastic surgeon. It seems as though anything can be sacrificed in order to have an “event” rather than endure a “process”. And yet, that is the whole: the relationship I seek to have and I seek to share with you now, is a process of development that you must have between yourself and plants, if you will have it at all.

Eliot Cowan talks of experience and knowledge of the paths of life. He continues, “The same thing holds true for someone who wants to learn the medicine of plants: there is no substitute for experience. This medicine comes from intimacy with living plants. Just as no one would think of trying to make babies with a character in a novel, no one should think of trying to make medicine with a plant in a book… ”

The Force That Heals

Consider: Is not true that the same force which heals also the same force that goes by the name of “love”? Isn’t it that which impels us to practice medicine is the same force that impels some of us to garden? Isn’t this the force that implores us call home to ask a loved one how their day is going and the same force that impels one to pick the rose to breath the ameliorating and angelic aroma deep into one’s senses?

Could you walk into the garden and lay with the plant that will heal you? Will you permit yourself to sit near the grass that can make your child whole again? Will you allow your senses to delight in the smells of the shrub that can allow your mother some more years as a hale and whole person? Why not? Too busy to be whole? Too frantic to heal? Or more honestly, afraid… ??

Some people believe that gardens are about plants but that’s simply not true. Gardens are all about people. Just as “place” is measurable in space and time, one can measure the ground and the life of plants, but at that stage it is only an ecosystem, and probably not a sustainable one at that. There is no garden without a person. Gardens are all about people. There is something from the heart that must be present.

The force that heals is love. It is present throughout the Universe. How will you touch it or let it touch you? Where does it flow through your life, your days? In music? In meditation? In the garden?

It isn’t just nice, it’s essential for all of us to allow love to touch us. In every way we can.

A Walking Meditation

(Do this prior to our next class. Be prepared to discuss your experience with it. Be prepared to repeat parts of this meditation.)

This exercise will help you observe yourself when you go for a walk in a wooded area (i.e. a street lined with trees or a park – the more trees the better). The state of mind in which you walk will condition the experiences you have. We often walk through nature with the same attitude we use to muscle our way through the supermarket. The mind is going over what we did yesterday or just now and planning what we will do tomorrow. Our present slips by unnoticed.

First come into the present moment. Listen to your own breathing, feel the earth beneath your feet and get the sense of how you are balanced.

Listen to how your mind is organizing your walk: “I won’t go that way, it seems dull and uninteresting… I want to avoid those jocks making so much noise, so I won’t go that way…”

We are always giving ourselves instructions, imposing limits and forbidding things, when the joy of life is to release ourselves from limitations. When you surprise yourself by doing this, don’t judge yourself, just smile. Then carry on; invite yourself again into the present. You might find you must do this frequently for awhile. You might find you don’t have to for awhile, then find you have to again. Don’t judge yourself. Just smile. Feel the earth. Sense your balance.

As you become more comfortable being here, move towards relying less on your seeing and become more aware of sounds, smells, tactile experiences and even tastes. Especially as regards the vegetation around you. Grass underfoot, leaf against cheek, cool/warm breeze through the branches of a nearby tree. Was that bird talking to you? Crunch of twig underfoot. Even if “civilization” imposes upon you, a car’s honking, sirens in the distance, allow it to pass without judgement as well from your thoughts. The present is exactly what it is – “right now.” This is your present, your reality: you must begin where you are because you can begin nowhere else.

At some point then, begin to open your awareness to the presence of energy outside your own. To describe it to you is self-defeating, my experience of energy might not be your experience – if I tell you mine, you might miss yours while you attempt to duplicate mine. So turn all your receptors outward toward the living greenery around you. Consciously allow all your senses – even a sense of which you may not have been aware up to this very second - to “listen.”

This may not be a one “walk” experience, in fact, should not be. You may not sense any awareness of energy in your first attempt – even if you do, repetition will invariably bless you with greater rewards. I would allow that should any kind of expansion of awareness be achieved, that expansion itself tends to draw one back again and again. Anything that feels good bears repeating.

On your first attempt at this, do not attach yourself so much to one plant at the expense of the others. Try to feel the jumbly interconnectedness of the plant world – it is very different from the animal world. Open yourself to the possibility that there might be plant “thoughts,” plant “awareness.”

