Vote for the Garden Party

A reader has chastised me for using this column as a platform for pontification. “Stick to gardening,” I have been advised.
Well, I can keep it a secret no longer. Let this column serve notice that a new political party, the Garden Party, has been formed.
True to the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said “God help this country if there’s not a revolution every 20 years,” our party seeks to bring about some long overdue and radical changes. Before taking on the entire country, however, we are turning our sights on City Hall, where we will attempt to gain a foothold in the upcoming elections. It will be demonstrated how every major problem confronting our city may be solved through the growing of plants. The issues upon which our campaign will be based are the following:
1. Nutritional self-sufficiency, clean air and better-educated kids
Turn Los Angeles into a farm. If every front yard in the city was used for growing crops, there would be no need for supermarkets, which could be turned into food distribution centers. The 800 to 1,000 square feet that comprise a typical Valley front yard could provide more than enough vegetables, fruits and grains for a family of four. This has been fully documented by John Jeavons in “How to Grow More Vegetables” (10 Speed Press, 1995). In addition to lower food bills, water bills would be reduced, since lawns require more water for their upkeep than intensively cultivated, drip-irrigated vegetable plots and fruit trees.
As people realize they can sustain themselves with what grows in the ground in front of their house, they’ll be less inclined to jump in the car every morning and drive so many miles to and from the office. In addition to the money and time saved from less automobile use, there will be less traffic for those needing to take the car and less air pollution for everyone. Since parents will spend more time at home, they will be able to participate more actively in their children’s education, taking this burden off of the public schools.
2. Neighborhood mulch, compost and healthy plants
Municipal disposal of grass clippings (from backyard lawns) and tree prunings will be eliminated. With the money saved from no longer having to dump everyone’s trimmings, the city will provide each neighborhood with a shredder/chipper for turning landscape leftovers into instant mulch and eventual compost.
With a steady, free supply of mulch and compost to draw on, gardens will be constantly lush and plants won’t come down with that washed-out, mineral-deprived look. Perennially healthy plants will be virtually impervious to garden pests.
3. Elevation of the gardener’s status
As gardens transform the city into a self-sufficient, air-cleaned, urban farm, the status of those who work the earth will be elevated. Contests will be held to see who can grow the crispest apples, the juiciest tomatoes and the sweetest corn. Awards will be given for the best garden displays in various categories: roses, perennials, fragrant plants, bulbs, plants from seed, native and plants in containers. In the new L.A., people will be judged by the plants they grow rather than by the cars they drive. Top-notch gardeners will be paid $250 per hour, whereas attorneys – now that a sensible professional pecking order begins to emerge – will fetch around $6 per hour for their services.
Something wild: On March 29 and 30, there will be a Wildflower Show sponsored by the California Native Plant Society. The show will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Michael Landon Center, located on Malibu Bluffs near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road. Native plants, books and posters will be sold.
Tip of the week: Pat Moore of Woodland Hills inquires about encouraging growth of existing perennial plants, such as ground covers. Any product (several are available), that contains a root hormone chemical – check the bottle for IAA (indole acetic acid) or IBA (indole butyric acid) – will encourage root growth and result in a more robust plant. Organic fertilizers – such as cottonseed meal and seaweed extract – are also recommended because they slowly release mineral elements to the roots, unlike fast-acting inorganic fertilizers that cause unnatural and unhealthy spurts of growth.

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