Give Gardening a Try

How is everyone doing out there!!??

2020 sure has been unpredictable and bumpy to say the least and as any life challenge, I feel it has only managed to be a catalyst for growth and change.

I won’t lie, since we have been home a lot more I have been either helping with home projects (we built a shed!) or in my gardens.

Um Anne, sorry but you have a typeo .  its GARDEN. Not plural. Carry on.

Actually that was NOT a typographical error.

I HAVE been in my “gardens”. You see I live in a Southern California suburban setting, on a corner lot with only maybe 25 feet from sliding door to back yard fence.  Our actual “yard” space is in the front. Not my ideal, but its what I got, so I am making it work.

When we moved here 2.5 years ago I moved my garden over.  Its one of those Home Depot cinder-block doo-hickeys with gaps in it to put wood planks and frame a garden.

Ours is 12×5.

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I plunked it down in the front yard, only temporarily mind you,  until we figured out a more permanent place.   Two and a half years later I realized it decided for me. The first spring we were still trying to drastically downsize, we were building a garage and definitely focused on other bigger battles.  I planted this and that in 12×5,  mostly what I brought over from our last home.  Lavender, rosemary, serranos, tomatoes and basil. It did okay, nothing to write home about. I didn’t get very invested in the garden because I always knew we would move it. Who plans to put a 12 x 5 garden in front of your bedroom window in the front yard?  Where is the grass and the ornamental plants?  Our yard is an ocean of rock.  Little ones, BIG ones and very established elephant palms (bleh).  We took out hedges that seemed odd and boring.  I have tweaked and moved and planted lots of  plants over the last couple and a half years, because an herbalist needs plants to plant, and things to grow.

Year two I felt this pull to make my still temporary garden phenomenal.  I am now a Certified Clinical Master Herbalist and wanted to grow my own herbs and some food-type things on a bigger scale.

We found a source of Mushroom compost from a nearby grower and we managed to fill our 1962 Chevy pickup with the stinky stuff.  Looking back I realize we WAY over-did the compost to soil equation because NOTHING grew worth a darn that year.  Year two was a bust.  I focused on herbs in pots, a new rose bush, and we put one of those sail covers over the front walk way to keep the shadier plants cool in the heat of August, you know, what Californians call SUMMER.

Now its season 3 and the mushroomey compost has cooled off, I  added more MUCH MORE top soil and we now have enclosed the whole shebang with bunny fencing.  I have learned how to use a nail gun and so, with a little guidance, I built a gate. To date its my favorite feature at our home. (probably because I made it and its darling).

I also decided to separate the herb garden from the veggie one. I like the fresh herbs to be off the back yard patio because its closer to the kitchen for that last minute sprig of basil or some chives.  Mostly I wanted all the vegetable space I could squeeze out of 12×5.

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Last year also added in the workplace community garden to my grow-able spaces. I got first pickings so #16 it is. I actually picked it after I spent a few day running out there all during the day to see which plots enjoyed the most sun.  16 won.  Year one at the office, turned out to be a better producer than the hot mess 12×5 was .   It was also a mini-version of my usual plantings: tomatoes, basil, lavender (for the bees of course) echinacea (never grew) and some spring onions.  I ate the tomatoes on my watering visits, the basil was meh, and the lavender took over.

So now I am up to 3 garden beds 12 x 5, and two 3×3’s (herb garden might be 4×4)

Year 3 is well underway now.  I was promoted to community garden caretaker (naturally because I live out there on my breaks and lunches or anytime I find myself passing by).

I will fully admit that if it weren’t for the great “go to your room and think about what you’ve done” restrictions of 2020 I probably would have just gone back to the seedling stores and come back home my usual peppers, tomatoes, basil and lavender expecting another meh harvest.

