Project: How to Grow A Pizza Garden – A Great Idea for the Kids in Your Yardshare!

Note: Posted as a guest post at the most awesome chicken site run by my friend Orren Fox. Please visit Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs to satisfy your poultry keeping curiosity! Orren is raising chickens and honey bees. He’s thirteen years old but, he’s my teacher when it comes to happy chickens! Love his tagline: “There’s a Fox in the henhouse!” Read his blog!

Kid with tomatoes

Photo Credit © Liza McCorkle

You like pizza, right? Here’s a cool project for you and your buds and BFFs to take on this Spring – a pizza garden! There may be no more spaghetti trees left in the world but, you can grow a pizza…kind of!

There are a few things you guys need to know before starting a new garden, so let’s start this right. Great gardens depend on gardeners who know what zone they live in and what kind of soil they have. We all live in different zones. A zone is about the kind of weather you have, how early fall frost comes and how late you might get a killing frost in spring. Where I live, it’s not a good idea to plant until after Memorial Day. If you plant too early you may lose all your baby plants to a bad night of frost! That is a huge drag so figure this out before you start planning your pizza garden.

Find your hardiness zone then come back here…

OK got it? Write that down in your garden notebook! It will be important when you are finding seeds. Keeping a garden notebook is useful to you if you keep gardening. You can use it to remember what works best where you live. Now let’s learn how to test your soil type. You can start seeds inside way before that though.

It’s a good idea to get a jump on the season and have strong teenager plants who can handle the summer much better than the babies.

There are three main types of soil: clay, sand and loam. So go to the area in your yard where you want to plant your pizza garden. Dig down about 2 inches and grab a hand full of soil. Try to roll that hand full into a ball.

  • If you have sandy soil you won’t be able to form a ball at all, it will just fall apart.
  • If you can make a ball about the size of a big grape you have clay soil.
  • If your ball holds together a bit but, is kind of crumbly and comes apart when you stop squeezing it’s loam soil.

Here’s a way to fix most soil types – but this fix takes months so you need to plan in advance. Sometimes you need to add a little bit of this or a little bit of that to make the soil ready for planting. If you don’t have a lot of time do some research on sustainable and organic methods to correct your soil type. OK, there’s no such thing as a pepperoni bush and most of you don’t have your own cow to milk to get your mozzerella. But you can grow most of the veggies that make it taste so crazy good! So what do you need to grow in a pizza garden?

Let’s make a list:

  • the alliums: onion and garlic
  • herbs: parsley, oregano and basil
  • bell peppers
  • tomatoes

Sounds very doable! Garlic is important and onions as well, even if you don’t like them on top, they make the sauce sweet. When you sauté onions they “caramelize” which is a fancy way of saying they become a sugar. When sugar is heated up but not burned it turns to “caramel,” which is what those chewy candies actually are – cooked sugar!

Onions and garlic are the more complicated part of the garden. Usually people plant most onion and garlic “sets” in the fall of the previous year, so it’s a little late for 2010. Mushrooms are a whole other project. NEVER pick them from your yard. They can be poisonous! Here are some onions you can grow from seed in some zones: Italian Red Onions (Flat of Italy) or Ringmaster Onions (Great for onion rings too!)

Plant them about four feet or more from your tomatoes and herbs. For now you might want to just pick up garlic at the store, unless your parents already know how to grow it. For next year, make a note you will want to find a good seller for garlic “sets,” and plant them in October.

You might want to find a organic seed grower that is close to you. Try Local Harvest for seed sellers near your zip code! Most of the links for seeds here are from Botanical Interest.

So where does all that red sauce come from? The lycopene in tomatoes makes them red, and it’s also really good for you. It’s the same stuff that makes carrots orange, and watermelons pink. But it’s not in cherries. It helps your cells repair themselves and keeps your eyes strong.

Growing tomatoes is pretty easy and they taste SO much better than the ones you get at the store. There are three types of tomatoes: slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and paste tomatoes. Paste tomatoes are the kind you use to make thick yummy spaghetti and pizza sauce.

So here are the top paste tomatoes. San Marzanos are from Italy home of spaghetti and pizza! Amish Paste tomatoes will also work. If you can’t find either of those, look for a “paste” type tomato that grows in your hardiness zone.

