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EDIBLE ESTATES regional prototype garden #2: LOS ANGELES, california


See the video and the Edible Estates: Edition #2 informational brochure

Owners: Michael, Jennifer, Cecilia, and June Foti
Location: Lakewood, California
Sponsored by: Armstrong Garden Centers
USDA plant hardiness zone: 10b
Established: Memorial Day weekend, May 27–29, 2006
Front yard exposure: Northeast
Size of front yard: 38 x 20 feet



More than 50 percent of domestic water use in Los Angeles is used to keep lawns green.

The City of Los Angeles has only about 10 percent of the recommended eight to ten acres of parks and open space for every one thousand residents.
—Andrew L. Roth and Emilie L. Vander Haar, "Media Standing of Urban Parkland Movements: The Case of Los Angeles' Taylor Yard, 1985–2001," City and Community, 5:2, 2006 

In 2002, Los Angeles County’s top-producing agricultural products were ornamental trees and shrubs—valued at $118,240,000.
— Gerhard F. Thorton, ed., Los Angeles Almanac, 2004

Since it was settled by native humans thousands of years ago, the Los Angeles region has always been a hospitable area to the production of food. It was once home to the largest concentration of wine vineyards in the country and the capital of citrus production until the population boom and subsequent water wars of the 1920s. Land use was still more than 20 percent agricultural in 1969. While the population of Los Angeles County rose almost 50 percent in the 1950s, the county sacrificed three thousand acres of farmland a day.

Today urban agriculture remains only as an occasional novelty or (in the case of the South Central Farm, which in 2006 was bull-dozed to make way for warehouses) an inconvenience whose value is unrecognized by the march of urban “progress.” This city was once a combination of fertile flood plain and low chaparral; now 90 percent of it is covered with pavement or buildings. Lawns carpet more than 1.6 million acres in California, and the emissions produced by lawnmowers contribute significantly to its poor air quality.

A few other factors make Los Angeles a perfect place in which to introduce an Edible Estate. The lawn is an easy target in a region that receives no rain for most of the year. The semi-public front lawn in particular is ripe for reconsideration in a city with an extreme introverted focus on the private house as defensible space, and a corresponding lack of accessible public green space.

Los Angeles is the creator, capital, and iconic face of sprawl. The American dream of every house presented on the ornamental carpet of manicured green lawn was brought to the West Coast in the 1950s with the iconic housing development of Lakewood, home to this Edible Estates regional prototype garden. The city of Lakewood comprised of the first large suburban housing developments in the United States, built concurrently with Levittown, New York. Lakewood lies south of Los Angeles and was constructed on former agricultural land. Here the Lakewood Park Company introduced assembly-line housing developments to California,  constructing 17,500 homes on 3,500 acres in little over a year at the rate of about one thousand homes per month. In the last three months of 1950, twenty-five families moved to Lakewood per day.

After six months of searching for just the right house and family for the Los Angeles edition of Edible Estates, the Foti family in Lakewood was selected for the project. Michael and Jennifer did have some concerns about what their neighbors would think. They wanted to make sure that the new garden was a gracious and welcoming gesture. During the previous few years the Fotis had established a modest but serious vegetable garden and chicken coop in the backyard.  The entire Foti family, including daughters Cecilia (then age thirteen) and June (then age six), was excited about the prospect of ripping out the lawn to create a space in which to grow their own food.



Over the weekend of the Memorial Day holiday, May 27–29, 2006, we planted the garden with a steady stream of local volunteers, some of them friends and some who heard about the project and just wanted to help out and be part of the process. Here’s what we planted in that little 760 square-foot space previously occupied by the lawn: artichokes /  Shishito peppers /  Armenian cucumbers /  red bell peppers /  jalapeño peppers /  ivory peppers /  cayenne peppers /  Gypsy peppers /  Purple Beauty peppers /  chervil / fennel / chamomile /  collards / honeydew melons /  chives /  yellow wax beans / red onions / green bunching onions /  bush beans /  sorrel / Maui onions /  Big Max pumpkins /  Millionaire eggplants /  Habanera peppers / Black Beauty eggplants / small sugar pumpkins / Anaheim peppers / English thyme / variegated thyme /  French thyme /  purple sage / sage /  Magic Mountain basil /  White Beauty eggplants /  stevia / Super Sweet tomatoes / Champion tomatoes / Momotaro tomatoes /  Brandywine tomatoes / chocolate bell peppers /  Lemon Boy tomatoes / Barbecue rosemary /  Greek oregano /  Italian oregano /  tarragon /  creeping thyme /  lemon balm / curled parsley /  variegated oregano /  dwarf curry  /  lemon cucumbers /  Japanese cucumbers /  patty pan cucumbers /  Bush Champion cucumbers / Crimson Sweet watermelons /  raspberries /  boysenberry /  pluots  /  grapes /  Santa Rosa plums /  figs /  Asian pears /  Katy apricots / Flavor Delight apricots /  Snow Queen nectarines /  Panamint nectarines /  Mexican Pear guavas /  golden apples /  July Elberta peaches /  kumquats /  pink lemons /  Golden Nugget mandarins /  Washington navel oranges /  Chandler pomelos  / grapefruits

Other materials used: Steer manure / Chicken manure / Flower and vegetable planting mix / Coco shell mulch / Worm castings / Organic tomato and vegetable food / Soaker hoses / Tomato cages / Bamboo growing structures



From: Michael Foti
Sent: Friday, December 09, 2005 7:44 PM
Subject: Interested in the project

I have just read about your Edible Estates project on the TreeHugger website and think I might be a good candidate for you to consider. Our home is about as typical a suburban mid-fifties tract home as you can get. We're located in the master of all master planned communities, Lakewood, CA. Our lawn is flat, gets plenty of sunlight, and is totally pesticide free. It's also one of the brownest on the street, as my wife refuses to waste water on it. Dimensions are about 20' x 38', so there's lots of space. We're semi-experienced, but enthusiastic gardeners. We have an established vegetable garden in our backyard already.
If you're interested, I can send photos of our house/yard. - Regards, - Michael & Jennifer



Excerpts from Michael Foti’s garden blog, a firsthand account of the struggles and rewards of his Edible Estate.

Friday, May 26, 2006, 9:24 PM / Taking it to the street (or at least the sidewalk)

We’re about to dramatically increase the size of our gardening efforts here on the Foti Farm. As hinted at previously, we are collaborating with architect/non-artist/radical gardener, Fritz Haeg, on a new vegetable garden for the front of the house. Yes, that’s right, we’re going shock the neighbors, and dig up the lawn! It's the latest installment of Fritz’s Edible Estates project.

Why are we doing this? The honest answer is that it just sounded like fun. I’ve been aware of Fritz’s work ever since I visited an exhibit he did in Pasadena a few years ago called the gardenLAb Experiment. Early this year, I read on the Internet that he was looking for a site here in the Los Angeles area to do this Edible Estates project, so I mentioned it to Jenny, and she said, “go for it.” I sent off an e-mail and then we didn’t hear anything more. A few weeks later Fritz wrote back, asking for some photos of the lawn. So, I sent those off, and again, we didn’t hear anything for several months. Just a few weeks ago, Fritz again contacted us, and this time he seemed ready to go. I’m not sure how many other sites he evaluated (maybe we were the only ones brave/foolish enough to go for it), but when we met him for the first time, he asked if we would like to be the site. We said yes, sent Fritz on his way, then I began to immediately fret about the decision. Will we have enough plants? Will we get enough sun? Where will the water come from? I have no water spigot near the front lawn. What will the neighborhood think? This is supposed to be fun, right? I keep telling myself that.

I’m not exactly sure what Fritz’s motivations or goals for this project are. Despite the sometimes confrontational statements on his website like, “attack on the American front lawn” or “endless suburban carpet of conformity,” I do believe he has good intentions. I would not be participating if I thought otherwise. In one of our first conversations together, I told him that I wasn’t interested in alienating people who choose to have lawns. For me, the message cannot be that lawns are bad, and if you have one, you’re bad too. I think lawns are valid. I do think that there are other possibilities though. I don’t think that thought has occurred to many people. Some people even believe that the option doesn’t exist. In some places homeowner association fascism actually does prevent it. I don’t want to live in that kind of world.

Another misconception about this project that I would like to avoid is the idea that we are attempting a rigorous exercise in sustainable permaculture. That would be great, but to be honest, I don’t have the experience to pull it off at this point. I intend to experiment though. Perhaps in a few years we'll be able to call our garden “sustainable.” Hopefully civilization won’t collapse before I’m ready.

This is an exercise in thinking differently about that big flat space in front of our house. Is there any value in that? We'll see. Why is the lawn so ubiquitous? Is there something about modern life that precludes other options? Are our lives too busy? Are our communities so degraded that we must strip our most public of private spaces down to the bare minimum? I think many people view that space between their front door and the street as a kind of Demilitarized Zone. I confess to being worried that somebody will come along and steal “my” vegetables when ‘m not looking. What a horrible thought.