This year a few things changed.  ONE:  I took a class (at work) from the San Diego Master Gardener’s Association, very inspiring.  TWO: year two might have started out a hot composty mess but by the year’s end the garden started showing some super powers.  My tomatoes NEVER STOPPED growing, or the SERRANOS.  Never.  Not during winter, not during fall.  For that matter my Plumerias didn’t get the “its winter” memo either. They bloomed all year long, and its just a stick in a pot.  (another story) and THREE:  I got our yard  “CERTIFIED” as an ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY GARDEN.

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Something has really shifted in my head spaces.  I stopped hankering for standard ornamental curb appeal.  I stopped caring if we were going to put in grass or the fake stuff.  I didn’t want to water things just to mow them.  I actually wanted another 12×5 bed or other versions.  I am now looking for where to put a water source for bees and birds.  We have habitats all over our lil corner lot for lizards, a family of doves live in our oleanders (one we rescued from our fire place.  She is injured so she just runs around the yard and keeps me informed of what the lizards are up to.)  I planted milkweed so butterflies have made their home in our side slope.  I hung up a “native, non-stinging bee box”.  I have zoned our yard so the birds have a place to hang, but not inviting them into my garden, I have a shady place for all the sad plants that people give me that are dying. I seem to be that person people say, “Hey ANNE, here’s my almost dead plant, you can have it.”  I never turn down a plant in any shape, so into the plant NICU it goes.

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Our front porch was never prettier.

The last change, the biggest one was I planted almost everything from seed this season.  I have been on restriction remember?  No more home depot runs for starter plants. (I mean I could have but I decided not too) I dug into my wonky little seed bank and I made cute rows of radishes, eggplants, cucumbers, butternut squashes, beets, peppers, maters, corn (in a pot) garlic, ginger, shallots, spinach and on and on. I planted heirloom seeds, I ordered a seed-catalogue.

Then I made the bunny fencing; they can hop right in, so its, well, perfect.

I still have work to do and books to read and things to learn.  The front yard has been finally designed and no longer just conforms to the ocean of suburban homes that we live in.  I am an Herbalist, and now a suburban farmer (fancy talk for gardener).  My goal is to grow as much of our produce as I possibly can. I even have a worm bin.  I might be borrowing a couple more 3×3’s at work because some tenants moved away or got evicted (I am a mean landlord). I want to showcase that even with a little space, even if its your front yard, that you can Grow YOUR OWN FOOD.

Grow Food Not Grass is my motto now.   12×5 has become VERY Full and GREEN and I am always out there, in my PJ’s, dirt under my  nails before coffee, inspecting for horn worms, seeing what is budding, noshing on a radish, chatting with Chloe (the injured dove) and saying HELLO to all our dog walking neighbors, I have become that neighbor, I think.

you know the one.

The ODD ONE who turned their front yard into a FARM. (I am trying too anyways). I want bees and chickens but I’m not quite ready for that adventure yet.  I’m still reading books and planning (and working that regular job).

The scary thing is, I am a regular MOM-type person.  I have a flock of boys, dogs (2), fish(TNTC), worms, a banana-colored leopard gecko, and 3 garden plots (okay 5). I have dirt under my nails more often then paint on them.  I slap on makeup and go do officey things by day, and become a gardener anytime I can sneak away.  I feed my family home grown NOT CERTIFIED ORGANIC things.  I make body products from plants I grow. If you saw me at Target (lets be honest, its a rarity) but IF YOU DID, you might just think I am a normal, hair slapped in a messy pony, kinda lady. You might not know I raise worms for, um, FUN.

It makes me happy. That’s all I know.

I am trying to model that you can grow food not grass, and, I really hope, I really really do hope, that I can make it look appealing.

I mean I LOVE IT, but that’s me. (I also name the caterpillars that find their way into our yard so there you go.)

I am trying to find the balance. In all things. I also need a manicure.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

I have some fun recipes to share soon!

 

Hope you are all well and find a little inspiration to go put your hands in some dirt and plant things.

xo

Annie

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