As mentioned in The Palo Alto Weekly, The Common Ground Garden Supply and Education Center 7th Edible Landscaping Tour showcases sustainable, edible gardens.
Our quarter-acre has 24 fruit trees: apple, apricot, avocado, cherry, fig, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin, peach, pear, plum, pluot, persimmon — including 8 espalier. We have 8 large raised garden beds with wood chip walkways. The redwood beds are a total of 500 square feet. Each bed is 2 feet deep, and the largest is 4′ x 20′. We grow seasonal veggies and herbs year-round, from arugula to rhubarb. We have over 50 rain barrels (3000 gals), and 30 solar panels (zero electric bill). We’ve done all of the garden work ourselves (with a little hired help).
Arnie is looking for better corn and tomatoes this year. For Paula it’s avocados. Topics: building raised garden beds, pruning fruit trees, canning, drying, limoncello, plum brandy, rain barrels, solar electric, tools. The garden also includes aphids, cabbage worm, coddling moth, leaf miners, peach leaf curl, and snails!
Come and check out Arnie and Paula’s Menlo Park limoncello!
Even the smallest of lots can yield an edible bounty. Elaine and Mike wanted to maximize the edibles while keeping a clean look at this historic 1891-1892 house. Mike, a self-professed “fruitarian,” wanted to incorporate as much fruit as possible, whereas Elaine, an architect, wanted to make sure the garden layout was pleasing and looked good.
The 3000 square-foot lot holds three large corten steel planters for vegetables, a side-yard planter for herbs & lettuces, an old bathtub of strawberries, a six tree espalier, trellises for berries and grapes, crawling vines of passionfruit & kiwi, and another 6 fruit trees (feijoa, fig, apricot, plum, peach, paw-paw) sprinkled throughout. With a carefully planned irrigation system and a good team to help nourish/turn over the beds and prune the fruit trees, the garden produces a bounty that is difficult for this small family to keep up with!
Elaine and Mike’s garden was featured in Sunset Magazine April 2013.
Gwyn Murray has been gardening and growing food at home for more than 20 years. She has always focused on edibles, having been heavily influenced by Rosalind Creasy’s books on edible landscaping and Alice Waters’ efforts to teach children about growing and eating organic foods. She has kept bees since moving into the house. Unfortunately, she has directly experienced the effects of mites and colony collapse and is now even more determined to tend the bees and help the species survive!
Three years ago, the first flock of chickens arrived, followed by Albert and Victoria (the American Buff Geese and watch animals), Thelma and Louise (the Indian Runner ducks), and more chickens, plus rabbits, not to mention the regular domestic animals such as dogs, cats, lizards and box turtles. The garden has become a de facto petting zoo for neighborhood kids and church and school groups, which Gwyn sees as her way of teaching young children the importance of sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry. Gwyn’s mantra for her garden is “For me to grow it, it needs to be edible and tasty, useful and/or so dang beautiful I just have to have it!”
What Can One Person Do?
How can one person make a difference through sustainable living?
Well, actually one person – one ordinary person – can do quite a lot.Just ask Karen Harwell. Or better yet, visit her Dana Meadows Children’s Garden. Once it was an ordinary house and yard, but today it is a humming, buzzing, honey-making, quacking, egg-laying swirl of life and fragrance and color, and a haven for the neighborhood children.On just one sixth of an acre – a little postage stamp – every square inch is part of a permaculture experiment alive with interconnection. Duck manure nourishes the 19 fruit trees – avocadoes, grapefruits, cherries, peaches, lemons, apples, figs, etc. – something is ripe every month of the year.Karen created a babbling brook where the ducks swim and which provides habitat for dragonflies and other wildlife, plus serves as a protective barrier for the honeybee hive.
She starts seeds in the portable greenhouse for the summer and winter vegetable gardens.
Karen re-roofed the garage with photovoltaic shingles for generating electricity, heats the water on-site from the Sun, and waters the herb garden with rainwater from catchment barrels.
Karen demonstrates that sustainability is really a dance of delight, a chance to connect, and a way to come to life.
Composting and our three Cayuga ducks are the focus of our yard operations.
We are keeping ducks for two reasons: egg supply and the need for fertilizer, mulch and compost. All of the water that the ducks use, plus their bedding and manure are cycled through our system in the most efficient and tailored way that we can do given our yard’s specific conditions. We have more shade than sunny areas. Other than our vegetable beds, we have many native plants, and we rely on happy accidents and natural distribution to determine the best locations for many plants.
We grow edibles that give us the most return for small areas such as potatoes, garlic, cherry tomatoes and herbs and salad greens that are for both us and the ducks. In addition, we have fruit trees and berries that are the happy recipients of recycled duck pond water and straw. We gravitate toward perennial vegetables that can grow as much as possible year-after-year in part shade.
The edible footprint of this garden has grown, but the orange tree, Meyer lemon, and English walnut were already here 55 years ago when Sharon’s parents moved to this 1/3 acre property in Barron Park. Vegetables, chickens and “digging in the garden” were part of her childhood landscape. After moving back into the family home with her husband and children 20 years ago, she rejuvenated and expanded the backyard vegetable garden and it became part of their lives as well.
Sharon replaced the front lawn with native manzanitas and sages (no water required), and underplanted the redwood trees in the backyard with native huckleberries and ferns.
The main vegetable garden is laid out in 4′ wide beds that are watered by drip irrigation and by hand.
Sharon starts most of the garden’s seedlings in the greenhouse and then transplants them into the garden or gives them to friends. The garden is fed with home-grown compost and chicken manure. The red hen house in the rear of the garden was constructed of found materials and chicken wire; the homemade compost bins are just large hoops of rabbit fencing. Permanent plantings include asparagus, artichokes, berries, herbs, and more than 20 semi-dwarf fruit trees. Sharon seasonally rotates the annual vegetables through the beds.
