I’m pleased to introduce you to Kaye Kittrell, an actress and gardening lover. She has a gardening web series called www. latebloomershow.com. She has some wonderful gardening advice below.
NUMBER OF YEARS URBAN GARDENING:
FAVORITE THINGS TO GROW:
Tomatoes, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Squash
URBAN FARMING LOCATION:
Pacific Palisades, CA
Don’t crowd seedlings! Start small! (I did both.)
YOUR OWN GARDENING TIPS AND TRICKS:
10% milk in water sprayed on squash leaves arrests powdery mildew. Use only organic amendments to support the soil bed.
WHY DID YOU FIRST START GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD?
I got in touch with my soil after our parkway tree died, and there was sun in the front yard. I’ve been an environmentalist for decades and a food activist, but, I didn’t think I could grow food. I had no idea how rewarding gardening is. Now, I do!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO PREPARE OUT OF THE GARDEN?
I don’t do much cooking (other than vegetable soups and steaming veggies), as I usually eat everything raw that I’ve grown. Here’s a great salad recipe: Chinese Cabbage Slaw (click here to view the recipe).
WHO TAUGHT YOU HOW TO GARDEN (OR HOW DID YOU LEARN)?
I’m teaching myself, like I taught myself how to sew and knit when I was in my 20’s. Trial and error, reading a few books like “Golden Gate Gardener,” (because I’m in the coastal microclimate, I have found it most helpful) talking to gardeners, and asking questions at the garden stores, but mainly by observation and experiencing problems as I go. I’m still learning!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BEGINNER GARDENERS?
Figure out how the sun goes over your space. Plant tall stuff in the back. Amend soil with organic fertilizer, worm castings and biodynamic compost. Start with seedlings, then, when you have a little confidence, try direct-seeding. Hand water. Observe. Reflect.
A woman said to me the other day, “I kill everything. I even killed a cactus.” She said it was in water. I asked, “Did you feed it?” She gave me a blank look. I reminded her that people only live so long on water. We have to eat, and so do plants. You’ve got to feed them, especially if they are just in water!
HOW MANY HOURS PER WEEK DO YOU SPEND IN THE GARDEN?
1-6 hours a day. (You don’t have to spend that much, I just like it.) Soon, I will be planting natives and direct-seeding chard and broccolini. Soil preparation in the spring was arduous as I have clay soil.
HOW MANY MINUTES PER DAY?
Minimum one hour.
HOW MUCH SPACE ARE YOU USING TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD (IN SQUARE FEET)?
About 250 sq. feet all in the front yard and on the porch.
DO YOU USE RAISED BEDS, CONTAINERS, THE GROUND OR A COMBINATION OF SOME?
All of the above. I am growing in the ground in the parkway (6’x20’) and half of the other space is raised beds and containers. I highly recommend raised beds if you have clay soil. It will be more expensive to start, but a lot less back-breaking!
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE GARDEN?
Powdery mildew (I live not far from the ocean and have lots of fog), getting the watering right, pests.
WHAT ARE YOU GROWING RIGHT NOW?
Tomatoes, zucchini, celery, cucumber, patty pan squash, baby watermelon, several herbs, arugula, baby kale, strawberries, peppers, nasturtium, blackberries, amaranth, carrots, and I have just seeded spinach, cilantro and parsley. I have a small Valencia orange tree that is not doing well, and a Meyer lemon tree that has 32 unripe lemons on it. I have two olive trees that have fruit and a pineapple guava is producing fruit now. Of course, I have milkweed for the Monarchs and Mexican Sunflowers for the Gulf Fritillary butterflies and hummingbirds. I had marvelous sunflowers all summer. I have California native mint and strawberries ready to plant.
HOW HAS GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD AFFECTED OR CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
It has deepened my appreciation for Mother Earth (I didn’t know that was possible), dirt (from which all life comes), family farmers, small farm producers and gardeners. It has connected me to my neighbors, and the world of blogging, deepened my spirituality. It is the greatest education I have ever known. And I still have so much to learn. Every day is a learning experience and I look forward to my time in the garden.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT´S IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE GROW THEIR OWN FOOD?
In the future, the issue will not be the price of food, but whether we can get it at all. Everyone had better know how to grow their own food, like we once did. It connects you to our agrarian past, and provides for our future. It gives us food security and expands our consciousness. And once you start growing your own food, you are guaranteed to eat less processed food, which is healthier for you and the planet.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE THING ABOUT GARDENING?
The surprise of a vegetable or fruit hanging on the vine. And I love the butterflies and birds that visit.
ANY GARDENING “TRADE SECRETS” THAT YOU´D LIKE TO SHARE?
“You have to live in the garden for it to prosper and to grow.” But, that quote is from biodynamic farmer John (Jack) McAndrew, and it is so true. Which means, you’ve got to be out there.
OTHER THOUGHTS OR COMMENTS
“You can never do anything wrong in the garden.” That’s another quote from Jack, but, the idea is, it’s all a learning experience. Even if a crop fails, the time you have spent on it is not a waste, because you have been enriched by it.
I am a late bloomer to gardening. Because my career is acting, and I have experience in writing and directing, I created a web series and blog to share my urban garden experience. “Late Bloomer” premiered on Earth Day, and there are now 17 episodes online. http://www.youtube.com/user/kittrellkaye
The blog, filled with macro images of bugs, flowers and veggies, is here: http://latebloomershow.com/.
And my Late Bloomer Show Facebook page, where I seek to join in conversation with other gardeners and share valuable links is https://www.facebook.com/LateBloomerShow.