Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Victory Gardens for the 21st Century

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It’s been about 25 years or so ago that I started my first food/flower garden. I had my first big apartment with a patio and I grew tomatoes, peppers, roses, hibiscus, sage and salvia. I spent that last 17 years teaching people how to grow their own food in their native, Xeriscaped and perennial flowerbeds, not just in square foot gardening formation. Permaculture and sustainable landscape practices begin with using what is already working on your property, collecting rainwater, planting native and adapted plants and trees only, amending the soil you currently have, practicing IPM and planting only food and plants for our hardiness zones.

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When my honey and I bought our first home, I was on a strict budget with 2 Autistic children, so my garden not only became a huge source of cheap, fresh food, but also Much needed therapy. I planted fruit trees, olives, tomatoes, peppers, Swiss chard, kale, pumkin, watermelon, cantaloupe, vines such as berries and grapes, herbs, veggies and every type of food I could find for Central Texas. Eventually, I figured out what was worth the effort and what I should be getting from the farmers market instead. The most important thing I learned was to be organic and compost like nobodies business.

Growing my own food and gardening in general has always been a part of my identity. My grandparents had a huge garden with tons of veggies, babied by my grandpa and flowers showered with loving attention from what was referred to as “piddling”, by my aptly named, Grandma Rose. They taught me to grow what you eat, stay on the path (don’t compact the soil) and take good care of your garden. As 2nd generation Italian Americans, it was an honor to have your own land and growing food and flowers is one of the most beautiful ways to honor the Earth and nature, food’s just a bonus!

While Victory Gardens are specific to the wartime need for food, the truth is that this practice was used in ancient Roman, Asian and Myan cultures as a form of self preservation and self sufficiency. Original settlers originally grew all types of food to supply the need for their cultures and diets. It wasn’t until agriculture became a government run business that we began to rely on fewer sources for food which began the chemical warfare on humanity, we are all concerned about today.

The best way to assure what you’re eating is safe, is to grow it yourself, then supplement from an organic source like a farmers market. Many people assume they’ll need a whole science kit and raised beds but the truth is you can grow just about anything in your drought tolerant flower bed. Additionally, everything from onions, to herbs and fruit or veggies produces some type of flower along the way so you’re aiding your perennial plants by supplying food for pollination all year if possible. This is where a learning curve of summer and winter crops will allow you to rotate space as needed. If your not comfortable with dormant space in winter, there are cover crops like peas that improve the soil while providing food.

The point of the Victory Garden is to grow as much as you can all year in the space you have. It could be the roof, a patio, a courtyard, sun to shade, some type of food will grow. Never plant in old railroad ties or anything treated with chemicals and that goes for rain barrels too. Only untreated landscape timber’s, stone or metal should be used for edible garden borders.

Organic fertilizers and weed treatments are centuries old methods of managing our land in an ecological way. When we introduce chemical to our soil, for either pest control or fertilizer, we are damaging the health of the soil and our bodies. Synthetic fertilizers are bound with salt that renders the natural nutrients in your soil insoluble to your plants and trees. Weed and Feed is a “strait killer” of all things living and says it right on the bag in teeny, tiny print. Broadcast of pest controls and weed and feed combos cast a wide web and do as much harm as good by killing unnecessary plants and insects. Additionally, the timings off; you apply weed control in fall/winter and feed in spring when there is new growth. Below is a glorious example of food and flora working in harmony. More than half the landscape below, is edible. You’re looking at fruiting plum, apple, nectarine, pomegranate, mint and bee balm ground cover, edible flowers, and plants.

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IPM, or integrated Pest Management, is the practice of literally walking through your space often, hitting problems as soon as you see them by removal or isolated organic spray/application. When that doesn’t work, or a plant is a continuous problem, you bring out the big guns, or you simply remove the plant. If you notice year after year that a certain crop or plant has issues, try something else in its place or you could simply be growing a host plant for problems. The truth is that some pests can be escorted off of your property like bad quests, others may already be under attack by a predator you don’t recognize. Learn to recognize your allies, that comes with some homework on who’s, who.

Lastly, it’s important to address your light, or lack of. People with little, to no sun, may be veggie-challenged, but there are herbs and some greens that do beautifully in shade. Designing your space around the sunny area may also be a cool way to approach it and a little help from a designer could go a long way.

Finally, there are no rules to edible gardening when it comes to creativity. As long as you’re organic, and your beds are full of sh*t, (compost;) you’re off to a good start. Obviously, if deer are an issue, you may need to plan for a space that isn’t a salad bar to them and the squirrels and there are a ton of DIY solutions such as PVC and chicken wire that can work in a pinch. The rest is a science experiment and you have to be willing to lose and try again. The benefit is a sense of accomplishment, a sense of wellness and some damn good onions if you’re lucky!

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Lisa LaPaso

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

2 Comments

  1. sandi

    Lisa, is it to late in zone b to add corn gluten to the garden?

    • Sandi, once it’s in the low 80’s it becomes ineffective for weeds but can still kill fire ants by taking them to the queen and workers who cannot digest it. 😵

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