Maybe I should have been embarrassed when I actually used my overgrown garden as a landmark. I do after all live in a very well maintained neighborhood in the middle of the city. It seems here that vegetable gardens are tucked discretely in backyards, behind white picket fences if there are any vegetable gardens at all. I on the other hand thought it rebellious to grow vegetables in my front yard. I had decided one of the things I wanted to plant was the “three sisters” which consist of corn, beans and squash. Idyllic images of a vine gently entwining a stalk with a lush ground cover were quickly dashed when one of the sisters became a monstrous and overbearing beast. Beans? What beans? There were only four stalks of corn waiving their pale tassels like white flags of surrender as the squash marched victoriously across raised beds and sprawled out onto the lawn. Every day the squash moved further across the front yard. I no longer had to cut the grass because there was none visible except for a small foot path to reach the front door.
I Had to apologize to my mailman when the walkway became overgrown. “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”, but the old saying never took into account such pernicious vines. I was just grateful to continuously be receiving mail. At one point I had to separate one of my squashy green friends from the neighbor’s apple tree when I found it “holding hands” with one of the mid-level branches.
The newspaper boy began tossing the paper in to our yard when eventually the entire driveway was engulfed in green. It seemingly happened over night. I found the car slowly being camouflaged.
Peering from my second story window I was almost eye to eye with sunflowers. The elderly neighbor said she had never seen such towering stalks in all her years on a farm. She was in awe as to why these seemingly common plants were growing to such mammoth proportions.
The jardin potager which should have been a neat raised bed, began to take on a life of it’s own when when our compost amended soil began sprouting numerous unidentifiable squash. Even when we moved the shed to build a PVC greenhouse the bare plot began mysteriously sprouting Swiss chard, spinach, a tomato plant and another squash! I assumed we must have furry little gardeners working on our property (or at least pooping out seeds in random areas).
The raised tomato bed that we fashioned completely out of reclaimed wood from a house renovation in our neighborhood began to grow the tallest and lushest heirloom tomato plants I have ever seen. Not even the wood headboards we upcycled to make tomato trellises could tame the plants which overflowed, heavily laden with fruit.
I was excited. This was the most successful season we have had yet growing our own food and people were taking notice. People were admiring the verdant upheaval occurring where once only a monoculture of grass thrived.
Was all this an eyesore? Maybe to some, but for most it seemed to be a novelty that piqued their interest. For me, this was an uprising against the system. In a city apposed to so many things others take for granted (like banning all farm animals on residential lots including chickens) this was my way of saying I cannot be fully controlled. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty.
We certainly are not self sufficient yet, but we are improving our skills with every new endeavor.