I have green thumb envy. I have the antithesis of a green thumb. And I wouldn’t even say that I have black thumbs. No, it goes beyond that. When it comes to keeping plants alive, I am thumbless. If my place in the animal kingdom were dependent on the ability to keep plants alive, I would not have opposable thumbs.
I want so badly to be able to produce produce for my family to eat and enjoy. The only problem is, I am a plant murderer. It’s not intentional. So I guess it’s more involuntary plantslaughter? I’m just glad it’s not a crime punishable with jail time. I really don’t want to turn into the next Piper Chapman.
My friend once gave me a house plant. “It’s an easy one,” she said. “Virtually unkillable,” she said. It lasted 2 weeks. And if you think about it, that means that it probably started dying as soon as it was brought into the room with me.
So, needless to say, after the zombie apocalypse and we have to return to being an agricultural society, I will not be placed in the farming group. I do have other practical skills that would be useful. But I will not be allowed around any food source until after harvest.
But I don’t need to beat a dead horseradish. I think I’ve made my point.
Who says a bumper sticker can’t change your life?
I do believe that growing your own food is an extremely valuable skill. I think that if you can find ways to do it in urban and suburban settings, even better! Some friends of mine, Chris and Jeannie Collin, saw a bumper sticker a couple of years ago that read “Grow Food Not Lawns.” Chris googled it and found that there is a whole movement going on. It got him thinking, “If people put the same amount of time and effort into growing food in their lawns that they do mowing and treating the grass, I was curious how much food could be created.”
So Chris started his suburban garden project. He had a large area in his backyard that wasn’t cutting it when it came to growing grass. Big dirt spot. He was considering resodding the area but instead decided to give a backyard garden a whirl.
“Suburban gardening is all about trial and error. You have to be prepared to fail and stubborn enough not to give up,” explains Chris. Ok, I’ve been known to be stubborn at times….this gives me hope that maybe I can, one day, plant and then grow something.
Some pointers from Chris:
- The compacted subdivision Georgia red clay is “perfect for growing carrot balls.” However, it’s not ideal for growing actual vegetables that you would want to eat. You will probably need to supplement the soil that is in your yard.
- Raised beds seem to be the best option. Chris used non treated lumber to keep the chemicals from making their way into the vegetables. He ended up going with cedar which is more expensive initially but does not rot as quickly as other woods. Cinder blocks are also a more cost effective option. Raised beds will also help you not have to dig down into the red, rocky clay too much.
- Oh crap. Manures make great natural fertilizers in order to cut down on synthetic chemicals growing into your food. Chris uses horse and fish poop.
- Start small. Begin with just one or two different plants and go from there. If your efforts bear fruit, or veggies, then you will have the confidence and comfort to add from there.
- Google and YouTube are your friend. While growing food in the ground was around before the internet, it doesn’t mean the web isn’t an important garden tool. Search any questions you might have.
- Speaking of technology….There is also some inexpensive technology that can help you with watering as well. It’s not needed. Chris still uses a regular lawn sprinkler for his garden. But if remembering to water your plants is a problem, then there are relatively easy solutions available.
- Get the whole family involved. Chris and Jeannie have enjoyed watching their kiddos get excited about planting something and then eating what they nurtured and watched grow.
A couple of years and a few carrot balls later, Chris and Jeannie have figured out a pretty successful suburban garden. And when I asked about their biggest triumph through this adventure so far, I learned something truly awesome about their garden.
Chris and Jeannie are partial owners of several local restaurants including Johnny’s Pizza in Grayson, (located in between the Clock Tower and the Grayson Park playground), a second Johnny’s Pizza in Lawrenceville, and Local Republic in downtown Lawrenceville. They try to source local produce for these restaurants whenever possible.
Their backyard garden produced enough to supply both of their Johnny’s Pizzas with fresh basil and cucumbers all summer long. They were getting 15-20 pounds of cucumbers a week!!! They also used the heirloom tomatoes they grew at Local Republic Gastropub in Lawrenceville. Not only are they growing food for their family and their neighbors, but also feeding the community…all from their suburban home. I think that is pretty exciting.
So as I stand at my sink and look out at my back yard over the half-dead rosemary and basil on my window sill, I imagine the potential. I remain hopeful. I may continue to murder my flora for a few more tries. But surely I will, one day, eat my success in a scrumptious salad.
**The pictures used for this story are all of Chris and Jeannie’s garden and its bounty. If you would like to start a suburban garden of your own, here are two websites that have some good information.