Urban Gardening, For Reals.


There’s a little run-down blue house a couple blocks away that has been continuously occupied for the last five years by a rotating group of newly-arrived Laotians. (At least, I believe them to be Laotians, based on a conversation I once overheard as I walked by.)  I can always spot the new arrivals because they sit outside on the curb in the morning, drinking tea out of a bowl and smoking some strange brand of cigarette.  After a few weeks, they figure out that this is not the custom in Eureka and they drink their tea inside.

This very un-fancy house has the ugliest sort of landscaping–just a bunch of rocks and a few weeds that have been allowed to grow into actual plants. So imagine my delight when I walked by the other day and saw an assortment of mustard greens and other such brassica sprouting up between the terrible rocks. Since I took this picture, beans have started climbing that pole.

Front yard vegetable gardening.  A proud immigrant tradition that the rest of us are just catching on to.  Well done, Laotians.




  1. Well done, indeed. Too bad they don’t live in my neighborhood – I’m sure they’d get along well with the folks who turn their front yard into a pumpkin patch every summer.

  2. Go, front yard veggies!

    Sadly my area is so deer-infested that if you don’t have a fenced front yard (and hardly anyone does) your veggie options are extremely limited.

  3. Hi front-yard gardeners~
    I love it when immigrants “grow their own”. There’s a lesson in there for us all!
    I’d just like to say that it is not wise to eat food grown next to a busy road-known to be dusty and contain byproducts of exhaust & brake fluid- that can land on the plants & build up in soils. This was the first thing I thought of when I saw the picture of food growing next to a (presumably) parking spot.
    My downtown plot is divided; flowers out front & veggies in back behind a fence. I live by a main thoroughfare and have several restaurants in the hood.

  4. I am glad my mom didnt give into the push to assimilate completely and that she grew edibles alongside ornamentals, even though ‘Americans’ thought it was weird at the time and are just now collectively rediscovering fresh food. The new arrivals probably stop drinking their tea by the curb once they figure out how unsociable american society is to outsiders.

  5. What an expression of hope! I love looking at gardens anywhere they’re planted but I am so excited when I see someone carving out a place for plants where no one thought it would work. Wonderful article and wonderful insight.

  6. Some of my favorite bedding and container plants are actually “imposter ornamentals”. Ever tried variegated oregano, boxwood basil, or purple sage? Delicious and almost to pretty to eat.

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