Category: Cecile Ledru

I am continuing here with basic identification characteristics of some plant families commonly found in farming…

Umbelliferae or Apiaceae family

Includes carrots, cilantro, fennel, celery, parsley, parsnip, cumin, caraway seeds…

Seed: striated

Cilantro seeds – Source:

Black cumin seeds – Source:

 Cotyledon (embryonic leaves): elongated leaves

fennel – Source:

Two cotyledon carrot leaves and one true leaf –

Flower: cluster of small flowers called ‘umbel’, in the shape of an ‘umbrella’
Hence the family name ‘Umbelliferae’

wild parsnip umbel – Source:

caraway flowers – Source:


Amaranthaceae family

Includes amaranth, spinach, swiss chard, beet, quinoa, lamb’s quarter, huauzontle…

Seed: some come in cluster. Tend to grow on stem directly

Beet seeds come in cluster – Source:

Swiss chard seeds – Source:

Cotyledon: sometimes red stem, red streak

Spinach –

beets –

Flower: Grow on stems, in clusters

Amaranth flowers – Source:

Quinoa flowers – Source:


Solanaceae family

Includes tomato, eggplant, tomatillo, pepper, ground cherry/golden berry, gooseberry, potato, tobacco, nightshade…

Seed: tend to be flat and roundish/bean-like shape.

Sweet pepper seeds – Source:

Potato seeds – Source:

Cotyledon: pointy tips

tomato cotyledons and first true leaves – Souce:

Nightshade – Souce:

Flower: 5 even petals

Tobacco flowers – Source:

eggplant – Source:


Cucurbitaceae family

Includes cucumber, squash, gourd, melon, watermelon, zucchini, pumpkin…

Seed: flat and drop-like shape

Zucchini seeds – Source:

Cucumber seeds – Source:

Cotyledon: ovale leaves, no stem

Cucumber – Source:

Watermelon – Source:

Flower: 5 pointy sepals (the green part enclosing the petals) & 5 ‘wrinkly’ petals

closed squash flowers, that allow to see well the 5 sepals that carry the petals – Source:

melon flower – Source:


Happy farming!

I am enjoying every aspect of learning at the farm. I love going home after a farming day and think of what I’ve learnt that day.

Sometimes, it is just more practice in some aspect of farming, when farming gets more into my body, when integration of knowledge goes beyond the mind.

Sometimes, it’s food for the soul, when I am inspired by the seedlings growing, by the food waste now transformed in forest-smelling compost, or just by remembering how beautiful and courageous it was for Rishi and Manju to create this farm in the city.

And sometimes it’s food for the brain, as when we have our weekly Wednesday lectures and learn about irrigation or soil or compost or…

Based on one of the lecture about the main vegetable families and how to identify them, I am posting here some pictures to help us all – I hope.

Farmly yours,


Brassicaceae family

Includes kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, Asian greens, Brussel sprouts, radishes, collard greens, mustard…

Seed: usually paper-like membrane that separates a two-part capsule

Kale seed pods – Source:

Broccoli seeds – Source:

Cotyledon (embryonic leaves): typically heart-shaped


Cotyledon and one true leaf – Source: Just Back (flickr)

Flower: typically 4 petals arranged in a cross shape.
Remember ‘cruciferae’ the old name of this plant family? Means cross-bearing or crucifix.

Wild radish. Source:

Birdsrape mustard. Source :



Asteraceae family

Includes sunflower, chrysanthemum, feverfew, lettuce, endives, escarole, chicory, artichoke, dandelion, daisy, chamomille…

Seed: elongated, drop-like shape

Globe artichoke seeds – Source:

Red Leaf Lettuce Seeds – Source:

Cotyledon: 2 leaves, no stem

Cotyledon Sunflower – Source:

Cotyledon and first true leaves of a dandelion – Source:

composite (many small flowers in a flowerhead that has the shape of a disc)

Feverfew – Source:

Chicory flower – Source:


Fabaceae family

Includes peas, all sorts of beans (fava bean, black beans, soy beans, mung beans to name a few), European beans, Asian long beans, chickpeas, lentils, clover, alfalfa, acacia, mesquite…

Seed: bean-like and come in a pod

Cotyledon: 2 leaves, 2 stems

Red Clover – Source:

Flower: typically 5 petals but of different shapes and sizes


Pea flower – Source :

To be continued….
I will post more next week.



