Garden Sustainability


Burpee Super Sweet 100 Tomatoes Garden Sustainability:  Recently a friend of mine, Jane, posted a link to me in Facebook about the cost of g...

Burpee Super Sweet 100 Tomatoes

Garden Sustainability: 

Recently a friend of mine, Jane, posted a link to me in Facebook about the cost of gardening vs the return on investment (ROI). It's a good point. Maybe you can make money on your garden by creating a blog and then placing Amazon ads on the site, but if this blog is a good indicator, count on an annual income of 31 cents. I don't think that will buy me five magic beans. So how do you really get a return on your investment?

Lucky you, if you live in a place that only rains at night, and the sun shines all day. If that is not possible, you may be in need of water during at least part of the growing season. That will effect your return on investment. Just do not waste water irrigating your sidewalk, patio, or street. 

When we lived in Saudi Arabia, our home was one of 27 with gardens and lawns, all nourished with "grey-water." If you are not familiar with the term, grey water is partially treated sewage water that does not contain fecal material that is safe for plants, but not safe and/or appealing for human consumption. It smelled bad.

Another water option is to store rain in barrels or cisterns, and use it as needed in the garden. Surprising illegal in some parts of the country, but not in California. In Kathmandu, we stored water on the roof, and in a very large tank (as in what could hold a water tanker full of water) under the driveway. 

Irrigation (for anybody)

Set up a SMART drip irrigation system. Even if you think you live in a place that gets regular rain, there is no such thing as "regular" anymore. I have five Rainbird valves that turn on/off to control water flow to the gardens. Those are controlled by a Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller that is hooked up to my WiFi. The system is easy to setup online and I can control it from anywhere in the world. It also automatically adjusts according to the season or the current weather by monitoring a local radio station.


I bought a bunch of green onions from my local Krogers (Ralphs) last February and I'm still using them. I cut off the original root tips and pressed them into the soil.  

Now when I need green onions, I just cut them off at the soil level and the green stems return.

Lots of recycled green onions

Do not buy "seed" potatoes. Have a "Bad" potato? Put that spud into the ground. In the photo below you see growth from the spud that was put into the ground last February. Looks as though we will have a large harvest of potatoes from a small spud that could have been thrown away.

Potato Vines

Save your seeds

Your agrarian ancestors did this and so can you. Let part of your crop go to seed. Collect the seeds and use them for the next planting.

Cilantro gone to seed 

Seeds collected for the next crop

It use to be that farmers would exchange seeds to increase bio-diversity. But now seed collection and exchange is not ok if the seeds have been patented. Heirloom varieties are usually legally safe to collect and exchange as they are not associated with large scale agri-business. 

Going for a hike? Take some baggies and a marker pen, you may find interesting seeds along the way. I have found some seeds at a nearby botanical garden. There are a number of interesting plants in the arroyo behind the townhouse as the neighborhood has been the residence of University of California professors over the last forty years, also eager collectors.

A great site to learn more about seed collection and exchange is the Seed Savers Organization in Iowa

Ignore Expiration Dates

Most home gardeners will never come close to using all of the seeds in a package. Yet most of the seed packages on my seed wall above have an "expired" expiration date. If the seeds are kept in a dry environment they should last a long time. The fifty seeds that came with the Burpee Super Sweet 100 Tomato package should last for years. This year I planted 4 of them.

Grow from Cuttings

My mother was notorious for snipping plants she liked on walks, and then trying to get those cuttings to grow in her garden. Here at the TownHouse Garden I have done that with geraniums, begonias, and hydrangeas. 

Geranium roots started from a cutting and then put into soil. Simple!
Why buy from a nursery when a cutting will do.

Dig up and store your bulbs

This may seem an unnecessary step for those of us without a severe winter, but dig up your bulbs and corms. They can often be separated to multiply your plants for next year. For example, I like Ranunculus.

I paid $20 for twelve corms this winter. Now that the plants have grown, bloomed and died, it is time to dig them up and collect the corms. It is quite likely that the twelve will become 24 to 50 corms for next year's planting. 

The teeth like pieces at the base of the stem make up the corm.


The word reminds me of the Vikings shouting in the movie the 13th Warrior, "Der Verm!" These "verms" are not going to devastate your village, rather they are hungry creatures that will turn your bio-garbage into usable, healthy soil for your garden. Soil at the TownHouse is expensive. Curtis at the Lincoln School in Kathmandu turned me on to vermiculture, or composting with worms. 

I purchased a Worm Factory 360 from Amazon along with Uncle Jim's Red Worms. 

The worm factory is advertised as "odor free" which is probably correct, however I set this up in late June in an isolated corner outside. It got terribly hot, and the worms were neglected. They died, and as most corpses do, they smelled. I'll try again. Even with my poor efforts, I got a quart of garden soil.

Biological Control of Pests

Do not spend money on pesticides. I have written in other post regarding pest management. Unlike chemicals, biological control is self-sustaining. Sometimes I will help insect predators by blocking ants, or I physically move predators from one plant to another that needs help.

Starting a garden is expensive. Maintaining a garden takes work. But as time goes on, your Return On Investment will increase, if not for the food you produce or the flowers you enjoy, then for the simple joy of helping things grow.



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At Home and Away: Garden Sustainability
Garden Sustainability
At Home and Away
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