Alma Restaurant Rooftop Garden Project: Beginnings

It happened, and I knew it would, I have officially run out of room at the Flower Ave Garden in Venice. My new mission, if I chose to accept it (you best believe I have!) is to find more space for Alma’s veggies!!

Thankfully the success of my mission came in the form of a tiny rooftop space directly above the restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. It isn’t ideal, the space is small, the roof a bit old and could probably use some repairs, but it is a good fix for the short term.

Once again I owe a HUGE thanks to Tony, the ranch owner in Santa Barbara. He and his family drive down every Wednesday to sell produce in the Santa Monica’s farmers market. On his last trip he brought down a truckload of buckets filled with beautiful Santa Barbara soil…and of course donkey shit 😉

dirt

I decided to repurpose crates to turn into planters. I lined the inside with landscaping material that will allow for proper drainage. They are lightweight, portable, and can easily be setup or moved.

crate

The next step was to design a trellis system for the beans that I planted in the crates. I used these buckets, anchored with brick and filled with concrete to make movable posts. Then up to the rooftop to zip-tie the fencing to the posts!

cement

Alma’s rooftop garden also acts as good practice for me, as I am patiently awaiting our next step in urban farming…a warehouse rooftop! Stay tuned kids =)

filled beds rooftop

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

~Walt Disney

Flower Ave Garden Project: RADish

We had our fist harvest of radish come out of the garden! They couldn’t be more beautiful. Just another sign that So Cal is going to be a perfect location for this culinary garden.

    harvest

One of the big advantages of a restaurant having their own garden, is they get to dictate what size they would like the radish harvested at. You can have itty bitty ones that make a delicate statement on a plate:

babyrad

Or you can have medium sized ones that have a little more ‘meat’ on their bones:

radish

Kris lives at the house and part of the perk of having a culinary garden in your front yard is access to fresh veggies!

kris

And to wrap up the day we had some neighbors visit. Courtney, baby Mika, and 7 year old Mark stopped by to check out the garden and ask questions. Come to find out that Courtney and her family are urban farmers as well! She told me they had a few things planted and grew edamame last season and it came out sweet and delicious. I sent them home with some fave bean starters, I hope they enjoy! I think it is a beautiful thing that Courtney is teaching her family what it looks (and tastes) like to grow your own food, they are the next generation of farmers this country needs! And baby Mika is obvy really in to fava beans 😉

courtneyfam

“That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.”

~Adlai Stevenson

Coastal Foraging In Southern California…(a.k.a. Going Coastal)

My job got a whole lot more awesome…if that’s even possible!

I set aside one day per work week completely devoted to foraging for Alma Restaurant. This usually involves going out into the wilderness somewhere to find edible items to bring back to Chef Taymor. This trip I went coastal 😉

carp coastsb coast

I had to head a bit north of LA; unfortunately much of the direct LA coast line is too polluted to forage. But venture a bit north of LA and the coastline is  very much alive and full of beautiful edible products. Like the sea grass growing here:

seaweed rocksea grass

I was amazed how many varieties of seaweed I encountered. Each having their own unique texture and flavors.

sea lettuce seaweed salad

Some were more briny than others, some were more tender and delicate. The  minerality of the seaweeds also varied depending on whether or not they were growing in sand or on rocks.

seaweed salad 2

Just as vegetables in the garden differ in size, flavor, and texture,  so too did the sea vegetables I harvested.

seaweed loot

I feel as if I have just discovered a whole new world in coastal foraging and I feel so blessed to live in such an abundant and fertile region of the US!

birds car

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

~Marcel Proust

Flower Ave Garden Project: La Vicotria!

To some this may just look like an unassuming old jar of La Victoria salsa filled with some dried lawn clippings, but to me it is an act of kindheartedness and love!

la victoria

The story behind the little jar is this:

A few weeks ago a nice woman stopped by to admire the garden. She told me that she had a little space where a few herbs grew, but mostly it was overgrown with volunteer coriander (cilantro). I told her that I didn’t have any planted and she offered to bring me seeds from her plants. I completely forgot about the interaction until I came home the other day and found the jar full of coriander seeds waiting for me!

