Drop Yer Bloomers

Lately I’ve been growing impatient with impatiens. Petunias, snapdragons, bouganvilla, ficus, bird-of-paradise: our Southern California cities luxuriate in year-round ornamental gardens. Pretty bloomers, yes. But truly, a mix of non-functional tropical plants slurping water in what is really a desert climate, usurping land use where urban space is now so precious.

Lawns and nonfunctional landscapes are a haughty scoff: “I don’t NEED to produce food.” Historically, these ornamental gardens and sweeping lawns originated with the emergence of the middle class and their desire to imitate the estates of the nobility. (Sweeping lawns were maintained around the castles of old for military purposes, so that they could see and kill enemy soldiers.)

“I don’t NEED to produce food” is an ostentatious attitude: I am above it all, it declares. I will be dependent upon someone else for my basic sustenance. I can transcend the basic critter-need of finding nourishment. I can detach myself from the system of life and rely on processed, deadened products from the supermarket that come in colorful printed boxes or wrapped in non-biodegradable polystyrene and saran.

By declaring “I don’t NEED to produce food,” we are perpetuating a dependency on a national food production system which is deeply flawed with respect to soil resources, biodiversity and chemical inputs. A system which is irretrievably dependent upon exhaustible, polluting, greenhouse-gas-emitting petroleum products.

In the 1930s and 1940s nearly 20 million Americans turned to their gardens in support of that war effort. Called “Victory Gardens,” these backyard cultivations produced nearly 40% of the produce that was consumed. Yet those gardens grew more than just vegetables. Those gardens grew resilience, determination, and self-reliance. They were an active way to participate in the solutions to world problems.

We gardeners have learned the intimate satisfaction of burying our fingers in the rich earth as we provide what a plant needs to flourish. We have experienced the thrill of harvesting the first richly scented tomato, softened and warmed by the sun. Those inner feelings of satisfaction and thrill are empowering; we have achieved something. That tomato nourishes not just our belly, it nourishes our spirit.

We have discovered the visual beauty of the purple blossoms of Carouby de Maussane snowpeas, the scarlet-veined bouquets of rainbow chard, and the cheery chatter of multicolored sunflowers, all the while growing food for our bodies. Those of us in condos or apartments have learned that most edibles can be grown in containers. Forward-thinking gardeners are now realizing that the tree they choose to shade their yard from summer’s intensity could be one that yields sweet navel oranges the next winter.

By growing our own, we boost our health through organics. We foster biodiversity by raising heirloom varieties. We reap all the benefits of the local food movement: seasonal, vine-ripened food; reduced dependency on agricultural conglomerates; lowered pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

In this time of environmental upheaval, glacial melting, wildlife extinctions, forest destruction, furious hurricanes, escalating gas prices, and crumbling economy, we gardeners have found one unifying, rallying cry: We DO need to produce food. Clean food for our bodies, empowerment for our spirits, renewal for the earth. We need this very different sort of victory.

Our spirits need it, because it is tangible evidence that environmental transformation is real and is possible. Our bodies need it, because we can grow healthier at home. Our earth needs it, because in its seeds are restoration, political statement, environmental action, activism, and ultimately, victory.

Try it. Drop yer bloomers and try edibles. Just one small pot on a balcony. One small corner of your yard. Start small. One herb, one vegetable, or perhaps an ultra-dwarf fruit tree. Re-establish the connection. And reap the victory.

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Going Organic

Going organic is much more than just switching from Monsanto-manufactured chemical warfare, to herbal sprays and less-toxic powders. Going organic is an opportunity to rethink. It is a journey of rebuilding with different, yet similar, basic components.

When we build our garden organically, we must leave behind the grow-what-I-wish-and-spray-the-bad-bugs domination mentality. There is a whole ecosystem out there which synthetic-chemical gardening techniques ignore and motor over. Going organic is an opportunity to step into that ecosystem and to embrace it, and to nudge it into being useful for your ends, in other words for growing human food.

