Posts found under: Garden Club Archives - CDI Kids

This week in Gardening Club: Time Change: Thursday!

Dear Gardening Club,

180px-Verbena_lilacina_03 It doesn’t seem that April is bringing any showers, however, the native flowers are blooming in the Topanga canyons.  As California continues along this drought, I encourage you to look at Theodore Payne for native flowers for your garden.  One of my favorites is the Lilac Verbena (, which has amazed me, as I have watered it about 3-4 times in the 5 months that I’ve had it and it continues to put out blooms.  This is in comparison with the fairy duster(, which, although alive, continues to look like a stick stuck in the ground.180px-Calliandra_californica1

Another reason to plant native flowers and bushes is that I strive towards the “lazy gardening” method (I’m still struggling with my inner OCD) and these plants are suited for our environment.  This means they don’t need careful mulching, watering, adding of nutrients, adjusting the pH, disease management–you can stick them into the ground and forget about them.  I tend to balance edible high-maintenance crops (since I can tend to them while I am harvesting) with California natives for landscaping (plants that I tend to every few months).

This week is the topic of GMO.  This topic is *not* sanctioned by the UC Master Gardeners, so nothing I say will be endorsed by them. They’re quite smart to stay in the sidelines, but I feel that there are certain basic facts which would be useful for us to know as we navigate the quagmire known as the internet, especially as parents. It’s always good to have a framework that you can later fill in the details.

See you this Thursday (THURSDAY) at Garden Club.  9:30AM as usual!



This Week in Garden Club: Field Trips to Underwood Family Farms

Happy Passover and Easter (and other Spring occasions!)

Summer time feels like it is in full swing, the birds are singing, the monarch caterpillars are hatching out, and of course, the strangely mythical Easter bunny has littered the ground with plastic eggs.

This week is spring break for us, and I’d like to take the opportunity to invite you to general playdates with us at either the morning events (below).  I apologize for sending this email out a bit late for you advanced planners, but if you have a free spot, this week is the optimal week to see Underwood farms before the heat overwhelms everyone.

signatmoorparkTuesday (today): Underwood farms Moorpark (

This is the larger of the Underwood farms, and they are having an Easter special, which can turn pricey, but there are a lot of free entertainment at the park.  You can pick your own strawberries here as well.

Thursday (April 17th): Underwood Farms Somis (

This is a further drive, but their blueberry bushes are netted and we had a lot of fun last year.  It’s right next to the strawberry patch and I usually turn a blind eye during this day towards fruits eaten right off the bush and ground.

Neither farms are certified organic, but they use the minimum of pesticides (usually none) only when there is a real threat.   They use an integrated pest management which includes composting and keeping the crops in the optimal health (since bugs/disease attack the sickly plants first) that you can read more about in:

Friday we will have our usual Garden Club!  This week’s topic will be integrated pest management.  This is just a fancy word for: how to get rid of bugs using a variety of things before resorting to chemical sprays.  Right now you will have noticed a few aphids popping out and maybe a swarm of whiteflies hovering over, but nipping things at the bud will save Hornworm3you time and headaches in the future.  And since it is so close to Easter, we can have a reverse egg hunt, where we’ll give you an egg, you can fill it up with a little bit of wheatgrass seeds and and soil.   Take them home to germinate some bunny food, and then in a week you should have an egg-full of edible wheatgrass that you can nibble on.

Wendy found a great deal on groupon a family admission to the LA County Arboetum in Arcadia.  We’re sadly not getting it because it’s too far from us, but if you are interested, you should collaborate to see if one of you can get it for free!

This week’s events:

This Tuesday, April 15: 10AM Moorpark Underwood Farms–Easter festivities.  Bring sun protection and cool water.

This Thursday, April 18: 10AM Somis Underwood Farms–Blueberry picking.  Bring sun protection and cool water and a basket (they have little plastic containers, but those are difficult for little hands).

This Friday, April 19 : Garden Club CDI

Next week Garden club will move to Thursday, April 24th.  I’ll remind you in my email next week, but here is advance warning!



This week in Garden Club: What is a weed?

Dear Garden Club!

April is a magic time, the height of spring!  Even in our drought year, flowers are blooming and the weather is sWeed 2 till mild enough to get out and take a walk around an old neighborhood, visit botanical gardens, or enjoy wildflowers in their moment of greatest glory. Take along your phone to get ideas for your garden (or ours!)

April is our second spring-planting month, but is less demanding than the first.  If you did most of your spring planting in March, relax now and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If not, there’s still time to catch up on jobs that went undone.

It’s warm enough to sprout seeds quickly but not hot enough to scorch seedlings.  Do you know what this means?  Of course, weeds!

