Client Profile - Vetiver in a Backyard Orchard, Los Angeles, CA

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Whenever I have the pleasure of telling people about the uses of Vetiver and the proper planting method, I always make a point of saying that the two things that Vetiver dislikes the most are ice and shade. Oversimplified as that statement may be, both of those conditions may kill or stun the plants and planting under tree canopies should be avoided when planning a landscaping or soil conservation project.

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago I received a very kind email from UCLA law professor Grace Blumberg in west Los Angeles praising the Vetiver plants that she and her husband Donald, both UCLA Master Gardeners, had purchased from us on the Internet and planted last February. The message included a collection of photos of their semicircular hillside backyard with a very nicely laid out drip irrigation system and a collection of small trees set between the Vetiver rows. In my book, the shade from those little trees would be detrimental to the Vetiver in a few years, so I wrote back raising a red flag about the possible shade issue.

Happily, Grace was a step ahead of me. She quickly explained that they had planned and distanced the trees according to a novel concept of "Backyard Orchards" where the trees will be regularly pruned and allowed to grow no taller that arm's reach for ease of maintenance and harvesting. This technique results in a lower yield per tree, but a greater yield per acre with reduced harvesting cost. This technique is detailed in the web site of Dave Wilson Nurseries and is now been used by some California commercial orchards as well. With this management, the tree shade is unlikely to become an issue in this orchard.

The Blumbergs are quickly becoming Vetiver champions in their own right. Beyond their own backyard, they are already sharing their knowledge where it can be put to good use. In Grace's own words:
"We consider the Vetiver a great success. Beside its many fine qualities, we love the appearance of the green Vetiver rows between rows of the fruit trees that we planted at the same time. We are both University of California Master Gardeners and, within the next few months, we will be presenting a brief PowerPoint presentation on Vetiver to a meeting of the Los Angeles County Master Gardeners. The mission of the LA County Master Gardeners is to teach low-income adults and school children in low-income schools how to grow their own fruits and vegetables. There is considerable local land that is unutilized because of its steep grade. Hence, bioengineering with Vetiver promises to be a local godsend."
It is very rewarding and valuable when our clients take the time to give us feedback and share their experiences with us. This is one story that I felt important to pass along. I also learned my lesson . . . never argue with a lawyer that knows more than you about gardening. (said with a tip of my hat)

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