When my spouse and I bought our house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle in April, 2001 it came with a huge backyard garden. Not only did we buy a house, we bought the farm.
When we moved in that spring, the previous owners had just planted a large garden in seven raised beds they’d built in the back yard. There were four beds of 4×8 ft., plus three smaller beds and several large planters. At one time, we think they also had raised beds in the parking strips. There was a decent compost bin, a large cherry tree and several blueberry bushes. They spent a lot of time on the yard and garden outside the house…but not as much on the inside.
We thought it was really cool and for that first summer, we really enjoyed it! We knew very little about gardening but we managed to keep it going through the summer of 2001 and into the fall. The asparagus was coming up, the corn did its thing, we had carrots and all of our friends got more zucchini than they’d ever need when they came to see our new house.
As we settled into the house, we shifted our attention to inside remodeling projects and our various activities that didn’t always include taking care of the yard. We managed to keep the garden going through the summer of 2002, but we were overwhelmed by it, and not very motivated. By fall of 2002 we removed all of the beds and the compost pile and planted grass in the yard.
Our gardening philosophy became “whatever doesn’t die can stay.”
Fortunately here in the PNW, that strategy will go pretty far. Our biggest challenge was not in keeping things alive, but keeping things maintained and trimmed back. All of the bushes, trees and plants the previous owners planted in the ‘90s are now 30 years older and bigger. Then after the next door neighbors removed a giant corkscrew willow that overshadowed our house, things really began to flourish. The sour cherry tree outside my window is king of the yard. There is still rhubarb and garlic that pops up. The blueberry bushes are hanging in there. The roses, lilacs, rhododendrons, cherry and plum trees are reliable markers of the passing seasons: buds on the plum trees in late February, lilacs in April, rhodys in May, plums in June, cherries in July, and lots of roses! And yard work!
When I started working on my farm plan for this class, I knew I didn’t want to attempt anything as ambitious as that miniature farm that came with the house. I was also struggling with the idea of how much work it would take to grow the same vegetables that we can easily purchase two blocks away at the Ballard Market. For me, one person’s garden is another person’s yard work. As much as I like the idea of urban farming, I’m still coming around to wanting to actually do it myself.
As I talked about this idea with my spouse, I promised her that I would start small and keep it manageable. At her urging, my idea of several containers in the parking strip was pared down to one medium sized bed in the back yard. Even though for now it is merely an empty space marked off by bricks, that one bed is still overwhelming.
It’s like a baseball field waiting for Shoeless Joe Jackson to show up…but he’d better bring his hori hori knife.