I work in downtown Cleveland, and our office is right on the edge of AsiaTown. When the weather’s nice, I take regular walks around the neighborhood, and over the years, I’ve noticed that most people have some sort of vegetable garden. I don’t know if this is some sort of cultural thing, because if I’m in a predominantly white area, the gardens per capita drops precipitously. In any case, I love walking around and observing what they do. Since it’s an Asian area, there are lots of yard-long beans, bitter melon, and winter melon, but there’s plenty of tomatoes, some peppers, and even some okra and corn.
Most of these lots are probably 1/10 of an acre or less, yet their productivity never ceases to amaze me. They utilize chain-link and wooden fences, old buckets, broken ladders, and any number of containers and/or trellis materials. I stopped and talked with an 82 year-old former engineer from Burma, who had quite an impressive display, with peppers, squash, beans, tomatoes, greens, and other vegetables. He had turned most of his backyard into a system of posts and slatted roofs, with squash growing up and over, and the fruits hanging down through the gaps. While the language was a barrier at times, he was fun to talk to. It’s funny how so many people think you need lots of land in the country to garden. Many of the homes that I walk past each day have a fraction of what I have, and yet put my gardens to shame. Very cool to see how other people do it using what they have available to them.