John Lyons, the organic gardener and edible landscape designer behind The Woven Garden, offers educational classes to inspire the cabbage farmer within. His 6-week course, “From the Earth Up,” covers composting your dinner leftovers, herb garden care, organic pest control, and crop rotation (sans the Stephen King psychodrama). SquidInk recently caught up with Lyons, a native of Ireland, between his daily plum tree pruning rounds to find out more about the course and his gardening philosophy.
SquidInk: You call yourself a garden designer. Why not a landscape architect?
John Lyons: Architect and landscape are too restricting and confining. My style is controlled chaos, I try not to manicure the landscape too much. I'm a gardener.
SI: “Worm teas” are in the curriculum?
JL: Yes, I teach vermicomposting, which means using special worms in special bins to break down all of your food and paper waste. Their excrement is used directly in the garden, and when you soak it in water to make a “tea” it allows the compost to brew a bit and adds tremendous nutrients to the soil. You can make combination teas or compost teas.
SI: You talk about organic fruit (espalier) and vegetable kitchen gardens (potager). What's the difference?
JL: Espalier is a French method of training fruit trees in an urban garden against a fence or against a wall. A potager is a small kitchen garden that the French usually have very close to the kitchen. A potager is usually made up of a few raised boxes filled with herbs, vegetables and flowers, and because it's near the house, a more decorative hedge around it. The idea is to have a little of everything close by so you can dash out and cook a meal from it, then you keep your main vegetable garden on a larger plot farther away.
SI: During week 6 of the class, you focus on crop rotation. Is your home produce garden really that much like a farm?
JL: Yes, exactly. I always remind my clients that we have a 24/7, 365 day growing season in L.A., which is just amazing. Winter is actually the best time to grow food here. Things like cabbages, lettuces and onions are a good way to rotate your crop. Or you can grow a green crop in the winter, which is what farmers do, like put in alfalfa or Austrian field peas, and it will act as a rotation crop before you put in the Spring crop. It keeps the soil really clean.
The 6 week gardening course begins Wednesday, September 16, and is $289. Classes are held in a private Silverlake loft. The address will be revealed upon registration. Call (323) 793-3139 for more information.