You wouldn’t think the scorching-hot summer of 2012 would be the best time to turn practically your entire backyard into a vast flower and vegetable garden.
For Carol Crosby, the die was cast by nature itself and the Great Drought of ’12 really hasn’t been that big a deal. There’s ample evidence of that claim in the form of scores of egg plants, green peppers and tomatoes teeming among the vines, as well as the blanket of color from the flowers.
“I wanted pretty much a wild garden,” said Crosby, sitting on the rear patio of her home in the 4100 block of Madison Avenue in Brookfield on a warm, sunny morning on Monday.
“You wouldn’t believe the bumblebees and butterflies. This place is like a paradise.”
Prior to this summer, Crosby’s backyard was fairly standard. Lots of grass, a couple of trees, including a white pine and an ash tree. The pine was planted by Crosby’s sons, Patrick and Michael on the occasion of her 60th birthday in 1995. The ash was a replacement for a tree that was struck by lightning six or so years ago.
In 2012, lightning struck again. This time, it sheared off the top of the pine tree. And instead of spending time and water caring for a lawn, Crosby made a big decision – she cleared off about half of her 65-foot-wide backyard for a vast flower and vegetable garden. A month later, she reclaimed another quarter of the backyard for more flowers.
“It’s gotten to the point where the grass is a luxury,” said Crosby, who noted that her garden has thrived despite only a handful of manual waterings.
Crosby didn’t do the planting herself. She was helped out by a friend who has experience raising plants for farmers markets. She left it up to him to plant the specimens, which include a good 30- to 40-foot row of eggplants and another equally long row of green peppers. There are more than half a dozen types of tomatoes, from cherry tomatoes to plum tomatoes to big boys and heirlooms.
“I let them go with whatever was easy and what could stand the heat,” said Crosby, who is a former Brookfield village trustee and former public library trustee.
Much of the bounty goes to family and neighbors. Crosby said she’s even toyed with the idea of contacting the St. Barbara Parish food pantry to see if the nuns who run the pantry might be able to distribute the fresh produce to their clients.
Crosby’s favorite part is gazing out at the vibrant colors of the zinnias and carpet of small, globular purple and pink flowers that border the vegetables.
And she’s already thinking about her approach to next year’s garden. In addition to a greater variety of vegetables, Crosby said she’ll probably give up even more of the lawn space that still exists on the half of the yard where the garden was planted.
“Next time I’ll take more part in the decision-making,” she said. “I like cosmos [star-shaped pink and white flowers that grow at the end of slender stalks bearing feathery leaves]. I like things that blow in the wind.
“I want to do more veggies and flowers, not as much grass. I want to save the water.”