Gardening by the road

by Jamie Santos
( Michigan)





About 4 years ago I almost gave up on having a garden due to the fact that my lot had too much shade. I had only a small area in which to garden but wanted to grow more than tomatoes and peppers. Assessing my small postage stamp property I realized that the only area of my yard that received ample sunlight was the easement by the city road.

I eyed that rectangular plot of grass long and hard and decided that the city would just have to ticket me for planting a garden in that easement. So we tilled that plot and threw down some seeds. Four years later I have added an arbor for my Zephrine Drouhin and New Dawn climbing roses, a table for plants and sundry items for decoration.

You will notice that in the front of the garden grow zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers and chamomile. I dry the chamomile to make a tea for stomach upsets. It works like a charm.

Up the path to the Arbor are planted nasturtiums which I like to add to summer salads for a peppery zing and eye catching color.

To the left of the Arbor I have planted pickling cucumbers which are arduously ( these extreme temperature fluctuations are stressing my poor plants ) trying to vine up the home made trellis, and, in between this trellis, I have planted romaine lettuce. I am hoping that the cucumbers eventually provide a canopy of shade for the lettuce. We can only hope!

Next to the cucumbers stands a patch of volunteer sunflowers from last years seeds! I did not have the heart to uproot them so let them be. Their sunny faces are never begrudged.

Between these sunflowers grows Swiss Chard...again, many, many volunteers from last years seed. I use this chard for my breakfast sandwiches. I sauté lightly the leaves and add them to a fried egg and homemade bread. I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to collect my own, non-GMO eggs, gather pesticide free Swiss chard and make organic, chemical free bread for my breakfast in the morning. It is a joy to live so simply but earnestly.

To the far left and end of the garden I planted Quinoa and Elephant Garlic. I have no idea how they enjoy each other's close company but so far they do not seem to mind each other at all.

To the right of the Arbor grow nasturtiums, zucchini and snow peas ( which I have been using in salads, stir fry's and just eating fresh as a snack ). I have been using compost tea on the peas and they have been growing profusely since May.

Just to the right of the snow peas are growing watermelon and pumpkin plants which are vining up the trellis with the peas. I am sure this will be a disaster in the end but space is limited and so is my imagination. :( They will just have to get along I suppose.



To the right of the pumpkin and watermelon are planted slicing tomatoes and marigolds for companionship.

I decided to try okra again this year (did not do too well last year) and it looks like it might produce a small crop this year. I am crossing my fingers because I absolutely love gumbo and okra is a necessity for this Louisiana treasure.

Lacinato kale is planted to the right of the okra as well as Cilantro interspersed....but it has flowered and will soon go to seed. I will use some of the seed for next years planting and some of the seed will be for curries.

I have made a chorizo, potato and kale soup with the Lacinato and it was divine! I also shared some with my son's best friend who lives just down the street from us.

I had planted Baby Bok Choy in the spring but the weather did not cooperate so it went to seed extremely fast without producing but a few leaves on each plant. The pods are drying now so that I can harvest the seed. I will probably plant again in August for a fall crop.

To the far right end of the garden I have planted dent corn and pole beans together. I have already harvested some beans and made a simple skillet of sautéed garlic and lemon green beans.

Sunflowers grace the end of the garden for children and birds to enjoy.

These four years of planting flowers and vegetables next to the city road have been rewarding beyond my wildest expectations. I never received that ticket from the city, but, instead, have been allowed to house hens behind the privacy fence of my front yard garden.

It has been rewarding in that neighbors openly admire the flowers that bloom profusely by the road as well as children who stop to pick them. I have had the pleasure and honor of stepping out of my front door only to witness a mother and daughter stop and discuss the garden. They lingered so long that I joined them and enjoyed explaining the many varieties that grew in this roadside garden.

All summer long I have the pleasure of offering flowers to children as they take an evening stroll with their parents or vegetables to neighbors.

It has been a very beneficial enterprise in that so many have enjoyed the fruits of this front yard garden.

I recommend everyone plant something edible in their front yard and just watch what blossoms! You'd be surprised.


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Aug 07, 2013
Thank you!
by: Jamie

Many thanks to Patricia, sponsors, commenters and judges!

Jul 31, 2013
looks lush and happy
by: Theresa

looks lush and happy

Jul 30, 2013
So colorful!
by: Mindi

I really love the sunflowers and how lush it all looks. Keep up the good work!

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