During our last lecture, we learnt about the main vegetables families. One of the idea for that was that it’s better to avoid planting together vegetables from the same family because of their shared characteristics that might attract similar pests, and extract the same nutrients from the soil.

I wondered which plants then make the best partnerships and which to avoid growing together. Here is what I found.

Basically this practice of growing different plants together is called intercropping.

While doing some research, I found out that these combinations do not always work as expected. The reason for this, apparently, is that it is still being experimented upon and different climates and soils might offer variations in plant and insect behavior.

Some of the reasons favoring intercropping:

  • Taller plants can offer shelter to smaller plants, from sun and wind. This is what we do on the farm with the Moringa trees that offer shelter in the summer to most of the other crops. Moringa trees are ideal because of their thin foliage that still allow for enough sunlight to pass through. Also they die in the winter and regrow in the spring, so they don’t get too big and over-shadow the vegetables as they get older. (In general though, it is better to avoid growing vegetables in close proximity of large trees or shrubs, as they will compete for sunlight and for nutrients.)
  • Physical support, like beans using corn as trellis for instance.
  • Pest management – some plants like marigold for instance keep some detrimental pests at bay.
  • Attract beneficial insects – and while the bad guys are kept at bay, some plants can also attract good insects like bees for instance. At the farm, we have some species of basil at the end of rows that bees absolutely love. The best is to use native plants to attract beneficial insects and ward off pest, if possible; or at least plants from similar climate – and to avoid plants known as invasive, especially if we let them go to seed.
  • Soil health and improvement. Different plants will draw on different nutrients. Some will bring nutrients for others to use. Some plants fix nitrogen for instance, like beans, clover or alfalfa. Also different plants have different root systems. Different root length and width will help aerate the soil and can help retain moisture and favor a greater diversity of beneficial micro-organisms.

Here is a chart highlighting some common combinations, taken from:

