The Greystone Demonstration Garden will be offering classes in food preservation and seed propagation in February and March as part of its winter 2022 programming. The classes will be taught by George Pessin, Los Angeles County Master Gardener and curator of the Greystone Demonstration Garden.
The title fits Pessin. He’s an avid gardener, but more importantly, he’s an avid gardening teacher whose classes are in high demand. A winter gardening class Pessin taught last winter sold out twice after a shoutout in the LA Times.
The classes teach beginner-level gardeners about ways they can conserve the food they grow, reduce waste produced by their gardens, and extend the lifespan of the seeds they plant.
Pessin will instruct students on how to preserve plants using techniques such as drying, freezing, or fermenting.
“Those three that we’ll touch on – freezing, drying, and fermentation – are very easy for the home consumer,” Pessin told the Courier.
Pessin hopes that students will take away some ideas for conservation and waste reduction, along with new ways to make their food last longer.
“We want to teach people to preserve their crops without waste so they can enjoy it throughout the year,” Pessin said.
The Greystone Demonstration Garden is a space on the sprawling Doheny Estate dedicated to teaching the public about gardening and sustainability. Pessin has been teaching beginners how to get started with urban gardening at the estate since 2016.
During the pandemic, Pessin made videos through Beverly Hills Television about basic gardening concepts like tools, materials, and growing seasons to encourage people to try gardening out at home.
“One of the things we’ve come to see, especially during the pandemic, is that gardening is therapeutic,” Pessin said. “It gets you out of your head, into your routine. You’re taking care of things, it’s nurturing.”
Pessin fell in love with gardening when he moved to Los Angeles and got a job cultivating a garden at an Italian restaurant. What was once an empty construction lot of hard-packed dirt became a garden filled with strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers. The restaurant garden inspired him to join the Master Gardener class offered by the University of California in 2004.
Pessin has also taught through the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative, inspired by the gardens planted by American citizens during World War II to send food to soldiers. Through all his experiences, his goal has been to make it easier to grow healthy food at home and experience the satisfaction that comes along with it.
“I want people to be able to not be afraid of gardening – I get that a lot,” he said. “I want to tell people that it’s not as hard as they think. The harder part is in your head.”
Pessin is a believer that gardens don’t just go in the ground – a valuable idea in a city where not everyone has access to green space.
“It’s not just about fruits and vegetables,” Pessin said. “Even with the small spaces, we can do container gardens, indoor gardens, community gardens, et cetera,” he said.
“If we can show you the proper techniques, then you will be successful as well.” Pessin wants students to leave his classes having confidence in themselves, not to mention a delicious meal that they grew in their own gardens.
“I would just hope that they get some success, and some fruits and vegetables that they grew themselves,” Pessin said. “It’s local, it’s organic, it’s tastier than anything you can find at the store.”
The two classes are one of many the Demonstration Garden has offered. In the past, Pessin has taught classes on youth gardening, winter gardening, container gardening, and even a backyard composting class for teenagers.
Those interested in joining the Demonstration Garden classes can visit beverlyhills.org/gardening for more information. Introduction to Food Preservation is offered Sunday, Feb. 27 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. Seed Saving, Propagation, and Cloning is offered Sunday, March 6 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. The classes cost $12 for Beverly Hills residents and $15 for non-residents.