Where do your fruits and vegetables come from? This week, my refrigerator is stocked with spinach and blueberries from Florida, raspberries and strawberries from California, grapes from Chile, hothouse tomatoes from Canada, and peppers from Mexico — all courtesy of a recent shopping trip to my local Costco. In Iowa, where cold weather often lingers into April, I welcome the year-round availability of such delicious diversity. But fresh produce is a luxury that many of us take for granted. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 23.5 million Americans live in “food deserts,” areas with little or no access to grocery stores that provide fresh, nutritious, affordable foods. Imagine having to feed your kids only what the corner convenience store sells.
As I see it, we’re becoming increasingly dependent on food from far-flung places. And the further we are from where our food is grown, the greater disconnect with healthy eating. The solution? Planting a vegetable garden is a good start. In raised beds. In containers. In urban areas. In schoolyards. Anywhere there’s a strip of soil and sunshine.
For Ron Finley of South Central Los Angeles, the only spot available for growing veggies was along the curb in front of his house. When the city tried to stop him, Ron — a self-described “guerilla gardener” — took his fresh-food crusade to the streets, literally. He started an organization called L.A. Green Grounds, which help people turn hell strips (the wasted land between sidewalks and streets) into what Ron calls “food forests” that provide “nourishment, empowerment, education — and healthy, hopeful futures — one urban garden at a time,” according to Ron’s TED profile. I encourage you to listen to Ron’s TED Talk. I did, and now he’s one of my garden heroes.
Plant a garden. And then spread the word.
I admit that I’m a follow-the-rules kind of guy. I was raised with the belief that rules largely exist to help us know what kind of decision to make when we’re confused, to keep the world in order, and to prevent us from falling into deep, inescapable chaos.
But when I read the story of Julie Bass in Oak Park, Michigan, I silently gave her a thumbs up.
Julie Bass’ story is an interesting one: According to what I’ve read, she’s being threatened with a misdemeanor crime for violating city code and having a front yard vegetable garden instead of more traditional lawn and shrubbery.
Personally, I don’t find the pictures I’ve seen (view for yourself here) particularly unattractive. It’s not the most traditional approach to front yard landscape design, but it’s certainly not bare earth. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard of growing vegetables out front; in fact, you can see a picture of a front yard that incorporates herbs and vegetables in a front yard right here on BHG.com.
So what do you think? Is this brouhaha over nothing — should she be fined and forced to move her vegetable garden out back and replace it with lawn? Or should she be cheered for doing something a little different? Share your comments!
Last winter I agreed to place my garden on tour in mid-July. At the time I didn’t think that it would take any extra effort. After all, I’m usually photographing in the garden every couple of weeks, so I try to keep it in good condition. And I always enjoy sharing my garden with those who are interested. But this spring, it struck closer to home that the beds better be fully mulched (300 bags worth!), garden projects completed (a new water garden in the backyard), gaps in beds filled in (hurray for garden center shopping trips!), and plants fully groomed (a weekend of deadheading ahead) by the time the tour arrives next week.
I think that we’re just about ready for the group. The photos below take you on a virtual tour of my backyard. Next week I’ll show you the front yard. What do you think? Will it pass muster?
Herbal knot garden with lavender, germander, marigolds, and mealycup sage
New formal water garden
Firepit seating area
Boxwood knot garden with marigolds and ageratum
Mixed shrub and perennial border
Raised bed vegetable garden and compost bin screen
Potager, kitchen garden
Terraced vegetable beds