Gardening guru Mel Bartholomew reaps global harvest

Mel Bartholomew is the author of “Square Foot Gardening,” from Rodale Press (1981 and updated in 2006) that sold two-million copies thus far, making it one of the bestselling garden books in America. Its success led Bartholomew to create the non-profit Square Foot Gardening Foundation with humanitarian projects all over the globe. Its mission: Solve world hunger by using the “teach a man to fish” theory. Participants actually teach mothers and children how to feed themselves using the SFG method.


Bartholomew has been included in Who’s Who twice — once for his engineering career and recently for his horticultural and humanitarian accomplishments. A civil engineer and graduate of Georgia Tech, he built a consulting engineering firm specializing in site and utility design. When he retired at age 42, he took up gardening as a hobby. As the saying goes, the rest is history …

What brought you to La Jolla?

I am on a one-year sabbatical from Eden, Utah to write my next book.

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would make that ugly and filthy lifeguard station disappear overnight, and then when the powers-to-be finally get their acts together, we could build something outstanding and a monument to La Jolla and its pioneer history.

What inspires you?

The vast, abundant and never-ending opportunities we have here in America.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I’ll serve so there’s room for Presidents Reagan, Lincoln and Jefferson. General Patton, Julius Caesar, Thomas Edison, one of the Wright Brothers, Michelangelo, and set an extra plate for Leonardo da Vinci.

What are you currently reading?

The biographies of Rudy Giuliani, Lee Iacocca, Johnny Cash and “Killing Lincoln,” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.

What is it that you most dislike?

The noisy garbage trucks at 7 a.m. throughout the village, and busses and delivery trucks that let their engines run.

What is your most-prized possession?

That would be my three children and memories of a wonderful 80 years of life so far.

What is your most-marked characteristic?

My dogged determination to bring a better, more efficient life to all.

(Also, I can be difficult to get along with.)

What would be your dream vacation?

To move to La Jolla and write my next book (a working vacation).

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Think ahead and be ready to grab every opportunity that flies by the window. Get the job done and stop looking for reasons or excuses why it can’t be done.