Sunday, July 1, 2012

Urban Gardening

I will admit to being very blessed when it comes to the size of my yard.  We may not live in the country anymore, with acres for the children to run around in, but if we have to live just outside a fairly large city, at least we do have decent sized yards.  None of the properties in our development have lots smaller than one acre, and many are larger.  While there are some restrictions within the homeowners association with regard to what you can do on your property (ugh - they are highly restrictive of clotheslines), it doesn't restrict gardens, and several families in the neighborhood enjoy that as much as I do.  In fact, I read the restriction list through twice before we agreed to buy the house, just to make sure I could plant a garden.
The key to urban gardening though, is to make the best use of limited space.  While I certainly have more space than many urban gardeners, I can't just tear up the entire backyard and turn it into a garden.  For one, my hubby wouldn't like that - he wants to make sure the kids have plenty of room to play.  And, though the HOA doesn't restrict gardens, they do have a provision that says you have to keep your lawn attractive, and I'm not sure they would deem a plot of corn in the front yard attractive (beauty is in the eye of the beholder).  Also, while corn is a member of the grass family, it exceeds the maximum height they'll allow the grass to get by just a little. Thankfully, these restrictions don't really apply to the backyards - things just have to look "good from the road." (I'll just have to live with the shallowness of that.)
We've tried to make the most of our space by choosing a spot in the yard that didn't impede foot traffic, and was relatively out of the way for when the girls play in the back.  They are getting older now and don't do that as much anyway, but they've moved some of those games to the front yard as the garden grew in size.  Gotta love those girls.  We have also utilized the area around our deck, using the deck itself as a support system for vining plants, as an additional area to plant veggies and flowers.  I've found out that the small bed along one side of the back of the house is great for growing herbs, and the north side of the deck is perfect for shading mints.  I've also planted a few things among the flowers in the front beds and gotten away with it.
The newest picture of the main garden. I'll have to get pics of the other beds soon.
  We do try to keep it nice looking (oops - gotta fix that weed mat by the strawberry bed).  We don't want any complaints from the neighbors, and all our backyards open up on one another, so there would be no hiding it if we were negligent.
The mow line, you can see it between our garden and the neighbor's tree, roughly marks the edge of our property.  As you can tell (though the pic doesn't do justice to the true length), there's still room to put in more beds without moving the beds further into the backyard.

Future plans include planting blueberry bushes in the beds along the front of the house.  We pulled all the regular shrubs out this spring, and laid weed mat and pine needles in preparation for putting the blueberries in this fall if we can manage it.  We also want to plant several fruit trees in the back corners of our yard.  We love the little wooded area for the shade it offers the back, but there is some room to each side of that where we could put the new trees.  We might be able to put some on the north side of the house too, but we need utility workers to come mark where any lines have been buried before we can really plan that out.  Same for the front yard.  I'd like to plant blackberries in a line from the back corner of the house to the property line (on the north side, opposite the side with the driveway), effectively delineating the side yard from the back yard.  I think I could use this living fence as a way to help hide compost bins from view by most of the neighbors.  I would also love to have a small greenhouse, but that is something that would definitely have to be approved by the HOA.

I may have a large yard, and I am truly thankful for that, but all of these plans try to balance my desire to produce as much of my own food as possible, with the desire not to alienate any of the neighbors by turning the yard into what others could see as an eyesore.  We have some really good neighbors, and we knew the HOA rules before we bought the house, so we need to be respectful of the regulations and our neighbors by creatively using our space; keeping the area that can look like a garden neat, and finding ways to grow food in an attractive way that mimics standard plantings - like using the blueberries instead of regular shrubs for the foundation plantings.  
I'm not the only one in my family to have to find room for a garden.  Both my brothers and one of my cousins all have to fit gardens in restricted areas.  My younger brother utilizes the only area available to him by growing what veggies he can in pots on his deck.  You can see some of what he's done here, and here.  In the second link, the photos of his space saving ideas are near the bottom of the post.

Earlier this year I shared some of my favorite quotes on gardening.  Included was this one by Spencer W. Kimball: "Where you have a plot of land, however small, plant a garden.  Staying close to the soil is good for the soul."  I agree with this 100%.  There's immense satisfaction in producing your own food, or even your own flowers.  And that early morning watering time is a great time to pray.

I've linked this post with the Homestead Barn Hop.  As usual, there are some great links.

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  1. I was interested this week thinking about the fact that whenever I start to tell people about my homesteading "hobbies" the first thing they ask is "Where do you live?" as in where can you keep bees and chickens and garden? I always say, "Right in town," but that surprises people.

    Your beds look beautiful. Ours are a bit more wild than that--though it is my goal to never have a HOA to tell me what I can or can't do:-)

    1. Thank you!
      Trust me, I would rather not live in a neighborhood with an HOA, but my hubby and I came to a compromise with regard to the house, and at least I can have my garden.

      I commend you on all you manage to do within the city. I have a friend that keeps a garden and chickens (hens) in the city she lives in, and people are always surprised with her too.