OK onto the herbs, herbs are a big part of making pizza so tasty. You’ll want to grow oregano, parsley and basil. The best oregano for pizza is “True Greek Oregano.” It’s a perennial which means it comes back every year if you live in zones 4-9.

Basil is an awesome annual. Annuals need to be planted with new seed every year. You can use it in the sauce or on top of the pizza in big whole leafs. A classic real Italian style pizza is just mozzarella, big basil leaves, some great fresh mozzarella, slices or small cherry tomatoes and a little olive oil. A green pizza sauce called “pesto” is made with tons of fresh basil a little olive oil and a cup or so of roasted pine nuts. We grow a lot of basil every year and freeze tons of basil pesto sauce. Just put a ton of basil and a little olive oil in a blender or food processor and blend it up, then put it in small containers in the freezer. Tastes like summer in the middle of winter! YUM!

There are a ton of basil types to grow but, for pizza, you really want one of these types: Genovese or Italian Leaf Basil. Growing tomatoes and basil close together is a classic “companion planting” combo. Basil and tomatoes kind of love each other. Maybe it’s a just a serious crush. Who knows really? They are happiest when they are hanging out. Folks see them together all the time! Plant three basil plants for every one tomato plant.

Don’t tell basil but, parsley likes tomatoes too! You can plant this in between to your tomato plants, as well. We just hope it’s doesn’t make basil jealous! There are a few kinds of parsley. One kind usually ends up on the side of the plate to make it pretty and the other kind is the stuff that tastes so good. Parsley also is a good breathe freshener so if ever Uncle “Bad Breath” Bob needs a bit of something to make their breath sweeter, you can sneak him a sprig of parsley without telling them “Hey Dude, you really need a breath mint.” – because that’s pretty rude.

Bell Peppers are a controversial topic. Some kids love em, some kids hate em. They are easy to grow and love a hot climate. Fire roasted red bell peppers are delish on pizza. The peppers caramelize like the onions and garlic do and become very sweet! Try that technique ONLY with your parents close by.

If you live in a hot place by the sea you may be able to grow an olive tree and make your own olive oil. That’s kind of a long time to wait for pizza though!

Here are some more links to help get you growing!

Seed List (Follow link then scroll down – seeds are low on these pages)

San Marzanos Tomato
Amish Paste
Tomato Cherry Rainbow Mix Seed
Oregano True Greek Seed
Genovese and Italian Leaf Basil
Italian Flat Parsley
Italian Red Onions
Ringmaster Onions

More Helpful Links:

Pizza Crust Making Video
Pizza Crust Recipes
Pizza Sauce Recipes
Pizza Stone for the Oven Method
Build a Pizza Oven

No yard? No problem.

Visit hyperlocavore.com a yard sharing community. We work to hook neighbors and friends up in yard sharing groups – makes gardening more fun and less expensive!

We’re here to help you get going. Join us. It’s free. Then send an invite out to your friends (with your parents permission of course!) on the site and set up a pizza garden group! You can even post blogs, pictures and videos to show off your pizza garden project!

Happy Digging!

Liz McLellan
hyperlocavore.com a yard sharing community because everyone love a homegrown tomato!

What is yardsharing?

TAKING A BREAK © Vossphotog... | Dreamstime.com

TAKING A BREAK © Vossphotog... | Dreamstime.com

“You know, the tomato that’s from your garden tastes very different from one that isn’t. And peas – what is it like to eat peas in season? So we want the White House to be a place of education and awareness. And hopefully kids will be interested because there are kids living here.”

- Michelle Obama on the Whitehouse Vegetable Garden

hyperlocavore.com,” which blends bottom-up collaboration with food production. It’s an example of peer-to-peer agriculture, and it’s a pretty neat concept. The founder of hyperlocavore wrote to me, saying that she thought this was a pretty “worldchanging” idea. I agree. Check ‘em out.”

- Jamais Cascio
openthefuture.com and worldchanging.com


What is a ‘hyperlocavore’?

A hyperlocavore is a person who tries to eat as much food as locally as possible. Growing your own is as local as it gets!

What is ‘yardsharing’?

Yard sharing is an arrangement between people to share skills and gardening resources; space, time, strength, tools or skills, in order to grow food as locally as possible, to make neighborhoods resilient, kids healthy and food much cheaper!

Why would I want to set up a yardsharing group?

Yard sharing is a way to connect people who love to garden, people who love healthy fresh food and people who have yards! Often people who have yards have little time time for a vegetable garden. And sometimes gardeners have trouble finding soil to garden in because they rent an apartment! Sometimes older people lack stamina and are socially isolated, finding younger people to partner in growing food together works wonderfully for all. There are all kinds of reasons it makes sense.

Yard sharing works for:

  • apartment dwellers
  • busy parents
  • older people
  • frugalistas
  • foodies
  • tree huggers
  • cheap bastards
  • farmers lacking land
  • land holders lacking farmers
  • people sick of leaf blowers
  • curious kids
  • folks with a disability
  • people who want to get outside more
  • people that want to eat better
  • people that want to eat cheaper
  • people who want to make their community resilient
  • people who like their food super fresh
  • people worried about peak oil
  • and maybe you! (if you’re not on the list – send me a note!)

Yard sharing cuts down on greenhouse gases by limiting the travel time of fruit and vegetables to your table.
Yard sharing is a great way to connect with your family, friends and neighbors!
Yard sharing helps you eat more veggies!
Yard sharing can be a workable solution for people with physical limitations who want to eat better and more cheaply.
Yard sharing is an excellent way to teach children about food and biology!
Yard sharing is a great way to get cheaper produce to older people on a fixed income!
Yard sharing helps you get enough vitamin D from sunshine!
Yard sharing is a way to avoid pesticides and other chemicals on your food!
Yard sharing is a fun activity to share!
Yard sharing helps to create independent local food systems that are less sensitive to the price of oil.

And nothing tastes as good as food you grew yourself!

Who can yard share?

Anyone! If you don’t see a group for your area just create one! Then send invites to people in your neighborhood, your friends and
their friends and maybe you will find someone willing to start with you!

OK, Sign me up! No! Wait, is it free? Yes? OK, Sign me up!


No thanks, but I do want to take a look.

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays!


hyperlocavore.com is a free social network here to help you form a yard sharing group with people in your neighborhood, a group of friends, a community restaurant and it’s neighbors, members of your family, faith communities or new friends made on hyperlocavore.

How to Start A Produce Exchange in Your Neighborhood – Share Your Extra Fruits and Vegetables!


Bookmark and Share

Next round – help hyperlocavore.com pick a logo!

Which conveys the yardsharing idea best?
Which logo is warmest?
Which do you logo?

Please note the text at the bottom will read:
A Yardsharing Community
Because everyone loves a homegrown tomato!

Thank you for helping us sort this out!

Yardsharing Return on Investment – How Does 61K Sound?

Growing food together may not be for everyone, but for the frugal healthy eaters amongst us it makes a lot of sense and cents. When you grow fruit and veg together you can share tools, space and work. So let’s assume you and two friends decide to start a yardsharing garden to save some money on fresh organics, have a healthy outdoor activity to share, and to teach your kids that food does not come from Walmart.

green_apples_sm1
GREEN APPLES
© Digidogs | Dreamstime.com

Also keep in mind that when we talk about return on investment for planting your own gardens we are taking into account all of the benefits of growing our own food, which are not strictly about personal economies. There are so many reasons to grow your own, saving great heaping gobs of cash is just one.

Let’s say your families agree that almonds, Granny Smith apples, and blueberries are a good place to start, and so off we go. These are back of the napkin calculations. I am not factoring in anything too complicated like seasonality, storage, inflation, peak oil or buying local. You may pick different crops. I simply picked three things I spend a lot of money on. Almonds and blueberries shock me every time I buy them. Both are considered ‘superfoods,’ densely packed nutrition in perfect snacky form.

Let’s assume that each of our families enjoys approximately:

  • 2 lbs organic Granny Smith apples @ $4.50 per week.
  • 1 lb organic anti-oxidant rich blueberries @ $12.00 per week.
  • .5 lb organic almonds @ 7.00 per week

That’s about $24.00 per week per family, or about $1250.00 per family per year for three pretty basic healthy staples. It’s $3750.00 per year for all three families to eat yummy organic green apples, blueberries and almonds. Now let’s assume that to produce this amount for three families you will need:

  • 4 almond trees (producing about 64 lbs per year)
  • 2 apple trees (producing about 600 lbs per year)
  • 15 mature blueberry bushes (producing about 150 pounds per year)

Your group wants the benefit sooner rather than later so you agree to purchase mature trees and shrubs.

