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THE REVEAL: Emily Bowser’s Front Yard Edible Urban Garden (Don’t Worry, There’s A Big Dose Of Plant Drama)

Hi hi hi! I’m back! This time with the conclusion (yeah, right) of my front yard saga. This is the third of the three blog posts that have been postponed because the hell that has been my life for the past 7 months, not just because of cat drama, but also a lot because of cat drama. Of course the past week of trying to put this blog post together was no exception, Daffy landed back in the hospital because her seizures returned, came home for 2 days and then was hospitalized again from symptoms from the stress of her seizures (she stops peeing, it’s weird, they don’t know exactly why yet). Luckily we seem to have all the meds calibrated (at least for the time being) and at last I can bring you some pretty pictures of a space we’ve been talking about for more than a year (and we started construction on 2 years ago). I always talk about it, but things take time. Especially things that literally have to grow :). Alas, because it’s been such a long process there’s going to be iPhone pics that I took peppered in here, I just say that so you don’t confuse them with the actual real photos Sara took and think she’s somehow become a subpar photographer. I’ll note when they are mine. We talked and talked and talked about it last year, and I left you with the very beginnings of my urban garden by Down to Farm.

Summer came and went, we had a decent amount of luck with some herbs, chard, cherry tomatoes, and peppers. There was an early heat wave that made the harvest a little weak and a learning curve on my part. We didn’t shoot the space because I wanted to let the passion fruit grow in and it needed to cool down before I could plant the surrounding garden of pollinators. The passion fruit grew so fast, which I was expecting, especially with all the opinions in the comment section about it taking over all of Los Angeles if I wasn’t careful. It was on track to be my new ficus hedge (a hedge I planted in 2018 that is now easily 15 feet high, don’t worry you’ll see it later). Here’s a bad iPhone pic from TWO MONTHS after we planted it:

photo by me and my iphone

The passion fruit understood the assignment: Cover the ugly back of my neighbor’s fence ASAP. You can see the summer plantings here, right before harvest, this is mid-October. It finally cooled off and we could plant in the planters and along the perimeter of the garden without fear of all the plants getting burned. By November 5th it looked like this:

photo by me and my iphone

I know, my glorious hedge! And the passion fruit! The box at the bottom of my stairs for someone to trip on!

The fall planting was my favorite. Here’s a list of what Eden from Down to Farm planted while I sat around and talked her ear off:

  • Arugula
  • Red Veined Sorrel
  • Mizuna
  • Romaine & Little Gems
  • Spinach
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Parsley, Cilantro, Rosemary, Dill 
  • Calendula & Pansy Flower 

So many leafy greens and herbs. I constantly had food to pick from, we had an herb-y salad almost every night for months. It was perfect because I could pick as needed and didn’t have the guilt of lettuce going bad in the fridge before I could get to it. I’ve never had luck with cilantro and let me tell you, my cilantro and parsley are (still) going crazy strong. Whatever Eden does to her soil: it is magic. 

Along the perimeter of the fence and the front wall, we planted every type of sage a person can plant. Russian, white, Texas, and baby sage. All the sages. Oh and my favorite, Mexican Tarragon. They all smell AMAZING, the bees and hummingbirds agree.

We let it grow in a little and shot the space in December…

You can tell the time of year by the garland, snowflakes in the window, and wreath I guess 🙂

Table (vintage) | Chairs (vintage) | Over-the-Table Rod | Gilded Botanicals Iron + Velvet Garland | Solar-Powered Lights

Before we talk more garden, let’s take a moment to appreciate my flea market vintage folding table and perfectly patinated 40/4 chairs. If you are curious, like I was when I found them in 2013, they are called 40/4 chairs because 40 chairs can be stacked in 4 feet…stacks. Both have had former lives before me, spent time in different areas of our past homes but have been sitting in my garage for years. I was doing one of my 123942374/year garage cleanouts (a must when you are a hoard…erm, stylist) and had a lightbulb moment. I thought it would be more of a work surface for the garden than a place to sit but it’s actually very nice out here during sunset and we’ve found ourselves here for happy hour more than once. The over-the-table rod is from Anthropologie and it’s sort of a stylist must-have item. For tabletop shoots when you have to hang florals or candles or whatever it’s a nice tool to have in the ‘ole kit. This one lives here though, through the torrential rain and everything. I’ve hung two solar-powered lights on it, along with some iron botanical garland that just gets better with weathering.

