Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Front Yard Gardening

It's been a good spring, because it's been spring this spring.

The last four or five years, late March and early April have been inordinately warm.  Temperatures in the high seventies, sometimes kissing eighty.  The soil has heated early, and in response I've gotten my garden going early.

This year, though, it has felt as it once regularly felt.  The air still has a wet chill about it most mornings.  The vaunted April showers have come, and the wild admixture of fescue and chickweed, bugleweed and clover and creeping Charlie that comprise my front "lawn" are fat with green growth.

And so the work of the garden has begun.  The asparagus are rising, sweet and tender and tasty, particularly snapped and eaten right there by their plot.  The overwintered garlic looks robust, although I'm a solid month from digging for the bulbs.  The beets were planted into a four by eight section in the week before Easter, and potatoes went into their half barrels.  The blueberries are beginning to flower, as is one of the two little apple trees I put in two years ago.  I spade-turned and reseeded the sidewalk-adjacent patch of sunflowers from seed I'd saved last year.

I've added another 64 square feet of raised bed space for this season, which brings me to just under three hundred square feet of bed space.  That's right at the edge of what I can manage without spending every waking moment in my yard...not that I'd mind that, particularly.  All of that takes place in my front yard, right out there with the sidewalk and the street.

We Americans tend towards backyard gardening, bustling away in compartmentalized isolation, but I prefer gardening out front, for two reasons.

First and most practically, it's where the sun is.  Our back yard is blessed with dozens of trees, which means light falls only sparsely on the small section of moss and grass between the patio and the woods.  It'd make for a terrible garden, because there's no point in trying to grow things if you don't give them light.  It's also low and prone to getting more than a little swampy, as it's where...absent the storm drains...a stream would naturally flow.  That treed area produces a lovely harvest of fallen leaves for the compost pile, and makes for a great location for said compost, but otherwise, its function is as a place to sit and relax while the dog romps about.

You grow in the light.

Second, it's more public.  More social.  It's friendlier.  As an introvert, this might seem like a peculiar thing to take pleasure in, but I do.  When I'm out planting or weeding or harvesting, I see my neighbors.  There they are, walking by, with their dogs or with tiny people in strollers.  I say hello.  Sometimes, they stop and chat for a bit, or ask about what's coming up this year.  Often, they'll share what they're growing, or talk about how they'd like to start a garden themselves.  I get to know faces and voices.

Yesterday, as I was harvesting asparagus, a little family I've talked with several times before meandered by on their regular early evening constitutional.  We chatted, and they asked what I was doing, and then I offered them newly sprouted spears from the wet earth.

"So sweet," he said.  "Really tender," said she.  It was a lovely little moment.

Growing out where it can be seen makes a difference.  It shifts and shapes our expectations of how we connect with both neighbor and creation.  We grow in the light, after all.