Resources for beginning vegetable gardeners develop from LA initiative
Home vegetable gardening has always been popular in Los Angeles County. At the UC Cooperative Extension office in Los Angeles, we have a long history of teaching people how to garden through our Common Ground Garden Program. We began to get even more inquiries than usual from beginning gardeners starting three or four years ago. As it turned out, this was part of a larger trend. A national survey showed a 19 percent increase in edible gardening in U.S. households in just one year, between 2008 and 2009. We were excited about this new enthusiasm for home food production. However, based on experience at the community level, we were aware that new gardeners often floundered and might not continue gardening without support and a taste of success.
Grow LA participants at the Natural History Museum.
To address this growing audience of beginning vegetable gardeners, we developed a four-session workshop series, led by seasoned Master Gardener volunteers, to help new gardeners gain the fundamental skills needed to become successful. We call this the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative. Training groups are kept small, 10 to 15 people, and are largely hands-on. New gardeners learn to prepare soil, plant seeds and transplant seedlings, water effectively and control pests. After training, the new gardeners continue to meet with their group leader informally, encouraging one another and sharing gardening tips.
This initiative has been popular and successful. Since we kicked off “Grow LA” in spring, 2010, we have trained 1,130 beginning gardeners at more than 40 sites around the county, including community gardens, parks, churches, libraries, schools and museums.
One outcome of this project has been the development of a manual for participants, the Vegetable Gardening Handbook for Beginners. Our staff, led by Yvonne Savio and Valerie Borel, compiled the basics of vegetable gardening into a 44-page manual. With support from the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, we were able to print the manual for participants, and translate it into Spanish. Thanks to the efforts of UC ANR News and Information Outreach in Spanish, the Spanish-language version has just become available. Both versions are available free on-line, and we hope others will find them helpful as well.
**Source: UC Davis: Rachel A. Surls