The Secret to the City’s Best Residential Vegetable Garden?


You’ll have to refer to this picture in a couple of months for contrast. This home at the corner of 13th and Euclid Streets, NW in addition to being an amazing house, has the most incredible vegetable garden I’ve ever seen. This was the first spring that I noticed these huge piles of mulch. I wonder if this is their secret? I’ll be back to update in a couple months…


37 Comment

  • It’s probably LeafGro or a similar compost product. Made from yard trim that MD residents set out on trash day, it’s the best and cheapest organic fertilizer/potting soil/soil conditioner you’ll find without making your own.

  • In fact, it is compost made from institutional food waste collected by a local company Envirelation, which recently entered a conversation with the D.C. schools food service provider, Chartwells, about composting food waste from the city’s schools. As you can see from this post on my blog, The Slow Cook, I got an unexpected call from Envirelation one evening saying there would be a truck in our neighborhood delivering compost and did I want some? This was more than I actually needed. I’m in the process of incorporating it into my vegetable beds. The second photo you show is a “hill” I made for planting potatoes, something I had not planned to do. We are also spreading the compost in our tree boxes at the curb. And, yes, we do grow lots of vegetables, enough to provide much of the food we eat during the season, and even some during the off-season.

  • While I applaud the effort, I wish they would maintain it a bit better throughout the year. All that effort on the garden and they don’t touch the grass along the perimiter of the fence or rake leaves around their garage – ends up looking really sloppy. Sorry guys, if it looked neater your neighbors would be more supportive.

    • Agreed. I remember when he planted corn on his front yard, right on the corner of 13th. Absolutely ridiculous, if you want a rural lifestyle move to Virginia. And how about cleaning out the junk and trash in front of your garage!

      • ah

        Nice — what’s the law that says front yards must consist of manicured lawns?

        I’d rather corn rows than a chain link fence and a scrabbly “lawn” as so often seen around the city.

    • Let’s see a picture of YOUR yard last summer

  • Ah, the long knives come out again. We do mow the grass surrounding the vegetable beds assiduously. But weeds such as chickweed go crazy in this cool, wet weather. We can’t mow when it rains. We’ve never planted corn, unless you are thinking of our okra, which does especially well in our hot, humid climate. We love it in stew, and also pickled with chili peppers. You must be referring to the empty rain barrel in front of the garage. Someone donated it to us and I’m not sure what we were thinking when we accepted it, because it’s not the kind of rain barrel we want and it’s never been installed. Anyone want it? Otherwise, we’ll probably call bulk trash. I can assure you that any stray leaves around the property don’t last long. We collect them all and grind them up for compost. In fact, one thing you will not see much of eminating from our property is trash. What’s not recycled is composted. We send almost nothing to the landfill. So I plead guilty: our yard is not always the tidiest. We have never strived for a manicured look, except when I get down on my knees with the clippers and trim the grass that grows along the edge of our vegetable beds. Otherwise, my energies are more directed toward composting and growing food. Does that make us bad neighbors? To some, apparently, but maybe not in everyone’s eyes.

  • Don’t get me wrong – I think your general efforts are appreciated. You obviously have a caring, environmental soul.

    But really – this is a City, not a country farm. The impact of an unkempt yard has ripple effects not felt in a more suburban setting. In the summer, I’ll be frank, your place looks a mess. And, growing food in the City does attract rodents, vermin and other nasties. If you don’t keep things “manicured,” and the grass along the perimiter of your hard grows to a foot or more – like it does, dies, and looks dead – your house looks abandoned. Not really appropriate for the City. Sorry, ya’ll can disagree with me if you want. But I call it like I see it. Sloppy. Green Acres it isn’t.

    • Rodents, like people, prefer the abundantly available fast-food offerings found all over this city to fresh garden produce. I have never seen a rat snacking on my arugula, but plenty of them munching away on sidewalk chicken bones.

    • Whatever. When I see a front yard veggie garden it does not say “abandoned” to me. Jealous!

    • whatever girard. if you don’t like it, move to suburbs.

  • Hey – hats off to any urban gardener. But…it is kind of selfish to say you basiclly have better things to do, like growing and composting for yourself, than to make sure what other people have to look at looks good. Just consider it.

  • ah

    So everyone’s neighbors should get to vote on what looks good and impose that on one person? What if I like heavy shrubs instead of lawn? Or wild grasses? Or just a less “manicured” look that doesn’t require loads of pesticides?

    • A manicured, or even a cared-for yard doesn’t need loads of pesticides. Just a freakin’ weedwacker.

      Everyone doesn’t have to vote on what looks good ah, but when it is posted on a blog with a comment section, what do you think is going to happen? Surprise – we might disagree!

      • ah

        I have no quarrel with people saying they find it unattractive . . . but at least a couple of posters are saying that maintaining a garden is somehow being unneighborly because it offends their aesthetic.

      • We call it “sailor’s lawn” – the overgrown yards of people who once might have sweated maintaining them, but once they bought a boat they realized there were better things to do with their weekends.

  • If you’d really like to enforce what your neighbors yard looks like, that isn’t really appropriate for the City. You may be better off in a ring community with a HOA. Sorry, ya’ll can disagree with me if you want. But I call it like I see it. Nosey. Planned community it isn’t.

  • @ ED – your garden looks great – keep up the good work.,-77.029823&spn=0,359.999103&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=38.923766,-77.029712&panoid=b8OKoarjGEkGfpT4V7c17w&cbp=12,234.45,,0,1.84
    @ Girard – I can only imagine what you think of the family at 16th & Penn.

    • seriously, that yard/garden is what people are complaining about? it looks great! hats off to the homeowner for taking care of such a garden and growing all those veggies! (weeds happen. sometimes things get unruly for a short period of time. be nice, people! things can’t look perfect all of the time)

  • @ED – don’t let the trolls get to you, just keep on keepin on.

