Welcome to Skid Row Gardening!

Gardening, Civil Rights, and Community Organizing

Skid Row is a fifty square-block area nestled on the eastern flank of downtown Los Angeles, and is home to over 11,000 homeless and extremely low-income people. The population includes single individuals and families with children, chronically homeless people, people with a mental illness and/or a substance abuse problem, veterans, people with other disabilities and chronic health conditions.

Recently, Skid Row has come under increasing attack by politicians, city planners, and criminal justice officials who refuse to acknowledge Skid Row as a “real” community. Much of this has to do with a recent wave of redevelopment and gentrification that makes Skid Row’s land highly valued. This has led to widespread violations of community residents’ civil and human rights on a massive scale. The Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN) is an outspoken opponent of these city efforts (for more detailed information on LACAN campaigns, visit www.cangress.org). Like many of the prominent civil rights organizations coming before them, LACAN sees civil rights as inseparable from food justice and equality.

In the summer of 2010 LACAN launched its own community garden located on a rooftop on Main Street. Stay tuned to this blog and watch the garden grow. We aim for democratic control where residents can work together to produce the healthy food that this neighborhood deserves.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seedlings Are A Hit At Artwalk!

Last Thursday, the garden team decided to introduce our garden to even more of the downtown community. Every first Thursday of the month is Artwalk in downtown LA, bringing thousands of people into the neighborhood.

We set up a table and sold vegetable seedlings for 2 dollars a piece. We had pumpkins, squash, watermelon, and sunflowers. And, at the end of the night, we made $81 hat we can invest back into the garden. Much thanks to Anne Hars, Debbie, and the rest of the crew that came out and shared the garden with our neighbors. More to come!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Garden Video

Here is the first in an upcoming series of tutorials, look-ins, and general videos that we're posting about the garden. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more.

Up on the Roof: Urban Gardening w/ LA CAN from Nicholas Dahmann on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Winter Harvest!

Today we had our first harvest of the winter!It was perfect timing, too, because tomorrow we have a community meeting in which we will be preparing food for all attendees. Now we can build the menu according to our harvest.

We have leaf lettuce from one of our donated earth boxes, fava beans, kale, greens, and to our surprise...beets. For nearly a month, we thought that the red leafy plant that had been booming was swiss chard. However, when Anne, our amazing master gardener snooped around the leafs, she discovered two large beets nestled under the soil. What a fantastic surprise, and great addition to our meal.

In addition to harvesting, we added two new earth boxes (self-irrigating pots) to the garden, containing broccoli.

We did, however, discover that our booming fava beans have grown weak and a bit sickly. They are now displaying some kind of powdery mold. We think that we may have planted too many in a single SIP (self-irrigating pot), so the plants have eaten all of the nutrients from the soil in a rapid manner. We are going to fertilize to try to keep the plant alive.

Check the photo gallery page for some additional updated photos.

And, stay tuned for a video that we shot on our last group visit up to the garden.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Adopt-A-Seedling Program
LA CAN Community Garden

“Justice requires that everyone should have enough to eat. But it also requires that everyone should contribute to the production of food.” - ElĂ­as Canetti
In May 2010, the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) created a community garden on a rooftop high above Skid Row, where healthy food is often inaccessible to many of the area’s residents. Like many of the grassroots and community organizations coming before them, LA CAN sees the struggle for civil rights as inseparable from food justice and equality. A community’s ability to grow its own food not only reduces financial pressures associated with the cost of living, it can quickly become a vehicle for empowerment and solidarity.

As we expand the garden we want you to play a major part. The Adopt-A-Seedling program literally puts the garden in the hands of community residents, who will nurture seedlings in their own homes (approximately 4-6 weeks). When the seedlings are strong enough to transplant into the garden, bring them back to the LA CAN office where we will hold a planting day. Our current gardeners will teach all the new gardeners the basics of planting their seedlings. After that, the gardeners should find time in their schedules to check in on their growing plants, water, prune, and pick the delicious vegetables once they grow. Gardeners can also join up at Team Food’s community garden meetings (every other Thursday at 10:30am) to become more involved with the garden.

Next adoption day: FEBRUARY 4TH, 6PM @ R.O.C. MEETING (LA CAN OFFICE)

Next seedling planting day: MARCH 18TH, 4PM (LA CAN OFFICE)

Care for Your Seedling

What you’ll need:
· Sun – Plants thrive on sun to grow. Find a sunny place to keep your seedling. A windowsill works great. Southern facing windows work best, but if you don’t have access to the south, any direct sun will do.
· Water – The care you give your seedlings throughout these initial weeks is critical. Keep the soil moist, but not dripping. Small pots tend to dry out quickly, so check it often. If your seedlings are growing in a windowsill, turn often to encourage straight stems.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter planting

The earthboxes are a continued success. Our beans have grown so quickly that they pulled down the lattice that we set up for them. The plant is strong, and the beans are crispy and sweet. We tasted a few on our last trip up to the roof, along with some delicious red chard and greens.

