In the last few years I have seen photos of and read about “edible gardening,” “the sustainable garden,” etc. and have been intrigued by the idea that the garden, whether large or small, can be lovely, relaxing, therapeutic and edible. What a terrific way to supplement living, especially for urban or suburban residents! By planting kitchen gardens or even just kitchen pots/boxes the gardener supplements physical health (fresh fruits and veggies aplenty), budget (after the minor investment into seeds and supplies), aesthetics (a producing garden is a lovely sight), mental wellbeing (satisfaction from working, good exercise of mind and body), and the list goes on and on.
For me, working in the garden isn’t really “work” which I consider as doing something I must do but that don’t particularly enjoy. I enjoy digging and planting, pruning and watering, tending and admiring the growing things around me (sounds like raising children!). There is weeding that must be done, checking on bugs and things that could be harmful to our garden but overall, it is a refreshing, therapeutic, invigorating exercise. I feel sadness when something dies (I still don’t know why one of my garlic plants was struggling to thrive and then just keeled over one day) or when someone comes through (raingutter installation man, for example) and steps on tender seedlings without thinking or awareness (how could he not see that I have that area planted?!).
Anyway, enough of that. Below are some photos showing what I have done with my yard. The story of its evolution is for another day. For now I will just give a brief explanation of each photo.
Photo 1: As you can see, not everything is edible! I also have native (to Utah) trees, shrubs and flowers throughout the yard. This is in the front; it used to be the standard plot of water guzzling grass but I started from the outer perimeter and over a period of years (because my kids were shocked that I wanted to get rid of the grass) gradually shrank the grass until it wasn’t such a shock to do away with it entirely (yes, it was subversive, but it worked!). Now I have a fourteen foot diameter circular garden encircled by a bark path. The remaining space around the perimeter of the front yard space that you can’t really see is a mix of trees, flowers, shrubs, pots, posts, etc. It still gets enough sun for the veggies while providing privacy from the sidewalk and street.
Photo 2: This is a closeup of the circular garden. Very easy to build, very easy to tend. I planted five different varieties of garlic, each variety a spoke on the wheel to delineate the sections which hold cabbage, bush beans, cucumbers, crookneck squash and peppers. The perimeter of the circle is also divided into sections by the garlic spokes, each section housing either carrots, beets, oak leaf lettuce, spinach or radishes. These are giving way to the larger plants in the inner areas as their season passes and they are pulled. I have lifted one wheel spoke of garlic, the earliest maturing Amish variety, and have replaced it with a row of swiss chard which is now up and doing well. It’s all very fun.
Photo 3:Another shot of the circular garden, with a bean tower in the background. A neighbor described what he saw as my kiva and teepee. I laughed, but there are actually some similarities between my garden and a kiva– both are places of spiritual nurturing and appreciation and worship of the creator. My bean tower is made from tree branch poles I have brought back from my beloved Olympic Peninsula. This was the most recent thing I did this year, just last week even, and so the beans are barely coming up. That’s okay though because the bush beans are doing just fine.
Photo 4:Finally, to the back yard, against the south facing side house in a former flower bed. This most sunny spot in my yard is perfect for tomatoes and peppers so here they go with the phlox, honeysuckle and mock orange. I am going to smother more of the grass this fall with paper and leaves so that next year there will be an additional two feet out (total of 10 sf) for even more tomatoes and peppers.
My photos are amateur, as is my gardening but it is working for me and my family. Neither will show up in a slick home/garden magazine but I really do love gardening, harvesting, and learning more about growing and producing food. If you have never had the opportunity to pick a tomato from a plant in your garden, sit on the porch with a salt shaker and eat it like an apple with juice running down your arms as you savor the flavor, you still can! I just got an email today, July 7th, from a local nursery advertising vegetable plants 2 for 1! It’s not too late, growing your own is a wonderful experience.
Invitation: Are you growing your own food? Want to share your experiences, advice, photos? Questions?