04 May, 2009

John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona Our Last Field Trip

This map is linked to Cal Poly Pomona; clicking on it will get you a map that is actually readable.

Information about getting to Cal State Pomona's John T. Lyle Center fro Regenerative Studies from their website.

Getting to the Center

From Orange County or the 60 Freeway (East or West): Take the 57 freeway North, exit at Temple Avenue and turn left (down the hill). Turn left on University Drive. Follow University Drive as it winds around past the Farm Store to the top of the hill. Parking for the Center is located on your left at the top of the hill. Then proceed on foot down the roadway into the Center. The main office is located straight ahead.

From the 10 Freeway (East or West): Exit at Kellogg Drive. Stay in the left lane, and when you come to the stop sign, the large electronic marquee that welcomes visitors to campus will be on your right. Follow Kellogg Drive as it winds around the campus. At the second stop light, turn right on Campus Drive. At the next stop light, turn right on Temple Avenue and move to the left lane. Take a left at the next light (University Drive). Follow University Drive as it winds around past the Farm Store to the top of the hill. Parking for the Center is located on your left at the top of the hill. Then proceed on foot down the roadway into the Center. The main office is located straight ahead.


A valid parking permit must be displayed in all vehicles parked on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Handicapped parking zones are enforced 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Invited guests of the Center can pick up a complimentary parking pass in the Center's main office. All other visitors must purchase the $5 daily parking permit at the Visitor Parking Booth on Kellogg Drive. See map for location of parking booth.

We will discuss carpooling at class tonight.

Also, please note, that I may not be there exactly at 1:00 as I have a previous engagement that morning. My friend, Orchid Black, will be there at the start and I'll join the tour as fast as I can get there.


Water-Saving Plants Bibliography

California Native Plants for the Garden, Bornstein, Carol et al ©2005 Cachuma Press, Of all the books here, this is the one that illustrates a drought tolerant beautiful garden. Not only does it show the plants in their glory, but there are suggestions on how to use them with authority. The lists at the back of the book are worth the price of admission alone.
California Native Trees and Shrubs, Lenz, Lee W. et al ©1981 Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden (out of print, but can be found used) A somewhat more scholarly work than most would want, but a thorough treatment of the species chosen and plenty of color and black and white photos as well as considerable drawings and plates. In the black and white photos, the feel is very 1950’s.
Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens, Keator, Glenn ©2007, UC Press, Glenn is a well-established writer on California native plants and a respected authority. This is his latest offering containing some 300 photographs, easily understood and used; a practical book you’ll return to again and again.
Firescaping: Creating Fire-resistant Landscapes, Gardens, And Properties In California's Diverse Environments, Kent, Douglas, ©2005, Wilderness Press, Living in Southern California, fires are a consideration. If you are in an area subject to burning – or even in proximity! – consider fire when dealing with your outdoor garden.
Growing California Native Plants, Schmidt, Marjorie, ©1980, UC Press, This is a classic, nothing else quite replaces it, which is why you can still get it. A few color photographs, but mostly line drawings of plants. This is a book to consult for how to grow them. Lots of charts, but the plant selections are, of course, limited to what was available to Marjorie and there are many, many more today.
Introduction to California Plant Life, 2nd Edition, Ornduff, Robert, et al, ©2003, UC Press, Part history book, part survey of the various plant communities of California – if you get into California Natives, Ornduff explains the reason things are the way they are and deepens your understanding and appreciation of our flora.
Trees and Shrubs for Dry California Landscapes, Perry, Bob, ©1989, Land Design Publishing, (out of print, but can be found used), A much more palatable version of the Department of Water Resources book, Perry’s first 15 pages of charts is worth the price of admission, but the rest of the book is full of color photos and succinct text. The pictures are dated, but the information is not.


Vermiculture Links

Worm composters (worm bins) are available on eBay from $20, to this $90 model (pictured on right) to even $130. There used to be a listing for a cedar worm bin that I really liked (and only $79 plus s & h!, but I don't see them anymore. See below for links to build your own bins.

Tonight I am bringing my worm bin. I will donate handfuls of worms to those of you who bring your own container and who promise to care for them. Two links, below, have lots of very good worm composting/vermiculture data you might enjoy.

