Is it food or nature I am trying to grow on my city lot? Both I believe….
I love meadows. Don’t you? There is something about a meadow that takes us back to our childhood. I remember running and chasing butterflies in a field near my house.When you live in an urban area, you hardly ever see a meadow for we have cemented over so much of our landscape in our cities. To find an open field to run in, one has to drive outside the city to find a large area without any buildings.
I grew up near Chicago as a child, and many of our smaller suburbs had meadows back in those days. It was not all homes piled near each other with postage stamp yards. I remember riding my bike outside the city area and playing in creeks and running in tall grasses. Much of Illinois was a prairie at one time, and many of those native prairie plants work well in our urban gardens. We just have to be careful which ones we introduce and how we manage them with our food growing.
I love to use native garden plants on my small lot for it draws in all the birds, bees and butterflies. I have been slowly taking out some of my non-native plants the past few years. I have limited space, so I have to find a balance between growing native plants, a few non-natives that are my favorites and room for food growing. It is a constant challenge to manage this balance but one that I don’t mind each season.
Last summer, I cleared out an area near my raspberry patch to place more native plants to provide for nature. My meadow is not large enough for a child to run; more like an area to step across! I have several garden beds on my city lot, where I put native plants. Last year it was overgrown with goldenrod, and I learned that sometimes natives may become a problem. They take over, so it means you have to pay attention to how they work in an area.
The past year, I have been adding more perennial vegetables, fruits, and herbs which I mix in all my garden beds with annuals. It always is a balancing act but so worth the effort. I research which natives work best on our city lot to provide for our native pollinators. Each year our urban potager fills in, I notice a new bee, butterfly or bird that was not there before.
I hope people like Doug Tallamy, who wrote Bringing Nature Home inspires more of us city dwellers to put natives in our food growing system. He has me;I mix it all now.Part of the fun is seeing what happens. If you make a mistake just change it up the next season.
I find the meadow of my childhood is starting to happen on my city lot. It may not be a big field to run in, but it is a small place where I can sit and watch nature. I feel the balance is achievable when we carefully choose to grow only those foods we enjoy most and learning to combine them with natives and annuals. Mix it up people! Food, flowers, and herbs go together in an Urban Potager. Build it and they will come!