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SWINGIN' fruits and veggies : Running Out of Gardening Space? Snails Feasting Too Much? Produce Grown in Hanging Baskets Is an Attractive Solution


Four frisky Shetland sheep dogs with a taste for strawberries and vegetables inspired Grace Mayeda to create hanging gardens in her Orange backyard.

"My sheep dogs pillaged my vegetable beds," she recalled. "With their keen sense of smell, they knew how to pick out the ripest and tastiest tomatoes, watermelons, even strawberries. They loved to grab a very ripe watermelon, roll it around the ground until it cracked open, then feast on the sweet, succulent fruit."

Rather than banish her pets from the backyard, Mayeda decided to remove temptation from their grasp by growing her produce in hanging baskets.

That was in 1990.

After seven years of experimenting, Mayeda has learned which varieties thrive in hanging basket cultivation.

Mayeda is co-owner, with husband Ted, of M&M Nursery in Orange. The family-run nursery specializes in hanging baskets, although until Mayeda introduced edibles growing in hanging baskets, the nursery had concentrated on ornamental plants.

Their customers have responded to the concept, and the nursery now grows edible hanging plants for sale and instructs people on how they can create their own.

"The secret is in choosing the right varieties," Mayeda said. "The plants must be compact growers. Lettuce does especially well in this kind of culture."

In addition to removing the fruits and vegetables from the grasp of eager dogs, other benefits include increasing the amount of gardening space and eliminating the problem of voracious snails and slugs that forage on strawberries and lettuce.

Mayeda tends nine baskets in her home. They are attached to swivel hooks in a patio, where they receive full sun and are close to the kitchen for easy harvesting.

"I give the lettuce a haircut every so often and have gourmet baby leaves," she said.

She also makes sure her four dogs get their share of the harvest.

"They sit under the watermelon and strawberry baskets and beg for a handout," she said.

And yes, she does slip them some ripe berries and tomatoes.

Grace Mayeda will share her experiences during a seminar, "Unique Styles in Vegetable Gardening" on April 12 at 6 p.m. at the Crystal Court Garden Show in the Crystal Court Mall, Costa Mesa. M&M Nursery will also have a booth displaying edible and ornamental hanging baskets.

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