September 9th field trip to the Huntington’s Experimental Ranch Garden

The James P. Folsom Experimental Ranch Garden is an urban agricultural garden that explores and interprets optimal approaches to gardening in our regional ecosystems and climate – the semi-arid landscapes of Southern California. The garden includes a mixture of edible landscapes, where fruit trees mingle with native shrubs, perennial herbs, and reseeding annuals. In the center of the 1.5-acre garden is a traditional vegetable row garden.

In a nod to the Huntington’s  agricultural roots, the site encompasses the surviving orange groves from Mr. Huntington’s day and a new heritage grove of avocados representing the 33 most significant varieties in the state’s agricultural history. Also gracing the Ranch are dozens of fruit trees from the South Central Farm, an urban garden in Los Angeles that was razed in 2006. Rescued by the Metabolic Studio, the trees were boxed and moved to The Huntington.

The Ranch Garden is envisioned as a community resource to help bolster L.A.’s capacity to establish a sustainable and equitable food system.  Its combination of history and forward-thinking research should have a lot to teach all of us.

Please note:  at the insistence of the Huntington, participation has to be capped at 20 people.  This means chapter  members only. No guests!  If you wish to attend, please contact us immediately to get on the list.

A VERY interesting meeting with Robert Pavlis

Based on the turnout, the many questions at the end and then the requests for a link to the video of the Zoom, our meeting on Soil Science and Myth Debunking for Gardeners has to be on of our most popular meetings ever!

Many thanks both to Robert and to our Program Chair Deborah for setting up the meeting. There was a world of wonderful information in it for all of us. The notion of mobile vs immobile nutrients was a total revelation to me.

As a long time (50+ years) organic grower, however, I feel obligated to set the record straight on some issues around chemical vs organic fertilizers.  Putting aside the whole issue of synthetic fertilizers’ impact on the biome of our soil (for example, its deleterious effect on earthworm populations), please keep in mind that Robert’s home is in Guelph, Ontario (Canada, not California!) which means his growing season is 3-4 months long.  Our growing season of course is basically endless.  On top of that, most of his writing is on annual crops like tomatoes.  We on the other hand focus primarily on tree crops and other perennials.  Even rhubarb (hah, had to get that in there somewhere) has become a perennial crop for us.  As a result, the relatively long slow release of organic fertilizers is a plus for us, not a minus.  Except for what we grow in pots, this means we can fertilize once or twice a year and be done.  In Guelph, they have to get those plants up, bearing and harvested in a matter of weeks. Hence the emphasis on super quick release fertilizers with the ever-present risk of over-fertilization and plant burn..

I should add, moreover, that our speaker’s claim that organic fertilizers take years to be available to plants is simply untrue.   I had my first large-scale organic garden in Waterbury Vermont which is in fact north of Guelph and I fertilized my tomatoes, corn, eggplants, beans, etc. exclusively with aged cow manure and granite dust and the plants exploded out of the ground.  Even cottonseed meal, which is considered a slow-release organic fertilizer, makes its nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium available to plants in 1 to 4 months.  Plus, it acidifies, which in our alkaline soil and water is a definite benefit.

It is true that rock powders can be very very slow releasers and bottom line – with our alkaline soil – mostly unavailable to plants here.  But rock powders are traditionally employed as sources of Phosphorus and Potassium, two parts of the NPK triad which we probably don’t need.  I will admit that – when I ran my first serious soil test in years this past fall — my yard’s abundance of Potassium was sort of a shock to me.  But almost all Left Coast soils have a ton of Phosphorus and don’t need any supplementation of that at all.

All of which is a long way of saying:  leaven any experts’ dicta on how you should grow with your own experience, or the experience of your fellow CRFG-ers.  Virtually all of the members you most respect (you know who they are)  use only organic fertilizers.  Some of them, in fact, have so skillfully amended their soil with compost over the years that they don’t need to fertilize at all.    Learning things like this is why we love to share our gardens, successes and failures.  Grow on!

Signed, Your Humble Ottoman




Zoom Meeting August 12th @ 10 am with Robert Pavlis!

