While we eventually got to busy to keep it up (4 kids and competitive sports take up a ton of time), I have really vivid memories of pulling and eating the first carrots I had ever grown. I loved that garden, but I was young and easily distracted by other parts of life, so I didn’t think much about it when we didn’t continue it the following year.
Immediately after college graduation, I moved into my very first apartment with my soon to be husband. I hadn’t grown anything other than a few indoor plants since that early garden, but I was determined to start growing my own food now that I had my own place.
We lived in a ground floor apartment with a small back patio, so I had to stick to what I could grow in small pots. Unfortunately, I was also living in the Southeast for the very first time and unaccustomed to the really high humidity.
All my plants molded and died within the first month.
A year later, we moved back to Washington and into a house my husband’s family owned while we saved up to buy our first home. I half-attempted another small garden, but I was working two jobs and didn’t have a lot of extra time.
And as we were planning to buy a home, I didn’t want to set up a permanent garden in a place we were planning to move from in short order. Unsurprisingly, that garden didn’t fare well either.
In the meantime, I did a ton of reading and researching on gardening in the Pacific Northwest because I was determined to succeed this time around. (For those who are interested, I’ve included a list of my favorite resources down at the bottom).
That summer, we moved into our forever home, and I was ready to get started on what I was determined would finally be my successful garden. One of the big selling points for our home was the fact that it bordered a thick forest of parkland and gave us a really private backyard. Unfortunately, that meant no sun in the backyard for a garden.
So, in our 1960’s suburban neighborhood, I planted a vegetable garden in our front yard.
I started small because I was still new at this whole gardening thing (and had yet to be successful), but I was convinced I now knew enough that SOMETHING was bound to grow.
And my plants grew. And grew. And grew. Suddenly, I had a real garden.
I was so excited that this gardening thing was actually happening I didn’t initially think anything of the fact that all these vegetables were growing in my front yard, across from my neighbors.
I’ve never been one to worry overmuch about what others think, so it didn’t take up a lot of space in my brain. Since then, I realize not everywhere is so amenable to growing food instead of lawns.
Initially, I did get some comments about how it was “interesting” that I was gardening out front, but I knew that space was the only place I would get any sun, and I shared that with them. And then I started sharing vegetables with them, too.
Six years later, I now have neighbors who come into my yard unannounced – but invited – to pick their own produce from my excess. And all but two homes on our street are growing some of their own produce – a good number of them in their own front yards.
Now that we’ve been in our neighborhood for over half of a decade, we’ve really gotten to know a lot of our neighbors and are continuing to deepen those connections with neighborhood gatherings.
Our neighbors know our names, our phone numbers, and keep an eye out when we go out of town. A couple of them even mowed our lawn when we had just had our son and were overwhelmed with the new baby stage of life.
As it turns out, having a garden out in the front yard is one of the best ways to really get to know your neighbors because you spend so much more time outside where you can actually see and talk to them.
Even if you have space and light to have a typical backyard garden, I would encourage you to think about expanding out front and get to know your neighbors.
Life is just better when you have a local community.
And there’s no better way to soften someone up then to feed them – especially fresh produce straight out of the ground.
My personal list of the best of the best gardening resources (a few are specific to the Pacific Northwest):
Blogs and websites:
- Northwest Edible Life (Month specific checklists and guides on when to plant)
- One Hundred Dollars a Month (she doesn’t blog as much about gardening these days but there’s a lot of great information from earlier posts)
- Mother Earth News Companion Planting Guide
- My favorite plant rotation chart
Books (canning included for when you end up with too much produce to eat fresh):
- Carrots Love Tomatoes
- Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest: Cool Season Crops for the Year-Round Gardener
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
- Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
- And Animal Vegetable Miracle to get even more excited about growing your own food.