"It's the garden I never had quite the gumption to start," he said.
His garden is one of 10 featured in an edible landscaping tour of organic food on Saturday, July 28, presented by Common Ground Supply and Education Center and Valley of Heart's Delight, a project of Conexions. Lyngso Garden Materials, Inc. is sponsoring the event.
Niederman first became interested in gardening as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There he was introduced to biodynamic gardening, in which the gardener places greater emphasis on the soil than on the plants, and soon he caught the gardening bug, he said.
A year ago, after rebuilding his fence and tearing out the ivy, he realized he had a lot more space in his back yard. He decided it was the perfect opportunity to build the garden he always wanted.
"Often people take food for granted," he said. "This garden is my way of honoring the food and not taking it for granted."
But he hopes his garden makes an impact not only on himself, but the people in his neighborhood. That's why he planted fruits and vegetables specifically in his front yard.
"I want to inspire people to do something with the earth. Everybody who comes by my house, especially children, looks into my garden. I'm glad that children can experience the excitement of growing something on (their) own at an early age," he said.
"The point of the tour is to demonstrate that growing your own food strengthens the local food system," Susan Stansbury, director of Valley of Heart's Delight, said.
Niederman strongly believes in the goal of the tour. He has taken a great interest in the slow-food movement, which stresses that eating produce grown closer to your home is both better for you and the earth.
"If you feel like you are an active participant in the local environment, you will feel a greater connection to the earth and take better care of it," Niederman said.
The organizers of the tour also hope the tour reveals the fun and beauty involved in growing one's own produce.
Niederman said the daily progress of the fruits and vegetables is one of his favorite aspects of the garden.
"It is exciting to come outside everyday and see if something has grown," he said. "Last month I was gone a few days and my sunflowers grew close to three feet; it was incredible."
But more importantly, gardening helps Niederman feel he belongs to the earth, he said.
"It's an intimate connection in that I am giving something to the earth and it is giving me something back. The fact that I can eat it, and take it in as a part of myself makes the connection even stronger," he said. "It is a traditional feeling, that my home, my land is part of my identity, and not just a place where I live."
Sticking to his roots in biodynamic gardening, Niederman uses some unusual methods to keep the soil rich. He uses agriculture-grade charcoal in the soil, since the charcoal's microscopic pores make it easy for organisms to go inside the pores and make a home, and is a very good environment for plant roots. He also uses mycelium, or mushroom roots, that digest the earth and make it easier for the earth to soak up the nutrients. Additionally, he double digs to make the soil loose and allow roots to enter the soil easily.
Niederman has no systematic way of deciding what types of plants to put in his garden, but looks for plants that are not commonly found in stores.
He is attracted to Asian and Mexican cooking, and incorporates plants from these areas, such as Vietnamese basil and jalapeno peppers, into his garden.
He chooses to grow other plants through recommendations he receives from friends and from talking to people at Common Ground. For example, he grew Spaulding apple trees because he was intrigued when he heard that the trees grow flat, not round like a normal apple tree.
He also travels to different organic farms for ideas.
"This is something my heart is in," he said. "I'm trying to learn all I can."
Niederman often incorporates his love of gardening into his professional life. As an executive coach, he helps executives figure out their life goals.
"Many people say one of their goals is to have good relationships with their employees. I often bring up gardening because there are so many similarities between cultivating a garden and cultivating a relationship. They both take time and patience, among other things," he said.
Niederman's ultimate goal is to have a 10-acre working farm that is both economically viable and can be used as an educational tool to teach people, especially kids, the importance in growing produce themselves.
"I want kids to see what the earth is like, that they do not get a watermelon from the store, but from the earth," he said.
Other gardens on the tour include:
** a garden that contains a seedling table, herb spiral and flexible bed irrigation, among its many fruits and vegetables. The gardeners use the bio-intensive method to conserve water.
** a garden in which the gardeners use "solar gardening" cold frames and row covers to extend the growing season year-round. The garden includes many fruits and vegetables, as well as chickens.
** a 1/3-acre garden filled with vegetables, herbs, flowers and a small pond. Seeds are first grown in a greenhouse before they are planted into the garden.
** a garden with a compost-production bin to minimize fossil-fuel dependency of delivery of food. The garden has more than 20 fruit trees and a large assortment of vegetables.
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