Reading about Holly's garden I got a chuckle out of the image of them moving into their urban neighborhood....and instantly tearing up a beautiful lawn! "Wherever we can," she says, "we grow food." I love the creativity that comes out of gardening in smaller spaces, and Holly certainly shows us just how much can be done. I'm sure you'll enjoy this tour today of her beautiful space, thriving with natural life all within the city of Minneapolis.
Welcome to Holly's garden!
Gardener: Holly Morton
Garden Location and Zone: Minneapolis, MN Zone 4a
Garden Size: Our urban garden consists of a main 30x40 veggie patch, multiple other beds around the house where we squeeze herbs and more veggies in, fruit trees in the lawn, and berry bushes that line the border of our property.
How long have you been gardening?
I’ve had my own garden for 6 years. Prior to that, I assisted in a student-run garden for a couple years during university.
Why do you garden?
Gardening gives me peace, keeps me grounded and makes me feel alive. Originally, I came to grow my own food through learning about our conventional food system during my time in the rural sociology department at UWMadison. I wanted to support something else, something of life, beauty and health for humans, animals and the earth. The more food that I grew, the more I realized I loved the lifestyle of farming, the time outdoors, the exhilaration of the work, and the rich, rich rewards.
“Cherry tree in front, pear tree in back, chicken coop/greenhouse in middle, raspberry fenceline on the left”
How would you describe your garden?
Our garden is located in the heart of NE Minneapolis, MN, just a couple miles from downtown! We found a house with a double lot and have been making the most of our outdoor space. To the surprise of neighbors and the former owner, we dug up most of the grass as soon as we moved in. We hand-dug the beds two shovels deep, removing massive amounts of rock, and adding tons of compost over the years.
We are situated on a fairly busy street, so passersby often stop to remark at the garden and pick raspberries; we hear lots of people talking to the chickens, too! I love showing people that lawns can look different. Often times, neighborhood kids that stop by have never seen a tomato growing, or held a chicken before! It is really fun.
The garden itself, to be honest, has been quite functional. Wherever we can, we grow food. If we need a shrub, it’s fruit-bearing. If we have space for a tree, it’s fruit bearing. The whole fence line is berries. While I do find growing food to be incredibly beautiful, just this year I have made an effort to learn more about native perennials and incorporate more flowers. We have been learning a lot, trying to grow as much food in a small space as we can, and still have room to give the chicken flock spots to “pasture,” leaving a little space in the yard for two beehives, two dogs and two kids with lots of playmates!
What are your favorite gardening books or resources?
I mostly just drool over catalogues Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds and One Green World Nursery are my favorites. I keep thinking I have more space than I do!
What’s your biggest gardening challenge?
Keeping my chickens from undoing all my garden efforts! Our chicken coop is a combined greenhouse used for transplants in the early spring months. We’re constantly experimenting with how to give the chickens the most space, while protecting our seedlings in the greenhouse and in the yard! I make it a priority to move the chickens around to give them greens to eat and get their poop in the garden, but they always find a way out and go straight for my brassicas or tomatoes!
What’s your biggest garden accomplishment?
On days when I feel overwhelmed by weeds and my to do list, I try to remind myself that my lifestyle IS the accomplishment that I am doing all this while having young kids around all day; that despite being up multiple times in the night with the baby, having the day made shorter by long, drawn-out bedtimes, tripping over kid messes and coping with non-nappers, I somehow manage to start it all from seed, can salsa, and learn about honeybees. It is never perfect, there is always something I didn’t get to, but we are doing it!
What do you most love to grow?
So hard to choose! I always have a solid patch of kale somewhere out there, I love growing lots of beautiful lettuce for fresh summer meals, and despite the lack of space, I give a large chunk of it to winter squash because it stores easily and we rely on it to get us through the long winter! I also love to buy at least one new seed packet every year and just give it a try! The new thing this year is celeriac.
If you have children, what role do they play in your gardening?
I invite children into gardening activities whenever I do them. There is little else as beautiful to me as seeing those pudgy fingers pinch tiny seeds to start, or seeing raspberry=stained smiles. Even something like learning to recognize common weeds and removing them can be fun for kids! They aren’t always on board when I get down and dirty, but as my daughter gets older, I see the influence it has on her. I am so proud when she begs to harvest asparagus, goes out to pick peas on her own, or gets giddy for a sweet pepper snack! It is also valuable to our family to involve children in processing what we harvest, from cooking dinner, to preserving food, and baking. Above is a picture of my daughter after successfully making a rhubarb custard pie from scratch, dough and all, with her own hands!
Can you share one or two of your favorite gardening tips?
Mulch, mulch, mulch! I try to mulch any exposed soil to help keep weeds back, keep the moisture in the ground and help build soil long-term. Being in the city, I can easily collect all my neighbors’ leaf bags in the fall. I store a huge mountain of them behind the house and use them for mulch in the spring!
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am currently home full time since our youngest was born this winter, and will homeschool our 5yo this year. I also blog about gardening, bees, chickens, processing our garden bounty and more at https://www.buddinghomestead.com. Another big labor of love in our house is developing Tended - it’s webbased garden software to help gardeners and small farms design and track the many details of their operation. It is free, and we are so excited to share it with the world!
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Thank you, Holly, for sharing your garden!
(If you'd like to share your garden with us this season, send me an email for more details. We'd love to visit!)