  • 4 producing almond trees – 8′ @ $80.00 = $320.00
  • 2 producing apple trees 8′ @ $90.00 = $180.00
  • 15 producing blueberry bushes 4′ @ $40.00 = $600.00

Your one time investment is about $1700.00 (plus tax and shipping) for all three families, including one time purchase of tools and starting garden costs using a rough figure of $600.00, assuming you have no tools between you and your soil needs a lot of help. Add some sweat equity and a year to let the trees and shrubs settle in.

This works out to about $600.00 per family for 20 years worth of apples, almonds and blueberries! Growing their own saves all three families a total of $74,000.00 over 20 years. – Assuming your families share, or 24K, is conservatively invested expecting a 2.8 % return over those 20 years and adjusted for inflation – that’s $61,072.13 clams via the magic of compound interest!

Now the almond trees, treated well, will produce almonds for 40+ years. The apples for 30, and you may need to replace the blueberries. We’re just playing with pens and napkins after all.

So, how do you like them apples, almonds, and blueberries?

Note: Numbers were revised on Feb. 5th after being published on Feb 4th 2009.

100 Reasons to Become a Hyperlocavore.

First a definition, a hyperlocavore tries to eat as much food as close to home as possible, in order to reduce the food miles that his food travels. It is an extension of the term locavore. A locavore typically tries to eat seasonally within 100 miles of her home, to reduce food miles and to develop the local economic base. A hyperlocavore therefore wants to bring food even closer. And what’s closer than your neighborhood? We have a time crunch, we have land and property that is loosing value fast, we have kids who don’t know where their food comes from, and we have a climate crisis.

Hyperlocavore.com, a social network, is here to help facilitate yardsharing. Yardsharing and group growing is new. It’s different from a community garden – but the site (hyperlocavore.com) can be used to create and manage one. A yardshare might be an arrangement between an elderly couple and a young one to grow more food cheaply for both. Or friends who live in an apartment and a friend in the burbs to save money and food miles.

This is a list of the reasons I think group gardens and yardsharing is an idea whose time has come. The links hide some people, websites and imagery that have inspired me to build hyperlocavore.com. Have fun exploring. Every reason is not meant to appeal to everyone. See if just one make sense to you! Then join us to explore the possibilities. The site is free, and you do not need to commit to anything to participate. It’s new to most of us. It’s up to you what makes sense for you and yours. We just hope to inspire and facilitate. If you agree with more than two of these, you just may be a hyperlocavore!

(A note: I’m a North American, citizen of the U.S., so this certainly reflects some of my perspectives and biases. Please contact me if I’ve got something really wrong, I’m happy to discuss any concerns!)

Happy Growing!