Today we executed our plans to expand the garden for the winter. We utilized four more homemade earthboxes that we built a month back, and we planted the two "official" earthboxes that were donated to us by a supporter that had read our write-up in the LA Times. We also did some additional herbs in some of the traditional pots that we used during the fall.

We planted about two dozen new vegetables -- two different varieties of lettuce, brussel sprouts, and kale.

The only problem...the 4-day storm that is on its way here. We're keeping our fingers crossed that our newly planted seedlings will survive all of the violent rainfall. But, even if they don't, we can simply re-plant!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Big plans, big plants

At our meeting today we took the opportunity to look back on the last six months or so of gardening and make plans for 2011. If one thing has become clear, it's that we are more than capable of maintaining a garden on our rooftop, and others find this a worthy pursuit (see out LA Times article!).

For 2011 a big priority is to expand our garden significantly. In just two weeks, our earthboxes have shown that they greatly help our plants reach their full potential. The beans that we planted have grown beyond even what we had expected. We tried pole beans in our very first planting, and unfortunately, these were some of the most reluctant of our plants. Now, however, they have just exploded, growing up the small wall on the edge of the roof, and attaching themselves on the metal lattice we constructed for them.

In addition to expanding our garden, we intend to begin building strong bridges with other networks of community gardens in the city. Also, we are looking into new ways to involve other Skid Row residents in the gardening process. One way we can do this is by creating an "adopt-a-seedling" program. We don't have a whole lot of space here in downtown LA, but we have lots of enthusiastic residents and some windowsills perfect for raising seeds! Stay tuned.

Two Weeks Ago


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

LA Times article on our garden!

Today the LA Times published an article on our garden. Along with some wonderful photos, the garden received some great praise. Pasted below, the article can also be found here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/home_blog/2010/11/skid-row-community-garden.html with some outstanding photos.

Skid Row Community Garden: bounty by the bucket
November 10, 2010 7:00 am

Community gardens dispatch No. 7: Skid row, Los Angeles

The newest community garden in Los Angeles has no soil, bakes in all-day sun and is seen by few outsiders except those who pass above in helicopters.
The Skid Row Community Garden is on the roof of a four-story building on South Main Street, between 5th and 6th streets in downtown L.A. It's part of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, an 11-year-old organization with more than 600 members working with homeless and low-income people in the Skid Row area, a population that by some estimates totals about 13,000.

Pete White, founder and co-director of the group, points to the south noting that just a few blocks away is the produce market, the hub for much of Southern California's fresh fruit and vegetables, but the residents of downtown wouldn't know it. Want a definition of food insecurity? Try to buy a fresh carrot around here.
"If the city can't get fresh produce to skid row, we'll grow our own," he says.
The garden is young, started in late June with tomatoes, peppers and herbs, everything planted in plastic containers. Now, with the help of master gardeners Anne Hars and Maggie Lobl, the first fall crop will be going in: fava beans, radishes, brassicas such as kale and mustard, peas, herbs, micro-greens and catnip, the last two intended for downtown restaurants and pet emporiums, a potential revenue source.

The building had been the home of an Army-Navy department store with an unreliable elevator. Even though the summer was mild, gardeners had to trudge up more than 100 steps to water plants on the roof, sometimes twice a day during a heat wave.

For the fall crop, Hars enlisted the help of Erik Knutzen, co-author of "The Urban Homestead." Using a 1917 design, he showed the volunteers how to construct a self-irrigating pot system, or SIP, using two 5-gallon paint buckets, an 18-inch piece of 1-inch plastic pipe and a plastic party cup. (See the YouTube video or read full instructions.) The SIPs work off the wicking method, drawing water up from a bottom reservoir to feed the roots. Though others do use potting soil, the growing medium at the skid row garden is not dirt but a soil-less compound, similar to a seed starter.

It's a nutritional mix that is just the right weight," Hars says. "The water wicks up nicely and doesn't get too soggy at the bottom. If you used regular dirt, there would be no wicking action."
The first two SIPs are a few weeks old and are thriving. The fava beans are bursting out of the protective sheeting on top in a thick bouquet.
"They're doing better than my ones at home are," Hars says.

-- Jeff Spurrier

Last Thursday we welcomed Jeff Spurrier and Ann Summa to our bi-weekly Team Food meeting, where we built additional earth-boxes, and planted additional winter crops.