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LJWorld Green

Food crops need not be confined to single area of yard

Bio-intensive gardening allows use of whole property

John Henry/Journal-World Photo.Julie Vernon, a north Lawrence resident, is shown in front of her home garden. She has been growing vegetables at her home for thee years, and growing flowers for five years. She said when her garden is producing food, she can, for the most part, eat food grown solely in her garden.

John Henry/Journal-World Photo.Julie Vernon, a north Lawrence resident, is shown in front of her home garden. She has been growing vegetables at her home for thee years, and growing flowers for five years. She said when her garden is producing food, she can, for the most part, eat food grown solely in her garden.

August 22, 2008

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Bio-intensive gardening

North Lawrence gardener Julie Vernon gives a tour of her yard, where she mixes and matches plants and flowers to keep her stocked with food all summer long. Enlarge video

It requires a double take to realize Julie Vernon's well-landscaped lawn and backyard are actually her garden. Mixed among the shrubs, trees and flowers are strawberries, squash, sweet potatoes, eggplant, berries, garlic and even grape vines.

It's enough to keep Vernon's pantry stocked all summer long.

Vernon, who heads the Lawrence Sustainability Network's gardening group, follows a horticulture practice known as bio-intensive gardening.

An organic system that has been around in some form for thousands of years, bio-intensive gardening focuses on producing high yields on small amounts of land.

The modern-day version was cultivated in Northern California by John Jeavons, author of "How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine."

The technique involves deeply digging the garden's dirt, composting and placing plants nears crops that thrive off one another.

By packing plants into her garden, Vernon doesn't have to weed or water as much. She has planted loud, bright flowers to attract bees to pollinate and aromatic herbs to repel pests.

For larger crops, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, she has a spot in a local community garden just a few blocks away.

Each year, Vernon's garden gets bigger. Recently, she opened up a new patch around a telephone pole on the outskirts of her property. Around it are sweet potatoes, oregano, sage and flowers.

"You can use your whole yard, not just your backyard for growing vegetables," Vernon said.

Jennifer Smith, Douglas County horticulture extension agent, said a recent scare over the safety of tomatoes and peppers has renewed interest in growing your own food. Even those with no land are considering growing vegetables out of container gardens, she said.

When planting crops close together, Smith said gardeners need to pay attention to the amount of nutrients each plant requires. That means not cramming a tomato plant next door to a potato plant.

Instead, slow-growing plants should be matched with fast-growing ones or deep-rooted plants with shallow-rooted ones.

Smith urges gardeners not to be wary of mixing vegetables with flowers.

"You stick a tomato plant in there and it absolutely has a nice look to it," she said.

Vernon, who grew up with cherry trees and strawberries in her backyard, said she likes the security of knowing she can grow her own food. It's like an insurance policy.

"With the escalating price of gasoline and the need to go local, it just makes sense to start in your garden," Vernon said.

Comments

ForThePeople 6 years, 4 months ago

I love this article, as I too plant veggies and herbs in the beds with my flowers. I find this an effective way to fully utilize my gardening space.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 4 months ago

Question: Has it been determined that it is safe to garden in developed areas? Are edibles potentially tainted by toxins which can leach from building materials (e.g., arsenic-treated lumber), lawn chemicals, etc.?Ink-wiring minds want to know....

profwriter 6 years, 4 months ago

tan-reas I've been working on the same sort of concept -- built 10 raised beds plus a berry patch. Beds are oversized at 5' wide, 8'-16' long & 10-12'' deep. I've also built my own plant supports/trellises with the largest being 8' wide & 6.5' tall...all 12 are made of cedar in its natural state & fastened with stainless steel screws.My garden is now just one yr old with much growth ahead but she's thriving beautifully. Julie I'd LOVE to connect, didn't know there's a group here locally! Oh the things I could learn! Squash bug & sanity control come to mind!!!

tribalzendancer 6 years, 4 months ago

nice work Julie. : )here's some great online videos related to growing your own food and community building: http://www.filmsforaction.org/films/?Subject=12

George_Braziller 6 years, 4 months ago

Sage, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, peppers, and eggplant are wonderful (and beautiful) in the front garden. In the winter the peppers and eggplant may be gone but you can always go out, brush off the snow, and still have fresh herbs for that roasted chicken or pot of soup. The flavor isn't as intense as during the summer, but it's still better than the dried stuff you get at the grocery store.

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