Oh look! I even set a scene for ya’ll. Can’t harvest a simple salad without setting a scene can we??  

To the left of this photo is the walkway to the gate. We talked in one of the last posts about how it’s a little *too* much space in my opinion. These L-shaped corten steel planters from Veradek were perfect for filling that empty space and delineating between the walkway and the garden. 

Steel Planters

The steel turns color with time and exposure to weather. These were in the process in December and with all the rain they have changed even more. Check out my instagram stories today to see some current snaps of the garden and planters.

The planter on this side of the garden is also helpful for keeping people from falling out of this space. You see, the ground ended up getting raised quite a bit higher than the math in my head thought it would (I know, shocking) when drainage was put in, dirt was put in and leveled, and of course, a couple inches of gravel added some height as well. Even though from the sidewalk, the stucco wall is a few feet high, it should have been a couple feet higher. The plants on the front of the wall add a few feet of height and obviously, the raised garden bed blocks some of the side wall but this particular corner felt a little dangerous. This planter is my much less expensive fix than adding to the wall.

We used pots I had around and mixed them with Veradek’s lightweight and versatile Pure Kona Planters. We used one in the back house backyard makeover, and two here. Side note, you can also see the difference between the corten steel planters from that shoot when they were in the process of changing vs this one (that shoot was about 6 weeks before, and about 300 days of rain somehow).

Pure Kona Planter

photo by me and my iphone

As you can see from my updated photo, my blueberries are coming in now! I was worried because apparently, you need another blueberry bush close by to pollinate with it in order to get berries? Well, I guess there is one because my bush is with child! Lol. I’m not a garden scientist but I’m going to give credit to all the pollinators that attract tons of bees and hummingbirds that are growing in so nicely…

I could write a whole blog post about my love for Mexican Tarragon (which isn’t Tarragon at all)…but I’ll save you. I’ll just say this: if it grows in your area: get it. The smell alone is everything.

I’ve talked before about the benefits of using Down to Farm. They have a lot of options of services: they make custom beds, do seasonal planting, irrigation, do upkeep and care, as well as harvesting. I obviously needed all the things. In December Sara captured Eden, who is now one of my favorite people – and not just because she’s a garden whisperer, doing some winter harvesting.

I apologize for the harsh shadows, it was December, and we were chasing the light around all day. Despite that, what an urban dream, right?? This 16’x16’ foot space has been transformed! It’s amazing to have a vibe-y space to sit and a garden that literally feeds us. Practicality and beauty together is my love language. More glam shots of Eden…I mean, the garden…

Also – look how freaking pretty the garden is. I am living for the purples and greens. Like I said, every night I would come out and pick a salad. It lasted for months, probably 5 months? Someone do the math on how much money I saved and mostly – let’s be honest – shame I saved from not throwing away unused bags of lettuce. I also found my salads were so much more tasty because when buying from a store I would try to get less ingredients so less would go bad before I could eat it all which made my salads, well, boring. When I would go out to the garden, I could pick more or less of this and that which made each salad more novel and thus, more exciting to eat. I also made my own dressings every few days with all the fresh herbs.

My personal favorite was discovering red mizuna. It’s the red lettuce in the basket on the right. It’s peppery and dare I say, meaty? And yes, obviously I grew edible flowers and yes, it’s for looks.

And we ate the salad and all lived happily ever after.

J/K

Of course, there was garden DRAMA, which is what I know you all just live for.

