Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to get away with a Country garden in the City

     I live in a restricted community.  I suffer the presence of yard guards in my life.  They take turns riding through the neighborhood in golf carts.  They are supposed to be picking up trash and getting to know the residents.  They have first contact in maintenance issues.  If they determine the problem is beyond the handyman, they call a pro.  They also peak in to the pots that I plant to guess what is in there.  They leave notes on the door from management and generally just irritate me.  I mean seriously, they HAVE to tape the notices to the door with duct tape?  

     I know they are doing their job.  I am at an age when I believe if I am not setting you on fire, selling drugs or beating your dog, you should just smile at me and walk away.  I really don't get all excited by these people, but I don't care for them.  I have read the letter of my lease and there is no section that states I cannot have any fruit bearing plants in my yard so when they make an issue of it I look at it as a waste of my time.  So, I understand if you are living in a strict home owner's association that you may not be able to tear up the front yard and put in a garden that will sustain your family right now.  

Dog Rose showing the bright red hips
from Wikipedia
     Still, there are ways to get in some garden practice even if you are plagued with yard guards or worse, the desperate housewives of the gated community!  

     If you think at some point you will need garden skills and want to give it a try, start out with planting flowers.  Flowers seem to be acceptable to both the desperate housewives and the yard guards!  They do not need to know you are planting flowers with medicinal benefits or flowers that fruit!  

     Try planting roses.  The rose hips (occur after the flower blooms, the petals fall off and the the seeds begin to swell).  They are high in vitamin C and they pickle nicely.  They are also used in jams and jellies.  No one will complain about growing roses, even if you grow a wild variety.    

     Get a strawberry pot or four and plant them with strawberries or cherry tomatoes and place a nice bright foliage plant in the top to throw the yard guards a loop!  You can turn a strawberry pot into a small herb garden.  I recommend over and under planting in the garden to get more yeild and less attention.  If the neighbors get used to you fussing over your flowers, time will pass and they won't notice when your flowers yield zucchini or tomatoes.  

      Under planting is the method I use for potatoes. I plant the potatoes under an awning and then hang a basket of foliage plants from the awning.  As the basket grows down and the potatoes grow up, they blend and become something no one notices any more.  If you plant in neat rows that look like the vegetable gardener's handbook, people see a vegetable garden.  If you under plant an awning, no one notices.  

      Over planting is choosing many varieties of plants to place in a wide top planter.  The planter has enough space to place a trellis in the center upon which you can train an eggplant or squash or cucumbers.  You then surround the centerpiece with foliage, flower and herb plants that give visual variety and confusion.

     Plant your tomato seedlings at least twelve inches apart and plant a colorful Coleus plant in between,  These plants have very colorful foliage and as they fill in the space between tomatoes, they boggle the eye.  No one will see the tomatoes as the ripen because they will be used to the bright colored leaves.  I found this photo to the right of a window box with coleus and dill! 

     The secret to starting a garden in a nosy neighborhood, is to follow the KISS method.  In the beginning, keep it simple, silly!  Start with a large planter on each side of the garage.  They should match.  Maybe you can increase the planters to four if you also place one on each side of the front entry.  Choose pots that fit in the setting and also are simple and easy to find more of in other sizes.  Next, season you could add two pots to each of the first and make groupings of three.  

     If pots are not readily acceptable in your neighborhood, perhaps a raised bed that lines the driveway will work.  This one is made of planter blocks stacked and lined with weed cloth.  It is completely temporary but looks permanent and formidable.  You could literally and completely enclose the perimeter of your home.  As long as you plant the raised bed as if it were any flower garden, it will go unnoticed as a vegetable or herb garden.  

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