gather and grow

Homegrown, hand-spun living in the city

We’re transitioning away from being backyard gardeners: we’ve now become people who grow vegetables in their front yard… and on other people’s land. On a street where no one else seems to be growing edible plants — our neighbors’ idea of gardening is ornamental bushes and lawn — we’re putting our labor, our veggies, and our commitment to growing some of our own food boldly out there for everyone to see.

The reason for the shift was not to make some statement, though. It is simply that, because of the gorgeous tall old trees, our backyard is quite shady for most of the year, and whatever we’ve planted there has not thrived. We even considered moving to a different house that would have a yard better suited for gardening. And then we realized there was a much simpler solution. Following the permaculture principle “make least change for greatest effect,” instead of moving our entire household, we simply moved the raised beds to where they do get good sun — namely, the front yard. frontyardIn fact, we built two new raised beds there, in addition to the numerous large containers we already had. If I had my way, we would have sheetmulched the entire area and planted directly into the soil, but the landlord only allows us to garden in boxes and containers. Which is fine, really. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve watched everything pop — brassica plants and other greens, peas (here freshly trellised), carrots and beets, various kinds of lettuce and herbs. There’s no end to the curious questions, comments and compliments we get from passers-by when we’re out there working.

And we didn’t stop there. I had noticed that the thin sliver of lawn between our driveway and the neighbor’s house gets consistently good afternoon sun for most of the year. Somewhat nervously, I approached our neighbor to ask if he’d be willing to let us expand our garden there. It turned out he had nothing against it. So… woohoo: more room to grow!! The raised bed in the foreground currently has lettuce, onion, fava beans and emerging summer squash in it. The one in the background is dedicated to dye plants — Japanese indigo, woad, and hollyhock.frontyard1frontyard-4Fava beans and summer squash emerging…frontyard-3The fuchsia-colored flowery bush (not planted by us) provides a striking backdrop against which only veggies as colorful as rainbow chard and romaine lettuce stand any chance.



5 thoughts on “The front yard garden

  1. Lovely! And I am sure the fuchsia flower is one of many azaleas you’ll see in this region, in a variety of colors 🙂 W are also renting and also using raised beds – just don’t forget to guard them against foraging wildlife!

    1. Mari says:

      Hi Spring, Thanks for the wildlife warning — we learned that lesson this winter! We already got chicken wire to put around the beds, but haven’t finished that task yet. Of course, that still won’t deter the birds, which seem to enjoy swooping down and pulling the beet seedlings out of the soil…

  2. Oh, I remember that post now! We learned the hard way, as well. It is trial and error gardening in a different region. This year, the weekend that we planned to put in most of our garden was the exact same weekend that the unprecedented ice storm hit our little town – the damage and clean up put us several weeks behind planting schedule and as a result our garden is quite small this year. But, we are working with what we have and learning as we go. It is tremendous fun to garden with little ones – my rows are all uneven, but it was worth it just to let my daughter make them herself 🙂

  3. Good for you! I love seeing people growing veggies in their front yards.

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