Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Retired Lawn Mower

The lawn mower is having a beautiful retirement on the boulevard of a front garden that is almost entirely devoted to vegetables. At the time of this photo in November, some of the structure of the garden had been dismantled, but you can still see evidence of the use of vertical structures, important for catching the sun on this north-facing lot.

This garden not only has a beautiful design and some neat artifacts but is successfully growing a variety of vegetables even in late fall.

Edible Landscaping on the 4000 Block of W. 31st Ave.

Lurking, almost unseen, are vegetables growing in at least four of the front yards of houses in the 4000 block of West 31st Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. Word has it that someone on the block has encouraged others to plant vegetables in their front yards.

The first garden features Swiss chard growing among native plants adjacent to the front sidewalk. Further back, in an unlikely shady location next to the northeast side of the house, the pole beans are finished for the season but the nasturtiums are still thriving.

In the second garden, Brussels sprouts grow next to a rhododendron. Earlier in the season there were tomatoes and cucumbers. The owners were in the vanguard many years ago when they removed the grass in the front and landscaped with rhododendrons, witch hazel, etc., but now they make more space for vegetables each year.

The third garden has Swiss chard growing near the house. There is potential on this sunny south-facing exposure to grow a variety of vegetables.

In this mulched fourth garden, the green onions would not be seen unless you knew they were there. (A reminder--clicking on the photos enlarges them.)

Since no one has transformed their entire front lawn to vegetables, these are small endeavours. However, taken together, can we see the beginning of a movement? Perhaps next season there will be larger areas devoted to vegetables and more neighbors joining in.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Books on Growing Edibles

Ableman, Michael. Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It. Chronicle Books, 2005.
The author, from Salt Spring Island, B.C., traveled to one Canadian farm in the Kootenays and to a number of farms in the US, none of which practice industrial agriculture. Although not about home gardens, the book is an inspiration about better ways of producing food.

Gordon, Katherine. The Garden That You Are. Sono Nis Press, 2007.
Five gardeners/farmers in the Slocan Valley, B.C. are featured. There are many beautiful photos of their gardens, along with recipes and gardening advice.

Haeg, Fritz. Edible Estates: Attacks on the Front Lawn. Metropolis Books, 2008.
The author/artist redesigned three front lawns, in California, Kansas, and New Jersey, to grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits. This book takes Primeau's book (below) on front yard gardens one step further! But don't feel that you have to be an artist...

Hoff, Trish, "Doing Double Duty" in Gardens West, March 2008, p. 24-30.
The article, with photos of Canadian gardens, gives advice on how to combine edibles with ornamental plants in a garden. Along with the usual vegetables, there is information on growing small fruits and edible perennials: horseradish, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, sorrel, and rhubarb.

Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books, 2006.
Unstructured time in nature is essential for our well being, helping us realize that we're part of a larger universe and seasonal changes. This book concentrates on the importance for children to spend time outside on the land. Reading this book led me to volunteer with the Landed Learning Project at the UBC Farm, where city children learn to plant a vegetable garden.

Primeau, Liz. Front Yard Gardens: Growing More Than Grass. Firefly Books, 2003.
With so many great photos of front yard gardens, this book provides a great motivation to rip out grass in your front lawn. It features a few Canadian gardens along with ones from the US. It is a great book despite having few references to planting vegetables.

Smith, Alisa and J. B. MacKinnon. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Random House Canada, 2007.
By now, everyone has heard of this book, written by two young people here in Vancouver, B.C. Unfortunately, because they lived in an apartment and were working in a tight time frame, they did not have the opportunity to grow their own food.

Monday, November 17, 2008

North-Facing Lane Garden

Situated on the opposite side of the lane of the previous lane garden, this one is growing vegetables an unlikely place, being challenged by the north shade. Nevertheless, Brussels sprouts have grown to a height of four feet in boxes on both sides of the garage. The black bin is for compost. Obviously, these gardeners are avid gardeners, probably with an extensive back yard garden, evidenced by how they utilize their back lane so successfully. November has been mild so far, not yet killing off the pesky aphids.

Sunny Lane Garden

It is remarkable what can be grown on this "found" land in the lane (known some places as an alley). The middle of this lane is paved with some crumbling blacktop, so there is space on the edge by this southern exposed back fence to grow beans and Asian greens successfully well into November as shown. The season is extended with the help of the stone wall and a mild fall.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Intensive Front Garden plus Boulevard

The owner of this south-facing garden in the Point Grey area of Vancouver remarked that they have not needed to buy greens for a number of months, and this October view indicates that there are many varieties still available to consume in this intensively cultivated front yard garden. The garden was enlarged recently to include the boulevard (area between sidewalk and street), and the Halloween display can still been seen there. Raspberries are ripening on the west border; on the east border is an attractive stone path.

Corner Garden with Wall

Probably one of the oldest front-yard vegetable gardens in the Dunbar area of Vancouver, this garden could well have existed before the authors of The 100 Mile Diet were born. When I spotted this garden one spring many years ago, the gardener shared some extra Romaine lettuce seedlings with me. The decorative cement block wall around the garden gives it a southern European feel, and that is echoed by what is seen growing here in October: tomatoes, celery, and escarole. Tomatoes are ripening under the plastic "roof" because in most areas of Vancouver, in order to avoid blight, it is necessary to protect tomatoes from rain in this way.