Jul 10

So you want to grow your own food (Part 2)

Your soil is prepped and you have a rough sketch of your water needs, as mentioned in Part 1, but now it’s time for the best part: picking your plants.

Choosing Your Plants

Find Your Zone

I love growing vegetables, even the ones I won’t particularly eat. I often grow extra produce so that I can trade with neighbors or use in my compost pile. Most people start off with tomatoes. Tomatoes are easy to grow and aren’t too tempermental. Best of all, they only need minimum watering. If you live in Southern California, you can actually grow some tomatoes year round if you let them go to seed. Ideally though, they need warm weather to get sweet and ripe.

Depending on your growing zone, you may be able to grow many different kinds of plants. For example, I’m in Sunset Zones 19, 20, 21. I would love to grow apples or pears for eating, but it will be a toss up as to if I’d get fruit at all. Sunset  Zone 22 can grow edible pomes.

You’ll notice that I listed 3 zones above. That’s because my tiny backyard ans 3 different microclimates. In fact, even the temperature will vary 3 -5 degrees depending on location. Some areas are in full sun year round. Others get only 3 – 5 hours of sun during the summer months and are in shade the rest of the year. I highly suggest checking out Sunset’s Western Garden book for Southern California gardeners.

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Jul 10

So you want to grow your own food (Part 1)

Recently, I’ve been asked about how to grow food at home. This is something I get rather excited about, not only because I love gardening, but I love seeing people talk about how they use the food they grow in their meals. Let’s face it, this economy has us all re-evaluating out food choices. When you go to a large grocers and see sad produce at exorbitant prices, it gives you pause.

I hope to be able to get you started on growing your own food, but this is especially geared toward people who live in the city. I grew up in the suburbs. We also had herbs growing in pots and grew a few vegetables, but most of our plants were indoors. When I moved to Hollywood in ’98, we lived in a courtyard apartment. The courtyard was very shaded and cool. Had I wanted to grow lettuce year round, I could have. Behind our apartment was a 6′ strip of concrete that was sunny year round. Trial and error taught me what I could grow and where. All of my produce and herbs were grown in pots and buckets. In 2006, we moved to El Sereno. I took my back yard from looking barren to a complete jungle in just a couple of years. (Side note: Those pots you see in the second photo are the same ones I used to grow veggies in, back in Hollywood.)

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Mar 09

2 years later

Every time I go through my garden photos I am amazed at how much it’s changed in the past 2 years.  I see plants that gave me joy and have died. Plants that I forgot I even bought! I can see what I’ve changed around and there’s a lot of that.  I also see the mistakes I made, some plantings of regret, now that things have grown fuller.

Here’s December 2006 on our final walkthrough:

Here is March 2009:

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Mar 09


I’ve been so wrapped up in my problems that haven’t taken the time to, well, smell the roses. My garden is indicating spring is here and I missed it. For me, few things are more exciting and wonderful than watching the buds on plants swell to just the point before they open. The other day I noticed that there are actual leaves on my grape plants. Today I saw not only 3″ buds on the wisteria ready to bloom, but 3 of them have already opened! 

Welcome to my garden…





Grape Bud

Grape Bud


Japanese Wisteria bud

Japanese Wisteria bud


Rosemary in bloom

Rosemary in bloom






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Jun 08

A faboo mama garden

Apr 08

Crazy for Crassula

P4180891Image by fabooj via Flickr

Yesterday, driving in Pasadena we drove past the California Cactus Center (see my blog post on LA Metblog for a review of the store) and dropped in to check it out.  If you’ve ever shopped for succulents or cactus, you know expensive they are.  We saw some really beautiful and small plants that were flirting with the edges of $90!  Happily, they did have 3″ pots that are comparable to watch you find at any nursery, with the added advantage of actual healthy and happy plants.  I already have enough cactus for my small needs and I went agave and echevarria crazy last year.  Now, my goal is more crassula.

But first, this photo is of the baseball plants (Klipnoors) we got, we saw a few of them that were pretty nice and big and $$$, these tiny guys were affordable.  We also got living rock, but the focus are the new crassula, I’ll just post the pics and let you drool:

I can’t wait to put them in their spots and watch them spill over the ground.

Apr 08

Faboo Mama: Iris Grower

How awesome am I? I grew irises all by myself. Sure, you may think, “Big whoop!”, but for someone completely intimidated by bulbs, this is HUGE. I just found out though they only last for like 5 days, so I’d have to say I’m completely unimpressed. After all the planting and 3 months of leaves, 5 days of flowers isn’t worth it. I guess that’s why they suggest you plant them successively.

Live and learn, eh?

Apr 08

4 months later…

Remember this:

Well it looks like this now:

Pretty nice, huh?

Apr 08

Descanso Gardens Spring Festival: World of Good Weekend

On Saturday, we went to Descanso Gardens for the World of Good Weekend. (see photos here)I had never been to Descanso Gardens before, but I heard it was more like the Arboretum than the Huntington and it was. In theory. Even though the Descanso gardens has a lot of different kinds of gardens and pathways, I prefer the Arboretum.

