Technology companies, sprawl and suburbia may have replaced the fields of prune, apricot, cherry and walnut tree orchards that once graced what is now my neighborhood, but local food production is beginning to slowly return to our region. Silicon Valley may again one day be referred to as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight”, its former nickname from back when the area’s local landscape was dominated by rich, diverse food production and stunning natural beauty.

Edible Landscaping by Example

Last weekend Common Ground’s 5th Annual Edible Landscaping Tour featured 10 beautiful and creative home gardens from Menlo Park to Mountain View on the SF Peninsula, all with an emphasis on organically grown vegetables and fruit. This popular event continues to attract a growing number of eager attendees ready to learn how to transform their suburban gardens and grow their own food.

A young gardener cuddles her pet chicken

The 313 attendees were treated to a diversity of designs from formal to informal, and each garden was a celebration of suburban micro-farming: using garden spaces to supply seasonal vegetables and fruit for the family table as an alternative to growing purely ornamental plants. Many homes also kept chickens, geese, ducks and rabbits, and one had several bee hives.

Tour-goers spent a full day gathering ideas and tips for reducing or eliminating lawns and incorporating edible plants into their suburban gardens for tasty and nutritious fresh food all year round.

A special participant was local restaurant Chez TJ , a Michelin starred fine dining restaurant in Mountain View with a commitment to local, seasonal, fresh ingredients. Executive Chef Joey Elenterio explained enthusiastically how much the staff loves perusing the restaurant’s lush organic garden each morning to find inspiration for the day’s menu.

Chez TJ Executive Chef Joey Elenterio with the restaurant's gardener, Louise Christy

The Common Ground Demonstration Garden, which showcases biointensive gardening methods, was also featured on the tour and provided a special learning opportunity for all of the visitors.

Silicon Valley: Not Always Innovative

Silicon Valley is certainly known for its innovative and progressive social climate, but Bay Area residents can sometimes be conservative when it comes to their suburban garden landscaping. A few years ago a resident in Palo Alto (famed home of Stanford University and Steve Jobs) received a notice from local realtors that their front yard vegetable garden was lowering the property values in the neighborhood.

Chez TJ's organically cultivated vegetable and herb beds

Changing Attitudes One Garden at a Time

Happily, another resident was informed by a different realtor that the street on which she lived was in high demand, due to the vegetable garden she created for neighborhood children in her front yard. Hopefully more edible garden tours will help to change the backward attitudes towards what is considered suitable landscaping for a suburban home,  and in the near future cultivating a kitchen garden will be the pride of every family across the nation.

The Edible Landscaping Tour event is organized yearly by Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center to promote sustainable gardening practices and to encourage growing food instead of lawns. The proceeds benefit Common Ground, a non-profit organization for 40 years.

Photos: Urban Artichoke