  1. You want to taste those real tomatoes you’ve heard so much about.
  2. You want to decrease your reliance on fossil fuels.
  3. You want to teach your kids where food comes from.
  4. You want the smell of soil in your nose.
  5. You want to pick your salad from your porch.
  6. You want your neighborhood to have positive street life.
  7. You want to be less isolated.
  8. You want to build food security into your life.
  9. You want to get more sun!
  10. You want to develop some upper arm strength.
  11. You want a hotter bootie!
  12. You want to help that nice old man down the block. He works too hard!
  13. You want your neighborhoods to have cheap access to healing herbs!
  14. You want to be a farmer but you have no farm.
  15. You want your high cholesterol to go down!
  16. You miss the family farm.
  17. You especially miss the rooster on the family farm.
  18. You want to lead and not to follow!
  19. You want to be more independent.
  20. You want to show em how it’s done!
  21. You want to walk out the door and eat mangoes!
  22. You want your children to be sustainably self sufficient.
  23. You want your children to eat their veggies.
  24. You want to involve your family in a group activity.
  25. You can’t live without fresh organic veg, and it seems to be getting too expensive!
  26. You want to do something with your friends besides drink beer.
  27. You’ve never been able to find that Hatch chili from where you grew up.
  28. You want to shorten the distance from farm to plate.
  29. You have a brown thumb and want to know what that’s all about.
  30. You have a yard that is full of weeds.
  31. You want to reduce the chemical load on your body.
  32. You think the lawn is a sign of all that is wrong with America.
  33. You hate mowing.
  34. You know that cute chic down the block is a big freakin’ hippy but you wanna get to know her betta anyway.
  35. You know that dude down the block is a big freakin’ hippy but you wanna get to know him betta anyway.
  36. You took Obama’s call to service to heart.
  37. No one sees your gardening triumphs.
  38. You want to lessen your ecological footprint.
  39. You look around and you see your neighborhood dying, and you want to do something.
  40. You have been blessed and you want to express gratitude.
  41. You remember what the neighborhood was like when people talked.
  42. You need to pay it forward.
  43. You need something to do besides what you been doing.
  44. You want your food to taste as good as Gordon Ramsey’s.
  45. You don’t have a farmers’ market near you.
  46. You can’t get into the local CSA – It filled up fast!
  47. You work too many hours and need some help in your garden.
  48. You have physical limitations, and a garden and could use some help.
  49. You are a former hedge fund manager with a lot of time on your hands now.
  50. Your kids need to get moving.
  51. You really need a new set of friends.
  52. You know it’s the end of the world as we know it, and you want to feel fine.
  53. You want to quit talking the talk and start walking the walk.
  54. You want to simplify your life.
  55. You find no joy in fragging any more.
  56. You are an exceedingly cheap bastard, and want to save even more cash.
  57. You are sick of living on Top Ramen.
  58. Yes we can!
  59. Si, se puede!
  60. Chop wood, carry water.
  61. You’ve been saving seeds, but have no place to plant them.
  62. You want to surprise your hard working single mom with regular homegrown fruit and vegetables.
  63. You are unutterably bored, filled with ennui, and about to jump.
  64. Om, nom, nom, nom.
  65. You want to live more like the rest of the world.
  66. You want the suburban wasteland to become juicier.
  67. You can’t afford the gas to get to the market, and your veggie ride isn’t road ready yet.
  68. The bodega in your neighborhood doesn’t carry anything but candy, cigarettes, and booze.
  69. Guerilla gardening just isn’t giving you the thrill it used to…sigh.
  70. The force is strong with you, little one.
  71. You are actually serious about this “reliance on foreign oil” thing you keep going on about.
  72. Better jam.
  73. Better pie.
  74. Better chutney.
  75. Fresh eggs! Like still chicken butt warm fresh.
  76. You really need to step away from the computer.
  77. You actually do have a vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunshine.
  78. You’re afraid of the veg your freegan roommate brings home.
  79. You’ve never actually tasted a fresh vegetable, ditto fruit.
  80. You decided you didn’t like vegetables when you were 6, you stuck to your guns but you’re a big girl/boy now.
  81. You are down with the peak oil hypothesis, and want to stop freaking the f$ck out.
  82. You want to find like minded people and be useful.
  83. You’ve got a hankerin’ fer something really dirty.
  84. Your grandmother, who has been dead for 8 years keeps coming back to you in dreams – She reminds you there is an elephant in the root cellar. You want to sleep more soundly.
  85. You really, really like potlucks.
  86. You want to grow enough extra to donate to the homeless shelter.
  87. You take the very long view.
  88. Your houseplants are telling you to get out and make new friends.
  89. You’ll be damned if your gonna spend five dollars for a sack of potatoes !
  90. You think that you are surrounded by ugliness, and you’re right.
  91. You will simply die if you don’t have a St. Germaine cocktail and the godforsaken town you live in has no reputable supplier of elderflower liqueur. You are therefore, desperate enough to make your own.
  92. You walk softly but carry a giant gourd.
  93. You have a lot of stuff, but you feel empty.
  94. Your country has been embargoed by the rest of the world and you are hungry.
  95. You want to live the good life, not that one! This one!
  96. You want to make it easier to cook at home.
  97. You really want to slow down but don’t know how.
  98. You want to see this, not this when you go outside.
  99. The spirit of true community has filled your heart and you want to fill your days differently.
  100. One word – zucchini.

Join us at hyperlocavore and find or start a yardsharing group in your neighborhood. You don’t have to have a yard to share or a green thumb – This is a learning community.

* OK I admit there are a few repeats. I said the same thing a few different ways… Use the comment to add your own!