By Sandra Barrera, Staff Writer
What started as a vegetable patch and some fruit trees in Rishi Kumar’s backyard is today a model of sustainable living that he calls The Growing Home.
In fact, it is how the 25-year-old Diamond Bar resident makes his living. His home-based business teaches people how to “re-think, re-imagine and re-generate the suburban landscape” by example. Almost every square inch of his family’s hillside property in this tract community is used for growing food, which could potentially result in excessive water use.
But Kumar has improved the quality and moisture retention properties of the otherwise hard, compact clay soil.
“If you grow on this, you’re going to have a water problem,” he says. “It’s basically like cement. Water can’t infiltrate it, roots can’t go very deep, which means they’re going to dry out and the plants are going to die. This is the main problem on a hillside.”
Replenishing the soil with wood chip mulch and horse manure (acquired for free from local tree trimming companies and stables), terracing the slope (to slow water and sink it) and digging flat-bottom ditches — called swales — filled with boulders or tree branches (to capture runoff from the roof and sloping driveway) have transformed the area from lawn and patio to a lush and thriving urban farmland.