Spring is HERE! As a new season starts, take a look at some great photos from a fabulous LA garden!
E3's Garden Mentorship program connects UCLA students and community with local school gardens for great volunteering experiences. Take a look at photos from today's trip to the garden! Gargantuan zucchini, tomatoes, and squash oh my!
Check out Garden Mentorship's calendar below if you want to come volunteer with Garden Mentorship this Spring! Why wouldn't you?? Garden Mentorship is a great opportunity for anyone interested in gardening, especially for those who can't make Dig's Sunday Dig-In's at Sunset Recreation!
E3's Garden Mentorship & Dig Trip to Ocean View Farms Community Garden! Tips & Tricks for Tomato Growing!
E3's Garden Mentorship and Dig took a trip to Ocean View Farms Community Garden in Santa Monica last Saturday for their annual Tomato-Bration! In preparation and excitement for the spring/summer growing season, Windrose Farms comes to Ocean View to present a workshop on tomato-growing and a bounty of tips and tricks to use with your own plants! Keep reading to learn more about tomato-growing from the experts!
A little background on Windrose Farms. Based in Pasa Robles, CA, Windrose Farms at one time had a nursery operation for tomato plants to be sold to Whole Foods! They do all their own seeding of tomato plants, and NEVER buy starters. These folks know their stuff with tomato growing! Windrose Farms save their own seeds and make their own fertilizer for premiere tomato growth. When not saving seeds, they use Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Dig uses this company's seeds in our garden as well.
Windrose Farms grow eight or nine tomato varieties each year. This year they are growing many "black", or darker-fruited tomato varieties.
First piece of advice given at the workshop: DON'T use red "celebrity" tomato varieties -- Monsanto has bought the rights to these "normal" varieties, meaning that they own proprietary, restricting rights to them. Quickly following this important piece of advise, many other tips were dispensed at rapid fire:
1) Cleanliness is healthiness! Keep tomato leaves off the ground. So if tomato leaves are touching the soil, clip 'em!
2) Use seaweed/kelp liquid fertilizer! Though Windrose Farms also uses fish amendments for better growth and more robust fruit, the #1 soil amendment and foliar spray (see #3) they recommend is this specific fertilizer. It can be bought easily online or at garden stores -- just check the ingredients to make sure it is all organic! Windrose Farms uses the brand Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, if you want exactly what they use! You should be able to touch it and not have to wash your hands right away (there will be a warning on the produce otherwise, which should warn YOU not to buy it!). Windrose Farms advise that the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) Green Revolution approach to fertilizing is incorrect and should not be used.
3) Windrose Farms uses foliar sprays that go straight on the tomato plants! They use spray bottles, hoses, and other equipment. In your own garden, you can use a handheld sprayer to spray the UNDERSIDE of the leaves as well drenching the soil around tomato plants. As far as watering your plants, Windrose has no problem getting their tomato plants' leaves wet -- just as long as it's in the morning so they will be dry by night to prevent blight.
4) Tomato flavor comes from soil COMPLEXITY. This includes what soil, compost, fertilizer, and minerals you use! Tomato plants need micro nutrients to grow strong and healthy, just like you! Kelp, as mentioned above, provides immune system support for the plants to ward off blight and pests. It also helps protect against weather changes that may hurt your plant's continuing development over the season. Your planting medium should be a mix of soil and compost, and should be regularly amended with both liquid and solid fertilizer throughout the season. (Note: this is for indeterminate tomato varieties, which continue to growth in size throughout the season. This is the most popular kind of tomato to grow, so check your seed package!)
5) Be a proactive tomato grower! Windrose Farms recommends using the first tomatoes as a taste test! If it is sour despite being fully ripened, you need more fertilizer! In this scenario use a kelp foliar spray each day for a week, and then try the next round of fruit! If your tomatoes are mushy, you are watering too much! Though watering more equals bigger fruit, you will grow smaller, more delicious, better-textured fruit with less frequent watering. You should fertilize more and stretch out your watering regime to only 1 or 2 waterings per week. If your first tomatoes are not mushy or sour, but not quite delicious, fear not! Usually the first fruit are not the best tasting of the tomato plant's lifetime. That being said, if they are delicious, you're in luck! Your tomatoes are only going to get better as the season progresses.