On subsequent walks, “adopt” a plant that seems to draw you to itself – or to a plant you feel an affinity towards. In class, we will use the several different trees in The Learning Garden. You will be asked to chose one to “meditate” on, or “with.” You will be asked to relate your experience through some written questions. This is not to intimidate, but to inspire and expand you. It is only necessary that you be open to the experience.

Do this, please, more than once before our next meeting.


26 October, 2007

No Class Tomorrow Morning: Sorry!

Hopefully everyone got called by Culver City Adult School - I've pulled muscles in my back and so I've canceled class - we'll do a make-up by adding one week in December. Sorry about that; I hope it won't cause any problems for anyone.


19 October, 2007

Landscaping I: Design & Plan, Lecture Notes for 20 October, 2007

First step: Decide what you want in your garden, achieve agreement with spouse – consider other household members… (Casey made me add that...)

Tasks you love
Tasks you hate
How do you intend to use the garden?
Environmental sensibilities – water consumption, pesticide and fertilizer usage, habitat
Cut out pictures of gardens you like
Determine your light capabilities – what is the extent of sun in your garden
Colors you like/dislike

The ultimate in a Garden Design:
- has year round interest
- ties the garden and home together
- sets an intended mood
- provides a place for plants to thrive
- accentuates (or is a reflection of ) the owner’s lifestyle
- fulfills needs of the owner
- acts as an ecosystem after a fashion

Some moods/sense of purpose the Garden Design might invoke:
- mystery
- peace and calm
- relaxation
- healing
- de-stress environment
- playful
- seclusion
- connection to nature
- conservation
- recalling a sense of place
Woodland – ferns
Woodland edge – deciduous shrubs, climbing species roses and other climbers
Moorland – heathers or other dwarf evergreen shrubs
Prairie – grasses, tall perennials – esp. daisies
Meadow – grasses
Semi-desert – yuccas, gray-foliaged plants
Chaparral – native CA Plants
Oak scrub – other CA natives
Tropical – gaudy, ugly and pretentious large leaved evergreens

Garden Design – The Concept

Structural Survey

Two initial surveys must be taken prior to planting which we touched on last week, but is helpful to review constantly. The first is structural – you need to know the physical limitations of your space – load bearing, availability of water, access limitations and the materials that surround your garden. The structural survey must include all the physical boundaries to your garden.

If your garden is above ground, safety and cost will figure more prominently in your considerations.

Dimensional Survey

Then the dimensional survey is accomplished by measuring and then drawing your space to scale. To do this, it is best to have a 100’ tape measure and a 25’ (or so) metal tape measure for shorter or awkward measurements. A brick or other heavy object might be needed to hold the end down if you don’t have an assistant.

Also make note of any changes of level, especially in relationship to drainage, and make note of the overhanging features you have to consider.

Mark on your plan any water spigots and power outlets – these will be important in your final design.

This survey must look beyond the actual garden for ‘borrowed views’ from nearby trees or structures worth looking at. ‘Borrowed views,’ and views that fall under the ‘blight spot’ moniker need to be noted on your plan.

Design Components

Color – Consider the whole garden as one large pot… don’t be afraid to paint the walls, or concrete under foot Consider all materials in concert with total color –
What color are the walls surrounding? Can you change those?

Texture – Again consider the entire garden as a whole – what is the unifying texture overall – work to enhance the garden thematically – with an exception here and there for contrast

Scale and proportion – Stay within your space! Remember how large your plants will become eventually… better to underplant and allow plants to expand naturally than have to remove sick or ungainly plants that have suffered from too little sun…

Shape – Shapes within the small garden are all the more important. Pots and plants in the garden must help convey the mood. Clean lines are important, but avoid brashness.

Repetition – repeating patterns and symmetry are essential to creating the desired mood. Repeat the plants, the pots, color, or texture. Harmonize the whole of your plantings with this technique.
Grouping – Place plants and elements together for effect. Consider islands vs. long rows of pots/plants

Style – This is the overarching element of design. Try not to make the garden schizophrenic from the interior design of the house.

While walking through a door is a straightforward action of moving from the living room into the garden, the transition design needs to consider the first introduction of a person into the garden; there will be a break in continuity of course because you are leaving ‘inside’ to ‘outside’, but the garden needs to flow from one to the other as though they are parts of a whole. In other words, while we are limited into how we can accomplish this, short of knocking the ceiling out and planting trees in what used to be an indoor room, we, as garden designers, want to consider what is there and ADD to it vs. detract or negate it. Where a given style exists in structure or thematically on the interior of the house, try to access it with plants and features in your design. This can be accomplished simply by observing notable features of the building abutting the garden and asking a few pointed questions of your clients in the initial interview. All the elements that draw a garden together, should be considered towards drawing the garden and home together as well.

