The pine basket workshop was a fine success! Everyone very engaged and having a good time. Weather perfect (a bit overcast), cool and comfortable. The group, sitting around the table reminded me of a congenial sewing circle of old. And Elijah, the 8 year old boy who lives in the nearby apartment came and became part of the circle.
One of the participants said working on the basket was like meditation.
A member of the class, Cathy, volunteered to stick around and help me weed the garden. Turns out she's very interested in gardening and food preparation.
Back in late March, Florence Nishida, Founder of LAGG and Master Gardener, had a nice email exchange from a fellow-gardener from Spain:
"I have my own 2.5 acre garden in Alicante, Spain which has pretty much the same climate as Southern California. I accidentally found your website and thought it would be great to get in touch. I am far away but knowledge sharing over the Internet is possible. In my garden I have the full range of citrus trees, fig, pomegranate and many more and 100% bio gardening, strictly no pesticides and using advanced computer aided irrigation system. Also If some of your members travel to Alicante, Spain they are more than welcomed for a visit my garden. Kind regards. Zsolt"
"Thanks for reaching out to us. Always nice to find a kindred spirit.
"Our current focus is on our teaching garden. Our little orchard consists of Guava, Pineapple guava, Meyer Lemon, Loquat, Fig, Pomegranate trees bordered with lavender with a large bed of artichokes on one end. Along the street side, by the pavement are planted California native plants - drought resistant, pollinator attracting. I've also planted native sages - recently the migrating Painted Lady butterflies have landed on them (they are flying from the California desert in the south to the northern states of Oregon and Washington).
"The other day, I found an edible mushroom in the garden. The woody mulch that we spread on the garden paths has encouraged occasional mushrooms.
"Have you grown the Japanese Purple Mustard? I'm sending a photo. Beautiful plant, grows through spring and summer, has a very zesty, hot taste when raw (good for sandwiches and salad), but mild in a stir-fry dish.
"Have a good growing season!
A garden is a lot of things - food for humans, but not only for humans.
Spiders like some "pest" insects, e.g. pill bugs (eat seedlings), ear wigs (eat lettuce, artichoke, beans). Our least favorite insects this past summer were the tree hoppers - plant suckers with scary looking nymphs (that would scare away most predators). The tree hoppers destroyed our incredibly eggplant plants ("Millionaire"). We were sorry to see them go down - made new eggplants for months.
And last week, I found fresh new mushrooms. It's a look-alike for the deadly Amanita ocreata. Look-alike is not same as. These in the garden were perfectly safe - and edible. Volvopluteus gloiocephala - pretty with pink spores. I took them to show my beginners' mushroom identification class last night.
LA NATURE FEST - March 16 - 17, 2019
Brigitta and Shalimar showed edible plants to many of the hundreds of people enjoying encounters with nature, animals, and plants at the Natural History Museum's annual "Nature Fest" this past weekend. We are encouraging to plant edibles in their yards and patio.
They helped kids plant their favorite vegetable or flower seeds (carrots, cucumbers and sunflowers) in paper pots. The kids can then plant the pot in their gardens or containers. Others took paper pots of seedling peppers, eggplants and broccoli to plant in their homes.
Thanks to Steve List of Sylmar High School for donating the seedlings.
Occasionally, we'll see mushrooms fruiting in our LAGG Teaching Garden. It's always a pleasure! Some are even edible - if we find them in time. One never knows if or when they'll appear. They're not harming anything. Just minding their business, earning their living by decomposing organic material - of which we have plenty in the teaching garden, since we keep the paths and planted beds mulched, to conserve and preserve water, keep down weeds, and feed the soil and our plants as it breaks down.
This morel above came up just behind the compost bin and in with the peas. If we'd found it earlier (and fresher), would have been very tasty.
This photo was from my home garden, but I did find one in the LAGG garden that was a bit over the hill. It's a decomposer, so it likely arrived on the woody mulch. I wish we could cultivate it - it's a good mushroom - the one you get at the grocery store.
Psathyrella: here is another common, safe mushroom that grows on woody mulch.
The Chlorophyllum molybdites is one that can show up in gardens (see Natural History Museum's garden bed, when I taught a couple of years ago), lovely to look at, but has green spores (on gills), and poisonous if you eat it.
Someday, we might do a mushroom growing project in one of our beds. How does that sound?
- Florence, LAGG Founder, Master Gardener, Teacher and Mycologist
Thank you for coming out on Saturday to give yourself and your time to the LAGG teaching garden. We created/redid 3 vegetable beds, picked up all the trash, blessed the garden, harvested food, and mulched all the pathways - all while making friends, sharing nutritious food from the garden and learning about growing food....
I'd say we were VERY SUCCESSFUL!! Hopefully you got out of the experience as much as you put into it.
On behalf of LAGG, we thank you and hope to see you at one of our upcoming events at the garden.
A mulch is a layer of organic matter
used to control weeds,
and improve the fertility of the soil.
You will not find naked soil
in the wilderness.
I started cautiously: newspapers,
hay, a few magazines;
Robert Redford stared up
between the rhubarb and the lettuce.
Then one day, cleaning shelves,
I found some old love letters.
I’ve always burned them,
for the symbolism.
But the ashes, gray and dusty
as old passions,
would blow about the yard for days
stinging my eyes,
bitter on my tongue.
So I mulched them:
gave undying love to the tomatoes,
the memory of your gentle hands
to the squash.
It seemed to do them good,
and it taught me a whole new style
Now my garden is the best in the
and I mulch everything:
bills; check stubs;
dead kittens and baby chicks.
I seldom answer letters; I mulch them
with the plans I made
for children of my own,
photographs of places I’ve been
and a husband I had once;
as well as old bouquets
and an occasional unsatisfactory lover.
Nothing is wasted.
Strange plants push up among the corn,
leaves heavy with dark water,
but there are
A few of us go together to enjoy working in LAGG's Teaching Garden Saturday, December 15. After taking down a trellis, planting more lettuce, rescuing eggplant from treehoppers, refueling the compost and watering, we shared a fabulous, vegetarian lunch. Everyone brought something to share and it was yummy! Most of the dishes included homegrown ingredients.
Florence kindly made and shared fragrant herb-infused vinegar in lovely bottles. I can't wait to try mine.
Shalimar was nice enough to share her Thanksgiving cooking from the garden experience with LAGG:
"I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and nutritious meals.
"For my family's Thanksgiving, I modified the traditional saag paneer by adding lima beans instead of paneer (Indian cheese). I blanched the malabar spinach before putting in the blender. And added red chiles and nasturtium from the garden too."
One gardener said she was unable to acquire a taste for malabar spinach because, "It is slimy."
Shalimar offered this advice:
"As I was stirring the blended spinach in the pan, I noticed it was slimy and knew that bottom would never burn. It was like magic and fun. When it cooled down, the slime disappeared. We enjoyed the spinach dish at Thanksgiving dinner. It retained the color and flavor without any slime. So, it may be heat has something to do with it. I added tender green stems and fruit seeds to the dish as well.
"More cooking suggestions:
- If you are cooking lentils, add a handful of leaves last.
- If you are cooking spinach by itself, as soon as you notice slime, add either a little coconut milk or regular dairy milk. That eliminates the slime and leaves a good sauce.
- Of course, I add garlic, ginger, turmeric and red and black pepper to taste.
"I am thinking of adding a little bit of fava bean flour to thicken it for my next batch."