Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Garden, Garden.

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!


Maymomvt said...

I love gardens and can't wait to pour over this post. It will have to wait, however, as the next couple of days are ridiculously busy.

Tara said...

I don't think you left anything out in your plan :) I hope the weather cooperates, and I can't wait to see some pics when things start growing!!

Sally said...

This sounds great, Denise!!!

Jodi Anderson said...

Ooooh, this post is right up my alley! I love to read about garden plans and I really love to plot out my garden (on graph paper). Your drawings are gorgeous and your plans sound great. I look forward to photos to match the pictures later this year. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Wow! That sounds like a great plan. I seem to be completely hopeless in the garden. We just moved into our house last year, so we need to plan almost all of the landscaping. It seems pretty overwhelming. Your post was an inspiration.

Lisa Anne said...

Our extension agency has workshops on composting and rain water catchment, if you go to one of these workshops you get a free compost bin or a free rain barrel. Check this is out in your area to see if there is something like this. I never worked so closely with the extension agency before, but they ROCK! And its all women working there, they are amazing.

I love urban farming, its how I got started as a farmer. I had a small back yard and front yard, I talked my neighbors into tearing down fences and creating a large green space and we all worked together on the gardens, I mostly grew herbs and small fruit, I was worried about lead because these were all older homes. Then I "rented" 4 spaces at a local community garden and grew all our food and enough to share with older neighbors, nothing like having produce delivered to your door by a sweet 4 yo. little girl. What a way to make community! The community garden was three miles away and at that time I did not have a car, so I bicycled with a trailer full of gardening implements and Amelia in a baby seat. A memory I have is having the trailer also full of pumpkins from a recent harvest and trying to peddle up a big hill and Amelia yelling "Faster Mama, Faster!" Those were hard times as a single mama, but lots of fun memories; some love,a library card and a garden is all you need to survive in this crazy world! That is what I taught Amelia from a very young age.
I am very excited about your garden!

denise said...

Thanks, all! :) I figure if I post it, it will get me going!!!

Lisa Anne - Thanks for the tip! I know our county has some reduced cost barrels and composters, but some of the stuff isn't "attractive" enough for our HOA rules, but we have enough plantings to now shield it from the street, so I think we are good. But I haven't checked the extension - good idea.

Yeah, I don't worry about lead, but I don't like planting certain foods so close to the foundations. I have seen how little topsoil we have (before homes it was all cornfield and soybeans forever). But I am burying some pots in the ground for things and have been adding tons of new soil and compost every year so I have some good spots...Part of me wants to just rip out all the grass and have all garden/paths, but then it is so sloped and there are all the utilities, so I go a bit at a time!

Speaking of community gardens...I have a meeting with our (super cool) alder woman soon to talk about making a community garden right here in our neighborhood. There is an empty field and one business/developer has first we have an idea which will hopefully make them want to buy it and let us use it. ;) So I have been scouring all the websites and have a few books coming about it. Gotta make a plan. But our alder is a super cool lady with a lot of motivation and very into sustainability and community and organics, so I'm excited.

What great memories...I agree with your three things. ANd that is inspiring that you started with a yard and community garden and now have a farm (our ultimate goal if homes ever start to sell again! ;)).

dawn klinge said...

I'm so impressed with all you manage to fit into a small space. I can just imagine how beautiful it will be. I never thought about growing plants that take a lot of space, like pumpkins, around the shrubs. What a great idea! I eventually want my yard to be mostly garden also. Best of luck with your plans- I can't wait to see photos.

Claudia - La Casa nella Prateria said...

You seem to be quite busy! I still wonder how you can do all the interesting things you do in just 24 hours a day.

And... I love your drawings... you should frame them!

tiff said...

...oh i am so jealous...our soil around the yurt is horrible...i tried...believe me i tried last summer, but only had zucchini and sugar peas develop...

well and garden this summer.

i agree your drawings are amazing...and i would so love to see pictures when things are cool.

Anet said...

Oh, I only wish for a yard like this someday Denise. It sounds fantastic!

Heather said...

Wow!! Love that watercolour garden plan. I do a simple sketch of my veg garden each year(mostly to keep my rotations top of mind from year to year) but you have me inspired to do a watercolour plan of all my gardens. I know what my boys and I will be doing tomorrow. Lovely blog.