by Randy Arnowitz
photos by Joanne A. Calitri
Barnyard Blues Turn Green
artially due to the current popularity of the “green” or “sustainability”
movement, more and more Montecito residents have begun growing their own vegetables, raising their own
chickens, feeding their own worms... yes, worms.
Higher food prices, an increasing uncertainty of what’s in the food they buy and eat, lack of quality, and because homegrown
better, are all reasons why folks are picking up shovels and hoes and doing it themselves, even in the most upscale of
communities. Vegetable seeds and starts, fluffy just-hatched chicks, and worm bins are flying off the feed store shelves in record numbers.
Matt Buckmaster, owner of Island Seed and Feed in Goleta cites quality and taste as the primary reasons for what he too sees as the
skyrocketing increase in backyard farming. “Backyard produce and fresh eggs can be brought in and eaten on the spot. Minutes-old broccoli
and warm eggs win hands down every time,” Matt says. He also believes that his customers are interested in sustainability, eating organic,
The lettuce, arugula, carrots and other produce that come from a backyard farm are totally different creatures than the ones
found at a supermarket. Once you experience an
tomato, for example, picked and eaten warm from the vine, you’ll never
again be content with those things produce managers call tomatoes.
Star ting From Scratch
The methods for growing backyard vegetables are as varied and numerous as the veggies that can
be grown in them. Wine barrels, buckets, nursery containers and hanging baskets can all be used if
you want to start small. For container gardening, fill your containers with quality
than dirt from your garden; backyard soil often lacks adequate organic matter and tends to become
compacted in the container.
Stepping it up a bit, raised beds – either handmade or easy-to-assemble kits – are another option
for growing crops at home. Gardening in raised beds allows for better drainage and, as in container gardening,
allows you to choose your soil medium. Since you can determine the height of the beds they can
easily accommodate gardeners with sore backs or wheelchairs.
For large planters, it’s more economical to buy a topsoil and compost blend than
to use expensive potting soil. Most local garden and building supply centers carry this
planting medium in bulk.