January 2010


Bobby and Josh resting on our laurels

Thanks to great work by Bobby and Josh today, and lunch provided by Zoe, we finally finished building the second planter bed at the north end of the bulbout in front of Los Angeles Eco-Village. There’s background on the bulbout and before pictures here, and a post on our first completed raised bed thereon.

More pictures and description follows.

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My garden today: Thai Green Lettuce - grown from Seeds of Change seeds. Also onions from starters from Sunset Nursery, and some arugula just sprouting in the foreground.

I thought I’d share an exchange that I recently had with my friend Angelo Logan – regarding what crops to grow in the winter in Southern California. He wrote:
Joe, I am looking for advice about winter gardening. I want to know what to plant now, if there is anything i can plant, or is it too late. If you can give me some advice that would be great, if not can you refer me to some one?

My response is below. Note that this is pretty climate-specific – It should apply to pretty much anywhere in the Los Angeles Basin… where we have this great semi-arid mediteranean climate that’s splendid for growing  just about anything any time.  Depending on where you live and grow, this may or may not be applicable. I highly recommend asking someone who lives around for advice on what works for your area. You might go to a local garden/nursery store or a farmer’s market and ask people who are selling starter plants.

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A few of the happy velocipedists at C.I.C.L.E.'s November 2009 Tweed, Moxie and Moustache Ride

The non-profit group Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange (C.I.C.L.E.) hosts a monthly series of Urban Expedition bike rides in various parts of L.A. County. Urban Expeditions are beginner-friendly and family-friendly. Participants are encouraged to bring friends who are less confident. The rides are relatively short (5-8 miles) with a few stops for rest and learning. There are lots of C.I.C.L.E. volunteers to help keep things really safe and fun. Participants and leaders often dress up to celebrate the ride’s theme (check out these pictures of our recent tweed ride!)

This Saturday, January 16th 2009, C.I.C.L.E. hosts our Urban Gardens Ride.

Meet at 12noon the Bicycle Kitchen, 706 North Heliotrope Drive, L.A. 90029. Located very close to the corner of Heliotrope Drive and Melrose Avenue – three short blocks west of Vermont Avenue, and a very short bike ride from the Vermont/Santa Monica Metro Red Line Station. Ride departs at 12:30pm. It’s free! Beginner-friendly and family friendly – about 6 miles – relatively flat.

The lettuce is one winter crop that's doing well in the LAEV gardens. It really enjoyed this morning's rain.

If you’ve been hoping to get a shorter cheaper greener harder better faster stronger (compared to our regular 3-hour tours) introduction to Los Angeles Eco-Village, then this ride is for you. We’ll be doing a walk-through of the eco-village gardens, including lots of fruit trees, greywater, rainwater harvesting, chickens, and more. At the end of the block, we’ll also briefly tour the Bresee Foundation’s Bimini Slough Ecology Park (watch this excellent video introduction to the innovative park project that closed a block of 2nd Street to re-create part of a historic creek.)

The ride will tour a couple of other local community gardens: Francis Avenue Community Garden and Rosewood Community Garden. It will also introduce folks to the future 4th Street Bicycle Boulevard, and pay a visit to Mama’s Hot Tamales.

Come on down and ride with us this Saturday!

(Cross-posted at the LAEV blog and the LAEV Garden Blog. Interested party note: the author of this post, eco-village resident Joe Linton, works for C.I.C.L.E.!)

It’s time to reveal some of the errors of my ways. I am actually a bit better at growing than I am at harvesting. Now and then… uh… often… I grow edibles in my garden, and I don’t get around to harvesting them, and they go to seed or otherwise overshoot their optimum harvest date.

Carrots big as my hand, and I've got pretty big hands

In the first week of November, I thought I would pick some garden delights to offer up at one of our eco-village regular Sunday potlucks. I usually try to incorporate at least a little something I’ve grown into my potluck offering. I pulled up some carrots, and was happy to see how big and healthy they looked. I also picked my last half-dozen eggplants, some of which had grown a bit yellowish.

I made a salad, including chunks of carrot… turns out that the carrots were indeed past their prime. Still edible, but they were a bit tough, perhaps plasticky if that’s a word, not so flavorful or sweet. I baked the eggplants into some eggplant parmesan… and though it was edible, they tasted a little bitter. No one mentioned these shortfalls at the meal… but I did have leftovers to take home, which is often not the case when I concoct something really delicious.

It’s my fault for not jumping on these veggies/fruits when they first started looking great. I am certainly a world class procrastinator (evidence: blogging in January about a November incident)… but I also think that harvesting is a difficult and under-explored part of gardening.

Many plants have a decent length window during which they can be harvested without any adverse results. Chard and kale can wait for months to be harvested. Artichokes, tomatoes, and many others patiently linger for a few weeks to a month. Others seem really short – young arrugula goes from just right to strongly bitter (in my opinion) seemingly overnight.

The transition from perfect to inedible can happen pretty slowly. For example, broccoli gets those buds that look a little too tight, they gradually relax and spread out and then flower. It’s definitely at its best when harvested before flowering… and can get really bitter when the flowers get going… but there’s no clear signal (that I am aware of) that tells me when it’s ready. It’s just some indeterminate time during the maturation of those buds… when they’ve started to spread… but haven’t finished spreading.

I think it’s actually a book that needs to be written: something like vegetable havesting tricks and tips. When can you havest? What can and can’t you do with early or late harvest? Such as: tossing those thinnings into your salad… or those late carrots are probably fine in stews? Some of these harvesting practices and timings are probably local and seasonal, so it may be difficult to write it all down in a universal way. There are probably mathematical ways – this type of carrots are best at 12 weeks… but better if there cues that the plant can tell me. Is anyone aware of a book (or a website) that has good guidance on harvesting garden crops?