Gardens - Featured Gardens

The urban farmer

By
Lorraine Flanigan
Photography by
Tracy Cox

You can't eat food grown closer to home than the harvest from your own backyard

But, from her vantage point on the back patio, Elizabeth isn’t the only one to appreciate the garden. City varmints—raccoons, squirrels, feral cats and even possums—find the tender seedlings, ripe fruit and crunchy vegetables tempting treats. With a “What can you do?” shrug, Elizabeth rhymes off the many ways she has tried to control the critters. Remarkably, a radio kept in the shed tuned to an all-talk station works. She also plucks green pears from the tree and places them in the crisper of her fridge, taking them out a couple at a time to ripen on her counter—never on a windowsill—away from the pesky nibblers. Every night, she covers two miniature ponds in a pot with milk cartons to prevent the raccoons from tearing the pumps apart. Elizabeth also accepts that her garden isn’t perfect. There are holes in the kale and chewed edges in the lettuce. Companion plants such as marigolds, nasturtiums and parsley help to deter insect pests, and copper mesh keeps slugs at bay. She also uses floating row covers to keep carrot fly and flea beetles off the crops.

But not all furry and feathered visitors to Elizabeth’s garden are nuisances. In winter, it’s worth heading to the patio to watch the bright scarlet cardinal perched in front of the mirror singing to himself. Perhaps he’s as astonished as Elizabeth imagines her parents would be, to see how their daughter has made a farm in the heart of the city, complete with outdoor rooms, an assortment of ornamental fruits and vegetables and a striking blue shed.

Succession planting
Here are some of the crops Elizabeth Stewart plants to ensure a continuous harvest:

Early Harvest

  • Lettuces, including ‘Little Gem’, ‘Bronze Arrow’, ‘Red Coral’, arugula and mesclun
  • ‘French Breakfast’ radishes
  • ‘Sugar Ann’ and ‘Dwarf Gray Sugar’ snow peas 
  • ‘Bloomsdale Long-Standing’ spinach


Middle to Late Harvest

  • Bush beans, including ‘Fin de Bagnol’ and ‘Dragon’s Tongue’
  • Pole beans, such as ‘Sunset’, ‘White Lady’ and ‘Blauhilde’
  • Tomatoes 
  • ‘Czech Black’ and ‘Early Red’ peppers
  • ‘Spacemaster’ and ‘Cucina’ cucumbers
  • 'Rhubarb’ and ‘Golden Sunrise’ Swiss chard


Late Harvest

  • ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots
  • ‘Spanish Black’ radishes
  • ‘Cavalo Nero’ kale
  • Arugula and mesclun

 

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