Vegetable Companions Antagonists Insight
Asparagus Basil, Coriander, Dill, parsley, carrots, Tomatoes, Marigolds Garlic, Potatoes, Onions Marigolds, parsley, Tomato protect from asparagus beetles
Beans beets, Brassicas, Carrot, cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Celery, Chards, Corn, eggplant, Peas, Potatoes Alliums (chives, garlic, leeks, onions), peppers, Tomatoes For Broad Beans: Fennel Corn is a natural trellis, and provides shelter for beans. Beans provide nitrogen to soil.
beets Brassicas (ie. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi,turnip), Kholrabi, Garlic, Lettuce, Onion, Sage Pole and Runner Beans The beans and beets compete for growth. Composted beet leaves add magnesium to soil when mixed.
Broccoli Basil, Bush Beans, Chamomile, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Lettuce, Marigold, mint, Onion, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Tomato Grapes, Mustard, Oregano, Strawberry, Tomato Rosemary repels cabbage fly. Dill attracts wasps for pest control.
Brussels Sprouts Dill, Potato, Thyme Strawberry, Tomato
cabbage beets, Bush Beans, Celery, Chamomile, Dill, mint, Onion, Potato, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage Beans (Pole and Runner), Mustards, peppers, Strawberry, Tomato Celery, onion and herbs keep pests away. Rosemary repels cabbage fly.
carrots Beans (Bush and Pole), Garlic, Lettuce, Onion, parsley, Peas, Rosemary, Tomato Dill, Parsnip Beans provide nitrogen in soil which carrots need. Onion, parsley and rosemary repel the carrot fly
Cauliflower Beans, Celery, Oregano, Peas, Tomato Strawberries Beans provide the soil with nitrogen, which cauliflower needs.
Celery Bush Beans, cabbage, Dill, Leeks, Marjoram, Tomatoes Parsnip, Potato
Chives Basil, carrots, Marigold, parsley, Parsnip, Strawberries, Tomato Beans
Corn Beans, Cucumbers, Marjoram, Parsnip, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini Tomato Tomato worm and corn earworm like both plants. Beans and peas supply nitrogen.
Cucumber Beans, Celery, Corn, Dill, Lettuce, Peas, Radish Potato, Sage, strong aromative herbs, Tomato Cucumbers grow poorly around potatoes and sage.
Dill cabbage, Corn, Cucumbers, Dill, Fennel, Lettuce, Onions cilantro, Tomato Cross-pollinates with cilantro, ruining both. One only a few plants that grows well with Fennel.
eggplant Beans, Marjoram, Pepper, Potato
Kohlrabi beets, Lettuce, Onions Strawberries, Pole Beans, Tomato Lettuce repels earth flies.
Leek carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Onions Beans, Peas Companion attributes are the same as garlic, onion, chives (alliums).
Lettuce Beans, beets, carrots, Corn, Marigold, Onions, Peas, Radish, Strawberries parsley Mints repel slugs (which feed on lettuce).
Marigold Brassicas (broccoli, etc), Cucurbits (cucumber, etc), peppers, Tomato, and most other plants It is said that you can plant Marigolds throughout the garden, as they repel insects and root-attacking nematodes (worm-like organisms). Be aware they may bother allergy sufferers.
Onions beets, Cabbabe, carrots, Lettuce, Marjoram, Rosemary, Savory, Strawberry, Tomato Beans, Peas Repels aphids, the carrot fly, and other pests.
parsley Asparagus, Beans, Radish, Rosemary, Tomato Lettuce Draws insects away from tomatoes.
Peas Beans, cabbage, carrots, Celery, Corn, Cucumber, Lettuce, Marjoram, Parsnip, Potato, Sage Alliums (Chives, Garlic, Onion, Shallots)
Potato Beans, cabbage, Corn, eggplant, Horseradish, Marjoram, Parsnip Celery, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Rosemary, Strawberries, Tomato Cucumber, tomato and raspberry attract harmful pests to potatoes. Horseradish increases disease resistance.
Pumpkin Beans, Corn, Radish Potato
Radish cabbage, Corn, Cucumber, eggplant, Lettuce, Marjoram, Parsnip Radish is often used as a trap crop against some beetles(flea and cucumber).
Sage Beans, cabbage, carrots, Peas, Rosemary, Strawberries Repels cabbage fly, some bean parasites.
Spinach Beans, Lettuce, Peas, Strawberries Natural shade is provided by beans and peas, for spinach.
Squash Fruit trees, strawberries Similar companion traits to pumpkin.
Strawberries Borage, Bush Beans, Caraway Broccoli, Cabbages The herb, Borage, is likely the strongest companion.
Tomatoes Alliums, Asparagus, Basil, Borage, Broccoli, carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Marigold, peppers Brassicas, beets, Corn, Dill, Fennel, Peas, Potatoes, Rosemary Growing basil about 10 inches from tomatoes increases the yield of the tomato plants.
Turnip Peas
Zucchini Flowering herbs (for pollination)

Happy growing!




The more I learn about growing food, the more respect I have for the natural world, for the creatures that feed us, plants and animals, and for the farmers that grow our food. This really is one of the most important job in the world. Not just because farmers feed the population, but also because a farmer can either be a steward of the environment when using farming practices that work with nature, or be an agent of destruction when using abusive techniques. There is no neutral farmer.

Yet our modern world doesn’t really value their essential roles.

To me, each one of the persons working (and playing) on the farm is a hero.

My hero’s quest and journey: being in sync with natural cycles, being intimate with the farm – being open to learn from all creatures there and give back, developing a mutually beneficial relationship with plants, animals and humans, finding my niche in the human and natural ecosystems…


insects trapped in the ice

beautiful nopal leaves and flowers

our Argiope friend didn’t survive the frost


do you have grubs ?


