Full Disclosure

I think it’s important to go against the grain of traditional gardening magazines that focus on hyper-perfect fantasy garden porn and show you that there is no shame in a less-than-perfect garden.

Here is a photo of the street garden taken just last week. Keeping up with the garbage and the human pest damage is an impossible mission but the rest is completely my responsibility.


Enough said.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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14 thoughts on “Full Disclosure

  1. yep. That looks pretty much like mine right now, but mine has more leaves and such. How much do we need to clean it up this spring? I was thinking of going at mine as is, with a roto-tiller, and working all the leaves and dead things into the soil. Good or bad idea?

  2. Steph: I often just leave as-is because all of the pokey bits looks pretty good when covered with snow and then by spring I do have to cut back the large stalks but the birds like to collect the grass bits for their nests and a lot of stuff breaks down into the soil. But this year is very different as we haven’t had snow and the pokey bits are just collecting liquor bags, fast food wrappers, and discarded beer cans tossed in or around the garden by lazy people who can’t walk a few paces to the corner seen there in the picture where this is a giant garbage can/recycling bin.

    How much you clean depends on what you’ve got growing. While mine looks pretty rough everything there is a perennial that I want to keep. I’ll work in what I can by hand and put the rest in the composter. Working it into the soil or composting is never a bad idea!

  3. I tend to agree with you, I never had a garden, border, container… like the ones found in magazines. Not even close.
    But you can’t really publish a border like this in a garden magazine, can you?

  4. Gayla,
    oh thank you so much. My yard is ultra natural!!! I do the best I can as a human of age, who does all of her own gardening. Do the best I can. Plus, I hate lawns and don’t do well with gas powered equipment. Shovels rule. So I’m sure you folks all get what I’m saying. But, all that said, I look out my window and see the wildlife and the weeds and I’m happy. And I continue to work away and my garden gets better.

    Thanks for all the wonderful stuff you’ve all given me.


    PS Tayrn, I’d buy that magazine too.

  5. If I had Photoshop or something, I would put a fake cover page over it. It would actually look pretty neat, come to think of it. Not bad at all!

  6. Gasp! I find this border a little extreme — that’s the other side of the perfection in magazines.
    I really enjoy the Gardens Illustrated (UK), they show amazing gardens and plants, all with top quality photos. But if you look at the allotment series by Cleve West, you’ll see a “normal” kitchen garden, with weeds, successes and failures. I find that pretty inspiring… but this border… hmmm… I think not. Sorry.

  7. Taryn: I don’t see it as a magazine cover but it’s more the quality of the photo that bothers me than the content. It was just a quick snap.

    Jose: Well it is a little extreme but it does depict the reality of gardening in a high traffic area with all of the limititations this particular space carries with it. I think it would be great to see something like this in a magazine alongside a summertime photo to show the contrast.

    A little background: Like I said, this photo honestly shows the challenges faced by this particular garden given it’s location. This garden would require a high, metal border to keep people and their dogs from trampling the plants. I have tried everything and the reality is that because it’s just slightly off a main street, there’s a surprisingly high percentage of people trampling into the garden during the day and at night to urinate where they feel a bit (but not much) hidden. The taller plants are all falling over and sad for that reason alone. Otherwise they would just be old seed heads and such which can look very aesthetically pleasing… especially when coming up through the snow we haven’t had this year! There is also the constant stream of garbage thrown in by people despite a garbage and recycling bin located only a few steps away! Honestly the biggest obstacle with a garden like this isn’t the extremely poor soil, or lack of water but people as pests.

    I think this is the reality for a lot of urban gardens — a reality we rarely hear about! This is a garden I built and maintain on the side of my apartment building. There are other more official gardens put in by The City in this area and while they have high, metal fences they are much more worse for wear since there is no one maintaining them on a regular basis like I look after this one.

  8. Hi, I’ve only had this web site sent to me, so this is a very late repsonse. I am all for gardening upon the path of least resistance. I live in England now, and rather than perfect lawns, I’m cultivating a “managed wildflower plot”.

    The book to give you heart for tough gardening was published about 20 years ago and called “The revolting gardener” by Rose Blight, aka Germaine Greer. Her advice on the benefits of berberis for keeping drug addicts and drunks from urinating on the plants is WONDERFUL…

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