This past Saturday, I participated in Backyard Urban Garden Tour organized by Wasatch Community Gardens. This self-guided tour takes you on an adventure throughout Utah neighborhoods and into backyards of passionate gardeners and farmers. This event combined two of my favorite activities, checking out properties and seeing how people are growing their own food. I enjoy the intimacy of seeing where people live, as well as seeing the form and function of how they use their space. At the end of the day, this event made me envious of other people’s houses and yards, but it also challenged me to transform my own.
It was a beautiful, hot morning, and we began the tour in the Sugarhouse neighborhood, and then traveled throughout the West Valley. Our group included my Westminster professors, Helen and Kathi, and my boyfriend, Tejas. Kathi planned the route for the day. There were signs in front of the participating houses to help lead you into the backyards. Everyone we met along the tour was friendly, creative, and thoughtful. People would chat about past and current projects, and creative solutions that yielded success. Every backyard was unique, and I learned something from every garden we visited.
After the day of touring was done, it seemed to me that each backyard we saw reflected the owners’ personalities. Some yards were neat and groomed with each crop segregated to its own planter box. Some yards were chaotic and messy. Nevertheless, each yard offered innovative and sustainable ideas, some of which struck me as ideas I could implement in my yard.
The first idea that I executed in my own garden was a compost pile. I have always been interested in composting; however, I lacked the motivation to do it. Nevertheless, after viewing one particular compost pile in a family’s beautiful backyard, I was inspired and motivated to build my own. This family’s yard was long and narrow, well groomed, and lushly green. They had hung a clothesline down the middle that displayed squares of naturally hand dyed silks that blew in the wind and resembled Tibetan prayer flags. Along one side of the yard they had a large chicken coop and run that took up half of their property. They called it their “chicken mansion,” and their chickens were fat and happy. It was at this point I noticed the chickens enjoying rummaging through the compost pile. The owner announced that the chickens do all the work to turn over the pile for her and eat the scraps. As I watched the chickens gobble down the leftover food, I knew that I would implement my own compost pile. It would be a perfect addition to my own yard.
I also learned that grapes grow well in our climate. One yard boasted a beautiful grape arbor the size of a gazebo. How romantic! The owner mentioned that it took six years for the roof to cover completely. I admired his foresight and patience. Next year I definitely plan to plant some grapes.
The last stop of the day was Backyard Urban Gardens Farm, which is also known at BUG Farms. This farm is located in west salt lake. Their property is large and visibly urban with the freeway passing through the horizon. The farm is run by a co-op, which sells its crops to local restaurants including Caffe Niche (Read about how Niche cooks with fresh ingredients in Seed to Service). BUG Farms was impressive because they transformed their urban landscape into a successful business. They represent how a small-time farm can make a difference.
The Backyard Urban Garden tours happen every year, I highly recommend attending because you never know whom you may meet and what you will learn.