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Garden Visit: Fashion Designer Courtney Klein’s Mission District Backyard


Garden Visit: Fashion Designer Courtney Klein’s Mission District Backyard

July 22, 2014

“It’s kind of a little postage stamp, but coming from New York I think this feels gigantic and amazing,” clothing designer Courtney Klein says of the backyard garden in San Francisco that she and her husband created from scratch last year.

When Courtney and Zach moved to the Mission District, the so-called garden consisted of a ratty backyard with a half-dead rosebush growing against the fence–and a bug problem. “It was hopping with fleas,” she says.

The fashion designer was in the process of launching a new business (her Storq collection of maternity clothing), but when her husband suggested they also launch a garden revival, she signed on eagerly. “He said, ‘Let’s turn this backyard around.’ ” And they did.

We caught up with them (and their now thriving edible garden) via Ann Street Studio, whose Jamie Beck recently spent a day photographing Courtney at home:

Photographs by Jamie Beck.

Above: Klein’s landlord painted the fence (and house) a soothing chalkboard gray, the perfect foil for the green vines that grow on it. For more information about the paint color, see Steal This Look: Courtney Klein’s Edible Garden.

Courtney’s Storq maternity collection turned out to be of personal as well as professional interest to her. “I became pregnant myself, so it was kind of funny timing,” she said. “I got the idea because I have a lot of friends and family who are having kids, and one thing that kept coming up was maternity fashion. More children are being born to women over 30 who are established in their careers, but maternity fashion hasn’t adjusted.”

Storq offers a bundled collection of four essential pieces of clothing. “The bundle becomes your pregnancy base layer uniform,” Courtney said. “You can pair stuff you already own on top of it.”


Above: “My husband built all the garden boxes. I’m his assistant,” said Courtney. “Being able to garden has been one of the biggest joys about moving here. Neither of us ever had a garden before.”

Above: The garden’s cold frames are built of 10-foot-long redwood planks, and have brass hinges and handles. Instead of using panes of glass, the couple went to a plastic supply shop; the panes are lightweight and virtually unbreakable.

Above: Last winter’s edible garden included chard, kale, cabbages, and several varieties of lettuce: Tom Thumb, Little Gem romaine, and Grandpa Admire’s. “We went to the Petaluma Seed Bank for our seeds,” she said.

For more about the 1,200 varieties of rare seeds that are for sale in a renovated bank building in Petaluma, see A Bank for Rare Seeds in Petaluma.

“We are total newbies and just experimenting with the garden. We’ve had some really weird successes and some weird failures,” said Courtney. “For some reason when we tried to grow broccoli, it was a total disaster. Every bug in San Francisco lived in that broccoli. We ended up having to take it out because it was creating chaos. But our radicchio grew to the point where we were trying to give it away to everyone we know because we just couldn’t eat it all.”

Above: A concrete outdoor table and wooden benches–which Courtney and her husband stained–were ordered from Amazon. “We’re big Amazon Prime users,” says Courtney. “For our wedding, we Amazon Primed heat lamps.”

To find out how to buy that concrete table, see Steal This Look: Courtney Klein’s Edible Garden.

Above: Salvia (R) and a butterfly bush attract hummingbirds. “It’s funny, because we have this hummingbird feeder. I’m devoted to the thing, but the hummingbirds all head to the butterfly bush, and I’m like, ‘Come on, there’s a whole thing waiting for you here,’ ” Courtney said. “I’m just going to keep filling the feeder and some day they’re going to like it.”

Above: “We realized that if we just let the herbs do their thing, they suddenly start sprouting,” said Courtney. “When I was trying to take control and trimming them all the time, it was a mistake. They were too manicured. I think I over-loved them.”

Above: The raised bed was built by Zach in western red cedar. The potted plants came from the San Francisco Flower Mart or Flowercraft Garden Center. “And a couple of things are from Flora Grubb–you can’t live in San Francisco and not go there,” said Courtney.

For more Bay Area gardens, see An Urban Surf Shack in San Francisco and Steal This Look: Water Troughs as Raised Garden Beds.

Updated from a post published January 22, 2014.

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