Apartment Parking Lot Gardening in East Hollywood

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Today we have a guest post from R.J., who lives near us in East Hollywood. R.J.’s post proves that you can start a garden even if you don’t own a house and how an otherwise useless urban space can be put to good use. R.J. says:

I wanted to be able to give my granddaughter the experience of gardening while she was growing up but as both my daughter and I live in apartments, and have no space for gardens I needed to come up with a solution . So based on the “Square Foot Gardening Book by Mel Bartholomew I built two 5 ft. x 1 ft. square foot garden boxes from inexpensive ($ 2.15) 1 x 6  x 6 ft. cedar fence boards bought from Home Depot. I waterproofed them by sealing the insides with with pure tongue oil from Jill’s paint in Atwater. Each planter gives me 5,  12 x 12 inch sq. ft. spaces for growing.

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These boxes take up a small amount of space and fit easily in the area  ( about 2 feet wide) between the parked cars and the back wall of my apt building. The area gets about 6 hours of sunlight so it is ideal for growing.

This is my second year of growing and I am a new gardener but I am happy with my results. The first year I grew various veggies including  green onions, bell peppers radishes kale and lettuce and

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During last winter I have successfully grown lettuce, kale and chard though my one cauliflower attempt was a failure.

I found that cherry tomatoes gave me the most satisfaction as every day  there are some ripe ones to pick and eat so you get that nearly instant gratification we are so used to in these “click and get ” high tech times.

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My granddaughter loves to pick them herself and pop them in her mouth so this works out great in terms of her developing an appreciation of where food comes from and experience in raising her own food as she is growing up despite not having any gardening space to speak of.

I decided to go all out this year and planted cherry tomatoes in all ten squares as well as an additional grape tomato plant in an inexpensive Home Depot planter.

The result is I have a TON of delicious cherry tomatoes for myself,  family members and some of my lucky neighbors in my apartment building, not to mention bragging rights and a sense of eco-green accomplishment.

These boxes can be easily made and you can even have all the pieces cut at your local Home Depot or lumber yard and you just nail or screw them together. I would recommend that you use 1 x 8 x 6 ft. fence boards instead of the 1 x 6, though, and fill the soil about an inch below the boards so when watering the water doesn’t spill over the sides as is the case with my 1 x 6 boards.

One of the advantages of having my garden space in the parking lot is that when I leave in the morning I can spend a few moments watering and pruning and picking some delicious tomatoes for lunch and when I come home at night I can repeat the same process . This routine has turned out to be very convenient way of getting my gardening time in during the course of my normal daily routine.

Although there is some effort and expense getting started, there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in growing your own veggies and the taste is exceptional. My tomatoes have a flavor that is incomparable to even the most expensive organic tomatoes you can buy, including your local farmer’s market.

My goal of teaching my granddaughter some gardening basics while she is growing up has been accomplished and she will have some good childhood memories of the times spent with grandpa growing and eating veggies,

I know there are many people these days who feel the need to get their “gardening on” and teach their children ( if they have any) and this is one way they could go about it.

My materials List:

1) 1 x 6  x 6 ft.cedar fence boards ( I recommend you go with 1 x 8 though and you can also use redwood)
2) 1 1/2   by 3/8 x 8 f t, redwood lath ( to divide squares up)
3) 2 x 3  x 8 Douglas fir for legs ( You don’t really need legs just place on top bricks or wood to allow for drainage.)
4) Pure Tongue Oil (expensive and not really necessary as the cedar or redwood will last for years as-is and is cheap to replace)
5) Galvanized screws or nails.
6) For the soil I recommend you check out Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew as he has a great formula for growing plants in this kind of small area.
7) I recommend you go with seedlings if you are a new gardener and I bought mine from Home Depot and Sunset Nursery in Hollywood.