I just watched this one-hour documentary called the Private Life of Chickens on YouTube:

I really enjoyed watching it and felt it was actually really important to do so, because chickens and their eggs are such an important part of our diet for most of us and of our culture as well (I come from France and the rooster is the animal symbol of the country for instance) that we should know who they are.  In fact, most of us know next to nothing about chickens (me included until not so long ago). In our society we are so used to treat animals as objects for our own use that we have forgotten to treat them ‘humanely’ or should I say ‘chickenly’, meaning as very smart, highly social creatures that deserve at least our attention and respect.

Of course, I was inspired by the chickens at the farm. I just love watching them, observing their behavior and interacting with them.

I can sincerely say that every animal or plant species that I get to know make my life more full. I am always inspired by other life forms and by our relationship with them, and I always get to learn something new from them. I don’t know how to explain it, I feel that we gain so much in interacting with non-human beings. It is like I am more of myself with all these creatures around. It is like I cannot be fully human without other life forms…

Ok, some pix!


the peas are growing


Elinor inspirational meals


A Christmas fairy tale: “Katie and the Giant Cabbage”


delicious honey

This week all the interns rotated tasks and we are now on with learning a whole set of  tasks for the last weeks of the internship. Krysta and I are now learning about harvesting. Yet because it is now winter and veggies are stretching their maturity time, the pace is rather slow and we can enjoy the lazy winter sun rays as we direct the growing pea shoots around the treillis.

We are also in charge now of setting up gopher traps. While I understand the necessity of keeping the gophers out (they eat the roots of plants and leave them to die), I am not a fan of setting up the traps! So I started to investigate what other options exist out there to keep the gophers out. What I don’t like about the traps is that they don’t necessarily kill the animal right away. Very fortunately, we very rarely catch gophers. In fact, since we started our internship in September, I don’t think that we have caught any – which is another reason why I would like to help with investigating alternative ways that would be both more efficient and possibly avoid killing the gophers.

Here is what I found after reading through different sources:

First, some basic information about gophers’ life history:

They are solitary and territorial, which means that unlike prairie dogs who live in communities, we are probably dealing with only a few individuals, if not just one.

There are several methods to keep them away. Some we could try at the farm:

  • Repellents are ideal since they keep the animal away. However we would need to make sure to use a non-toxic repellent for humans, like cayenne peppers, cinnamon or hot peppers placed into their tunnels. Gophers do not like the smell of these things and will avoid it.
  • Some solar powered vibration devices send sonic waves into the tunnels which also keep them away. There is the possibility however that they might get used to it.
  • Building an 18 to 24 inch deep fence around the farm. That sounds though like an extreme solution, one that is costly and work intensive – especially since these animals are smart creatures and they might end up finding their way through anyway…
  • Live traps seem to be another good option: catching live gophers and releasing them somewhere else. They would have to be released 10 to 15 miles away, and in the forest preferably (away from other gardens and agricultural fields)
  • And last, if none of that works, maybe we should use traps with a cleaner kill, like the Cinch Surface trap which kills the gopher instantly.

Here is my humble contribution for now, I will keep exploring….


Some of this week beautiful creatures:

Nothing like the crispy cold morning air while working on the farm to remind me how so good it feels to be alive and surrounded by beautiful creatures, humans and non-humans alike.

Each day at the farm I am learning a lot, but more than just techniques and knowledge about farming, I am reminded of what really matters and how I want to live my life. While my mind is filled with information, my soul is fed by inspiration. I just love what Rishi and Manju are doing, and each of the staff, volunteers, interns and members’ contributions. I am also absolutely delighted by the diversity of life forms on the farm…

For each new learning, a door of new possibilities opens up as well as all the many questions that come with it. Amongst the many things I want to learn more about are: the use of native plants as sources of food, harvesting insects for food, mushroom growing, seed saving
and more about enhancement of local biodiversity conservation with sustainable food systems. I also read recently about dry farming, a technique that requires much less watering, slowing down production yet enhancing quality of products (used mostly for wine, but not only), and would be interested to find out how this could work in drought ridden Southern California (and anywhere really). And another topic that excites my mind is inter-species communication and using the help of plants and animals to heal ourselves humans…So much to explore and learn…

Here are a few pix!

