Make it a Learning Experience

| July 16, 2014 | Reply

Make it a learning experience is my motto. That’s how I approach every encounter in my garden. From neighbors walking by who want to learn, or have something to teach me, to encountering pests and issues, I’m always on the lookout to absorb or share.

I was up late working on a new episode of “Late Bloomer,” and slept in this morning. I was awakened by the sound of sawing, but figured it was related to the two houses under construction nearby. Suddenly, the saw bearing down on a big piece of wood made me snap to and I realized the old Acacia tree across the street was coming down. I jumped into clothes and ran out. Indeed, after slowing dying for two years, Street Services had it dismembered lying in the street.

Make it a Learning Experience-tree in a heap

The old Acacia tree lying in a heap on the street

I’d been told it was going to happen, and wanted it down (if it had fallen straight across the street, it would take out my Prius, my garden and garden shed) but when it finally does, you have mixed feelings. After all, that had been a beautiful tree, the largest Acacia on the street. The old man, my neighbor C.L., could be regularly seen watering the tree, and used to prune it when he was able. End of an era.

Make it a learning experience

Monster forklift scooping up the tree

Acacia was our street tree, and twenty years ago, it was a beautiful, tree-lined street, but, one by one, they’ve all died off. C.L.’s tree was 40 years-old and five times bigger than ours, which died in 2011. That event launched me into growing food in my front yard and creating “Late Bloomer.” Life from life.

Make it a learning experience-18-wheeler

18-wheeler at the end of the street being loaded

I spoke to the foreman on the job and he said they were waiting for an 18-wheeler to pick up the wood, that they haul it back to the Valley to grind it up. L.A. Street Services are so strapped for cash, they closed the West L.A. division and moved it to the Valley office and now spend much more time on the road covering a lot more area. Unless a tree is ready to fall over, they just don’t have the resources to respond.

Make it a learning experience-stump grinder

Stump grinder – the round blade sweeps back and forth till nothing is left above ground

I’ve been on a mission to move toward no-till gardening, and getting a load of chipped tree trimmings is high on my to-get list. I’ve spent a small fortune on compost and amendments to improve my hard clay soil and that’s got to stop. When the foreman said they were hauling off the wood, he offered to give me the shavings of the stump. But, he said, “You can’t put that on your garden now. It’s nitrogen-rich and it would kill it. You have to let it cure.” Learning experience!

Make it a learning experience-loading wheelbarrow

Workers clean up and load up my wheelbarrow with shavings

When the monster forklift was done, I moved my new wheelbarrow out to the street intending to shovel it up myself, and since there were five strong men standing there, and since I’m a late bloomer and not a spring chicken, and since they offered, my back gratefully accepted the help.

Make it a learning experience-dumping shavings

Worker unloads shavings on my driveway

Mine is a five cubic foot wheelbarrow and they brought five loads, so I have 25 cubic feet of shavings to cure and add to my garden beds in the fall.

Make it a Learning Experience-shavings

25 cubic feet of wood shavings

Make gardening a learning experience

I got back to work in the garden. In the course of three hours, I learned that a neighbor nearby has “tried everything” to repel deer and has given up (I had my first deer visit this summer); that there is a delicious sweet drink called Atole that I can make with the corn I’m growing – one of the workers was from El Salvador and reminisced about growing up gardening and how he missed it and told me about Atole and how his grandmother made it with fresh corn and that she wouldn’t let him watch it cooking on the stove lest he “cut it,” made it not get thick; that when borage gets too top-heavy, there’s not a lot you can do but let it fall over into the melons and potatoes;

Make it a learning experience-borage

Bloom-heavy borage falling over into potatoes and melons

…that bees will not sting you even if you are in the way if they sense you are trying to support their bloom-heavy plants; that the unusual fungi I found in the blueberry containers are also growing in-between pots of potato plants;

Make it a learning experience-fungi

Leucocoprinus birnbaumii fungi in-between cloth pots

…that there is frass (caterpillar poop) everywhere, but spotting the caterpillars is difficult unless one is unlucky enough to inch right in front of your camera;

 Make it a learning experience-inchworm

Inchworm climbing up cloth pot

…that fig beetles, like cabbage moths, are hard to swat out of the air; that it’s really cool to have an edible forest in your front yard, but it’s not easy to maintain;

Make it a learning experience-perennial bed

Perennial bed in 2014 Late Bloomer summer garden

…that there appears to be some kind of creature crawling out of my diseased olives (I need help with this, fruit fly?);

Make it a learning experience-live

Possible larva crawling in or out of an unripe olive

…that even with my new glasses, I don’t spot aphids on a vegetable till I blow the photo up on my computer;

Make it a learning experience-eggplant

Two aphids on Ping Tung Long eggplant

…and that the basic instinct of people is to be kind and generous. And that was just this morning!

Front yard gardens are a conversation starter. Let’s all who are able garden and make it a learning experience, for there is a lot to learn and share about how to make this world sustainable again, and there’s no time to lose.

Thanks for reading! What have you been learning in your garden lately? Do you have opportunities to share what you know? I hope you will subscribe to “Late Bloomer” and share. Thank you! – Kaye


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Category: Community, Garden Musings, Maintenance, Urban Gardening

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