We're a pretty average family, in a pretty average neighborhood. If we can make it work, anybody can. If we can’t, then this project will help identify what I would say are real flaws in our society. I think everybody should be able to grow at least some of their own food. Everybody should be able to create something of beauty in full view of the world. I want to see a more humane interface between public and private space. I want to engage the world, not turn inward.

We begin planting tomorrow, and at this point, I’m excited, and basically over fretting about this project. The unknowns will work themselves out in due course.

Saturday, May 27, 2006, 7:35 PM / Edible Estates Day 1

I have a saying that I like to trot out in situations like this. All adventures have adversity. Usually when I say this, Jenny replies that she doesn’t want any more adventures. Today was certainly an adventure, and not one any of us would like to repeat, at least not until tomorrow anyway.

I awoke at dawn, ready to get to work on the project. Fritz wasn’t due to arrive until noon, but I had to begin excavating the buried sprinkler heads in the lawn so we could avoid them later when using the sod-cutter. I also needed to make a run to the garden supply store to get some drip irrigation hose. The trip to the store wasn’t absolutely necessary, and took way too long. I should have waited. I arrived home at about 11:45. A film crew from Treehugger TV was waiting out in front of the house. Fritz hadn’t arrived yet, but I introduced myself, and soon enough I was giving a tour of grounds and an interview. I’m sure I looked and sounded like a total dork. Oh well. While this was going on, Fritz arrived, and a photographer from the New York Times showed up to take pictures of the family and the day’s activities. The official project photographer, Taidgh, also showed up about this time and for a while it was a regular media circus around here. That doesn’t happen every day.

Things were about to take a dramatic turn for the worse. A delivery truck from the place Fritz had rented a rototiller and sod-cutter pulled up and dropped off the equipment. Fritz got set up to begin cutting the sod. All the photographers got set to take pictures of the action. Fritz pulled the cord to start the motor. He then pushed the lever to engage the cutting mechanism. The whole rumbling machine came to an abrupt halt. Jenny swears she heard something snap. The whole process was repeated over and over for about an hour while the camera crews looked on. Fritz kept his cool, but I’m sure this was not how he planned for this to go. Eventually it was decided that this sod-cutter was broken beyond any hope. This was problem because our schedule demands that we get the lawn removed today. By this time, the rental shop had closed for the weekend. We needed a replacement and quick. I got on the phone and found one available at the local Home Depot, but now the problem was that we didn’t have a truck to transport it. Home Depot didn’t have one to rent either. Fritz left to go figure this all out, while I tried to make the best of the situation by starting to dig up the perimeter of the lawn with a shovel. All the while, the various camera crews sat out on the curb and waited. These were all a very nice group of people and we’re grateful that they found our project interesting enough to spend their Saturday afternoon at our house. I only wish we could have made it more worth their time. They’re all supposed to be back on Monday, when hopefully we’ll have a garden for them to shoot.

But first, we still needed to get rid of the lawn. After about an hour Fritz pulled up with a rented U-Haul truck and a rented sod-cutter from Home Depot. We unloaded it (no small trick—they are very heavy) and got ready to go. This time we had success. Finally! Fritz cut one long strip down the length of the lawn, then turned the machine around to head back. Just then, the throttle cable snapped. Ugh! Dead in our tracks again. We fiddled with it a bit and managed to find a way to force the throttle full open. After much effort we got all the sod cut and piled into a mountain on our driveway. Oh yeah, did I mention that the guy who was supposed to haul it all away decided he didn’t want it after all? Yep, we now have to figure out another plan to get rid of it. All, I don't know, maybe 3 tons of it. In the meantime, it sits on our driveway. I think I spotted mountain goats perched high atop its lofty peaks.

With the sod removed, and the sun rapidly sinking below the horizon, it was now time to rototill the—what do I call it now?—former site of the lawn. This machine was from the same place that rented us the first broken sod-cutter. Turns out they gave us a broken rototiller, too. It was now after 6:00 p.m., and everyone was exhausted. We decided to call it a day. We’ll start back up very early tomorrow morning. Fritz hopes to be here by 7:00 a.m.

I forgot to mention the one bright spot of the day. A volunteer named Daniel arrived at about 4:00 to help out with the project. Daniel is a super cool guy who is very interested in the project. He’s a recent college graduate who grew up here in Lakewood. He tells us that he’s got a small piece of land on the Big Island of Hawaii, and he plans one day to set up a small farm and retreat there. Sounds like a great thing to do to me. We cannot thank Daniel enough for showing up to help. I hope we get to meet him again sometime.

I estimate that we are about half a day behind schedule. That’s not horrible, but its not ideal either. Jenny and the kids really put in a great effort today. I’m so grateful that they support this project, and don’t think their Dad/Husband has gone off the deep end (they aren’t saying so to my face anyway). I don’t know why I didn’t expect there to be setbacks. There are always setbacks. I should have thought back to all the effort it took to build the garden in the back yard.

This isn’t easy. I'm sure that we will succeed though, and the eventual victory will be all the sweeter.

Monday, May 29, 2006, 6:13 AM / Day 2

It’s kind of hard to believe how much progress was made today. The garden is essentially planted. There are some details to take care of tomorrow, but the bulk of the job is now behind us. Lots of great volunteers showed up today and that really helped to get it all done. Up to this point, it’s been very hard to imagine what the garden would actually look like in front of our house. Now that it’s here, I’m generally pleased with the results. I’m too tired to write more, so I’ll close with a picture. Here’s our garden, on its birthday.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006, 6:47 AM / Day 3

Today was considerably less intense than the past two days. We put in soaker hoses in the main planting areas, mulched everything, and placed some rocks around the bases of the trees. We also filled the central, hmmm... we need a new word here, how ‘bout, “gardening platforms,” with gravel. These are the circular areas at the center of the two vegetable beds where the gardener can position himself to weed, seed and feed all the plants surrounding him. I’m thinking maybe I also need to get up at sunrise each morning and sing to the plants from these spots as well.

It would be wrong to say that we are done. As I said yesterday, this weekend is really just the birth of the garden. Now it must grow and, hopefully, thrive.

I’m glad all the hard work is behind us now. The amount of work accomplished in just three days made for a very draining experience. I’m now hoping to settle into a more relaxing routine with the garden. I think, at least for the next few months, I will get up at about 6:00 in the morning and spend about an hour out there doing whatever needs to be done, watering, weeding, etc. This is a high maintenance garden. I plan to deal with that by doing small amounts of work on a very consistent basis. I think this is better than doing lots at one time. A lot of that hour a day is just going to be looking around at the garden and enjoying it. I think it’s very important to just observe the garden and really see what is going on. So often things are happening at a small scale, and you really have to slow down and watch closely to notice. This is hard to really explain how important this is. Gardeners know what I mean.

Thursday, June 01, 2006, 10:12 PM / First impressions

So, it’s been a few days now and it still feels like there has been a disturbance in the force. We never really paid much attention to the front of the house when the lawn was there. The way this house is built, you can’t even see the front lawn except from the kitchen window. Now, the space exerts a psychic energy, that I must admit, I’m still getting used to. I went out the other morning and just sat on the brick planter along the garage wall for a while. It was quiet and cool out, and this was the first time I’ve been able to relax and just take it all in. I think it has great potential, but it’s a bit raw right now. It feels a bit weird to spend time out there in front of the whole neighborhood. I feel like I’m on display.

The neighborhood has been watching. We’ve noticed quite a few people taking the time to walk by, especially in the mornings and evenings. One older couple has passed by in their car on several occasions. They finally worked up the courage to walk by and I don’t think they approved. Jenny heard the woman tsk and shake her head in disgust. This has been the only negative reaction we’re aware of. Most people seem to really like it. Jenny saw someone stop and take one of the brochures from the box on the Edible Estates sign.

The plants are doing ok. It’s been really hot the last few days. Certainly some of the hottest days of the year so far. The first day, the plants looked kind of crispy, but I gave everything a good, deep watering, which they hadn’t had up to that point, and now they look a little better. I think in a week or so, the initial shock of transplantation will wear off, and we should have a good idea of what's going to make it or not.

Saturday, June 03, 2006, 3:18 PM / Hot, hot, hot

It's currently 92 degrees out. Hottest day of the year so far. The poor plants are baking in the newly planted garden. I watered everything as best as I could this morning, but in this kind of heat, these young plants are having a very rough time. We’re going to lose some for sure. Ideally we would have planted about a month ago, instead of a week ago. That would have given them a better chance to get established and be in better shape to survive the heat of summer.

Sunday, June 04, 2006, 9:30 PM / Omens. Good or bad?

Late Sunday evening on the day we first planted the garden, everyone had left, except Fritz, Jenny, and me. The sun was starting to go down and we were kind of admiring our hard work for the first time. A large black bird swooped overhead in a graceful arc, then landed on the very tip of one of the bamboo trellises. The bird sat there for a moment and checked out the new garden. I got the feeling it approved of the change.

