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PAT MARFISI carries bales of alfalfa hay and straw into the center aisle of his Hollywood Hills vegetable garden and begins tearing off pieces of the stuff. He doesn't have any animals to feed, just his "no-dig" landscape: raised beds using lasagna-like layers of fodder, bone and blood meal and compost -- and remarkably little water.
Now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a statewide drought, Marfisi's 300-square-foot patch seems more relevant than ever. It's his personal horticultural laboratory for a low-water, sustainable technique he learned working on organic farms in Australia last year.
Since he began gardening in this fashion, he says, he has been "inundated" with food. With the exception of some recent losses to raccoons drawn to the soil's abundant grubs and earthworms, Marfisi's garden is thriving with beets, collard greens, chard, celery, tomatoes, chives, peppers, basil, chives, lettuces and leeks. He estimates he grows enough food to feed three people daily.
When asked how much he waters, Marfisi shoves his hand deep beside some Swiss chard and pulls out moist, decomposed soil laced with remnants of straw. "I haven't watered in 10 days," he says. "This is what I want people to know: You can have beauty and abundance without a lot of water."