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Backyard breadbasket. For a yard that's a feast for the mouth as well as the eye

By Peter TongeStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 3, 1987



THOSE who visit Rosalind Creasy's home in Los Altos, Calif., all say the same thing about her garden: It's fascinating, picture perfect most of the time, and much of it is edible. It was she who coined the term ``edible landscaping'' and wrote a book on the subject (``The Complete Guide to Edible Landscaping,'' Sierra Books) back in 1982. In the process she changed what had previously been derisively called ``salad-bowl gardening'' into something much more significant.

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Gardens should provide a feast for the eye and the mouth at one and the same time, she insists. Fern-like asparagus, purple eggplant, red-stemmed rhubarb, golden melons, and red and yellow tomatoes all combine with ornamentals in a profusion of color and form in her garden. And so, in recent years, does wheat.

The stately grass, green for almost six months and a bright golden color for the final few weeks, currently forms the backdrop to a flower bed that features iris, poppies, and tulips for the most part. ``But wheat is beautiful in its own right,'' says Ms. Creasy.

Her current wheat garden, 25 feet long and four feet deep, ``will give me 20 to 25 loaves of the best bread you'll ever taste,'' she says. She is now in her second season of growing ``a bread garden,'' as she puts it, and it's ``a whole lot simpler than I ever imagined.'' There's no staking, tying, pruning, or extra feeding.

Since sowing the present wheat crop in October, Creasy has thinned and weeded it just once and will do ``nothing more to it'' except water it periodically, when the hot dry weather arrives in March, until it is harvested in May. Other gardeners may prefer to sow wheat in the early spring for a fall harvest, she says.

Creasy had long been drawn to growing her own patch of wheat, but everything she ever read on the subject talked in terms of bushel baskets to the acre and weed and pest control on a mammoth scale.

``No one ever treated wheat as a garden crop,'' she says. Now, she plans to change all that. First hand experience, following much advice and direction from John Jeavons of the Common Ground Minifarm near Willits, Calif., has shown her that wheat and other grains such as rye make very useful garden plants. Her ``bread garden,'' in fact, is one of several featured in her upcoming book, ``Theme Gardens.''

All grains need plenty of sun, which meant the only place for Creasy's wheat was in the front yard. The effect proved remarkable.

``The wheat, not the flowers, became the star of my garden,'' she says. Mothers pushing strollers, panting joggers, even passing cyclists have stopped to view the wheat garden.

In milder climates, or in far northern climates with a reliable, protective snow cover, wheat can be sown in the fall and harvested in May. Otherwise, sow wheat in the spring, about the same time as you would peas, for a late September, early October harvest.

Wheat grows best in rich, well-drained soil with a pH factor of 6.4. It does not do well in more acid soils. Creasy's approach is to select a bed of well-worked soil to which she adds two to three inches of aged manure. This is lightly forked into the top few inches.