My tiny vegetable garden is about to migrate in search for more sunlight. It’s either move it this spring, or hang up the trowel.
Eight or ten years ago, the neighbor to my south planted a tiny maple tree about five feet from the fence. Six feet from that fence was my little garden, enjoying my yard’s dependable microclimate. This was the spot that baked in the sun, where the snow melted first and crocuses popped up a couple of weeks before I even remembered to look for them.
That tree is now more than forty feet tall, and casting shade on my garden every day by early afternoon. At summer solstice, when the sun is high in the sky, I’m naively optimistic that I might squeak by another year. By mid-summer, as the sun is shifting lower in the sky, the shadows deepen. Last year was the worst year ever, and I knew it would be my last year to garden in that spot.
The sunny destination is my front, side yard. This is a big deal for a gardener who cherishes her peace and quiet in the garden. I’m an introvert–I seek solitude to replenish my energy. I would not think of heading to my front yard in search of solitude. But this isn’t about solitude. It’s about growing some of my own food, and that’s something that gives me great joy.
I’ve spent a lot of time this winter trying to envision my new little raised bed garden in its front yard location. I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like tending it on a busy weekend summer day in the neighborhood.
What about the pressure of wanting it to look good all the time? Will that be a motivator or a stress? Will I enjoy chatting with my neighbors more often? Will I spend my weekends looking like one of those plywood bent-over gardener lady lawn ornaments with the polka-dotted bloomers? Does it matter?
Now that the snow has melted, I’ll be creating a new design for the entire side garden, now perennials and a little lawn, to make room for the new vegetable garden. I’ve admired photographs of some beautiful front yard potagers with lovely paths and curved beds but, right now, I’m still leaning toward my raised bed structure.
The raised (box) bed works well because:
- the soil warms up quickly and stays warm longer;
- I can fill it up with nutritious compost, manure and other good stuff;
- the soil never becomes compacted because I never step on it;
- I can plant it very intensively;
- it’s easier on my back because it’s already ten inches off the ground; and
- it’s really neat and cute (at least, in June).
I can build the box (or boxes), transport soil from the existing bed, add compost from my compost pile and maybe even some shellfish compost from Winterwood Farms. It will be ready to go in one weekend with super fertile soil, rather than trying to utilize the mostly sandy soil on that spot.
My existing raised bed is 4 X 8 feet in size. I have to do some measuring in my new location and think about existing shrubs that I’ll want to work around, like the Korean Spice Vibernum, and perennials that will need to be moved. I’d like to incorporate some new herbs into the garden this year, so may consider an additional raised bed, or I may just integrate them in with the existing perennials.
On the short list of things to look forward to about front yard gardening, in addition to plenty of sun, is the lack of dogs. Imagine a crop of carrots without a little dirty-faced Westie having had first dibs. Or, cucumbers that aren’t chewed in half when I go out to pick them for dinner.
I’m hoping to pick up some urban gardening tips this Thursday night from UNH Cooperative Extension Educator Julia Steed Mawson, who will be speaking to the Capital City Organic Gardeners about the how to’s of city gardening at Havenwood Heritage Heights in Concord, New Hampshire at 7 p.m.
Now, to order some front yard garden seeds!