6) Trim your plants effectively to push tomato production! Cut the lower growth (stems and leaves, even blossoms!) to get fruit up to three weeks earlier. This focuses more of the plant's energy to go to fruit production, rather than supporting a larger leaf system.
7) Maintain your tomatoes throughout the season with productive staking and trellising. Windrose Farms encourages staking and caging of your plants, or trellises for dense tomato planting, to keep air circulation between plants. This is key to preventing tomato blight and other diseases that will bring your growing season to an early end. Keep your plants vertical, allowing maximum air to pass through and keep plants dry. On a related maintenance note, try mulching around your plants once they are established to help maintain soil moisture between waterings.
8) Windrose Farms grows basil with their tomatoes! Some general tips for basil growing follow: Pick off the top growth of basil plants, encouraging plants to grow bushier instead of "leggy". Fertilizer feed once a week.
We hope this tips and tricks help you with your tomato plants! Now get to growing! :)
-Some literature for those wanting even more knowledge: Dan Barber's The Third Plate and John Jeavon's How to Grow More Vegetables.
For more information on how to help us water at Dig's Sunset Rec garden, come to our weekly Dig-Ins (Sundays @ 12:30pm), go here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much of our information comes from sharing our own experiences and research. We strongly encourage you to do your own research and to share your knowledge. We acknowledge that some practices work better for some plant types, stages of growth, and environments than others.
For sources and more information, ask us about our Guidebook. We are always looking for researchers and editors to help us all learn more about organic gardening.
Here's some things we've been pulling from our winter harvest!
Hope to see you next week to snag some of this produce!
Another throwback post, this time to December 7th: Thanks to UCLA Pre-Pharmacy for swinging by the garden and helping us out today! We built a beautiful pea trellis as well as sifted through a good portion of our basil seed stock. We also harvested some more lettuce and kale and did a bit of weeding, as well as mixed in more food scraps (nitrogen) into Alpha, the experimental hot compost bin. See below for bed and barrel updates and some other news of the week.
Sorry again for the super belated garden post. All this progress is from the end of week 7, November 23rd. Pardon the improper time frame referred to throughout the post. But thanks to everyone who made it out! We got a lot of work done, including some clean up and inventory.
Sorry y’all for the super belated garden post. Another updated one will be coming for today’s Dig In. Check out all the cool and informative pics that Steven took last week!
Suggestions for next week:
The Environmental Student Network will be joining us next week, so maybe we’ll be able to get all of this done!
This week we hosted E3’s basil seed planting social and got a couple extra hands helping out at the garden. Shout out to E3! We also started our compost experiment. Cloudy, our Compost Queen, has designated Alpha for our hot compost, see more deets in the compost entry. We also got bit of seed sowing done (yay radishes, carrots and onions!) as well as covered some weeding.
10. (Seed Sowing) We planted carrots and onions in the bed yesterday. Facing the numbered side of the bed, with your back to the picnic table, the left side of the bed is a mix of Scarlet Nantes carrots and Tokyo long White-Bunching Onions; the right side has six lengthwise rows alternating the same varieties of onions and carrots starting with onions closest to the numbered side of the bed (your vantage point). Before seeding, we turned the soil with water, added soil from the pile between the pine trees, added blood meal, leveled and topped of with an inch of Wynbrandt compost.
4. (Seed Sowing + Plant Progress) The radishes we planted last week have begun to sprout, particularly the southernmost row. This is most likely because it’s closest to the border of the bed and gets more shade from the bed’s lip. The row of peas we planted on the northern side of the bed were completely unearthed through erosion and the seeds were baked dry. We collected the unearthed peas and are soaking them at Steven’s place for a couple days to hopefully rejuvenate them. We planted more radishes in their place and added a tarp to cover both them and the center row of seedlings because shade clearly helps these guys get going. We also now know to really make sure pea seeds are deep in the soil, not just sprinkled on the surface and covered in a quarter inch of compost like we do for kale seeds, etc.
