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Let's Eat Our Yards!
July 2008 | by Mary Friestedt


The price of gas is over $4.50 a gallon, which is making us all feel very guilty about driving even a few miles to pick up fruits and veggies. Ah, but hope is in sight! It is possible to grow many goodies at home with very little effort. We can save gas and eat the best food ever! I propose that we take out our grass and replace it with fruit trees or containers in which to grow veggies. Let me tell you a few stories.

One friend in Del Mar took out all the grass in her back yard and put in four square 20” high redwood containers in which she is growing spinach, kale, lettuce, tomatoes and many other goodies, and she is producing enough veggies to feed 5 people. The 20” sides are topped with a 2”x 6” seat, which enables her to care for and pick her food easily. She spread 1” pebbles (KRC Rock is a great place to get these) several inches deep around the four squares, so she and her dog can navigate the beds easily, and no weeds are growing! She even planted some flowers such as borage and marigolds, so the square containers are colorful as well as useful! (I must mention that she volunteers at Quail Botanical Gardens four times a week and has turned the gardens there into breathtaking works of art.) If you lay down wire mesh first, you will prevent gophers from munching on the goodies.

Another Del Mar friend bought 20” round plastic pots, filled them with good soil (This is key!), and is growing about ten different veggies along her driveway. Make sure your veggies have plenty of sun.

My own fruit trees -- Mission figs, Anna apples, citrus trees, and pomegranates are growing in a sunny location in our native well-drained soil, but my veggies -- lettuce, kales, and herbs -- grow in galvanized tubs with holes drilled for drainage. I use superb soil and am happy that the local gophers cannot penetrate the galvanized metal.

And now for the best news! The June 12 Los Angeles Times Home section had an excellent article about a new way of gardening, which utilizes layers and requires less water and no digging. This method has been used for some time in Australia since the publication of “Ester Deans' Gardening Book: Growing Without Digging.” Here are the basics from the LA Times article (which can be retrieved online; go to LATimes.com/home):


•  Layer 10 to 20 sheets of newspaper on the ground. Soak with water and

sprinkle bone meal and blood meal on the top.

•  Put on a 2-3” layer of alfalfa (Think Mary's Tack and Feed) on top and

sprinkle with more bone and blood meal.

•  Now put on 8” of straw (Again, think of Mary's Tack and Feed) and dust

with more bone and blood meal.

•  Wet this all down.

•  Next, top with 3-4” of compost, which will compress.

•  Finally, plant with seed or seedlings.

Is this easy or what? The best news is that less water is required and there is no digging. Be aware that you still must add nitrogen to fertilize your plants. I plan to use diluted fish emulsion.

Happy growing!



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