AS: That American agriculture uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides annually; that’s about 4 pounds per every man, woman and child. Here in the Bay Area, where we’re supposedly a bunch of iPhone-toting treehuggers, every single creek is contaminated with high levels of pesticides, especially Diazinon, a pesticide that was banned for home use almost 10 years ago because of its toxicity to mammals. If our waterways in California are so polluted, it’s frightening to think what’s in the water in other states where environmental laws aren’t as stringent. Enough with the chemicals before we all end up in the wacky shack! Mostly, I want to do this for my son. If we don’t clean up our act environmentally, the next generation will think their parents were so lame.
CE: Why aren’t you a fan of the lawn?
AS: As my soil scientist pal, Professor Stephen Andrews at UC Berkeley, says, “If you’re growing a lawn in California, God help you!” We have no water to waste on lawns in California. The water department’s new slogan is “Brown is the new green.” They’re asking homeowners to stop watering their lawns in the summer. (I promise they will come back to life with the winter rains.) Not only are lawns a pollinator’s (birds, honeybees, beneficial insects) desert, but they’re also giant pesticide guzzlers. They consume 90 million pounds of pesticides and herbicides annually. For a piece of turf! In the 1940s, the government asked its citizens to grow victory gardens to help feed the country. There were 250 victory garden plots in Golden Gate Park alone. Then came the 1950s; suburbia, gigantic front and back lawns, DDT spray trucks, chemical fertilizer dependence and the beginning of fast food restaurants. I took out my front lawn a few years ago. I planted natives and drought tolerant plants and I’ve never been happier. For more on organic lawn care or to get rid of your cranky, rusty lawn, visit: http://www.safelawns.org and http://www.lawnreform.org.
CE: Any tips for novice homeowners growing organic vegetables this spring?
AS: Wherever you live, before planting vegetables or fruit, find an area that receives 6-8 hours of sun. (Leafy vegetables can be happy with less sunlight, 4-6 hours.) If this is a new plot of soil that has never been amended, you might want to do a soil test first. This will tell you the pH of your soil. Most vegetables grow best in a ph of 6-7, which is a bit on the acidic side. You can find a simple soil test kit at your local plant nursery. Your new mantra should be “compost, compost, compost.” Compost will slowly feed your plants and retain water as well. A thin layer of mulch (leaves, straw) on top of that will keep your crops warm in the early spring and cool in the summer. If you’re not using compost in your yard, I’d rather you don’t garden at all. Try knitting or namedropping instead. Plant some herbs and flowers such as nasturtium, Shasta daisy and yarrow, nearby your food. This will help to invite beneficial bugs to eat up any pests that come to visit your crops. Be prepared to be a doting parent. Growing vegetables requires patience and attention. Keep an eye out for pests and make sure you’re watering consistently. Using drip irrigation is best. If all else fails, go support your local organic farmer at the farmers’ market who works to hard 24/7 to grow healthy, safe food for you and your family.
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