5. (Plant Progress) The kale from two weeks ago is still doing spectacularly, the eastern side (where we used our own fresh Dig compost) leading the way with the western side (old Wyndbrandt compost) lagging behind a little in development. Both plots have developed a proliferation of cotyledons, the baby leaves of a seedling, and are now starting to give way to adult leaves. What we think we want to do is harvest the more mature adult leaves before they get too big. We can’t let them mature too far because of how densely packed they are, but we want to try to get them old enough so that they’ll produce a second harvest when clipped.
3A. (Plant Progress) The nasturtiums we planted three weeks ago are doing very well. We plucked some weeds (we suspect nightshade) which were beginning to sprout throughout the bed.
12. (Plant Progress) The butter crunch lettuce from five weeks ago is still doing great, it should be about ready for harvest anytime soon. Nothing else we planted in the bed, not the butter head lettuce planted at the same time nor the sweet mace herb planted three weeks ago, has shown any progress. Neither of these crops received the shade that the butter crunch did, so we know if we’re going to start seedlings in the beds (at least for most varieties), we need to add a tarp. So that’s going on the to-buy list, more tarps for covering beds.
1. (Plant Progress) The onions and rainbow swiss chard we planted three weeks ago are progressing slowly. The soil was a bit dry, so maybe we need to give them a tad more water.
3. (Plant Progress) Same update as bed #1, the cabbage and onions from three weeks ago are progressing slowly. Soil needs a bit more water.
13. The herb bed is nice and neat and going fairly strong; we could probably plant some more. There’s a fair amount of free space open.
8. A few nasturtiums have sprouted unaided in the bed, probably left over seeds from when we had nasturtiums in there last year. The soil level in this bed is still really low and we’ve been meaning to add more to it. We’ll most likely let the nasturtiums be and replant them when we get around to adding more soil to this bed.
We started our compost experiment yesterday. We at the garden are trying to establish our own hot compost pile that will be able to process large amounts of waste produced on and around the hill and supply us with nice, usable compost. As far as we’ve established, we need both a steady carbon and nitrogen source for the hot compost, and we need a lot of the two elements. For this first round, our carbon source came from the large bin of sawdust we had left over from constructing the beds. We also used the dried trimmings that have been piling up between the two compost bins. We realize we need to establish a more reliable carbon source for future rounds. As far as nitrogen sources go, we are relying on food scraps. We have weekly donations from members who bring their scraps from their apartments and dorms, but to get the bin going we really need a much larger quantity. Yesterday we mixed in what food scraps we had and the remains of the Alpha bin in with our sawdust and trimmings, but we are in contact with the dining halls to see if we can get a hold of the waste from their salad booths which could really get us into business. The designated experimental bin is the rectangular one, named Alpha. We were going to use Vader, but it fell apart under the pressure from all the compost. We have a few weeks to wait and mix the contents of Alpha until it gets up to temperature, as well as adding a degree more of nitrogen rich ingredients, but in the mean time we ask all members that they DO NOT TOUCH ALPHA WITHOUT FIRST CONTACTING CLOUDY. We want to keep the experiment under control as much as possible for compost can be a very temperamental thing. We are now encouraging food scraps into Vader, the cylindrical compost bin, to which we’ll add trimmings as it develops to prevent against the accumulated smell.
Pomelo Tree: We did a bit of weeding around the base of the pomelo tree, as well as cleared it of leaf litter, to try and help it get as much water to its roots as possible as it embarks on the long and difficult journey to regrow its foliage. We weren’t sure whether or not trees benefit from mulch around their base or if the soil needs to be cleared to let the roots breath. We are going to do a bit more research on that point; some observation of trees around campus shows mulch cover.
Fence: We made an effort to fix the born parts of the fence today, but were quickly deterred by the fact that we don’t have a screwdriver! The bamboo is not only tied together, but screwed together. It’s sturdier than it may appear!
