Last month, I had the pleasure of joining the Friends of the Virginia Robinson Garden on a tour of the garden with Timothy Lindsay, Superintendent of Robinson Gardens, highlighting efforts to make the gardens more sustainable and climate appropriate.
Lindsay started with the chicken coop where four lovely hens reside. It was formerly the home of Mrs. Robinson's monkeys. But now, there are four hens who provide delicious eggs for the staff as well as consuming the green waste from the vegetable garden and the kitchen.
According to Lindsay, if every Los Angeles household had two chickens, we could reduce the amount of green waste in the city by 30 percent!
The eggs are fresh and never rinsed with ammonia so they can be stored on the counter instead of the refrigerator.
The hens are also a popular part of the education program for visiting school children.
Next Lindsay explained the garden compost system. The compost is used in the garden feeds the plants in a natural way so plants don't become stressed or leggy. Lindsay explained that he only heirloom seeds in the garden to avoid over hybridization of vegetables which can often leave them tasteless. He explained how he prefers the imperfect vegetables and encouraged everyone to consider buying imperfect produce to encourage use of heirloom seeds.
Then, Lindsay talked about how key plants set the watering schedule for the garden. These large Cypress get watered once a week encouraging the roots to dig down deep for water. Everything else in the garden needs to be compatible with that schedule. In addition all the plants need to be acclimated to our long, dry summers explained Lindsay.
Throughout the garden Lindsay is changing out plants thirsty plants for more climate appropriate plants. No where is that more visible than the former front lawn now converted to a meadow that is seeded with seasonal plants. During out tour, Lindsay demonstrated how he seeds the meadow by simply walking around in a purposeful pattern spreading the seeds in a small hand seeding machine.
The plants in the meadow change according to season. When this photo was taken the Allysum was blooming.
In conclusion, Lindsay encouraged everyone to re-think our perspective of a "perfect" garden, but rather one that's appropriate for our climate.