Gardening outside the box

By Heather Chappell

Photo Credit: Babs Finkle “mom”

When all of our new seeds came in this season, it was kind of like Christmas all over again! It is so hard not to get drawn in by the beautifully illustrated seed packages and the promise that spring is surely on its way. The possibilities for bounty are endless and oh so exciting!

Now, if only I had decent sun to garden by. I love the privacy of my urban oasis, with all of its big trees, wildlife habitat and lovely shade in the summer. But what is a tomato and salad loving girl to do in this type of yard? Think outside the box and get a buddy system going on! Luckily, my mom is quite the garden enthusiast and has a great set-up working for her already!

This year, when I dropped off piles of seed packets, exclaiming, “Look what I got for YOU to plant!” she said, “won’t WE have fun?” So along with another family, we got busy starting seeds, setting up a small portable greenhouse (which has NOT blown away, apparently ALL that camping experience is handy) and readying garden beds for planting at my mom’s house. We will share the responsibilities of weeding, watering and often wrangling the plants, and then share the harvest. After all, many hands make light work!

I love the way that my mom approaches gardening. If there’s a spot by the Fairy Garden, by gosh let’s plant it! Don’t know where to put those beans? “Let’s put them by the patio so they can climb the trellis and provide some shade in the summer.” Her yard is an eclectic combination of vibrant perennials, self seeding annuals, fruit trees, vegetables, ornamental trees and grasses all thriving together and somehow there is order in the chaos. It is a place where iris, garlic, tomatillos, marigolds, lettuce and morning glories can grow in harmony in the same garden bed. A place where pumpkins can go crazy under the pear tree, eventually vining up into the tree allowing its fruit to hang out of the tree, causing my dad to totally freak out one morning thinking he had a James and the Giant Peach situation going on with his pears!

When it comes to gardening, don’t be afraid to experiment. There is so much to be learned, even in failure. Move things around from year to year, mix things up and DREAM BIG! My mom would say, “Dream big, but start small”. You do a little here and there and soon enough, you’ve done so much! Put in one small garden patch that you can manage. The next year, you might decide to add some raspberries and see how that goes. The following year, you add another garden bed and a couple of fruit trees. Time passes and suddenly you realize what you’ve created and how the people you love are benefitting from your hard work, the “fruits” of your labor.

I realize that I am so blessed to have the convenience of sharing such an Eden with my family; I know not everyone has this luxury. However, I encourage anyone to think outside the proverbial box when it comes to feeding yourself and your family. Partner up with a neighbor or friend. Check out one of our many CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and volunteer some time in order to receive some of the bounty. There are community gardens in many neighborhoods and non-profit groups like The Growing Project along with gardening clubs in Northern Colorado that you can get involved with. Let your desire take flight and happy gardening!

Originally published on April 30th, 2014. Updated on October 30th, 2014.