Ok. This is still hard for me to talk about…I noticed when we were shooting this that the right side of my passion fruit was looking a little sad. Like, it was dying? Maybe? BUT WHY?? I wasn’t sure at the time, but I also wasn’t too worried about it because we planted two, and honestly, one was more than enough. Passion fruit vines are no joke, as we have talked about in length in the comment sections about this garden. The next week I was confident it was dead and cut it out.

photo by me and my iphone

See? It was kinda fine. I knew the other vine was more than enough to fill in the space soon. Two was too many for the space anyway, right?? January came and went. February…March…

By the time we got to harvest in March the whole garden was more wild. I had gone out of town twice for long periods of time and couldn’t keep up with what the rain was doing to the garden. It was an absolute jungle and most things had gone to seed.

photo by me and my iphone
photo by me and my iphone

Wild right? This is why I should have at least paid Eden for upkeep while I was gone. I feel like there was a lot of waste because of my neglect. Lesson learned. But, if you can look past this HUGE garden, you may be able to see…MY OTHER PASSION FRUIT VINE WAS DYING. Then I remembered, way back in the recess of my brain, that my neighbor Ben had told my husband about how proud he was about smoking out a gopher that was killing his grass.

Smoked it out.

And obviously, INTO my yard.

*sigh*

I wasted no time and called a gopher exterminator. I wasn’t playing around. The guy was like, “You cool if we get rid it” and I had a twinge of guilt and then looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Do what you need to do” because THIS:

photo by me and my iphone

WHYYYYYYYYY?!?!?!?!!

He had also taken out a couple of the plants around the passion fruit. So we are currently back at square one with the passion fruit. I ripped it out and replanted, this time with a gopher guard around the root ball. The good news is I planted it around this time last year and it grew in so fast and nicely. The bad news is, well, the gopher is no longer with us. I do feel bad about that. Also now I’m paying a guy to come by once a month to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Here’s where we are now…

It’s a little sad for sure but hopefully, it will grow in fast, and in the meantime all the other plants are helping obscure the fence more than last year, so that’s nice.

Fire off in the comments if you have questions about the garden and I’ll make Eden answer and head to Instagram for more video content!

*Design and Styled by Emily Bowser
**Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp (unless otherwise noted)

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KC
8 months ago

This looks absolutely magical!!!!

I love the antique table and chairs.

I need an Eden in Cleveland (also, she has the perfect name! Her mom must have known!!!).

Thank you for sharing!!!

Heather
8 months ago

Oh man, I need to find an Eden here in Nashville as I dream of a flower and herb garden but don’t even know where to start. It looks absolutely beautiful – do neighbors ever walk by and comment? I mean the transformation of your space is amazing. I’d be so grateful to have you as a neighbor.

8 months ago
Reply to  Heather

aw, so sweet, thanks. Yes! The neighbors love it. We often have a basket of oranges out for people to take because a single household simply cannot with the amount we get from our tree. Still trying to figure out how to share in the harvest with people in the neighborhood because the leafy greens don’t stay nice enough to just leave out for people. May have to make a sign for people to just take herbs etc if they want them.

Juanita
8 months ago

So beautiful. So *this* is why people live in southern California… I get it now 😂 Does Eden want to start a spinoff of Down to Farm in Boston?? I need her on my roof deck! It’s truly stunning to see what you both have done in a relatively small space, starting from scratch; thank you for this inspiration and best of luck to passion fruit vine #3.

Erin
8 months ago
Reply to  Juanita

I’m here to support the Boston spin-off ad well! And very jealous of that long California produce growing season. The space looks gorgeous though Emily so congrats! I will admit I was skeptical of it being so close to the street and not looking random and weird, and it really turned out so majestic!

8 months ago
Reply to  Juanita

ha, yeah. Southern California has it’s positives. We remind ourselves often that the price we pay is mostly because of the climate/freshness of food because we DEF pay for it.

LouAnn
8 months ago

Love the stone throughout this front yard and the raised beds. One thing I wondered: Do you eat meals at the table? Do you sit out there much? I think I would feel too uncomfortable eating meals out in my front yard for all the neighbors to see. Lol. Or maybe that’s just my weird hangup?

Alli Griffin
8 months ago
Reply to  LouAnn

More urban areas people hang out in their front yards all the time! I actually like it, felt weird at first when I moved to a more urban area, but you chat with and meet so many random people!

