Pasadena Learning Gardens

Resourcing communities to create a healthier more sustainable future

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the Grow Biointensive System of growing food

John Jeavons has carried on the French biointensive system of agriculture that we love. I came across an expert trainer from Willits back in 2008 who gave me two of his books and a dvd that shaped how I look at growing food. I am not as big a proponent of double digging – it’s hard and disruptive to the soil biology, but if you need some food fast it may be a great first pass.  Here are 13 great videos from the man himself.

When I was starting I wish someone had pointed me to Jeavons free text [here] and pointers to his videos:  Have fun

Session 1: GROW BIOINTENSIVE: A Beginner’s Guide — Introduction – YouTube.

2. Growing Seedlings

3. Bed prep part 1

4. Bed prep 2

5. Transplanting

6. Composting part 1

7. Composting part 2

8. Harvesting part 1

9. Harvesting part 2

10. Saving Seeds

11. Choosing your crops part 1

12. Choosing your crops part 2

13. Maintaining your garden

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Thinking Globally about Food

It is often challenging enough to think about our local food systems.  Unfortunately, Globalization has occurred.  Our food system is a web of connections that have provided lots of unhealthy food being pushed on everyone from poor children to rich sports fans.  While any meaningful analysis of this situation is beyond the scope of our project it is still important that we become aware of food issues on the national and international level.  Fortunately we have many great digital storytellers out there.  A good place to start is with the BBC documentary on the Future of Food.  [Part 1]  [Part 2]  [Part 3

In the future we’ll provide links to other vaulable resources (films, books, articles, and websites). 


Food Inc.

Botany of Desire

The Economics of Happiness

Please contribute your favorites which we may share with the community.

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New tool developed by UCLA to track urban agriculture

UCLA presented their report and an on-line tool at the August 2013 LA Food Policy meeting.  The report tacks regulations across the 82 cities in LA County.  Their on-line tool allows us to track School and Community Gardens, Farms and Nurseries in town.

The really cool thing about this is that the client is the UC Cooperative Extension, which includes us Master Gardeners, and we can distribute the burden of fleshing out the database and finding ways to plug this  tool into the exciting and essential discussion of Urban Ag in Los Angeles County.

UCLA Press release

UC Berkeley’s Edible Education Lecture Series

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We are not alone – getting to know your inner Microbiome

As everyone who has attended one of my soil classes knows, I am enchanted by microorganisms and through understanding the relationship between them and plants I’ve reexamined my thoughts about them and me… Then comes my guy Michael Pollan ready to share the model that we are not alone. We are superorganisms…  Here’s his article from the New York Times Magazine…

Say Hello to the 100 Trillion Bacteria That Make Up Your Microbiome –

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Creating a Neighborhood Garden

In my studies of sustainable agriculture and food forests I’ve come to own the importance of a little wildness in the garden.  We create room for plants and critters to work out who is doing what.  It seems the same can be said about our communities.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and so together we can emphysize our strengths and overcome our weaknesses.  So we love the idea of Neighborhood Gardens where the land, labor, expertise, and money can flow into a process that creates community, connection with nature, and a lot of great local seasonal healthy food.

Here is a site in Sonoma that sees things a little differently but are mostly aligned with how we see this evolving.

Creating a Neighborhood Garden Wheel | iGROW Sonoma.

The Next Course – Pasadena – Visioning a healthier more sustainable future

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The Next Course – Pasadena

Most of us are pretty clear: the way we usually produce, distribute and sell food is not in the consumer’s best interest.  Fortunately, this is so obvious that individuals and communities around the world are arising to reclaim their food and find creative ways to supplant our food system.  Within Pasadena / Altadena we have the facilities, the knowledge, the interest, the passion, the climate, and the need to change what we eat.

The Next Course is a process to bring together our community’s visionaries so we can understand one another’s passions and skills and look for ways to work together.   If you have concerns about what we eat, where our water goes, and what is happening to our environment we hope you’ll come to our next meeting and be part of the solution.

We hope you can come to our next meeting: Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 from 1:30 to 3 at the Pasadena Earth and Arts Festival at the Armory Center for the Arts. we’ll meet upstairs and provide specifics here and at our meetup where we list all our events and others that may be of interest to you...

Our current model is to focus on these three areas…

Policy  and Analysis:  Keeping things moving in the right direction – We will collaborate to plug into the local political situation with members attached to commissions and to local politicians so we can effectively  champion policies that would lead to a healthier, more sustainable, more local, and more community centered city.  Initial plans are to support the drive for cool roofs and to divert materials from the waste stream into local projects (e.g. bamboo for gardeners, old wood for artists, and appropriately broken concrete for local sustainable builders).

Educating / Resourcing – Identify, utilize and support school, community and private gardens, orchards, and  other facilities where local experts can educate and resource local citizens and communities.  Initial locations include the Throop Leaning Garden, Altadena Community Garden and Loma Alta park, La Casita / Madison community farm, and La Loma Development’s facility “The Shed”

Council: Learning to work effectively together –  A number of individuals have spent the last few months learning a new way to communicate championed by the Ojai Foundations Center for Council.  We look to provide a forum where key members of local sustainable organizations and passionate community members will gather to get to know our passions and skills and explore how we can support one another and resource these groups to use council with their communities.