Suggestions for next week:
Thanks to everyone who made it out to the garden yesterday. We took some big steps this week and tackled some long overdue chores including trimming the pomelo and lemon trees. We also planted some more winter crops, checked up on our seedlings, and covered some other general garden upkeep.
Tree Trimming: This past week Steven and I partook in E3’s Garden Mentorship Program. We went to Olympic High School and helped out at the school garden alongside Debbie Harding, a master gardener with a boatload of useful and relevant gardening info for LA gardeners. One of the things she pointed out to us was the school’s infected lime tree, which she explained was suffering from scale, a small bump-like looking insect that covers tree stems, and leaf miner, which plants these beautiful almost iridescent paths of eggs on leaves. She explained the best method for dealing with these diseases is to cut off and throw away all infected portions, but if you have the patience you could individually squish the scale bugs; she said the leaf miner could be ignored if it’s not too widespread, trim if it is. We explained the pomelo tree and she suggested trimming it back.
Pomelo: With Debbie’s suggestions in mind and the frustration we’ve accumulated over the Pomelo’s lack of palatable fruit and teetering mess of thorny branches, we trimmed the tree way back. The tree has been suffering from ants, aphids, fungus, scale, and leaf miner for a long time and we wanted to grant it mercy and trim back the infected portions. We soon realized none of the leaves were completely free of disease and so we did away with them all and cut back all but the core trunk. The tree’s now in the same shape as was the apricot tree when we first got it, and we’re hoping it’ll take the same course and we’ll have some nice, new, fresh regrowth come spring!
Lemon: We also did some trimming on the lemon tree. A few of the tree’s stems nearest the fence were completely dead, we suspect scale, and so we clipped them off.
Note: All dead and infected tree trimmings were disposed of in the dumpsters behind the bungalow, NOT the compost. Debbie explained that most diseases can live through the average compost bin, only exceptionally hot composts can terminate them.
Bed Updates: We saw some great growth this week in nearly all of the planted beds, hopefully some will be ready to harvest soon (I’m talking to you kale). Others were given a bit of r&r and still others are empty. We felt the soil in all the empty beds and it was great and moist just below the surface, perfect for planting.
Bed 1: This bed looks rather sparse but don’t be fooled! The onions and rainbow swiss chard we planted there have all sprouted and are doing well. You can see the color variation between the chard sprouts; the onions have got a little less action going for them, they’ll take considerably longer to mature than the chard. We think for the future we’ll reserve the beds for onion bulbs, and bypass the seedling stage because of how long they may take. The tarps we used on the bed seemed to have worked just fine, we left them on for a week and the plants are doing alright. No definitive conclusion on how helpful they were. Also, for future reference, we’re thinking of planting seeds more densely. We planted four distinct rows with the seeds about four inches apart, if we want dense harvests we’ll have to crowd them more closely. It all really depends on at what point we want to harvest them, get them when their young or let them mature fully?
Bed 2: Empty
Bed 3: This bed is at the same stage as Bed 1. The cabbage planted at the center is doing a tad better then the white and yellow onions on either side, but they’ve all sprouted. Again, we’re thinking of seeding more densely in the future.
Bed 3A: The nasturtiums planted two weeks ago are doing great! They’re pretty well developed, hopefully we’ll have some flowers soon.
Bed 4: Seed Sowing Yesterday we planted Bed 4 with peas and radishes. Facing the numbered side of the bed, with your back to the picnic table, there is a length wise row of Dwarf Gray Sugar Peas on the left, a row of Cherry Belle Radishes in the center, and another row of Cherry Belle on the right. We placed the seeds on the soil and topped them with a half inch of Dig compost. One of Debbie’s tips was to soak pea seeds in water for up to four days before planting, she says they grow miraculously after that, but we were in a bit of a hurry and figured the peas have done fine before so we put them straight into the ground. Hopefully we’ll try the pea experiment another time!