8 months ago
Reply to  LouAnn

Yeah I know it seems weird but in urban living you are used to interacting a bit more with the people around you AND in a weird way not interacting, if that makes sense? Like because you see people all the time you also are more likely to ignore them or understand when they want to be interacted with? For example, if you’ve ever spent time in NYC you may understand how you can be around a lot of people but actually quite alone at the same time. Necessity is part of it, we just kind of have to be around each other I guess. I am lucky to have a small backyard if I want to be more alone but even in that situation our back house neighbors and any friends of theirs that come over have to walk through it.

Sally
8 months ago
Reply to  LouAnn

In the olden days people used to sit on front verandahs and porches all the time and interact with the community. It’s only in more recent times that we’ve become obsessed with privacy and turned our houses around to face the back instead of the front!

🥰 Rusty
8 months ago

Bowser!!!‼‼‼
“Dream garden” is an understatement.
I’m a full-on ninja gardener and your garden is fabulous!!!
It’s balanced, purposeful, has goodness for all-important pollinators, (not happy about the gopher, but…well), and food production is top of the list!
Home grown rastes wildly better than shop bought. No comparison.

Thank you for writing an ‘h’ word with aN before it!
“an herb-y”
Most people don’t know that basic rule snd as an ex-English teacher, it’s a joy to behold.😍

Congatulations on a hugely successful endeavour!
Sending healing energy for Daffy.😽

Eve
8 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty you’ve confused me with the h rule. I know you’re Aussie, and like us Kiwis you guys say the h in herb, while Americans tend to pronounce it as ‘erb. I was taught that with h words you use an when the h is silent (eg hour, honour), so Americans would write an ‘erb garden while we would write “a herb garden”. Are you saying ALL h words should be an? Like “I saw an horse”.

8 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Thanks Rusty, love hearing that from an experienced gardener. I’m hoping to not kill any more gophers. we kept the dead one in the ground to keep others away. We added the wire baskets around the new plants and if I notice any gopher holes (now that I know to look for them) we will try some of the natural repellent that has castor, linseed, rosemary and garlic oil along with some dried blood (gross). I hate killing anything. He was on a spree though, killed like 6 plants before I even noticed it. Completely devoured the root ball.

Stacy
8 months ago

Looks amazing!! Love to see you making use of that LA sun for some veggies.
Also, the reality of losing mature plants is a heartbreaker, but it sounds like it should grow back pretty quick now that the problem gopher is gone.
Thanks for sharing!

Jenna
8 months ago

It looks so magical! It must be such a relaxing retreat from the grind of everyday life! Also, gophers are the worst. Second only to ground squirrels. I’ve also learned the hard way to always plant in gopher baskets.

Roberta Davis
8 months ago

It’s beautiful and it looks like you are getting a LOT of great food from it! I guess the lesson is that plants don’t take vacations and they need constant tending. I guess that’s why my farmer friends only go on vacation in the winter when the fields are bare. When I had a pea-patch garden, it took so much work and expense I eventually concluded it was cheaper to get the plants at the grocery store. But they do taste better when home-grown! Especially tomatoes. Here if we have pests like moles, etc, we can hire a service to come take them away- relocate them to a wild area. Except skunks, which they killed at my house in Ohio because I guess they carry rabies.

8 months ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

I mean, there’s a reason that gardening is popular with retired people, they need so much tending. Something I didn’t write about is how much having a garden makes you aware of how wild the grocery industry is. I cannot believe how hard we worked to make 3 celery plants. ha! I mean, we go through probably 6 heads of celery a week in this house and it took up 2 square feet and months to get 3 of them. They were beautiful and huge and happy, but yes, some veggies are way easier and cheaper to get at the store. The leafy greens and especially the herbs I think felt the most “worth it”. I have new respect for growing and harvesting food on a large scale, that is for sure.

🥰 Rusty
8 months ago
Reply to  Emily Bowser

Beetroot is fabulous coz you get very tasty leafy greens AND the beetroot, too!

