29 May, 2014

Let There Be Ice Cream and Let It Begin With Me!

Homemade rhubarb pie and homemade
vanilla ice cream

You remember having pie and ice cream last year, right?  Remember how you savored each bite and being a part of the chorus extolling affection and love for the people who brought this wonderful 4th of July party to your tastebuds?  

Guess what?

YOU can be one of the folks being praised by happy ice cream eaters this coming 4th of July!  We are looking for a few good people who can read a recipe and help us make some of this delicious ice cream during the month of June. The Learning Garden will provide the ingredients (and the recipes too!) and we have the freezer space to store the ice cream.  You just follow the steps and viola!  You get to be one of the makers people will laud on this coming July 4th.  

Interested?  Please send a response to Wendy Temple.  j

And mark your calendars to be at the Learning Garden in the afternoon of July 4th this year for our 7th Annual Ice Cream Social!  

You know it's good!


18 May, 2014

Movie Event, "Growing Cities"

I am privileged to serve on a panel after the viewing of this documentary along with Alexa Delwiche and Teague Weybright, two folks I've had the chance to work with in these past few years. Both are profoundly knowledgeable and I'm sure this will be a marvelous evening of provocative thinking and vision.

The Los Angeles Community Garden Council presents…

Sunday  June 1, 2014

3:45 to 6:00PM 

Park La Brea Movie Theater
475 S. Curson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

3:45PM – Arrive and enjoy healthy snacks.
4:00PM – The 60 minute movie starts.
5:00-6:00PM – Refreshments & discussion with local urban agriculture experts:
> Teague Weybright, Board President, LACGC
> Alexa Delwiche, Managing Dtr, LA Food Policy Council
> David King. Inaugural Chair, Seed Library of LA.

Adults: $14.00
Under 18: $10.00

To purchase tickets and get more information, go to:

Sponsored by:  LACGC & the Park La Brea Residents Association


16 May, 2014

61st Annual Culver City Garden Club Garden Show & Plant Sale

A special event held annually comes back to Culver City for the 61st time.  Because I work on weekends, I have not been able to make it for a few years, but when I did go, it was delightful.  The atmosphere had an old time mid-west flavor that made me long for the better days of my youth - even then plant shows and sales were a compelling addiction.

From their own posting, the details can be found here.  They say:

The Culver City Garden Club Show is our biggest annual event. It's an Exhibition of homegrown plants, flowers and edibles entered by members of our club and the community. All are welcome to participate!

Show Highlights: Attend the Culver City Garden Show and Plant Sale for great ideas on what you can grow here in your Southern California gardens—both indoors and outdoors. Master Gardeners will deliver useful and insightful demos and classes both days! These are gardening gurus and professionals in landscaping, floral design, interior design and green design. So come check out our exhibits, plant sale, and special presentations each day—Experts will be on hand on both Saturday and Sunday (June 7 - 8) to help you with your specific plant questions. Win plants, garden tools, gift certificates from local businesses and more. Great for all the family. FREE starter plants for beginners and kids to introduce them to gardening. FREE ADMISSION.

And I agree... 

Don't miss it!  I think you'll find it's one of the best garden events on the Westside of Los Angeles.


Just Label It Damn It!

I'm just back from another trip to downtown LA beseeching the Rules Committee to put a proclamation on the City Council agenda in support of California Senate Bill (SB) 1381.  It passed and now it moves onto the full council agenda, probably in 30 days.  

Forgive me if I sound cranky, but I am.  If you need to watch your sodium, it's printed on the label of foods you buy.  If you are cutting back, or cutting out, your sugar intake, you can find that listed on the label too.  If you have to avoid nuts, you can find that on the label as well - even if the product doesn't contain nuts, the label will inform you it was made on equipment that sometimes is used for processing nuts or nut products so your allergies aren't activated.

So why all this opposition to labeling genetically engineered foods?  It makes perfect sense to me and to a majority of Americans according to repeated polls.  Only the genetic modifiers themselves and their paid supporters seem to oppose it - but they have money and a take no prisoners attitude.  

But, why should they oppose it?  After all, GMO foods are just like other foods right?  That's why they don't need to be labeled and that's why there doesn't need to be any real, independent research before we feed them to ourselves and our children.  Right?  

Not so fast.  First off, they clearly don't believe their own propaganda.  If they are just like other foods, why do they believe they should have a patent to protect their 'invention' from being copied?  Obviously, no matter how you slice this, it is obvious they themselves feel it IS different - no matter what they say.  But that alone is not why they oppose labeling.  

The manufacturers of genetically modified organisms that are in our food are afraid of only ONE thing and I'm going to tell you what it is. It isn't labeling, per se.  It is one of the possible (probable?) effects of labeling: 


If there are a LOT of sick people, sick because they ate GMOs, guess who would be sued out of business?  To find out, all you have to do is look at the organizations fighting labeling and the front groups they create.  That, my friends, is why there is opposition to labeling.  It is the death knell to GMOs because those companies KNOW there has not been sufficient research on these inventions that can prove they are truly harmless - in fact, quite the opposite.  There is a LOT of disturbing news about GMOs and we KNOW already they devastate the environment, they mess with nature in truly degenerative way that will destroy agriculture in any country that continues their use.  