By “ecosystem,” I mean that we aren’t just growing veggies, herbs, flowers, and trees. We’re also growing soil, beneficial insects, fresh air, and wildlife. We must consider these in the full picture of our system.

When we see a bug munching our veggies, If we merely reach for a spray – synthetic chemical or less-toxic, it doesn’t matter – we are overlooking many other possibilities. Bill Mollison, co-founder of the Permaculture theory, is often quoted as saying “You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency.” Increase your duck population and you will have less slugs. He’s inviting you to shift perspective: perhaps the solution is not annihilation; perhaps your system needs the addition of a missing element.

In synthetic-chemical gardening, one uses a myriad of sprays and powders. There’s a chemical that can be applied to just about every problem. An organic gardener has many tools she can use, only a few of which are sprays, and very few of which fit the “applied to” verb form. In fact, she often approaches a problem situation from many angles simultaneously. And most of those angles involve shoring up a faltering portion of the overall cycle or system.

Newcomers to organic gardening frantically seek recipes for homemade sprays and powders. Instead, have you looked into beneficial insects, pheromone lures, physical traps, barrier methods? Look up your bugs online and see what might eat them. I often do this by searching Google until I can positively identify my bug, getting its scientific name, and then searching for that name plus the word “predator.” You can buy many beneficial and predator bugs through catalogs like Gardens Alive, Planet Natural and others.

Many plant disabilities can be traced back to soil deficiencies. Have a soil analysis done. If you are new to the organic world, likely your soil is not in tip-top shape. All gardening begins with building healthy soil. More than just feeding your soil this season, what can be done to assure that your soil continues to get what it needs on an ongoing basis? Learn about mulching, sheet composting, use of legumes, mycorrhizae, and water-wise techniques appropriate to your area.

Do not overlook what veterans have to say about plant rotation. Much of the folk wisdom about plant rotation has to do with the fact that plant diseases can become resident in the soil. How many gardeners insist “I always grow my tomatoes there!” The same family of crop grown in the same spot year after year is asking for trouble. Poor soil nutrients can only compound this issue because weakened, undernourished plants are much more susceptible to pests.

Plant selection is also very important. From the outset, select species and varieties that are likely to do well in your specific area. Check the internet. Check locally written garden books. What does this plant like? Sun, shade, drought, marsh, low nutrients, high humus? What time of year do I plant it? Do others in my area grow it successfully?

Pay attention to the plant’s origin (example: forest floor) as this indicates what it has evolved to need. Is there a variety of it that is already adapted to my area (example: drought-resistant varieties of conventional, previously English, veggies). Is there a variety that is resistant to the plant diseases I am encountering (note the abbreviations by each variety of tomato in a given catalog).

Seed saving from your successes can also help, because what did well on YOUR plot last year might be the best adaptation for your plot this year. Expecting to grow a plant in marginal conditions is asking for a high-maintenance gardening project. Far better to select plants that are comfy where and how you plan to grow them.

Going organic is a glowing and beckoning invitation to get to know your individual plot of land; to get up close and personal and also to step back and see it in a broader picture. Hello, Garden-Plot, who are you? Like you’d get to know a significant other, get to know your land. Beyond “what zone am I” there are bigger questions:

  • Am I in a drought area? Look at the past 5-10 years, and at climate change forecasts, don’t merely look at the 100 year history.
  • What is the history of my land? Conventional, and thus depleted, farmland? Topsoil scalped for new housing development?
  • Where are my permanent shade zones? (example: behind the garage wall)
  • What areas of my land won’t drain (or conversely don’t have irrigation)?
  • What critters live here besides me, that I will have to figure out how to cope with?

Organic is far more than leaving behind the toxic chemicals. It includes getting to know your plot of earth and its particular circumstances, and matching this with the needs of the plant you’re proposing to grow. Getting to know your local bugs and who eats whom. Getting to know what critters like to live on your property and figuring out how you can coexist with them. And yes, you may learn to cook up a few little herbal brews that might be sprayed as a band-aid once in a while. But sprays and applied-stuff are far from the mainstay of a vital and bountiful organic garden.