These will be a beautiful start to my herb garden. I don’t know if I will ever see the kind woman again to thank her and share the story behind the Flower Ave Garden. But I love that so many little stories like this are woven into the very essence of this place. It is quickly turning into sacred ground and is being built with love!

“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any other human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

~Etienne de Grellet, Quaker Missionary

Flower Ave Garden Project: Gatekeeper

Everyday, little by little, the garden is taking shape. I have a looooong list of little projects to get done, and building an actual gate for the front was top on the list!

Designing the frame for the gate was step one.

gate1 gate2

The next step was tacking on the fencing to close in the frame of the gate.

gate4

I had a little help with the next step. My parents were in town for a few hours with a layover from LAX to Seattle, so I put ’em to work! They were able to get the holes dug for the fence post, and were able to offer TONS of great advice as they are both very experienced builders.

gate7

After the posts were measured and the holes were dug and the parents were dropped back off at the airport, it was off to my home away from home, Home Depot to pick up some concrete.

gate6

I couldn’t have done it without the help from this little guy! He helped me keep everything level as I poured the concrete.

gate5

Coming in to this project, the most experience I had with power tools or construction was hanging a shelf from Ikea. It’s been so fun to learn to build things, it’s empowering! I think the gate came out rather well if I do say so myself 😉

gate3

And to finish up the day, we had another visitor! Janene lives two blocks away, and did a U-turn once she saw the garden. She just retired from teaching at an elementary school for the LAUSD. She told me of some budding programs for school gardens around LA. It was inspiring to hear about others teaching our kids the importance of staying connected to their food system, and what REAL FOOD looks like!

janene

It has been such a wonderful blessing to get to share this garden with others. Everyone who comes here loves the garden for different reasons; and all of these different reasons are all reasons why I started the garden! To educate about farming, to connect people to their food, to stay active, to grow and eat healthy food, to encourage others to do the same, to have a working garden in an urban setting…the list goes on!

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Foraging in Santa Barbara, CA

5am wake up calls are made less sucky if it means you get to forage in Santa Barbara all day. Having lived in Santa Barbara for almost 10 years, I have a pretty good lay of the land.

My first foraged item of the day were these beautiful apple succulent tips. These tiny little guys are just as their namesake; crisp, tart, and refreshing!

applesucc  applesucc2

Next up were these wild radish blossoms. Not only pretty, they add a nice spice as a garnish!

radishflower2

There is a sloping hillside on the ranch that I foraged on, it is shaded and cool. Everything that grows in this area is lush and green. I was so excited to find these little fiddle head ferns along the base of the hillside!

fiddlehead

The climate couldn’t have been better, a mild 70 degrees in February. As the light shone through the canopy of trees, I came across a beautiful field of wild nasturtium.

nasturtiumnasturtium2

And adjacent to that was another field, full of wild New Zealand spinach (also known as Tetragonia tetragonioides). This is a beautiful field green, that is tender and crisp.

nzspinach nzspinach2

Next stop was the top of the hill, overlooking the Pacific. Just a half mile up the road and the climate changed drastically from the shaded hillside. It was much warmer, and there was wild mustard everywhere!

mustard   mustard2

Even my dog Moo was getting in on the foraging action! Except I think he was trying to forage lizards :p

mooforage

We headed back down the hill to the Cherimoya orchards to look for some Santa Barbara snails!

