When I asked Tony Kienitz, author of the Year I Ate My Yard, how to keep birds from boldly poaching my blueberries, he calmly replied: "You need a snake." Welcome to the world of off-kilter products -- some real, some fake -- aimed to deter pests without pesticides.
Living a rich life, with or without vast riches
Good cooks trying to make dinner on a budget often run into one vexing issue: Buying enough herbs for a single dinner can cost a fortune. But you can grow herbs for a pittance and they'll come back year after year. Better yet, you don't need a lot of real estate to have an herb garden. All you need is a pot for a very nice kitchen garden. Better yet, your potted herbs could help keep mosquitos off your porch.
When I first realized that I needed a drought-tolerant garden, it was 1997 and I thought drought tolerant meant cactus and succulents. I couldn't have been more wrong. Drought-tolerant plants -- like those in my yard pictured here -- come in all shapes and sizes. In addition to saving money on water, they can be extraordinarily beautiful , fast-growing , hearty and, largely, perennial. So, put away your trowel. If you go drought tolerant, you can kiss high water bills and Spring planting goodbye.
We all have things that soothe our souls. The garden is mine. Whether I have some problem to think about or just need to unwind after a long day, tinkering in the garden -- watching things grow -- hits the reset button on my over-active brain. At some point, I realized my garden wasn't only good for my soul, it was great for my budget.
I can -- and often do -- pick my meals straight out of the garden, What are we having? Let's see what's ripe. I am fortunate to have a big garden, where I can grow a wide array of fruit and vegetables. But you don't need a huge piece of land to cultivate your own food.
Even if all you've got is a pot or a community plot, you too can grow edible plants. About one-third of Americans now do, which is an all-time high. In keeping with my budget-conscious theme, I asked a host of experts about the most cost-effective back-yard (and patio) crops. Some of the stories below reflect their answers. But my favorite response was from Tony Kienitz, author of The Year I Ate My Yard." "You'll get your best return by planting things you like to eat." he said. Good advice. There's no return in rotting produce.
Coming soon: Ways to save water, protect your plants from pests and organic tips on boosting food production. I hope you find the stories fun and helpful.