Friday, July 03, 2009

the garden post

watered kale

Earlier this spring, a lady drove by my house, screeched to a stop, threw her car into a fast reverse and pulled over by our curb, "I love what you're doing here."

We love what we're doing, too, even if I have a hard time seeing past all the Undone stuff to appreciate the accomplishments we've made in our 20 months of living here. Of course any outdoor improvements are for our own sake, but a little compliment goes a long way. It was nice to hear something positive, even from a stranger.

And then she asked, "Were you inspired by the First Lady?"

Ok. I admit that my first reaction to that question was something like, really? Results from all those pushups I've been doing are that noticeable? Dang.

Oh wait. Random friendly stranger lady was not talking about my biceps. Michelle Obama's upper arms have sure had a lot of media attention in the month's following her husband's inauguration. But let's just say that I wouldn't want to arm wrestle her. Yet.

She was talking about our raised beds. She motioned toward the the first baby kale leaves coming out of the ground, "She's planting vegetables in the White House lawn, you know."

I do know. I think it's wonderful.

But the presidential garden was not an inspiration for our decision to use a chunk of front lawn for food. No, I told the lady, we were doing it already.

Our garden is in our front yard because our backyard, while giving us grapes and plenty of hazelnuts, is too small and shady for much of anything to grow. The orientation of our house on our lot is such that we have more open space in the front than we do in the back. As in, the exact opposite of the way most city houses are situated.

If we wanted to grow anything -and we did!- we had to depend on our front yard space. Last year we put in one raised bed in a funny unused strip along the front side. And this spring we added two more, and beds around the perimeter.

Certainly front yard gardens are not so unusual. I notice them here and there. But it's much, much more common to have vegetables in the back.

We did what worked for us. And it's working, still. What I didn't expect, though, was how people would react. Not just the I Brake For Gardens lady driving by, but others. They ask us what we're growing. They nod their heads and say, oh, my back yard is shady, too. They smile.

I like having food growing in a place that is so visible to the street. I like owning our decision to have a garden in a way that makes our gardening part of the landscape of my neighborhood. I can't grumble about my neighborhood if I'm not doing anything to make it better. The more we're out in it (and we spend so much time out front these days), the less I grumble.

My front garden isn't going to wow anybody. It's humble and weedy and cobbled together. But it might encourage somebody else to use some of their front sunshiney lawn for something a little more useful (I'm not a lawn hater! Everything I ever had as child was a direct result of lawns! My dad was/is a sod farmer!). And it will certainly give us some food (which is important!), and a shared activity, more pleasure in our own space.

Here are our front beds 3 months ago:

3 raised beds

And a picture from today:

july 3 garden


Lisa said...

Yay for front vegetable gardens!

I've struggled with this and think it's a great idea, but since we have so much foot traffic and auto traffic I wonder about the pollutants (not just fumes, but spit and trash) that they would receive in addition to possible vandalism and theft.

Anonymous said...

i love that she STOPPED. that's amazing.

and really, as much as i love my garden, i would kill for michelle obama's arms right now.

omy said...

My garden is in the front too, but it's away from the street a bit. I didn't want to mess with the crabgrass in the back yard & and I wasn't ready to commit to building raised beds.

I love that the lady stopped to comment on your garden. I also wish people would spend more time outdoors in my neighborhood. I never see any of my neighbors, except for the next door ones who sit on their porch drinking beers. :P