This is a lot to think about, and won’t really help with your corn plants this spring. But it will help you with your overall approach to gardening. Also, it’s something that most of us ease into over time, so you can’t kick yourself for not knowing all from the very beginning. Rather, it is a glimpse of the journey ahead.

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The Lost Art

“Can she bake a cherry pie?” chants the American folk song. That didn’t mean opening a can of goo from the supermarket and dumping it into a frozen pie shell. It mean knowing when the cherries were sweet and ripe, harvesting and pitting them, creating the pie shell from scratch (perhaps hand-churning the butter), and knowing what other local and available ingredients to mix in to make it all taste good. The song referred to a real and necessary skill base which our ancestors recognized was essential to survival. A skill base that most of us alive today no longer have.

Most of our ancestors grew food. They preserved food. They knew the seasons of their food, and they knew how to “get by” with limited food supply between harvests or through tough times. Today, food production is a lost art.

Most people alive today have grown up on a food supply produced by industrial-style agribusiness. Factory farms. Massive fields. Massive combines, Global transportation networks. It is a system which is deeply dependent on nonrenewable and now‑depleting fossil fuels. A system which is pillaging irreplaceable topsoils, polluting our waterways, draining nonreplenishing ancient aquifers, generating atrocious waste, perpetuating socio-economic and cultural repression, and drawing enormous financial subsidies from our government in order to continue to do so.

The system is doomed and failing. And we have no backup plan. We have no “Plan B” for our food supply. We need to reclaim the lost art of food production.

Into the middle of this, global warming is throwing a swift left hook. Even as we scramble to recover great-grandma’s lost knowledge and create a backup to the broken industrial system, even as we scurry to discover what might work here in Southern California, global warming-driven weather disruptions are bringing wild weather surprises.

In Winter 2004, funnel clouds touched down in the Ladera Heights part of Los Angeles. In 2006-2007 we experienced extreme drought conditions. The next January we had record-breaking freezes. In December 2010 rain clouds dumped record rainfall. Looking to the future, scientists forecast heavier rains in some places, amplified droughts in others. For large-scale industrial farming operations – the food system we have depended upon – these weather shifts present challenges for which they do not have answers. We desperately need to have backups in place.

And backups – particularly when they involve acquiring new skills, creating new habits, and cultivating widespread social change – take time to set up. We have to get it moving, now.

Organic techniques are a critical element in all this. “Organically farmed soil stores carbon. A lot of carbon. So much, in fact, that if all the cultivated land in the world were farmed organically, it would immediately reduce the climate crisis significantly.”[i]

As you’ll learn in Chapter 2, “organics” is much, much more than just subbing out the chemicals with a few homemade sprays. Organic techniques demand an entirely different outlook upon farming, land, soil life, air, bugs and butterflies, our seed heritage, ecosystems, and humanity’s place within those vast systems.

Organics works. It’s the way humanity has farmed its food since the dawn of the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago. Compare that to what we think of as “regular” agriculture which has only been in existence since the beginning of the 20th century. Some might say we have “better living through chemicals” but that’s only because the marketing departments have told us to think so.

And organics is cheaper. (But the chemical companies don’t want you to know this.) When the natural ecosystem is working on your behalf to feed and nourish your plants, there is no need to buy stuff.

Facing a world which will soon be without cheap petroleum and petrochemicals, a world where the economic situation continues to worsen, we’d better rediscover organics. We’d better get back in the habit. We’d better figure out how it was done in the past, and how we can make it work for a very different present with more than 82% of Americans living in cities, and 7 billion people to feed. We need to rediscover a lost art, and we need to modify it for a dramatic new future.

