Growing up in the city

As a kid who grew up in suburbia in a small provincial town that only just met the size definition of a city, like many people from previous generations, I was blessed enough experience the freedoms of a large back yard, large enough to easily hide all the neighbourhood kids during the thrill of games like Go Home Stay Home and Sardines.  I can still remember quite vividly the anticipation of peeping out from my hiding place, hoping not to be found.

Even the bars grow up walls in the city
Even the bars grow up walls in the city. Snapdragon in the heart of Auckland

And while we were busy playing Mum and Dad were there in the background growing food.  To be perfectly honest I never really paid much attention, although now I wish I had.  It was just something that happened in most back yards and wasn’t considered special at all.  It was there to help with putting food on the table and not done as a hobby as it is more commonly done today.

Rhubarb by the train station
Rhubarb by the train station

The thing is back then there was the space to supplement the diet.  These days space is short.  Backyards are getting smaller and smaller.  Kids are more likely to be found in parks or being ferried from one activity to another to keep them occupied.  There isn’t enough room to hide one kid, let alone the fifteen or so that roared around our street.   Often outside is just a balcony looking out onto a view of more buildings.  But this is the nature of life these days.  As more and more people are drawn to our cities – the really big ones, then the need for spacious back gardens becomes a want, and for some, little more than a dream.

Leigh's beautiful garden
Leigh’s beautiful garden

But there is something in all of us.  Some people do choose to ignore it and declare they hate gardening.  I’m ok with that and have reconciled myself to the fact that the inner green thumb lays buried deep within some people where it remains undisturbed.  But for the rest of us, it is something we all at some stage try to do, even if it is just a pot of herbs on a window sill.  Growing food is how it was intended that we care for ourselves.   Although more and more we are being absolved of this responsibility.  And more so in the city with the excuse “there just isn’t the space.”

This last week has really given me cause to think about this and I wrote an article for The New Zealand Herald with the great news that lack of space is no longer an obstacle with vertical gardening being all the rage and you can read about that >HERE<.

However as a result of this article I met an extremely passionate gardener who just bubbles with enthusiasm when she talks.  Leigh Nicholson has just a small backyard in the city, but it is cram packed full of plants as she has taken up all the vertical spaces at her disposal and it makes her space feel like it is part of something bigger as you can’t really see the edges.  Leigh was one of the early pioneers of vertical gardening in New Zealand, and had to come up with system that would work reliably in our harsh climate.  Our sun can be very mean and I’ve had a plastic greenhouse (you know the ones with the green string embedded in it) perish in a year and a polycarbonate one perish in two years.  So after much trialling and error and studying has as great system for anyone wanting to grow up a wall.

And that is how you use your fence
And that is how you use your fence

So if you are short on space and are longing to grow some food, all is not lost, you can grow it all.  There really are no excuses at all.   I picked up a small three pocket system from Leigh so I can grow salad crops and herbs to take away on Hubby the Un-Gardeners boat – when it finally makes it into the water.  I was able to convince Incredible Carl the boat builder to have a garden somewhere on the boat – but he drew the line at a lemon tree.  I can’t see the problem with a lemon tree – a nice squeeze of fresh lemon on a freshly caught fish would be just the ticket…

Come again soon – summer has started with a less than ideal couple of days.  It hasn’t even been warm!  But it is summer none the less.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

10 thoughts on “Growing up in the city

  1. An inspiration for trying something different . I’d quite like to grow hanging herbs, I’ve thought about a.few times. I might wait until our spring though.

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