Farmer Ted is a gentleman in our circa-1955 neighborhood who has converted nearly all of the property around his home into an urban farm. He has fruit trees, a small pond and some ducks in the back yard, and a grid of raised beds covers his fenced-in front yard. He has chickens, too, and he made an ingenious wheeled coop for them that he moves from raised bed to raised bed every season. I admire the whole set-up every time I walk past it, and I almost always notice a small detail or smart feature that I’d never spotted before.
The neighbors across the street from him, however, are not so impressed. According to Farmer Ted, they’ve reported him to the city for all sorts of infractions in an effort to shut down his sustainability efforts. I haven’t discussed the matter with them, but he says they want the neighborhood to look like it did 55 years ago — with a green lawn and some nice, tidy landscaping.
So Farmer Ted wants to grow his own food on his own land, but his neighbors want the view from their living room to be more landscape than farmland. Is there a compromise to be found? Well, maybe not for Farmer Ted and his neighbors. I’m pretty sure the neighbors listed their house for sale recently, so I guess Farmer Ted won that fight.
It may be too late for our neighbors, but you can avoid a lot of gardening-related contention with your neighbors by becoming a Ninja Gardener.
Angela England’s new book, “Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles into Your Landscape,” tells you which edible plants are most easily hidden in your traditional landscaping and shows you how to arrange them to look picture-perfect, but it’s a great resource even if you don’t have cranky neighbors to assuage. The book contains impressive lists of edible plants, their uses and their ideal growing conditions. Angela shows you how to build your edible garden from the ground up — lingonberries or strawberries down low and lavender or persimmon up top, perhaps? — which is very helpful for gardening novices like myself.
The list of edible plants in Angela’s book is as eye-opening as it is informational. You’d expect a plant like rosemary to be in such a guide, but did you know you can eat parts of a hosta? Dice that into your salad and eat it. (Or wrap it in bacon and broil it, maybe. Angela says the tender, leafy shoots are somewhat asparagus-like.)
So far we’ve kept our gardening efforts confined to the back yard, but “Gardening Like a Ninja” has me looking at the long-neglected island bed in the front yard in a new way. There are two dogwood trees and a big bush whose name I don’t recall anchoring it, and there used to be a lot of lavender around the anonymous bush. As much as I’d love to have some fruit trees, I’m not going to take down the big guys already there to make that happen. The lavender is pretty well dead, though, and everything else out there is ornamental, so I’m going to spend some quality time with “Gardening Like a Ninja” over the next few weeks and see if I can’t come up with an appetizing way to bring that sad space in the yard back to life.
Disclaimer: Angela England sent me a copy of “Gardening Like a Ninja” for review.