The one thing at Descanso that was truly impressive were not just the number of lakes and ponds on site, but the different layout of them all. It is a beautiful place that seems more like a large nursery than a place to study plants. Sadly, there is also a severe lack of customer service onsite. From the moment we got there until we left, no one who worked there knew anything about what goes on 4 feet beyond them. The guy at the ticket booth didn’t know procedure on if we give our receipt to the lady or what. The lady at the entrance had no idea if they sold sweaters or jackets in the gift shop. “You can ask”, is what we were told. The little girl had to go to the bathroom. We hiked all the way up the hill to the Boddy House couldn’t find a bathroom. I asked two people who worked there where it was and neither of them knew. I’m expected to believe that they were up at the top of the hill, working, and had no idea where the bathroom was? I could say that you get what you pay for, but the Arboretum and the Zoo both cost the same and the workers at both places are unnervingly friendly and helpful that you almost believe they’re robots…or not from LA.

One of the most wonderful parts of Descanso was the lilac garden. Yummy. It was like heaven with that scent in the air. Every time I found a lilac that was beautiful, I found another that was even better.

The camelia forests were also nice. I wasn’t too dazzled by the California garden and was very underwhelmed by the succulents and cactus there. The iris garden was amazing and most of the irises hadn’t even opened yet. I should go back to see the other hundreds of cultivars available. There were only about 10 open this weekend.

The kids loved the little train and even Daddy thought we should get one for the back yard (yeah right). Oddly enough, I loved the tulip garden. That was outstanding.

At the entrance of the park, there is an installation titled Edible Estates. As you know, I’m virulently anti-grass, especially for Southern Californians. We are slowly getting rid of most of our lawn and had considered giving it over to food. The subject came up again, as my husband tried to convince me to move my veggie garden to the front yard so we can put the pool in the backyard. The Edible Estates installation, prodded us a little closer to that goal, though I still need more sun than I get in the front yard.

The artist, Fritz Haeg, will be back at Descanso on May 17th for a book signing and artist’s reception. I believe he’ll unveil his summer theme at that time too. (Brasil Brazil is also playing that weekend, so I’ll definitely be there!)

Apr 08

Los Angeles “officially” welcomes Spring

Well, you know it’s time to see half-naked people in the City of Angeles just based on the events happening. This weekend is the unofficial kickoff to Spring in LA. So many things to do, I’m wondering how I’ll sleep this weekend. The best part: Most of them are free.

Obviously, we’ll be at LACMA celebrating opening night of Jazz on Friday night. I heard that Les Claypool is also playing tomorrow night. Who knew he was still around?

Oh and the Getty’s Friday off the 405 series also starts on Friday night.  Since my idea of fun doesn’t include being anywhere near the 405 on a Friday night, I won’t be here, but I’ll try to make it one day.  It’ll be like me cheating on LACMA.

The Brewery kicks off their spring ArtWalk on Saturday, April 5th. If you haven’t been, you’re missing out on some kind of wonderful. The restaurant onsite is overprice, but the last times we went they also had someone grilling burgers.  We’ll be doing this on April 6th and grilling afterwards.  We live nearby, so if you’re willing, come on by.

The Brewery ArtWalk is a twice annual open studio weekend at the worlds largest art colony. Each artwalk, over 100 resident artists participate. During this event, you will have the opportunity to see new works, discover new favorites, speak with the artists and purchase artworks directly from the artists at studio prices.

The Brewery Art Walk takes place:
April 5th and 6th, from
11:00 am – 6:00 pm

Admission is free and so is parking. Come support LA’s finest artists, take home some great works and and dine at the onsite restaurant. If you have questions or require more information, please contact us via email (click here)

The Brewery is home to over 100 artist-residents and the art you see is usually for sale.  So if you see something you like, feel free to ask a price.

Over in Little Tokyo is the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  It’s going on all weekend too.  Parking stinks so plan ahead.  The event is free to enter.  We caught the tailend of this a few years ago and have sworn we’d go back to see the event.

Descanso Gardens is having A World of Good Weekend.  It’s $7 for adults, $5 for kids 5+.  You get to enjoy all the festival happenings and the gardens.  The happenings:

This is your personal invitation to enjoy acres and acres of spectacular
Gardens, health-conscious salad-making demos, kid’s crafts, world music and fun
for everyone.

Salad Days: Salad Making Demonstrations
Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6 – 11 a.m. to noon
Magnolia Lawn
Chef de Cuisine Tiana Driggins tosses in her knowledge and celebrates Descanso’s 2008 Center Circle Edible Estates Demonstration Garden with a delicious and interesting salad demonstration.

Kids’ Veggie People Craft Table
Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6 – noon to 3 – Main Lawn

Music: Robby Longley
Saturday, April 5 only – 1 to 3 p.m. – Under the Oaks Theater
A beautifully orchestrated fusion of neo-classical/flamenco world music will be here for your enjoyment.

Music: Banshee in the Kitchen
Sunday, April 6 only – 1 to 3 p.m. – Under the Oaks Theater
Don’t miss the combination of traditional Celtic music, spiced jazz and rock.

That’s just a few of the big and interesting-to-me things going on.  If you’re in LA, I hope you can make it even just one of these events.  Otherwise, stay tuned because you know I’ll have pictures galore!