Thursday, June 08, 2006, 8:33 AM
We had some light rain this morning, so I skipped the usual morning watering routine. I did go out while it was raining to see if there was any soil runoff onto the sidewalk. There was none to be seen, although it wasn’t raining very hard so the water mostly soaked into the ground where it fell and never really had a chance to build up. I’m sure the rain did the plants some good. The overcast skies and cooler temperatures are a lot easier on the plants than the wilting heat wave of the past weekend.

I’m beginning to see the first signs of the lawn attempting to fight back. I’m plucking little green shoots of grass whenever I come across them. It’s only a few here and there at this point. In the tilled plant beds the soil gives easily, but in the compacted paths it’s very hard to rip these “weeds” out. The shoots usually break off at the base before I can get the root out.

Thursday, June 15, 2006, 7:04 AM / The first tomato of the season

Sunday, June 18, 2006, 10:45 AM / Scenes from the garden

As you can see from the images above, the garden is beginning to produce food [p. TK]. We were able to whip up the season’s first batch of salsa with homegrown tomatoes and peppers yesterday. Mmm... Can’t wait to put this on some huevos rancheros made with eggs from our backyard chickens. These are the rewards of all the hard work for the past few weeks.

The front yard melon/squash patch is really starting to take over. I spent some time this morning thinning out the vines, leaving the best established ones. Lots of these already have melons on them. I really hope I can get these to maturity without having them split open like the watermelons I grew last summer. As they get bigger, I need to watch the water intake.

Monday, June 19, 2006, 3:22 PM / What's it to you?

The Los Angeles Times ran a short blurb on the Edible Estates project last week. They printed our address, so I wasn’t surprised when I noticed a few strange cars driving by the house this weekend. They’d pull up in front of the house and go real slow, peering out the windows at the garden. A few actually got out to take a look. I greeted a few of these folks and spoke to them a bit about the garden and the project in general. Some expressed surprise that the Times would print the address of a private residence. More than one commented that they would be afraid that someone would come along and steal their vegetables if they tried something like our garden in their own yard. Of course I had the same concerns at first, and I’ve had this discussion with other people who’ve stopped by to see the garden in the past. It’s really interesting how often this comes up. Kind of sad, really.

I guess that in person, one of the things that is most striking about the garden when you first see it is how open and close to the sidewalk it is. How vulnerable it seems. There’s no fences or anything to keep anybody out. It really makes you aware of how most lawns function as kind of buffer between public and private space. In a way, it sort of illuminates the value of a lawn to most people—not worth stealing, and useful only to the extent that it keeps people away, or doesn’t need to be worried about.

Many people don’t even take any pride in maintaining their own lawn. They pay a service to do it, usually when they aren’t around to see (or hear) it being done. One of the concerns I’ve heard from some neighbors is that they fear I might have taken on more than I can handle in terms of maintenance. Lawns are so easy to deal with, especially if somebody else is doing the work. There is nothing low-maintenance about our garden, and you really can’t pay someone to give it the kind of care it needs. I couldn’t afford it anyway. If I slack off on the maintenance, it will turn into an eyesore very quickly. I think that is valid concern, but do people really prefer their neighborhoods be maintained by low-paid workers whose main concern is efficiency rather than beauty? I think it’s a vicious cycle. The more utilitarian and functional these spaces become, the easier they are to maintain, but also the easier they are to ignore and neglect. Ultimately, the upkeep of a lawn becomes nothing more than a kind of tax on the homeowner that he only pays out of some sense of obligation, or self-interest in neighborhood property values.

Thursday, June 22, 2006, 8:57 PM / Revenge

I went out into the garden the other morning and discovered that some of my plants were being eaten by caterpillars. I picked ‘em all off and fed them to the chickens.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006, 11:23 PM / It is called EDIBLE Estates after all

We’re starting to get a lot of produce from the gardens. Last night Jenny prepared this delicious meal of Indian food, made largely from our homegrown vegetables. She used our eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, peppers, cilantro, and beans. With the exception of the rice, lentils, spices, and the chicken, this was nearly an entirely homegrown meal. If we were willing to butcher one of our chickens (we aren’t), we could have provided that as well. Jenny is a fantastic chef, and we're so lucky to be able to enjoy the meals she prepares. That we grew so much of it ourselves just makes it that much sweeter.

Sunday, July 02, 2006, 10:09 AM / The Good Life

We’re enjoying a pretty nice weekend, here on the farm. I’m harvesting lots of fresh veggies in the morning, and in the afternoon we’re keeping busy preparing lots o’ tasty dishes with those veggies, including a summer classic of  tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad.

Saturday, July 15, 2006, 4:09 PM / Gratitude

I read in the paper this morning that the first half of this year was the hottest on record, and that we can expect higher than average temperatures until October. Currently, the thermometer reads 96 degrees outside. As you can well imagine, I’m limiting my garden activities to the early mornings and late evenings.

We’ve started harvesting beans in great numbers today. Really pretty Purple Queen beans. So far we’ve collected two big bowls full, and the plants still have a lot more on them. A reporter from the Whole Life Times stopped by this morning when Jenny and I were picking the beans to interview us for a story, and to take some pictures of the garden. One of the things I mentioned to her was that vegetable gardening, even on a small scale, really helps you appreciate the efforts of the people who we really depend on to grow our food, the farmers. Jenny, who at this point had been bent over picking beans for about twenty minutes in the hot sun, made a much better observation: picking beans for twenty minutes gives you a greater appreciation for the back- breaking labor done by migrant field workers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006, 4:17 PM / Vanity

Like a lot of people, when I first started gardening I spent a lot of time looking at photos of beautiful, perfect gardens in glossy gardening magazines. I’d turn the pages of the garden-porn and fantasize about how my garden would one day be just as flawless and stunning. Of course, the realist in me knew that I’d probably fall short. There would be weeds and insect-eaten leaves. Desiccated plants would be found next to others practically drowning in too much water. I’d love the garden, like a parent loves a homely child, but I couldn’t realistically expect to ever see images of it printed in the New York Times garden pages. Funny how things turn out, huh?

I fully realize the Times was interested in our garden for the (overblown) controversy surrounding its placement, rather than its beauty, or my stellar gardening skills. Still, they did print pictures of it, and while I think they turned out pretty well, those pictures are sort of the equivalent of a Sears family portrait, where Mom has made sure the kids all have their hair combed, and Dad is wearing the only tie he owns that doesn’t have a big stain on the front of it, and everybody has been told to smile. In other words, those pictures lie. Our garden has insect- eaten leaves and brown, dried-out plants. A few weeks ago, when those pictures were taken, the garden was at its youthful visual peak. Today, well, she’s starting to look just a little long in the tooth.

The “problem” with being published in the Times is that lots of people take notice and want to come by and see the garden. Some of these people want to take pictures and publish them as well. This prospect momentarily sent me into a tizzy fit of weeding and pruning, but I quickly realized that no amount of spit was going keep the cowlicks in my garden’s hair pasted down, and threats weren’t going to rejuvenate the aging plants. I’ve resorted to being philosophical about it. So far in this blog, I’ve tried to present a truthful account of this experiment in full frontal gardening, and I guess I’ll have to keep at it. Gardens are living things that get pimples and have awkward growth spurts. They age and get wrinkles. The garden doesn’t care how it looks though. Only the gardener does (and maybe the neighbors).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006, 10:54 PM / Reaping what you sow

Without a doubt, the very best thing to come out of our participation in the Edible Estates project has been the opportunity to meet so many nice people. From all the volunteers who came to help plant the garden, to neighbors from surrounding community, to the folks who read about the project in the paper and then made the trip out to see the garden in person, we’ve had a steady stream of visitors for the last two months. Some of these people just give a wave and a thumbs up from their car window as they drive by. Others will stop and tell stories about their own gardens, or offer advice and encouragement. We’ve tried not to let anybody leave without taking some of our harvest with them, even if it’s just a few tomatoes. It’s very gratifying to think about how many people are getting to enjoy “our” vegetables. It’s kind of amazing to me how many people this garden has touched, even if only in a small way. People I haven’t seen or spoken to in years have either read about the project in the paper, or saw the TV news report, and have contacted us to let us know that they got a kick out of it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006, 4:40 PM / Lakewood

I live here because Lakewood is adequate to the demands of my desire, although I know there’s a price to pay. A Puritan strain in American culture is repelled by desires like mine, and has been since a brilliant young photographer named William A. Garnett, working for the Lakewood Park corporation, took a series of aerial photographs [p. TK] in 1950 that look down on the vulnerable wood frames of the houses the company was putting up at the rate of five hundred a week. Even after fifty years, those beautiful and terrible photographs are used to indict suburbia. Except you can’t see the intersection of character and place from an altitude of five hundred feet, and Garnett never came back to experience everyday life on the ground. - From An Ordinary Place, by author D. J. Waldie, perhaps Lakewood's best-known resident.