Bed 5: The kale we planted last week has done beautifully! The eastern half of the bed, where we used Dig compost, has done significantly better than the western half (where we employed Wynbrandt compost). We wanted to see if ours could stand up to the master’s and it did! However ours was fresh from the bin whereas the Wynbrandt compost has been sitting in a plastic bag for six months, just something to keep in mind. We sprinkled the kale seeds in real dense and so we’ve got a thick carpet of sprouts. We’re letting them grow through this week and depending on how much more progress they show, we might harvest them either next week or the one after that.
Beds 6-11: Empty
Bed 12: The lettuce planted four weeks ago is still doing fine, the growth is a bit sporadic they’re everywhere in the bed. We’ll have to agree on a pint when to harvest them. We still haven’t seen any progress from the Sweet Mace Herb planted two weeks ago. We covered the seeds with tarp, have yet to know if it was beneficial or harmful. We’ll wait another week and check up on them.
Bed 13: We harvested a bit of rosemary and sage from the herb bed yesterday and did some general cleaning up. The leaf litter was cleared and Dig compost and mulch was added to the base of the remaining herbs.
We harvested carrots from the second easternmost wine barrel. They were scrumptious! They did grow really strangely though, so maybe the soil was a bit too dense?
We also plucked the Habanero peppers growing in a loose pot. They had some great color but were a bit overripe and so we tossed them into the compost. We did however save their seeds in a makeshift paper envelope now in the seed binder. We think we’ll put them in more direct sunlight in the future, because peppers like the heat.
The spigot was giving us a lot of trouble today, it would’t turn off once it got going. We don’t know if it was because of all the mud/leaf litter clogged in it or if the handle is too loose. We’d love to get our very own and maybe have the front desk keep it so others don’t wear it down. We’ll have to check with Sunset Rec people to get that figured out.
SOOF Funding has come through and we now have $184.01 to spend for administrative purposes.
Next Week: A few things came up today that we didn’t have time to cover including the following.
Note: Next week is also the E3 social, so we’re expecting a bit of a crowd.
It was great seeing so many returnees to the garden yesterday! We had a great turnout this week and got a lot of the more labor-intensive chores out of the way. A shout-out to the Alpha Chi Omega sisters who attended and helped us get a handle on our compost! Another shout-out to Judy for coming back again (all the way from the Valley woah) and dropping off her hammock! Things are definitely sprucing up in the garden, the place is lookin' good.
Bed Updates: We’ve had a hot few days so yesterday we used our man power to mix the dry soil in beds 4, 5, 6, and 8. We first cleared the leaf litter, then added water as we turned the soil. We took out debris and beetle grubs along the way (thank you to Ariel for squishing all the beetle grubs from bed 4!). We want to keep these beds nice and moist so they don’t bake into un-plantable bricks, and also keep the pests out. Beds 7, 9, and 11 were nicely moist just under the surface so we let them be. We also left bed 2 alone.
Bed 8: For some reason this bed has a very low soil level, we wanted to mix some potting soil in with it but held off because our bags of soil were covered in ants. Maybe we’ll use some home-made compost to fill it up in the future, we’ll report back.
Bed 5: After mixing the soil and getting it nice and moist, we decided to do a bit of an experiment. We divided the bed down the middle and covered the western half with a quarter inch of Wynbrandt compost, as is our custom, and planted a layer of kale seeds sprinkling them evenly across the surface as Steven Wynbrandt showed us during his workshop. For the eastern half, we used some of our own Dig compost, from the compost bin, and planted an equal amount of kale seeds. We’ll report back on how our compost performs in comparison with Wynbrandt’s. The race is on. This bed was planted with kale most of last year, so we think it should do well again. After sowing seeds on the opposing sides, we covered the bed with a tarp.
Bed 10: We replanted Janet. Janet is the nickname of the italian oregano that Janet Napolitano planted herself in the garden over the summer during her visit to UCLA. See the story here. It was the only plant left in the bed and so we replanted it in a ceramic pot to clear the bed for future mixing. We trimmed it’s more lengthy stems and put it by the bench under the pomelo tree. The bed is now empty.
