This is primarily an edible garden with raised redwood beds in both the front yard and the backyard. This homeowner is a garden designer and water conservation specialist.
The homeowners converted the front garden about 12 years ago, starting with the removal of lawn. They stopped watering it about 15 years ago and by the 3rd year the crabgrass stopped greening up so they had their gardener remove it and then waited about 4 months before deciding that an edible garden was the best use of the full sun exposure they get in the front. They added a fence when everyone said, “People will steal your food.” No one has stolen food but the fence’s open wire panels are great for climbing beans and sweet pea.
After 12 years, the front garden redwood beds are still holding up. They’ve added a new bed to the front with growing space on top and storage space below. This bed is raised so we can still gown in that spot without disturbing the roots of the fruit trees. A water feature’s lovely sound blocks the street noise.
The back garden has been in production for seven years. With limited full sun in the back yard it was a challenge to place the raised beds in a location where they could maximize the full sun exposure.
There are fruit trees all around the garden: Anna Apples in the front; a Dwarf Avocado, Fuji Apple and a Surinam Cherry (a tropical species that does not require a chill to produce fruit—and produces all year!) along the driveway; five varieties of fig, a finger lime and a contorted Jujube in front. The large tree in the front garden is in the manzanita family, Arbutus ‘Marina’ (common name Strawberry Tree) and yes, the fruit is edible. Blueberries are planted in pots and in the ground in the front along with some artichokes and capers.
They use the front parkway and pockets where there’s space to plant species that bring in bees to pollinate the edible plants: native sage, Galvesia along with Mediterranean lavenders and other ornamental flower plants fill out the year with blossoms. As they’ve added native plants and flower ornamentals, the bee population has increased. They planted fennel for the Swallowtail butterflies; the young feed on that and on the parsley in a nearby pot. When they mature they attach to the fence panel to transform into butterflies. They also have food plants for Monarchs along the driveway and in the front parkway.
The owners are often asked how much work it takes to maintain the garden. Their answer is, “Lots, but it’s time we want to spend outside so having something to do that also provides us food is something we do not consider work.”
The garden has evolved: an additional raised bed in front, automatic irrigation in the back and the addition of a play area for their new granddaughter.
The front is watered by hand, the back has an automatic drip system designed for edible gardens.
Turf/grass in this neighborhood uses approximately 44 inches of water per square foot per year if conditions are perfect, but with compacted soil, inefficient irrigation systems and other obstacles typical of turf it can use twice that—and most people, not knowing how much water is needed, give it three times what it needs. If you convert those 44 inches to gallons, that’s about 27 gallons per square foot.The front grass was about 600 square feet total which required over 16,000 gallons per year, in perfect condition, but over 30,000 with typical issues. Back then, they didn’t know what they were doing, so they probably gave it 50,000 gallons each year until they finally just turned off the sprinklers.
The edible garden requires about the same amount of water per planted square foot as grass, but the total square foot of planted area is much less than the carpet of grass. The owners say, “Grass gives us nothing; edible gardens are a good use of our scarce water supply.” They estimate that removing the grass cut their outdoor use of water by over 50%.