After a few fits and starts last year our curb garden finally took root. It makes me happy.
Clockwise: Snapdragons, Scabiosa going to seed, surprise gladiola, Cosmos, Penstemon, and yarrow
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.
Sidewalk strip before and after
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.
Removing the lawn
Nick takes over, soft gravel and stepping-stones surround the garden