The garden is going to the birds!

Over the last several years there has been a large resurgence in gardening for food in the suburban backyard. Websites, magazines and televisions seem filled with advice on getting the largest harvest from your garden, square foot gardening, converting lawns to gardens and more. Hot on the heels of this growing interest comes a new trend — one that takes the idea of gardening up to the level of farming, even in the middle of a large metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles. Leading the charge in this new trend is the idea of raising your own backyard chickens.

Here in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, I have often seen various types of backyard livestock. Despite the fact that we are a heavily urban area, there are pockets of ranch and equestrian neighborhoods scattered throughout our city. In these areas it wasn’t that unusual to see an occasional chicken, rabbit or even a goat. That said, when our close friends divulged they were building a hen house in urban Woodland Hills, we were a bit taken aback. Then, a few years later, another friend did the same thing. Now it seems to be a national, if not international trend. Surely you couldn’t be allowed to raise chickens just down the street from the latest Chipotle or Jerry’s Famous Deli. Like most metro areas, though, this is exactly the case. Regulations vary from city to city, but most allow you to keep a few hens (no roosters, please) on your property for your own use.

As you might imagine, fresh eggs — the freshest you have ever eaten — are one big draw of backyard chickens, but there are also the benefits of reconnecting your family (especially kids) to nature.

Keri Dearborn says of her backyard chickens, “Beside providing eggs, chickens naturally recycle kitchen scraps into fertilizer. They also do something that I never expected. When they are out foraging in the yard, they create a sense of peacefulness. Just watching them explore and go about their lives had a zen feeling to it.”

Backyard chickens take time and money, though. Feed and bedding, while not overly expensive, do have a cost, but time is probably more critical.

“Chickens are early risers and go to sleep with the sun. If your days are long, you might have trouble feeding them. They prefer to see the food put down, without that visual stimulation they tend to eat less and be less healthy. They need a sturdy coop to keep out predators and just the right amount of sunlight and shade.” says Dearborn.

You won’t save money raising chickens, as feed and maintenance costs mount, but that seems beside the point.

Susie O’Connell, another Valley chicken farmer says, “It’s been a great experience for me and my kids. The jury’s still out on my husband, but even he appreciates the fresh eggs and ample chicken poop fertilizer for our garden.”

You can find extensive information about raising your own chickens on line, including the blog, Back Yard Chickens at

Great Backyard Bird Count Bird Walk at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area

My good friend, Keri Dearborn of, led us on a great walk around the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife area this morning in honor of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend. We spent 2.5 hours spotting all sorts of birds, including 2 new one’s for my life list, a Downy Woodpecker and an Osprey and also an up close look at a vulture.

Below are 6 embedded videos streamed live and recorded with my iPhone. I hope it gives you a bit of a feeling of what it was like to be out with us this morning.

Keri’s husband, Michael Lawshe, took some great photos on the walk, too.

Photos of today’s Great Backyard Bird Count Walk

Continue reading Great Backyard Bird Count Bird Walk at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area →

Daffodils 2010

Daffodils and more – 03, originally uploaded by dewelch.

I have been meaning to take photos of these daffodils for the last several days, but the great weather and afternoon sun finally tempted me outside.

These are some of my favorite flowers in the garden and always look so striking amid the purple lantana in the front garden.

Each year I try to plant a few more so we get a bigger show.

I Like This – February 11, 2010

I Like This – Circular Pod-Shaped Tea House is Heated by Compost

What a cool idea a great use of what would normally be waste heat — Douglas

If you’ve ever experienced composting in action, you may know that things can get pretty hot when microbes meet organic material. So what if there was a way to capture all that heat and use it to warm up a cozy little space? Tokyo based architects Bakoko have come up with a circular pod-shaped teahouse that does just that by harnessing temperatures in excess of 120°F that are generated by compost. The designers are taking a simple, biological process and turning it into a viable (and free) way to heat small public spaces like the traditional garden teahouses found all throughout Japan

From Inhabitat via Circular Pod-Shaped Tea House is Heated by Compost.

I Like This – Seattle City website declares – 2010 The Year of Urban Agriculture

Promoting community agriculture efforts and increased access to locally grown food

“2010: The Year of Urban Agriculture” was organized by Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Department of Planning and Development, and the Seattle City Council.

The site includes:

City Initiatives & Programs:

Street Use Permits: Gardening in Planting Strips
Seattle’s P-Patch Program
What’s new at P-Patch
P-Patch Program Evaluation (2009)
Seattle’s Market Gardening program

City Farmer News

via Seattle City website declares – 2010 The Year of Urban Agriculture.

Your Urban Garden

This column originally appeared in The Daily Bite from, a daily newsletter of food, kitchen and gardening information.

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Your Urban Garden
by Douglas E. Welch

Listen to Your Urban Garden


Many of us dream of starting a garden, but if you live in a big city you may be discouraged to try. Planting your own food or simply showing your children how food grows can be both therapeutic and self-sustaining. Today’s Daily Bite will hopefully inspire you to turn that urban backyard into your own private garden oasis.

While I may have grown up in a small Ohio farm town, I spent the last 23 years living in one of the biggest cities in the world — Los Angeles.

When people think of LA, they usually conjure up images of movie stars, traffic jams, smog and surfing, not gardens. I think this is a bit sad because despite its urban heart, LA has a wealth of gardens, both decorative and productive. I see more evidence every day that the city is finding new and innovative ways to garden among the skyscrapers and freeways.

It seems like there’s is a new movement afoot here to convert lawns into gardens, grass into vegetables and thirsty gardens into sippers more appropriate to our natural climate. Front yard vegetable gardens were unheard of when I first moved to LA in 1986. In many places, they were banned by homeowner associations and restrictive convenants. That’s why it was such a pleasure to see that streetside garden last year. Over time I watched as their plants burst forth with broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, herbs, tomatoes and more — all in a garden more beautiful and productive than any expanse of manicured lawn.

If you live in an urban area, take a second look at how you might garden among the houses and skyscrapers. Can you make a small, raised bed in your lawn? How about some pots of herbs and tomatoes on your balcony? Maybe you can get your own plot at a local community garden — something that’s very popular here in LA.

You can have your own garden just about anywhere if you give it a try!

For more gardening information…

Subscribe to A Gardener’s Notebook podcast using iTunes
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Read or Subscribe via RSS to my collection of gardening items from Google Reader

Video: Urban Beekeeping: Ins and Outs – Dos and Don’ts – Webinar

I “atttended” this excellent webinar on urban beekeeping hosted by Shane of Brushy Mountain Bee Farm on Sunday and wanted to share it with all of you. It has some excellent advice for those who might want to start keeping bees in an urban environment, including how to deal with fearful neighbors, finding a good place for your hives and why it is important to raise bees in places both urban and rural.

Watch Urban Beekeeping Webinar – iPod Ready Video

A buzzing in the garden

Ash tree "flowering"Taking a few moments in the garden this morning, I heard a gentle and general buzzing throughout. It seems the large ash tree in the back garden is flowering and the bees are taking great advantage of this bright sunny day after all our rain. More rain is expect tomorrow, so it is good they are so industrious. They may be stuck in their hives for a few more days.

I have been following a lot of beekeeping info these days and seriously thinking of getting a hive of my own. I think it would be simpler than trying to keep chickens, the other big backyard farm animal, and fit better in my smallish garden.

What do you think? Are you interested in keeping bees? Let me know in the comments!

Video: Rain in Los Angeles

Rain this solid is rare enough to be interesting here in Los Angeles, so here is a quick environmental video showing the rain in my garden.

Watch “Rain” – iPod Ready Video