Lena Hristova talks about her gardening journey and experience with Chard Your Yard


Longfellow resident Lena Hristova has been working to transform a lawn into a garden since she moved to the neighborhood nearly three years ago.
She has one of the 240 raised garden beds Chard Your Yard has installed since it began in 2013.

What type of gardener are you?
Hristova: I moved to the neighborhood in February 2020, shortly before the pandemic. Spending a lot more time at home definitely accelerated my gardening journey. I’d say I’m a curious gardener. I try to do a little more each season and grow plants for food, as well as to create a beautiful environment and support native species.

How did you hear about Chard Your Yard and what drew you to the program?
I looked into neighborhood organizations when I moved because I knew I wanted to start making connections with our new neighbors, and found the Longfellow Community Council. It was through one of their newsletters that I discovered Chard Your Yard. It was perfect for a beginner like me.
CYY is a program run by volunteers, who build and install raised garden beds every spring. I’ve signed up every spring since I moved!

Please share details on
your yard project/s.
My overarching goal is to replace all of my lawn with native perennial plants, which provide food for pollinators, and raised beds to grow vegetables and herbs for us. The fruit trees and berries we’ve added to our yard provide for both.
My yard was a blank slate (except for weeds) when I started, so I have been able to choose everything that has gone in to it since. I have a Mesabi cherry, which fruited last year for the first time, an in-ground strawberry patch, raspberry bushes and a black currant. This spring I added a Zestar apple tree. The vegetables and herbs live in the raised beds and additional containers. I always grow one or two tomatoes and peppers, lettuce and peas earlier in the season, and cucumber and eggplant later on. I experimented with pumpkins, which were very easy to grow and very exciting to harvest in the fall. For herbs, I plant chamomile, lavender, basil, marjoram, mint and dill. Dill is a favorite of the swallowtail butterflies and last summer we were able to raise 19 of them and release them around Lake Nokomis!
The first summer I learned: A) fencing around the raised beds and any food plants close to the ground is a must; B) that mint should have its own container or it will take over everything; C) square foot gardening is aspirational, however, I should always plant fewer things than I think I have space for; and D) to invest in good cages/stakes/trellises. Almost all my produce gets eaten fresh and there’s plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs to share with friends and family.
In partnership with Metro Blooms, I created a raingarden in my front yard. I planted a prairiefire crabapple last year and I am working on slowly adding more and more perennials like rose and lilac bushes and oriental poppies. I also plant some annuals like zinnias and dahlias for cut flowers.

What do you appreciate most about the Chard Your Yard project and how did it change your yard?
I deeply appreciate CYY because the program has helped me get started with raised bed gardening. The soil quality in many city yards is poor and sometimes even dangerous (presence of heavy metals), so starting on a small scale in a raised bed with new and good quality soil is manageable and fun. I also loved the garden tour later in the season where we could visit other CYY gardens in the neighborhood.
I highly recommend it for anyone in the neighborhood! It’s a lovely way to spend more time outside and all of your friends are going to be impressed by your hyperlocal produce!


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