Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Garden 2013

Last year, I wrote a long post about my backyard garden at the beginning of spring, letting you know the rocky history of my untutored efforts as well as my plans for the future. I posted again, six weeks later, with pictures of beautiful, thriving plants and hopes of a wonderful harvest.

I stopped posting when everything fell into shambles. The kale was attacked by whiteflies, which later moved on to the kohlrabi (no loss there, since they never really developed edible bulbs). We harvested just a pound and a half of summer squash from five plants. All the winter squash plants that came up out of my compost (yes, all of them) turned out to be inedible decorative gourds. The tomatoes produced, but very lightly, the pole beans along the side of the house not at all (I may have gotten one bean). Bell peppers didn't really develop before the fall frost. Once things began to look disastrous, I lost my motivation to tell you about them. (It doesn't help that, once again, I was out of the country for six weeks during the middle of the summer).

But now none of that matters, because it was last year. (Gardening is wonderful that way - always positive and hopeful.) Once the new year hit and I started thinking about my garden again, these shifted from failures to learning experiences. Now I've accepted that, no matter how much effort I put into it, my raised vegetable bed is too shady for most summer crops. I've looked around for other areas of the yard that can be reclaimed for edibles. I've regained my enthusiasm.

One of the big plans that is moving forward (as of today!) is the relandscaping of or entire front yard. I never seem to get to tending the front garden (there's plenty to do in the back as it is!) and some of it is out of hand - there is a patch of bamboo that has spread through one whole side, taking over everything and killing some bushes in the process. The other side has fifteen-foot butterfly bushes that like to fall onto the driveway (and my car) next to enormous bare patches. So I've called in the professionals. The designer I talked to this morning presented a gorgeous plan: moving the path, relocating many of my existing bulbs (there are hundreds) and adding new bushes to create a lovely cottage garden. And the best part of all - my biggest request for this project - a new herb garden will sit smack in the middle, basking in the sunny side of the front yard.

The fact that this was a nebulous project (until today!) that will happen weeks in the future didn't stop me from heading up to Rutgers Day on Saturday to stock up at the Rutgers Master Gardener plant sale. Above is my new herb collection, which includes: tarragon, chervil, lovage, summer and winter savory, marjoram, golden oregano, Italian oregano, sorrel, and lemon grass. (Also on the trays are some cherry tomato plants from the sale and the spaghetti squash and Amish neck pumpkins I started from seed.) I don't want to worry about buying herbs at the grocery store ever again - I want to walk out my front door and have everything at my fingertips! Unfortunately, since the work is so far in the future, I'm going to have to plant these temporarily in the existing herb garden and transplant them later. I hope they can handle that!

The existing herb garden is looking lovely this year. The space I created last year by moving the irises has been very useful, although it does get pretty shady toward the back. I have plenty of Greek oregano, regular and lemon thyme, three rosemary plants (only one of which is happy), two sage plants, some parsley and some dill that will have to be moved to the front. In the back of the space (the shady end), I've planted some kale from seed. When the herbs move, the rest of the space will be converted to regular vegetables. The single tomato plant I put in last year was quite happy there, so that might be this bed's purpose in the future.

I've started some selective planting in the raised bed. The kale from last year is still around, although it bolted during that stretch of 80-degree weather we had at the beginning of the month. I'm going to let it flower and go to seed, just to see what it looks like. If any new kale grows from that seed, I'll probably just let it. I've also planted a row of green onions to the left of the kale, and rows of collard greens, leeks, arugula, radishes and rainbow chard at the other end of the garden. I'm hoping to fill most of this area with leafy greens that won't mind the shade.

I've also reclaimed a bit of this garden patch near the deck for more vegetables. I pulled out a section of pachysandra to make room for some rows of carrots and radishes (although I missed one perennial, which is now coming up right in the middle of the rows - I'll move it next year, I suppose). There are also some garden peas around the hitching post and around a trellis behind the lilac bush (can't be seen in this shot, but I cut back the lilac on that side so the little spot gets some sun). In the shade under the lilac, I've started spinach and more chard.

We're focusing more attention this year on container gardening. My deck pots tend to do decently well, but I get over-excited and put too many things in them. I'm going to keep to one plant per container this year and hope for a better yield. I also have a self-watering container that I plan on putting in the middle of the sunny driveway for my squash and pumpkins. We don't use the driveway in the back anyway, so the vines will be able to spread to their heart's content. Finally, Jeff is in the process of building me a 4' x 4' raised bed on wheels, which will also go in the driveway and probably hold peppers.

As always, I have so much hope for the future: our knowledge of our garden and its limitations has increased and we're trying to work with the space we have more effectively. Will we have the stellar harvest we've been hoping for? Who knows. But since we know so much more, and I'll actually be around all summer to monitor things, I'm convinced it will be better.


  1. mouth-watering to read!

  2. I'm excited to see how your garden progresses!