Garden Design – The Rules

1. Divide in thirds vs. halves
2. Perspective and the focal point
3. Why it doesn’t work in small gardens…

Breaking the rules

1. View the garden spatially as one pot – in other words
2. Think of the box!

What comprises the boundaries – the walls of your pot?
Can you change them?
Walls can be
covered in plants,
covered with lattice,
bamboo fences,
seagrass mats etc.

3. Tying the garden together
3.1. Color, of plant flowers or leaves, of walls, paving material, lattice work
3.2. Borrowed scenery
3.3. Climbing plants
3.4. Lighting – Most entertaining in our society is done at night, so creative lighting can be your salvation
4. Expand the garden by use off open space and mirrors
5. Water in the garden
6. A found object – whimsy
7. Practical considerations – i.e. watering


15 October, 2007

The Principles of Potager Design (& Various Lists)

1. Consider Technicalities


2. Maximize the kitchen-garden relationship

Near the kitchen is best

3. Consider the bird’s eye view

How will the garden be viewed?
Divide into units
Repeat patterns and colors over a theme as much as possible

4. Enclose the garden

Fancifully, or conventionally, but with practical applications
Creates a special place; a sanctuary
Use existing walls and complement with fencing and/or planting to separate.

5. Design the garden like a room, invoking texture, color and mood

A place to sit and view it
Use color and texture from adjoining walls
Keep in synch with the building’s styling

6. Create an edge with raised beds
Raise them with or without wood/bricks etc.

7. Design for counterpoint

Chaos vs. control
Color opposites

8. Go vertical
Structures add dimension to the garden
Grow plants that climb extending the harvestable square footage

9. Consider year round use
Schedule plantings to go in and come out as the seasons changed to allow for maximum year round use; design for four seasons in mind.

Plants You Can Use As Edging

Mint (p)
Oregano (p)
Sorrel (p)
Strawberries (p)
Thyme (p)

Plants for Color in the Winter

Purple broccoli
Swiss chard

Edibles That Are Shade Tolerant

Chinese cabbage
Cornsalad (Mâche)
Pak Choi

Plants for Height in Winter

Artichoke or Cardoon (p)
Blueberry (p)
Brussels sprouts
Climbing Peas
Fava beans
Ginger (p)
Walking stick kale

Plants for Color in Summer

Beans (some climb, some bush)

Plants for Height in Summer

Corn (sweet and popcorn)
Cucumbers (on trellis)
Beans (on trellis)
Melons (on trellis)
Tomatoes (in cages)

Edible Flowers


Fast Fillers

Green onions

Sowing Schedule in Zone 24

Crop Sow On

Basil February 15
Beets Y/R *
Broccoli September 15
Cabbage September 30
Cauliflower September 15
Collards Y/R*
Corn April 1
Cucumber March 1
Eggplant March 15
Kale Y/R*
Lettuce September 1
Melons March 15
Mustard September 1
Okra March 15
Onions September 1
Parsley September 15
Peas September 1
Peppers March 15
Pumpkins May 1
Spinach September 15
Squash (summer) March 1
Squash (winter) March 15
Swiss Chard Y/R
Tomatoes February 15

* except in mid-summer


Bibliography for Potager Design

("Potager" is the current 'in' phrase for vegetable garden. In using it, one is trying to suggest a 'beautiful vegetable garden.'

Designing The New Kitchen Garden, An American Potager Handbook,
Bartley, Jennifer © 2006, Timber Press, Portland, OR This is the book used to compile a good deal of my potager design lecture. It has to be adapted for our climate – all of her dates are good if you’re in OH, but I don’t think we’re in OH – at least not the last time I checked we hadn’t even made it to not being in Kansas. This is a good book, well written and filled with inspiration.

Designing and Maintaining your Edible Landscape Naturally
, Kourick, Robert © 1986, Metamorphic Press, Santa Rosa, CA Probably the bible for this kind of garden. I own a first printing and a quick check shows that Amazon has it new for $33.46 (Permanent Publications; March 30, 2005), so it’s still a winner, after all these years.