No electric fence will stop the chicken when the grass looks so green outside!


A beautiful praying mantis


Eat me!


Sad news…A recent study states that 58% of the world wildlife has been declining in the last 40 years (  Some of the main causes for this decline are habitat loss and fragmentation. Urban development, especially in a place like Los Angeles that is so spread out, contributes to both. Major freeways in LA for instance create an almost insurmountable obstacle for some species like mountain lions and bobcats to cross. By not being able to cross these species suffer from inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity, and loss of territory.

This is why a project like the wildlife bridge over the 101 and other projects to accommodate wildlife are much needed ( Even climbing a wall can be quite an obstacle for wildlife, as in this video of raccoons helping each other climb a wall:


Wildlife on the farm: a colorful Argiope spider

Some animals however are better able to adapt to urban environments than others. Coyotes for instance are doing quite well in the city, as this study shows: It is quite amazing how they are able to live and apparently thrive in the most urban parts of the city, while remaining quite invisible to us busy humans.

As this article shows, urban environments can also be attractive to some species ( Cities bring with them abundance of food and protection from hunting.  Many species have been observed to adapt their behavior to urban environment and human behavior and being quite clever and enterprising. Some individuals living in cities are better problem-solvers than their rural counter-parts.  As biologist Suzanne MacDonald say “We forget that we are the biggest cause of evolution on the planet right now.”


A dove at the end of her life that Rishi found on the farm

Other species shyer or not able to adapt to the changing conditions of urban development are driven to extinction by habitat loss, or competition with non-native species. Domestic cats for instance are known to have lead many bird species to extinction. “Stray cats and pet cats allowed outdoors kill 3.6 million birds every day on average in the United States, for a total of at least 1.3 billion birds per year” ( Another example: a scientist from the National History Museum told me once during a wildlife monitoring event ( that native black widows are being outcompeted by introduced brown widows in Los Angeles.

On the opposite side, according to one of my UCLA professor, flock of parrots are becoming more and more common in Los Angeles, coming from escaped or abandoned pet birds. They get together and seem to be doing quite well in LA, while in their native forests they are going extinct, from being captured for pet trade.

I think that urban green spaces and farms in particular can play an important role in finding solutions to co-habitation with wildlife and protection of some of their territory. This is actually one of the reasons why I got interested in urban farming. Agriculture and urban development are two of the main causes of habitat destruction. If we could feed ourselves while maintaining and providing habitat for wildlife that would be ideal. Small farms in the city can not only offer habitat and corridor/passageways for wildlife to live and migrate/move through; they can also diminish the amount of land being used outside the city for agriculture, as well as reduce transportation, therefore limiting the amount of disturbance in the countryside.


Domesticated creatures turning wild when it’s time to put them back in their coop!

Providing connected patches of green in the city is especially important for migrating species like birds or the monarch butterfly –  as well as pesticide free farming/gardening and growth of native species. Native species can be sources of food to be rediscovered as well as provide habitat for wildlife. I found out about this series that looks really interesting (haven’t watched it yet) about traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous Californians, that can help us tend wildlife:

Cities are nature too. We humans are not the only creatures living there. How so nice it is to share diversity of human cultures and non-human species , if only we could do it with respect and consideration.


A pupa soon to become butterfly

Hey Everyone!

I’m Cecile, a new intern. It’s so nice to be part of the farm for a few months to come!

I thought I’d share this little (very very amateur) video that I made for a school project a few years ago, as in a way it resumes well why I’m doing this internship and why I’m interested in farming:

I look forward to these four months of learning and sharing!

Best to you all!