Sustainable Choices

Grow Your Own Food

Carbon Impact:
Money Savings:
Health Helper:

Watching a plant transform from seed to plant to fruit can be one of the most amazing experiences of all. With a little time, water, soil, and patience, you can bring this miracle to your own backyard: a vegetable garden. A diligent gardener can keep his fridge stocked with fresh, ultra-local produce throughout the growing season. Start today with a pot, a seed, and a little love.

Tips & Tricks
If you don’t have space in your yard, try potted plants and window-boxes. You’d be surprised how much lettuce you can grow in a small space.

Tired of watering that lawn. Replace it with vegetables! If you have a lawn that you don’t use, why not put that soil and those sprinklers to good use?

Landscape with vegetables. Vegetable plants come in a wonderful variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Make your garden beautiful and tasty at the same time.

Start small for the first season. As you become comfortable growing your own food, you can begin to add more crops and experiment with new methods.

Web & Print Resources
General gardening resources:

School garden programs:

Window box salad:,20633,1212043,00.html

Food Not Lawns organizations and resources:

How to Grow More Vegetables (Than you thought ever possible, on less land than you can imagine), by John Jeavons
Rodale’s Garden Answers—Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs: At-a-glance Solutions for Every Gardening Problem, by Fern Marshall Bradley
Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community, by H. C. Flores

Personal Story
This material is drawn from the San Francisco Chronicle article: “Back(yard) to the land: Family grows its meals on tiny urban lot” by Justin Clark (July 22, 2006).

For most people, eating organic means a trip to the local whole foods store and, often, a hit to their wallets. For the Dervaes family, eating organic requires only a trip to the garden. The family of four raises 3 tons of food each year—enough to supply three-quarters of their diet and maintain a thriving organic produce business to boot.

Jules Dervaes, along with his three grown children, lives on 1/5 of an acre in suburban Pasadena and cultivates about half the property, or 1/10 of an acre. Given that the average American's diet requires 1.2 acres of farmland per person, the Dervaeses are eating quite well off one-fiftieth of the land the rest of us require.

"Anyone can do this, if they have dedication," says Dervaes of his wildly productive garden. "Don't be afraid to start small with something like herbs that you know will survive." Most of the Dervaeses' backyard was initially covered in concrete, so they experimented with multistory container plantings, with each plant occupying its own "story" in the skyscraper (for instance, broccoli, a tall, strong plant, paired with endive, a low-growing salad green. Dervaes plants three or sometimes four crops vertically, using trellises to support vine plants that grow above their downstairs neighbors.

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Fun Facts

On average, 50–70% of American household water is used outdoors (watering lawns, washing cars). Source

Lawns cover over 25 million acres of America—an area the size of Pennsylvania. Source

On one tenth of an acre, you can grow enough to feed 1 person the average U.S. diet—using biointensive growing methods. Source

A radish takes only 3 weeks to go from seed to your plate.