Lawn Gone, Garden Grown

With the increased popularity of home gardens, more and more homeowners are converting their lawns into productive gardens. Local residents Libby Dresel and John Brazil have done just that in their front yard at 307 Loreto. If you have seen their house, no doubt you’ve noticed the transformation and wondered what’s going on there.

John is a native of Mountain View. His family has been here for five generations, originally farming and tending orchards. Libby has been a gardener since childhood. They grew tired of the work, chemicals, and especially the water consumption involved in maintaining a lawn, so they decided to convert it into a garden where they could grow the fresh veggies they love.

They needed to use the front lawn because their backyard is already full of trees. Their front yard receives full sun all day long and is the right size for their growing needs. According to Libby, “The best part has been the many nice people who have stopped to ask us what we are doing and to share their own gardening stories. If the veggies were not out front we would be missing all of that.”

She took the extra step of creating two smaller beds that are adjacent to the large beds but at a lower level. This makes the large beds feel less boxy and gives a more professional look to their creation.

They are serious recyclers, and used their recycling skills in very clever ways. They first covered the lawn with cardboard to kill the grass, but not with just any cardboard. They realized they had a lot of space to cover and needed cardboard that could stand up to the rigors of gardening. They hit on the idea of using old bicycle boxes from local bike shops. These boxes have proven to be a good idea because they are quite large to begin with and are made of thicker cardboard.

Their next recycling coup was to pick up straw bales that had been used as barriers at a bike race in San Jose.  The process of assembling the beds was as simple as lining the bales up next to one another.

Finding quality soil with good drainage was a high priority. They wanted to use recycled soil but in the end purchased a high quality soil mix to fill the beds. This purchase was the most expensive part of the project by far.

While considering how to construct their raised beds, John and Libby took a class on raised bed gardening at Love Apple Farm in Ben Lomond. They used the bedbuilding techniques they learned in the class and also followed the Love Apple Farm method for growing top quality tomatoes. This involves a very deep planting hole and the use of fish heads, some crushed aspirin, a few eggshells and worm castings. Personally, I am eager to see how the tomatoes respond to this plant growing magic.  Read details at www.growbetterveggies.com (Select “Re-post: How I Plant a Tomato” under the Recent Posts heading on the right-side menu.)

So far Libby has put in basil, tomatoes, peppers, squash and a cucumber. She has also planted flowers specifically chosen to at-tract the birds and the bees. Still to come are ornamental flowers, as well as beans planted on a unique recycled trellis.

Libby and John have found a way to create a practical, visually appealing and inviting garden space that we can all enjoy. If you see them out enjoying their creation be sure to say hello. Since they now have ten tomato plants thriving, it’s likely they will have an extra tomato or two that they will be happy to share with you

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