Cerimoya are a beautiful fruit with white, candy-like flesh. They soften as they ripen, just like a banana.

cheri

We also came across these almond blossoms. They smell sweet and almondy, just as you would expect the flower from this tree to be =]

almondblossom

And finally…JACKPOT! We found our Santa Barbara escargot, fed off of organic cherimoya trees. Hopefully these guys will like their new digs in Venice.

snails

My car was packed to the brim with all of my foraged treasures. I’m so excited to share a piece of this beautiful place with diners in LA!…but not excited to get back to the traffic =-/

radishflower traffic

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

~Jawaharlal Nehru

Flower Ave Garden Project: The Cover Up

Ground cover can be a gardeners best friend. It helps keep the soil warm and keeps pests away. And one of the biggest benefits to a culinary gardener is that it can keep the green tops of things like radishes nice and tender. This will make them a beautiful addition to a plate.

 ground cover rad

One perk of being a culinary farmer is that you get hooked up with some seriously yummy food! I dropped off some Red Russian Kale to Chef Fox at Rustic Canyon, and came back with fresh ceviche and tortilla chips! YUM, thanks guys.

family1

I have been in Venice for about 6 weeks and am settling in nicely =]

venice1

“The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

~Paine

 

Flower Ave Garden Project: Our First Volunteer

The Flower Ave Garden had it’s first official volunteer today.

ken2

Ken is a Los Angelian via Montana. Ken heard about the Flower Ave Garden through a mutual friend and contacted me to come check it out.

ken1

It was great to have the help and share some knowledge.

Some companion planting was done in the large bed. Companion planting means to plant two different types of plants together in the same bed. For example, these are carrot seeds mixed with radish seeds:

carrot seeds

It’s a 50/50 mix that is sprinkled in the ground and covered with a light layer of dirt. The radish grow at a faster rate than the carrots and will be ready for harvest sooner. The radish also create good spacing between the carrots. Because space is a factor with urban farming, companion planting is a must.

carrot seeds2

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

~Margaret Mead

Flower Ave Garden Project: Good Fences Make Good…Trellises!

I’m closing in on the home stretch for completing construction in the front yard of the Flower Ave Garden. I was able to get fencing up around the perimeter of the yard. It will double as the perfect trellis for peas and cucumbers that will be planted soon.

building fence

fence done

I was also able to plant one of the beds with ice lettuce. The scientific name for ice lettuce  is Ficoide glaciale. Native to the southern hemisphere, it has fleshy, lightly acidic leaves that are covered with shimmering silvery dots that give them a frosty appearance. The leaves are crunchy and refreshing in salads, and may also be cooked like spinach

ice lettuce planted1

ice lettuce planted2

Up next, irrigation =]

Flower Ave Garden Project: Fava Beans And A Nice Chianti (fuhfuhfuh)

Ok, so maybe no cannibalism took place, but yesterday was a landmark day for the Flower Ave Garden…I was able, after a lot of blood sweat tears and splinters, to get some things planted!!

We began to fill the beds with soil. The first layer was the soil brought down from the ranch in SB; it contained more sand and will help with drainage.

Beds Half Filled

The second layer is of the native soil. One of the neighbors told me that this area used to be bean fields before being developed into the residential area it is today. That explains why the soil is so rich and fertile! It’s funny because LA is very much an urban city so it’s easy to forget that at one time, before all of the cars and smog and traffic and people, that this land was wide open. I loved to learn that it was old farmland… I’m hoping that this soil remembers its roots and is happy to help grow vegetables again.

SB Venice Soil

After the native soil went in, I topped it off with compost, and blended it all the best I could.

Beds Filled

I usually like to direct sow (which means planting a seed directly in the ground) fava beans, but I needed to get them started and didn’t have the beds out front ready, so I seeded them in pots. You can see the root structure already beginning.

Potted Favas

All of my favas are in the beds, tucked in tight!

Row Of Favas

Rows Of Favas

It makes me have to stop and enjoy this moment. So much planning and groundwork went in to getting the garden to this point and I am so thankful for all of the help I had; there is NO WAY I could have done it alone! I’m looking forward to seeing the changes spring will bring to this quiet little garden…good things on the horizon!

me bed

“What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.”
~Margret Thatcher