Okay, this meeting is a dream come true for our Program Chair Deborah H.

As a long-time Master Gardener, she devoured Robert Pavlis’ books on Garden Myths,  Soil Science and Compost (among other topics) and now she is making it possible for us to hear him live and (almost) in person.

Robert Pavlis has over 45 years’ experience in the art and science of horticulture, with a particular focus on soil chemistry and health. He is the owner and developer of Aspen Grove Gardens, a 6-acre botanical garden featuring 3,000 varieties of plants. A sought-after speaker, and lecturer, Robert has published many articles in magazines such as Mother Earth News and Ontario Gardening. He maintains two widely read blogs – and – and a popular YouTube channel with tens of thousands of subscribers. Robert is the author of Compost Science for Gardeners, Plant Science for Gardeners, Soil Science for Gardeners, and Building Natural Ponds.

Because he lives in Guelph, Canada this meeting will be by Zoom only.  Links and details will be sent to chapter members.  Be aware that some of his advice is Northeast-centric, so feel free to read the websites ahead of time and come with questions!

Summary of our amazing trip to Jorge Ochoa’s orchard!

July’s Passion Fruit Extravaganza turned out great.  Thanks to Jorge Ochoa’s abundant generosity, it was just as fun, popular, delicious, informing and exciting as it sounded like it would be.

We began under a large shade tree with a bountiful selection of food and drinks including pastries, hot passion fruit tea

and five coconut cream pies. (Even Bruce got all he wanted!).

We toured the gardens, sampled fruit from some of the plants, and if you wanted a cutting of something, there were two designated scion-takers ready to help. Then we went inside and Jorge provided a presentation of passion fruits he has been impressed with. Then finally, as promised, we went to the propagation greenhouse. For everyone who was willing to get their fingers dirty, we tested our skill at transferring little seedlings in dirt popsicles over to take-home bags. The root systems were still fragile, so this was tricky! There were four varieties: (1) a purple one similar to Frederick but from Australia, (2) Passiflora Ligularis (“Sweet Granadilla” — sometimes found in Hispanic markets), (3) a yellow-gold variety Jorge found in Peru, and (4) a yellow variety Jorge found in Westminster (the location is a trade secret). According to Jorge, all four are very sweet, without any of the bitterness that some passion fruit have. If you got any seedlings from this event, please keep track of what happens with them. We want to give Jorge an update in a couple of years about everyone’s growing experience. How did your plants do? What made them happy? What killed them? By helping him with these details, you’ll be helping other growers in the future. And for those of you who got Ligularis seedlings, remember to keep their roots cool!

Thank you, Alan, for arranging this field trip and writing this summary.

July 8th field trip: Passion Fruit Day with the amazing Jorge Ochoa!

We have a very special treat lined up for July 8th. A field trip to visit passiflora expert and explorer Jorge Ochoa. Jorge travels to tropical jungles and remote  village fruit markets to discover new varieties of yummy and/or breathtakingly beautiful passion fruit. And he is going to share what he has learned with us.

If you have never heard him, Jorge is one of the most passionate, informed and funny speakers ever. It is no accident a photo of one of his lectures to us is featured on the site to illustrate Meetings.

For insurance reasons, this is limited to WLA chapter members only.  But of course joining is only a couple of clicks away.

Another great meeting!

Today’s talk on Backyard Bugs was enjoyed by a large number of West LA and  LA Chapter members.  Matt Daugherty gave us a crash course in Entomology and then went into the specifics of how we can deal with the pesty (and protect the non-pesty) bugs.  He highly recommended becoming familiar with the UC Riverside Integrated Pest Management site that uses a multi pronged and more holistic approach to managing our orchards.

Matt focused especially on the Asian Citrus Psyllid which is the known transmitter of the huanglongbing (or Citrus Greening) disease in citrus.  This disease has totally decimated the Florida and Brazilian citrus industry but fortunately hit California late enough for protective measures to be put in place quickly.  Aggressive monitoring and removal of infected trees has thus far kept the disease (but not the psyllids!) contained.  We all have a responsibility to honor the guidelines about not sharing scion wood or buying citrus trees from anything but certified nurseries.  After all, the disease was first found in a multi-grafted backyard tree.

