Category Archives: Instructional Activities

Growing Corn

Corn is currently 7 ft tall and just began flowering last week. It is one of the best crops of corn we’ve had…ever. Secret to our success?

Picture of corn crop at Hamilton High School

In the fall we planted fava beans. Fava beans are known for fixating nitrogen from the air and turning it into a usable form in the soil. Following fava beans with corn allows the corn to take advantage of all that extra nitrogen in the soil.

We also fed the corn twice with additional fertilizer, once with worm tea and another time with fish emulsion.

How to Make a Keyhole Garden – African Style

Set in Lesotho, this video shows a group of schoolchildren making a keyhole garden. The charity Send a Cow showed them how to make it and the children can now make their own at home and have more food.

Grow LA Victory Garden Classes 2011

Once again I am delighted to be teaching the Grow LA Victory Garden Classes in 2011. Please see details below for registration.

The Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative helps new gardeners start their own gardens quickly and easily in a container, the backyard or at a community garden. Participants are able to turn their interest in gardening into successful, productive gardens that will generate positive changes in their homes by lowering grocery bills and enhancing opportunities for a healthier lifestyle.

The Grow LA Victory Garden classes are organized and led by UC California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners. Those who complete the 4-week training will become UC-Certified Victory Gardeners.

Hami Garden, Hamilton High School
2955 South Robertson Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Entrance on S. Canfield Ave (Between Cattaraugus and Kramerwood Pl)

The 4-week session is every Sunday for 3 hours.
Dates: May 1, May 8, May 15, May 22
Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

List of topics include the following:
Week 1: Planning, tools, containers, building raised beds, seed starting, plant selection

Week 2: Soil preparation, soil properties, transplanting, irrigation, and mulching

Week 3: Composting, pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), beneficial insects, organic pesticides and fertilizers.

Week 4: Harvesting, pollination, seed saving, fruit trees, recipes, review, graduation

The cost is $15 per class or $50 for the entire session. Only those taking all 4 sessions will be eligible for certificates. Please note, half of all proceeds go towards the Hamilton High School Garden Program.

Payment is available through Paypal or by check. My paypal account email address is or request invoice and I will forward one by email. You will be confirmed registration once payment is received.

LA County Master Gardener George Pessin
Tel: 310-779-8816

Mailing Address:
834 Huntley Dr #4
Los Angeles, CA 90069

How to Grow Chayote

Chayote (pronounced: chah-YOH-teh) is in the Cucurbitaceae family, same as melons, cucumber, gourds, and squash. Its fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and the leaves and shoots are edible as well.

Here in Southern California it grows as a perennial. It has a vigorous vine that can grow to 30 ft making it perfect for chained link fences or some other form of trellis

To grow chayote in your garden the first thing you want to do is go to the market and purchase a few. Here in Los Angeles they can be found at many Hispanic markets (chayotes are native to Mexico). Leave them in a warm sunny place like a windowsill or countertop and wait for the seed to germinate, which can take approximately 4 weeks.

Once the stem appears, which will be from the larger fat end, plant it in a container (or in the ground) covering the entire fruit.

For more information see Chayote (Sechium edule) from

For Chayote recipes see this nice collection from

Giving Parsley a Haircut

Harvesting parsley on a regular basis will keep it from going to seed and ensure a steady supply. Being a great source for Vitamin A and Vitamin C be sure to include parsley in your favorite sauces and soups.

LA County Master Gardener Training Program 2011

Common Ground Garden Program
University of California Cooperative Extension Los Angeles


13 Saturdays, March 5 – May 28, 2011, 9am-4pm

January 10: Last Day to Get Onto Elist to Receive Application Link
January 15: Last Day to Submit Completed Online Application

Any resident of Los Angeles County with an email address and computer access.  Most communication will be by email and websites.

Anyone who wants to help teach low-income and limited-resource people how to grow more nutritious vegetables and fruits.

We especially invite residents of inner-city neighborhoods and bilingual gardeners.


You must be on either or both of our resource elists –
1) Community Gardening and Food Security, 2) School Gardening.

If you’re not on either elist, email Yvonne Savio, by January 10, 2011 and indicate which elist you want to be on (you can be on both).

If you’re already on either or both elists, email by January 10, 2011 to receive the online application link.

Complete and submit the online application by January 15, 2011. No application will be considered before January 16, 2011.


Accept 50 applicants.