Do not give up my friends.  This is will become a game-changer in American business. The liars and cheats and can still be whipped.  But we must label food with messed up genetics and be able to trace the sources when finally we get enough research on genetic engineering and can make an informed choice.

IF I am wrong, no foul.  No one gets sued.  But they are so unsure of their own products they are fighting labeling tooth and nail.  Carry this message far and wide:  Why are they afraid of us knowing what is in our food?  Just label it, damn it!


12 May, 2014

Surfing the Heat Wave

Sunny, with a high near 82. North wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west southwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 15 mph.
82° | 58°
Sunny, with a high near 92. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
92° | 61°
Sunny, with a high near 93. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming northwest in the morning.
93° | 61°
Sunny, with a high near 90.
90° | 61°
Sunny, with a high near 80.
80° | 58°

Looks grim doesn't it?  It looks like a week of very high temperatures ahead for Southern California.  It will affect our gardening and seed saving in a multitude of ways.  I've seen tomatoes turn white, becoming inedible just before they would have been ripe. Sunstroke. And that's just one of the sad consequences of this heat.  

Heat stressed tomatoes.
Tomatoes don't fertilize well above 85° - the pollen is heat sensitive.  Some folks have said to me they don't see any bees at their tomatoes and think that's why they have no fruit. Not true.  Bees can, but usually don't pollinate tomatoes. Tomatoes almost ALWAYS self-fertilize - they have both male and female equipment in the flower and they will do the deed before the flower is even open.  The exception to self pollination are those varieties that are "potato leafed."  Not all of them will, but many of them can be pollinated by bees.  You can tell those that can be pollinated by bees because the sexual flower parts extend beyond the green sepals keeping the young blossom closed.  With the stamens and pistil sticking out beyond the closed flower, bees can effectively pollinate the flower and that might include crossing.  However, on the scale of things to worry about, accidental tomato crosses are somewhere up there with Godzilla sightings. Outside of Tokyo.  

Shade cloth will help - especially if this heat wave doesn't hang around for more than a week - try to imagine it's the same as a cold snap.  If you protect your tomatoes from too much cold, when the cold has passed, you remove the things you were using to keep them alive.  Same thing here.  Shade cloth - try to protect primarily from the intense noon to three PM heat - that's the most damaging.  Add extra water for the roots.  Be prepared for plants to wilt in the day but revive over night.  Don't freak out too much.  Yes, it's not ideal, but wilting is a plant's defense against losing too much water in high heat.  The wilted plant hangs onto more water than a rigid plant could.  

Watering is much more effective in the evening or the early morning.  Of the two, evening is the best because there is more time for the water to get into the ground and not be vaporized off into the atmosphere.  If you have bad mildew problems, morning is your best bet because it will foster less mildew.  

Remember, you ARE doing extra watering, but we ARE also in a drought.  You see the contradiction in what we need to do?  This is just an inkling of what growers of food will have to contend with more global climate change.  We will be faced with two choices and both of them will be bad.

Wear your hat, long sleeved shirts and long pants.  I know, I've heard it all before, but this is not Grandma's sun anymore kiddos!  Protect your skin.  Try not to do a lot in the middle of these hot days.  Get out there early or leave it until the evening.  I don't need any sunstroked readers - readers are too hard to get already.  I gotta keep you alive!


08 May, 2014

WTH Wednesdays: Ficus pukus

First in an occasional series of 'What The Horticulture' Wednesdays!  

This tree has been butchered!  Even though this is a type of tree will regrow after this kind of mauling, it needs to be pointed out that this is not a way to prune a tree!  

This is a mature Ficus benjamina, students of mine get equal credit for using my pejorative, Ficus pukus, what a friend calls 'fauxtanical Latin.'  It is frequently used as a street tree in Los Angeles as well as being the ubiquitous tree in a container on someone's otherwise bare balcony.  It will grow under the most heinous of conditions and suffer abuse with aplomb and still look like something alive.  This particular tree receives this kind of treatment every two or three years.  It is certainly not a specimen of a healthy tree, but it struggles on.

In this closer photo, you can see the chainsaw has cut away portions of bark and cambium. These wounds do not heal and are entry points for disease and insects.  This tree, even though it is resilient in the face of this torture, will not live long.  You can see more abuse in the way the roots are above the surface (photo above) where they are regularly mowed.  They are also crossing and as they grow, some roots may wrap around other roots and kill them.  

In any event, F. bejamina is a water sucker and if given half a chance will invade plumbing to get the water it desires.  This type of tree can look decent - there is one next door to this one that is much better maintained, but it too will, sooner or later with better odds than the lottery, invade pipes looking for more water.  

There are many, much better species to plant in our drought prone California gardens. Still, on my block this is the most often planted tree. I would hold that the homeowner says they desire a certain look and leave it to the gardeners to choose what is grown and the gardeners choose the easiest thing to prune.  Most people also specify 'fast growing' which is merely a synonym for 'high maintenance.' 

A lot of lessons from one poorly pruned tree.  We can do better than this, in tree selection and tree maintenance.