On finding some shade

Recently I was discussing my greenhouses with some non-gardening folk and it was brought to my attention that hoophouses (polytunnels, etc., i.e., what my greenhouses are) are…not pretty.  “I don’t think we could have them in our neighborhood,” came the supposed-to-be-softening following statement.

I will here admit I was thrown by this comment.  Word to the wise:  do not EVER tell a mother that her baby is UGLY.  She might just pop you one.IMG_1654

So, here I am, about to tell you more things that *I* can do out here in the country, where aesthetics obviously do not matter (!!).  Most gardens aren’t as blessed as my (UGLY) country garden is with all its sun.  Sun, sun I have, in spades.  It’s not the best thing for tender things like lettuces and certain brassicas because sun (mostly just heat) causes them to toughen and bolt into seed.  I do what I can to extend the lettuce season as far as I can, knowing I’m chasing a fleeting thing.  I interplant, usually growing lettuce seedlings in between quicker, taller-growing things like fava beans and broccoli.  And I seek the shade of the few tall perennial things located in the garden, like the lovage pictured above.  This tall, now blooming plant is south of this lettuce bed.  Aesthetically pleasing, no?

IMG_1652And note the ugly baby at the top right

And then I do hee-haw things that no self-respecting HOA would ever allow, like putting weed block over old political sign frames, and fastening it down with clothespins.  Effective, I will tell you!

24 responses to “On finding some shade

  1. I just hate to cover up what I’ve worked so hard to arrange in some form or fashion, especially the gorgeous eggplant which I’m forced to cover with an Agribon tunnel. I’ve potted a Beatrice for the patio just so I can still see an eggplant bloom…

    Personally I think natural shade is overrated. Wherever I have shade the slugs are horrible, just awful. God I hate slugs.

    My lovage is a real monster. Do you divide yours?

  2. I happen to think that most home-owners association rules in regards to landscaping are rather awful: so bland as being tasteless, so uniformizing as being soulless.

    Give me a garden where the gardener puts in her spirit and heart including home-made contraptions. Growing food sustainably is beautiful in my mind. I need to post some of my shade making contraptions one of those days. Must have them to have any chance to grow lettuce in the warmer days. (and use wooden cloth spins liberally too!)

  3. HOA’s suck, imho. Pretty is as pretty does. And that hoophouse is gorgeous! I hope you set those people straight.

    Thanks for the picture of the lovage, by the way. I just picked up a seedling, and I had no idea it would get that tall. Good to know!

  4. I happen to love your “ugly baby”…in fact…I wish my property looked more like yours……I live in high maintenance suburbia and read thru our HOA guidelines and took the part that says “No animals except dogs, cats, caged birds, or fish in tanks will be permitted on lots” to mean that I can have a few chickens in a cage…… they’re birds right? They arrive in 2 weeks…. Hey if it works out….I may just grow me a turkey for thanksgiving! I Love your blog El….your are my hero. And anyway…. if someone calls your “baby” ugly again…you just tell ’em…. “my baby’s got more character than yours ever will.”

  5. grandmabecker

    I think all greenhouse are lovely. All the good food that can be grown!!
    I live in a rural farm area but there are new home here and there. They spend so much money on landscaping and the rabbits eat it all!!
    I plant a big garden, to eat and sell, and have flower/veggie beds all over my back yard. Veggies for the body-flowers for the soul.
    This am it is raining, Thank you Lord!! We have been dry for about 2 weeks. It would cloud up but the rain would pass us.
    It has been cool for the beginning of June. But we will be catching up soon. Summer time in Michigan, HOT and STICKY!!
    Have a great week!

  6. I think your hoop house looks great. They always make me want to go in and look around. The landscaping cloth over the lettuce beds is, admittedly, less attractive, but fellow gardeners know sometimes you have to sacrifice good looks for good results.

    Give the doubters a salad made from the veggies in your back yard and quell any misgivings they might have had 🙂

  7. I recently stenciled in a neighborhood with super strict restrictions. The home owner warned me that my project might not fall under approved guidelines.
    In their neighborhood, changing the HOA planted flower beds in front (literally 3′ x 2′) requires an approved plan and $50 fee. No removing ivy without approval.
    Truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  8. While I do understand the reasoning behind creating a HOA with guidelines to protect property values, they have gotten way out of line in so many cases.

    I, for one, won’t live in one again! I sure do love the freedom to actually do what I want in my yard within the boundaries of the law without someone writing me a ticket!

    Your yard looks great to me…I wish I had one of those nice big ones. Most especially as I pick yet more cabbage worms off my cauliflower.

  9. Great post! When people tell me “I don’t think that would be allowed” I usually don’t understand what they’re actually saying and go on to come up with alternate scenarios, “you could put in a stealth coop that looks like a trash can, then no one would know!”

