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This Birmingham Couple Reaps 500 Pounds of Produce From Their 600-Square-Foot Garden

Southern Living, JANE BORDEN, April 14, 2023

Plant Managers

This is not a misprint: Georgia and Crawford Downs get roughly 500 pounds of fruits and vegetables from a 600-square-foot plot behind their Birmingham home, and they do so organically. “I am a nut about it,” explains Crawford, a biomedical engineer who works at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. “It’s a challenge to figure out how to get the optimum mix out of what you want. I am always trying to maximize yield.”

His wife, Georgia, who works at an architecture firm, says that she’s the “sous gardener” and adds, “This is his thing. I assist.” 

Warm Welcome

“We tried to do things that would keep it looking nice, rather than untidy, while still being very efficient in terms of production,” Crawford explains. An arbor covered in Confederate jasmine serves as an entrance. To lend a formal-
garden feel, they designed a center box taller than the rest and surrounded it with L-shaped and rectangular raised beds. “We want the garden to be like any other part of the yard,” he says. 

Crawford knows just how to grow efficiently (and deliciously). Ultimately, he says, it comes down to “learning what the plants want and then giving them that.” He sounds like a manager. “Yes, a plant manager,” says Georgia. 

Let Nature Do Its thing

Four years ago, when the Downses bought their property and started their garden, the first challenge was a giant fig tree. It shaded half the plot, but Crawford refused to cut down a large fruit bearer. Instead, he pruned all but two branches that grow east and west. Now the tree casts no shade, functions as a natural screen between him and his neighbor, and produces enough fruit to feed his family all summer while also filling 100 jars of preserves. Warning: Don’t try this with most other trees. “Figs will come back from a hard pruning,” he adds. 

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