No, I don't have a back 40. Maybe I have a back four like you, a 4x4x4 chunk of concrete back patio in Bernal Heights, ancient cactus in one corner, Wizard-of-Oz cyclone cellar door in the other, a few beat-up chairs, windchimes, and ashtrays filling in the rest. Perfect for a garden! Last summer, my gardening lust didn't get tripped until July, when I came home with high hopes and a couple of leggy tomato plants, only to find myself running a soup kitchen for a hungry neighborhood of whiteflies and aphids. Embarassing for someone with a certificate in ecological horticulture, to say the least.
This year, I put that hard-won CASFS knowledge to use. To wit: pests prey on weak plants, plants growing out of season, deprived of the nutrients they need. A healthy eco-system is one that supports beneficial bugs and pollinators, with a mixed palette of plants and bugs that can overwhelm destructive pests. Food not lawns, sure, but flowers can be just as hard-working as veggies, pumping out the nectar that feeds the bees and wasps, and in the process both enabling plant sex and elbowing out less desirable insects. Bachelor's buttons, borage, sweet alyssum, morning glory, cosmos, sunflowers: they all bloomed and did their part, along with the stunning salpiglossis that was just there to look gorgeous.
So, what was growing in the back four by four? Tomatoes, of course, which no summer gardener can be without, even in too-chilly, too-foggy San Francisco. Not having the willpower of the Zen gardeners at Green Gulch, who bow to the powers of their surrounding cool marine winds and don't even try, I compromised with a couple of cherry tomato plants, a Chadwick Cherry (named after Alan Chadwick, mad genius and founding UCSC gardener) and a Golden Nugget, both birthed from thumb-sized starts from the Free Farmstand. The rest of the veggies came from seeds, thanks to my conviction that unless it's grown from seed, you didn't really earn it and it's not really yours.