    My M-I-L is plotting to start a movement to change the neighborhood “green” (i.e. enormous lawn) into a community garden.

    i hope your friend with the HOA enjoys eating ivy when the Zombies come!

  10. Well, I don’t think hoop houses are ugly either. And I live in a rural area where I *should* be able to do as I please. But recently some neighbors have been complaining that they think my garden is lowering their property values, since it’s visible from their houses. They think it looks to country. Sigh.

  11. Oh god, don’t get me started on HOA!!! We moved to an old town just to get away from them, turns out the entire TOWN is one, under the guise of the Zoning board…. ugh. At least they let me have my chickens. Just not within 25 feet of the neighbor’s house!

  12. We purposely don’t live in a place with an HOA and won’t. My laundry is waving on the line out back as we speak, my front yard is landscaped with edibles, and I think all growing things are pretty. Gardens are, by their nature, just beautiful. Anyone who says elsewise is just reacting to weird sociological post-war movements, when people tried Neo-Victorianism out again. Tell ’em that, Accidental!

  13. Oops, I forgot say, I do think your garden looks lovely!

  14. Food is ugly?
    What if you grow it in neat little cans and frozen boxes. That’d probably be OK.

  15. Your hoophouse is gorgeous. I live in an apartment and can only grow what fits on my windowsills and one set of white plastic shelves near my patio.

    I’m also on the 9th floor, so I don’t feel comfortable putting stuff on the patio. It’s really windy up here and the cat entertainment—I mean sparrows—would probably eat everything before I get to.

  16. I vote with Mr.Finch — when I see a hoop house, I want to see what’s growing in there.

    The definition of ‘ugly’ is LAWN with compost and straw spread over it and a sprinkler plunked in the middle. What a waste! And of course, it’s a yearly ritual. Our neighborhood is in city limits, but is suburban in nature.

    In the past couple of years, clover has crept into the back yard (grass only in paths between garden beds), and this spring we overseeded the one true patch of lawn in front with white clover.

    I’m thinking of subverting it even more by planting small bulbs like scilla and snowdrops among the grass this fall.

  17. Hey there! We got to milk one of our sheep. Did you post once on how to make cheese : ) ? I need help.

    Love the upcycle of the political signs. Atleast it can redeem itself in some better use…like no BS..fresh vegetables contrary to their leaders : ).

  18. and yes ….” NO to HOA” : ) it is basic rights of a human.

  19. Considering a 76′ Impala placed in the front of the house for a planter. Of course I will remove the hood for sun loving perennials and we will most likely remove the windows, except for the rear window. Most likely we’ll have a little target practice with our yard art to add drainage holes around wheel wells. fenders and trunk. I think my lettuce won’t bolt as fast under the shade of the roof of this old Chevy classic. They were a fairly large and quite a roomy vehicle giving us ample space to plant both ornamental and food producing plants.

    Ha…I’m glad I don’t have anyone but a sensible wife to tell me that that just ain’t gonna fly here.

    I think your hoophouse is a thing of beauty.


  20. I swear, El — We must be channeling each others’ thoughts! I’m using the metal frames from political signs to hold up the netting over my strawberries — with clothespins!

  21. I think hoophouses/greenhouses/frames, etc are lovely – just think of all the good food they help to grow! Makes me want to explore and get to know the person growing. I bet those who criticize still want to eat the food, but just don’t want to *see* its process…. sigh.

  22. Everyone: for what it’s worth (and not that those people are going to read the blog) I have no idea if the hoophouses-are-ugly people live in an area governed by an HOA: they just seemed the type, like sheep. Some people certainly need a sense of belonging, even if it’s to something as mindless as spec housing with a restrictive landscaping covenant.

    Marcy, you bring up two important things: covering up things and slug predation. I *hate* not seeing things too; maybe half the reason I garden is for eye-candy reasons, as I just think the botanical world (including weeds) is beautiful. And slugs. Yeah, they’re awful and they do thank you for giving them some food! My lovage is there just because it’s the first thing to get big in the spring. I have two clumps and I probably should divide them. If they get too big I simply hack them down; those nice juicy leaves do well in new compost piles.

    Sylvie, those clothespins certainly do show up often in the garden, don’t they? Holding seed packets together, pinning up errant vines, etc. But yeah. Season extension takes many forms! Now if I could only find a way to get peas in August…

    Kate, I didn’t need to set them straight: someone else did it for me. Plus, they were eating my salad so they kind of figured out that maybe growing your own is a good thing. I don’t understand why people would live in a place with an HOA but then again I don’t get the appeal of much of suburbia anyway. I guess I am an extremist: city or country, no in-betweens!