This greater truth about everyday life on the ground, for me, is exactly what this project is all about.

I myself am sometimes given to bouts of pessimism. When I look around our neighborhood today, I often wonder if Lakewood can remain, in Waldie’s words, adequate to the demands of our desires. I shake my head in regret every time I see another modest Lakewood home converted into a edge-to-edge lot-filling McMansion. Nobody ever complains about the effect on community property values when one of those out of scale monsters pops up next door. That’s progress, they say. I look at the proliferation of ever bigger RV’s and boats in my neighbors’ driveways and I wonder how they manage to afford it all. Are they putting it all on credit, living for today like there’s no tomorrow, because in their hearts they fear there might not be?

There are other occasions though when I’m reminded of all the other reasons people live here that have nothing to do with satisfying consumerist desires. The house next door to ours has sat empty and vacant for most of this year. An elderly couple lived there for 38 years until last year, when the wife passed away, and her husband, too ill to take care of himself, went to live with his daughter. When we first moved into our house, they told us they were happy to see we had children. They had lived in the neighborhood long enough to see the cycle of young families to empty nests come full circle. Earlier this summer, when we began the Edible Estates project, the house was put up for sale and we wondered if the presence of our front-yard garden would scare people away from moving in next to us. Months went by and the lawn grew unkempt, shaggy and brown from lack of water and regular maintenance. The house, too, began to look lonely and abandoned. People would come and look at the house, but nobody was moving in. Then just a few weeks ago, a moving van pulled up and a family with two small boys jumped out. My younger daughter, June, quickly made friends. It wasn’t long before June was leading the two- year-old boy around the garden helping him pick (and eat) cherry tomatoes. From the look of wonder in his eyes, I’m fairly certain this was the first time the child had ever seen real food being grown.

Monday, August 28, 2006, 7:10 AM / Out with the old, in with the new

I spent this weekend pulling up old plants and putting in some new ones. It’s a difficult time. Too hot for cool-weather crops, but too late in the season for warm-weather ones. I’m splitting the difference. I’ve put in some cucumbers and squash, which, being warm-weather crops, might do ok, or they might do nothing. As for cool-weather crops, I’ve put in various lettuces, carrots, bok choy, radicchio, and onions. Over the next month I’ll probably put in a lot of other cool-weather plants.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006, 7:43 PM / Fairview Gardens

Lakewood, where we live, was once a thriving agricultural area. The site our house sits on used to be a hog farm. We found evidence of this when we dug up the lawn. Since that time I've done some research, and found that the battle to have that hog farm closed down was instrumental in the formation of this city. In 1949 this was an unincorporated area of L.A. County. A few small clusters of houses were starting to be built on former bean fields. A group of residents from these houses, calling itself the Lakewood Taxpayers Association, began to lobby the County for "improvements"—chiefly, the closing of the smelly hog farms. In time, it became clear that a new city would have to be created to realize their goals. In 1954, Lakewood became a city. The last hog farm was closed, and our house was built.

One might think that there isn't any land available for agriculture in a neighborhood like ours, but that isn't the case. The LADWP [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] owns large parcels of land where they run their high-voltage transmission lines. These corridors run all over the Los Angeles basin. Many local nurseries lease the land at the base of these electrical towers. The houses just across the street from ours sit adjacent to one of these nurseries. Check out this aerial view of our neighborhood [p. TK]. Our house is outlined in red near the bottom. You can see the nursery in the upper portion of the photo. What if, instead of plants for landscaping people's front yards, this land was used to grow food for the surrounding community?

Monday, September 18, 2006, 9:39 AM / Garden update

I spent some time working in the garden this weekend. You can tell the days are getting shorter now. In a few weeks, the weekend will be the only time I'll be able to work in the garden in the daylight. We are getting some food from our odd mix of warm-weather/cool-weather plants these days. Okra is producing very well right now. We gave some to our new neighbors yesterday, after one of their boys said they eat it. We're still getting some tomatoes, although the end is near. The lettuces I planted a few weeks ago are big enough to take cuttings from, so we're enjoying green leafy salads. I pulled up all the eggplant yesterday and replaced it with broccoli. Broccoli has such a pretty blue-green leaf. Hopefully I can keep the caterpillars from eating them this time. We planted a few more cucumbers a few weeks ago, and they actually are starting to get cucumbers on them, so the gamble might pay off. I started a bunch of seeds a couple of weeks ago, but nothing has sprouted up yet. I'm starting to think I planted them too deep. If nothing comes up by next weekend, I'll have to try again.


Front Yard or Barnyard?
Cecilia Foti, 7th grade

Was the Garden of Eden grass? No. It was a natural wonder of flora and fauna through and through. The American lawn needs to be eradicated from our society and fast! To begin with, lawns endanger our water source and environment. Second, there are some more productive alternatives, such as vegetable gardens, which add variety to our homes. Finally, adding a vegetable or fruit garden provides some surprising health benefits.

Removing the lawns in America will help save our environment and possibly lives. "Seventeen of the thirty commonly used pesticides were found in groundwater and twenty-three have the potential to enter it," says Fritz Haeg. This is very true for California. Water is wasted from pesticides contaminating the groundwater and from overwatering, especially during the hottest times of the day, when water evaporates quickly. Pesticides also run off into the oceans, kill bugs that protect our plants, and hurt animals. Mowers and lawn edgers pollute our air with greenhouse gasses. Many people are concerned with the environment's care and by removing our lawns and not using pesticides, we can help ensure the environment's safety.

Now that the lawn is gone, what to do with that space? Plant a vegetable garden! There are some better, more productive alternatives to lawns, which add variety and texture to your yard and can be visually appealing as well. Many fruits and vegetables come in a variety of colors and can be arrange in the style you choose. You can choose plants in colors that coordinate with your house. Lettuces and tomatoes come in a wide range of colors and patterns from yellow to red to green to purple! Chilis and peppers also come in many colors too. Fruit trees add texture and shade to your home. The produce you grow can be used for cooking or decoration and can even reduce grocery costs. Everyone can find a plant to fit his or her lifestyle.

There is no doubt about it that fruits and vegetables have amazing health benefits. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A. These nutrients are necessary to proper bodily functions. For example, spinach provides iron, which is good for the blood. Potatoes and beans contain fiber and tomatoes have lycopene, which is good for the eyes and heart and provide natural antioxidants. Vitamin C, found in oranges, is good for your eyes and skin. Eating vegetables keeps people healthy and can be eaten in many ways to make eating them fun.

Some Americans say lawns are no harm. Some experts even say that pesticide use in California has reduced in previous years. Sulfur use is down by 46,000 pounds. Chemical levels in water are depreciating at a steady rate. Some homeowners might not have time to care for a garden. Many people also take pride in their lawns and care for them. Some homeowners are concerned that property values will drop due to the unusualness of a vegetable garden in their front yard. But even with all these facts, there are still some major problems and health risks.

Although contaminated water percentages are down, there are still some major environmental and health problems with lawns. California has one of the highest uses of pesticides in all 50 states. Even though sulfur use is down, the decrease is only by 1%. Seventeen chemicals, including some very toxic ones, have been traced in the California water source, some of which can harm people. People with lawns and pests could use organic pesticides or homemade remedies. You could use a push mower instead of a gas mower. I ask you, do you want to pollute the earth?

Lawns in America should be removed. By adding a vegetable garden, you can get some amazing health benefits and add variety to your home, while not endangering the environment. I don't know anyone who would not want to improve upon his or her health and save the environment. So try adding a few vegetables to your yard today. Who knows, you may end up planting an entire garden.


