Persimmon tree leaves turning a wonderful shocking orange-red - photo taken December 9th 2010

Well… nothing serious or profound here in this post… but I walked out into the garden a couple of days ago and was struck by the beautiful deep oranges and reds in the leaves of Eco-Village’s persimmon tree. (more…)

Check out these videos about an apparently controversial Australian farmer who uses weeds and leaky contour check-dams to restore water to parched landscapes. Peter Andrews’ technique is called Natural Sequence Farming.

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Yarrow in full bloom on Rockwood Street in Los Angeles

I was bicycling home from the Echo Park pool today when I came across this spectacular display of multiple colors of blooming yarrow. I had to take a picture and share it with the greater blogosphere, because I am a big fan of yarrow.

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Our compost pile has a constant cloud of flies above it, which is not ideal, but is also not terrible.  Our pit is more of a cool-composting operation than a hot pile that kills off the larvae of insects.  We find Chinese beetle grubs and we feed them to the chickens or wild birds.

Yesterday, however, I witnessed something wholly new to me in the compost pit… and I’m pretty sure it’s terrible.  Just under the top layer of foods and soil in our pit is a writhing mass of large maggots- they are similar-looking to mealworms, except they have a more elliptical body shape than the usual worm.  Once brought up into the sunlight, they move like maggots, their little searching ends wriggling themselves back into the earth, shoving dirt to either side.

I’m pretty sure the thousands (yes, thousands) that are in our pile are the harbinger of a major flying insect explosion in a matter of days or weeks.  HELP!  We stuck a chicken on them yesterday, and I went out to find her HIDING in the house part of the chicken tractor, rather than eating them.  I think THEY would eat HER if she were standing in the compost pit.

Can anyone identify what type of larvae this is?

What will these guys become? A type of fly? Beetle?

Steamed cardoon flower/choke on the left, artichoke on the right.

I’ve got some questions about cardoons. A while back, Erik of Homegrown Evolution gave me a cardoon plant. For folks unfamiliar with the plant, it’s the same family as artichoke and thistle – but it’s grown for its edible leaf-stalks which somewhat resemble huge celery stalks.

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Radishes growing in my front yard raised bed

Introducing the radish. Yes, you’ve met before… but perhaps it’s time to become better acquainted.

Radishes are one of two plants that come highly recommended for beginning gardeners – because they’re so easy to grow. It seems like the seeds all germinate, and come up something like one or two days after one starts watering them. The young leaves are very recognizable once you’ve grown them before. Then, in less than a month (instant gratification in garden-time), you’ve got something edible and even familiar-looking.

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Today, I worked on a new terraced bed below the guyaba tree. It’s a mostly shady spot, where I haven’t gardened for a season or two. I used to garden there more; it’s actually the area where my former girlfriend Michelle and I first started pulling up lawn to create the garden. The new terrace is next to the fence between the eco-village buildings – so it’s next to an untended (weedy) corner of the yard of the other eco-village building. It’s an edge of the garden where I don’t spend too much time, so it accumulates things like trimmings and it gets weedy – mostly overgrown with nasturtium. I guess that’s not really weedy – can do a lot worse than nasturtium – but they do gradually spread out and take over everything if you let them.

The spot also suffers some compaction from folks walking in it when they’re harvesting guyaba in October through January – so now’s the time to garden there, when the tree isn’t yielding any fruit.

The area already had a somewhat wimpy terrace  – shown on the last photo at the bottom of this post. Here’s a shot in progress today:

Shady terrace bed half-built

And here’s the more-or-less finished project:

I plan to add a second terrace level about halfway through the bed. I will probably plant some beans/peas/cucumbers that will climb the fence. I am also hoping that by putting quite a few large chunks of urbanite, folks will have a place to stand while picking guyaba, so they’ll tromp through the garden a bit less… we’ll see.

Well, this is a pretty common sight throughout California and even in places where they’re now invasive, but… mid-day today I was really happy to see these bright orange poppies in full-bloom. They’re on the eco-village bulbout. I noticed them a week or so ago, but the flowers open during the day and close at night (technically called nyctinasty), so I hadn’t chanced upon them in their mid-day bright wide-open exuberance until today.

Glorious California Poppy blooming in the L.A. Eco-Village Bulbout

They’re California Poppies, of course, the Official California State Flower, super easy to grow here, re-seeding themselves… more about California Poppy from a post here from last February.

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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