Herloom Vegetable Gardening,
Weaver, William Woys, ©1997, New York, NY Very few pictures, but the descriptions are sufficient to make you drool all over the book! Not specific to our area, but a lot of fun to read and daydream about all we COULD grow if we had forty acres or more.

How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits: (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) 7th Edition, Jeavons, John ©2006, Ten Speed Press, San Francisco, CA If there is only one book you ever purchase for growing vegetables, this is it! John Jeavons has done more for the growing of vegetables in a small space than any one other single person on this planet. This book is good for the charts alone.

Sunset Western Garden Guide 8th Edition
, Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Editor, ©2007, Sunset Publishing This is the number one go-to book for horticulture in Southern California; no other book is as authoritative as this one for our area. We cannot take advice from most gardening books and apply it to what we do in Los Angeles because our climate and soils are nothing like the rest of the world – especially the east coast and England where most books about gardening originate. However, with this book, you can use these other books, (like the ones above) you can then filter their information through ‘Sunset.’

The Kitchen Garden, Thompson, Sylvia ©1995, Bantam Books New York, NY Sylvia Thompson has been a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and lives in our area so she knows how to grow here in Los Angeles. This is your text book, remember?

08 October, 2007

Notes from the Second Week of Edible Gardening




Blueberries (Southern Highbush, low chill) – to about 4 feet, prefer acidic soils and lot’s of water. Other than that, easy to grow
Ribes sp…

Vines/ Brambles:

Berries/Rasp and black, boysenberry, currants, Gooseberry,
Passion fruit



Growing Plants From Seed

Tools To Grow Plants From Seed

Potting soil
Pots of different sizes
Something for gentle watering
Small trowel – or a large spoon
A safe, warm spot
ID stakes
Something to cut with (scissors/pruners)

Seeds Need To Grow:

Air (preferably with some circulation)
And some would say protection from predation.

Seeds Do NOT Need:

Expensive equipment

Field Trip to The Learning Garden for the 13th

We will meet at The Learning Garden at 10 AM on the morning of the 13th. The Learning Garden is located on the campus of Venice High School. It is a very large campus and we are located on the very northwest corner, at the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Walgrove Avenue. If you enter from Walgrove through the 2nd gate south of Venice Boulevard, you will be able to find ample parking. I do not recommend parking in my drive on this day as we will have a lot of people coming in for our Pesto Day and you might find yourself blocked in.

Feel free to attend the swap meet at Venice High School or The Learning Garden’s Pesto Day after our class is over.

We will cover some pruning chores as well as any thing else in the Garden that interests you – one of the Garden’s volunteers who is an expert on sub-tropical fruits, bananas, cherimoyas, mangos and papayas (to name but a few), has agreed to be there and to take some of the lecture load off me for a bit – because of his schedule, we will probably start with him so if this topic interests you, be on time!

My cell phone will be on, call if you need more directions. The number is in a previous handout.


Bibliography for Edible Plants In the Landscape

Designing and Maintaining your Edible Landscape Naturally
, Kourick, Robert © 1986, Metamorphic Press, Santa Rosa, CA Probably the bible for this kind of garden. I own a first printing and a quick check shows that Amazon has it new for $33.46 (Permanent Publications; March 30, 2005), so it’s still a winner, after all these years.

Designing the New Kitchen Garden
, Bartley, Jennifer © 2006, Timber Press, Portland, OR Lots of wonderful ideas and source material for a good many daydreams. And source of some important lessons in creating a garden that can sustain more than just your spirit.

The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques
, Creasy, Rosalind, © 1982, Sierra Club Books – This is where edible landscaping began! Still a good book!

The Grape Grower
, Rombough, Lon © 2002, Chelea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT. Of several books on the subject of growing grapes, this is the most thorough, the best written and covers the most material. And they all cost about the same money. You’ll come to think of it as your very favorite, if you get into growing grapes for table or for wine.

The Old-Fashioned Fruit Gardener
, Gardner, Jo Ann, © 1989 Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, Nova Scotia A wonderful resource to learn how folks used to use small fruits of their garden complete with growing instructions and recipes.

Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, Reich, Lee © 2004, Timber Press, Portland, OR If you are not familiar with Timber Press, check out their website, they are one of the best publishing houses in the field of horticulture today and their catalog will make your eyes twirl. We can’t grow all of these fruits, but this book is an eye opener for what can be grown vs. what IS grown. Each plant’s fruit is described with directions for cultivation and a list of desirable cultivars. This is the ‘expanded sequel’ to the book that drove me nuts trying to find a way to grow currants in Los Angeles (an as yet unfulfilled dream),

21 September, 2007

22 Sept. Handout: Notes for Soils Lecture

We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot. Leonardo da Vinci

(note to class: the figures do not appear in this post, but all the data is the same)

Soil Formation

1. Climate – including temperature and rainfall
2. Organisms – from the itty bitty (microscopic) to the biggies (macroscopic)
3. Topography – (the book calls relief) – land surface
4. Parent material – the original rock
5. Time – the factor that weathers us all.

Components of Soil

50 % Water/air – in proportion to one another
45% Parent Material – underlying rock
5% Organic matter (OM) – more or less
Soil Composition

Characteristics of Soil Components

Property/Behavior Sand Silt Clay
Water holding Low Medium + High
Aeration Good Medium Poor
Drainage rate High Medium Slow/Very slow
Soil organic matter Low Medium + High
of organic matter Rapid Medium Slow
Speed of warming Rapid Medium Slow
Compactability Low Medium High
Storage of nutrients Low Medium High
Resistance to pH change Low Medium High

Soil Texture

Is defining how the proportion of these differing components are found in a given soil. An ideal soil is a mix of all these different components. While it is possible to have a soil that is composed of one or the other component, the likelihood is that it will be a combination of all three. The proportion of one to the next determines how you call your soil.

Each shovel of soil holds more living things than all the human beings ever born.


The following books were used in the development of this lecture with my notes on each.

Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth,
Logan, William Bryant, 1995, Riverhead Books; A series of passionate essays pleading to respect the earth and to rethink how we define ‘dirty.’

Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils,
Brady, Nyle et al, 2000, Prentice Hall; This is the simple version of the text I had in my soil class. It is really dense and a good reference when you settle in to teach soils, but unless you have a lot of organic chemistry under your belt, it will probably serve you as a door stop more than a book.

Out Of The Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil, Hillel, Daniel. 1991 Free Press; The paperback is published by University of California Press. Not strictly a soils text, I recommend this book very highly. It is a grand overview of how soils shape civilization and how failure to understand and conserve them has resulted in the fall of civilizations – much more than even losing battles! Worth every second you invest in it!

Soil Science Simplified, 4th Edition, Dohnke, Helmut et al, 1995, Waveland Press; Just like the title says it is very much a simplification of the concepts and scientific principles of soil. A lot of big scientific words, and not light reading, but still highly recommended.

Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Lowenfels, Jeff et al, 2006 Timber Press; Look up all the titles in the Timber Press catalog – one of the more important horticultural publishing houses in business today! I wish I had this book when I started gardening – this book presents the latest research on the ecology of the soil. A must read! My next book review in Touch the Soil will be on this book and, after careful reconsideration, I think this is one of the most important books to come out on soils and gardening in many a decade.

The Gardeners’ Guide to Better Soil, Logsdon, Gene, 1975, Rodale Press; The first book to turn me on to soils and a real page turner, although it’s out of print and a real bear to find. Gene Logsdon is brash, outspoken, political and opinionated. He goes on tangential tirades about the price of gas (in 1975!), but, in part because he is brash, outspoken and opinionated, still he pulls off a book that is informative and easily read and digested.

The Soul of Soil; A Guide to Ecological Soil Management, Gershuny, Grace et al, 1986 Gaia Services; This is a small book, only 109 pages including back notes, but is chock full of information about how to care for your soil. The ‘ecological’ in the title cues you to know that it’s a total organic approach. A great text and easy to read. This is a classic.


Converting Agricultural Measurements for Home Horticulture

Pounds Per Acre Equivalent Quantity per 100 Square Fee
100 3.5 oz.
200 7.5 oz
300 11 oz
400 14.75 oz
500 1 lb. 2.5 oz
600 1 lb. 6 oz.
700 1 lb. 10 oz.
800 1 lb. 13 oz.
900 2 lb. 1 oz
1000 2 lb. 5 oz.
2000 4 lbs. 10 oz.

Some Common Materials and Their Conversion

Material Pounds per Acre Pounds 100 Sq. feet Pounds per 1000 Sq. feet
Blood meal 100 @.25 (¼) 2.5
Sulfur 1000 2.3 23.
Mixed fertilizer
(i.e. 10-10-10) 1000 2.3 23.

