Find­ing room to grow food nearly any­where

The Tribune (SLO) - - Neighbors -

Any­one can turn a yard or even a few pots into beau­ti­ful food, says Los An­ge­les gar­den­ing guru Lauri Kranz.

“We re­ally want to em­power peo­ple to grow their own food and not be over­whelmed about hav­ing to know ev­ery­thing be­fore they even be­gin,” add the au­thor of the new book “A Gar­den Can Be Any­where.”

Kranz moved from New York to Los An­ge­les in the mid-1990s to pur­sue a mu­sic ca­reer (her dream pop band Snow & Voices has three al­bums), but her foray into gar­den­ing was al­most an ac­ci­dent: Her old­est son’s kinder­garten needed some­one to over­see the stu­dent gar­den, and Kranz vol­un­teered.

“That sparked ev­ery­thing,” she said. “I be­came ob­sessed,” read­ing all the books she could find and pump­ing grow­ers for in­for­ma­tion at her fa­vorite farm­ers mar­kets.

When her sec­ond son started kinder­garten, his school didn’t have a gar­den, and she of­fered to start one. Par­ents who were im­pressed by its bounty asked her to help them set up gar­dens at their homes, and her busi­ness Ed­i­ble Gar­dens L.A. was born.

Kranz’s busi­ness still caters to cre­at­ing gar­dens for chil­dren and schools, but she also has fa­mous clients. She doesn’t drop names, but the glow­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on her book cover in­clude a wide range of Los An­ge­les celebri­ties, from singer Katy Perry and ac­tor Ja­son Bate­man to de­signer Jenni Kayne and chef Suzanne Goin.

The 256-page book is filled with easy-to-digest ad­vice and in­spir­ing pho­tos by Yoshi­hiro Makino of ri­otous gar­den plots crammed with all kind of col­or­ful plants — in­clud- ing a vividly vi­o­let cau­li­flower, del­i­cately striped egg­plant and her musthave gar­den plant: African basil, with creamy spikes of pur­ple and white flow­ers — and ev­ery shade of green you can pos­si­bly imag­ine. (Her hus­band, Dean Kuipers, a former edi­tor at the Los An­ge­les Times, as­sisted with the writ­ing.)

Al­most all the fea­tured gar­dens are in the Los An­ge­les area, ex­cept for two small farms in Maine, but Kranz hopes this book will at­tract read­ers across the coun­try.

Beauty and in­di­vid­u­al­ity are key to Kranz’s gar­dens. Th­ese are not util­i­tar­ian rows of car­rots and toma­toes but a smor­gas­bord of va­ri­eties grown close to­gether to shade the soil, draw in pol­li­na­tors and pro­duce an abun­dance of food, fra­grance and hues.

“For me, mu­sic and gar­den­ing are not that far apart,” she said. “In both, you’re start­ing with a blank can­vas, whether it’s a piece of pa­per or a plot of land, and you cre­ate some­thing to tell your own story.”

It’s im­por­tant to Kranz that her clients get a gar­den that suits their needs and be­comes a place they want to linger.

Here are her top four tips for cre­at­ing the gar­den of your de­sires:


“An ed­i­ble gar­den is cre­ated to pro­duce food,” Kranz said, but that doesn’t mean you plant only ed­i­bles. Her gar­dens are stuffed with flow­ers too, some ed­i­ble, like her om­nipresent African basil, and some be­cause of their rich fra­grance and at­trac­tive­ness to bees, but­ter­flies and other ben­e­fi­cial in­sects.

“At­tract­ing all those ben­e­fi­cials to the gar­den is vi­tal,” she said, “be­cause with­out them, our ed­i­ble gar­dens wouldn’t pro­duce many ed­i­bles.”


“The most im­por­tant thing is pick­ing the right place,” Kranz says. Ex­plore your prop­erty and take pho­tos of ev­ery po­ten­tial gar­den spot ev­ery two hours dur­ing the day to see how much time is spent in sun or shade.

Eight hours of sun is per­fect “if you want to grow gi­ant heir­loom toma­toes and melons, but five hours of full sun is fan­tas­tic too. You can grow de­li­cious Sun Gold toma­toes and beau­ti­ful kale, herbs, peas and beans with just five hours a day.”


Kranz is a strong pro­po­nent of or­ganic gar­den­ing and be­lieves build­ing a fri­able (i.e. crumbly), nu­tri­ent-rich soil is crit­i­cal to your gar­den’s suc­cess.

Such soils can take years to cre­ate, she said, but to start she ad­vo­cates the “dou­ble-dig­ging method”:

Dig­ging up a shov­el­wide trench, half fill­ing it with com­post and then shov­el­ing soil from the next trench into the first to in­tro­duce air into the soil and mix in the com­post, plus reg­u­lar fer­til­iz­ing with liq­uid sea­weed, is all she rec­om­mends for the first year.

“Your gar­den will tell you what else it needs,” she said. “You’ll be learn­ing as you go.”


Most of her gar­dens are made of raised beds of un­treated, un­painted wood (no wider than 4 feet so the mid­dle is al­ways within reach), and she’s found drip ir­ri­ga­tion to be the best way to keep them wa­tered.

Af­ter she fills the beds with soil, she lays a halfinch ir­ri­ga­tion hose on one end and strings quar­ter-inch per­fo­rated hoses the length of the bed, 6 inches apart. In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, she sug­gests, start wa­ter­ing three times a week for 18 min­utes, and then ad­just from there if the soil is too wet or dry.


Lauri Kranz strolls through some newly planted raised beds of veg­eta­bles and flow­ers. Raised beds can be long, she said, but no wider than 4 feet, so you can eas­ily reach the mid­dle. Note her drip ir­ri­ga­tion lines spaced 6 inches apart. Kranz of­ten gar­dens in long skirts, she says, be­cause they pro­tect her legs bet­ter than shorts and still keep her cool.


Lauri Kranz doesn’t plant in neat lit­tle rows; she packs her beds thickly with a va­ri­ety of veg­eta­bles and flow­ers, such as the African basil at her left.

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