29 March, 2014


The carrot cotyledons do not look like a carrot leaf -
one has to wait for the third leaf, the first true leaf which shows off
the ferny foliage characteristic of carrots
Cotyledon is the scientific name for the first leaves from a seed.  These leaves are usually considered as being in the seed itself.  They come out of the seed, along with the first root, and begin the life processes for the plant - upon the photosynthesis carried out by the cotyledons, the regular leaves form, processing ever more light into what the plant needs to grow to adulthood.

The plants we grow for food and medicine are mostly, not always, but overwhelmingly mostly, from the group of plants called, the higher plants, the flowering plants or, in scientific jargon, the Angiosperms.

Harder to see, but still obviously a dicot, right?

Most of our food plants come from that group of plants in the Angiosperms that have two cotyledons and are called the 'dicotyledons' or, more commonly, just 'dicots.'  If you are a gardener in the know, you can use words like, dicot with impunity and impress the neophytes.  Tomatoes growing above show the typical dicot form. 

Tohono O'oodahm I'itoi Onions rescued from some given to
me by a good friend from Arizona, even though these are
beyond the cotyledon stage, you can visualize the single
cotyledon of a monocot with these plants
Coming along later on the evolutionary timeline are the 'monocots' with one leaf.  In this group you have all the onions, leeks, garlic and chives; collectively called the Alliums.  It also includes, to name some of them, all grass, all the grains (which are just grasses), palm trees, sugar cane and bamboo.  Pretty diverse and prolific.  One poet wrote, "I am the grass, I cover all," and it's not too far off.  The johnny-come-lately to our world, monocots have done a good job of out competing other plants that have been around longer.  There is no eco-system on earth that does not have some grass in it. 

Often times the cotyledons are NOT at all like the true leaves that the plant will eventually have; that happens in the second set of leaves a plant produces.In order to not weed out your little babies in the garden, a beginning gardener has to learn what the cotyledons look like.  

This is the time of year we all need to be sowing our tomatoes, I already have about 180 tomatoes over an inch high and more behind them.  I normally don't start pepper until mid-April, but this spring has been so warm, I just started peppers, eggplants, okra and squash today.  I ran out of soil or I would have started cucumbers and zucchini.  

Don't slack now - if you don't get your seeds in the ground now, you'll be losing harvest in a couple of months!  


26 March, 2014

Greener Gardens Class To Be Offered At The Learning Garden

Greener Gardens: Sustainable Garden Practice

I'll be teaching this Spring Quarter with Orchid Black again - this will be our fourth time teaching this class and every time it has been a fun and informative class!  This will be the first time it will be taught at the Learning Garden - and I, for one, am very excited about it.  

Sustainability is a current buzzword with many people seeking to create a lifestyle creating a more favorable impact on the environment. From home and school gardens, to commercial sites, our gardens present the perfect place to start. Designed for horticulture students, gardening professionals, educators, home gardeners and those interested in a more sustainable lifestyle, this course focuses on turning your green thumb into a "greener" garden. Topics include composting, irrigation, water harvesting, water wise plants, eating and growing local produce, recycling, and moving away from a consumptive, non-sustainable lifestyle when choosing materials and tools. Includes weekend field trips to the Los Angeles River to see our relationship with water in the L.A. Basin, as well as the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, focusing not only on California native plants but also on water-conserving planting design. Students also visit the John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona, which advances the principles of environmentally sustainable living through education, research, demonstration, and community outreach. 

Class is held Monday evenings, 6:30-9:30 PM at The Learning Garden on the grounds of Venice High School.  Enter from Walgrove Avenue and find the classroom in the shade house.  Dress in layers in case it is one of those cool summer nights near the beach.  Three field trips as above.  

Enrollment is via UCLA Extension.  


22 March, 2014

The Times They Are A-changing

Regular followers will have noticed a severe drop off in new posts over the last several months.  This blog is not being abandoned, but there are some changes taking place that affect the nature and purpose of this blog and, while trying to discern what this blog will soon come to look like, I've slacked off.  

The book, Growing Food In Southern California, is moving forward and will be soon sent off to the final proofing (gulp).  Most of the book has appeared here in one form or another and it seems to me that if I hope for folks to buy the book and finance my high and wild lifestyle (that's a joke), it would be prudent to not give it away for free.  

So what does the blog become?  An ad for the book?  Something more?  Something less?  Photos of Tre'? 
A gratuitous photo of the dog, notice the containers
with plants in them, ergo garden related.
 It needs to be relevant and it needs to generate value for you, the reader.   So I am willing to take your suggestions.  I am thinking a pest of the week series, plant of the week series, garden snafu series, a lot of current events in the garden - a snippet of the gardening year through my eyes.  Definitely shorter posts!  The longer posts were always derided as TOO LONG as the 'proper' blog post is supposed to be 500 words or less.  I was clocking in at 3 to 4000 words a post.  

So look for more and shorter posts, more photos and hopefully more content that is usable right now!  

And thank all of you for being my readers!  Write me questions or just pat me on the back - it really helps to know my words are actually being read.

Mr. Lincoln?  I don't know, but I do love it!
And speaking of red, here's the first rose of the year for me, probably a Mr. Lincoln but I'm not sure.  This plant is a cutting from a cutting I made in 2002 - the first rose I grew from a cutting.  Very proud to have continued the life of a rose that was in the way of construction at UCLA.