Useful conversions
100 pounds per acres = 0.2296 lbs. per 100 square feet
.01 pound = .16 oz
144 sq. inches = 1 square foot
9 sq. feet = 1 square yard
43560 sq. feet = 1 acre
4840 sq. yards = 1 acre

ton = 2000 pounds

How to Take A Soil Sample Test

 Remove as much surface organic matter as possible before taking your soil sample.
 Put approximately one cup of soil into a straight-sided quart jar with lid.
 Add approximately one tablespoon of alum or Calgon bath beads.
 Fill the jar with water almost to the top.
 Shake vigorously for several minutes to get all the soil moistened.
 Let the jar stand undisturbed for at least one hour.
 The soil mix will separate into layers. The longer it sits, the more distinct the layers will appear.
 Figure out the percentages of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter. The sand will be the bottom layer. Silt will be the next layer, followed by clay. Organic matter will float on top of the water.
 Determine soil type by comparing percentages with soil triangle. Follow arrows in example—15% sand, 70% silt, and 15% clay—to merge at silty loam category.
 Understanding soil type will help you know how to properly amend, fertilize, water, and plant so that you will have healthy, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant plants.

What to do and How to do it:

Follow these steps to determine the name of your soil texture:

1. Place the edge of a ruler at the point along the base of the triangle that represents the percent of sand in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.
2. Place the edge of a second ruler at the point along the right side of the triangle that represents the percent of silt in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.
3. Place the point of a pencil or water soluble marker at the point where the two rulers meet. Place the top edge of one of the rulers on the mark, and hold the ruler parallel to the horizontal lines. The number on the left should be the percent of clay in the sample.
4. The descriptive name of the soil sample is written in the shaded area where the mark is located. If the mark should fall directly on a line between two descriptions, record both names.

Feel the texture of a moist soil sample. Sand will feel "gritty", while silt will feel like powder or flour. Clay will feel "sticky" and hard to squeeze, and will probably stick to your hand. Looking at the textural triangle, try to estimate how much sand, silt, or clay is in the sample. Find the name of the texture that this soil corresponds to.

17 September, 2007

15 Sept. Handout: A General Gardening Bibliography

These are not textbooks – there will be no ‘required reading’ from them – but they are books most gardeners will find extremely helpful over the years. I recommend you put them on your shelf as they will answer most of your questions and give you new windows of opportunity for you and your garden. The books that follow are general garden books – usually each subject we will cover in class will have its own specific list of references. Do not feel obligated to buy each book, but if you are interested in that particular topic, I have pointed you towards a place to go to feed your curiosity.

Sunset Western Garden Guide 8th Edition, Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Editor, ©2007, Sunset Publishing All of the recent editions have their merit, but each successive edition has more plants and updates the scientific undergirding of gardening, so I encourage you to invest in the most recent edition you can afford (used copies are usually easy to find, either locally or at Amazon.com). This is the number one go-to book for horticulture in Southern California; no other book is as authoritative as this one for our area. We cannot take advice from most gardening books and apply it to what we do in Los Angeles because our climate and soils are nothing like the rest of the world – especially the east coast and England where most books about gardening originate.

Pests of the Garden and Small Farm, A Growers Guide to Using Less Pesticide, Flint,. Mary Louise, © 1990, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Publishing There is a second edition out that I have on order, but haven’t seen yet. This is another publication that is specific to us in California. It, and its sister volume, Pests of Landscape Plants also published by UC’s ANR division, are loaded with color photographs of all the pest (including insects, rodents, diseases, fungi and all the things that make gardeners grow gray hair) and the effects of the pests on our plants. A very valuable resource!

Common-Sense Pest Control, Olkowski, William, et al © 1991, Taunton Press This is a well written comprehensive text dealing with pest control. No color pictures, but lots of black and white ones and charts. This one is better for learning how to strategize against pests and so is better for more advanced reading into the art and science of pest control – if this is the kind of subject that cranks your tractor. Taunton Press is the place of origin for Fine Gardening Magazine among others.

How To Identify Flowering Plant Families
, Baumgardt, John Philip, © 1982 Timber Press This is one of a zillion good titles from the Timber Press family of books. No matter how obscure of a gardening interest you can come up with, Timber Press probably has a book of reference for it. They publish large books on orchids, roses, amaryllis, rock gardens and gardening of all kinds. If you want to learn more about how plants get named ‘lily’ vs. ‘amaryllis’ (which has been a topic of much debate in case you missed the headlines!), then this is the book for you to snuggle into.