Seed Saving in a School Garden

It is late winter and many of the crops from our September planting are either finished (cauliflower, broccoli, peas, beets, and carrots) or bolting (cilantro, lettuce, arugula). Now is the time to pick out which plants we want to save for seed. Choose plants that are healthy, vigorous and with characteristics worth saving. The red Lollo Rosso lettuce below is being chosen for its deep red leaves. We have placed a stake next to with a large circled “S” on it. This is to remind us that we are saving this plant for seed and not to harvest it.

Saving lettuce seed

Our arugula was fantastic this year, the lobed leaves were very mild compared to the more bitter arrow-like leaves even late into the season so we are letting the entire patch go to seed.

arugula patch

“Maintaining the genetic diversity within a population is the key to its continued evolution and the ability of the plants to adapt to varying environmental conditions. To avoid detrimentally decreasing the genetic diversity being maintained within a population of plants, seeds should be saved from the greatest possible number of plants that meet the selection criteria.” – Suzanne Ashworth, “Seed to Seed”

oakleaf lettuce

Green Oakleaf Lettuce being saved for seed

Mushrooms in your Vegetable School Garden


During mild, wet, winter months it is not uncommon to see mushrooms growing among your vegetables. With mushrooms invariably come questions: what is it and what do we do about it.

First, DO NOT EAT THEM, mushrooms may be lethally poisonous, especially with young children and older adults.

A recent case of mushroom poisoning occurred in California when a care-giver at a nursing home picked some poisonous mushrooms and served them in a gravy. Four individuals died.

Mushrooms are a fungus and classified in the kingdom of Fungi, which is different from the other kingdoms such as Animalia, Bacteria and Plantae.

They show up in plant beds often when there is woody mulch present.


In nature, Fungi are part of the great recycling that occurs in forests and other woody areas. When trees and plants die in the forest, mushrooms assist in their decompositon.

To rid your beds of mushrooms do not just remove the mushroom but also the surrounding soil. This way they will have less chance of growing back.

You may dispose of poisonous mushrooms in your compost pile. They are actually very helpful in breaking down organic matter.

For more info see, Mushrooms in the Garden Beds from the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.

mushroom gills

mushroom gills

Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program 2013

The Common Ground Garden Program of the University of California Cooperative Extension Los Angeles will be offering the MASTER GARDENER VOLUNTEER TRAINING PROGRAM, 13 Saturdays, March 2 – May 25, 2013, 9am-4pm, plus additional required continuing education opportunities to be announced.

Important Dates:
January 4: Last day to request application survey link
January 15: Last day to submit completed online application survey

· 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 4, 2013 and indicate which elist(s) you want to be on (you can be on both).
· If you’re already on either or both elists, email Yvonne Savio, by January 4, 2013 to request the online application link.
· Complete and submit the online application by January 15, 2013. No application will be considered before then.

· Accept 50 applicants. Main criteria for acceptance (if you meet these criteria, please apply; if you don’t meet these criteria, please gain more experience and apply in the future):
1) prior community service utilizing gardening,
2) know gardening basics,
3) passion for helping low-income gardeners,
4) given presentations,
5) work well with people of diverse backgrounds, and
6) initiative in starting and carrying through projects.

· On February 1, 2013, we will email you whether or not you have been accepted into the program. Please 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 our program 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 to join 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. You will receive LOTS of emails!
· On February 15, 2013, we will post onto the MG-only Yahoogroup your first assignments due on March 2, 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.