Don't Mow this ‘Lawn’: Family Replaces Lakewood Lawn with Fruit, Vegetables
Editorial from the Lakewood Press Telegram, July 17, 2006

We tend to think we do all of the teaching when it comes to children. Then they do something poetic, and we realize that we are more often students of their subtle wisdom. Take Lakewood youngster Cecilia Foti, who wrote an essay at Bancroft Middle School addressing the controversy over her family's decision to convert its front yard into a fruit-and-vegetable farm. Cecilia, who was profiled in a New York Times story also published in the Press-Telegram, argued that the old-fashioned front lawn "needs to be eradicated from our society and fast!" We don't entirely agree with that absolutist view, but we are encouraged by her willingness to write down her thoughts and turn them in at school. We also like the idea of healthy greens sprouting in the place of thirsty grass. Getting kids to talk about vegetables, much less eat them, is a weedy issue. Maybe if more kids grew greens they would eat them. But more importantly we believe it's OK for the Fotis to do what they want with their yard as long as they don't destroy the character of the neighborhood. And, after examining photos of the yet-to-mature garden, we think the suburban farm fits. Because of the home's ample driveway, the vegetable patch is rather small and less intrusive than one might think. Planted Memorial Day weekend, the plants are still immature. These aren't the cornstalks you saw in "Field of Dreams." We're not sure if we'd follow their lead, but we admire the family's decision to turn the lawn into a food source that puts water to a logical use, growing food, rather than a decorative use, greening grass. Lakewood is known for a live-and-let-live ethos, where residents tend to believe, rightly, that they can do what they want with their land as long as the use doesn't hurt the quality of life for their neighbors. Fruits and veggies can certainly do no more harm to a neighborhood's appearance than the mammoth motor homes legally parked citywide. We admire Cecilia's commitment to healthy eating, something not nearly enough middle schoolers embrace. Cecilia is now a champion of the garden's edibles. We wish more kids would follow her lead. Stuck in her vegetable patch is this message: “The empty front lawn requiring mowing, watering and weeding previously on this location has been removed.” Some neighbors, of course, are on the other side of the Fotis' decision to raze their lawn as part of a greater nationwide movement to replace lawns with gardens. Detractors don't think it fits in with the post-war tract homes dotting the city, and we agree it takes some getting used to. The New York Times described their discontent far more elegantly than we can: “Neighbors fret about a potential decline in property values, while others worry that all those succulent fruits and vegetables will attract drive-by thieves—as well as opossums and other vermin—in pursuit of Maui onions and Brandywine tomatoes.” We cannot believe this small garden will hurt property values, which tend to be dictated by good schools and safe streets, two things Lakewood has going for it. And Lakewood, known for watchful neighbors, needn't worry much about vegetable theft. Still, we can understand that residents don't necessarily want to look at something they're not used to seeing. But in a nation of unhealthy people, and in a state prone to drought, the Fotis put their front yard to good use. Maybe some will follow. Critics should tend to their own gardens. - Text from EDIBLE ESTATES: ATTACK ON THE FRONT LAWN (Metropolis Books, 2nd Ed., 2010)



Presented at: Millard Sheets Gallery, Pomona, September 8–October 1, 2006, as part of the exhibition Fair Exchange, and at Machine Project, Los Angeles, October 5–29, 2006
Plants and materials donated by: Armstrong Garden Centers
Research, project development, and assistance: Katie Bachler and Aubrey White,
Photography: Taidgh O'Niel
Thanks to: volunteer garden workers Katie Bachler, Preston Brown, Winston Kahn, Mitchell Kane, Melissa McDonnell, Taidgh O'Niel, Daniel Procter, Stephanie Scott, Roopa Shenoy, and Aubrey White; Mark Allen, Machine Project; Dan Danzig, Millard Sheets Gallery; Irene Tsatsos; Durfee Foundation




Edible Estates Los Angeles Headquarters & Workshop / 1200 D North Alvarado Street / Los Angeles, CA 90026 / 213-483-8761 / Opening reception 8-10pm, Thursday, October 5th / Closing October 29th, 2006

Machine Project in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles will be the site for of Edible Estates Headquarters & Workshop which will include a series of events, seminars, screenings, lectures and meetings every Sunday in October. These events will focus on the science, agriculture and community aspects of the project. Machine Project will be a public information center with a presentation of the new Edible Estates video and brochure, resources on growing edibles and a small reading library on domestic and urban agriculture. There will be a demonstration worm composting bin by Stephanie Rioux where you can deposit the remains of the fresh fruit you've consumed. On display will be garden portraits by photographer Taigh O'Neill showing the Lakewood site from lawn in the spring to edible landscape in the summer. Machine Project is an artist run space that focuses on the relationships between art, science and community.

10.05.06 / Thursday / 8 - 10pm / #01 OPENING RECEPTION including a screening of the new Edible Estates video, free brochures and garden readings by Lesley Stern

10.08.06 / Sun. / noon - 2pm / #02 ENDLESS GARDENING! Phil Ross & Marina Mcdougall vists from San Francisco to tell us about The Garden of Forking Paths. Stephanie Rioux presents her worm composting unit.

10.15.06 / Sun. / 2 - 4pm / #03 VERY SLOW FOOD! Presentations by Evan Kleiman, chef & host of KCRW's "Good Food,"and Lakewood Edible Estate owner Michael Foti and a screening of 'The Future of Food' organized by Slow Food L.A.

10.20.06 / Fri. / 8pm / #04 GARDEN POETRY!

10.22.06 / Sun. / 2 - 4pm / #05 MASTER GARDENERS UNITE! A presentation by Yvonne Savio, the director of the Los Angeles Master Gardening Program. We will also be joined by master gardeners, who will tell us their stories of teaching people how to grow their own food and spreading urban agriculture.

10.29.06 / Sun. / 2 - 4pm / #06 CLOSING RECEPTION & STORIES FROM THE FRONT LINE! Closing party & presentations by those who have embarked on similar front yard edible and vegetable landscaping endeavors including Robby Herbst, Louis Marchesano, Daniel Marlos, Kimberly Varella.


1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, CA 91768 / tel: 909-865-4560

September 8th – October 1st, 2006

September 24th: Presentation by Fritz Haeg and Edible Estates owner Michael Foti

Edible Estates #2 regional prototype in Lakewood will be presented by Millard Sheets Gallery as a part of "Fair Exchange", an exhibition of projects by contemporary LA artists curated by Irene Tsatsos to be presented at the L.A. County Fair in September 2006.

There will be a series of 12 kiosk planters of fruits and vegetables throughout the fair grounds. Our new beautiful new brochure by the Department of Graphic Sciences will be available for free and the new and improved Edible Estates video will be presented for the first time.

The Lakewood garden is produced in collaboration with Millard Sheets Gallery. All plants and materials for the Lakewood garden and the L.A. County Fair were generously donated by Armstrong Garden Centers.



Civil War general Edward Bouton was attracted to Lakewood in 1894 at a time when the area was still undeveloped by the allure of oil. Striking water instead of oil, Bouton sold the water to neighboring cities to turn a profit.

Lakewood is considered by many to be America’s first suburb.

10 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Lakewood is a sugar beet field turned housing project that broke ground in 1950.

Lakewood Park Company introduced assembly line housing developments to California, constructing 17,500 on 3,500 acres in little over a year—a rate of about 1000 homes built per month.

In the last 3 months of 1950, families moved to Lakewood at a rate of 25 a day.

The Nation’s first post-war housing project was ushered in just in time for veterans to return to the U.S. and buy their first homes.

The city was long-promoted with slogans such as "Lakewood-My Home Town" and "Lakewood, Tomorrow's City Today."

The city incorporated into Los Angeles in 1954 with 71,000 residents - at the time, the largest U.S. community to do so. Many communities followed suit shortly after.

27,310 housing units in 9.5 square miles
population: 79,345 (as of 2003)
58% of households have an income of $50,000 or more

Lakewood has about 150 miles of streets and 300 miles of sidewalks. More than 36,000 streets line city streets and shade city parks. About 150 acres of the city are devoted to parks and other landscaped open space.

Read D.J. Waldie's book 'Holy Land' to find out the real story of Lakewood!

Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Mcgill Architecture program
County of Los Angeles Public Library




From: Lucy []
Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 2:22 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: our yard

I don't have pictures to send yet, but we are in the process of converting our yard, especially the front yard, to a combination of vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, some shrubs, perennials, and annuals. We're about half way to removing the main part of the front yard and will make it this year. We just started near the house and worked our way out, digging out a new area with shovels whenever we had more plants to go in. We also have a pretty good size side yard that we haven't done as much on but will finish by next year, I think. We've planted two plum trees and a sour cherry tree. We also have tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, zuccini, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, and mint. For fall and next year, we'd like to be much more extensive. We live in Bloomington, Minnesota, right near Minneapolis.
I am excited about your work and projects. I also am passionate about the front lawn issue...the waste of space, the poisons, the mowing, the water usage, all of it. - Lucy


-----Original Message-----
From: Rocco []
Sent: Sunday, May 28, 2006 11:14 PM
Subject: sod! lawn! grass! free!

I don't need grass, I just wanted to drop you a line to commend your efforts. I think it's an unbelievably awesome thing that you're doing with the Edible Estates project. I read many pages on the EE site and read your blog. It's so true that the front lawn has become some sort of monastery of apathy and competition. Who has the greenest lawn? Who gives a s**t? Sometimes we have to sit back and ask ourselves, "How important is it, really?" We all vie for land on our search for precious real estate, only to do absolutely nothing with it. We just waste it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for setting an example for the rest of us. You are braver than most. My hat is off to you and yours. - Rocco


-----Original Message-----
From: Kate []
Sent: Sunday, May 28, 2006 9:56 AM
Subject: sod! lawn! grass! free!