The half-acre Common Ground Garden, a project of Ecology Action, serves as a regional demonstration project of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE (GB) method. The garden hosts classes for youth from local schools as well as adults, supports three school gardens, provides volunteer opportunities, and is open to the public. We seek to transform students’ and visitors’ relationship to food in their lives by inspiring and empowering them to explore mindful eating, to make healthy, sustainable and just food choices, and ultimately to grow their own food through biologically-intensive, more sustainable gardening. The children and adults who visit our garden encounter food as a source of pleasure, a cornerstone of culture, and a building block of community.
Three thousand square feet of vegetable and grain beds demonstrate the principles underlying biointensive gardening, including deep cultivation, close plant spacing, carbon farming, composting, and companion planting. This year we are growing four varieties of corn, a magnificent pink-tinged quinoa, amaranth, mammoth sunflowers, and a wide range of vegetables. Our students have planted a Hispanic Heritage Garden as well as a Sunflower House, and we have expanded our culinary and medicinal herb gardens and native plantings around the edges of the garden.
Lenox Farm is a small, family-owned farm in Los Altos Hills. Although a mere 7 minute walk to downtown Los Altos, when you’re on the property, you feel like you’re a million miles away, with sweeping views of the bay.
Three years ago, the owners sought to transform the once weed-infested land into terraced beds of annual and perennial vegetable crops, including a variety of fruit and citrus trees as well as berries of many kinds. They wanted their children to know and appreciate where food comes from and the hard work it takes to grow it. Located where wildlife are free to roam, it also meant having the farm co-exist among the lands’ natural dwellers.
A small flock of chickens live in a very roomy coop, and a beekeeper tends to the hives. There are plans in the works to acquire goats!
One of the best features of the farm is the ability to re-use common “waste” materials and distribute them between the chickens, the worm bin, and the compost bins. Plus, this past winter, the pruned berry canes were used as mulch for the paths.
The most prominent feature of Laura’s garden is a non-feature: the removal of a redwood tree that shaded most of the garden all afternoon. The garden came to life in 2009 when the Brewer’s moved into the house, but the back garden has really come to life this spring, with unobstructed sunshine. The small area adjacent to the front porch was converted to an herb garden this past winter. Just steps from the kitchen, it provides easy access to fresh herbs.
Laura has edibles in the front, back, and side yards, with Meyer lemon, blood orange, Valencia orange, Satsuma mandarin, Murcott mandarin, Tango tangerine, pomegranates, Fuyu and Hichaya persimmon trees, Black Mission and Panache fig trees, blueberries, blackberries, alpine strawberries, Flame seedless and Thompson seedless grapes along the side yard arbor, espaliered Fuji apple, Bing, Black Tartarian, and Montmorency cherry trees,
She also has vegetable beds with rotating veggies, currently loaded with over 30 varieties of tomatoes,. Three hens in the front yard have been a great source of neighborhood interest as well as providing eggs, entertainment, and compost.
Laura gives a special thanks to Deborah Stern for guiding her garden’s evolution and expanding her horizons this past year.
When the Hamilton’s bought their home in 1985, they inherited a park-like backyard with many mature fruit trees. They have replaced them as necessary and added new ones, too. They currently have apple, persimmon, apricot, peach, nectarine, cherry, pear, lemon, and orange trees.
Two years ago, Mary & Eric sheet-mulched the entire backyard using newspapers, cardboard, and redwood mulch in order to get rid of the lawn. As they have excavated to plant through the mulch, they have discovered moist, rich soil full of earthworms.
In winter, the Hamilton’s grow lettuce, arugula, chard, spinach, kale, radishes, peas, favas, and beets. In summer, they grow tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, pole beans, blueberries, and blackberries.
Their herb garden is surrounded by bricks from their former chimney. They use herbs year round and love that they can harvest only as much as needed.
All the different types of flowering plants attract insects and birds. They are currently hosting hives for two species of wild bees.
Mary & Eric’s three-bin compost system is built out of their children’s former swing set. Twenty years ago, Mary & Eric planted the drought-tolerant front garden. Besides focusing on edibles, they are adding California native plants in both the front and back.
Carol and Bob have enjoyed gardening together for many years, starting with 3 small beds in the back yard. Last year the Mathews expanded the garden to the front yard and blended their edibles with other landscaping to take advantage of the sun. They love the additional space and had great results with zucchini, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, parsley, and more. In winter, they grow broccoli, cauliflower, favas, peas, beets, radishes, and assorted greens.
Their friendly rabbit enjoys having fresh greens to munch on and her waste adds to the quality of the compost.
The past few years the Mathews have enjoyed seeding new varieties of tomato, basil, and cucumber plants. They had over 15 tomato plants last year and had fun making sauces and soups. They dry the extra herbs to give away for holiday gifts and love cooking with them.
The Mathews have 7 assorted citrus trees and apple, Asian pear, cherry and plum trees. They also enjoy blueberries, blackberries, artichokes in the front and back yards, collard trees, and an herb garden.
They recently acquired 2 barrel-type composters to reuse their yard trimmings plus an electric chipper to process the yard waste.
A wonderful variety of landscaping products.
Green residential and commercial projects.
Complimentary coffee available at tour registration
Biodynamic Compost…Healing our earth one bag at a time
Available at Common Ground
Premium garden soils, potting soils, mulches and fertilizers for every garden.
Available at Common Ground
Design, construction, irrigation, maintenance, hardscape and sustainable planting.
Landscaping architecture and construction with an ecological focus.
2158 Old Middlefield Way Mountain View, CA 94043
Lisa Van Dusen and John Kelly
Patricia and Frank Nichols
Friends of La Honda
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