Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Can you believe it is almost May? With all of the work and volunteer projects this spring I feel so behind on the garden!!! Two weekends back we had some nice weather and I was able to dig out some more new beds and clean up a lot, but there is still much to do. The past week has been wet and cold so we have not spent much time outside, but today I worked on sketching the final plan for the summer. I'm a visual person so I need to see it - and drawings work well for me (esp. in color!).
One of the challenges of our yard is that it is basically a bowling lane. A house on each side, only 14-18 feet apart, with sun on one side in the morning, on the other side in the afternoon. The front leads directly into the street, the back into an alley with a steep hill. We also have electric and gas meters for two houses running right down the middle, and then also our AC and venting for the dryer and water heater along the side. There is also only a few inches of dirt before hitting large rocks of red sandstone. So for those of you who think you have a small or challenging yard and cannot garden - think again! :)
With the gas and electric running out from both sides and down the middle, I do have areas that I really don't want to plant food. Plants, yes, but do I want to eat something which grew in front of the neighbors hot water heater vent (and smells like gas) or right on top of the gas line? Nope. But I also don't want to look at the stuff. So, I have been digging beds out along the side to grow different segments of things such as a butterfly garden area, a bird feeder and bird garden area, and then a lot of herbs. The herbs we use for eating/drinking, I grow in other safe spots, but I also love to grow certain things which repel insects, like lemon balm and marigolds, which will be fine over the utilities and are easy to care for.
Last year we started with a few fruit bushes (blueberries & raspberries) and I plan to plant some additional fruit bushes along a garage this year. We are trying huckleberry, gooseberry, and ground cherry.
I love herbs. I use them for cooking, teas, soap, and healing - both fresh and dried. I try out different things each year in addition to my base kitchen favorites. I grow them throughout the garden as well as in pots on my front porch. This year we plan on growing thyme, basil, sage, cilantro, dill, chives, lemon balm, chamomile, anise hyssop, bee balm, fennel, oregano, marjoram, parsley, borage, summer savory, tarragon, mints, purslane, shisho, and feverfew. Whew. Sounds like a lot, but it doesn't seem like it in the garden.
I also grow different varieties of beans, snap peas, and other runners as well. This year I am going to try something different and run them up fishing line to our fabric covered gazebo - we'll see. Plant rotation is also a challenge in small spaces, but there are many creative ways to move things around. I also will grow squash up and over my arbor - looks cool and keeps the crazy spreading leaves in one spot. We almost decided to grow hops over the arbor, but I think that is for next year. I also grow cucumbers up a mini-trellis, but I usually do that in pots!
Other things I always grow and plan to have this year include several types of tomatoes, lots of different peppers, eggplant, carrots, beets, radishes, swiss chard, cabbage, etc. I think I am going to start a raised bed by the alley for additional veggies (I'm behind!). It has to be small enough to fit, but I need the extra space where it will get sun...not a lot of other options!
As I said, I grow a lot on my porch. I like pots in that I can move things close to the house for safety in big storms. We do get a lot of heavy rains, wind, hail and just crazy weather here - and pulling a lot of plants in tightly together against the building is a relief, I tell ya. So I will still be planting pots. Last year I had about 15 pots out front. 6-8 large, the rest smaller. In the front I will also be trying to grow tomatoes and strawberries from hanging baskets this year. Another "we'll see" thing.
I do have one small square bed in back by my deck which I rotate plantings on every year. Last year I grew sunflowers, beans, corn, and tomatoes along with various flowers and herbs in between. SO, this year the boys get to pick...they want melons and pumpkins. I usually tuck these space suckers under bushes in the mulch and the re-direct them around and around during the summer until we harvest them in the fall. I think having this space set aside for these will be good - the melons might want more heat and sunshine, but "we'll see"! In the middle of the kids area we will once again have a fort. Two years ago we had a sunflower house with morning glories climbing the sides. Last year we had a narrow aisle between the sunflowers and beans which the boys could sneak into. This year I am planning a bamboo teepee, which can be right in the middle of the other things, and be covered in vines, with a mulch floor.
The last plan is for a new tree in front, planted within a circle to contain additional edible flowers and herbs. We need a tree up there, and are still deciding what type of tree would work best...hmmm, maybe fruit.
OH! And how could I forget? We are expanding our composting plans to a larger piece out back. We really need something big with all the plants we have, but don't have the space for it - and with our HOA rules it has to be out of site. But we have a plan! We also hope to (finally) have rain barrels installed along the side of the house.
So as you can see, digging a few more beds and clearing out some stuff is not quite enough compared to our grand plans. We are pretty far north, so we actually are not doing horribly-our transplants won't go out until mid-May at the earliest, and many herbs and flowers do come back happily on their own along with the blooming fruit bushes and trees, so we are moving along even with freezing temps and flurries! The next month will be a big one in the garden, with a lot more to do. And of course some of the plans will change once we are planting in ground and seeing what is working (and what plants we actually have in hand at that point). Exciting! I can't wait to see how everything looks by summer!