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A produce garden grows in Woodstock

by: MERRY MACKINNON - Alex Trimbles garden attracts lots of attention from passersby. He also grows enough produce to feed his family fresh vegetables through most of the year.As did many other Inner Southeast residents who were raising families in the 1950s, two Woodstock neighbors living next to each other on Mitchell Street between Southeast 44th and 45th Avenues, back then planted vegetables and fruit trees on their 50- by 100-foot lots. Some of those apple and fig trees still bear fruit.

Two generations later, Alex Trimble and his family live in one of those vintage houses, and recently purchased the side lot of the other. Trimble, who spent a year studying art history in Italy, moved around a lot and was limited to raising orchids in pots – so having a 100- by 100-foot lot for gardening seemed like having a giant blank canvas to paint on.

“This is my first big yard,” he said. “I spent a lot of time thinking about it.”

He put food production up front on the south-facing side of the house, where he built raised beds in the parking strip, and planted vegetables and fruit trees.

There are five in his family, and Trimble – who used to work at Powell's Books, in Internet sales – has been a stay-at-home dad since 2006, watching over his two sons and creating his garden.

The vegetables include five kinds of squash, four types of beans, artichokes, several varieties of kale, collard greens, chilies, chard, cucumbers, onions, turnips, lettuce, carrots, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, and a long list of herbs. Together, they provide the family with fresh produce for all but two months out of the year.

“We do buy sweet potatoes,” he conceded.

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, apricots, plums, cherries, and pomegranates fill in the front yard – although the apricot and pomegranate trees are tricky, and Trimble said he needs to manage them better.

Amidst the edibles, seven-foot-tall echiums tower over the raised beds. Native to the Mediterranean, those showy green pillars with pink florets attract the most attention from passersby.

In the back, next to his greenhouse, is an Asian garden – thick with orchids, yellow gardenias, cobra lilies, 25 species of bamboo, and banana plants. In the greenhouse Trimble grows the orchids, and propagates other plants, some of which he also sells. On a recent July day, he had pots of Tibetan ginger and Turkish and hybrid poppies for sale.

On the newly-acquired lot next door, a grapevine has already taken root and spread along sturdy fencing. There are five chickens in a handsome chicken coop there, too, and a children’s jungle gym. And there’s plenty of space left for Trimble to fill in with more plants.