One of the easiest (hah) things, Matt mentioned we could do was control ants in our yards, since the ants vigorously farm many disease causing insects, including the Asian Citrus psyllids.

Most of us are dealing with the tiny but widespread Argentine ants, so the ant bait sold at nurseries, Home Depot, etc is too strong to attract them.   An easy home brew involves mixing 1 cup hot water with 1/2 cup of white sugar.  When it has dissolved, mix in very slightly less than 1/2 tsp of boric acid or 2/3 tsp borax (yes, the 20 Mule Team Borax over your washer). Let it sit for several hours then mix again before using.  You can put the bait in small glass jars with an ant sized hole poked in the lid or plastic containers like hummus comes in with a hole poked in the side.  It’s easier if the containers are clear so you can see when they are filled with ants.  Throw in some cotton balls so the ants have something to sit on while they drink.   You don’t want them to die there (though some inevitably will drown) but rather bring the bait back to their nests and — hopefully — kill the queen.  Please don’t leave the bait uncovered because bees (and small children)  will also be attracted to its sweetness. Good bye bad bugs!

June 10th @ 10 am: Matt Daugherty on Backyard Bugs!

Matt is a faculty member in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside. He is a Northern California native, who has spent substantial time at each of the land grant UC campuses (Davis, Berkeley, Riverside) and a bit of time in the Midwest (Illinois State University). Matt’s research focuses on population and community ecology, particularly as they relate to the management of invasive insects and plant diseases. This work has taken him throughout the state to work in vineyards, citrus groves, cotton fields, pear orchards, plant nurseries, and desert ecosystems. Recent projects include studies of the invasion dynamics and management of the Asian citrus psyllid, the factors driving Pierce’s disease resurgence in North Coast vineyards, and damage by the invasive Bagrada bug on native desert plants.  He has also promised to talk to us about whatever is new in the battle against the Black Fig Fruit Fly (Silba Adipata).  Come with your questions.  You do not want to miss this!


We will be meeting in the MultiPurpose Room at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Complex.  The Public is Welcome!


Mulberry Tasting

This is pretty far for us but I know some of you will go the ends of the earth to taste new and different fruit.   If you plan to, register ASAP.  Space is very limited.  And enjoy!

Boy, did we have a great time at Sylmar High School!

Steve List's fabulous tomato plants

Steve List and Stefan Strong couldn’t have been more welcoming or informative and the work they and their students have done couldn’t be more impressive.  We were especially moved by Steve’s dedication to making horticulture and the gardens a safe place for those students who need one.

We lucked out with beautiful weather , enjoyed seeing many many thriving collections of plants (pollinator gardens, medicinal herb gardens, a whole slew of bearing orchards, a monster pitaya and chickens!) and went home with some lovely lavender plants.  Thank you to Steve and Stefan and to those members who made the trek out there.  It  was definitely worth it.

Photo above by Margaret Frane, of Steve and Stefan with their amazing tomato plants.  In containers and only watered twice (with rain water) this year.

May 13th Field Trip to Sylmar High School — Members Only!

Sylmar High School Agricultural Department head, Steve List has invited us for a tour of their amazing facility. The growing areas were built up from an empty lot by students over many years and are now a magnificent, multi-zoned field replete with ponds, farm animals, compost pits, and a worm farm.  There are multiple fruit trees and vegetable beds, hot houses, chickens, desert plants, and more, all fortified by the school’s own blend of enriched potting soil.

 There will be garden tours and information on fruit tree growing.  Steve teaches urban agriculture, nutrition, and edible landscaping to hundreds of students daily.  They learn to love gardening!   Steve is a great and knowledgeable speaker.   This is a remarkable garden.  Hope to see you there!

Address, time and other details in newsletter you should have received.  If you haven’t, please Contact Us,

Skip to content