Scott McGuire at the John Muir School garden in Ashland Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Eat your yard

If you transform your yard from ornamental to edible, you will lower your food costs, improve your health and ease your stress level.

An "edible yard" may reduce the curb appeal of your home, but it still pencils out, both in terms of money and peace of mind, says Scott McGuire of Rogue River, author of a new DVD series called "Backyard Sustainable Gardening With Scott Allen McGuire."

Lawns and shrubs use a lot of water and space, and we're at a time in history when increasing numbers of people are concerned about reducing their use of and cost for energy and resources — and they are seeking more local, affordable fruits, vegetables, honey and poultry.

It may be hard to say goodbye to that lovely expanse of lawn, admits McGuire, so you might want to keep much of it and plant veggies, grapevines or fruit trees on the edges — where they won't detract from the image of your front yard — then focus most of your food production in the backyard.

A century ago, domestic gardens were commonplace, and people beat a path between garden and kitchen, eating the freshest food available while saving costly trips to the market.

That's the ideal preached by McGuire's nine-DVD instructional set, based on the material he teaches regularly in his "Eat Your Yard" class at Rogue Community College in Medford. Each DVD is about 20 minutes long, and the set sells for around $45. It's available at www.scottallenmcguire.com.

The series covers soil-building, irrigation, siting for sun, composting, mulching and choosing produce you like to cook with and can manage in the garden, he says.

"The starting point is planning a garden that won't overwhelm you," says McGuire, explaining that means planting foods you like, so you'll cook with them and be more motivated to take care of them.

"Forget about growing the plant. Grow the soil, then the plants will grow themselves. Build the fertility," he says, suggesting that gardeners recycle kitchen scraps into compost and eschew man-made fertilizers and pesticides.

As for bugs and pests, says McGuire, relax: "There is no such thing as a pest; there is only an insect population out of balance, so you bring in beneficial ones, like ladybugs and praying mantis."

A happy garden should be a place where you can destress from the busyness of life, as well as gain peace of mind from creating part of your food supply and helping the planet, says McGuire.

People considering an edible yard might get discouraged by two drawbacks: It will take time, and you will spend money, especially on water in late summer. However, these expenditures are more than counterbalanced by the upside.

"It absolutely will take work, but it reduces the stress of the other work that you get paid for," says McGuire. "It's relaxing. You're creating your own food, and it's nutritious. It's the most nutritious food you can find because you have a relationship with it. It owes you. There is no oil in it — that is, it used no fossil fuel to get here. It has the smallest carbon footprint of any food."

Backyard protein also can come from chickens, bees or rabbits. Bees are increasingly vital to pollination because of widespread colony collapse disorder, says McGuire, adding that "without bees, we don't survive."

Among the produce that's easiest to care for and cook are greens, lettuce and anything that goes in salad. Potatoes and many other root crops — including the onion and garlic family — also are easy to grow, along with tomatoes and culinary herbs.

McGuire says he believes his DVDs and classes have a promising future because of increasing environmental problems, starting with what he calls the "collapse of the oil bubble" — that is, a shrinking supply of oil that will lead to higher costs for transporting food from the breadbasket regions of the world.

In other words, food is going to cost more.

"You'll want to have your own food supply," says McGuire. "The garden becomes the green haven, not only for eating, but for sanity."

McGuire can be reached for consultations at 541-582-1201.

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