Earth 911 has a good article that includes a video.

And Vermiculture Northwest is chock full of composting and worm bin information. One bin, from Washingtion State University, called a cheap and easy worm bin, includes complete instructions on building it.


03 May, 2009

The Garden In May

Tomato cages made of bamboo are one way to keep your tomatoes off the ground and less available to pill bugs (AKA roly-poly bugs). I've always wanted to grow my own tomato cages and bamboo is one way to do it. Saplings of weed trees (like Chinese elm or pepper tree, two of the candidates growing at The Learning Garden) can be used the same way, tied together with some garden twine. There are a host of tomato cages you can buy, but this way is so environmentally friendly, do it if you can.

The cool of Spring is likely to be a sweet memory before this month is out – a gardener will have to have the summer garden pretty much in place unless your weather is really influenced by the Pacific, like Santa Monica, Venice and other beach towns. Longer days with a marine layer are still nothing like the warmth of Summer and Fall, but the diffuse sunlight through the 'June Gloom' does make it warm enough to get your summer plants surging ahead. This growth time is important for a full harvest. If you can't get things in the ground this month you will not have the harvest you could have had. And besides, working in the garden in May is so much sweeter than doing all that back breaking work in June and July! Save yourself and your plants! Strike while May's picture is still on your wall calendar!

I am planting the following from seed: corn, cucumbers (you can set out cucumber plants, but I have learned they dislike being transplanted so much it is faster and more certain to sow them directly, just keep the snails at bay), squash of all kinds – summer, winter, zucchini, acorn – and beans – and setting out plants of basil, tomatoes, and peppers. I am setting out lettuce seedlings and still sowing short rows of carrots, beets, radishes and spinach in one small area, with an old screen standing by to shield them from too much sun. Sowing all of those without the screen would be a recipe for disaster.

It is easier to grow cool season crops in the Summer on the coast than it is to do the reverse and one of my major goals in life is to grow a complete salad, meaning tomatoes with my lettuce. I have an annual tradition of the First BLT of the season, wherein, I grow the T and the L and usually bake my own bread. You can try planting the cool season crops in a shadier part of the garden if you don't have access to a screen and sometimes you'll be lucky, sometimes not so much. I've done it both ways and like the certainty of the screen

You may grow any of these in pots as long as you get smaller versions – most nurseries and all the seed companies will help you find plants that will grow in pots – it is possible to buy tomatoes and cucumbers bred to live in a hanging basket, but in our climate, think of all the attention you'll have to give their watering needs! And while you can grow smaller varieties of sweet corn, it is a wind pollinated crop and it is important to grow a substantial number of plants to get a viable crop. Still, it sure makes a statement – even a small corn stalk is pretty impressive – one could do a Native American theme pot with a couple stalks of corn, a sunflower and pole beans climbing up them. But don’t plan on it for a dinner party; it would be a decorative piece only. Pots, of course, do limit the size of a plant's root system, so you get less food, but if you don't have a choice in the matter, it is one way to add truly fresh food to your diet – just keep a very close eye on their water needs.

In addition, try melons, eggplant and okra, if you have room for melons and actually like okra and eggplant. Okra needs the most heat of any vegetable under discussion here, put it the hottest corner of your garden. In addition, if your eating plans include borage, chervil, chives, lavender, lemon grass, lovage, marjoram, mint (be certain to get a good culinary one, there are many that are not) Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum NOT O. vulgare, big difference in taste although vulgare is a lot easier to find), parsley, rosemary, sage and tarragon, you could set these plants out into a border convenient to your kitchen. Or in pots. These perennial plants are fine being planted now – they are hardy in the heat and will take a lot more drought than the annuals – these are all Mediterranean plants, which is the type of climate we have in LA. They are not as hardy as the California Natives, our drought is typically nine months long, theirs is closer to six, but they run an edible second.

