After a few fits and starts last year our curb garden finally took root. It makes me happy.
When we bought this house 18 years ago, the sidewalk strip was nothing but lawn. We planted a tree, but otherwise left it as is. We had plenty of projects to keep us busy. Within a few years, we had two boys under the age of five.
About a year ago I considered removing the lawn and planting a vegetable garden in the mostly sunny strip. A handful of friends and readers cautioned against it. A few had bad experiences with people stealing flowers or fruit. Others warned of cats using it as a litter box. Others suggested I plant on the house side of the strip, but my husband wasn’t ready to remove all of the lawn. Removing the grassy strip was a two-fold experiment: could he tolerate less grass, and would my garden thrive and survive. The answer to both is yes.
I posed the question to my readers via a blog poll and the results were split down the middle: plant the strip and you’ll regret it or go for it! My friend Liz suggested a raised bed and that made the most sense.
I’m happy to say that nothing but positives emerged from my curb garden. Here are just a few:
- I ordered potting mix from a supplier but they delivered topsoil by mistake. I didn’t realize the significance but the garden failed to thrive. They apologized and offered a refund, but said they couldn’t take it back. Once sorted out, I had to figure out a way to get rid of 1 cubic feet of topsoil and begin again. I joined a Freecycle network in our community, and made a new friend in the process. Serendipity!
- My friend and neighbor’s daycare children planted carrots in the curb garden last fall. She made labels for each of the carrots and we all had fun watching the wee gardeners grow and harvest carrots.
- I grew a beautiful crop of garden peas. Though cut short by an early and particularly harsh frost, they were beautiful and sweet in their day.
- Late in the year I planted fifty daffodils ‘Narcissus’ broadcast style. They opened up in February and flowered for a month. What a glorious sight.
- Most of the perennials did well, and doubled or tripled in size. I scattered a packet of wildflowers seeds to fill in bare spots, and a few of those have come up as well. Two weeks ago I found a single, pink gladiola growing in the corner. I must have found an unidentified bulb in my garden stash and added it to the mix, but I have no memory of doing so. What a fun surprise.
As I’ve educated myself on the pros and cons of different plantings, I’ve learned how little a manicured lawn does for the environment. Lawns require a lot of water, as well as aeration and fertilizer. They have nothing to offer the birds or the bees, so critical to the health of our ecosystem. My husband doesn’t want to let go of the lawn so it’s an ongoing debate. So far the compromise includes replacing the sidewalk strip and cutting back on watering the lawn.
Brown is the New Green’ is the motto of a $500K campaign launched by the Santa Clara Valley District. Water use is typically up to 60% higher during the summer months. Lawns are the worst offenders. Even a small lawn can use more than 18,000 gallons of water per year. We simply can’t waste water. – CBS Local News
Happy anniversary, little curb garden. Here’s to many more.
That was a fun look back. I adore the daffodils in spring, they’re so cheery. I’d like to have some next spring too and tulips. Progressive photo’s make it look so easy and tidy but I can also see how much work has gone into your curb garden. Removing grass is really hard work and shovelling dirt around. There’s not much lawn in our neighbourhood, especially curb side. The yards are so small. You’re right, at least flowering plants feed the bee’s and butterflies. Where’s as lawn is just an aesthetic accoutrement that has probably seen it’s day. It slays me to see these ubber green golf courses in the desert. Makes no practically sense, ecosystem wise. I’m sure businesses and corporations use much more water than you and I could ever in a lifetime. Happy Anniversary little curb garden 😀
Thank you! I enjoy that little slice of flower heaven every day, but must admit the daffodils were the show stoppers of the year. Every time I would round the corner to our street those cheerful yellow blooms were there to greet me. I love tulips, but I just don’t get enough return to do it again. Since the narcissus are unappealing to squirrels, I may consider adding the white/yellow varieties next year.
I agree. Businesses use far more water than any homeowner, and the golf courses are among the worst. At least crops feed people. Golf courses just sit there guzzling water…and in the desserts no less. If anyone were a candidate for artificial turf it should be them…just like mini-golf. That said, I know a lot of people love golf, it just seems like a luxury during the time of drought.
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It is always interesting to observe the process of something new as it develops – and this retrospective does just that. I admire your patience as you bring your husband along on the journey, the research you put into your projects and also that you are leading the way for your local community. I tend to believe that it will not be that much longer before we see food gardens springing up everywhere in these green strips. The issue of ‘stealing’ will not be a problem as there will be so much food growing along the road side we would all be happy for those in need to take it 🙂 In the meantime you have your beautiful seasonal flowers gladdening the hearts of yourself, your neighbours and sundry passers-by. I wonder if any others in your ‘hood are following your example yet?
I love the way you think, Pauline. Food gardens for the taking…brilliant! It’s a much better way of looking at things, isn’t it?
I’m not seeing much in the way of flower beds or vegetables in the sidewalk strips, but we do have a neighbor that planted an entire edible garden in place of grass a few years ago. They just finished it this year, and I asked to take photos. She wanted me to wait till things were established, and now the garden is going to seed as they do this time of year. It’s quite spectacular. I’ll try again for pictures in the spring.
What a lovely little garden!! It is great to see the progress over a year. And I admire your detemination to make this work. You are so right, a flower/veggie garden has so much more to offer than lawn, for critter, planet and humans.
And how important is that: little kidds discovering you put a seed in the ground, watch it grow and take care of the plant…and than you have food! So generous of you to share! Have a lovely week with Bomdee!
Thanks so much. It was hard work getting it off the ground, so to speak, but I’m now enjoying the fruits of my labor and so are the birds, passersby and others.
I’m with you, dig up the lawn, either flowers or vegetables would be great or even a wild flower meadow, although that wouldn’t look so good all year as perennials.
I love the idea of a wild flower meadow in the back garden, unseen by neighbors but available to the wildlife.
I remember the struggle you went through so well. It’s wonderful to see the end result. I love it and am so happy to did it. A small patch of grass was a wonderful spot for Spot to lay on if you had a Spot but I’d rather have the flowers, shrubs, fruits, veggies and herbs. You just keep digging up little patches of grass until…oops, all gone.:) I hope you are not reading this but enjoying your trip to Sillyville, Canada. I’ll be thinking of you girls. Looking forward to hearing all about it. Hugs to you both.
I love that idea…the ever-encroaching flower garden. You’re on to something, Marlene. 🙂
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