Growing your own produce offers feeling of satisfaction

Envision walking out your back door and seeing nothing but vegetables and fruit trees. This is Ray Talarico’s backyard. He has more than 1,100 square feet of his 6,600-square-foot yard full of produce.

“The slow food movement is picking up traction, with increased food prices and people wanting to go green,” said Talarico of the trend to shorten the distance from the vegetable plants to your dinner plate. He has joined this movement knowing with full confidence that if something happens, he will always have food to eat.

Talarico will share his step-by-step approach to gardening at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Register for this class by calling 822-7786. People were turned away at his last presentation.

Here’s why Talarico likes the slow food movement:

1. The price of vegetables is skyrocketing.

2. Transportation costs are rising.

3. He will have a steady supply of food in case of a truckers’ strike.

4. He uses higher quality varieties. Those found in stores are developed to withstand shipping and look fresh on produce shelves.

5. New varieties bring unusual colors such as Neon Lights Swiss chard with its red, white and yellow-stemmed leaves.

6. He eats his produce at its peak of quality.

7. He can freeze the surplus to enjoy while waiting for new crops.

8. He doesn’t use any pesticides.

9. Gardening is worthwhile exercise.

10. He feels more attuned with nature.

11. He finds it a great way to meditate.

12. He feels satisfaction in growing his own food.

“Plants have to produce something to live at my house. Well, my wife does demand some flowers,” Talarico said of his backyard produce-manufacturing oasis.

To be successful, Talarico grows vegetables in raised beds.

“Native soils have poor drainage, salts, alkali and lack of organic matter. All of these things add up to disaster when growing vegetables,” he said.

Talarico also likes raised beds for the following reasons:

1. He can make his own soil and omit the above problems.

2. Gardens take on a formal look.

3. He can sit on the beds while working on his vegetables.

4. He can plant vegetables closer to reduce water consumption. Producing your own vegetables is one of the greatest uses of water.

5. He never walks on the soil, so it stays open and friable.

Talarico said you must build your own beds. Here is his prescription:

1. Build walls at least a foot above the ground to contain the soil. Talarico stacks masonry blocks a foot high. Drive rebar down outside of the blocks for support when adding the soil. Make the beds only as wide as you can reach, so you never walk on the soil.

2. Fill half the beds with sand and the other half with organic matter. Garden supply stores offer prepared organic soils ready to use. Talarico knows he has arrived when he combs his hands through his soil. “I want roots to freely roam through soil, so I expect a bumper crop,” he said.

3. Use a spade to blend the soil. Talarico finds tillers destroy soil structure and stop drainage.

4. Install a drip irrigation system. Talarico uses half-inch inline tubing spaced 6 inches apart. “It gives me quick, even water distribution.”

5. Now plant your desired crop.

When visiting his garden, it touched nearly all my senses: My eyes beheld colorful eggplants, figs, jujubes, pears, pomegranates, tomatoes, cactus apples, herbs and a wide assortment of greens still in production; my nose enjoyed the fragrance of herbs, pears, and greens; my taste buds relished fresh tomatoes, pomegranates, figs and kale; and in the trees were birds chirping songs.

Talarico considers his garden the best room in his house. It significantly expands his living space and slows the movement from plants to his dinner table.

“And I slowly eat my food to get the most out of it,” he said.

“People can’t believe I can grow produce in Las Vegas of such high quality and so aesthetically pleasing,” he added as he munched on kale leaf and pointed out pears ready to ripen.


Learn how to install your drip irrigation system from the street to your plants, including how to select and assemble all components. In this free class you’ll build a drip system to see how easy it is to save water and have great looking plants. That’s at 6 p.m. Thursday at the preserve. Call 822-7786 to register.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 822-7754.


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