Bed 13: Cloudy did some trimming in the herb bed.
Compost: Thank you to the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority girls who came out yesterday and helped a ton with our compost. They processed the huge pile of dry organic matter that was accumulating between the two bins, chopping it up and mixing it with the existing compost. We’ve officially named the southern more cube-shaped compost bin Alpha seeing as it is our primary compost bin where members can dump their food scraps, and the Alpha Chi girls helped out so much with it. The other cylindrical bin closer to De Neve Drive has been dubbed Vader, because it looks like Darth Vader’s helmet. The girls harvested a great bunch of Dig-made compost from the bottom of Alpha by sifting its contents and separating the fine dirt. A little bit was used in bed 5 (see below update) and the rest was bagged and bucketed and labeled. The bag and the bucket can be found in the westernmost storage section. We dumped the remnants from the sift into Vader.
While sifting, we found a bunch of worms. We think they may be California Red Wrigglers, which are great at breaking down organic matter but not what we intended for the compost bins. We collected them and gave them to Steven to get his worm compost up and running again. We want Alpha to be a primarily hot compost bin, with microbes as the active decomposers. The presence of the worms means that the bin was fairly cool, we’ll report back on more specifics and decisions. We’re still a bit hazy on this whole compost thing, but we produced some great looking stuff!
Plant Progress: Last week (10/19) we planted seeds in the following beds. Apparently, because of the intense heat we’ve been getting, we should have covered the beds with tarps to keep the seeds as moist and as protected as ever. Despite the intense heat we did get some germination action, but not as much as we would have liked. We’re going to try to draw some more of the seedlings to sprout, so yesterday we added tarps supported by wire frames to beds 1, 3, and the small portion of 12 that we planted with sweet mace last week. We’ll keep these tarps on for the next few days and hopefully be Wednesday we’ll see a bit more sprouting and be able to take them off. The tarps are a short-term technique to get the seeds going but once they’ve germinated the little guys need sun, so water-ers keep an eye peeled for germination under the tarps and once you see it picking up then we’ll know to take the tarps off.
Bed 1: We think we saw some of the Rainbow Swiss Chard sprouting, but it’s a little too early to tell for certain. We covered the bed with tarp.
Bed 3: The cabbage in the center of the bed seemed to peaking out, but again too early to tell. We covered the bed.
Bed 3A: No nasturtium action yet.
Bed 12: We didn’t see any of the Sweet Mace Herb from last week, we covered the little patch with tarp to hopefully help it along. The butter crunch lettuce that was planted on October 5th in the bed is doing great, it’ll most likely be good to harvest in a few weeks. The butter head lettuce that we planted right next to it (closer to the compost) at the same time still is showing nothing. We think that the butter head seeds may have been duds, but when we first were getting those guys going we used a green tarp over the butter crunch (which is now doing spectacularly) and black tarp over the butter head (the duds). Maybe the darker tarp killed the butter head? Maybe it’s a coincidence? We dunno. We’re going to wait it out a bit more. Meanwhile, the corner of the bed is still unplanted.
Take-homes: Last week we dispersed seeds to various attendees in small pots. The basil seeds that were dispersed have germinated! and are doing well. The mint that we tried to propagate is showing no known progress.
Hammock!: Thank you to Judy for donating her hammock to the garden! We successfully put it up with the help of Jonathan, Shawn, and Steven and it looks great! Unfortunately it’s still too low/loose to sit in (you’ll hit your butt on the ground). Next week we’ll hopefully get a ladder to scooch it higher up the tree trunk, dig out a small ditch underneath, or tighten the ropes so it doesn’t sag as much. Jonathan’s got handle on it no matter what we decide. It’s set up between the first two trees to the east of the shed.
Suggestions for next week:
Plan a Pizza Night
Figure out what to do with all the pill bugs. Are they horrible pests? Should we try to control them?
Plant int the empty beds (2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Fill bed 8 with our own compost.
Other suggestions are welcome!