World Food Day Guest Post - Urban Artichoke

(This is a re-post from 1 year ago)
In an effort to promote sustainable and self sufficiency practices, Turfhugger is celebrating World Food Day by providing tips, tricks and experience of those who love growing food. Our first post is by Patricia Larenas, aka Urban Artichoke: Part-time technology worker, part-time urban micro-farmer in Silicon Valley California. Her mission is to spread the love of sustainable gardening and save the planet one garden at a time, in partnership with the local ecosystem.

 Flowers enhance edible landscaping and attract pollinators.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a "turfhugger".  But I couldn’t resist the invitation to submit ideas for multiuse purposes for golf courses. I applaud Turfhugger for his efforts to promote sustainable practices for golf courses, and I’m excited about the multiuse concept. Some of the well-known objections to golf courses are that: the large surface area of lawn is a monoculture lacking in diversity and results in loss of habitat that requires significant resources to maintain (water, fertilizer, etc.). Furthermore, the use of synthetic fertilizers cause problems when they leach and runoff into water systems such as streams, ponds or groundwater.

It’s an exciting challenge to think creatively about how to transform these negatives by substituting positive practices that allow for recreational use.  My own vision for such a multiuse course would be to incorporate edible landscaping, plus native and beneficial plants. Ideally these would be grown in “islands” throughout the golf course grounds.  With the right mix of plants these islands would have a mix of beautiful flowering plants that invite beneficial insects, birds, and restore diversity and promote ecological balance to the property. This vision demands organic practices because to nurture ecological balance and grow healthy, fresh food for consumption is not compatible with the use of herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizing methods.

The islands for planting could be created for example, by the use of sandwich composting. This method is a simple non-labor-intensive way to create beautiful loamy soil suited for planting. The compost sandwich is created by layering cardboard, newspaper, green material (lawn clippings, clippings from landscaping) and adding topsoil and manure if available. Each layer is moistened with water to create the ideal conditions for the breakdown of the materials, and given a few months time the bed prepares itself. There is no need to turn over the bed and work it into the base layer of soil. If immediate planting is desirable, a topsoil layer of at least 4 inches can be added to the top and planted immediately. I love the satisfaction of knowing that I am recycling cardboard and newspaper in the most useful way imaginable- to create life-giving soil. The method I followed came from Chris McLaughlin’s book, “The Idiot’s Guide to Composting”.

 I’m also a big fan of planting flowers among my vegetables and fruit. This not only makes for attractive landscaping, but the flowers attract pollinators.  There is also evidence that planting certain flowers and herbs in the vegetable garden deters certain pests and is beneficial for the growth and health of the edibles (calendula, marigolds, nasturtiums, borage, mint, basil, chamomile, etc). In our garden at home we have planted a variety of culinary herbs and our garden is alive with native and honeybees, which are attracted to the flowering herbs. My husband and I are foodies and we have been spoiled by the abundance of fresh herbs outside our kitchen door to use in our meals (as a plus, many of these are quite easy to grow, and are either perennials or self-seeding).

 Additionally, landscaping with edible plants can serve dual purposes. One of my favorite features in our backyard is our pergola (pictured here), which serves as a grape arbor that provides shade and an outdoor dining area.  We have two varieties of table grapes that are only two years old and very prolific, that create a lovely outdoor “green room”. For a screen or border, several types of berry vines can be used, and fruit trees are a perfect way to provide shady rest areas and add interest to the landscape.

And now, what to do with all that beautiful food? In line with the concept of multiuse and to give back to the community, the extra bounty of edibles can be donated to a local food bank. Sharing healthful and delicious bounty with the needy adds a special touch to the concept of a multiuse landscape. And if gardeners are needed, why not have the islands of edibles be maintained by volunteers that get to share the harvest?

There are many resources for sustainable organic practices, and one of my personal favorites is Common Ground Garden Supply and Education Center in Palo Alto, Ca. 
 For more information on edible landscaping and links to resources I invite you to view my blog at:


Great post Patricia! See that wasn't so painful being a turfhugger for a day was it? LOL.

Awww- I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity :)