Like many people, this NYC resident has spent the past year growing food and finding joy in her own yard.

By Johanna Silver
April 15, 2021
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When the pandemic caused New York City to shut down last year, photographer Dana Gallagher became single-mindedly focused on one thing: growing food in her 40x20-foot Brooklyn backyard. "There was nothing going on," Dana says. "It was me, my daughter, and our garden."

Dana had been growing vegetables in her raised beds for a couple of years. But she spent her quarantine time coming up with strategies to maximize space, such as an espaliered apple tree ("A Home Depot find," she delights) and a trellis for training cucumbers upward. With the help of the local nursery staff she taps for advice, Dana has found success with bumper crops of lettuce, snap peas, and okra. "You don't need to be an expert to garden," she says. "You just need to read a label, do the math, and cross your fingers."

dog walking in backyard garden
Credit: Dana Gallagher

On top of practical benefits (like fewer trips to the grocery store), the garden has become Dana's sanctuary. "I'm out there poking around at everything in the morning with my coffee and again anytime I take a break from my desk." Her daughter, Imogen, uses the garden mainly for filming TikTok videos, but can also be found plucking snap peas straight from the vines. "Part of my motivation for this garden was to create space for us to enjoy," Dana says.

small seating area backyard garden
rhubarb chives mint garden
Left: Credit: Dana Gallagher
Right: Credit: Dana Gallagher

Dana densely sows seeds of favorite veggies like easy-to-grow spinach in her beds. "I'm an overplanter," she says. Other top edible plants she likes to grow include sorrel, a tangy green that sometimes keeps going all winter, which Dana uses in sauces and salads. She also enjoys quick-growing miniature 'Little Gem' lettuce in salads, topped with nasturtium petals, calendula, and borage. She grows rhubarb for crumbles because this ingredient can be tough to find at her supermarket.

woman working in backyard garden with dog
Credit: Dana Gallagher

Get to Know Stylemaker Dana Gallagher

1. Who is your muse? My daughter and my animals are my favorite subjects to photograph at home.

2. What's your creative process? I'm purely visual. When I was working on the garden, I did a Pinterest board that was a broad sweep of imagery of what I liked, even if I wasn't sure it would apply. Then I went back and found little details I could use.

3. What do you do when you're blocked creatively? Sometimes you have to take a break, walk away, and do something entirely unrelated to the project at hand, like bake cookies or go on a run.

4. What style rule should be broken? I wouldn't know a style rule if it hit me in the face. I just like what I like.

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