Friday, June 18, 2010

the secret garden

I have always longed for an acre or so, open, fertile valley land, a creek or river from which to irrigate or at least haul buckets. But, having lived in the city so long, I have learned to treasure every square inch.

My campaign to eradicate the lawn and fill that space with mounded canes of raspberry, an allee of overarching apple and peach trees, and sweet-smelling underfoot tangles of strawberry, calendula, and blackberry--all around a central bean tipi playhouse reaching to the sky--is still underway. But in the meantime, I want to show you how I have sneaked vegetables into every hidden corner.

Here is an overview of the space I have to work with. Note the sterile, drab lawn area. Ugh.
What you can't see are the baby grape vines that will soon be twining their way all over the red pergola! Yippee! (And that's a fig tree in the back right corner!)

This is a tiny area just by the steps to the door that I outlined in cinder block and filled with earth. The plants in there are: mint, thyme, oregano, stevia, rosemary, collards, snap peas, chard, and kale. I get a huge harvest from this little plot. I've found that if you jumble everything together, the bugs have a harder time finding the things they like to snack on and everything seems to work synergistically. I also planted zinnias in the holes of the cinderblocks so that when everything gets really big, the zinnias will bloom and screen it all with flowers. Landlady-friendly gardening!

The ornamental grasses just don't do it for me. Oh, what's that green interloper that's suddenly sprung up among them? Is heirloom tomato? Now where did that come from?

This old fireplace had some charred remains in it, but the landlady feels it is unsafe for fires and didn't want me to use it. So I filled it with earth and turned it into my greenhouse. This is where the next generation of seedlings await their turn at my few square inches. Right now it has lots of baby tomatoes in it.

Tucked under the shade of the lemon tree is this beautifully prolific summer squash. Just one? Yes, just one. I have learned my lesson! The zucchinis and squashes can take some shade, so it does well here. The gardeners I have begged the landlady to set free kept "weeding" this out until I got smart: on the day they are scheduled to come, I cover it with burlap and sprinkle mulch on top so it blends in.

Those are all the pictures I am allowed, apparently. There is so much more to show---the italian beans twining up the wall behind the fig tree, the little salad bowl beneath it, the sunflower/dill/tomato/chard/ forest...another day. I am just grateful, as we approach solstice, for all of this beautiful, fresh food, and an Earth so forgiving that it all grows lush and green in a space that until recently was just cement.


  1. Dweller! Can you help me? I would love for you to peek at our horrific back yard and tell me if there's any hope for us to have a garden. We seem to be black thumbs, but maybe if you blessed our house with your presence, there'd be hope for us!

  2. I would LOVE to peek at your horrific back yard!
    Happy solstice!