Thursday, May 14, 2009

Greenzona and our garden!

Greenzona is a local business dedicated to building sustainable gardens in urban and suburban environments.

TJ, Don, Kris

It’s a small operation, true to its vision—their business unfolds organically, by word of mouth, mostly. They even do apartments, and when our neighbors told us about their own garden, I had to watch them install it. It was so cool that my husband and I are now the proud caretakers of the 20-something square foot garden on our own porch.

Our garden on day one!

Don and Zee are a couple living in Tempe whose vision of vegetable gardening for all is now coming to fruition. TeeJay and Kris have prominent roles, as well. “Everybody talks about sustainability; we want to do something about it,” Don said when they installed my neighbor’s garden.

Don, Zee, Kris, and the peppers

Here’s what it’s like to get a custom ecogarden from greenzona: Don, TJ, and Kris assess your yard, porch, wherever you have room—and design a shape and size appropriate to the space. They school you in microclimate--the particulars of your exact spot.

You consult with Zee on what you’ll be able to plant—they stick with seasonal vegetables and herbs. We went heavy on the peppers—jalapeño, habenero, and green—as well as melons and beans, basil, chives, lavender, and thyme.

Kris, TJ

TJ, the wattle, and the compost. Here, he's installing the drip irrigation system.

They begin with a rice straw wattle, which essentially defines the boundaries of your garden. They describe it as “weed and pesticide-free California straw wrapped in photodegradable netting shaped to fit varying spaces.” The result is a naturally biodegradable, flexibly tubular but sturdy border around your garden.

The local compost mix they used was like black gold. When they installed (neighbors) Amy and Kim’s garden, it was a cool day and you could feel the heat coming off the compost. TJ told me that when they pick it up in the mornings, they can see the steam rising from it. It had a pleasant, earthy smell.

Greenzona wants to make the transition to gardening easy for those with little or no experience. You can opt for the timed drip irrigation system, which Don explained works like “an erector set.” They choose the length of the hose, use what looks just like a paper hole punch to create the holes, and arrange the pieces in shapes that work for your space. This is particularly helpful if you’re an anxious beginner, for timed drip irrigation does not only spare you the time spent watering: it helps to prevent classic rookie mistakes, like over- or under-watering, or watering at the wrong time of day. The guys have experience in landscape management and horticulture graduate school, so you can trust them to make informed decisions when they install the garden.

In fact, the biggest selling point is greenzona’s customer service model. Amy told me they don’t want to leave customers with what she dubbed the “Home-Depot experience,” where optimistic beginners start a DIY project, only to find themselves discouraged at the first sign of failure. I pictured a garage full of barely used tools and materials standing as symbols for dashed hopes. Don, Zee, TJ, and Kris encourage you to call or email with questions, and there’s no expiration date on that offer. They hope to build an online open-source deal so that gardeners can learn from each other.

In the late afternoon shade

There are no guarantees in gardening—you are bound to encounter some obstacles, and these guys don’t want to leave you high and dry trying to figure out the next step.

I’ve already taken Kris up on the offer many times; at a very modest price, he set me up with my first worm-composting bin. Kris is dubbed the "worm whisperer," but that’s the topic of another post…