    Mavis that’s wonderful! Chickens ARE birds in cages. You’re certainly riding the wave anyway: if this were 10 years ago you’d probably meet a lot more resistance. Have lots of fun with them!

    Grandmabecker it’s chilly over here too. But we’ve had plenty of rain so I will make sure to send it to your side of the state! You know, living as close to the lake as we do, it barely gets above 80* in the summer: perfect weather in my opinion. No sticky stuff. But yeah: bunnies! They stay away because our dog actually catches them.

    Thanks, Mr. Finch! Yeah, it is fun to go look around the greenhouses. Lately I have been putting my energies into the outdoor beds so the greenhouses have been kind of in limbo; lots of things going to seed and the tomatoes peppers etc. just keep growing. Not too exciting yet. But fun to visit just the same, so thanks…

    Pamela, yeah; Little Boxes all over again
    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky tacky
    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes all the same.

    I don’t get it.

    Christy, as an architect I definitely appreciate and utilize municipal codes and zoning stuff on a near daily basis. Most of these things govern the kinds of stuff you can build, and where; going so far as to charge someone $50 for changing a planter box like Pamela stated–or fining you for hanging your laundry–is just ridiculous. These people have nothing better to do? Now, if they had cabbage moths, that would give them something to do!

    Ktrion, I love people like you: the alternate-scenario types! What makes it better is intentionally misunderstanding the HOA-ites. Your MIL is on the right path. And you’re of course quite right, these folks won’t be able to feed themselves when the sheet hits the fan.

    AH, can you plant some trees? I am usually of a mind that I am never going to please everyone, but my garden certainly is my own damned business, not that anyone around here really gives a damn about it (amen). Can you, you know, hand out some veggies? That might just help…

    Pam C., thanks. Well, glad to hear you got your chickens! We had the same thing going on with compost boxes and chickens in the city: 25′ from any neighbor, which is quite a trick considering the average Minneapolis lot is 45′ wide. And yes our little code person patrolled our alleys and streets with her ticket book in hand. Luckily she liked flowers!

    Stefaneener, funny you should mention Victorians, as they were riotous gardeners. This of course was when the rage for all things exotic-looking was in fashion. It is thanks to them that cannas became so popular, and, ironically, today cannas, with their gaudy enthusiasm, are one of the plants that some places rail against. But I completely hear you on living where one can let one’s hair hang down!

    CC, yeah, that’d probably pass muster. I just kind of scratch my head about it all. I agree flowers might be slightly prettier but dang I will take a July veg garden any day.

    Anju, thanks! When I was a Chicagoan I had a ton of indoor plants, everything you could imagine; that love of dirt certainly will come out in some form or another, won’t it? But yeah a potted marigold falling 9 stories probably wouldn’t be the best thing…

    Firefly, clover used to be in lawn seed mixes, but thanks to broad-leafed herbicides common in weed and feed fertilizers it makes no sense to include it. I think clover is lovely, and as a legume it does more good than it could ever do harming one’s lawn. I do adore the idea of scilla and snowdrops! Maybe some bluebonnets too? But don’t get me started about that bizarre gas station mulch! What in the natural world IS that shade of orange or red?

    WF, you might need a lot more milk than you have so far to make a typical cheese! Here’s a good website to do a bit of cheesemaking. With stuff you have already at home, doing ricotta or making yogurt might be the easiest cheesy things to make with that milk.

    Woody, your wife is sensible indeed! But you are quite right a mid-70s Impala would do quite well to house certain shade-tolerant crops. I think about my aunt’s old LTD and what potential that thing held! I think the hood alone was larger–and used more steel–than my mid-90s VW. But alas. We garden with what we have.

    Laurene, good ideas get around, don’t they? Here’s to a huge strawberry harvest for you!

    MC, food or food-like substances. I would imagine they’re great consumers of the latter. Try to tell them that those tomatoes they brought were not grown for taste but ease of shipment and they’re so quick to say that they think they tasted good! Like, what? And packing peanuts are tasty too.

  23. Oh El, this post made me laugh! I love your sense of humor! HOAs are absurd and they represent so much of what is wrong with our thinking as Americans…yuk!

  24. ohhh i LOVE that song… everytime i pass by a subdivision it pops in my head…
    i love reading all the ideas and i myself have had to cover the lettuce from the heat this year… we had only a couple of days of rain in 2 months, may and june, the most critical… but everything has done well so far.. and we’ve actually had a bit of rain in the past 2 days… i have a semi permanent ‘reemay’ house over my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.. i roll up the sides during the day and on chillier nights and rainy days, i keep the sides down… works like a charm!
    cheers on the gardens 😀

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