Wow. I just visited the Edible Estates website and... wow! Good for you. Wish I had more than a strip of earth around my cement patio (I'm a renter)... I would definitely be doing what you're doing. I only have room for one tomoato plant, one pepper plant and a couple of basil plants... plus some strawberries in pots... ha! Good luck with your project. On behalf of the earth, thank you! - Kate


-----Original Message-----
From: Xiaoli []
Sent: Sunday, May 28, 2006 7:01 AM
To: edible estates
Subject: zoning

good morning! - i am interested putting my front and back yart to an edible garden. i have a bare side yard and bare back yard. it has full sun plus i am in northridge and gets very hot in the summer and i don't want to waste water either. i just don't know about the zonning for R1 is allowed to have animals such as chicken or duck or goose? please shed some light. - thanks, lily


-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel []
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 12:18 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: Lakewood project

Hi, I'm writing to express my interest in the Lakewood project. I'm a long third generation resident of the area and recently finished an environmental studies degree at UCSB -just moved back home. I've been working with a "fossil-free" and edible landscaping group in Santa Barbara and that's how I heard about the project. I know it starts tomorrow, but I just got the message and I would love to participate. Please get back to me if there's anyway I can participate this weekend or in the future. Feel free to call me at 808-217-5271 or just email me back. thanks for your part in making this happen and bringing it here. its gonna spread. - Sincerely, Daniel


From: JP [mailto]
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 9:16 AM
To: fritz
Subject: FW: this weekend: EDIBLE ESTATES #2: LOS ANGELES / we remove lawn / we plant edible landscape / want to help?

To Fritz Haeg – I have an edible landscape in the Westchester area of LA (by LAX airport). I see that you have plant materials “donated by Armstrong” – I’m quite familiar with their materials (and its limited diversity). Do you need additional seed? I can share small amounts of daikon radish, salsify, parsnip, green onion, chard, heirloom and Native American beans, and rare heirloom milk pumpkins if you can make use of them. All of these are homegrown without chemicals, and the origins of all were from Safe Seed Pledge signers (i.e. no GMOs). I am considering attending your event on Sunday afternoon during the planting phase. As you remove the lawn, please do the Foti family a huge favor and take care to dig out and remove all traces of Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon, photo here, ) prior to tilling. That means digging down perhaps 12-18” and removing all stolons to avoid resprout. My trials with this monster plant, including tips and solutions, are documented in the files at Gardening Organically at Yahoo Groups, where I am a columnist. If you need access to the article let me know and I will copy/paste it into email. - Joanne


-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 7:28 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: edible landscape

It was a delight to hear about your project from the Portland Permaculture Guild. I assist 78 year old Beverly Doty with her edible landscape which she started in 1992. She faced a great deal of opposition from neighbors so I'm glad your project will ease the way for others. On her 90 by 110 ft corner lot Beverly grows peaches, plums, cherries, apples, pears, figs, persimmons, grapes, mulberries, pineapple guava, cornelian cherry, raspberries, kiowa blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, currants, josta berries, and kiwi. She has five varieties of edible bamboo, asparagus, rhubarb, and jerusalem artichokes. Parsnips, leeks, garlic, and many lettuces, chards, mustards and kales have naturalized in the garden so they don't need to be planted. The gardens supply us with many vegetables year around, along with typical summer vegetables. Many plants are allowed to grow through their full lifespan, flowering and producing seeds for saving, sprouting, reseeding, or to feed the birds. We keep something growing to cover the soil at all times. The young leaves and blossoms of fava beans and other cover crop are edible - as are the beautiful clusters of pea like blossoms and new leaves of the purple flowering black locust tree which is also a nitrogen fixer - and the hummingbirds love it. There are numerous herbs and many tasty edible weeds! Beverly removed her lawn by sheet mulching which helped build very fertile soil. The November 2005 Permaculture Activist has an article about her garden and it has been featured in our local newspaper, The Columbian, many times. She gives quarterly tours to help encourage others to garden organically. - Namaste, Joyce, Vancouver, WA 98665


-----Original Message-----
From: Michelle []
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 5:18 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: Sample planting plans

Hello.- A neighbor of mine just forwarded information on the Edible Estates project (or shall I say, movement). It's a shame I've already removed my lawn...I would have loved to respond to your call for homes in the SF Valley! BUT now that I have an empty front yard with no set landscaping plan I'm very interested in looking into an edible landscape. The only problem is that I don't have enough time to browse through dozens of books to compile plant lists or design the planting scheme. Is there a resource (or one being planned for your website) that will give lists and/or sample plans that will help to inspire the direction of my landscape plan?- Thanks! Michelle, Valley Glen, CA


-----Original Message-----
From: Claire []
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 11:50 AM
To: edible estates
Subject: los angeles

Hello - I don't have a house to offer, but are you accepting volunteers to do the planting and planning? I'm a student in Claremont, CA but I'll be back home in LA for most of the summer. - Thanks, Claire


From: julie []
Sent: Monday, March 27, 2006 1:29 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: edible yard 2006

I am VERY interested in the edible yard. I just moved to a home in Altadena, part of Los Angeles county and I have the plain yard as do my neighbors and have every intention of getting rid of it and transforming it into a lush garden. Why you should choose my lawn:
• see the attached picture of the current situation
• I have worked with sustainable agriculture and gardening and will maintain the edible landscape as long as I live here
• I have a baby girl and I am determined to grow and feed her organic, dynamic food
• My lot including house is just over 8,000 square feet, not too big nor too small
• I am a teacher and facilitator by profession and have no problem speaking in public in fact there is nothing I would rather do than speak out on the bounty and opportunities are yards present in sustainable living.
• I would love to be a part of your work
I look forward to hearing from you. - Julie


From: N Vincent []
Sent: Sunday, February 05, 2006 11:04 AM
To: edible estates
Subject: edible lawns

too bad i didn't know about your plans to convert lawns into edible ones when i took away my front lawn beginning in 2003 and converting over to california natives. my house and street fit your needs exactly. anyhow, i would love to connect with you and perhaps volunteer to work with you because i would love to learn more. I am a new gardener, have only been doing it since 2003. I took a permaculture course this summer equal to 72 hours of college instruction. Am currently converting my backyard into a Sacred Edible Medicinal Perennial Permaculture Garden previously it was only covered with lawn. Right now my need is trees need one in ground and four in containers. Wonder if you can help me decide which ones i truly should go for and tell me sources to obtain them from. - Thank you, Nora


-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Sunday, January 08, 2006 2:45 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: front yard makeover

Hello there,- My friend, Camille , sent me the information about your project. It sounds very exciting. We are a family of four (2 boys, 10 and 5) and we would be extremely interested in participating. Our eldest son, Eli, studies gardening at school and has taken charge of our small home garden. I have always been an environmentalist. 98% of our food purchases are organic, and we have belonged to Tierra Miguel CSA for over 4 years. We live in flat suburbia in a 1960s style home in the North San Fernando Valley. We would be honored to participate if you find our front yard suitable.
Thank you for your consideration and good luck with your project. - Alexia


From: Marialyce []
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 1:55 AM
To: edible estates
Subject: Edible-ize My Yard!

Hi Fritz & Team! I’m a friend of Camille Cimino’s and just bought a house in Altadena. I would LOVe to transform my front yard into an edible landscape w/ ya’ll! And am I ever enthusiastic & a good spokesperson. (HUGE networker, tons of green building/enviro contacts, in both LA & Ventura counties, cool high-profile enviro job w/ Fortune 100 company, single mom, 9 year old boy who LOVES fruits & veggies...) My street isn’t all same-same lawns, however, although it is long, and I’m sure no one else’s yard is edible. I agree this would make the most dramatic impact, but if you don’t find this situation, please consider mine. I’ll take some pics this weekend and send asap. Thanks for the opportunity and please put me on your mailing lists-- Best regards, Marialyce


-----Original Message-----
From: Nathan []
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2005 8:15 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: Edible estates LA submission

I recently saw an article about your project on the WorldChanging blog and my wife and I would like to offer our front yard as a candidate. It doesn't perfectly fit all the requirements, but it's close. Here's what we have:

> "in some way 'conventional', 'iconic', 'american'.The house was built in the '40s as part of a suburban development. It is a typical house from that period." - The house is actually in Burbank rather than LA, but it just a couple of blocks from north Hollywood which is part of LA.

> "not too big and not too small". - Possibly on the small side, but with a good sized yard: 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 6500 sq. ft lot.

> "on a somewhat lengthy typical residential street lined entirely with uninterrupted groomed front lawns". - It's on a relatively long block with a lot of lawns, but there are some fences and one yard that is a fenced concrete slab. It doesn't have that continuous, uninterrupted lawn look, but none of the yards are what I'd consider a real garden. In my opinion this is actually more typical of LA that the uninterrupted groomed front lawns.

> "very visible from the street, with regular car traffic." - The house is very visible from the street. While it isn't on a major street it is between two well known streets in Burbank, Magnolia & Chandler. Somewhat relevant is that Chandler was recently converted from having a rail line running down the center to being a grass covered strip with a bike lane down the center.

