About Lou Murray

Lou MurrayI have a BA in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado in Boulder and a PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. I had a career in biological and medical research prior to getting back to my roots as an environmentalist. For 13 years, I worked to restore our local coastal wetlands and other habitats with the Orange County Conservation Corps. I finally retired from that job in the fall of 2016.

I remain an active environmentalist, and an avid gardener. I’m passionate about my photography and love to cook what I grow. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” I converted our small urban yard (6,500 sq ft yard with house, driveway and sidewalk occupying most of that space) to organic food production. That conversion began in 2007. I planted a mini orchard, and added chickens in 2010. I continue to grow as much of our own food as I am able, and seek out locally grown foods for the rest. This blog recounts my battles to do so in a world that is rapidly changing due to global warming.

VicI live in Orange County, California with my husband Vic Leipzig (shown here with our shy twin granddaughters when they were much younger). He has a BA in Political Science from Stanford University, and a PhD in biology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where we met. He is now retired from teaching biology to undergrads, but still teaches birding to senior citizens at Saddleback College. He was president of Sea and Sage Audubon, and is on the state board of Audubon California. We both do what we can with our time on Earth to save this planet, its habitats, and the wildlife that depends upon those habitats.

updated 1 Nov 2019

48 Responses to About Lou Murray

  1. Pamela says:

    Hi, Lou,
    I am so happy daffodils are poisonous because I can count on them NOT being eaten by the deer that forage in my neighborhood. Interesting post. Thanks. Pamela


    • Hi Pamela, thanks for stopping by. Yes, daffodils in your English garden in Pennsylvania should be safe from deer. We have deer in Orange County, CA (mountain lions too), but they don’t come this far into the urban areas. Deer are one thing I don’t have to worry about.


  2. Amy Dailey says:

    Hi Lou, I also live in OC, specifically Irvine but I was doing an internet search to find out if there is a local place that leases an allotment of land to grown your own vegetables. Your site came up on the search but do you know of any?


  3. BrendaC says:

    Hi Lou, I live in HB and I’ve been inspired to start my own vegetable garden. thank you for posting pictures and the blog.


  4. You posted on my blog that you went to Howe. I live in Irvington. Small world…. If you want to email me privately, I can catch you up on the neighborhood. I don’t want to give out too much information in a public forum.


  5. LisaT says:

    Hi Lou,

    I am really interested in starting to grow my own vegetables and fruit, but I live in an apartment with no where to grow. I stumbled on your wonderful and informative website, I live in Orange County as well and was hoping you could recommend a local place that leases an allotment of land to grown your own. I saw that another person posted the same question and thought perhaps you could point me in the right directions.


    • Hi LisaT. There are several community gardens in Orange County. Do a google search on community gardens and Orange County or the town you live in plus towns nearby. I know that there are gardens in Irvine, and I think Costa Mesa and San Clemente, but I think that they are limited to residents of those towns. Most have waiting lists. Huntington Beach STILL doesn’t have its community garden, but they’re getting close. Good luck.


  6. Christina says:

    I’d like to use one of your photos for my website. What do I need to do to get rights to use an image? Please email me info. Thank you!

    Beautiful photos!


  7. KElli LEwis says:

    Lou- I happily stumbled upon your web site because I was interested in speaking to your husband about participating in a lecture series- lots of people were raving about the oil spill talk he did recently. As a fellow naturalist I found your blog to be interesting and inspiring. Thanks for putting it out there. Perhaps you might recommend a better way to contact Vic?


  8. Veggie PAK says:

    Oh boy! TWIN grandaughters! You’re really blessed! Gotta love those grandbabies. I teach mine about vegetable gardening and I love doing it. That’s my legacy. To have them know how to grow their own food organically, and want to do it. I want them to know where their food comes from. My oldest is six and he loves to garden. He’s been helping me since he was three. The neat thing is that he remembers what I tell him about different areas of planting and harvesting. It’s a great opportunity and method of sharing with them.
    Have a great vegetable gardening day!
    Veggie PAK


    • Veggiepak, how neat that you’re able to share your love of gardening with your grandchildren. Mine love to pick things in the garden and feed the chickens. They’re fascinated by the worms in the compost too.


  9. Dennis Chen says:

    Hi Lou,

    I also live in Huntington Beach and I’m a new home owner. In the last year I bought about 25 trees in the last year. I have many of the same trees as you but I was very confused about one. The improved Babcock peach. What makes this variety improved? I cant find any information on it. I had some of the peaches from it last year and it was wonderful. Let me know if you have any insight.

    Also any tips on gardening in HB? I had a lot of powdery mildew last year but Im hopeful this year.

    Oh and what varieties fruit tree and bushes do you have? How have they done in HB?


