A Seedy Scene

Posted Monday, January 11th, 2010 at 11:05 am

On Saturday morning a group of about 15 folks gathered in the community room of the very groovy Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Westchester for a free, 90-minute, information-packed class on how to plant seeds. What I learned about starting seedlings was a lot. I could hardly believe my luck.

The class was taught by writer, gardener and founder of Environmental Change-Makers, Joanne Poyourow.  Joanne is also a leader in the LA Transition Movement, a worldwide network of people and communities who are preparing for the one-two punch of the end of “peak oil” and climate change.  That is, when the days of our energy surplus are over and we’ll have to adapt with a more sustainable, self-reliant lifestyle.

It’s gonna happen, people, so start knitting!

The movement encourages communities to organize “re-skilling” classes that teach basic skills which have been forgotten in our highly industrialized, energy sucking culture – like bread-baking, sewing, and organic vegetable gardening.

Once again I am amazed that my innocent investigations into learning how to garden so quickly get swept up into the complexity of international environmental politics.  It’s incredible how chopping up homegrown basil has become both a culinary and revolutionary act.

The first part of the class was spent with Joanne lecturing and demonstrating the methods for gathering seeds, using recyclable materials in the garden, starting seedlings, and then transplanting them to the soil once in flower. After the class, we walked around the small but impressive organic vegetable garden outside the church, where Joanne showed us how to tell our various seedlings apart.

Raised beds neatly laid in geometric patterns were filled with a colorful array of fresh vegetables and flowers in combinations that allowed for their highest growth potential.  The thriving foliage resembled an artist’s palette in bloom.  My husband wandered around the garden taking pictures, while I thirstily drank in every word that was said.

I have to say that the urban cynic in me is highly suspicious of the simplicity of the whole seed-planting act.  Just put the seed in the dirt with some water and something will grow?  Am I really supposed to believe that?  Well, we shall see.

I scribbled copious notes on everything I learned this weekend. Today, I actually went out to the local nursery and bought seeds. And soil. And a spray bottle. Yes, friends, your friendly neighborhood apartment-farmer is ready to do the deed. It’s time to plant something.

In case you’re following along with me, I’ve typed up my class notes for your benefit.  You can download a word doc here.   I’m also going to put them in a separate post.

I also highly recommend joining me for the next class in the series on January 23rd, on Soil Building.

Check out the Farm Apartment Calendar for details.



  1. FarmApartment » Seedlings Class Notes

    [...] those of you who slept in on Saturday morning, you can copy my notes from the Environment Change-Makers’ class on how to start seedlings [...]

  2. Eleanor

    Let’s face it, aren’t we all secretly counting the days until the pseudo-apocalypse comes so we can all can, knit and plant!

    Just finished reading ‘Collapse – How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail’ by Jared Diamond. Thought of you and your urban gardening adventures a lot.

    Nice post title:-)

  3. Kay

    What a great post! Thanks for the links, too – I’m a member of Transition Kentucky, and am looking forward to being able to join in the workshops and discussions in person. Joanne’s book looks very interesting…

    I had to smile at your urban cynic remark; it still amazes me what fabulous plants and food emerge from nothing more than a tiny seed. I am always amazed, and imagine I will always be.

    Here in south San Diego my English Peas are producing, the broccoli is forming heads and should be ready to eat in a week or so; the leaf lettuce is absolutely in its element, and I still have bedraggled tomato plants ripening the last of the summer tomatoes to grace our salads. SoCal is an amazing place to garden.

  4. Evangeline

    Kay – It sounds like you have quite a garden going there! I just planted a bunch of veggie seeds – broccoli, kale, rosemary, thyme, chives, watermelon, chard. We got unexpected rain today so I hope it didn’t wash them out, though I had them covered with plastic bags. It was fun, but nerve wracking – I hope I did it right! It does seem miraculous that I can grow all that food from seeds.

    I have the Transition Handbook, but have not read it in detail. I just stumbled upon the LA chapter, and they have some great events. They make the climate crisis seems kind of fun!

  5. Evangeline

    Eleanor – you always make laugh. One person’s Doomsday is another’s Craft Time. I’m curious to know the gist of “Collapse”. Are we totally screwed or what?

  6. Evangeline

    from Eleanor:
    Well – the gist of it is, is that societies collapse due to 5 factors (enviornment resource depletion, climate change, unfriendliness with neighbors, location in relation to the equator – or something like that) I actually didn’t like the book only because it was really dense with methodology – it seemed like he was trying to cover his ass or prove his credibility. He is cautiously optimistic about our chances, but I felt like he skimmed over a lot of stuff that’s happening on the grass roots (urban gardening, crafts) the L.A. Metro, etc. It was all pretty much doom and gloom.

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