The plot thickens: Here our particular local spot on earth – in Southern California – agriculture is a relative newcomer. Native Americans in this area didn’t “farm” in the European sense. For 5,000 to 8,000 years since coming over the Bering Straight, they obtained much of their food by being careful stewards of the existing terrain. They harvested native oaks in their season, and gathered local plants like chia, Miner’s lettuce, cattails, and manzanita berries. The Spaniards farmed a little, but they had the luxury of vast tracts of land and relatively few mouths to feed.

Humans do not have an agricultural history with the land here in the way that people do in other places. In communities like Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico and St. Helena Island in South Carolina, people have cared for the land and cultivated its fertility, nurturing it into ongoing production in some cases for hundreds of years.[ii] In Europe, some lands have been producing food since the time of the Romans.

Thus here in Southern California, we are not merely rediscovering the art of long-term, ongoing, sustainable food production and soil fertility. In this place – with its unique year-round growing season – we are the pioneers, exploring it for the first time.

Welcome to the journey. We do not have the answers yet. You are part of the discovery process – you and all around you who are engaged in growing food. Share this precious knowledge as you discover it. Share what worked and what didn’t. We need you.

[i] Maria Rodale, Organic Manifesto (p10)

[ii] Nurturing land for 100 yrs

Vegetable Garden Design in brief

a handout written for the Emerson Avenue Community Garden

1) Include food. There are so many reasons we need to be growing food right now in this society (list here http://envirochangemakers.org/FoodSecurity.htm ) and this garden is the place to show people how it is done. Certainly a “working flower” is nice here or there, but these beds are predominantly an opportunity to showcase the beauty food plants can have. Scan a few gorgeous food-garden books to understand how very much is possible.

2) Pick the right plants. Select vegetable plants which are coming into season now, following a good guide that is written specifically for Southern California. Don’t use East Coast guidelines or the backs of the seed packets — they’re useless for So Calif. A good guide is the Digitalseed planting calendar http://www.digitalseed.com/gardener/schedule/vegetable.html It tells you what you can seed each month of the year. Note that you will need to adjust if you are using purchased plants. Pick good open-pollinated or heirloom seed (non-hybrids), from vendors who have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. At the Community Garden at 83rd & Dunbarton, we group vegetables and herbs that work well together (“companion planting” or “guilds”).

3) Use ergonomics. Rule of thumb says a gardener’s reach is about 2feet. Thus accessways — paths or stepping stones — should be placed so that all areas of a garden are accessible. If you use geometric blocks, typically you use 16square feet (4ft x 4ft) so that a gardener can easily reach in from all sides. If you have deeper sections, place a stone or block as a stepping stone so that the gardener won’t compact the soil throughout the entire garden. Inside your garden plot your path layout is completely up to you, but general rule of thumb says to make these internal pathways 18″ to 24″ wide. You can create a spiral, an undulating path, crisp rectangles, or unusual shapes. Some designers place a wider cul-de-sac at the end of their path so that there is room for the gardener to squat or kneel.

4) Grade to the curve. Since our cityscape is so full of hard angles, I like to bring lots of curves into the garden. Hence the Walking Spiral and the curved beds at the edges of the Mandala garden. Also think about grading. Observe where water flows on the plot you are given. You don’t want all your water running off down the sidewalk or washing away your neighbor’s seedlings. Perhaps you need to use basins and mini-dams to retain water and cause it to infiltrate. Observe and adjust. Rather than the “raised beds” which are praised so highly in East Coast garden books, here in So Calif it is more appropriate to our weather and dryness to be gardening like the Anasazi, in depressions in the earth.

5) Where’s the water? You’ll probably need to water your plot with a hose. So, how will the hose enter the plot? Will it drag across brittle chard? Will it tear out your climbing peas or sunflowers? Plan for the hose, and perhaps use hose guides. Group plants by water needs. Put drought-tolerant Mediterranean herbs like thyme and oregano in your hottest dryest spot. Cluster water-needy lettuces and leafy greens together in a depression in the earth. Place squashes and other fuzzy leafed plants in a portion of the plot where you’ll be able to water beneath them rather than having to topspray them, since they hate to have their leaves wet.

