Los Angeles County's UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener coordinator, Yvonne Savio, has coined a term to describe the her horticultural style: "circus gardening."
"If it's green and it grows after I've put it in, it stays," she told Pasadena Star-News reporter Michelle Mills. "You water it once or twice, and it's on its own. I tell my Master Gardeners that I've killed many more plants than they ever knew existed because I'm always playing with everything."
Mills developed a feature story about Savio, highlighting the fact that the UCCE employee, who is in charge of LA County UCCE's urban garden program, was named the 2010 Horticulturist of the Year by the Southern California Horticulture Society.
The article also ran in the Redlands Daily Facts.
Savio shared her passion for plants at her Pasadena home, which her father designed and built when Savio was 3. A backyard hillside is terraced for vegetable beds, and perennials grow on the down side of each of the terraces as a living mulch. Savio grows vegetables, fruits, annuals and drought-tolerant perennials, cactus plants, succulents, bromeliads, ground covers and roses.
At work, Savio's newest program is the Grow L.A. Victory Gardens Initiative, in which 10 Master Gardeners throughout Los Angeles County have established dozens of locations where beginning gardeners attend classes and receive a space to practice their lessons, the article said. "It isn't just a class session," Savio was quoted. "They form a neighborhood garden circle." Savio said her Horticulturist of the Year award vindicates her work to help more people grow their own food. "We're talking reality, people and food and becoming more involved with our own world," she was quoted.
At work, Savio's newest program is the Grow L.A. Victory Gardens Initiative, in which 10 Master Gardeners throughout Los Angeles County have established dozens of locations where beginning gardeners attend classes and receive a space to practice their lessons, the article said.
"It isn't just a class session," Savio was quoted. "They form a neighborhood garden circle."
Savio said her Horticulturist of the Year award vindicates her work to help more people grow their own food.
"We're talking reality, people and food and becoming more involved with our own world," she was quoted.
The UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program won't give advice about growing marijuana, even if it is grown legally, according to a Los Angeles Times blog post by Jeff Spurrier.
Spurrier, who is himself a volunteer Master Gardener, reported that UC Master Gardener academic coordinator Pam Geisel recently passed along word from the UC Regents general counsel that Master Gardeners cannot offer assistance on marijuana growing, propagation or problem diagnosis.
To be sure, the new edict doesn't require dramatic changes in Master Gardener programs. Inquiries about marijuana production are rare.
The UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor in Los Angeles County, Yvonne Savio, told the blogger she knew of only one call to the Master Gardener office about marijuana.
"The caller asked about growing a ‘grass,’ but when our MG suggested growing a drought-tolerant variety, the caller specified, ‘No, I mean marijuana’ to which our MG replied, 'No, I’m sorry, I can’t respond to that,'" Savio was quoted in the post.
Master Gardeners Joe Gallegos and Abby Goddard are experimenting with plantings of chilies in straw bales and directly in bags of potting soil. Although straw bales show promise, they didn't produce a robust crop in the Santa Clara County test. The mostly stunted plants pale in comparison to chili plants that are growing in the ground, wrote the article's author, Laramie Treviño, who is also a Master Gardener.
The potting soil bag idea met with greater success. The Master Gardeners suggest gardeners lay the bag flat on the ground, slit it down the middle on top and poke holes in the sides for drainage, add seeds or transplants and water.
"Camouflaging the soil bags with straw mulch can improve the appearance of bag planting," Treviño wrote. "At the time of planting and every few weeks, some gardeners add a few tablespoons of fertilizer to growing plants."
A 2001 graduate of the Los Angeles County Master Gardener program, Roxanne Sotelo catches rainwater to irrigate her yard, recycles much of her gray water and has five compost bins, according to a blog post by LA Times writer Jeff Spurrier. Spurrier is in the process of becoming a UC Master Gardener himself and regularly shares what he's learning with L.A. at Home readers.
Sotelo has three raised vegetable beds in the front yard of her suburban Whittier home, Spurrier reported. They are overflowing with fennel, peppers, melons, eggplants, beans, chard and tomatoes. In a side yard Sotelo planted corn, squash and beans. In the back yard are garlic, parsley and grapevines.
Even though she also works outside the home, Sotelo finds time to transfer buckets of used water from the sinks and showers around the house into her garden. Sotelo told Spurrier that she never fertilizes and rarely waters the lawn, instead she uses a push mower set high in order to leave clippings behind as mulch.
Despite the bountiful garden, Sotelo said her water bill is lower than her neighbors'.
“It’s because I mulch and water far less,” she was quoted in the blog.
City dwellers are fighting local governments in communities across the nation to permit the production of food in their residential gardens, according to a story that appeared in San Diego's North County Times over the weekend.
The story, written by Raquel Maria Dillon of the Associated Press, opened with the frustrations of LA flower grower Tara Kolla, who produced poppies, sweet peas and zinnias on her 21,000-square-foot lot to sell at a farmers market. Neighbors complained to the city about dusty pots, odorous compost and flies - and prevailed.
Nevertheless, the story said growing plants in urban areas to eat or for profit is becoming more popular. "People are putting edible plants in the front yard," the story quoted UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Sue Ehrhardt.
The reporter gave the following examples of nationwide interest in the urban farming trend:
- Farms in San Diego County are getting smaller and more numerous. A few years ago, six acres was the average farm size; now it is four.
- In Detroit, the city planner is part of a work group rewriting regulations that currently ban growing crops and raising livestock for profit.
- Seattle has loosened its rules for backyard goats.
- New York City is taking steps to legalize beekeeping.
- In Los Angeles, the city council is clarifying city policies on urban farms.
The UC Master Gardener Program offers extensive information on the California Gardening Web site to California residents who wish to grow food or create an aesthetically pleasing landscape.