A little history:

Our first meeting was an inspiring success. Forty-five passionate, engaged people gathered at the Armory on Earth Day to share their ideas, skills and histories and, most importantly, revealed that we have the people, facilities and the need to redefine our relationship with our food and the environment.

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At our second meeting we heard from Pasadena Public Health Director, Dr. Eric G. Walsh, MD, MPH, who has done great work to increase the awareness of the health impact of an inappropriate diet – as well as of stress and economic uncertainty. He is a compelling speaker whose work has increased support for healthy food and gardens. It was a great dialog around the health issues we’re facing as a community and the way in which food and gardening can play a helpful role in addressing these issues.  

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We were then going to discuss Pasadena Learning Gardens’ great passion to make gardens into educational resource centers to the communities around them. Local urban homesteader Hop Hopkins was to discuss his work with the Los Angeles Land Trust that will bring a new garden to the Ville-Parke Community Center, and the experience of using his homestead (Panther Ridge Farms) as a resource to the community. Mark Rice would have followed discussing his gardens at PUSD Community School Madison Elementary and the Altadena Community Garden (located in a county park). 
Unfortunately we had an unexpected raging thunderstorm and this discussion was cut short…

Facilitator for the Series: Mark Rice, Executive Director of Pasadena Learning Gardens, Garden coordinator at Hathaway Sycamores and Madison Elementary School, program coordinator at Altadena Community Garden, Member of LA Food Policy Council Urban Ag working group,  and Master Gardener.

Speakers: Our Second Meeting

Dr. Eric G. Walsh, MD, MPH: City of Pasadena Public Health Director – If you’ve not heard Dr. Walsh just google Eric Walsh Pasadena and filter for videos.

Hop Hopkins: Manager of Panther Ridge Farms and Program Director, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust

Speakers: First Meeting – Earth day 2013, Armory Center for the Arts

Marco Barrantes: Owner of La Loma Development and author of the Berkeley Food Policy Council report Feed Your City from 2002.

Gail Murphy: Founder of Ripe Altadena, a thriving community of food sharers, and accomplished gardener and fruit tree grafter (late cancel who we hope to hear from at meeting 3)

Elizabeth Bowman: Graduate of Antioch’s Sustainability Program, co-founder of the Altadena Farmer’s market, Member of LA Food Policy Council Urban Ag working group and author of the urban agriculture survey used by LAFPC

January Nordman: NELA Transitions board member and co-founder / designer of the Throop Church Learning Garden

Brian Biery: Director of Community Organizing at the Flintridge Center and who helped facilitate the Pasadena City-School work plan community meetings.

Upcoming meetings will be anounced here and at the the Pasadena Learning Gardens Urban Farmers Meetup, (, and other community group distribution lists.   Also, check for updates.

The Next Course is funded by an anonymous grant to Pasadena Learning Gardens and is a collaboration between Pasadena Learning Gardens and La Loma Development, Transition Pasadena, The Arroyo Timebank, The Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena’s Department of Public Health and many others.

This gallery contains 6 photos

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Madison Elementary Greenhouse Project

It is wonderful to announce that as part of our Next Course Pasadena initiative where we are working with local schools, community centers, community gardens, and private gardens to resource our community to eat better food and understand what is better food, that we’re getting a greenhouse.  Local Girl Scout and healthy living advocate Miranda Allen will use this page to document our progress as she resouces the community through her Gold Award Project…

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Containers – responses to limited space and/or poisioned soil

I love to plant in the ground, but sometimes we just don’t have the space or the soil to grow food.  I really like this model and am going to give it a try…VG class April 2013 highres_224501612

Learn about Straw Bale Gardens from from the NY Times article Grasping at Straw – A Foolproof Vegetable Plot.

Learn to Grow a Straw Bale Garden from this collection of videos assembled by

Update:  In the arid Southern California environment the straw drained and dried too quickly.  We may try again with mulch surrounding the bales.

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The industrialization of agriculture.

While we are the consumers of industrial food, and at PLG we are particularly focused on consuming non-industrial, local, seasonal, fresh, and often home grown food; there is much to be learned about our whole society by examining this history.

Many well intentioned people from the first to transcend our forging ancestors, to hard workers ripping out the prairie grasses to make room for us, to Monsanto and Wal-mart trying to decide what we eat and where, how ecologically, and how humanly it is produced.

Here are a number of great pieces from Amy Goodman and Bill Moyers…

3 Apr 13  Food day: Jon Tester presents a compelling case against the Monsanto Protection Act, an then there is an informed discussion.

Michael Pollan: From GMOs to NYC’s Soda Ban, Local Efforts Challenge Agri-Giants’ National Control | Democracy Now!.

An amazing story of a farmer facing off with Monsanto.

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Whole Foods Market Takes Huge Stand Against GMOs: Mandatory Labeling by 2018

As you may know, we love Whole Foods.  They supply juice bar pulp for our worms – they eat better than me…  So it is great to hear that they will move the GMO issue along.  It was amazing to see all the parent firms  of leading organic brands pumping money into the no campaign to prevent labeling GMOs, and where the head was wagging the tail, perhaps now the tail can wag the head.

\Whole Foods Market Takes Huge Stand Against GMOs: Mandatory Labeling by 2018.