Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Useful Landscaping

One of the themes of our “Extreme Simplicity” book was that anyone on any suburban plot of land can be a producer, producing not just some food, medicine, and energy, but also producing a good and uplifting atmosphere for people and wildlife.  This theme of grow-what-you-need was also continued in my more-recent “Self-Sufficient Home” book. We are seeing that more and more people are getting this message as they are removing lawns and putting in gardens, herbs, and native plants instead.

We recently did a Dirttime video on the subject of useful trees and bushes in your backyard. 
(If you’re unfamiliar with Dirttime, go to and check out our forum and videos.)

In one of the recent videos, Alan Halcon and I discussed the fact that anyone with a landscaped yard is spending time, water, and money to keep alive a variety of plants.  Our position is that each of us should be a part of the solution to our planetary woes, and one way to do that is to grow some of the things we need. 

During the recent Dirttime-Youtube video, we shared several plants that grow in my yard.  Each one is drought tolerant, useful in some way, requires very little care, and is attractive as a landscaping plant.

Pineapple guava are already frequently planted as ornamentals, though most of the fruit is just left to rot. These flowers attract bees, and the granular fruits are great eaten as-is. The plants require very little care.  I have seen them in old homesteads in the Angeles National Forest where they have not been tended for over 60 years.

A loquat is not a citrus.  It has a large leaf, and is one of the first fruit trees to produce.  The fruit is golden colored with a large brown seed.  They are very easy to grow with a seed, and again requires no maintenance.

Lemon verbena is a drought-tolerant perennial herb which produces fragrant elongated leaves.  Though not a food, it can be used to season fish and other foods, and to make “lemonade.”
The California bay tree is a native that grows along streams in the wild.  It is easy grown from a seed, and is an easy-to-care-for evergreen tree. The leaves are used for tea and seasoning in Italian cooking.  The leaves are also put into cupboards to repel bugs.  The nuts in the fall are also edible, once roasted.  Additionally, the long branches of bay can be cut and made into bows.  It is one of the preferred local woods for bows.

My mother grew geraniums because they required no care, were drought-tolerant, and produced colorful flowers. Get the fragrant varieties that can be made into teas.

Society garlic has become very popular in urban landscaping. I’ve seen it around the Rose Bowl and in the little strips around strip malls.  It looks like a flat-leaved onion, and produces a lavendar flower.  It grows easily and spreads quickly.  I have grown them for years, and our family often added the leaves to soups, stews, salads, and egg dishes.

Aloe vera is another drought tolerant plant that is all-too-easy to grow.  Plant one and soon you’ll have a dozen.  They are great for cactus bed or borders, and they produce a flower spike once a year.  The fresh gel of the aloe is excellent for poison oak rashes, burns, cuts, sunburns, and many skin conditions.  

These are just a few examples of how we can all be producers and provide some of our daily needs with the flora just outside the door.


mousiemarc said...

I have began doing this very thing. I'm in Oregon. I plant cultivated blue berries Salal thimble berry Oregon grapes coastal and wood strawberry just to name a few. I have actually purchased the seeds of typical garden weeds. Chick weed black mustard and such. My wife won't let me rip up the lawn. Oh well I work worth what agree on. Lots you can do with a quarter acre.

Kenzie Rowan said...

You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.
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