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‘Victory gardens’ re-growing roots in county

SOLANA BEACH — Late last year Mia McCarville noticed a spike in demand for drought-tolerant plants, vegetables, berries and fruit trees at her Cedros Gardens organic nursery.
“People are beginning to plant victory gardens,” she said. “They are also getting chickens for eggs, and using their droppings for compost.”
During World War II nearly 20 million Americans responded to the government’s call to grow their own fruits and vegetables. These were called “victory gardens.” People demonstrated ingenuity by pooling their resources, forming cooperatives, and planting gardens in backyards, empty lots and even rooftops.
Today, raised garden beds made of redwood or cedar has proven to be the most popular option for Southern Californians. They provide excellent drainage, and are rot resistant and easy to manage.
“We can make custom boxes here for customers to pick up and do themselves,” McCarville said. “Or we can deliver and install them, then fill them with good soil and healthy plants.”
Cedros Gardens uses only organic pesticides such as Spinosad, Neem and BT to treat their plants.
McCarville’s personal favorites are tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers, green onions and fresh herbs.
“When I make dinner I like to use at least one vegetable from my garden,” she said. “My favorite recipe is to stir-fry Japanese green pepper, Japanese cucumber, Chinese chives and ground pork with dry curry, then serve it over rice.”
At some point McCarville plans to publish a recipe book. In the meantime, she offers her tips through classes scheduled every Saturday and Sunday morning. Most are free.
Upcoming topics include: “Citrus & Figs,” July 30 and July 31; “Mid-Summer Herb Class,” Aug. 6 and Aug. 7; “General Summer Care for your Garden,” Aug. 13 and Aug. 14; and “Let’s Make Succulent Containers!,” Aug. 20 and Aug. 21.
McCarville credits her parents, both teachers, with fostering a love of gardening as she grew up in Miyazaki, Japan. She was an English literature student at Seijo University in the 1970s when she met her husband, Michael McCarville, through mutual friends. He was a student at The American School in Japan.
The couple initially moved to Colorado, then settled in San Diego in the early 1980s. Their first business was a shop called Cho-Yai (meaning “butterfly”) in La Jolla that specialized in Japanese antiques and folk art. A few years later, Mia’s Garden Corner, a small gift shop, opened inside Sunshine Gardens in Encinitas.
“In 1992, my current spot on Cedros became available,” she said. “I always enjoyed growing and harvesting plants, and wanted to be able to sell them.”
Since then Cedros Gardens has grown from a tiny shop with a patio to nearly one acre that includes everything from gifts and fountains to flowers, trees and native plants.
“We are not a big-box store so we carry varieties you wouldn’t find there,” she said. “In addition to California and Southwestern native plants, we carry Australian, South African and Mediterranean native plants. They do well in this climate because of the weather patterns.”
If a plant is not going to work for a customer, McCarville tells them so.
“If a customer lives in El Cajon and wants to get a hanging fuschia, I’ll say it’s not a good idea,” she said.
McCarville has been written up in several online and print publications. In 2004, Cedros Gardens was named, “Best 5 Small Nurseries in the Western States” by Sunset magazine. This May, she designed and restored a trouble-ridden garden in Olivenhain that earned her a spot in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles’ “Gardens of the Year: Best Renovation.”
Antonio Rodrigues became a regular at Cedros Gardens upon the recommendation of an acquaintance when he moved to North County from San Francisco four years ago.
“He said, ‘It’s a jewel of a place and you will truly enjoy it,’” Rodrigues said. “He was right!  I fell in love with the place, Mia’s sense of style and incredible knowledge of plants and design, and winning personality. The icing on the cake is that it is all organic.”
Cedros Gardens is at 330 S. Cedros, Solana Beach. Their hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit or call (858) 792-8640.