Edible Gardens: The Pros to Know

The picker/preserver, professor, composter, and beekeeper keeping local gardens a cut above

Photograph courtesy Flickr/woodleywonderworks


Hired Hands
When the call comes from a home owner overwhelmed by the limes hanging low or the tomatoes bursting from their trellises, Ysanne Spevack gathers up her pruning shears, picking pole, gloves, and hat. The London native, now a Silver Lake resident, began offering her services as a picker and preserver in February, when she discovered people were too busy to harvest their gardens, let alone do anything with the produce. The author of 13 cookbooks on organic food and the editor of the online food magazine organicfoodee.com, Spevack transforms her clients’ fruits and vegetables into Meyer lemon marmalade, fig jam, orange curd, apple-sauce, corn relish, pickled beets, tomato salsa, pies, and more—usually in their kitchens. After an initial visit during which she takes stock of any additional supplies she’ll need, such as canning jars or pie plates, she generally accepts two projects a week (she’s also a violinist and composer). “It’s so easy to grow here,” she says. “None of this stuff is rocket science.”  » Hourly rates: $20 in the garden, $45 in the kitchen, $75 for a kitchen lesson. Email [email protected]. 

Where to Learn the ABC’s of Agriculture
Elliott Parivar already had an enviable job as a science teacher at Harvard-Westlake. But the horticulturist—whose doctorate was in postharvest plant physiology—missed talking about growing things. For the past nine years he has been teaching two popular classes on gardening at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. The fall course covers the principles of horticulture and examines soils, composting, plant anatomy, insects, and diseases, among other matters. That’s followed by a lab course in the spring that Parivar describes as “botany for gardeners” and involves dissecting plants to learn their parts. The instruction is a bargain at $20 per unit, and the entire campus, Parivar notes, is a living lab, with multiple working gardens. There’s even an on-campus farm; Pierce offers an acclaimed animal science program run for the past 30 years by Dick South 

How About Them Apples?
In Tim Dundon’s world, everyone wins—he clears away the unwanted manure and the organic wood shavings that serve as bedding for the horses at Altadena Stables and turns them into compost so powerful, he’s dubbed it “craptonite.” He practically gives away the fertilizer, which attracts worms and microbes as it cures (“It’s a continuous party in there,” he says). Come to his place with bags in hand and he’ll be happy to accept a small donation.  Order a delivery and he charges for drive time, but the compost is free. The way Dundon sees it, he’s helping “the army of people creating their own food. It’s time we got an economy that revolves around life instead of money.” » Call 626-794-1351.

King of the Queens
For those who’ve dreamed of befriending the world’s greatest pollinators, Kirk Anderson’s the man to seek out. The founder of Kirk’s Urban Bees, a bee removal service, honey retailer, and source for wild honeybees, is a stickler for proper beekeeping techniques, which are crucial when a false move will sting—literally. Last year he helped establish a club for local enthusiasts called the Backwards Beekeepers (named for its noncommercial, chemical-free approach), and an open-door policy allows newcomers to pick up some pointers before acquiring a nuc, or starter colony, of 5,000 to 10,000 bees and a queen from Anderson’s trove of rescues. A housepainter based in Silver Lake, Anderson got his first bees by mail order from Montgomery Ward in 1970. He says a hive can produce 80 to 100 pounds of honey a year—a sugar rush worth the wait.  » Beekeeping supplies are available at Los Angeles Honey Company (1559 Fishburn Ave., L.A., 323-264-2383) and Pierce-Mieras Manufacturing (2536 Fender Ave., Ste. A, Fullerton, 714-447-3855).