6) Tall guys to the back. In general, you’ll want to plan for height. In the winter, you might need to place taller plants like fava beans to the north of your plot so that they don’t shade your tender greens. By contrast, in the summer, some veggies might appreciate the relief from the beating sun. Thus a line of sunflowers at the south edge might be functional as well as pretty. Keep in mind what you plant around the edges of your plot, so that it does not trail into the walking path or flop across a neighbor’s plot.

7) Play with your food. In the Community Garden at 83rd & Dunbarton, we make pretty patterns in the beds. We’ll alternate red and green lettuce, or use bright lights chard for color accents. We select snow peas that have purple blossoms, black-green lacinato kale, or mahogany red mustard greens. We edge broccoli family with a row of cilantro for insect repellant, for additional food, and for gorgeous aesthetic. Grey-green artichokes are lovely with a single cosmos daisy between them. Bush beans are available in yellow and purple as well as red-flecked pods.

8) Think biointensive. Rows aren’t the only way to go. When you plant in rows, there is a lot of wasted space in your garden layout. John Jeavons and others have perfected intensive plant spacings to maximize the number of plants which you can fit into a given space. With our tight city places, this seems like wise practice. For a demonstration of planting in this offset row technique, you can read Jeavons’ books. Or stop by the Community Garden at 83rd & Dunbarton where hands-on garden training is available any Thursday afternoon from 4:30 till dusk.

9) Garden guidelines. Keep in mind the overall garden guidelines for the Emerson Avenue Community Garden. No furniture. Trellis height maximum –. No trees or thorned plants. Pathways should be garden-provided mulch. No imported soils. See the complete list at ###need link### These are what keep our community working peacefully together.

10) Know your plants. If you aren’t familiar with food plants — their aesthetic, their growing habits, their season — this is the time to learn. Good basic books on specific veggie plants include Rodale’s Vegetables by Patricia Michalak (list at http://legacyla.net/edibleLandscape.htm#selection ) To see vegetable plants growing, check out The Learning Garden at Venice High School, The Ranch at the Huntington Library, and the Community Garden at Holy Nativity (83rd & Dunbarton). Talk with garden veterans to learn which vegetable plants do well in our local area. Then share the gift: share your experiences with other garden newcomers. Welcome to growing a local food supply, the grand adventure of our time!

Places to learn about seed saving

Watering the Garden

In the Community Garden at 83rd & Dunbarton, we use what we call “the one finger test.” That means you take your finger and stick it into the garden soil – about one inch down into the soil. The soil down there should feel moist, like a wrung-out sponge. If the soil feels moist, your plants in that location don’t need watering today.

The one-finger test means getting your hands into the soil. That means the real dirt, beneath the mulch. This measurement isn’t about whether the mulch is wet, nor about whether the interface plane between mulch & soil surface is moist, but the condition of the garden soil 1″ into the soil.

For new gardens, soil surface tension can be an issue, particularly with our sandy soils in Westchester. If there is no mulch on the surface of a new garden, often times the sand particles seem to lock together. Water applied on top simply rolls right off, and the underlying plant is gasping for water. Again, the test is the condition 1″ down. If water is running off the surface, some tricks to use include (1) using a hand rake to gently break up the surface of the soil; (2) using basins, gardening in a depression, using mini dams or earth forms to hold the water in place long enough so that it can infiltrate; (3) enriching the soil with compost — preferably coarse, homemade — which acts like a sponge to hold moisture, plus provides food for the soil organisms that make up the real richness of organic garden soil; (4) applying mulch, to break the soil tension, enrich the soil at the soil/mulch interface, and keep the soil cooler.

