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'Yarden' produces unorthodox bounty for Como Avenue couple

Front-yard garden attracts attention from neighbors, city leaders

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Clintonville couple Allison Collins and Justin Rooney have turned their front yard into Como Yarden, an area filled with edible plants of all sorts.

Collins said the idea for Como Yarden started after she and her husband joined the neighbors in a course on permaculture design certification, then installed an vegetable garden where their two front lawns used to be. They completed the course about six years ago and Collins has been gardening ever since.

Permaculture seeks to develop sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled on natural ecosystems.

Collins and Rooney have a number of plants and fruit trees growing in their front yard at 268 W. Como Ave. Plants that can be seen at the moment include rhubarb, lavender, raspberries and lovage. Fruit trees include dwarf varieties of peach, nectarine and plum.

Collins said the trees provided quite a bit of fruit, and one of the raspberry varietals produced a second crop of berries last September.

At the moment, lots of ground cover has taken over the front yard. The couple allows the ground cover to serve as forage for pollinators, then they turn it into green mulch prior to planting. It will be chopped up and left in place to nourish the seedlings and plants in the garden, Collins said.

Rooney pointed out many of the plants that often are considered weeds are edible.

"Red dead-nettle is an edible plant and part of the mint family," he said.

Dandelions are another edible plant often found growing in yards, he said.

Collins said they have received plants, seeds and encouragement from others as word has spread about the garden project. All of their plants are heirloom, non-GMO and sometimes organic, she said.

Collins and Rooney said in many ways, they just leave the garden be and let Mother Nature do the work.

"Praying mantis, wasps, bees and other insects can be found in the garden, and we just let the plants go," Collins said.

Rooney has an interest in beekeeping and has a hive in the backyard. However, he said taking care of them is a challenge.

"Colony collapse disorder has made it difficult to have bees," he said.

The house is located near the Olentangy bike trail and across from a small pocket park. A sign in front tells a little about the garden, permaculture, and the City Folk's Farm Shop, which sells some of the plants.

Collins said she and her husband have met many of their neighbors through the garden. Neighbors often stop by and passersby shout words of encouragement, she said.

"It's been fun interacting with neighbors and people who live nearby," she said.

The couple also conducts occasional tours for students.

"It's exciting because we show the kids how to pick some vegetables themselves, and they are surprised that they like a vegetable they didn't know they liked before," Collins said.

In addition to the garden, Collins holds a seedling sale in the spring. She started the seedlings in February at a friend's home.

About 800 seedlings will be for sale, she said. The sale will take place at the couple's home from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11; all plants cost $3.

What doesn't sell will go to City Folk's Farm Shop and the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center.

The couple received a Green Spot for Como Yarden two years ago. Green Spots are given by the city of Columbus to recognize households or businesses that make the commitment to being green.

A Facebook page, facebook.com/ComoYarden, showcases some plants from the garden and features gardening tips.

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