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Weeding is FUNdamental!

The Garden School Foundation would like to let you in on a little secret…
Did you know that the 24th St. Elementary School has more than one hidden gem on its campus? In addition to our Edible/Teaching Garden, we also have a Native Garden that contains plants and trees indigenous to Southern California like Oak and Cottonwood trees, native grapes, flowers and more.

The Native Garden, which was created when the school ripped up much of the asphalt paving the playground, could use some TLC and it has become the focus of GSF’s recent efforts. The kids at 24th Street are so great, we want them to have an even bigger playground, one filled with trees, plants and birds local to California. Our hope is that the Native Garden will not only become an extension of the playground but that it will be utilized by teachers as an outdoor classroom. What better way to allow kids in a neighborhood lacking parks and other green-space to spend their lunchtime in nature and encourage creative re-use?
This past month, in partnership with Big Sunday, a community service organization, we held yet another workday with the goal of cleaning up the Native Garden. During the workday, we removed some of the not-so-native weeds that had begun to penetrate the garden.

At our workday, kids got down and dirty learning how to kill weeds the friendly way using a technique called sheet-mulching. Sheet-mulching consists of covering weeds with cardboard to smother them by taking away their life source: the sun. After that, the cardboard is watered to speed-up decomposition. Then, mulch (chopped up trees and plant matter, which not only creates an attractive ground cover but also hastens the composting process by absorbing the heat) is placed over the cardboard. Kids, parents and volunteers spent the day taking tape off cardboard, laying it down on the ground being sure to overlap the edges so that the weeds can not climb through, watering it, loading tons of mulch into wheel barrows and raking it across the wet cardboard.

Why do we like sheet-mulching here at the garden?

  • Weeds are removed using a pesticide-free method.
  • Much of the materials used came entirely from the school, contributing to the goal of a closed system in which all of our waste-products are repurposed in the garden.
  • The soil structure is enhanced by composting weeds and creating a new layer of topsoil.
  • It is a fairly easy way to squash large groups of weeds and is even fun for kids!

When we were done, the native garden went from looking like a brambly thicket to looking like a beautiful park!!


Fiesta de la Huerta

On June 9th, 2012, the Garden School Foundation will host its yearly Fiesta de la Huerta at the 24th Street Elementary and neighboring Widney High Schools. Set amid the ¾ acre kitchen garden and community orchard, the Fiesta ...

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Wonderful World of Weeds

Springtime at 24th Street School has been exciting. The garden is in full bloom and thriving, with bountiful blossoms of lush life in every bed and tree. While soft peaches, plump grapes and other desirable growths of the like are on their way to ripeness, so grow the undesirable: weeds. With the help of many volunteers during our Garden Work Days, we have been keeping the weeds at bay at the kitchen and native gardens with much sheet mulching, weed whacking and perseverance. 

As with beauty, they say that weeds are in the eye of the beholder. What exactly is a weed? Botanically speaking, a weed is “a valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.” Basically, a weed is any plant that grows where it is undesired. Weeds take up space while competing with crops and other valuable plants for nutrients, water and light. While invasive and unwanted, these wild whims of nature can be tamed and made useful. 

By smothering weeds with cardboard and mulch, a process called sheet mulching, we have cleared large areas of earth to plant new crops at the school garden. Common types of weeds found in southern California are: Bermuda grass, Dandelions, Crabgrass, California Burclover, Mallow, Wild barley and Whitestem Filaree, to name a few among the many.


With many different types of weeds, come many methods of removal. A variety of weeding tools are available, such as the asparagus stick, also known as the weed knife; the garden fork, garden hoe, the cultivator. Simply pulling out weeds by hand can also do the trick. Whatever method of madness, these basic weeding tips will help get the job done: pull out weeds before they go to seed; pull out the root; wet the earth to loosen up the soil or weed after rain; start early and weed regularly. 

If it is true that everything in nature serves a purpose, are weeds all bad? While weeds can disturb the natural and native ecosystem of an environment, they do cool, aerate and stabilize vacant lots and roadsides, serving as “spontaneous urban vegetation,” according to Harvard horticulturist Peter Del Tredici.  Also, did you know that many weeds are edible? Most weeds are European migrants, which settlers brought over, and were commonly eaten back in Europe. Dandelions are typically grown and eaten in France as lettuce is grown and eaten in the United States. Dandelions, as with other edible “weeds” such as sorrel, wild mustard leaves, and vetch, may be eaten as a salad or sautéed with olive oil and salt (Eat Your Lawn). Dandelions are also used to make wine. In addition, some weeds can serve as soil health indicators. Vetch, for example, a particular bean, indicates that the soil needs more nitrogen (Eat Your Lawn).

