A miniature farm in West L.A.
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A backyard mini-farm in West L.A.

Steven Wynbrandt in his garden, which just three years ago was a barren yard with problematic soil. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Steven Wynbrandt picks baby lettuces for a salad. The bed is composed of 10,000 seeds, and like the rest of the garden, it’s watered by hand.  (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
The well-shaded garden in 2009. It would be six months before Steven Wynbrandt would dig his first planting bed.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
Branches litter the yard after four trees were cut down to help bring in more sun so food could grow. Steve Wynbrandt would later plant 16 fruit trees around the perimeter.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
The chopped trees were stripped of leaves, which were added to the enormous compost bin Wynbeandt built on the side yard.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
In one serious compost bin, Wynbrandt added seaweed from the beach along with other organic matter that eventually decomposed into rich soil amendments. (Steven Wynbrandt)
Wynbrandt amended his soil, sifting the native clay dirt through a quarter-inch wire mesh to get rid of rocks. He also carted 300 wheelbarrows of manure to the backyard and eventually made 25,000 pounds of compost.  (From Steven Wynbrandt)
Wynbrandt dug two feet, removed the clay soil and filled the beds with a 50-50 mix of compost and original soil. “Essentially it’s a 2-foot raised bed in the ground with a custom, native soil mixture,” he says.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
Wynbrandt was still wrestling with trees when he planted his first beds. He eventually decided he needed to do more than prune. “I dug six feet down around them all and ripped their trunks and primary roots out with my friend’s pick-up truck,” he says.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
Around the perimeter of the yard, Wynbrandt bolted 10-foot-tall two-by-fours. He then ran wire from post to post. Within a few months, the passionfruit vines that he planted would become ...  (Steven Wynbrandt)
... a green wall, absorbing some of the noise from nearby Overland Avenue in West L.A.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
Fruit from the vines. (Steven Wynbrandt)
The once-barren backyard, photographed as it began to fill in.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
Red Russian kale, a non-curly leafy green.  (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Okra, which thrives in the heat.  (Steven Wynbrandt)
Wynbrandt samples a Persian cucumber from his backyard.  (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Wynbrandt has no difficulty with asparagus, which often takes three years to yield its first harvest.  (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
A tower of broccoli. (Steven Wynbrandt)
In summer Wynbrandt grew more than 200 pounds of Brandywine tomatoes along with other heirlooms and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. (Steven Wynbrandt)
A chart from the Josephine Porter Institute details the compost preparations. The recipe calls for dairy cow manure, alfalfa, yarrow, camomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian flowers.  (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
The compost heap shown here would later sell through word of mouth for $1 per pound. The pile sits for four to six months and is not turned. Wynbrandt said he has since moved his biodynamic compost operation to a site in the Santa Monica Mountains.  (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Wynbrandt, 32, and his mentor, Jack McAndrew, 77. “I brought a load of manure over to his house and taught him how to make biodynamic compost,” McAndrew says. “Now he’s made 15 tons. In the last six months he has accomplished what it took me 10 years to learn.”  (From Steven Wynbrandt)
Wynbrandt digs beneath the protective layers of straw to pull out his compost.  (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Wynbrandt holds some of his biodynamic compost. When ready to use, it’s soft, airy and slightly sweet in scent. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
In summer, the roof gets used for pots and seeds. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Asked for tips for first-time gardeners, Steven Wynbrandt’s suggestions are surprisingly simple: “Grow what you love to eat. Seek people in your neighborhood and microclimate, and find out what they have grown with success. Consult the UC Extension planting schedule and try to use the best compost you can, whether you make it yourself or not.”  (Steven Wynbrandt)
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