    • Dennis, I have no idea why the improved label is on the Babcock peach. It might be improved yield or improved disease resistance. The fruit trees that I have are dwarf navel orange, dwarf Valencia orange, dwarf Bearrs lime, dwarf Meyer lemon, dwarf Eureka lemon, dwarf Granny Smith apple, semi-dwarf Fuji apple, standard Gala apple (no apples from it yet), Santa Rosa plum, Katy apricot, Improved Babcock peach, dwarf Goldmine peach, Florida Prince peach (great variety, very productive), August Pride peach (not many peaches from it yet), Panamint nectarine (great variety), Snow Queen nectarine (not much fruit yet), and a Fuyu persimmon that I haven’t planted yet. I also have blueberry bushes, but I can’t remember the variety, Red Flame grapes (no grapes yet), thornless blackberries (not very productive), and several varieties of strawberries. I think that about covers it.


  10. Jacqueline Boss says:

    Hi Lou,
    I’m a student at the university of miami and I’m doing a business project. I am writing a business plan for a hypothetical company called Urban Garden, which is a landscape design and installation company that uses fruit bearing trees and vegetables and herbs, so that Southern Californian homeowners can have access to fresh produce. I feel that if this became a trend it would improve both the homeowner’s health and the environment; people will be more likely to eat fruit if it is growing right in their backyard, and it won’t require so much gasoline and create so much pollution to truck fruit from one side of the country to a supermarket on the other side.

    So my question to you is, as a gardner and a resident of Southern California, do you think people would utilize such a business, and what do you think about the idea? Do you know anyone else I could talk to who might have an interesting opinion? Thanks!


    • JBoss, I’m sure that there are people who would use such a business, but not me. I do it myself. I’m sure that Southern California has people who would like to get in on growing their own fruits and vegetables in their yard, but don’t know how. I’ve heard that some people hire a business to plant and tend vegetables like hiring a gardener. Whether there are enough people interested to make such a business profitable is another question. Farmers markets are very popular here.


  11. george says:

    Hi Lou

    I came across your blog at https://greenlifeinsocal.wordpress.com/2010/03/. Very interesting subjects! I need to cultivate tiny flowers, and one of them was pictured under the title “These tiny pink flowers were the size of a fingernail”. Do you have a name or ID for this little pink plant? Thank you so much. George at angheloiu@pol.net


  12. Katiekats says:

    Hi Lou!
    I live in Long Beach, around 8th st. It is pretty close to the coast, we hear the ships sounding their horns on foggy mornings! But I’ve got this great square foot garden, plus lots of containers. My problem are too many worms!! I’ve got three big plastic bins, my worms keep multiplying! They are the red wigglers, I love them, but I feel worried because I’m beginning to get too many!!


  13. Karli Watson says:

    Hi Dr. Murray,
    Great blog with beautiful pictures. I would love to get in touch with you about the possibility of using one of your photos (grouse lek) for a chapter I’m collaborating on in a book called “Evolving the Mechanisms of Decision Making.” (I’m doing a section on the application of foraging theory to mate choice). If at all possible, please email me! Thank you!


  14. Meredith says:

    Dear Dr. Murray,

    I ran across your blog while I was looking for pictures of southern California plants. What a great resource you’ve created here! And your photos are just wonderful. Would it be possible to use one of your photos of lavender in a collage for a promotional email I’m sending out? It’s a for-profit enterprise (I work for an furniture and accessories wholesaler in Santa Monica), so of course I understand if it’s not okay. Could you please email me ASAP? Thank you so much!


  15. Becca says:

    Hi Dr. Murray,

    As the two previous posts mentioned, you have fantastic pictures. I am a documentary filmmaker making a film about a 95-year-old man. His favorite memory about his mother is her homemade apple pie. I was wondering if I could use your fantastic picture of apple pie. It has an authentic and homemade look. I would credit you in the film (and provide you with a copy!) Please let me know. Thanks!


  16. Martha says:

    Hi! I am teaching a group of home schooled kids. We are studying Anglo-axon history & I would like them to actually willow and hull and grind barley. Do you sell stalks of barley or do you know anyone in Orange County who does?
    Martha Desmond


  17. Turling says:


    Are you still working with the Bolsa Chica wetlands? My son has a report he has to give on wetlands, and I was wondering if they still offer tours there?


    • Yes, there are tours there at least twice a month. Check the websites of the Amigos de Bolsa Chica and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. They give tours on different Saturdays, and focus on different things. Also have your son visit their websites to get info, as well as the Bolsa Chica Conservancy. If the tours don’t work for him, visit the interpretive center run by the Conservancy at Warner Ave and PCH. the interpretive exhibits inside will give him all the info he needs. I wrote the text for the exhibits.


  18. Kat says:

    Hi Lou,
    Would love to send you information on the 23rd annual Southern California Spring Garden Show – where can I send you a press packet and invitation? I’ve tried forwarding information via The HB Independent/Times Community Newspapers and not sure if the materials are making it to you.