This is the 2nd big season for planting perennial crops. And while Fall is better, many people with East Coast or Midwest “roots” simply cannot prune from themselves this “Spring = planting time” mentality. It can be so pervasive that even nurseries themselves often evidence a better selection of some things at this time of year. Our part of the country seems so divorced from manual labor with the soil that such things are not the strangest occurrences that happen horticulturally here. Just to add confusion, a good number of the chain stores have their plant selections made somewhere back east by someone who has no clue what we should be growing here. You will find roots of artichokes, rhubarb, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic and asparagus in many stores – I'd skip these if you can discipline yourself. It is much better to purchase these from mail order suppliers. You'll get better plants and they will arrive at a better planting time, late fall and early winter which is where I offer my ideas on planting them. One of my favorite suppliers, and fairly local too, is Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Their website, GrowOrganic.com is not one of the easiest to use, but their paper catalog is fantastic. I have used it to teach organic gardening. Call them at 888.784.1722 and ask for the catalog. The main catalog comes out in January with seeds, tools and general supplies, but the little fall catalog is the one that has these plants for your purchasing joy. Try some heirloom garlic and the Italian Red Torpedo onions for some real wonderful eating! But wait to buy them in Fall.

You may put out deciduous fruit trees and fruiting vines, but they are best planted in Fall like the plants in the last paragraph. In Fall, you will have the chance to plant bare root trees which is easier on the tree and will help you get an established tree sooner (and therefore more fruit sooner!). The only thing you can find in the stores at this time of year are trees potted up in 10 gallon or larger pots, but these are more expensive than the Fall bare-root plants, and they will not establish nearly as quickly as bare-root plants. It really is much better to patiently wait until next Fall to plant any deciduous trees.

Now however is a good time for citrus to go in as well as kiwi and sapote because they are more tropical and will love the coming heat while they get established. These plants do not go dormant so they are always sold in pots. Dig a hole no larger than the pot the tree came in, and do not bother adding all kinds of compost, mulch or other organic matter to the soil you fill in around the rootball. Current research shows that all that effort is pretty much a waste of time. Get the soil all around the roots and press it down with your foot in order to make sure it's firm. Put a garden hose on 'drool' and leave it be for as long as it takes to wet that are thoroughly. Keep citrus trees moist – especially in their first year – and soon you'll have more lemons, limes or tangerines than you know what to do with! Nature is always abundant if we work with Her and not against.

In setting out your tomatoes and other vegetables, you'll want to choose the part of the garden that gets the most sun. I know we have all been told that all vegetables must have all day sun, but that isn't necessarily so. Even in dappled sun, or in areas that don't get sun all day long, I have grown tomatoes and peppers. Sometimes the crop yield is somewhat compromised and the fruits mature measurably later, but I've still had good eating from plots others said would not produce at all. One does invite more preying insects because the lack of sun stresses the plants a little more, but with a little vigilance and industry, those shortcomings can be mitigated.

Tomatoes will set roots all along their stem, so setting them into the ground deeper than they were in the pot is a standard practice. However, other transplanted vegetables should be set in the ground no deeper than they were in the container. Allow one foot between peppers and eggplants, 2½' between most tomatoes – unless you know the plants are the short season early tomatoes – like Siletz, Stupice, Early Girl, Prairie Fire or Glacier, to name a few. These tomatoes are almost all determinate tomatoes that give you one crop in about 60 days from setting out and will set fruit in cooler/wetter conditions. They can be 18” apart and usually don't need staking – the other tomatoes do need something to keep them off the ground.

If you find aphids on your plants, wash them off with a stream of water – at worst, hit them with a little soap solution. Unless one is gardening in deep shade or the plants are stressed some other way, aphids should only pose a minor problem and all one needs to do is to help the beneficial insects keep them in check. It is helpful to keep a border or some pots of herbs or flowering ornamentals near the vegetable beds – beneficial insects may use their nectar for a food source when aphids aren’t present.

I really try to avoid all pesticides and fertilizers. Even the organic ones. I believe in the old organic maxim to “feed the soil and not the plant” and the addition of all fertilizers and pesticides hurts the flora and fauna of the soil. If the soil has a healthy ecology, teeming with bacteria and fungi, then this healthy soil will provide the building blocks for my plants to use in photosynthesis. Pesticides are designed to kill – and organic ones in some ways are worse than the chemical kind. Organic pesticides are wide-spectrum killers – they kill almost any critter they touch. It is true they don't persist very long in the environment – and that is one reason to use them instead of the chemical pesticides. For any pesticide to be efficient, you have to spray enough to cause it to drip onto the soil and those drops are fatal to soil biota. Don't do it if you can help it.

