This is part II of a series of posts. Part I is here.
I enlisted some help from my friends and colleagues to make my garden a reality. After several months of lobbying and grassroots activism with my neighbors, at last I persuaded my landlord to let me build a garden on the eastern half of the front lawn for our building. But before I could feel too smug with my accomplishment it dawned on me that I now faced an even more formidable oppontent: nut sedge. The particular species of grass that grows in my front yard is a mass of weeds, an incredibly resilient variety. One of the reasons my landlord gave in to my garden request was that he was tired of maintaining the vigorous, cowlicked tangle of a lawn. Three weeks out of four, the front was an overgrown thicket, useful mostly as a dog toilet during the day and a skunk warren by night. With help from Farmscape's landscaping partner, we tore up the chunks of grass. It took a whole morning just to tame the nut sedge on the plot -- about 300 square feet in total.
The next step was to build the Farmscape raised beds for the vegetables. My colleagues and I built three 4’x12’ boxes ourselves in just one day. At this point several of my neighbors emerged from their homes and came over to see what was going on. I explained that this would be a vegetable garden and their faces lit up. They introduced themselves, revealed that they had always hated “that grass” and told me about their experiences with gardening. I had been living in my apartment for a year and never met any one of my neighbors. Suddenly while building a garden I was surrounded by people eager to help, share their knowledge, or keep me company while I worked outside.
I am from Iowa where a sense of community comes automatic and is deeply ingrained -- the strong bond shared in our rural towns also spreads into our cities. I love Los Angeles, but since moving here I have realized it’s a city that does not always feel like home in this way. It’s a city of commuters, busy people, sprawl. Community is something you go looking for, something you spend years trying to build, and here I was on the hottest day of summer setting up my vegetable garden surrounded by new friends.
My front yard was to serve as a demonstration of what our template landscapes could be -- a raised bed garden surrounded by drought tolerant succulents. So next we laid landscaper cloth to keep the grass from coming through and poured decomposed granite around the beds. Because my garden is in the front yard and there is quite a bit of foot traffic, we decided to put a row of succulent curbside as a subtle suggestion of a fence, hopefully to deter people from wandering into the garden too casually.
The entire project took us about a week to complete. Now it was time to pick out my winter crops.
Check back later this week for part III of Rachel's My Urban Farm posts.