Which brings us to a very interesting question: what is a weed?

Weed 1I’ll leave you to think about this, but it may be a great question to ask your children.  Often, they give quite insightful answers. 🙂  We’ll examine some common weeds from the garden, and talk about what it is that makes them a weed.  We’ll also discuss the concept of seed dormancy, and how it is possible to spend an entire afternoon weeding a patch of ground only to have it flush with new weeds the next week.  (It may also give you some clues as to why some of your wildflower bombs have not sprouted).

See you in Gardening club this Friday.



Happy weekend: Some Links

Dear Garden Club,

It was great to see you and I wanted to follow up with how to care for your chive/herb penguin planters.  I wanted to remind you that the planters do not have drain holes.  So when you wet your planter, just use about 1/3 of the volume of the planter in water.  If you already put in too much water, the solution (no pun intended) is quite simple: place your hand over the dirt and planter and turn upside down.  The water should drain through your fingers while keeping the dirt inside*.

If you do poke holes in your planters, I recommend poking the holes on the sides (near the bottom) with a push pin.  You shouldn’t need to water the planter for the 7-10 days it takes for the seeds to sprout if you wrap the planter in a plastic bag.  The one you used to carry the planter home works well.  Simply make sure the soil is thoroughly wet, wrap the entire container in the plastic bag, and leave for 7 days. 

UCLADon’t forget to unwrap once the seedlings start poking out!**

I wanted to take this time to not only wish you a happy weekend, but to forward you a few links.  I also included an attachment for the 100th anniversary of the Master Gardeners.  The event and parking is free.

Here are the links about Gardening–

Gardening in southern California:

Integrated pest management (i.e., minimizing dependence on pesticides):

And of course, a cartoon about gardening with family and kids:

Green-thumbWhile a home garden can substantially subsidize your food bill, it requires an enormous amount of work (or $$) at the beginning before you become efficient.  My first year tomatoes were probably $50/tomato plant, but now in my 3rd growing season at the house, the only expense for tomatoes this year is water.  It takes awhile to figure out which vegetables do well in your garden and which vegetables are better off being bought at the farmer’s market.  The good which comes from gardening is of course, not only the food, but the sun exposure, being outdoors with Nature (even the Nature bits which wants to eat your garden down the stub), and peace from connection to the earth.  It’s always fun to watch your child eat strawberries, broccoli or tomato at the source.

There is no such thing as a black thumb, only the wrong conditions or giving up too early.  The garden club can help you overcome both of those issues!


*The compost for your seeds is: Bu’s Biodynamic Compost.  I’m a big fan of the compost.

**PLEASE tell me whether a project worked or if anything horrible went wrong.  I do the projects alongside you, but it’s really useful for future repeating projects to know if something just absolutely doesn’t work so we can change it so it does work.


April 4: This Week in Garden Club

Dear Garden Club,

Playing in DirtHappy first week of April!  A huge thanks for all of your help in cleaning up the inner and outer garden.  Attacking the garden early in spring is not only more pleasant in the cool weather, but helps keep weeds from becoming established.  Your help definitely helps CDI and getting a little bit of our pesticide-free, herbicide-free organic dirt under your nails is not only good for your mind, but also good for your child’s developing immune system.  Once everyone is covered in dirt, plain soap and water are all that needed to clean up afterwards.

This week we are going to sow some chive seeds in our garden and make a little planter for chives for you to take home.  Chives are extremely suitable for growing in small pots or other mini-gardens. They don’t need full sun, but they do fine in full sun, and don’t need much watering once they get established.  Best of all, they don’t require much fertilizer and almost no pests will touch them.

ChivesChives grow in clumps, so you don’t need to thin unless you are dividing plants.  I see people plant society garlic, which is also part of the Allium family as border decorations.  You might as well substitute chives!

See you this Friday at 9:30AM!  Try to come a little bit early, as our art project uses glue, which needs a little bit of time to dry before we add our soil!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


March 28: This Week in Gardening Club – Outer garden clean-up!

Dear Garden Club!

Rain BarrelI hope this week brings you joy and a little bit of rain.  As you know, California is facing one of the most severe droughts this year, and LA continues to offer rebates on rain barrels ($75/barrel!).  You can find the website at:

Almost 50% of the water in a regular household is used to water outside plants, mostly lawns.  Harvesting rainwater reduces the amount of runoff into local rivers and creeks, and also saves you a bit on your water bill.  A quietly kept secret is that plants thrive better with rain water than city water.  Whether the reason is the chloramines (an antibacterial to keep our drinking water safe–but kills the good bacteria in the soil), or the lower pH (to balance out our high pH soil), plants show more vigor with rainwater.

If you do get a rain barrel (and the bragging rights with it), remember to cover the top with a screen to prevent mosquitos from enjoying your harvest.

This week in gardening club, we’re going to clean up the outer garden. 

It’s important to clear out the weeds and generally spruce up the garden before the summer heat makes us all hide inside, with infrequent trips outside to grab tomatoes and melons.

Stanford AlumniAs an aside, there will be a Stanford service day on May 17th at CDI at 10AM.  If you are a Stanford alumni, come volunteer beyond the farm and meet up with other Stanford alums in the area.  If you are not a Stanford alumni but part of garden club, you should come and show them how service is really done.  🙂

I also encourage you to have playdates outside CDI, since it helps your child become comfortable through familiarity.  It also gives you a network of parents who are going through almost the same situation, and you may gain a lot of useful tips on where to go and how to navigate the LA area.  We also try to have lunch at CDI afterwards, so please join us if you see us.

See you this Friday at 9:30AM in the OUTER garden!  Help sprinkle some herb seeds into our hanging garden, scrape up some weeds, and plant some succulents into our terra cotta pots!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


This (next two) weeks in gardening club: Getting our garden in shape for summer!


Dear Garden Club,

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men happens and we are recovering from colds in our household.  The great thing about being sick is that you get to stay home and get some creative projects accomplished.  Keep your eyes open to what’s new in the garden (it will be obvious).

sproutingSo due to my schedule for the rest of March, our gardening club activity this week (and next) will be to getting our garden into tip top shape to give us lots of summer vegetables!  I have tomatoes, eggplants, and Tom’s sweet potatoes, as well as some sunflower and bean seeds for the children to sow.  Who is Tom?  Tom is just like everyone here, except that he has sweet potatoes and he gave clippings some to me that I spent the last 2 weeks rooting.  (It’s fun!  You should do it with your kids sometimes–roots grow out of stems and if you are motivated enough, you can talk about stem cells in all its pun-filled glory.)

If you have some extra seedlings, by all means, bring it.  The only criteria is that 1) there is no visible disease or insect infestation and 2) you aren’t using insecticides or pesticides on or near the plant.  I’m also setting out a seed-share box, with some seed packets for you to look through.  I will try to keep the seeds appropriate for immediate planting, and you should always take time to read online about the vegetable before committing to it. Vegetables are pets!  Luckily, they are usually very quiet and only need infrequent watering (even less care if you install a drip line.)

 For those of you that have missed classes, or missed writing in your journals, this is a good time to fill up the journals or to start one if you haven’t yet started one.

 See you tomorrow at 9:30!  Bring clothes you are ok with getting some dirt on!



March 14: This Week in Gardening Club – Worms!

Dear Gardening Club!

I hope this email finds you in peaceful enjoyment of spring and that your flower seed “bombs” have dried on your porch in the hot afternoons.  I wanted to remind you that flower bombs should only be used in an urban setting and not in national or state parks.  So a dead sidewalk or empty lot is great–toss it in, hope for rain and sit back and wait.

WormsThis upcoming week, we have some live visitors!  Most of you may have enjoyed the ladybugs last week, but this week we have something which is even more exciting in gardening: worms!  If you ask any veteran gardener, high earthworm counts are the sign of a healthy garden. 

Earthworms, through their small but continuous actions, can move twenty tons of soil per acre every year.  How is that for power through numbers!

Some of you may even keep worm bins and be better versed in worm husbandry than I.  Worm composting (or vermicomposting) is one of the most fun and child-friendly activities you can do for a healthier garden.  The redworm (which is different than the orangish-brown worms you find in your dirt) can consume a third of its body weight per day in organic matter.  Initially, much like your baby, you have to help your worms settle in with small chopped scraps and even a puree, but once they’ve taken off, a three-tiered system can easily accommodate all your vegetable scraps without too much fuss.

There are a few tricks to keeping them cool during the summer (keep them in shade, paint the box mostly white, take them inside if you can handle it), but they’re also easy to dump and start anew the following winter when the heat dies down.

And, because we all have kids with developing immune systems (and curious fingers), there will be hand sanitizer for after you are done. 

However, for the safety of the worms, please don’t go back into the worm bin *after* you have hand-sanitized.  🙂


On a non-gardening note, since I have a captive audience…I wanted to share with some of the newer parents what CDI is about.

CDI is a nonprofit organization, unlike Kidspace or Gymboree and you know this because you aren’t paying $200+ for a membership here. Most of CDI is run by volunteers, with a very lucky collaboration with Tierra del Sol and LAUSD’s Miller Career and Transition Center, who help adults with developmental disablities obtain work experience. The volunteers are also from all walks of life, and many are still in high school, so be kind to them.  I wanted to mention this because not all developmental disabilities are visible and to exercise patience when asking a volunteer for help.