010 Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life

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In episode 10 of the Root Simple Podcast, Kelly and I have a conversation with Erica Strauss, professional chef turned gardener and self described urban homesteading fanatic. Her voluminous and amazing blog Northwest Edible Life offers practical advice on a wide variety of topics: food preservation, gardening, keeping livestock in urban spaces, kitchen tips and home economic hacks. Some of the many topics we touch on in the interview include:

You can also find Erica on Facebook.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Trading our Home for a Dome

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Last week a local blog posted a real estate listing for an unusual dome house not far from where we live. There’s a few of these 70s-80s relics in the LA area. This one is worth about as much as our house. I pondered, for about ten minutes, the thought of trading out our stodgy 1920s bungalow for a geodesic fantasy.

Continue reading…

Getting Started With Succulents Free eBook

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We had a great time at the Museum of Natural History this past Friday along with the 200 people who lined up to plant succulents in thrift store mugs in our booth. Kelly wrote up a nice eBook, Getting Started With Succulents (note that it’s geared towards our climate in Los Angeles but there’s a lot of good general information on propagation). There’s even info on how to drill a hole in a ceramic cup or pot (when you drill 200 of them you get pretty good at it!). You can download the eBook here.

Saturday Linkages: Life on a Boat, Nature and the Bicycle Lobby


Twenty Eight Feet – Life On A Little Wooden Boat: http://youtu.be/syJXrbWU1Aw 

Why Nature Lovers Should Live Apart From Nature http://shar.es/LbYve 

Shinrin-yoku: “Forest Bathing” — I’ve always done it, but only now do I find out that it’s a thing in Japan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_bathing …

Tracing Sriracha’s Origin to a Seaside Town in Thailand http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/374917/the-origin-of-sriracha/ …

Rio de Janeiro puts QR codes in its mosaic pavements | via @Telegraph http://fw.to/21XRalO

Back pain: Acetaminophen no better than placebos http://boingboing.net/2014/07/24/back-pain-acetaminophen-no-be.html …

Kitchen island turned custom bar – IKEA Hackers http://po.st/ORsHMe 

Satirical “Bicycle Lobby” Twitter Account Fakes Out Media Giants http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/07/22/satirical-bicycle-lobby-twitter-account-fakes-out-media-giants/#.U9KBjysVgyk.twitter …

“To be is to interrogate the labyrinth of a question that contains no answer. ” Edmond Jabès

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

All Natural No-Treatment Beekeeping Class at the Ecology Center

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I’ll be teaching a natural beekeeping class tomorrow at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano at 1pm. Sign up here.

Become a backyard beekeeper and enjoy a healthy garden full of pollinators. Understand the basics of bees, all natural beekeeping methods, tools, materials, and techniques to get you started.

It’s said that beekeeping, or apiculture, began with the Egyptians whom used logs, boxes, and pottery vessels to make their own bee hives. Today, the practice of beekeeping lives on. Help save a dying species, encourage pollination in your garden, and enjoy raw, organic honey!

In this workshop, come together with Erik Knutzen of Root Simple to learn the basics of bees. Explore the all natural, no treatment method of beekeeping, plus, visit a working hive and learn how to assemble a hive box, perform a hive inspection, and address any health issues.

For those who wish to participate in the hands-on component, we recommend the following: If you own a bee suit, please bring it to wear! If you don’t own a bee suit, please wear boots, jeans, and a long sleeve t-shirt. Thanks!

The Miraculous Lavender

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When it first appeared, I almost pulled it as a weed. Then I thought, “Is that a lavender plant? Growing here?”

Curious to see what would happen, I let it go. I assumed it would not live long. It’s growing out of a crack. It may have sprouted on the back of our last pathetic winter rain, but we’ve had no precipitation for months now. I don’t water it. I don’t send water down the stairs. The soil off the stairs is dry, because that slope is planted with natives, which are getting no irrigation. There’s no plumbing beneath the staircase, either. Yet the lavender keeps getting bigger.

