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Getting Kids into Gardening One Radish at a Time Print E-mail
Written by Johnna Walker, Garden Teacher at Larchmont Charter School   
Kids gardeningThe great thing about working with kids in the garden is how organic the program becomes when it’s focused around gardening. You can plan all you want but when the first harvest is ready, a major aphid infestation makes itself known or the weather takes a turn for the dramatic and you find yourself following Mother Nature's cue rather than your plan book! I love that about the garden - it teaches children about life on so many levels - not to mention it keeps me on my toes.

We had our first radish harvest just before school was out for the winter break. Last year we had offered the kids a dip with the radishes but this year I decided to go even simpler. We wound up making radish wraps using freshly harvested greens and radishes. We sliced the radish really thinly, placed them atop a leaf or two of lettuces and greens and then squeezed fresh lemon from our lemon tree over that and sprinkled a little salt to boot. Before they ate the kids observed the platters of the wraps and talked about how beautiful the colors of the veggies were as they sat on the plate. The kids commented how they thought it was kind of like a work of art and that presenting food in this way made them want to eat it all the more. Then they wrapped it all up and dove right into the eating.

One little boy who had seemed disengaged for most of the morning was the first to raise his hand when it came time to share about the tasting experience. His comment was that he didn't usually like vegetables but he just loved the radish wraps. That warmed my heart and I knew right then that we'd made the right choice to go as simple as we did. When the kids grow it and are involved in the process, they will respond - even if it is one radish at a time!
 
New Year, New Gardens, New Recipes Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Marc McDowellAt the end of 2009, we caught up again with Chef Marc McDowell at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, who, as you may recall from previous posts, put in an extensive kitchen garden on the grounds of the resort. Echoing the feelings of many a new gardener, Chef McDowell said he spent the year alternatively exhilarated -- when his crops did well -- and disappointed -- when pests invaded. “I have never felt so hopeless than those times when I see total devastation, but when I see something doing well it’s a real feeling of pride,” said McDowell, who said gardening has become a real passion for him. We discussed the similarities between gardening and cooking – and how they both involve trusting your intuition a bit. “It's a feeling. If you think it’s going to taste good, it’s probably going to taste good. And if you think a plant needs water, it probably does,” said McDowell.

McDowell’s goal for the new year is to take what he’s learned and become more proactive. “I’ll adjust when I put certain vegetables in and try to be more ahead of the game instead of just reacting,” said McDowell, who’s been selected for the 2010 University of Hawaii Maui Master Gardener Training Program. The program begins on January 20 -- right around the same time his wife is due to give birth to their second child.

Chef McDowell sent along a recipe for a corn-and-lemongrass veloute – which he describes as a great soup that combines Hawaiian and Southwestern tastes and is made using ingredients right out of the garden. “It’s a chicken-stock-based soup that thickens itself because of the corn,” said McDowell. “We add crab to make it our signature soup.” (Click "read more" for recipe.)

Read more...
 
Tips on Growing Raspberries in Redondo Beach Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

RaspberriesWe recently received the following question: We had a family vote on what to plant in our backyard garden and raspberries won in a landslide. I have no experience with raspberries and wondered if you could give some advice. We are in Redondo Beach and would plant them by a fence where it's mostly shady. It gets late afternoon sun for about two hours in winter, longer in the summer. Thank you! Jennifer S.

For some answers, we first contacted the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener helpline at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 323-260-3238. Here is the response from Master Gardener Volunteer Lorraine Zecca: 
“Raspberries are a good choice for Redondo Beach. They will do well if
 planted in full sun. The canes should be kept upright with the support of
a trellis. For more detailed information on growing raspberries, check the 
link below: http://groups.ucanr.org/cagardenweb/Berries/Raspberries.htm
"

We also contacted Judy Frankel, an organic gardener in the South Bay who runs the Rancho Palos Verdes Fruit Exchange, for her advice: “Raspberries do best in full sun, so if you plant them where it's mostly shady, you may not get the best production. They are a prolific plant that send a lot of suckers out from the original roots, and you have to thin the suckers. I like Heritage, as they are my most productive variety (I have four varieties.) They like to be planted in a raised bed if possible. This will control the suckering a bit."

Good luck -- and let us know how it goes!

 
An Opportunity for Garden Sharing on the Westside of Los Angeles Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Garden shotThe idea of sharing gardens is not a new one but, with more and more people embracing the idea of sustainable gardening, it is increasing in popularity. And no wonder. It’s a great idea -- both for the apartment-dwellers who love to garden and for those who have the land but don’t have the time, resources or inclination to do anything with it.

For us at GardenstoTables, it was just that – a great idea – until I received the following e-mail:

"I read about you in Westways and went to your website. After reading about how excited you were to rent a plot at the SM community garden I had an idea. Why wait for a plot to become available. What if there are people in the West LA area who are not gardeners (like me) who have the perfect space for a garden but will never plant one. I would love to let anyone use my yard or untended patch of dirt to plant, experiment, tend or whatever. I would even help pay for supplies if someone just lovingly dealt with it.  Just a thought....if you know anyone who wants a little plot to plant...have them send me a note! Nina."

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Improving the Kitchen Garden Through Science Print E-mail
Written by Marc McDowell, Executive Sous Chef, Ritz Carlton, Kapalua   

Marc McdowellI recently had Nick Sakovich come to visit the herb and vegetable gardens we put in earlier this year here at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Like a lot of new gardeners, I didn’t grow up farming so felt I needed some advice on what I was doing right and wrong (mostly wrong) and couldn’t have found a better person than Nick, who was the farm adviser for the University of California in Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and ran their master gardener program. Now retired, Nick lives on the Big Island where he gardens on three acres and writes a column for the Hilo Tribune. He came out with his wife for a three night stay, where we filled them with good food in exchange for his help with the garden.

Mostly Nick’s advice centered on the theme of bringing what we’re doing back to the science -- that if you have a scientific foundation for what you’re doing, you’ll be in much better shape.

Here, specifically, are a few of the areas we concentrated on:

The Soil. It’s important to analyze the soil you’re working with so you know what nutrients you’re lacking and therefore what kind of fertilizer you should be using. A specific test for plant pathogenic nematodes can also be performed. Or you can just pull up some susceptible plants like tomatoes and look for knotted or galled roots. The damage is obvious. I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with a lot of root knot nematodes. If you do have them, there are some things to do to manage them; namely plant non-host varieties and species in the infected areas. In regions with warm climates -- lots of sunshine -- soil sterilization is an option. Certain marigold species also help in reducing nematode populations. (Click "read more" for whole article)

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