Shelea
8 months ago

How are you watering everything? Did you set up irrigation?

8 months ago
Reply to  Shelea

Ah yes! I forgot to talk about this! We have a simple drip irrigation system that is set up on a timer off our hose. I’ll get more info about that from Eden and post on my instagram

Char
8 months ago

This was so much fun to read, and I learned something too. The sunset photo was sooooo pretty – never apologize for an iPhone photo.

EK
8 months ago

Unfortunately I have a lot of experience gardening with gophers in San Francisco (I wish I did not, lol). Trapping them absolutely does not work because the gophers just come back.Where there is one gopher, there will more more. And poison is super dangerous because it can kill dogs, wildlife, etc. Your best bet is to put all your plants in gopher baskets or put chicken wire down under your garden. It’ s a big pain in butt initially, but as you experienced, it’s truly tragic when your beautiful plants just mysteriously get chomped by gophers. There are also some plants that are less appealing to gophers (some succulents, cacti, etc) and some plants that are super appealing to them (most vegetables, a lot of flowers, bougainvillea, etc). But I’ve just put everything in gopher baskets because who wants to risk it. Your garden looks so beautiful!!! Thank you for sharing!!

alexa
8 months ago
Reply to  EK

It always bums me out when animals get killed simply for following their instincts. They have as much right to be here as people do. Prevention (by using special planting techniques or avoiding planting certain things) seems to be the best course.

Stacia
8 months ago
Reply to  alexa

I hear ya on this one Alexa… 😔. I grew up on a farm and somehow we managed to not kill the animals who ate our garden – we kind of thought of it as an annual challenge to figure out how to outsmart the animals with clever hacks (they usually won and we were generally ok with that).

8 months ago
Reply to  EK

yes, every new plant we put in is now in a basket. It’s so weird we have had absolutely zero issue with this in our backyard. For some reason the exterminator seemed to think he was actually alone. I think it has something to do with the fact that we are more or less surrounded by concrete and after he was killed (RIP) the holes stopped showing up. Have you experimented with any of the natural repellent? Oils and dried blood?

J Young
8 months ago

What about that pot with the peas? Was that recommended by down to farm as well?

8 months ago
Reply to  J Young

it was! Eden planted it. It wasn’t on a timer for the irrigation so I just had to remember to water with the water from my Goodland hot tub 🙂 The peas went nuts but ultimately probably died a little earlier than they should have when I went out of town for 2 weeks

Allie
8 months ago

So beautiful, Emily and Eden! I would love to know more about the irrigation system. I have a small, urban, all-containers garden too and I water it by hand every couple days but I know there’s a better way!

8 months ago

I’m down to find Eden spinoffs in different areas of the world! I’m west of Washington DC about 75 minutes, in Virginia (near West Virginia) – anybody know of a service like this around that area? We’re new homeowners facing down a blank yard with almost no gardening knowledge but a burning desire in our hearts for some raised beds!

kiki
8 months ago

This looks AMAZING, I’ve loved following the progress!

How is the pea gravel holding up?? Is it a pain to keep in place and maintain?? it looks SO GOOD.

(also, thank you so much for waiting until spring to post these. I think we all would’ve died a bit inside if we had seen your lovely December garden while all of us up North were buried in snow and rain and endless grey skies).

8 months ago
Reply to  kiki

It’s not a pain because the space is kind of contained I guess? I know it’s a real problem when it rains and doesn’t have a wall or something to stop it but we don’t have that problem at all.

Shannon
8 months ago

Source on the lights on the black stakes? Are those white pillar candles on black iron stakes or are they lights? They are stunning!

8 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

they are just candles, the stakes are weird iron candle holders I found at flea market 🙂 In the summer/warmer months I’ll have to switch them with solar outdoor candles so they don’t melt. I’ve made that mistake before 🙂

CES
8 months ago

1) I love love LOVE these updates. Keep them coming. I’m so invested in your home, your space, your progress. Thanks for letting us all join you on the ride.
2) Jumpsuit details needed immediately.

