Meet our February Gardener of the Month: @frontyardveggies!
Describe your garden.
Our garden is unique in that it’s entirely built on top of concrete! The front yard/patio/end of the driveway was a barren wasteland when we moved in 4 years ago, and we have slowly been adding 2’ deep raised beds. We have 8 currently, for a total of ~ 150 sq. ft. of growing space, with an additional ~150 sq. ft. of vertical growing space in the form of trellises. It’s shaped like a square, with a little entrance to the inside where we have nice redwood Adirondack chairs, an umbrella, and a little wooden stump for a table. It’s made the space so much cozier and more enjoyable than the beige slab it was when we first rented the place!
What’s the hardest thing about gardening?
Oh gosh, so many things. I’ll use the umbrella term of unpredictability. Just in terms of seasonal changes (LA can have really, really rainy winters or really dry ones), different critters attacking our urban garden (this year: rats, neighborhood cats, possums), having good luck with a variety one year only for it to not do well the following year…stuff like that! Gardening teaches you to roll with the punches, not get too attached to things, and to look on the bright side. Sure, all of my brassica seedlings got eaten 3 times this season, but my lettuces are growing like gangbusters!
If you could have one gardening superpower, what would it be?
To put an invisible forcefield around the garden to keep out stray cats, rodents, squirrels, and possums. Birds are okay because they eat the caterpillars, but everything else has really been testing my patience and resolve this season.
We’re always telling people that you don’t have to own a large amount of land to be an extraordinary gardener. You are living proof! Tell us your best tips for container gardening and raised bed gardening.
Start small and build up easy wins. We started with just one small raised bed and planted a few varieties of kale because they’re hardy and we eat a lot of it. Greens are a good way to build your confidence! Then, when we felt good, we went from one bed to four beds. The next year, we built four more. Don’t postpone joy just because of your present circumstances. We will likely be moving at the end of 2020, and instead of thinking we wasted time and money gardening in this space, we are looking at it like we got four years of learning under our belts that will carry us forward into the next space!
How did you think of the idea to turn a concrete yard into a garden?
We moved to Santa Monica from Brooklyn, NY, and went from a 1BR third floor walkup apartment to a small rental bungalow with outdoor space. The actual yard portion of the area is in almost complete shade due to overgrown ficus trees, so the only garden-able space was a 20’x20’ slab of concrete…so we got to researching how to garden somewhere without any soil. We envisioned turning a completely dead, lifeless hunk of cement into a thriving edible oasis, and that’s just what we’ve done! It’s so rewarding to this space teeming with life now.
In browsing your Instagram account, we found your #BedheadGardening Movement! We love where you said, “…because we believe that sometimes social media needs a little less filter and a little more FUN.” Would you tell our readers a little bit more about this initiative?
I miss the old days of Instagram when it first launched — I lived in San Francisco and worked in tech in 2010, and people just posted whatever! A picture of a sunset, a crappy picture of an ice cream cone, a grainy cat photo. It was just about sharing and wasn’t so manicured and perfect. Now Instagram brings up all sorts of weird feelings of comparison because you see someone’s highlight reel and compare it to your day-to-day life. I try to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my gardening life because it’s not all sunshine and roses and perfect produce. I just adore the IG gardening community because everyone hopped on board and shared their incredible bedhead, no makeup selfies and it was a fun opportunity for everyone to just embrace real life and say, “screw it!” to Instagram perfection.
Brag about something you’ve accomplished in the garden.
I think the fact that we even have the garden at all has to be my brag. Building it was hard work, filling it with so. much. soil. was hard work, and dealing with the challenges of the space to begin with was hard work. But it’s thriving, it’s producing lots of food for us and tons to share with friends, and seeing the nature outside every day fills us with a sense of peace and calm in this bustling city.
As a 2020 Gardener of the Year, you’ll receive 2 sample boxes of Burpee Home Gardens’ 2021 new varieties… one for you and one for a friend! Who will you give your second sample box to and why?
Eek, I’m so excited! I’m going to give the second sample box to my local gardening friend, Cheryl, of @mybrentwoodgarden, because she’s sweet as can be, a wonderful gardener, and the first Instagram gardening friend to become a real-life friend! And she just lives a few miles away from me.