WHAT YOU’LL DO if you’re accepted into the Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program
· By February 14, 2013, mail the Live Scan form completed by the Live Scan operator.
· By February 14, 2013, pay course fee online with credit card (you’ll receive the link upon acceptance), or mail check for $200 made payable to “UC REGENTS”.
Low-income residents may apply for a deferred payment plan – see application for details.
· By February 14, 2013, join our MGs-only Yahoogroup and make sure you’re receiving program postings.
· By March 1, 2013, become familiar with our Common Ground public website and our MGs-only Yahoogroup website.
· Attend 13 classes on Saturdays, March 2 through May 25, 2013, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, at a location to be announced. You must attend the first class on March 2. After the first class, you may miss only one class – and only with prior notice. Some meetings will be at various garden sites; we encourage carpooling.
· Give gardening workshops at community gardens, school gardens, seniors’ gardens, housing development & other low-income gardens.
· Answer gardening questions at gardens and fairs, on your phone, or by your email.
· Help with program activities and workshops.
· Post all your Volunteer and Continuing Education hours on our online Statewide MG Volunteer Management System (instructions provided).
· Starting in June 2013, attend monthly MG Continuing Education meetings on the second Saturday of every month at different garden locations.

· University of California publication California Master Gardener Handbook; and 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 by June 30, 2014. (Future years’ minimum annual requirements are 25 Volunteer and 12 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 at by January 4, 2013.

The University of California prohibits discrimination or harassment of any person in any of its programs or activities (Complete nondiscrimination policy statement can be found at

Direct inquiries regarding the University’s nondiscrimination policies to the Affirmative Action Director, University of California, ANR, 1111 Franklin St., 6th Floor, Oakland, CA 94607, (510) 987-0096.

Note: Yvonne Savio, Program Manager, will be out of the office from 12/15/12 to 1/1/13. Also, UC Cooperative Extension will be at a new address starting in the new year and we are not sure if our computers will be up and running immediately. Therefore, we recommend that you send Yvonne Savio an email by 12/13 to request the application survey link.

Late Season Squash – Trombetta di Albenga

Every season there is a star, a variety that exceeds our expectations either with fruitful bounty or with taste. Last summer it was chayote. This past summer the star was Trombetta di Albenga, an Italian, heirloom, vining squash, that when picked early tastes similar to zucchini only better.

It can be grown either along the ground, which makes the fruits curl

tromboncino squash

or along a fence which allows the fruits to hang straight.

squash growing on fence

If the fruit is not picked it can grow very large (5-6 ft), though at this point it is no longer edible but can be used like a gourd.

squash gourd

The most amazing thing about this variety is that its November and its still fruiting.

late summer squash

One interesting observation, in the early part of the summer there were many male flowers and fewer female flowers, now at the end of the season, there are many female flowers but very few male flowers.

To insure pollination we manually brought the male and female flowers together. The male is on the left.

manual pollination of male and female squash flowers

A couple of week later, a botanical offspring…

late season summer squash

Back-to-School School Garden Shopping List


Great article from University of Florida Master Gardener Program.

It’s time for kids to go back to school, which also means it’s time for teachers to start thinking about their school gardens. You can help a local teacher and school garden by purchasing a few things on their school garden shopping list.

School & Office Supplies
Pens or permanent markers: for labeling plant markers, spray bottles, seed packets, etc.
Graph paper: for laying out fall or spring garden plans
Ruler: for straight boxes and rows on the garden plan
Notebooks: the small pocket-sized ones are great for taking notes while in the garden or bringing to the nursery, home center, etc.
Blunt-tip scissors: plenty of stuff to cut, so get a decent pair
Popsicle sticks: great as labels for transplants, seed flats, or in-garden bed plantings

Hobby/utility knife: cutting string, fabric, bags, plastic mulch, etc.
Linseed oil: for preserving and maintaining your garden tools

Plastic baggies/paper lunch bags: use these to hold packets of seeds, soil to be tested, and for distributing the harvest to friends, neighbors and food banks
Plastic containers with lids: store seeds, soil amendments, bulbs, tools, etc.
Cooking knives: for removing or chopping up plant matter bound for the compost pile
Towels: for wet cleanups
Colander: for washing your freshly harvested veggies prior to bringing them inside