    @trolls – ditto tonysmallframe. amazing that your version of “living in a city” sounds so much like a planned community.

  • Hey, nobody said anything about a planned community. PoP’s photo speaks for itself! Kudos for growing your own veggies, but don’t make snarky
    remarks about the neighbors who keep their yards neat & how green thou art!
    Rats eat anything even tomatoes!

    • ah

      You should go streeview the house next door (the other side of garage). Looks like the front yard is just overgrown weeds.

  • To the owner of the yard at issue, you must remember that this site is often overrun with elitists.

    They are all about conservation, environmentalism, etc so long as they think they have the upper hand on you. Once you have the upper hand on them, however, they want you to douse your yard with high impact pesticides so that your yard can look neat. It’s all about twisting things so that they are better than you.

    I think what you’re doing is awesome. I spent the weekend setting up a 128 square foot garden. I might even find some room for okra now.

    (Captcha “Ratting Post”)

  • Wow – I can only laugh at the planned community comments. I don’t think anyone ever said anything about dictacting what other people’s yards look like. Only commenting on the state of trimming up weeds and tall grass.

    I mean really – if we are going to hold this place up as being a model, and if the guy puts so much effort into his garden, is it really too much to ask that he trim the grass around his fence and pick up some junk?

    Is it as bad as other yards in CH? No. Of course not. But this guy, unlike some of our other neighbors, knows better.

  • I might be interested in the rain barrel! I’ll take a look when I drive by and will leave a note on your door if I’m still interested.

  • There is a difference between a “vegetable garden” and f-ing corn farm!! I don’t care how many turnips he grows, but when you have an entry row of corn in your front yard, it’s a bit much.

    • Why is corn bad? Not yanking your chain – and I actually have talked to others in the neighborhood who object to vegetable gardens in the front yards. But it makes no sense to me. Please explain.

  • This home-owner should do whatever he damn well pleases. He has one of the coolest looking gardens in the neighborhood, feeds himself with it, all while maintaining a very popular blog about his gardening adventures and DC urban gardening.

    Did you ever stop to think that he might not have a backyard with enough sun to grow what he wants, or even enough room at all? He’s got great light in that corner lot, and I commend him for creating an edible garden in that space.

    Yards like this are what make DC an eclectic and wonderful city to live in. This is the city of trees, in fact, and luckily most row-houses have green spaces for planting, which is a lot compared to other urban centers.

    You yuppies make me sick. You move into this neighborhood, and bring your homogenized dreams with you. Many of you probably haven’t even gotten your hands dirty since grade-school. Go back to living in your damn condo buildings with your blasting central AC, and your flat -screen TVs. Gardening is exciting, and purposeful. Picking on others b/c you don’t approve of their hobbies is not.

    • Yuppie, who’s a yuppie? I don’t live in a condo and I don;t have central AC. And, why must it be all or nothing. He can garden all he wants, but the corn is a bit much. Calm down, sounds like you need to smoke some crops.

      • I wasn’t talking to you, CH Family Man. You happened to post while I was composing my rant, so I didn’t see what you had written until afterwards.

        But since you replied, let me ask you, and anyone else who is against it: why does the corn bother you so much?

  • I appreciate the support for my food gardening efforts. I also appreciate the comments of neighbors who are put off by it. I’d just like to make clear, first of all, that if anyone is neglecting the yard, it is me, not my wife. We have lived here since 1987, and my wife still patrols the sidewalks, picking up trash. It’s my job to pull weeds and mow the lawn. But lest you get the wrong impression, we don’t let the grass grow long. I mow it regularly, as well as the grass that has grown over the tree boxes. And I would like a little credit for shoveling our walks SIX TIMES during the last snowstorm so that pedestrians would have bare pavement to walk on. We didn’t have much competition in that department.

    But I do know what the complaints are about–the weeds that grow along the bottom of our iron fence (remember, it’s a corner lot–lots of fence) and are difficult to remove or even get at with a \weed whacker.\ And the occasional garden impliments that sometimes sit for a time in front of the garage door at the end of the driveway. I will try to do better.

    Meanwhile, if you are starting your own vegetable garden, I highly recommend okra and swiss chard as two outstanding producers. Delay planting cucumbers to avoid cucumber beetle. Try Cherokee Purple tomatoes, and don’t let anyone convince you that Brandywine are better.

  • Oh man, this is the guy who is constantly cluttering the local list-servs with self-promoting links to his website (the tagline of which, incidentally, is lying when it says it’s a mile from the White House – CH is at least 2miles away). I am all for gardens, but I’ve heard enough about his garden without having it become a regular feature on PoP.

  • We have NEVER grown corn. EVER!!

  • I’m jealous of the corner lot with enough sunshine to grow corn.

    I’ve not seen snarky comments about people planting ornamental grasses, corn is a member of the grass family, so what is being grown is also an edible ornamental grass.

    While not “bad” corn takes up alot of nutrients from the soil (one of the reasons farms that grow corn often use lots of fertilizer)

    captcha = pakistan polymers, an article of clothing worn while gardening

  • i lived across the street from this house for 1&1/2 years the yard never was overgrown or uncared for…it was obvious that they had garden. the man was always out there tending it. what more can you ask from someone? some folks are happier,if you will, when there living spaces kind of mirror each others…and then there are others myself included, who find that kind of symbiosis very uninspiring and downright boring.

  • We all like vegetables & eat them every day. I even try to grow them, too.
    Girard was polite, but very respectful about the fact that he thinks that
    the yard is unkempt. People can have a differing opinion even in the city.
    That is diversity!

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