Arizona Family Grows Garden in Backyard Swimming Pool

Arizona family raises chicken, fish and grows vegetables in pool.

ByABC News
September 1, 2010, 12:09 PM

Sept. 2, 2010— -- When Dennis McClung takes a dip in his backyard swimming pool, it isn't to practice his backstroke or cool off from the hot Arizona sun.

It's to tend to the subterranean garden – chock full of vegetables, fish and even chickens – that has become his family's primary source of food.

That's right. Instead of spending thousands of dollars fixing up the crumbling swimming pool in their backyard or filling it up with dirt, the McClung family turned the potentially dangerous, run-down pool into their own minifarm in the desert.

McClung, 30, said that when he and his wife Danielle first saw their Mesa, Arizona house in 2009, they knew it would be perfect for their young family. It was a corner property catty corner to the elementary school his children would attend, he said. There was just one problem: the backyard pool.

"We loved everything about it except for the pool. We didn't really feel the need to have a 9-foot-deep pool with a 2 and 4-year-old," he said. "Drownings are huge here… so basically we had a problem."

The realtor said they'd have to fill the pool with water or dirt, but McClung said he devised a third option: to create a "garden pool" that could generate enough food to help his family reach its goal of self-sufficiency.

"I came up with the idea and it looked good on paper and two days after we closed on the house it was done," he said.

That was October 2009. Now, less than a year after the family moved in, McClung said the garden produces eight eggs a day, unlimited fish, organic fruits, vegetables and herbs. He said the garden has cut the family's grocery bill by at least 75 percent.

To make the garden pool, the McClungs first used a plastic frame to cover the 16 x 30 foot pool with a tarp. Then they turned half of the pool into a tilapia pond and the other half into a vegetable garden.

McClung said his wife grew up on a farm in rural Ohio. But most of the knowledge to create the garden came from Internet research and about a decade at his job at Home Depot, where he helped other families bring their ideas to life.

When he and his wife bought their home, McClung, who now works as a Web designer, said his own turn had arrived.

"It was kind of like, I finally have my own house after working at Home Depot forever and I can't wait to fix it," he said. "I was very gung ho."