Local horse manure piled up in an open dumpster

My good friend Paul is in town, and he has a truck. We made our usual pilgrimage to the local horse stables located in North Atwater Village. We took our forks and shovels and loaded up a truckfull of stable waste. It’s free, and there’s plenty… and it’s great for the garden.

The trick is that, like cheese or wine (well… maybe not), you have to wait. The stuff we pick up locally is about 4/5ths wood-shavings and about 1/5th poop. The woody stuff has been urinated on… so it’s all very rich in nitrogen. It’s too strong to be spread directly in the garden – supposedly it can hurt plants – though I am not entirely sure just how. So, it has to cook first. (more…)

This oak and others could buried any day now - unless you act to support it! Photo by permission of EcoToneStudios - All rights reserved

The story has been covered well by Josh Link at L.A. Creek Freak, Barbara Eisenstein at Weeding Wild Suburbia, and elsewhere, but I want to weigh in briefly on the threatened native oak woodlands site in Arcadia, which Los Angeles County Public Works department plans to bury with sediment.

The San Gabriel Mountains gradually wear down, through rain fall. Mountain streams carry sediment down steep hills and deposit sediment on flatter alluvial plains. This is a natural process;  it’s what created the alluvial places where nearly all Southern California residents live.

At a site along Highland Oaks Drive in the city of Arcadia, sediment from the Santa Anita Wash (an eastern tributary of the Rio Hondo and the Los Angeles River) has built up and now the county wants to deposit that wash sediment on top of an adjacent grove of oak trees. Sadly, the county sees this sediment – rich, wonderful soil – as a problem to get rid of – not as a resource. (more…)

Yarrow plants I propagated just before the last series of rainstorms. They're doing really well. It's for a project that I will write about soon.

With more wonderful rain on the forecast for tomorrow, I was out in the garden weeding today. One of the very nicest problems we have in the Southern California garden is that there’s a huge amount of flexibility in what seasons we can grow various plants. My friend Erik at Homegrown Evolution, in a post about Stella Natura calendar planting, alluded to this:

But here in Los Angeles, where we have a four month time span to plant most things, following the Stella Natura calendar is a good way of avoiding procrastination.

I call this sort of strategy “punctuation.” To belabor the analogy, in the run-on sentence that is L.A. gardening, we need to find places to put in commas and periods. Some use an external calendar like Stella Natura, I’ve never tried it though. My favorite garden-anti-procrastination strategy to garden in advance of forecasted rain.

When there’s rain predicted, that’s a great time to go out and get something done in the garden. These are kind of obvious, but here are my suggestions:

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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?