07 April, 2019

Urban Food Production, Spring 2019

Course Number: Biology X 489.6  

Instructor: David King


There are no prerequisites for this course, although some experience with gardening will prove useful.

All classes meet at The Learning Garden on the Venice High School campus where it can be hot and cold by turns – but reliably MUCH MORE VARIABLE than other parts of Los Angeles. For your own comfort, please bring a sweater or coat to every class meeting. Class will meet regardless of the weather. Expect to get wet or dry or hot or cold as we will be outside for a portion of every meeting.

The production, packaging, and transportation of food are large contributors to our global carbon emissions. Throughout the Los Angeles Basin, food gardens have sprung up to produce local healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables while contributing energy and financial savings in difficult economic times. Using the history of growing food in the city in times of need as a template, this course explores how homegrown food can reduce your food budget and address environmental concerns. Participants each have a small plot for growing food where they can experiment with new ideas and enjoy their harvest. Topics include fruit trees, vegetables, and berries that do well in our climate as well as often overlooked food-producing perennials and how to grow food in modern city lots where the "back forty" describes square feet and not acres.

Textbooks Required:

Title The New Sunset Western Garden Book
Author Brenzel, Kathleen Norris (Editor)
Edition Feb. 2012
Publisher Sunset Books
ISBN 978-0376039170

There will be no assigned reading from the book, but it really is essential if you are gardening in Southern California. The most recent edition is not really necessary, however, it does have more data in it and with each edition Sunset pays more respect to food gardening.

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

Textbooks, Recommended:

Title The Kitchen Garden
Author Thompson, Sylvia
Edition First
Publisher Bantam Books
ISBN 0-553-08138-1
*(She has a companion cookbook that is worth investigation too!)
Title Heirloom Vegetable Gardening
Author Weaver, William Woys
Edition First
Publisher Henry Holt
ISBN 978-0760359921
A NEW edition at last!!!
Title Pests of the Garden and Small Farm
Author Flint, Mary Louise
Edition 2nd
Publisher Univ of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
ISBN-13: 978-1879906402
Title The Resilient Gardener

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

There will be no assigned reading from these books. The rest of the literature, as references, will prove invaluable to any serious student in this field. There will be bibliographies describing other books as the quarter progresses, I am a ferocious reader and not at all shy about suggesting books I think deserve your attention. From the bibliography, you will choose one book to read and report on. This report will be turned in at the end of class; see the point assignment structure on the next page.

Course Schedule (still under construction):

07 April
Introduction/Seed Starting/Urban gardening in context today/12 Points to a Better Garden Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Visit Garden
14 April
Books/ Food crops of summer/growing up
21 April
Tools/Urban Gardens Bigger Picture
28 April
Planting/Sheet composting/Composting/ Planting Timing and Design/SLOLA/Seeds/Light/Water/
05 May
Sources/Annuals/ Soil Contamination and Remediation
12 May
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Beekeeping?/Introduction to goat keeping (?)
19 May
Goats in the Urban Foodscapes
26 May
02 June

09 June

16 June
Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck/Submit your journal etc for a grade.

(Syllabus may be changed as needed to reflect reality.)
Please note that in Spring quarter there are a few holidays and plants do not take a holiday. – we will need to ensure that watering happens to keep the plants alive if there is no rain while we all enjoy our celebrations.

Point Assignment Structure
Class participation (and cooperation)

Grade of A
> 90%
Garden Journal

1 page book review

Planting Project

D and F

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

Therefore, please note, I try to grade you on your personal improvement. Cooperation is counted more than competition in my classes.

Office hours are by appointment only – please call or email me. I am willing to meet with you; I want you to learn; I do not want you to struggle. Please do not hesitate to call me, rather than try to talk to me in class when I can't really give you undivided attention. Extra points are available if you wish to earn more credit.

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

You are encouraged to experiment in the garden plot. Your process should be thoroughly documented in your journal – your thinking and your understanding of what is happening in your garden. If you have a problem, research a solution.

Pick one book from the ones presented in class to read and report on.

As often as I can, I will prepare some seasonal food to eat. There are no places to buy food while in class and we are here for four hours. Students are encouraged to bring in food to share with the class at all meetings. Students should bring in their own plate and eating utensils so we can have a minimum waste event. The last class meeting will be a potluck where we will all share local and fresh food! (That's the point, right?)

Criteria for your garden journal grade:
  1. Documentation of what you planted when
  2. Documentation of weather elements – temperature (minimum and maximum) as well as an precipitation and noting humidity or dryness, especially of Santa Ana winds.
  3. Germination per cent of plant sown from seed
  4. Choice of varieties sources and reasoning
  5. Success/failures discussed – alternatives to failures/expansion of successes
  6. Plans for the future
  7. Drawings (or photos) of the garden (either done by hand or by computer program) NOTE: this notebook is NOT your class notes – they might be included, but what I want are your garden observations!

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

The person who starts from seed vs. bringing in growing plants, will have plants not nearly as far along as the others – but stands to make a better grade if they have experimented with growing from seed – I am more interested that you LEARN in this class – just doing what you already have done doesn't teach you anything. We are all gardeners here, if we don't have patience yet, we soon will. Cultivate patience with your plants in this class setting.

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

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