> "relatively flat and currently covered with lawn." - Completely flat and mostly lawn. There is a flower bed directly in front of the house and I fairly recently (2003?) put another bed along the right side of the property going from the house to the sidewalk after replacing a sewer line and to start the process of converting the lawn to something more sane.

> "few large trees or any major landscaping that couldn't easily be removed." - There's one small tree that I've been thinking of getting rid of anyway. In terms of shrubs there is a small pomegranate, an Iochroma, a couple Hydrangeas, a Duranta and a lilac, none of which would have to stay.

> "have good solar access, ideally with a south or south-west orientation." - The street is runs north/south and the house is on the western side. Thus the front lawn gets mostly eastern and southern morning light. In my experience with gardening in southern California, this is actually a better exposure for growing things than the south or south-west orientation you ask for. Those exposures actually get so much sun that things tend to dry out quickly or require a lot of water to keep alive. There is a large, city owned camphor tree in front of the house between the sidewalk and the street that generates shade part of the day.

> "be relatively pesticide free."- No pesticides have been used except for some pet/child safe snail bait since we bought the house in 2000.

> "super enthusiastic about the project." - I am extremely enthusiastic about the project. I would like to convert my yard no matter what, I just haven't had the time and I don't have a clear vision of what it could be. I have already converted half our backyard from lawn to a real garden. I am currently longing to have more space devoted to edible stuff.

> "committed and willing to continue the Edible Estate prototype as long as they live in the house." - Without a doubt.

> "avid and knowledgeable gardeners." - I have been gardening all my life. As a kid we had a large yard in the Berkeley hills that included a large vegi garden, numerous fruit trees and a relatively small (and somewhat poorly tended) lawn :-). My mother currently has a business in species and minature daffodils one of the goals of which is to maintain the biodiversity of Narcissus species. She also gave me a strong knowledge and interest in natives. Personally I like to select native species, species that act as butterfly foodplants and edibles, but I do have a weakness for beautiful flowers and my wife loves Hydrangeas and Geraniums. My wife has somewhat less experience with gardening, but when I met her she and a former neighbor had reclaimed a small area behind the apartment she lived in to create a small vegi garden.

> "potential spokespeople, willing to engage others in conversation about the project." - Absolutely. I have been looking for a way to get more engaged in an environmentally related issue. Neither of us have a huge amount of time to devote to it since she's about to have our second child and is staying home to raise the kids, and I have a full time job at one of the local studios.

> "agree to take weekly digital photos to document the progress and development of the project throughout the seasons for the first year." - I'm an avid digital photographer and would document the project whether it was a requirement or not. Our next door neighbor is a producer for the well known Design On a Dime series. There's a reasonable chance that he or someone he knows might be interesting in filming parts of the project if you don't already have plans for that.

Please keep us informed about your project. No matter where it happens, I'd be interested to see what you choose and to see how the project progresses. - Best regards, Nathan


-----Original Message-----
From: Jennifer []
Sent: Friday, December 09, 2005 7:44 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: Interested in the project

Greetings, - I have just read about your Edible Estates project on the TreeHugger website and think I might be a good canidate for you to consider. Our home is about as typical a suburban mid-fifties tract home as you can get. We're located in the master of all masterplanned communities, Lakewood, CA. Our lawn is flat, gets plenty of sunlight, and is totally pesticide free. It's also one of the brownest on the street, as my wife refuses to waste water on it. Dimensions are about 20' x 38', so there's lots of space. We're semi-experienced, but enthusiastic garderners. We have an established
vegetable garden in our backyard already. If you're interested, I can send photos of our house/yard. - regards, Michael & Jennifer


-----Original Message-----
From: Winston []
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2005 4:32 PM
To: fritz
Subject: vineyard/edibleestate

Fritz, - I spent the past year up in Washington State working in wineries and restoring/planting vineyards, and am doing some desiging down here through the winter, so if my knowledge or involvement in the planning or creation of one of these edible estates would be useful with respect to including wine or table grapes, Id like to be involved. Look forward to visiting with you in the new year. Best, Winston


-----Original Message-----
From: Roger []
Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2005 1:31 PM
To: fritz
Subject: Edible Estates

Not sure how you are picking and funding your various houses for the edible estate project, but I'd like to volunteer our house. We have not used any chemical poisons or growth products on the property in the four years we've lived here, and have a number of food products on site now (primarily fruit trees). We have an awful lawn, that we have been considering putting into natives or clover, or something else -- this could be the something else. We are also a corner lot, at Madison & Mountain Street in Pasadena, a pretty well traveled space and on one of the major routes into the Rosebowl. We will try something like this even if you are not interested in using our house, but we would love to talk! - Roger. Pasadena California USA "WooHoo Peaking" for a picture of the house.


From: Gorav []
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 7:50 PM
To: edible estates
Subject: edible landscape in san diego

sorry i dont have pics of it but i will get some. one of the best, if not the best, edible landscape that I have ever seen in southern california is in the town of La Mesa, 8 miles outside of San Diego. My very good friend Ben Wariner, a permaculture designer, along with his mom and grandma, have been building it up for over 10 years now. if you are going to be in the area i can connect you for a tour. they got guava, avocado, citrus, cherimoya, banana, passionfruit, loquat, apple, asian pear, suriname cherry, prickly pear, pitahaya, pomegranate, and all very beautifully done on a 3/4 of an acre lot. - cheers -gorav






- In 2002, Los Angeles County’s top producing agricultural products were ornamental trees and shrubs—valued at $118,240,000 - Los Angeles Almanac

- The City of Los Angeles has only about 10 percent of the recommended 8-10 acres of parks and open space for every 1,000 residents (National Recreation and Parks Association).

- Only a quarter of children in Los Angeles live within a quarter mile of a park. -

- Green waste consists of grass clippings, leaves, and branches removed from sites as part of normal landscape maintenance. On average, each household in the Los Angeles region generates 1.3 tons of green waste per year. This represents roughly a third of all household waste. - Tree People

- Urban land expanded by 92,750 acres during the 2002 mapping cycle, with nearly 25% occurring in the San Joaquin Valley. The inland empire counties (Riverside and San Bernardino) and the six-county Sacramento metropolitan area accounted for 22% and 14%, respectively, of the statewide total. Land idling, ecological restoration, rural residential development, and mining operations also effected downward pressure on the agricultural total. Partially countering the decreases were new orchard plantings in foothill areas and a resurgence of carrot and potato cropping in the Antelope Valley (Los Angeles County). The net decrease in irrigated farmland, 53,963 acres, was dominated by losses to Prime Farmland (47,172 acres) during the two-year period. - Farmland Mapping and Monitoring program

- Landscaping cover more than 1.6 million acres in California -

- Amount of land used for farming in Los Angeles County:

Year / Number of Farms / Farm Land (acres) / Average Size of Farms (acres) / Percent of Land in Farms / Harvested Cropland (acres)
2002 / 1,543 / 111,458 / 72 / 4.3 / 24,033
1997 / 1,226 / 130,838 / 107 / 5.1 / 23,805
1992 / 1,446 / 183,569 / 127 / 7.1 / 29,347
1987 / 2,035 / 280,156 / 138 / 10.8 / 37,102
1982 / 2,331 / 317,757 / 136 / 12.2 / 53,130
1978 / 1,952 / 369,061 / 189 / 14.2 / 54,362
1974 / 1,797 / 400,500 / 223 / 15.4 / 64,806
1969 / 2,804 / 557,770 / 199 / 21.4 / 84,319

- Los Angeles Land Use Maps

- California Land use stastics (1997) from Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

10,628,000 acres of cropland
22,343,000 acres of grassland, pasture, and range
32,579,000 acres of forest land use
20,996,000 acres special uses (transportation, recreation, etc.)
13,277,000 acres of “Other” land use (marches, swamps, deserts, and univestigated urban areas)

Total land area: 99,823,000 acres

417,000 acres of wildlife area
1,761,000 acres of defense and industrial area

5,922,000 acres urban area in California
8,713,000 acres of irrigated land in farms in California

United states land use:

65,537,000 acres of urban land
55,058,000 acres irrigated land in farms
99,011,000 acres wildlife area
16,443,000 acres defense/industrial

full publication

updated statistics



- Southern Californians have an almost unquenchable thirst for water. Our history is one of going longer and longer distances in order to get more and more water. All of the water imported to our region is fit to drink, yet less than 2% of it is actually consumed by humans. Almost all of the rest goes to flushing toilets, washing clothing, bathing, landscape irrigation, and industrial processing.

- The commercial sector accounts for about 19% of all water used. The average use of fresh water is 80 gallons per day per employee, with 23 gallons of this being used for outside uses.

- The industrial sector accounts for about 6% percent of all water used. The average use of fresh water per employee is 103 gallons per day per employee, with 13 gallons of this being used for outside uses.

