Number of Years Urban Gardening: 4
Favorite Things to Grow: Kale and English Peas
Urban Farming Location: Ocean View Community Farms, Mar Vista, CA
Gardening Advice: Don’t be afraid, dig in and try to grow anything you desire.
Why did you first start growing your own organic food?
I first began growing food in pots in my front yard in Venice. Since I lived only a block off the ocean, my corn was eradicated by bugs and my tomatoes never properly fruited, but I had such fun trying. I can’t remember why I started gardening and I think that’s a good sign. It was just in me. I do know that my preschool had a full garden and as did my mother when I was a kid.
What is your favorite thing to grow?
Kale and English peas. Kale lasts all year long and I have watched my Italian negro kale turn into 6 foot trees.
English peas are my favorite snack food; they are so sweet and an instant reward when I’m in the garden working. I farm at an organic community garden and the plot next to mine is farmed by a family with a young boy named Niko; his favorite thing is to hang out while I garden and ask me for, “more beans, please Cory” he means English peas and he will get every last one I have. He’s so damn cute!
What is your favorite thing to cook out of the garden?
Technically, and luckily, there’s no cooking involved. It’s raw kale salad. (link here to recipe)
Who taught you how to garden?
I was lucky to get an associate position at a plot at OVF and the previous gardener on the plot still had additional plots in the garden and was around when I got started; he taught me the basics: 1. never step on your beds (keep soil fluffy.) 2. Always have mulch on top of your soil to retain moisture and water it regularly, even if you’ve got nothing planted; soil is alive and you need to keep it that way until you do plant (worms are GREAT!) 3. Compost your soil, make it look like chocolate and you’ll be rewarded with amazing vegetables.
What advice do you have for beginner gardeners?
Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a wide brimmed, goofy hat, lather yourself in sunscreen and wear many dark layers. Plant out of season, disregard notes on seed packets and draw a schematic of where you planted things so that when baby plants emerge, you’ll know what’s what; do this for your first year or so until you get accustomed to failing and succeeding in equal parts. You will have immense fun, grow more than you thought possible and realize your own gardening style.
How many hours per week do you spend in the garden?
Currently I am an hour away from my garden so I spend only an hour or 2 per week. Usually I live 2.8 miles from my garden and on average I am there 5-8 hours a week. I’m a garden junky.
How many minutes per day?
On average it takes 20 minutes to soak my plot. Then I spend 10-15min weeding, 15-20min checking out all the new things coming up, pinching dead leaves, tying up vines and 10-15min harvesting. All time well spent.
What is your biggest challenge in the garden?
Slugs and snails. I just sowed tons of seed for late winter and had the most perfect, young butter lettuce seedlings appearing. One week later they were gone. Slugs and snails are pure slime (though I can’t bring myself to squash one.) I will be lucky to get any peas this year!
What are you growing right now?
Chard, Spinach, Kale, Arugula, Peas, Beets, Carrots, Cabbage, Weeds.