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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Can you spot the lizard?

Can you spot the lizard?

Above is a cell phone shot of a lizard I just spotted in the garden a couple minutes ago. It’s not a great photo of the critter but I was worried that if I got any closer she/he would dart off.

I’ve heard that lizards are good for gardens. They eat insects, and don’t really damage any of the plants. They like things a little messy, though. If one keeps one’s garden too neat, the lizards will go elsewhere.

Yesterday, I found the corner of the southern bulb-out raised garden bed looking like this:

before

before

In a few seconds I fixed it back to how it had been. Then it looked like this:

after

after

The visitor in this case, appears to have been one of those cars… One of the creatures that I don’t really like visiting my garden. I will try to avoid what has been called my obligatory shot at car culture and will just say that it’s easy to rebuilt these urbanite beds when  they come apart.

El Muro del Jardin de Nuestra Senora de la Bulbout

El Muro del Jardin de Nuestra Senora de la Bulbout

Thanks to the hard work of quite a few LA Eco-Villagers and a few of our neighbors and even some folks from the city of Los Angeles… we’ve got a new raised garden bed in a space that just over a year ago was parking. Special thanks to one of our newest members, Bobby Gadda, for working on this from the start and seeing it through to completion last Saturday.

It’s in the bulbout – which you can read about here, here and here. It’s made of urbanite.

The urbanite is un-mortared, so we can change it around later if we want. The top layer is built out of concrete pieces salvaged from where we’re de-paving out back. We used a lot of large pieces because sometimes the youth walking home from the nearby Virgil Middle School like to do their job and fool around as they walk down our street and test out just how indestructible things are. Hopefully the big pieces will hold themselves in place. We’ll see how it does.

The walls double at seating/benches. I was happy to see them already being used as such by Virgil Adult School students last Monday night.

We planted some already, but it probably needs more. In the walls (between the urbanite layers) there’s mint, yarrow, oregano, strawberries and a few kinds of thyme. I like the way that these plants will spread to create a sort of green wall. In the bed itself, there’s artichoke, cardoon, poppy, onion, basil, California fuschia, and calendula. We’ll see what’s happy growing there… and what the neighborhood foot traffic allows to stay and thrive.

Here’s another shot of the new arrival. Looking forward to the plants growing in.

The garden bed wall facing the street will become greener as the plants grow in

The garden bed wall facing the street will become greener as the plants grow in

(Cross posted at LAEV Garden Blog and LAEV General Blog.)

Well, maybe it should be called mining urbanite? Urbanite is what we call the chunks of broken concrete that we use to build terraced garden bed projects like las trincheras. I didn’t coin the name urbanite… some visitor to eco-village many years ago called it that, and it stuck. I am a big proponent of urbanite and use lots of it in my garden.

LA Conservation Corps crew breaking up concrete for tree wells on Vermont Avenue.  Note my hand truck loaded up with urbanite in the foreground.

LA Conservation Corps crew breaking up concrete for tree wells on Vermont Avenue. Note my hand truck loaded up with urbanite in the foreground.

This week I was bicycling up Vermont Avenue, and, in front of the Rite-Aid just below 3rd Street I came upon a Los Angeles Conservation Corps crew. They were using a jackhammer to bust up concrete and create holes where street trees will be planted. There was a pile of rubble in their truck. I asked one of the crew if I could take some pieces. On my bike I could only take two pieces, which I carried under one arm.

I am really happy when I can get broken concrete within a mile or so of eco-village (during the shared street construction on our block each night I’d carry as much as I could,) that way I can harvest it without using fossil fuels. It’s great to be able to use waste where it’s generated. Sometimes, though, I across a big stash and then borrow a car or truck to haul it. Sometimes, I’ve been able to get folks to drop it off. They generally will need to pay a tipping fee to dump it at a landfill, so giving it to us saves them money.

When I got to eco-village I grabbed our hand truck and walked the two blocks back down to the site. I loaded it up with the nicest biggest pieces I could find. My general recommendation is that the really useful pieces are ones that are the size of a brick or larger. The bigger the better, as it’s easy to break pieces down, but impossible to put them back together.

The second, and somewhat heavier, load of urbanite, in front of the bicycle gate behind the Bimini Terrace

The second, and somewhat heavier, load of urbanite, in front of the bicycle gate behind the Bimini Terrace

I brought two loads of urbanite back to the village. The first load wasn’t so heavy, so then I proceeded to really load up the second time. It got too heavy to lift at that point, so I had to push it along the ground on four wheels. Thanks to Brad who I encountered waiting for the bus and who helped me get it up the curb ramp at 3rd and Vermont.

One urban permaculture strategy is to harvest the immense waste streams generated by our cities. Of course, nature is really good at this; the output from any natural process serves as the input for another. From trash to rainwater to sewage, we city folks generate and discard a lot of stuff that is really useful. If we’re going to live sustainably, then we need to close these loops; to use our outputs as input.

Clearly I can’t make a serious dent in the massive urban waste streams that are generated by the sprawling urbanity that is Los Angeles, but nonetheless, I am happy when I can divert some of our castaway things into good uses.

Nick, the security guard from the Taste and Style Plaza strip mall looks through the branches of the pomegranate at my haul of urbanite

Nick, the security guard from the Taste and Style Plaza strip mall, looks jealously through the bike gate and the branches of the pomegranate at my haul of urbanite!