Bianca Knows Best ... and Helps a Gardener 

Dear Bianca,

With spring fast approaching, I've been thinking about planting an organic vegetable garden. Given the economic situation, it makes sense to start growing my own food. Can save money and help the Earth by eating locally.

However, I share my yard with three others. It's an old Midtown house that's been converted into apartments, and we all share a fenced-in backyard. There's plenty of room for a garden, but after talking with my neighbors, one man vetoed the idea. He likes to leave his dog in the backyard and he didn't want to be inhibited from doing so because of my garden.

The other two neighbors loved the garden idea and even offered to help. How can I convince the dog guy that a garden would benefit all of us?

Aspiring Gardener

Dear Aspiring,

Gardening is a wonderful way to provide fresh, organic food for yourself, your friends, and your family. And if there's anything we should all learn from this economic mess we're in, it's how to get back to our, um, roots.

However, since you're not a homeowner with full control of your backyard, you have a few hurdles to jump through. First, you should contact your landlord. He or she may not like the idea of you digging up the dirt on the property. But with the landlord's approval, it's simply a matter of convincing your stubborn neighbor.

If the yard is large enough, you could suggest building a small fence around the garden to protect it from the neighbor's dog. Though I will say that I once put up a fence around my backyard garden, and it didn't stop my pooch from peeing through the fence onto my pepper plants (maybe that's why they all died).

If the neighbor doesn't buy that idea, talk to him about the benefits of a garden. Explain that it would provide not only you, but also all the people in your building with fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, etc. That will save everyone money, and as you mentioned in your letter, it also benefits the Earth. Eating locally means reducing food miles. Most conventional grocery store produce travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate!

If that doesn't work, you might consider gardening at Shelby Farms Park. They provide free garden plots (and free water) on a first-come, first-serve basis. Learn more at ShelbyFarmsPark.org.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

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