Notes on Urban Gardening

A bumblebee enjoying the thyme in my front yard
by lana lynne on June 24, 2012
My back and front yards measure about 300 square feet combined. This is not untypical in cities, of course, but I actually live in a section of the city that is often mistaken for the greener suburbs due to its lower-density development, tree-lined streets, and ubiquitous strip of grass between the sidewalk and street in front of each house. This strip of grass, I've come to think, is somewhat a matter of pride to the residents here, much in the same way a well-groomed, expansive lawn signals wealth in the country. There can be no other swatch of greenery beyond the sidewalk to the front door, but most houses have, at the very least, this patch of grass. I watch my old-timey neighbor laboriously care for his patch, especially the small, ugly blotch of brown that refuses to grow seed. When he came out one morning last year and saw that my stretch of grass had been torn out and replaced by flowers and shrubs (and later a tree), he was outright flabbergasted. Not only had I callously tossed out what he tended to for 20 years, but it was an uppity act of indifference to the working class roots of the neighborhood.

But forgoing the weekly act of lugging a weedwacker or a manual lawnmower to maintain a two by 20 foot strip of grass in favor of tending a flower bed has proven much more rewarding, if not for me than for the bees that now take unbridled pleasure in flying from flower to flower, their black and yellow stripes almost completely disguised in white pollen. This new development in my small corner of the world seems all the more important given the recent reports that bumblebees are going the way of their honeybee cousins. According to a recent article in Grist, these important pollinators have declined by 96% over the past two decades, posing a threat to native plants as well as the food supply.

My neighbors to the other side are less traditional when it comes to their yards -- or, if you look at it another way, more so. Taking advantage of the full sunlight despite close proximity to a busy arterial, their small front yards are filled with lush herbs and vegetables. Even their mostly concrete back yards are taken up by pots of veggies, raspberry patches, and trellises of beans. So far, their urban gardens have not met the same fate of the Tulsa gardener whose medicinal and edible front yard garden was illegally mowed down by the city. Her yard sounds as if it was an oasis of healthful plants whose benefits would surely outweigh any city ordinances. I look at my neighbors' inventive urban vegetable gardens and wonder why someone would ever take issue with their presence.
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  1. lovely :>

  2. Anonymous2:59 PM

    What is it about lawns and grass? I think it has to do with humanity's deep-seated battle against nature. The lawn around our home represents our conquering and mastery over the wild that lives beyond our yards, our borders. There is a part of the current human condition that requires that constant validation that they are separate from and above those things "outside" of themselves. Allowing nature a space within our boundaries is a step closer to the divine. Doing such acknowledges our connection to all that is around us.


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