The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


Knock-Knock–Your Weekly Flowers Have Arrived

I subscribe to our daily newspaper The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to the nearby YMCA, to all sorts of professional magazines and newsletters, to home and gardening magazines (of course!), and to an assortment of other services. But I don’t subscribe to a weekly floral delivery.

If I lived in Toronto I just might.

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Sarah Nixon, owner of My Luscious Backyard, arranges a bouquet for demonstration.

You see, for the very reasonable base price of $45 per week you can enjoy fresh, sustainably grown flowers on your desk or dining room table. I could move the clutter aside for that, I really could. Your weekly vase is personally delivered and retrieved by Sarah Nixon, owner/operator of My Luscious Backyard, a homegrown business built in her downtown Toronto backyard.

Sarah’s small and intensely managed organic backyard flower farm was the first stop on a whirlwind extravaganza of Toronto area gardens, courtesy of the Garden Bloggers Fling. Before escorting the 70-plus bloggers to tour her backyard, Sarah reminded us that small as it may be, hers is a working farm. Indeed it is. Equipped with a potting table, a small shed with grow lights and a yard that is nearly fully void of turf, My Luscious Backyard is an urban farm where she employs a manual no-tillage production practice to reduce soil erosion.

Sarah's backyard, which she estimates to be 1/16 of an acre.

Sarah’s backyard, which she estimates to be 1/16 of an acre.

Sarah began the business in 2001 and through a unique business model has expanded beyond her backyard by scouting area yards, contacting homeowners and turning their patch of turf into a flower bed. Currently, she is working with 10 area homeowners where she is growing a wide assortment of annuals. This is small-space gardening at its utmost. A steady rotation of seed is started and planted to meet the demand of clients who enjoy her fresh bouquets.Her clients include individuals, as well as florists who seek locally grown flowers.

Making the most of limited space.

Making the most of limited space.

All in all, her annual season consists of about 100 varieties from her perennial yard and her partners. She starts seeds in a small shed she dubs “the barn.”Those agreeing to turn their yard into a flower farm reap of the benefits of the beauty flowers provide but not the privilege of cuttings for their personal enjoyment. Also Sarah said she may ask them to purchase planting mix and help with turf removal but she does all the rest, which includes planting, watering, caring and harvesting the flowers.

I don’t know what happens when the flower season is over, however. I imagine those yards as large patches of brown dirt. Would you be willing to turn your yard into a flower garden?

A neighborhood city lot turned into a flower garden.

A neighborhood city lot turned into a flower garden.


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Landscape Fabric, A Gardening Do or Don’t?

Making a garden bed in St. Louis requires one to dig in hard, dense, clay soil. Not really my idea of a good time, if you know what I mean.  (And if you have clay soil you know what I’m talking about.)  In fact, the idea of digging up the lawn on a large space running the length of the patio, left me less than motivated. As I have shared, when I began my adventure in backyard gardening, I was not one to really enjoy getting dirt beneath my nails, much less the back pain associated with lots of digging. I wanted quick gratification so I could enjoy my chardonnay while basking at the delights of my hard work.

I know, I know, as the saying goes, no pain, no gain. I am learning.

Installing a Japanese maple.

Installing a Japanese maple.

But I did look for a shortcut … in the form of landscape fabric. I simply covered the space in the stuff, cut into the areas where I placed my foundation plants, amended the soil where plants were put in and covered the whole thing with lots of mulch.

The bed is doing beautifully. This photo was taken last summer,  the second season the garden was in place. I continue to add to it each year.

The bed is doing beautifully. This photo was taken last summer, the second season the garden was in place. I continue to add to it each year.

I am not sure I would take that shortcut again. Yes, the garden bed is doing beautifully, but I am weighing my options as I consider installing more gardens into the yard.

The pros: I have had very few weeds; it was easy to install; it saved my back the aches and pains of all that digging; I avoided using chemical application to kill the grass, which I was contemplating. And, the bed is doing beautifully. Each year I add to it with the vision of a cottage garden spilling forth with flowering plants and shrubs. I hand weed, mulch and this spring  amended the soil with a bit of compost.

The cons: I don’t think I have done my soiI any great favors (should have probably put a hefty layer of compost down along the whole bed–rookie mistake peppered with a healthy dose of inpatience);  every time I add to the bed, I am having to cut into the fabric and then dig into the hard, hard clay; my senses are awakening to the concept of “sustainability” and I am not sure these types of fabrics are a good idea. Also, I wonder if the fabric will inhibit growth of the plant. Does anyone have any knowledge of that?

I will be getting out the ibuprofen as I plan to start on a bed along one of the fence lines this spring and will avoid some of the shortcuts I took. What’s your take on landscape fabric? Any advice on starting a garden bed from scratch?