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Family supplants lawn with garden

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com

Garrison and Kris Lloyd, inspired by stories they’d read about organic food, spent the winter planning for planting.

The northwest Rochester couple created a 1,000-square-foot, fenced vegetable garden that replaced at least half of the grass in their backyard.

Max would not have liked this.

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The Lloyd’s 15-year-old golden retriever was Max, who died last winter. He was once lord of his masters’ backyard, his place to run, frolic, scratch and sniff. This new garden would not have suited his interests one bit.

But even from doggie heaven, he ought to be able to see the smiles on his proud owners’ faces.

They have excitedly become "urban farmers."

"Hey, we’re from California," Garrison Lloyd said. "We wanted to have a Minnesota garden."

The Lloyds have planted corn, pumpkins, cabbages, three kinds of lettuce, watermelons, cantaloupes, red bell peppers, orange and green bell peppers, red-hot chili peppers, and Kentucky wonder beans. Also pickling cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, roma tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, dill, rosemary, oregano, sweet basil, parsley, mint, and garlic chives.

And roses.

"It’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?" Garrison Lloyd said.

Actually, by comparison, raising a lawn seems kind of crazy. All that work and expense to maintain it, and in the end, what does it get you?

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"We decided we needed to do something productive with our yard," Kris Lloyd said.

Garrison Lloyd, a project manager for CTG, a technology firm, drew plans as he would for any professional project. He plans a professional evaluation of the results, too.

"We thought, ‘We’ve got a big enough yard to almost have a farm,’" he said. "A lot has to do with flavor and taste, but a lot has to do, too, with, ‘Are we good stewards of the property that we have?’

"We’re doing a lot less mowing than we did before, and the return is going to be better," he said.

They’ll burn less gas in the mower, spend less at the grocery store — and maybe not even have to drive there as much. The garden attracts a wider range of birds, and the Lloyds love watching them.

The garden does require plenty of work. That’s OK with Kris Lloyd, who has the summer off from her job at John Marshall High School. Garden time is also good family time.

"One of our boys who’s kind of a picky eater helped plant," Kris Lloyd said. "So we’re hoping that through seeing the garden grow, he might sample some things. He planted the pumpkins, so the pumpkin patch is his. And the lettuce patch. He planted the cabbage.

"We call (that part of) it ‘his garden,’ because he did all the work."

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Setting up the garden was pretty cheap — less than $300 total to rent a sod-cutter and rototiller, buy peat moss and plants, and install rabbit-proof fences and hose extensions around the garden’s edges. The future yearly costs will be less, of course.

The Lloyds are looking forward to seeing how this first year goes and already have thought of things they’d add next year, such as asparagus — and maybe chickens. One imagines Max would have liked those.

"For us, it’s a learning experience," Kris Lloyd said. "We’ve never had a garden this big. But," she laughed, "we seem to be doing OK so far."

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