So what is CDI other than a free indoor playground with museum-quality toys?  It’s a place where parents can play with their children while getting information or assistance about child development, nutrition, or other topics should they need it.  CDI offers free developmental screenings (anyone can go) and if there are any concerns, they can help you get the support you need.  If you think there’s something developmentally strange with your child, you can go to a free screening.  If another parent wonders about their child’s delays and is unsure where to go for help, you can tell them that CDI offers free screenings.

CDI is one of the rare gems of the valley, and even though it is free does not mean that it is cheap or easy to do.  It’s free because of the very hard work and aggressive fund-raising that has to happen to keep this Center open.

So if you see a weed and don’t mind pulling it, do so.  If your kid makes a mess (it’s ok), guide him/her to clean it up before moving onto the next play area.  If other parents ask you what CDI is, now you know and can explain.  You can all be parent ambassadors in-training.  🙂


See you Friday!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


March 7: This Week in Gardening Club – Kids Can Compost with Wen Chia Parker

Dear Garden Club,

Learning GardenIf you were with us last week for the downpour, we had a great time painting with potatoes, but haven’t set them into the ground.  Which is all right, as potato planting season continues all through April!  We’ll wait for the ground to dry out a bit before trying our hand at container gardening.

This week, we have a wonderful book called “Kids Can Compost” by Wen Chia Parker.  Wen Chia is a personal friend and a UC Master gardener who  works in the Venice Learning Garden (

Kids Can CompostThe first lucky 15 will receive her book free, everyone else can have to buy the book.

We’ll have a brown/green sorting activity, and we will have finished compost available for you to feel and take home.  Also, having participated in what is colloquially known as a “plug mob,” I have many seedlings of cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and purple cabbage for you, if you didn’t take one home last time.

We still need volunteers to help with clean-up and just talking to other moms during the activity.  Don’t be shy!  I know at least 2 of you who are well versed in compost and other aspects of gardening!

See you this Friday 9:30 at CDI!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


February 28: This Week in Gardening Club – Potato Power!

Dear Garden Club,

I hope this week finds you well and hydrated.  It looks like rain is coming to Southern California!


Baking Soda Animals

Click here for the handout from last week’s baking soda animals

 – The baking soda animals can be stored up to 2 weeks in a dry container in the refrigerator. 

 – You can use the animals as a garbage disposal cleaner. 

 – Just pop 1 or two into the garbage disposal, run the hot water, and turn on the disposal for 10-20 seconds. 

 – Baking soda is also a proven mild fungal preventative for the garden!  You can dissolve one animal overnight inside a clean spray bottle filled with water, and then use it to spray your plants.  Once dissolved, the spray is only good for 1-2 days. 

 – Best of all, baking soda is nontoxic for your animals and kids.  However, as with all chemicals/foods/nouns, dose matters!  Just as you would not add an entire box of baking soda to your cake mix, plants can only tolerate 1-2 tablespoons/quart before ill effects happen. 

 – Also, as with all mild nontoxic remedies, constant vigilance is required.  Your chances of success are best if you catch the fungus early on, and are able to prevent the infection from spreading. 

This is an excellent activity for your toddler, as using a spray bottle not only develops finger strength (for that future pencil grip), but I have yet to meet a toddler who does not like spraying plants (and bugs and walls and other people).  However, if powdery mildew is covering over half of your plant, it is best to remove it and start over.

This Week in Gardening Club – Potato Power!

This week, if the weather is forgiving, we want to put our seedling potatoes into the outer garden.  Potatoes need an acidic, loamy soil, and take 2-4 months to mature once the daytime soil reaches over 50F or higher.

If the weather is too wet, we may move our potato painting (not planting) inside and examine the ladybugs under a dry roof!  Much like parenting, having a back-up plan for inclement weather is a key to success!

Speaking of parenting, I also have my (sometimes demanding) son during the class–and if everyone signs up for one or two dates to be an extra pair of hands, that would be fantastic!  You can help as little or as much as you want, but mostly I need help with manning the art table for late-comers, and cleaning up afterwards.  Just let me know a few dates that you might want to help and I’ll get a list out.  Of course, if you want center stage for a topic you are an expert in, by all means let me know!  If you develop a taste for this sort of volunteering (and gardening), this is a good time to buff up your volunteer resume to apply for the UC Master Gardener’s program next year. 

Garden club is a two-way street, and there are many different routes which will lead to a satisfying harvest.  So talk to the mom or dad next to you–he/she may know where to find the latest tomato plant or how to worm compost.  I took a gardening class a few months ago and learned more from my peers than the teacher!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator

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