If you cultivate the ecology of the soil, you won't need fertilizers in your garden. It might take a few years, but with a little patience, you will raise the fertility of your soil. Plants aren't thriving though are probably not victim of a lack of nutrition (except nitrogen, which plants need in good supply at all times); it's probably a water problem (too much or too little).

Plants in containers are in a different world however. Those plants are placed in a most abnormal position. You must fertilize them – especially nitrogen. I use fish emulsion – it stinks, I know, I know – but it's still my favorite fertilizer. It is mild. Plants readily take it up and results are visible quite quickly. Even sickly plants can handle fish emulsion, whereas many of the other more powerful fertilizers are too hot for plants that are stressed and can keel right over when hit with the stronger solutions. I tend to use all fertilizers almost diluted twice as much as suggested on the container. I would rather have a weaker solution used more often than a full strength solution as recommended by the people that make their living off fertilizer sales.

I mentioned nitrogen as being the one nutrient your plants really need all the time. Signs of nitrogen shortages are yellowing older leaves on your plant. Because plants can move nitrogen inside their bodies, they will transfer their limited supplies of nitrogen from the older leaves, which don't work as well as the younger leaves, to their newer leaves in order to maximize the effect of the nitrogen. If your plant has green new leaves and yellowing older leaves, it's probably a lack of nitrogen. This happens a lot in citrus in winter when nitrogen moves slowly in the soil and yet the plants still need a lot of it. Fish emulsion is the answer for this problem definitely.

To get nitrogen into your garden is a different sort of thing. Over the summer, I'll be sowing plants in the garden to bring in some nitrogen without fertilizer, but the main way to get nitrogen in your garden is through lots of organic matter. That brings the critters to digest it and they will provide your plants with all the minerals they need.

Sustainable Water Strategies Resource List

Mulch Suppliers
Soil and Sod, Pacoima, 818-686-6445
Foothill Soils, Sylmar, 661-254-0867

Easiest gutter diverter for homeowner rainwater catchment applications

Choose tanks that ship from CA. Also sells first flush systems. Etanks is another option.

Native plants that can be used as lawn:

Carex praegracilis: Meadow Sedge, more runner, turf-forming
Carex pansa: Dune Sedge, possibly sturdier/less water use (according to Greenlee Nursery)
I use both interchangeably, retail source is Tree Of Life Nursery, plug 6-12” centers. Also available from Greenlee Nursery.
Festuca rubra: Red Fescue, the lumpy lawn, requires more water than above, but easily available.
Bouteloua gracilis: Blue gramma grass is also very lumpy, looks like a bluer Bermuda, great for desert/hi-elev. applications.

Books and other resources:

Eric D. Stein, Shawna Dark et al, Historical Wetlands of the San Gabriel River

Art Ludwig
You can buy books, plumbing supplies, etc. from this website. Reading the articles on the website is an education in water storage and reuse. The only source of salt-free dish and laundry that I am aware of.
Ludwig, The New Create an Oasis with Grey Water, Oasis Design
Ludwig, Builder's Grey Water Guide, Oasis Design
Ludwig, Water Storage, Oasis Design

Brad Lancaster,
Another excellent resource for water use.
Lancaster, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Vol 1 & 2, Rainsource Press
Vol. 1 is overview, Vol. 2 is earthworks

Mollison, Mia Slay, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, Tagari Publications
Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden, Chelsea Green

Prepared by Orchid Black for David King’s UCLA Extension class in Sustainable Gardening

A Non-exhaustive Glossary of Drip Irrigation

This chart, above, gives you a starter idea of the amount of drippers and kinds of drippers you would need with different types of plants. It is a starter idea - once you install your system, you will experiment to determine the number of drippers you find most successful.

Below you will find some of the terms you'll run across if you decide to get into drip irrigation.

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 1/8” – 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