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  • Writer's pictureJeff Robbins

Turn Your Garden into a Food Source – San Diego Union Tribune

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

University City family reaps fruit, herbs year-round with sustainable home garden

By Amelia Evrigenis • U-T July 19, 2013

For Jennifer and Robert Bonakdar, farm-to-table dining is so last year.

Four years ago, the couple hired Ari Tenenbaum, president and co-founder of Revolution Landscape, to create an edible, sustainable garden at their home.

Today, the Bonakdars’ garden boasts sweet, ready-to-pick fruit at any time of year. Their crops include apples, plums, passion fruit, blackberries, mandarins and herbs. It’s all about yard-to-table now.

The Bonakdar family garden is an organic and environmentally friendly project, featuring primarily native and drought-tolerant plants. With just a few exceptions, whatever water goes into the soil yields juicy, ripe fruit.

“If it was going to need water, we wanted it to be something you can eat,” says Tenenbaum.

Tenenbaum uses techniques such as espaliering and pruning to maximize garden output. He controls pests by identifying the insects early and developing the plants’ resilience against infection.

“Pests tend to go after plants that are weakened for other reasons already,” he says. “Keeping our plants healthy and vigorous from the time of planting to harvest helps reduce their susceptibility to pests in general.”

The garden’s sustainable features include a drip irrigation system fed by two large Bushman storage tanks installed in the yard. The tanks, which collectively hold up to 925 gallons, dispense rainwater collected from the roof into the garden’s irrigation system.

Tenenbaum notes that his sustainable, organic methods not only boost crop yields in the present, but also improve the land for future harvests.

“Unlike with an industrial farm where every year the soil gets worse, here, because of the way we manage it by using organic methods … every year the soil gets better.”

Jennifer and Robert hoped the garden would give their children Bodhi (10), Zoey (8) and Pax (6) a greater appreciation for the natural processes that produce food, especially when they’re barraged with so many packaged products.

“To have something where the kids actually appreciate … where a grape starts from, how blackberries grow, and then taste them — especially things like passion fruit, where they haven’t typically had it until they ate it from the yard … that’s the “aha” moment we were looking for,” says Robert.

They agree that the garden has fulfilled their goals.

The garden likewise reaps professional benefits for Robert, a physician at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine and director of the Scripps Natural Supplements Conference. He says the garden’s herb collection has given him a greater reverence for the herbs and plants he prescribes to his own patients.

Both Jennifer and Robert also note that cultivating their garden and landscape gives them the opportunity to better serve the environment by growing pesticide-free produce and reducing the waste produced by packaged food models.

Tenenbaum champions the unique features that set sustainable landscaping and gardening apart from other “green” initiatives, such as driving hybrid cars or installing solar panels.

“With a landscape, it’s not something that you just buy, and then it’s done,” he says. “You don’t just throw it up on the roof and then forget about it. It’s not even like a house, where you build it and it’s done. … With the landscape, it’s constantly changing and evolving and developing, and there’s just something really cool about that.”


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