In clay soils, for instance in parts of Culver City, surprisingly enough, the solution is again enriching the soil with compost. A rich garden soil has less moisture-regulation issues. In very heavy clay soils, rather than gardening in a depression, for winter gardens you might need to consider using a raised bed. I’m hesitant to mention raised beds because they get tremendous kudos in East Coast and English garden books, but they aren’t really right for Southern California. Here, a raised bed means that the block of soil is exposed to baking summer heat and drying air on five sides instead of just one. For sandy soils, raising your beds is not at all recommended (unless you have soil toxin/lead issues, but that’s an entirely different topic). Thus the first thing try is really building up that rich, healthy, alive garden soil to see if that helps your moisture-regulation issues.

In new gardens, these issues are compounded by the fact that compost cycles and soil life populations are not yet established. Some portions of a new garden might have received better tilling or more compost than other sections. Thus there is no other alternative than to use the one-finger test many, many times in different spots around the garden. Over time, observation will teach you about the condition of the soil. A hypothetical example: the spot by the fig is consistently dry every time you try it, while the lavendar always seems to be wet. You’ll learn, through many observations over time, that on a rushed day you can water that fig and skip that lavendar. Probably both spots will need some chunky high-organic-material compost mixed in.

John Jeavons refers to a “3 second shiny.” That means after you water a well-prepared garden bed, you water until the soil has a shiny layer of excess water which disappears within 1/2 to 3 seconds after watering stops. This is a guideline for a well-prepared bed, and might not be applicable for new gardens or places with tough garden soil issues. Again, ongoing applications of chunky high-organic-material compost will eventually gain you a well-prepared bed.

Some plants — most notably our California natives, our “drought tolerant” or “xeriscape” plants, and most citrus trees (oranges, lemons, and their cousins) — don’t like to be moist all the time. They like a chance to dry out between waterings. Thus if your one-finger test reveals any soil moisture at all for these plants, do not water them. Very often these are the plants we “kill with kindness” by overwatering. You can observe the overwatering conditions in plants like lavendar and sage when they put on excessive amounts of lush new growth with broad leaves and a rich green aesthetic — that’s not normal. Their normal leaf is supposed to be slow-growing, grey-green, and a bit lean-looking. Plants in this category include (but are not limited to) most California natives, most sages including hybrids, lavendar, rosemary, Mediterranean herbs like oregano and thyme, plants of Middle Eastern origin like pomegranates. In the Community Gardens, we are using a set of signs to mark these water-sensitive plants. Citrus trees that are overwatered tend to turn yellow and drop their leaves abundantly. Again, if your one-finger test reveals any soil moisture at all, do not water them.

For all gardens, the maxim is: Water the soil, not the plants. As you learn more about healthy, alive, organic garden soils, you’ll discover that the place we need the water is to keep our vast populations of soil organisms happy. The leaves of most plants (short of rain-forest plants, but they aren’t appropriate to So Calif anyway), don’t do much as far as water uptake. It is the roots that can access the water, with the assistance of the soil organisms. We don’t want to drown the soil organisms (thus the wrung-out sponge analogy). Additionally, there are plants — most notably our squash family, cucumbers, and other fuzzy-leafed plants — that absolutely hate to get their leaves wet. These plants will rot away if you hose their topsides. Thus you must bend down and apply the water where it needs to go — at the soil surface.

It is not recommended to wait until your garden plants are droopy and pale to say they need water. Those visual signs indicate an extremely stressed plant, that has been neglected too far. It is very difficult for a stressed plant to regain full vigor — some can be stunted and never ever recover. In an in-ground garden situation, this phenomenon often results from improper planting techniques followed by abandonment. If the plant (or vegetable 6-pack or plant plug) was rootbound, and it was planted without fluffing out the roots, water will simply run off the exterior of this tightly wound rootball. For trees, a long-term rootbound problem might not be recoverable; you might have to replace the tree. For vegetables, pay attention as you plant them: don’t shove a geometric cube into the ground. Instead, gently fluff out the rootball with your fingers before you slide the plant into the soil. Water the transplants immediately, and in those first few days, don’t allow them to dry out. Apply the one-finger test many times around new plantings.

