Espoma and the National Gardening Association Announce The Espoma Environmental Stewardship Home Gardener Award Winners

By Julie Parker-Dickerson

Imagine if your front lawn were a vegetable garden and your backyard a bustling orchard. What if you never had to turn on a faucet to water your plants or wash your car? Could you imagine being able to eat from your neighborhood garden in return for helping pull a few weeds?

Simple practices can help better your life, your community, and the environment around you. Creating and maintaining an environmentally friendly outdoor space helps to reduce the cost of water, the money spent annually on plantings, the cost and time spent on lawn maintenance, and a host of other benefits to your budget and your backyard. Most important, environmental stewardship helps preserve the natural world and inspire others to do the same.

NGA and Espoma are proud to present the insights we learned from the five winners selected to receive this year's Espoma Environmental Stewardship Home Gardener Award. From New York to San Diego, each home gardener chosen for the award has come up with innovative and useful ways to transform his or her living space, both inside and out, into an ecologically-friendly oasis.

The pizza oven is a gathering spot in Josh

The pizza oven is a gathering spot in Josh's sustainable landscape.

Josh Robinson lives on 1/5 of an acre in suburban San Diego. Over the course of just one year, Josh transformed a barren lot into a bountiful edible landscape. The small property contains terraced gardens interspersed with compost piles, rainwater harvesting tanks, an aquaponics system that combines fish rearing with hydroponic plant production, a nursery, two beehives, an outdoor kitchen, gathering space, and a homemade Cob pizza oven. Nearly all of the features in the yard have been constructed using recycled materials. A former driveway provided the material for the terraced gardens, the oven is created from soil and found materials, and the nursery supplies a plentiful variety of plants, enough to give away!

Water features like this pond benefit wildlife and add movement and color to Becki

Water features like this pond benefit wildlife and add movement and color to Becki's garden with fish and aquatic plants.

Becki Lynch lives in suburban Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As a Master Gardener, Becki has applied her knowledge of sustainable gardening practices to her yard. From perennial beds to an acre of untouched forest, Becki's living landscape is home to a variety of pollinators and other living creatures. Water features welcome wildlife into her yard, with 65 feet of stream, two ponds, and a waterfall. Becki and her family have also created a windbreak of trees that shelter their property while providing food and cover to songbirds and other creatures.

Raised beds in the Eubanks

Raised beds in the Eubanks' verge garden provide a bounty of produce for the neighborhood.

William T. Eubanks resides in urban Charleston, South Carolina. Combining his skills as a landscape architect and his wife's practice in sustainable and urban agriculture, the couple set out to make an example of their yard for the rest of their community. Lawn areas are minimal at this urban property; in its place landscape plants have been carefully selected for their microclimate to reduce the need for watering. Pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers are rarely used, with a preference towards organic products. The couple practice vermiculture in five bins where worms enjoy dining on junk mail, coffee grounds, and food waste, producing soil-enriching castings in return. To reduce water cost, two rain barrels have been installed. The water they collect is used for everything from watering fruit and vegetable plants to washing the dog. Perhaps the best feature of the property is the ″Verge Garden.″ This is a garden planted in the green space of the right of way between the road and their yard where they grow 40 varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs for the entire neighborhood to enjoy. This garden is a shared effort for those who enjoy the produce.

The Fords use buckwheat as a living mulch to keep down weeds, conserve soil moisture, and attract pollinating insects

The Fords use buckwheat as a living mulch to keep down weeds, conserve soil moisture, and attract pollinating insects.

Tatum and Jay Ford live in rural Quinby, Virginia. Only two acres of their large property is cultivated, leaving much of the land unchanged. A large garden is focused primarily on year-round food production. A greenhouse constructed from salvaged home windows is used to start plants early and extend the season into the colder months. Crop rotations, companion planting, and integrated pest management help to keep food production strong. Bees are kept on the property for pollination and honey. Chickens produce a plentiful amount of eggs and fertilizer. Invasive plant species are kept at bay by hungry goats. The Ford's efforts go beyond the backyard and into the community. Their living landscape serves as example for the school garden club they began and helps the many members of the community who receive food donations from their productive gardens. Jay and Tatum are in the process of constructing a home entirely from recycled materials, with a focus on renewable energy.

Christine Bailey-Clar and her family moved to suburban Farmington, New York from the city three years ago. Since then Christine and her family have turned a 10 acre plot into a productive and sustainable space with vegetable gardens, an orchard, rainwater harvesting system, compost area, and wildlife refuge. The family of six has made a goal of drastically reducing their carbon footprint. By composting, recycling, and growing their own food, the family has reduced their waste production to less than one bag of garbage every two weeks. By sharing the produce from 4000 square feet of vegetable gardens and 13 fruits tree, they are helping to reduce the carbon footprint of neighbors and friends in the community as well.

Do you have innovative ideas about sustainable food production or ways to minimize the use of resources on your property? We'd love to hear your story at

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