Child-sized rubber boots: keep several sets for the classroom
Aprons or big shirts: to cover the kids school clothes when in the garden
Large hats: keep small faces and bodies covered in shade

Insect repellant: check with parents before applying to a child
Sunscreen: protect from sunburns, but, again, check with parents before applying
Hand sanitizer: goes without saying, with what kids get their hands into

Boxes: for new planting areas or for your worm bin
Newspapers: for that worm bin

Nursery (check to see if they’ll donate)
Seedlings: these are often better for schools, since kids can see them growing immediately
Seeds: these are cheap and kids love seeing their plants pop out of the ground
Worm bin: fun project for classrooms
Mulch: always a needed supply for the school garden
Potting soil: another always in need supply for the school garden
Pots: several different sizes are always good for teachers
Compost bin: these are great projects for classrooms, and the best ones for classrooms are the ones that can be turned and are off the ground

Although most of the supplies needed to start gardening or composting will be purchased by the individual schools, supplemental funding for the program comes from a variety of other sources. Help is always needed, so check with your local schools to see what they may need.

Panel Discussion on California Proposition 37

This past weekend I attended the Seed Library of Los Angeles’ (SLOLA) presentation of “The Truth about GMOs.” Special guest speakers included:

Jeffrey Smith, Director, Institute for Responsible Technology, and the leading consumer advocate promoting healthier non-GMO choices; author of the world’s bestselling and #1 rated book on the health dangers of GMOs, Seeds of Deception.

Tom Newmark, Board Member, Greenpeace, Inc. USA. He is a founder of Sacred Seeds, a sanctuary in Costa Rica dedicated to conserving medicinal plants across the globe.

Please see this incredibly informative presentation in the video below.

In November, California voters will decide the fate of  Proposition 37, a Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative.

A panel discussion has been organized by eight Hamilton High School science students and the South Robertson Neighborhood Council Green Team Committee to evaluate the issues and then make a recommendation to the Neighborhood Council which in turn will send its recommendation to the Los Angeles City Council.

The students have put together an impressive roster of advocates on both sides of the issue to explain their positions in depth.  If you think that this is not a nuanced issue, you might be surprised after hearing this interesting panel of speakers.  The panel consists of:  a biologist, a representative from Women for Agriculture, a lobbyist, environmental activists and a filmmaker.  The event is open to the community and there will be a Q & A following.  Any questions concerning this event can be directed to: Paula Waxman at or 310-559-2552.

WHEN: Thursday, September 6th
TIME: 7:00 to 9:00 pm
WHERE:  Hamilton High School Cafeteria, 2955 South Robertson Blvd., LA 90034

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” ~  Thomas Jefferson

Saving Carrot Seeds

single carrot harvest

We first planted carrot seeds in September. We harvested them in January. We also left a few plants to flower so we could save seeds from them.  The flowers appeared towards the end of April and today, the end of July, they are ready to be harvested for seed.

Allowing carrots to go to seeds not only provides seeds for next season but the flowers also attract beneficial insects that snack on the pests attacking your summer plants.

carrot flower

A few things to know when saving seed from carrots:

1) Make sure you are starting with an heirloom or open-pollinated variety and not a hybrid.

2) It takes a long time to go from seed-to-seed. Plan for it. We sowed seeds in September and harvested seeds in July. That’s 10 months total.

3) It takes a lot of space. One carrot plant sends up one main stalk and multiple side stalks. Instead of one carrot plant needing only 2 inches square, one carrot plant going to seed needs about 2 feet square.

4) Reduce watering after the plant has flowered. Stop watering once the plants start turning brown and the seeds have fully matured. When they’ve completely turned brown the seeds are ready to harvest.

5) Hang seed stalks upside down in a cool dry place for another week to assure complete dryness.

6) Separate seeds from stem over a newspaper or plate.

7) Gather seeds into a plastic bag or glass jar and store in a cool dry place.

mature carrot seed