Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Urban Homestead Garden: Some goals.

After a long, cool Spring, it's finally hot and sunny in Oakland. Which is good, because actual "summer" around here sucks. June and July are months of chill breezes and fog in these parts. But the month of May? May is gorgeous! Right? I hope so, anyway.

Today is a beautiful day, and I am getting really excited about our Spring garden!

Since removing the concrete several years ago, our small southwest-facing front yard has remained fallow, largely covered in cedar mulch. I think we were overwhelmed, and not sure what to do with the area (which is funny, because our back yard is much bigger but we didn't have any trouble laying it out). But this year, the planting has begun!

So far, we have planted two trees - an ornamental Japanese Maple, and a fig tree. They are teeny little things, a testament to our optimism - and our low budget!

I've decided that the proper term for a baby fig is "fig-ling":

Last year, while I was uncomfortably pregnant, Steve laid a little stone path to our front door, and creeping thyme and lemon thyme are growing to fill in the gaps between the stones.

One at a time, we've added some other herbs to the area around the steps: sage, marjoram, rosemary, and lavender. We need plants that can take the heat. As a bonus, they smell nice and save us money at the farmers' market.

Initially, I resisted the idea of planting tomatoes in the front yard, despite the fact that the exposure and warmth provides the promise of faster-ripening and better-tasting tomatoes in our long-cool-summer climate. My reasoning? Tomatoes aren't the most aesthetically pleasing plants - towards the end of the season, they get a bit messy and sprawling. Not ideal for a front yard, which provides the "first impression" of your home, right? Curb appeal, yada yada yada.

This winter, I had a realization. There is an abandoned crack house across the street. It was an active, thriving crack house, until the City condemned it under California drug laws, making it an abandoned crack house. (My neighbor's comment about this house: "Yeah, it was terrible - people came and went at all times of day and night to visit the dealer, who was the grandson of the owner. He was a really nice guy, though.") My other neighbors have concrete yards, or yards full of weeds. We all have chain-link fences around our front yards.

So why am I worrying about aesthetics?

Exactly. We now have three tomato plants in the front yard. We may get more. They are still at the small and cute phase, nestled into the cedar mulch. "Tomato-lings."

Some other plans for the front yard: GIANT SUNFLOWERS! In all colors! Why not? I like sunflowers. The birds like sunflowers. Everyone likes sunflowers, right?

So, still on the topic of frugality and doing good for the environment, here are a few of my Spring resolutions:
  1. Grow a wider variety of foods, and take advantage of our warm front yard for warm-season veggies!
  2. Preserve more of our harvest through freezing, canning, and drying. Pickles in 2010!! And not just the cucumber variety. (At this point, dear reader, we move from the possible to the fantastical.)
  3. Actually grow a fall/winter garden this year? Ha ha.
  4. Collect and germinate some of my own seeds? More laughing. That's about as likely as me remembering to bring reusable bags to the grocery store every time.
 I tend to get a bit ahead of myself this time of year, biting off a bit more than I can chew/plant/organize.

Don't forget to relax with a glass of sun-tea, too.


  1. Ha ha ha ha!!!! I had no idea you were worrying about curb appeal! That's hilarious. And now we'll have one of those "food not lawns" yards!

  2. i would like to know about seeds saving, so if it gets to that, let's talk!

  3. R: Are you saying it's hilarious that I was worried about curb appeal, because that's how awful our neighborhood is? Or is it hilarious because the front yard has been vacant and fallow for two years, and had concrete before that?

    S: The problem with the seed saving plan, I think, is that we rarely grow just one variety of anything. So I'm afraid we'd get all kinds of weird hybrids. And when the original "parents" are hybrids, you might just get seeds that don't germinate. So you're supposed to like, hand polinate and stuff? That said, I might give it a shot anyway, and we should definitely discuss!

  4. I love it! Jump into the fantastical! The gap between ambition and reality is a beautiful space for the spinning of possibilities. I look forward to reading more about your gardening successes.


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