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Christy Wilhelmi: This “Gardenerd” Knows Her Veggies:

Christy Wilhelmi doesn’t mind calling herself The Gardenerd. “Nerds beget nerds,” she says about her consuming interest and vocation of gardening.

“My background in gardening began about 15 years ago when I became a vegetarian and became much more concerned about the source of my food,” she explains. “I started gardening on my balcony in my apartment in Orange County. Then I moved to L.A. and had a patio and gardened there a little bit. Then I got a plot at Ocean View Farms organic community garden (near Rose and Centinela) and I’ve been there for about 10 years.”

Wilhelmi and her husband eventually bought a house and installed a vegetable garden in their back yard. She still has her garden at Ocean View Farms too. And what does she grow?

“I still have, believe it or not, a few tomatoes on the vine, and zucchini, which is odd for this time of year. Most of the time in the fall I like to grow salad greens–eight different kinds of lettuces, mustard greens, lots of herbs, cilantro, parsley, oregano, chives, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, garlic and root crops, parsnips, radishes.”

Wilhelmi is bringing her interest in gardening and her knowledge to everyone with her “Gardenerd” classes. “I want to teach people how to fish, how to grow their own healthy, organic food,” she says. “It’s especially important now, for environmental and economic reasons. People are doing more things themselves to save money and live sustainably. But most of all, I love sharing the thrill of serving a meal you’ve grown and nurtured yourself.”

Her Basic Organic Gardening class begins January 11 at Santa Monica College and at Wilhelmi’s home, starting February 28, 9-11 a.m. ‘The difference is that the one at Santa Monica College is a classroom version. I bring in as much as I can, but we’re not out in the dirt as we are at my house.”

The four-class course covers: Soil, Soil Amendments, and Fertilizers; Small Space and Container Gardening; Seed Starting, Transplants, and Heirlooms (“One of my favorite classes because it kicks open the door on new varieties that you wouldn’t be able to get in a nursery”); and Tools, Tool Care, and Pruning.

Also Wilhelmi is offering the Spring Garden Planning Workshop, a two-hour workshop that uses charts to plan what to plant and what locations will work best. In late March, she will be teaching a new class in Composting–using kitchen scraps to make compost.

She also offers private consultations, “for those who have an existing garden and just want me to come over and solve some problems there or people who don’t have any experience and just want me to come over and figure out what to do.” One of her satisfied clients is Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car? who obtained Wilhelmi’s help in planning and designing his organic veggie garden.

And while it’s all about gardening, Wilhelmi can offer advice also about “garden-to-table,” what can be done with the plants to make delicious meals. What’s a favorite recipe of hers?

“One of my favorite cookbooks is by a British woman named Rose Elliot, and her philosophy is: you highlight the vegetables with minimal additions. She has a recipe–it’s oil and butter with parsnips, sweet potatoes (or regular), and onion–and it is so delicious! It’s the simplest thing–­just chop everything up and put in a pan with oil and butter.” (For vegans and dieters: “You can definitely do it without the butter.”)

For more information, go to Gardenerd.com or call Christy Wilhelmi at 310.391.3949.

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