Bay-Friendly Garden Tour - WOW!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Monday, May 16, 2011 9:17 AM


That's the only word that describes yesterday.  Wow!  After 3 years of converting this foreclosed home into a garden oasis and farm, I opened my gate to the general public as a host garden on the Bay-Friendly Garden Tour. 

What a day!  A little over 300 people stopped by to enjoy my beautiful drought tolerant front garden, explore my edible garden, meet all the critters, and get ideas.  It was a HUGE success!

Personally, it was a very special milestone for me.  When I first bought this place three years ago, there was nothing here with the exception of a huge overgrown tree in the backyard.  And I mean nothing.  I knew I wanted a garden, but had no clue about what else to do in the yard. 

The best advice I got was to stop and observe the property for awhile, to see where there was consistent sun and where there was shade.  The vegetable garden space became obvious very quickly, so I moved forward with that project.  While surfing the net for local resources, I stumbled upon where I bought a discounted compost bin and worm farm.  Exploring their website, I found the Bay Friendly Gardening classes.  Having never really gardened before, I was excited to find this local resource.  And to top it off, the classes were free!  Yes, my tax dollars at work.  Best to take advantage of it.

Six classes later and I was chock full of ideas.  Since then I have systematically incorporated everything I learned into the building of my homestead.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  I took the Bay-Friendly Gardening principals to heart, and they have guided me as I tackled one project after another.
  • Build Healthy Soil
  • Reduce Waste in the Garden
  • Conserve Water
  • Create Wildlife Habitat
  • Protect Local Watersheds and the Bay
  • Contribute to a Healthy Community
  • Save Energy
I jokingly say that before I started gardening here I didn't have a green thumb.  I didn't have a brown thumb.  I didn't even have a thumb.  I had to find it.  The fact is that I had barely grown anything, ever.  I didn't even have success with houseplants.  But taking those classes and then going on the garden tour really gave me the confidence and skills I needed.  Yesterday was the culmination of that journey and a celebration of its success.

Aside from the animals, which were obvious, some BIG hits with folks were:
  • Strawberry pyramid made from fence boards.  There were so many people that asked me how to construct it that I'm going to have to write out directions and post them.
  • Herb Garden made from wine crates. A lot of people asked me where I got them. My friend Eric dumpster dives at a local wine distributor and brings them to my neighbor Gail and me.
  • Bean trellis made from bamboo and upside down tomato cages. I think those things are ugly as hell. But I still found a creative use for them which totally disguise what they really are. I am 100% positive that others will have these in their gardens very soon.
  • Bamboo hoops and garden twine used to build my own tomato cages. So much more aesthetically pleasing than those functional but ugly metal cages.
  • Metal plant tags stapled to the edge of the vegetable garden. It helps me keep track of which varieties are where and which ones produce the best in this location. You just write on them with a ball point pen. I get mine from Foothill Hardware off Bancroft. And yes, if I plant the same varieties I re-use them.
  • The height of my tomatoes!!!  They are a little over 3 feet high.  People were saying theirs were only about a foot tall.  Everything in the vegetable garden was thriving and much further along then theirs.  So many people asked how I got them to grow so well.  One word:  POOP.  Lots of poop.  Okay, composted chicken and goat manure along with fresh rabbit manure.  I cannot emphasize this enough - Amend Amend Amend.  If you want your garden to flourish, Amend Amend Amend.  Not with commercial fertilizers, but with good old fashioned tried and true animal compost.  Poop!
  • Feed bag potato towers. So fun and functional. No, I'm not afraid they are going to topple over, even though they look like they are leaning a bit. Secretly, there are 3-1/2 foot stakes holding the edges in place. I cut the bottoms out of the sacks and rolled them up to make a tube. Then I placed them in the garden, staked the corners, placed the potatoes directly on the garden surface, and filled them with about 6 inches of soil. As the potatoes grew, I just unrolled the bag up the stakes and added more dirt.
  • The library. My inheritance. It was a very special joy to show it off. My dad will be very pleased when I tell him about all the compliments I received.
  • Wood stumps used as a retaining wall in the front yard. One third of them came from a neighbor’s tree that was cut down. The others were free. If you want some, they are always available in Jingle town on Ford Street, kitty corner to the Institute of Mosaic Art. Load up and go!
  • The garden swing.  Such a nice touch!  Yes, it is my favorite spot to just sit and relax.  You can often find my neighbor Gail and I sitting in the swing with a glass of wine in the evening.  We love to watch the hummingbirds and bees as they go about collecting their dinner.  Now that the butterfly bushes are starting to bloom I am hoping to attract some additional beauty to the yard.
I’d like to thank the Academy… just kidding.

I would like to thank everyone who has volunteered their time over the past 3 years to help out around the homestead, from all the friends who miraculously transformed my front yard in one day to those who have helped with weeding in exchange for a dozen eggs. Each and every one of you has contributed to the success of this place. Thanks to those who have opened their gardens and homesteads to me for ideas, inspiration, and the exchange of information. Sharing our skills and knowledge with each other is one of the best parts of homesteading.

And a special thank you goes to the folks at who teach the various Bay-Friendly Gardening classes and organize the garden tours. I cannot emphasize enough the degree to which those classes and tours have helped to shape my homestead. They provided me with a solid foundation knowledge base and the skills and confidence I needed to get started. I was thrilled to be picked as a host garden. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people about putting the Bay-Friendly Gardening practices into action and showing off the results. I hope my homestead has inspired those who visited. If they take one idea they saw here and put it into place in their own gardens, then the whole basis for the tour will be a success.

Yesterday was an amazing milestone. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Next month I get to do it all again when I participate in the Urban Farm Tour put on by the Institute of Urban Homesteading. And then there is working with the city as they revise the municipal code concerning urban agriculture.

And so the journey continues…

5 Response to "Bay-Friendly Garden Tour - WOW!"

Gene Says:

Congrats! I'm looking forward to seeing your gardens at some point.

One request: more pictures!

Alexa F. Says:

It was great to see your gardens, animals and setup and finally meet you after following the blog for quite awhile. I should commence with the commenting, because I totally haven't even though I love and appreciate all the information you have and everything you share on here.

I'd also definitely love a how to on those strawberry containers. Those things just look and seem to function awesomely.

peculiarpurls Says:

I'm so glad the weather turned out well and that the tour did too. Your garden and your barnyard family are something truly extraordinary and I'm so glad you got to share it with so many people!

Heidi Says:

glad to hear that the gardening classes were helpful. even though i have been growing stuff for awhile, i still don't feel like a green thumb. anywho, last time i was at your place there were only a few plants in the beds. sounds like i need to pop by again and see the lush growth. haven't met the rabbits yet either. let's plan a date. and congrats on the wonderful success. it's good to look back at your progress and see how far you've come in such a short time.

47Ranchdressing Says:

Poop! The expletive kind.

I was out of town that day, and really wanted to see what could be accomplished in a small city lot. Congrats on your successful tour. I'm looking forwrd to your strawberry pyramid tutorial, too.

All the best to you! I *so* enjoy your blog!