Garden Greetings from the Annex!

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Yesterday, we had a break from the rain! First thing in the morning, I threw on my boots and got out in the garden.

Today I was fortunate enough to garden at the Annex in the Sepulveda Basin Community Garden in Encino. The Annex is supported by the Highland Hall Garden Gnome Society and is an extension of the teaching garden at Highland Hall School. Thanks to the committed benefactors at the Garden Gnome Society, there is a five-plot vegetable and flower garden dedicated to promoting the health and happiness of the whole community. The Annex also hopes to promote the ideals of our wonderful home school Highland Hall and spread the word about the benefits of a Waldorf education and biodynamic gardening.

Perennial Purple Basil, sometimes called “Pink” or “White” perennial basil. Ocimum basilicum ssp.

Perennial Purple Basil, sometimes called “Pink” or “White” perennial basil. Ocimum basilicum ssp.

My name is Erin Riley and I was recently hired to manage the Annex garden. The Annex is a beautiful and reverent space and I’m humbled to be a part of its care and its community. I have taught vegetable gardening to schools, clients and communities for almost ten years through my business, Hope Gardens. (I’m also joining the Master Gardener Program for 2019 and I’m excited to share that learning experience with all of you!)

Through my experiences in both private and public gardens as well as my own home garden, I have come to believe gardening is deeply healing…I’ve been enjoying its therapeutic effects for years! After all, gardening is all about growth, isn’t it? And to that end, gardening, and especially the power to grow your own food, should be accessible for all.

At the same time, I believe that we have a responsibility to do what we can to gently steward our environment while enjoying its bounty. In the powerful words of the poet Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Simply put: the more we know, the better we can do. Therefore, education is vitally important. Biodynamic farming, in particular, is committed to doing what is best for the greater, larger environment and promotes a sacred respect for nature’s wisdom. I have great admiration for the work Highland Hall has done in these areas.

With so many benefits you can understand why I’m always looking for opportunities to share my love of gardening and get all our hands in the dirt! I hope through regular posts I can pique your interest in both the Highland Hall school garden and the Annex community garden, as well as give you some tips and tricks for your home gardens.

Celery is one of my favorite garden vegetables. Do you know garden celery is more of a seasoning than a crudite or cracker substitute? Celery is full of salty flavor and should be added to soups and sauces like onion or shallot or garlic. Eaten right out of the garden, it is a refreshing treat but it is stringy. I have kids give it a chew to experience the flavor…it’s like nature’s jerky!

Celery is one of my favorite garden vegetables. Do you know garden celery is more of a seasoning than a crudite or cracker substitute? Celery is full of salty flavor and should be added to soups and sauces like onion or shallot or garlic. Eaten right out of the garden, it is a refreshing treat but it is stringy. I have kids give it a chew to experience the flavor…it’s like nature’s jerky!

Today’s dirty work included a general cleaning up of the garden space…with all this rain there are lots of “exciting developments.” You may have noticed at your own place that trash cans (and really any receptacle left outside) has filled with water. If possible you can save this rainwater but sometimes it is too much to reasonably keep or it has filled a receptacle that wasn’t really clean to begin with. This is not really a fun job but it’s important, so pull on some old clothes and tip that excess water out (if it cannot be saved). It’s always good yard maintenance to not allow standing water to collect and really this situation only gets worse if ignored. There are so many enjoyable garden tasks to get to (Spring is breathing down our necks!) so let’s get this messy one out of the way soon.

Another rain issue to deal with is wet leaves in your garden beds. Leaves can be blown into your bed from trees and shrubs and your garden plants may also have some (or a lot) of bottom leaves that have gotten soaked and need removed. These leaves can rot making your space a bit smelly and attracting an excess of pill bugs, earwigs, slugs, snails and other garden visitors. Since we don’t want to use pesticides in our garden, we take the first step of prevention by making sure our garden spaces are not breeding grounds for “pests.”

Normally pill bugs (aka sow bugs) and earwigs (aka pincer bugs) live happily deep in our soil eating rotting materials and they are beneficial! But if we leave too many rotting materials on top of the soil, it draws these insects (and others like snails and slugs) to the surface and then they may decide our beautiful strawberries look like a good snack. So let’s not encourage this situation and keep the tops of our beds free of rotting leaves.

Note: Mulch and compost are different than rotting leaves and do not attract these insects. Mulch is generally made of wood chips and so is not actively rotting and compost is already broken down to the point of not attracting pests (although they may live in our compost piles). The point is not to increase their populations inadvertently by providing food sources or hiding places. Rotting leaves can definitely be added to your compost bin once you are done cleaning up.

Well hello there Pak Choi Joi Choi Cabbage! I think these may be used for a student sauerkraut project. (I will bring the mashed potatoes.)

Well hello there Pak Choi Joi Choi Cabbage! I think these may be used for a student sauerkraut project. (I will bring the mashed potatoes.)

Another result of all this rain: my how the plants have GROWN! I spent a good amount of time harvesting and you should give your plants a good harvest too. Harvesting is the most important task in the garden and there will be a harvest blog coming up soon. We need to keep harvesting regularly so we will be ready to bid adieu to our winter veggies…as I mentioned Spring is breathing its cool breath down our necks…and we will soon need to pull out the winter veggies to make room for the tomatoes and squash!

For now, enjoy your home garden by harvesting some cut flowers and fresh herbs and veggies, and trim lavender, sage and rosemary for sachets. We had a huge yield at the Annex and you will see some of our Annex harvests at your Farm Table at Highland Hall. 

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Important news: we will be having the Highland Hall Spring Gardening Workshop at the Annex Garden, 16633 Magnolia Blvd, Encino, 91406 on Sunday, March 24th, so mark your calendars. There will be many more exciting future events at the Annex Community Garden as well. We look forward to hosting you!

Thank you Highland Hall and Garden Gnome Society for your support and your warm embrace.

🐞