  19. Hi Lou,
    I found your blog in my search to find out if any coastal SoCal residents had success with growing granny smith apples. I am in Long Beach and I grow Anna and Dorset Golden, but I am looking for a tart apple that will thrive with our limited winter chill hours. I was happy to find your older post that tagged granny smith and how much production it got. Do you usually have good harvests? Thanks!


  20. Savi says:

    Dear Dr. Murray,
    You once wrote about your gardner in Huntington Beach. Can I have a contact number for him as I looking for a gardner.


  21. Mark says:

    Hi Dr. Murry! OMG what an amazing gem your place is. And right here in Southern California! You must get asked all the time, but do you give tours of your place? I’d love to come and visit the gardens. I am a Freesia enthusiast and would also love to see your Freesias out front if they’re still going off. Also, what type of avocado are you growing? I saw you mentioned it with a picture.

    Thanks for your time!

    Mark in Hawthorne, CA


    • Mark, sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. Thanks for the compliment! My freesias are pretty much shot now. No, I don’t give tours of my yard and garden. Sorry. I am a private person, and blogging is as public as I care to be.

      The avocado tree was a semi-dwarf variety called a Little Cado. The flavor is quite mild. I haven’t seen in offered in nurseries for years now.


  22. Mark says:

    Hi Dr. Murray!

    Thanks so much for getting back to me! I totally get it. Thank you very much for sharing your garden with us. You are an inspiration!




  23. Mark says:



  24. Dena says:

    Hey Lou…

    Been awhile. Don’t know if you’ve ever addressed this issue – its of concern to everyone who has a garden, especially organic. As you know, I’ve been growing native plants for the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and transplanting them when of sufficient size. The past few years my yard and native plant nursery have been hit hard by aphids, courtesy of my neighbor’s heavily infested trees which overhang my back fence. Have lost quite a few plants to those suckers. I’ve pruned, picked, squashed, hosed, and sprayed those lousy bugs for years but they keep coming back because I can’t attack the source. Neighbors don’t care and won’t lift a finger to get rid of their bugs. Those trees shed their aphid-carrying leaves into my yard, onto my patio, and directly into my plants 365 days/year and I’ve spent thousands of hours cleaning up the mess. No matter how hard I trted, I just kept losing the battle against those blasted bugs. Aphids moved into my navel orange, Meyer Lemon, hybiscus, aeoniums, and hedges. This year has been particularly bad. Finally I got smart. Went down to Armstrong Nursery and bought a tub of 1500 lady beetles and set them free all over my back yard, nursery, atrium, and the hedges in my front yard. A week later and there’s hardly any aphids. Even the leaves raining down from the neighbor’s trees are a lot cleaner. Shoulda done this a long time ago. Better for the environment and and a whole lot cheaper than endlessly spraying and squashing. Best ten bucks I’ve spent in long time.


  25. choochiegirl says:

    Hi Lou! I met you years ago at Shipley when I served as a docent. You gave a great talk on the Native Americans in our area and I always thought it would be wonderful to learn more from you. And here I am, doing just that! I am loving your blog so much! I am a stay@home mom with three children and am seeking help with backyard chickens, composting and gardening. I was wondering if there is any sort of “backyard farmers” group in our area? I’m really interested in hands – on learning… any suggestions or help you can offer is very VERY appreciated. Thank you for all your sharing!


  26. Good Afternoon, Lou!

    My name is Kelli, a community manager here at Linqia, where we connect online influencers with brands to share engaging stories.

    We are extending an invitation to join our exciting campaign for Monrovia! Monrovia is a trusted grower of quality plants for gardens and outdoor space of all sizes and styles. For this campaign, Monrovia gives you the opportunity to create beautiful outdoor living spaces that are more vibrant and healthy, sharing your knowledge with your audience about plant varieties and choosing the best ones for your outdoor space. Create an ongoing narrative about plant color and texture, and the abundant choices Monrovia offers to fit your style and region.

    In addition to your compensation, and to help you experience Monrovia, you will be provided a product budget of $30 to purchase a variety of Monrovia products.

    The campaign launched March 3rd, 2015 and will run for 4 weeks. You have a 7 day period to share a story (blog post) to your site.

    Due to the time of year, this campaign is only available to those located in California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

    Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested as space is limited and is available on a first-response basis and/or best fit to target audience. Once you’ve expressed interest, we will send further campaign and compensation details for you to review. Please email community@linqia.com if interested!

    Hope to work with you soon!

    The Linqia Community Team


  27. Greg Holly says:

    Hi Lou. My name is Greg Holly. I am a graphic designer in Portland OR, contacting you regarding the possible use of one of your flower photographs for commercial purposes. Specifically, a Douglas Iris image that might be incorporated into a donor recognition plaque program I am designing for a health care organization in San Francisco. Understand completely if you’re not interested, but if so I can send you an example of the plaque as it would look when completed. The flower image will be used in soft grayscale form, incorporated into a piece of fused glass. Be happy to discuss in more detail. Thanks much!


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