Urbanfig is excited to introduce you to David King. He was born in Kansas, but don’t hold that against him! A transplant to Los Angeles, he applied his experience in growing food to the Mediterranean Climate found here. He is the Gardenmaster for The Learning Garden (www.thelearninggarden.org) and the inaugural chair of the Seed Library Of Los Angeles (www.slola.org). His book, Growing Food In Southern California, is due out sometime in the coming millennium.
NUMBER OF YEARS URBAN GARDENING:
FAVORITE THINGS TO GROW:
Omigosh, winter squashes, especially Queensland Blue Squash (although this is like, ‘which is your favorite child?’)
URBAN FARMING LOCATION:
Mar Vista, CA (a Los Angeles neighborhood)
YOUR OWN GARDENING TIPS AND TRICKS:
Before you plant anything, put a place to sit near your garden. “The best fertilizer is the farmer’s shadow,” and you are the ‘farmer.’ Put a chair in your garden so you can sit there with a cup of coffee, a glass of lemonade or wine, and just admire your garden. This is how pests are spotted first and little problems solved before they are big problems. Having a place to sit makes your garden more a part of your lifestyle and the more in your lifestyle your garden is, the more successful you can be.
WHY DID YOU FIRST START GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD?
I learned to garden at my grandfather’s knee when I was five… that was a long time ago! I went on a hiatus to be cool when I was 17, but my heart was always in a garden. I finally came back to it in a big way in my early thirties and have gardened every year since.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO GROW?
Any food crop. Nothing more satisfying than getting to eat (or drink) something you’ve grown.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO COOK OUT OF THE GARDEN?
Moroccan Spiced Chickpeas & Chard. (go to recipe)
WHO TAUGHT YOU HOW TO GARDEN (OR HOW DID YOU LEARN)?
My grandfather taught me first. I’ve taken classes from many different places, but a lot of it I’ve learned by making mistakes and observing.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BEGINNER GARDENERS?
Make mistakes. Keep a gardening log and write the book that will teach you how to garden.
HOW MANY HOURS PER WEEK DO YOU SPEND IN THE GARDEN?
HOW MANY MINUTES PER DAY?
Almost always at least 30 minutes a day
HOW MUCH SPACE ARE YOU USING TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD (IN SQARE FEET)?
About 120 square feet – but the space is shaped irregularly so that might be off.
DO YOU RAISED BEDS, CONTAINERS, THE GROUND OR A COMBINATION OF WHAT?
I create a slightly raised bed from the existing soil – the built up raised beds are too water consumptive to be practical in water-starved LA. I do grow several things in containers.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE GARDEN?
Finding the time to do all I want to do!
WHAT ARE YOU GROWING RIGHT NOW?
Genovese basil, half dozen different tomatoes, Early Jalapeno Peppers, Cannellini beans, Armenian cucumbers, Queensland Blue Squash, grapes, blueberries, apples and figs
HOW HAS GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD AFFECTED OR CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Growing my own food is central to my whole life. I not only grow a lot of my own food, but I spend my days teaching others how to grow food and writing on the subject and advocating for food justice and food security.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT´S IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE GROW THEIR OWN FOOD?
First off, nothing is more nutritious than fresh food and there is no more productive way to produce food than in a garden. If we truly want a good diet, we need to know how to grow our own food and how to save it. With the chemicals and the specter of GMO technology in every bite of commercially grown food, we need to know how to feed ourselves good, clean, nutritious and fresh food!
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE THING ABOUT GARDENING?
You know, I LIKE to weed. I find it relaxing and very contemplative. It slows me down and I find myself almost meditating; it is a good way to consider the world.
ANY GARDENING “TRADE SECRETS” THAT YOU´D LIKE TO SHARE?
OK….I plant carrots and beets in rows that are only about 15” long. I plant one row of each every other week all through their growing season. I have fresh beets and carrots all season long and I never have too many at once.
OTHER THOUGHTS OR COMMENTS?
Yes, a lot of them. But the one I want to leave you with is very current. If you follow the news, you are aware that there is an awful drought in the mid-West and crops are dying in the fields. This means food (and gas!) will be more expensive over the next nine months or so. If you have a garden now, preserve your harvest as best you can for this summer and begin to plan for your most productive ever garden this coming fall. Try to grow enough to feed your family and give some away to friends. I heard some wag say food prices could triple. I think that is hyperbole, but, they will rise and even a rise of 15% could hurt. Grow your own and help your family and friends through the shortage. You’ll be healthier too!