- The public sector accounts for about 6% of all water used. Virtually all of this water is used for irrigation. The remaining 9% is attributable to "unaccounted uses" (e.g. not metered, system losses, etc.). - Tree People

- California uses 286 millions gallons of water per day for domestic purposes

- California uses 30,500,000,000 gallons of water per day for irrigation purposes

U.S. census, agricultural statistics (up to 2002)

- All residential uses combined account for 59% of all water consumed in Southern California. The average use of fresh water per day is 256 gallons per dwelling unit with, on average, about 75 gallons per day being used for outside uses, primarily for irrigation. - Tree People

- The average resident of Los Angeles, California, uses 122 gallons of water daily -

- Outdoor water use accounts for approximately 35% of overall water consumption in Greater Los Angeles, of which half is used to irrigate gardens and landscaping. -

- In the city of Los Angeles, it is estimated that 50% of home water usage is spent on maintaining lawns and gardens -

DWP website - william mulholland builds an aqueduct, population soars.

Speech by Martha Davis, UCLA environment symposium: “the history of Southern California is the record of its eternal quest for water, and more water, and still more water."

“My purpose today is to talk about how water development in Southern California has profoundly shaped the way we think about our water needs and how those needs can be satisfied -- especially given the dramatic population growth projections for our region. My argument is that the traditional way of thinking about water supplies and needs has created a "box" that we – indeed the entire State of California -- are stuck in. And, if we do not make an effort to step outside that "box," we are in grave danger of making decisions about our water future that will have two consequences: (1) we will make our region much less able to meet water needs in times of drought and (2) we will needlessly sacrifice important environmental resources in the Sierra Nevada, San Francisco Bay Delta and the Colorado River. In closing, I will make a brief prediction for what I think the future holds.”

History of Los Angeles Aqueduct

Story of the los angeles aqueduct (the most comprehensive)

Virtual reality panorama of California aqueduct

Info on the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta

The river project/history of los angeles water - “In Los Angeles, as in most major cities, separate agencies handle drinking water, wastewater, urban planning and flood protection. Each of those agencies builds their own separate systems of aqueducts, sewers, storm drains, treatment plants and levees. Though it's all water, historically the agencies have rarely even spoken to each other. This dis-integration can lead to a redundancy of effort and fiscal resources.”

More than 50% of water used in residential areas is for outside landscape. -



- Californian produces 42% of the Nation’s fruits, 43%of its vegetables (Where Have all the Flowers, Fishes, Birds, Trees, Water, and Air Gone?/ by Segerberg Osborn, Jr./ 1989)

Agriculture remains one of California's leading industries. Yet sprawl continues to take a heavy toll on California agriculture in the following ways:

- A permanent loss of agricultural land. Between 1982 and 1987, the Central Valley- California's leading agricultural region-lost almost a half-million acres of productive farmland. Some of this land can be replaced by bringing new land into agricultural production, but often at a high economic and environmental cost. Also, many of California's micro-climates support unique agricultural products that cannot be replaced by land in other areas. Highly productive coastal agricultural lands lost to sprawl cannot be replaced at any cost.

- loss in productivity due to pollution. Sprawl-induced ozone pollution alone can reduce crop yields by as much as 30 percent. According to the Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, pollution-induced costs to agriculture exceed $200 million per year.

- A decline in farm communities. As sprawl has eroded agricultural production, the effect on farm communities has been devastating. In some cases, rural communities have been transformed into bedroom suburbs, creating destructive commuting patterns while destroying agriculture infrastructure and productivity.

- Long-term uncertainty. Sprawl destabilizes agriculture by creating the temptation to "sell out." The prospect of eventual sale to a developer reduces incentives for farmers to make long-term capital investments. In many cases, farmers stay afloat financially only by borrowing against the speculative value of their farm for development- creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of sprawl. Another uncertainty for farmers arises from increased demand for water for urban uses driven by sprawl patterns. - Radical Urban Theory

- Food miles are the distance point of sale, while the same types of produce from conventional sources within the US traveled an average of 1,494 miles - nearly 27 times farther - to reach the same points of sale. In developed, industrial nations, the food miles traveled to reach consumers are expansive. Many industrialized countries no longer rely on their own farmers to fully supply a number of food items. International food trade is expanding at a greater capacity than the growth in population or food production.

- An increasing proportion of what Americans eat is produced in other countries, including an estimated 39 percent of fruits, 12 percent that food travels from where it is grown to where it is ultimately purchased or consumed by the end user. The report also revealed that locally grown produce traveled an average of 56 miles from farm to of vegetables, 40 percent of lamb, and 78 percent of fish and shellfish. The typical American meal contains, on average, ingredients from a t least five countries outside the United States. - Tree People



Anti-suburbia essay (post-modern..)

writings on the myth of the suburban standard (w/suburban lawn songs)

suburban sprawl in the antelope velley

the ecology of sprawl

photos of sprawl / antelope valley


Forest Lawn

true lawn facts

facts about lawnmower use/pollution

role of the lawn in global warming

many lawn facts

lawn transformation



“In the 1800s, Mexican and American ranchers used the land for sheep and cattle grazing. As the century progressed, more and more farmers made their homes in the area that would later become East Los Angeles. They planted grains and raised pigs and chickens. Citrus trees, eucalyptus groves, and grape vines, as well as rows and rows of vegetables, sprouted alongside fields of grazing dairy cows. Relatively early in the twentieth century, however, train tracks, paved streets, immigrant dwellings, and factories replaced this bucolic scenery.” - Romo, Ricardo. East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983.



l.a. times articles

Map of many community gardens

Wattles Farm

proyecto jardin, boyle heights

Trust for Public Land


list of plants

list of farmers markets



a small urban homestead
The book describes their efforts to do "integral gardening" on every bit of usable land, to produce food (for people and wildlife), medicines, fragrance, shade, and useful tools. They describe how they went about raising earthworms, chickens, rabbits, bees, a goose, a pig, and their dogs in their typical back yard.

path to freedom - yielded 6075 lbs of fruit, vegetable, herbs and edible flowers

Ecofootprint/sustainable cities

Sustainable agriculture in cities / the future w/ statistics and food travel distances…

New varieties of crops / la times article

What to plant when in LA county

USC center for sustainable cities

MARINA DEL REY GARDEN CENTER / 13198 Mindanao Way / Marina del Rey, CA / 90292 / 310. 823.5956

Excellent seeds

Los Angeles Ecovillage / CRSP / 117 Bimini Place #221 / Los Angeles CA 90004 / 213.738.125

article about an urban farm in Wilmington, CA

water saving hose nozzles

Bay Area seeds interchange library (BASIL) - Collective seeking to save ‘real’ seeds (non gmo, non hybridized..)

Article in SF gate on BASIL

bikeride through food production states - to answer the question: where does our food come from..

Julia Russell, "Xeriscape" ed. Bob Walter, and Lois Arkin. Sustainable Cities (EcoHome Media. Los Angeles CA, 1992)

Article on the landscape architecture / urban garden connection

step by step guide to worm composting

backyard composting

edible yard tips

article on south central urban farm

vegetable planting schedule for so cal (seeds)

vegetable harvesting schedule for so cal

article on winter gardens (what to plant, when, how)

basic organic gardening info, incl. IPM

what is organic? - Organic produce is made without using "most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation," the USDA says.

abc news piece


double digging- increases growth by aerating soil

integrated pest management (California…)
integrated pest management involves the controlled use of pests (beetles, ladybugs, etc) to eliminate obnoxious insects. Many types of Ipm are pre-emptive; climate control, use of organic fertilizers, etc are used to keep the population of pests at bay.




more on schrebergartens


Dacha- Russian lawn gardens

Egyptian roof top gardens

victory gardens

more on victory gardens

victory seeds

city farmer

findhorn community

cascadia food not lawns

Vineyard history



Redesigning the American Lawn / by Herbert f. Bormann / 2001

The American Lawn / by The Montreal Canadian Centre for Architecture / 1999

Where Have all the Flowers, Fishes, Birds, Trees, Water, and Air Gone?/ by Segerberg Osborn, Jr./ 1989

Tree People - TREES—Trans-Agency Resources for Environmental and Economic Sustainability

Environment and Natural resource management - Promoting urban agricluture: a strategy Framework for Planners in North America

Environmental Health Perpectives - Article on the environmental impacts of sprawl/suburbanization

Natural History of Vacant Lots by Matthew F. Vessel, Herbert H. Wong, Pamela Vesterby

Article about food systems and the structure of cities, los angeles in particular. Includes ideas on how to integrate food production into the infrastructure of cities and how to build communities around food/gardens. - City Farmer

Tom Turner's City as landscape: a post-Postmodern view of planning and design (Spons:London, 1996)

“'A city is not a tree'. In our post-postmodern world, a city is a landscape…….
Physically, gardens must have boundaries. Mentally, they can reach to the limits of the known universe….”

Third space: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-And-Imagined Places. By Edward W. Soja. Cambridge, Mass., and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.