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  • Elie

The Little Garden that Could


When we moved to New Orleans in 2013, we rented a very small apartment with a very small courtyard.

The rents are fairly high near the center of the galaxy, so we opted to be about a mile from the French Quarter, and to go small. We moved to St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater Neighborhood into a 5 room double shotgun with a 600 square foot yard. The house was built in 1830 and the previous tenants had an art gallery and an experimental urban farm at the address. So moving in, we had some good soil to start with and some raised beds. Delightful.

But, to be honest, we used our pick up truck to bring yards of mushroom compost, horse manure and virgin top soil from Northwest Florida; and used our wheelbarrow to move hundreds of pounds of material down our narrow isle way into the back yard. We bought and added sand, vermiculite and pearlite bags along with mountains of black hen compost and organic cow manure. If you have visited New Orleans you will soon realize that in the Old City around the river, the houses are very close together and have very small yard spaces that have been the depository of the household trash for three hundred years. It is really a pretty rough place to start an organic garden, not to mention that Hurricane Katrina flooded the city with toxic water, where it settled into every green-space. We needed all our plants to thrive in healthy soil. It just had to be remade from the ground up.

We plodded along truck by truck, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow and shovel by shovel for one entire year. We began to dig up plants from our Pensacola yard bringing them to New Orleans. We bought starter herbs from local farmer's markets and nurseries and we bought seeds from catalogs. Ed did almost all of the work. We dug up all manner of strange things from the little yard: coal, oyster shells, dog and horse bones, Mardi Gras beads, toys, bottles and bottle caps, marbles, spoons, forks, knives, broken pottery and one red shoe. Yes, one red shoe.

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