Friday, May 22, 2009


When we first moved into our house in Sunnyside, one of the greatest benefits was the little back garden space. It had become overgrown by the previous tenants and owners, but slowly over time I managed to beat back the weeds and forge a tiny sliver of paradise. I took a mostly laissez faire approach, allowing plants to grow where they wanted to, but with some re-arranging if necessary.

For the last several years, however, we have been in Newfoundland for nearly half the year and the Sunnyside backyard has been woefully neglected. I try to make up for the months of absence in mid-September, but really, it is an impossible task. Here are some unwelcome guests to our garden this spring:

The demon pokeweed. A plant who manages to grow a root as thick as my wrist while the shoot above ground is barely 8" tall. This one is already demanding a shovel to get rid of it. And those damn berries that stain everything in sight but are completely useless as an actual plant dye..there are.simply no redeeming qualities to this plant unless you consider the test of character they elicit a good thing. Which I don't.

Ah yes, bamboo. Many years ago our neighbor, being an experimental type, planted bamboo. When it overran their garden, he got rid of it, but not before it crossed into our yard. When we moved in, it had taken over literally half our yard (granted the "yard" is only about 17'x20' but all the more reason to never plant bamboo in it). With the assistance of a neighbor who took on the task of digging it up as some kind of personal mission, we managed to rid ourselves of the bamboo. Now, ten years's BAAACK. I could cry.

And finally, in the pantheon of "what were you thinking" plants to bring into a tiny garden, Japanese Honeysuckle. Sure it smells lovely and the kids like to drink the nectar from it, but it, too, is a demon plant from hell. I managed to dig out all the roots in our garden, but my neighbors were not up for such a task so each year I had to be vigilant about keeping it out. As you can see, it has wasted no time in making itself comfortable once again.

It is because I know I can do little to really stop this invasion that makes it so frustrating. In six days we are out of here and the mice will play, or in this case, the bamboo, honeysuckle and pokeweed.

Enter Leah Gauthier and Sharecropper.

Somewhere I happened across Leah's webpage and read about her project, Sharecropper. She is adopting various plots of ground all around the five boroughs of NYC and turning them into mini farms that she and a crew of volunteers will maintain and tend. Here is how she describes her project:

"Leah will be using organic growing methods to plant rare and endangered heirloom vegetables and herbs, and to cultivate wild edibles on parcels of donated land or growing spaces located in each of the five boroughs. A portion of the harvest will be shared with local soup kitchens, and series of interactive cooking performances around the city are being planned."

When I read about Leah's project, my first thought was "sign me up!" And so I wrote her a note and we emailed back and forth and in a couple of weeks, Leah will be digging and planting in our backyard. I am very excited to be part of her project and to have our little garden once again functioning as something more than a weed growing facility.

And just so you know, I did warn her that things had become, ahem, a little overgrown.


OfTroy said...

while i know it is not politically correct, when i had a yard infested with ivy (boston ivy, the kind that is evergreen) I used ROUND UP.

it took repeated applications to kill the roots.. but it did..

Poke week can grow new plants from as little a 1 inch of root. You can dig them up, but you have dig for a few years to get all the roots.. (round up works in a single applications.)

Patti Blaine said...

What a perfect solution, Robyn! I hope you are happy with your growing space when you return. :)

angella said...

hmmm, i don't know about the poke, or the honeysuckle, but is there a way you can actually USE the bamboo? treat it like a harvestable plant, invasive as it is... even with a small yard. 'course, this is looking onthe bright side.
and, what a great collaboration!

a random life said...

Wow, I wish I read your blog before seeing you today! I would take some honey suckle and bamboo! We had tried both in the garden years ago but then everything always died. Now it is growing and green but there are still a couple of areas that need something hardy.

I love the farming idea!