Despite being an annoyance, it is difficult to deny the resiliency of weeds, and perhaps that lesson is their gift to the gardener. Perhaps the very act of weeding cultivates diligence and patience within the gardener, characteristics valuable in and beyond the garden.



April Workday

Come one, come all to the wonderful world without cars, pavement, or stop lights: 24th Elementary School Garden.  Within our gates we offer a safe place for bugs, hugs…  sorry but no slugs.  Once a month the gates open to the community in efforts to help friendships blossom, the garden thrive, and the love for our environment grow.  If you missed us on April 21st for our monthly workday, no worries, I’ll catch you up to speed now. 

In the early morning sun students, parents, community members, and volunteer groups eagerly made their way to the garden with shovels in hand.  There is magic in people gathering from all areas of Los Angeles to work in a common mission: to help keep the garden beautiful and thriving for the kids at 24th Street Elementary.  Throughout the day there was sweat, weed pulling, and probably little backaches, but never did the energy falter. 

One group worked fiercely to save the artichoke plants from being consumed by sweet pea plants, another group gave the wheelbarrows physical therapy, a group of students helped clean up the strawberries, and yet another group built muscle mulching the garden’s miniature orchard.  Overall it was a very successful day in the garden!

All of the day’s hard work was rewarded with a giant feast of the garden’s harvested carrots and strawberries, banana bread, fresh lemonade, hummus dips, and homemade Tamales!  Everyone gathered to share their accomplishments, to learn from each other, and even share stories of their lives.  The garden has a wonderful skill at bringing community together and slowing time down enough for us to smell the roses.  Everyone left feeling a bit more connected to the garden, to Los Angeles and the people in it.  A big THANK YOU to all the people who joined us for our April Workday!

Recipe for a Successful Garden Workday:

Time Needed: However much you can give.

Serving Size:  Abundant!

Ingredients:  Healthy soil, seeds, water, sun, wheelbarrows, hand tools, muscles, a positive attitude, and helping hands. 

Directions:  Plant the seeds of today for the fruits of tomorrow.  Then, add soil, water, and sun.  Next, care for the seed, pull out invasive weeds, and reach out to companion plants.  Finally, celebrate and repeat for the next generation of gardens!


Cooking with Compost

Lasagna has always been a favorite dish here at the garden, what’s not to the love about the layers of ooey gooey goodness?  We love lasagna SO much that we even decided to create our very own lasagna garden! It may sound a little strange, but lasagna gardening incorporates some of the same ideas as baking lasagna at home.

Now imagine your favorite lasagna- layers of creamy ricotta cheese wedged between wholesome, hearty lasagna noodles drenched in rich marinara sauce and topped off with delicious cheese.  Now replace those tasty noodles with cardboard, that decadent ricotta cheese with compost and that thick marinara sauce with soil and you’ve got a recipe for a lasagna garden! 


A lasagna garden is a no-dig gardening technique that uses layers of newspaper or cardboard, compost, brown materials, soil, and manure to produce a nutrient rich mixture that is perfect for growing. Over time these compostable ingredients will break down and produce a healthy living environment for worms and maturing plants.  Here’s one recipe for a lasagna garden…

What you will need…

Foods Scrapes or Compost


Newspaper or Cardboard

Brown materials (dried leaves, straw, sawdust, hay)

Organic Soil


Step 1

Pick the perfect location for your lasagna garden- a location with plenty of sun!  Now lay down your sheets of cardboard or newspaper and gently dampen.   The newspaper or cardboard will smother weeds and grass and will also create a nice cool place to attract earthworms.

Step 2

Lay down a thick layer (2-3 inches) of alfalfa- this will help retain moisture in your garden.

Step 3

Layer 4-8 inches of compost or organic material- use your hands to spread the layers evenly

Step 4

Alternate layers of brown materials and compost or green materials  (If planting in spring or summer during warm weather- intersperse topsoil between the layers of compost.  This will ensure a proper medium for planting)

Step 5

With your layers of green and brown materials in place, finish your lasagna garden with a final layer (3-4 inches) offinished compost or topsoil.

Step 6

Now plant directly in your new Lasagna garden! If you are using cardboard be sure to cut an "x" in the cardboard where you are planting so the roots can make it through to the earth below.

The best thing about lasagna is how simple ingredients and flavors work together to create a complex and flavorful dish.  A lasagna garden is very similar in that the various layers of compost and soil combine to form a nutritious environment for your plants to grow and thrive!