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. In 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.Fava beans and summer squash emerging…The 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.