Main criteria for acceptance: 1) prior community service, 2) passion for helping low-income gardeners, 3) experience giving presentations, 4) working with people of diverse backgrounds, and 5) initiative in starting and carrying through projects.

On February 1, 2011, we will email you whether or not you have been accepted into the program. Don’t contact us earlier.

If you have been accepted, we will email you a Live Scan form and list of Live Scan locations in L.A. County for required fingerprinting and criminal background check by the U.S. Department of Justice. This must be done for us specifically, only at these locations, regardless if you’ve done it for another agency.  Note differences in prices, hours, and whether an appointment is required.

If you have been accepted, we will email you instructions on joining our MGs-only Yahoogroup.  You can use either your existing email address or your new Yahoo email address to receive all of our MG emails and materials.

On February 16, 2011, we will post onto the MG-only Yahoogroup your first assignments due on March 5, the first day of class.

Teach you how to garden successfully. Topics and garden activities will cover basic plant science, propagation, fertilization, irrigation, soil, compost, vegetable and herb and fruit gardening, flowering plants and trees, Integrated Pest Management (diseases, weeds, insects, small animals), tools, how to start community and school gardens, and outreach techniques.

Provide you with Volunteer and Continuing Education opportunities all over Los Angeles County.


By February 15, 2011, mail the Live Scan form completed by the Live Scan operator to: Valerie Borel, U.C. Cooperative Extension, 4800 E. Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90022.

By February 15, 2011, pay course fee online with credit card, or mail check for $200 made payable to “UC REGENTS” to: Valerie Borel at above address.  Low-income residents pay only what they can afford—see application for details.

By February 15, 2011, join our MGs-only Yahoogroup and make sure you’re receiving postings.

By March 4, 2011, become familiar with our Common Ground public website and our MGs-only Yahoogroup website.

Attend 13 classes on Saturdays, March 5 through May 28, 2011, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, at our office.  Some meetings will be at other garden sites; we encourage carpooling with classmates. After the first class on March 5, only one class may be missed – and that only with prior notice.

Give gardening workshops at community gardens, school gardens, senior gardens, housing development & other low-income gardens.

Answer gardening questions at gardens and fairs, on the phone at our office, or by email from your computer.

Help with program activities and workshops at the UCCE office in East Los Angeles.

Post all your volunteer and continuing education hours on our online Statewide MG Volunteer Management System (we provide instructions).

Starting in June, attend monthly MG Continuing Education meetings on the second Saturday of every month at different garden locations.

California Master Gardener Handbook, University of California publication; discounts on other UC publications.

Certificate of Completion of Class Instruction – after completing the 13-week training program and passing the take-home, open-book examination.

Monthly Continuing Education meetings with speakers and activities on in-depth gardening topics.
Frequent emails of Volunteer and Continuing Education opportunities and other program information.

Annual recertification as an active MG after you post online at least 50 Volunteer hours and 15 Continuing Education hours by May 31, 2012.  (Future years’ annual requirements are 25 Volunteer and 15 Continuing Education hours.)

Joy and satisfaction that you’re helping other gardeners grow more nutritious vegetables and fruits, you’re making new friends, and we’re all working together to beautify our neighborhoods and “Green LA”!

For More Information – Email Valerie Borel,

School Garden Lessons, Activities and Curricula

Jerusalem Artichoke

When I first started working in school gardens my initial focus was on getting kids to eat healthy. To that end I would plant as many varieties as possible knowing that young gardeners love anything they plant and nurture themselves.

As school gardens got more popular however, more and more teachers were asking how to incorporate school gardens into their everyday lesson plans. Learning to eat healthy was just one of many topics that needed to be covered. Peruse the websites below and you will find activities and lesson plans that also relate to art, science, math, and social studies.  Also please note many are broken down by grade.

1) School Garden Lessons from

2) School Garden Curricula Grades K-12 from National Environmental Education Foundation

3) 15 Lessons for 1, 2 and 3 graders (72 page pdf)

4) 15 Lessons for 4 and 5 graders (61 page pdf)

5) Curriculum ideas from California School Garden Network

6) Agriculture in the Classroom – Lesson Plans from USDA

7) School Garden Lesson Plans from Virginia Tech Horticulture Department

8) Nature’s Partner’s – Pollinator, Plants, and You (Comprehensive pollinator curriculum for grades 3-6)

9) School garden activities arranged by season

10) Lesson Plans and Curricula – Garden ABCs