CS
8 months ago

It looks beautiful! I was wondering about the hanging waterer (?) Is it a waterer? Or for birds? Could you provide a source? Thanks!

8 months ago
Reply to  CS

haha it’s actually just shepherd hooks with candle holders that filled with water during the rain!

Annie K.
8 months ago

Emily, you have the greatest voice!

Gardening has taught me so much about the process of learning by trial and error, about being patient and about delayed gratification. Ugh, and yay!

Your space looks beautiful.

8 months ago
Reply to  Annie K.

agreed!

Kate
8 months ago

Looks fantastic and a nice mix of pollinator friendly plants and food, I think salad is a great choice, not too complicated to grow and giving you a great reward. I still think you should gift yourselves and the street a small tree out there too though!

Angela
8 months ago

Sorry for being off-topic, but I do not know how to send you a message more directly. I just read your cat has been having seizures and I wanted to share that I had a cat that started having seizures around age 3. The phenobarbital medicine helped at first, but then was not controlling the seizures. To make a long story short, we found a traditional vet that also practiced Chinese medicine and acupuncture. This saved our cat’s life and she lived to nearly 20 years old. She began taking Chinese medicine herbal supplements and getting acupuncture in addition to the phenobarbital, which immediately helped space out the seizures. After three years with the new vet, she never had another seizure. We weaned her off the phenobarbital and then eventually were able to stop the Chinese herbs as well, only doing occasional acupuncture.
I don’t know your situation, but I had to suggest Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture for your cat since it helped us so much. Good luck!

8 months ago
Reply to  Angela

I will definitely look into this, thanks!

Stacia
8 months ago
Reply to  Angela

I second this suggestion! We ended up taking our dog to a veterinarian who had a holistic practice when he started to have seizures (our regular vet suggested it!). It worked. He lived to be 13 years old with only one milder seizure toward the end of his life. If finances allow, it’s worth the try!

Hazel
8 months ago
Reply to  Angela

Acupuncture was amazing for appetite issues and other issues. Many acupuncture vets use a wand instead of needles and can even treat Daffy inside her carrier to not stress her. Also there are so many homeopathic medicines and powders etc that can help with kidney support and probiotic powders etc. My homeopathic vet would look at my cat’s bloodwork too and suggest things and look at the whole picture.

Amy W.
8 months ago

This looks AMAZING! Completely giving me inspiration for my (much) smaller backyard garden in our urban-ish neighborhood.

Zoe
8 months ago

Love this!!

Kaiulani
8 months ago

Been waiting for what seems like forever on this final update and it was worth it! A garden can be a truly magically place. Love the mix of planter boxes and pots and the all the variety. Defiantly an inspiration. Well done!

Lesley
8 months ago

This is so wonderful! Also can you provide a link for the black garden hose (coiled in cute pot) in your Story? It looks WAY easier to handle than our regular old hose.

SJ
8 months ago

It lookas great! PS-get a GopherHawk ( amazon, home depo, lowes) and you can take care of your own gophers with no poison or other chemicals etc. My hubs has quite a few notches on his belt b/c here in San Diego gophers like to do the condo thing in our neighborhood. We have four 8×4 raised beds and are adding landscaping stuff along our fences, etc. Gopherwire is under ALL of it now! Gardening is a lifelong class. Enjoy.

Emma
8 months ago

This looks lovely! Random question – can you really leave patio furniture out front like that? Do people not steal it? I swear I don’t live in a particularly dangerous city – I’m in Canada and our crime is certainly lower than LA – but if we leave anything out front it’s immediately stolen at night. I’ve had friends whose grills were stolen out of their back yards. If you can leave this lovely setup out without a fence like that I’m impressed!

Kara S
7 months ago
Reply to  Emma

I was thinking the same thing! I live in NYC and anyone lucky enough to have patio furniture has bike chains around it… which REALLY ruins the cute vibes I must say.

Kelly Bridges
8 months ago

You have come such a long way. It’s lovely!

Alex
8 months ago

super garden! Being a gardener myself I can talk how much work and thought and love went into creating it.