Friday Farm Journal for February 3, 2017

It's gently raining in L.A. today after a week of drying out from our January monsoon. It's been a perfect week to work in the yard and get the garden beds ready for planting.

On Monday I went to Fig Earth Supply in Cypress Park to buy 32 cubic feet of raised bed mix and compost. Last year, upon recommendation from a different garden center, I used Kellogg's Organic Raised Bed Mix but I felt my germination rates and crop yields were low.

This year I've filled my new beds with E.B. Stone organic bedding mix, composted chicken manure, and Wynbrandt Farms Biodynamic Compost. Los Angeles surfer-turned-gardener Steven Wynbrandt makes the incredible product right here in L.A. and he has a fascinating back story. Check it out in this Los Angeles Times article from 2012. This guy is passionate about poop.

By appearance, this year's E.B. Stone mix doesn't look much different from last year's Kellogg mix. Both contain a majority of aged forest product, which essentially means wood chips and bark. Such is the trend in potting mixes as companies move away from unsustainable peat-based mixes. This just means I have to do more composting, more soil amending, and be much more diligent about watering, as these mixes are too course and don't have good water retention. But at least they're an inexpensive and organic fill. We must import our soil- our property does not have topsoil. It's a hill composed of alkaline decomposed granite.

Unfortunately, It's very hard to trust most soil/planting mixes on the market, as consumers don't know where the components are sourced. Manure from feedlots can contain high levels of antibiotics, herbicides, and pesticides. To kill pathogens, most commercial composts are allowed to reach such a high temperature that all of the beneficial microbes are killed. The result is a garden full of 'dead' soil in which plants don't thrive and crops are tainted with chemicals.

I've quadrupled my garden bed space from last year to 200 square feet. That doesn't include random planters and in-ground sowing of pumpkins and melons. I ordered my new seed stock from Baker Creek (see below for company description). Combined with seeds I've saved over the years, I'll be planting nearly 50 varieties of vegetables and herbs:

  • Chinese Green Noodle Bean
  • Beet, Formanova
  • Celeriac, Giant Prague
  • Cucumber, Beit Alpha
  • Cucumber, Monika
  • Eggplant, Ping Tung
  • Gourd, Bushel Basket
  • Chinese Gailan
  • Celtuce
  • Shallot, Zebrune
  • Yellow Onion, Jaune Paille Des Vertus
  • Bunching Onion, He Shi Ko
  • Pimento Pepper, Sheepnose
  • Shishito Pepper
  • Chile de Arbol Pepper
  • Radish, Japanese Minowase (Daikon)
  • Radish, Opolanka
  • European Mesclun Mix Salad Blend
  • Lettuce, Bronze Beauty
  • Lettuce, Mignonette Bronze
  • Zucchini, Costata Romanesco
  • Wax Melon, Canton Giant (Winter Melon)
  • Chives, Common
  • Chives, Chinese Garlic
  • Cilantro, Slo-Bolt
  • Parsley, Hamburg Rooted
  • Parsley, Curled Leaf
  • Tarragon, Russian
  • Thyme, Common
  • Cress
  • Bok choy, Dwarf White Stalk
  • Bok choi, Savoy Tatsoi
  • Snow Pea, Carouby De Maussane
  • Snap pea, Amish
  • Chinese Mustard
  • Chinese Cabbage, Hilton
  • Carrot, Cosmic Purple
  • Sweet Bell Pepper, Chocolate
  • Basil, Thai
  • Red Potato (var unkn)
  • Watermelon, Moon & Stars
  • Watermelon, Orangeglo
  • Orange Honeydew (var unknown)
  • Pie Pumpkin (var unknown)
  • Squash, Kabocha
  • Squash, Delicata

This is the first year I won't be growing any tomatoes. It's kind of sad because they're so satisfying and productive. However, it's time I admit something I learned three years ago: I'm allergic/sensitive to tomatoes. Gasp. Of course one of the foods I love the most was the only one that came up positive during an allergy test. True, I've noticed whenever I eat them my face turns red as a... tomato! Not that I'm fully prepared to give up pizza or my homemade tomato jam, but I'm trying to keep it to a minimum. There, I've said it. And it sucks.

This weekend we're visiting Sunland Water Gardens to buy aquatic plants for our new above ground mini pond. Last summer the heat was so intense and the wild birds so thirsty I couldn't keep up with providing them fresh water. So we've purchased a 170 gallon galvanized stock tank and have fitted it with a pump to keep the water aerated. A barley bale is floated to maintain water clarity and animal-safe BT bacteria used to prevent mosquitoes.

Stacked flagstone hides the pump and provides a gentle waterfall effect. A stone platform provides water depth of 1.5" so birds can bathe. The hummingbirds are already loving it.

Stacked flagstone hides the pump and provides a gentle waterfall effect. A stone platform provides water depth of 1.5" so birds can bathe. The hummingbirds are already loving it.

Here are a few more photos from the yard this week and a cool ( or should I say Kuu-l ) announcement from the coop.

Almost ready for our first ever harvest of mandarins and the tree is flush with heavenly perfumed blossoms.

Almost ready for our first ever harvest of mandarins and the tree is flush with heavenly perfumed blossoms.

Chinese Long Beans can grow well over 6 feet tall so I've made a trellis from cull lumber and wove tendril supports with twine.

Chinese Long Beans can grow well over 6 feet tall so I've made a trellis from cull lumber and wove tendril supports with twine.

We're so happy with our choice of LED string lights over the patio and pond. One string provides plenty of light in the evenings.

We're so happy with our choice of LED string lights over the patio and pond. One string provides plenty of light in the evenings.

Last but not least, a special announcement from Kuu this morning...

Last but not least, a special announcement from Kuu this morning...

"I've laid my very first egg!" Not sure if it was fertilized by our new adoptee, but we'll let Kuu take the lead and I'll provide an update in a couple weeks.

"I've laid my very first egg!"

Not sure if it was fertilized by our new adoptee, but we'll let Kuu take the lead and I'll provide an update in a couple weeks.


BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS: We sell only  pure, non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented seeds. We do not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis. We boycott all gene-altering companies. We are not members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization! We work with a network of about 100 small farmers, gardeners and seed growers to bring you the best selection of seeds available! We offer over 1,800 fine varieties from 70 countries!

SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE: Founded in Missouri in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy. Diane's grandfather entrusted to them the seeds of two garden plants, ‘Grandpa Ott's’ morning glory and ‘German Pink’ tomato. These seeds, brought by Grandpa Ott's parents from Bavaria when they immigrated to Iowa in the 1870s, became the first two varieties in the collection. Diane and Kent went on to form a network of gardeners interested in preserving heirloom varieties and sharing seeds. Today, with 13,000 members and 20,000 plant varieties, Seed Savers Exchange makes its home on 890 scenic acres in Winneshiek County, Iowa, at Heritage Farm. Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit (501(c)(3) status) organization dedicated to saving and sharing seeds. We maintain a collection of more than 20,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb, and plant varieties. Over 13,000 members share homegrown seeds with one another through our seed exchange.


P.S. If you missed my other story this week, check out the vlog about the cormorant I rescued from a busy street in Los Angeles.