In the Community Gardens, we use signs to mark new plantings and newly-planted seedling beds. These spots need watering attention every time a gardener comes to the garden. Seedling beds are particularly challenging in our So Calif sun. Sometimes to sprout seeds, particularly in less-than-optimum soil conditions, you may need to use shadecloth and other sheltering devices to shield them from the searing sun. Another way to manage the water needs of seeds is to sprout them in pots in a more sheltered area, then transplant; all but root vegetables can be handled this way. Carrots are difficult to sprout, particularly if you have a soil-tension problem as described above. Carrots (and onions) need very consistent soil moisture to sprout, thus probably won’t work very well unless we’re having a stretch of foggy cool overcast weather. Carrots can sometimes be helped along by interplanting with radishes; the lusty radishes sprout easily and heave the soil upward, breaking the crust for the more delicate carrot seeds.

During the winter months, rainfall can have influence on watering patterns. More likely, the cool nighttime temperatures of our winter months have a greater influence. When soils are cool, moisture evaporates slower. Thus during the cool months, your garden demands far less watering. Simultaneously, the possibility of overwatering our natives, xeriscapes, and citrus is far greater. If we have had recent measurable rainfall, this probably means you’ll need to decrease your garden watering. (Turn off those automatic sprinklers!) Measurable rainfall can be determined very simply: by putting a bucket or pie plate outdoors in the garden in question. If a given storm puts an inch or so of water in your measuring device, that will affect your garden’s watering needs. But because we have erratic rainfall in any So Calif winter, you must become very diligent at using the one-finger test.

For dry summer months, LADWP’s watering regulations aren’t limitations, they are good gardening sense. Don’t water if it’s running off the surface (fix the surface problems – see “sandy soils” above). Don’t water before 4pm or after 9am because evaporation in the hot sun means your plants aren’t getting the benefit of the water you apply. By watering in the evening, your soils and plants have the entirety of the cool evening, relieved from baking summer sun, to soak in the water you apply. If you are watering in the evening and you are experiencing mildew problems (happens a lot with roses), first, be sure you are keeping the leaves and tops of the plants dry. Water the soil, not the plants. Secondly, examine your plant spacing. Is there adequate space between the plants for air to circulate? It might be that you need to lift and resituate an ailing plant. Mildew issues are far less due to evening watering patterns than they are an indicator of other problems in the garden. Thus, follow LADWP recommendations and water as the sun eases from the sky.

In the Community Garden at 83rd & Dunbarton, we have a watering responsibility schedule. If it is your day, it means your day to do the one-finger test and evaluate watering needs. Our volunteer coordinator tends to populate the calendar for 2 or 3 volunteer visits per week in cool moist months, which we bump up to daily volunteers in hot dry weeks. All volunteers are asked to observe garden signage (“new plantings” and “likes dry conditions”) as well as using the one-finger test prior to applying the hose. As a volunteer, upon arriving at the site you can make a quick pass around the garden to do all your observations and one-finger testing. You’ll then know, later when you have hose in hand, what needs water and what doesn’t.

In summary:
1) use the one-finger test
2) water the soil, not the plants
3) follow LADWP recommendations and water in the evening

What is a Transition Enterprise?

Thoughts from the UK’s REconomy project:

1) Resilience outcome

Will benefit the local community by improving its resilience or wellbeing in some way

2) Low Carbon

Minimises carbon emissions and thus contribution to climate change

3) Natural Limits

Works within the natural resource (and energy) limits of the planet, including ecosystem services. Works with suppliers that do the same.

4) Appropriate Localization

Considers viability of business model post peak oil, and level of independence from globalized corporate macro-economy and its risks.

5) Not just for personal profit

Goes beyond distributing profit to individuals, with at least some profits reinvested in the local community.

6) Community assets

Holding public or “commons” assets and wealth in trust for community benefit (can’t be sold by individuals).

7) Locally accountable

Independent and accountable to a defined constituency who are democratically involved in governance of enterprise

Originally published at LATransitionEnterprise