Once upon a time, Colleen lived in a city and hated it a whole lot. Cities are full of bland, overpriced housing, like this characterless unit I used to call home.

But on closer inspection, you’ll see I managed to turn my little plot of distant soil into a garden paradise.

A flock of happy ducks became part of my home.

Kristen and several other readers want to know if the nifty raised garden beds I rave about in the last post will be of use in their apartments. I tend to think they’ll be too large for you. And if you’re not on the bottom floor, with 500 lbs of dirt added, they will be too heavy for your porch.

Also, some homeowner’s associations can be very restrictive about what you can put where. After my garden grew, nosy neighbors became a pain.

Visitations from dangerous birds, like the ducks you see here, inspired the terrified villagers to pass a rule prohibiting bird feeding.

Here my beloved kitty Sawyer the Wonder Tom takes a stroll. He was very happy in my garden, and would sit outside all day, getting dive bombed by a bluejay.

The evil birds were so hated by my neighbors, that one of the few neighbors I had who wasn’t a psycho – a handsome, hero firefighter – got reported to his boss for felonious bird feeding, among other transgressions.

Yes, you read that right. They actually tried to get a hero firefighter, well, fired. For bird feeding.

My next door neighbors did the dastardly deed. When it came time to sell my condo, and an interested party stopped by to have a look, the lady next door (who wasn’t as much of a lady as she hoped to be thought of) asked, “Were they black?”

And I said, “I didn’t notice.”

The creeps next door were from Brooklyn, and seemed to have some sort of perverse allergy to nature. While being nice to my face, they reported me for felonious bird feeding, too.

Once, when I put my trash next to the door so a relative could pick it up and discard for me since I was too sick to walk it to the dumpster, they reported the crime. The fine for being unable to walk was $185.

When neighbor dude was sick with cancer, I baked the guy cookies. When I was so sick I had to come home from New York in a wheelchair, they made no inquiries – except to report errant trash bags next to my door.

In addition, my neighbors routinely stole the lovely flowers. I’d come out in the morning and find the treasures plundered.

Clueless landscapers would also grab lavender and other delights from the roots and toss them in the trash. “I don’t know nothing about these exotic plants!” grumbled one after I came running after him to retrieve my treasures.

I had no problem with the potted plants on or in my porch, but all plants surrounding my unit, the small plot which I had bought with the condo, were fair game for anyone with sticky fingers or eaten up with stupid.

Container gardening of this kind is probably best for the amateur urban gardener. It takes time to get used to how often which plant wants water, and in summer, some may require watering twice a day. You must read instructions, and keep a record of how your plants respond.

Also, terra cotta pots crack in cold weather, and must be brought indoors. Plastic pots, made to look like stone, are your best bet. You can leave your perennials outside all winter.

Important safety tip: anything you intend to bring indoors, keep on pot feet at all times. Bugs crawl in the drainage holes in your pots, and you bring them indoors with you. You get fewer bugs if your pots sit on feet.

I love hanging pots, and pots that hang off the railing. Grow tomatoes in a hanging pot.

My garden’s success was its doom, Harrison Bergeron in action. As you can see here, I had so many luscious plants, and my New Dawn rose was such a healthy resident, that the homeowner’s association passed new rules limiting the size and scope of the gardens we could have. I was ordered to get rid of the rose bush. My neighbors thought it was too big, and attracted birds.

I kid you not.

I really hated my neighbors, who all seemed to be from places with lots of pavement. They were pathologically suspicious of anything that wasn’t coated in plastic. After getting rid of the ducks (they even had some shot one night,) they installed plastic ducks on the lawn.

I could not wait to get away from these people.

Here’s my mom for a visit, enjoying the rose the neighbors hated.

My homeowner’s association presented me with a bill for $50 per day the rose remained in place
. I appealed, and was given an extension to remove it when the plant went dormant. One frosty January, we hacked it back and dug it up, and transported it to my parent’s house, where it grew over 13 feet and flourished for years. When they sold the house, the new owner cut it down.

I wish city people would stay in cities and leave nature alone.

Please keep your Wal Mart, and your pavement, and your astroturf to yourselves.

The lesson here is the biggest problem you may have with your apartment garden is psychotic apartment residents. Find out what the homeowner’s association rules are before you plant anything. If your garden goes too well, you may find the rules changed on you.

Thus, I was driven back to the country where I belong.

And my former neighbors remain in their characterless condo. They choke daily on carbon monoxide, hear the honking of horns, and spy on their fellows, eyes peeled for transgressions like errant rose bushes, and dastardly bunches of lavender.

Thank God I’m a country girl.