I’m going to have to pull it soon, before it ruins our stairs. But I don’t want to, because it’s so determined to live.

And this goes to show that when a plant wants to grow somewhere, when it establishes itself according to its own rules, it is unstoppable. Soil type, recommended water, sun exposure– all these things mean little in comparison wonderful alchemy which allows plants to grow exactly where they want to grow, even if they are breaking all of our rules.

Help! Small birds are eating us out of house and home!

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So–we thought it would be a nice idea to get a bird feeder.

We had resisted up ’til now because we figured any bird feeder we got would end up a squirrel feeder. Then we discovered this particular type of feeder, which is enclosed in a fine mesh, and meant to hold tiny seeds, like thistle seeds. This sort of feeder attracts small, seed-eating song birds, like finches, but doesn’t feed the mice and rats and squirrels.*

What could possibly go wrong?

We installed the feeder about a month ago, and were delighted to see house finches and tiny lesser goldfinches come to visit. (So were our indoor kitties, I might add!)

And then more lesser goldfinches came, and more, and more… and still more.

Apparently, lesser goldfinches are “gregarious.”

At this point we are hosting a continuous goldfinch convention from dawn to dusk. They’re cute as the dickens, but they are beginning to cost some serious money, because there’s so many of them as of this week that they are now plowing through a full feeder every day. As I type this, I can hear the squabbling outside the window which starts when the seed levels are low.

Now we have guilt–as well as pocketbook pangs. Have we created a monster? Are the goldfinches now dependent on our feed? Was it wrong to feed them like this in the first place? Are impressionable young goldfinches learning to live on handouts? Are we sparking a goldfinch obesity crisis?

Our yard does have more natural food sources, like native sunflowers and white sage gone to seed. Perhaps we should have left it at that? ( I suspect we’re not going to win any permaculture awards for our feeder.)

Bird people, help!

What are your thoughts on feeders?

Is it okay to leave the feeder empty sometimes? Does that encourage foraging, or is it just not very nice to be random about the filling?

Is there a cheaper alternative to Nyjer ™ seed that finches like? Perhaps something that doesn’t come from Africa? (argh!)

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Buck watching finches, thinking unkind thoughts.

*Seed drops, which could feed rats and mice, but sparrows are on clean-up crew

Summer Nights in the Garden at the Natural History Museum

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Join us for an evening of music, art, nature and science at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum’s Summer Nights in the Garden. We’ll be part of the festivities this Friday July 25th where we’ll be:

POTTING SUCCULENTS! They’re one of the most low maintenance plants out there, and one that’s perfect for our dry L.A. climate. Urban homesteading experts Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne are here to help you plant your own succulent and give you tips on keeping them alive.
Supplies are limited. Available to participants on a first-come, first-served basis

PAINTING! Don’t have a green thumb? Stop by the painting booth and that can soon be changed. Artist Peter Tigler brings participatory image making to NHM. Learn the hi-tech method of fingerpaint meets the ancient art of color-by-number!

RSVP HERE for free admission to L.A.’s best garden parties!

Unable to RSVP? We will continue to allow limited entry at the door until we hit capacity.

EACH NIGHT WILL INCLUDE…

MUSIC! Enjoy the ambient music of KCRW DJ, Anthony Valadez

TOURS! Available at 5:30 pm, *6:30 pm, 7:30 pm:  Awaken your senses on a botanical tour led by our NHM Nature Gardens Staff
*Spanish speaking tour at 6:30 pm
Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis

NATURE MAPPING! Help us map L.A.’s nature by using your smartphone. Stop by our Citizen Science table to learn how you can get involved in local projects.

DRINKS! Sip on a botanical inspired cocktail as you wander through the Nature Gardens.

FOOD! Bring a picnic or grab a bite from one of the food trucks in the North Plaza.

PERFORMANCES! Butterfly stilt performers at 7 pm and 8:30 pm and don’t miss the enchanting Toy Theater show at 8 pm!