The side garden is almost completely planted now. I’m experimenting with some new ideas that completely revolutionize the way I work with that space. Instead of having each bed be dedicated to only one type of crop (plus the sunflowers for drawing the leaf footed bugs away from the crop plants), I am now putting multiple kinds of crops in each bed. With only a few exceptions, each type of crop serves a specific purpose, and each purpose works in harmony with the needs of all of the plants in the bed.
There are two tomato beds. Within one of the tomato beds, there are also sweet potatoes, sunflowers, and okra. I plan to build an arbor that will go over all of the beds in the side garden. The sweet potatoes will be one of the vines that I will train to grow over the top of the arbor to help provide shade for the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants so they don’t get too hot in the middle of the summer. Both the sunflowers and okra in this bed are for drawing the leaf footed bugs away from the tomatoes. And the okra will also be its own crop. For some reason, even though the leaf footed bugs seem to like the okra the best, they don’t seem to harm the actual okras to any great extent.
The other tomato bed also has malabar spinach, which is a vine, and Kentucky wonder pole beans for shade and for food, and sunflowers and okra. There is also one cantaloupe vine at one end of this bed. This is also for shade, and also because I want to see if I can grow cantaloups vertically.
The eggplant bed also has cucumbers, okra, and sunflowers, and one cantaloupe plant at one end. The cucumbers, while they are a vine, will only grow to about four feet, so they will be part of the vertical garden, growing up some tomato cages that will also provide support for the eggplants and the sunflowers, but they will probably not provide shade over the canopy. The benefit of this is that cucumbers are easily stressed in the heat, and can become quite bitter. This method will provide them with some shade.
The pepper bed also has multi-colored carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, and okra. The carrots and the Jerusalem artichokes, along with the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, only serve the purpose of being crop plants, and have no other purpose, with the exception of the sweet pea currant tomatoes.
Along one side of both of the tomato beds, I planted some of the sweet pea currant tomatoes. I wasn’t going to plant those this year because I wasn’t all that impressed with that variety of tomato and the plants take up enormous amounts of room, but I decided to use them as a source of shade. These tomato plants will grow extremely long and they branch out all over the place. I think I’ll probably trim off a lot of the growth that is below the level of the arbor, and let them do most of their growing on top of the arbor. And if we get a lot of little pea sized tomatoes from them, that’s ok, too.
We also have added strawberries to our crop plants. I have planted them in several different places. One of the places is the pots that the avocados are growing in, 4 strawberry plants per pot. And two pots that I already had in the garden shed got three each, and then six hanging baskets that will hang on the front porch each got two. These strawberries are everbearing, so while we won’t get a lot of strawberries at any one time, we should be having enough to keep us going for most of the summer and part of the fall.
I expanded the herb garden quite a bit and I’ve added a lot of new plant varieties. It’s probably about a third larger now than it was last year. The plants that have survived from last year, either because they never died back, or because they have returned, are rosemary, sage, common thyme, echinacea, marjoram, lemon balm, chives, garlic chives, tarragon, flat leaf parsley, dill, and cilantro. The cilantro came back in the spring, went to seed, and has already died. I will be planting more cilantro, but I think I’ll keep it in containers so I can give it some shade during the hotter months. I hope to be able to extend its season that way. I have planted more basil, because that did not reseed. Probably because I never allowed it to go to seed. This year, I will allow it to do that. I had a little bit of savory in the herb garden last year, but it didn’t thrive and it didn’t come back this year.
The new plants in the herb garden are peppermint, chocolate mint, bee balm, lavender, seasoning celery, leeks, Greek oregano, Italian oregano, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, curly leaf parsley, boxwood basil, fennel, lemongrass, and bay laurel. I’ve got some calendula seeds that I hope to start soon to transplant into the herb garden, and I just ordered some savory seeds. I planted some savory in cups for transplanting, but they didn’t germinate. They were pretty old, so I guess that’s no surprise. The lemongrass and bay laurel are in pots because they will need to go into the greenhouse along with the avocado plants in the winter, but the pots are placed in the herb garden. I also have a patchouli plant, but that is not in the herb garden because it needs more shade than it will get there. It is also in a pot and will go in the greenhouse in the winter.
There’s something about the herb garden that just draws me to it. I love looking at and being in all of the garden, and I love all of the garden plants, but there’s something about the herb garden that beckons me.
I haven not done any work in the lower garden yet. We didn’t have time to till it this year. I think what I’ll probably do is put down landscape cloth over the whole thing, and let it lie fallow during the hot part of the year and then see if I can work with it in the fall. The other side of the house is also going to have some beds eventually, but the workmen still haven’t finished doing whatever it is that they need to do there to be able to call the job done. This is a source of some frustration, but I have to look at these developments as being a part of the larger plan for the garden. When the time is right for me to make a change in the garden, then all of the elements will be in place to make it happen. When all of the elements are not in place, that means it’s not time yet.
I suspect that the other side of the house not being ready, and not having time to till the back garden are serving an important purpose. Because of these things, I have been inspired to try out these new combinations of plants in the existing side garden.
The blueberry bushes are preparing a nice crop of berries. One of the bushes (one that we bought at Sam’s Club – never again) died this spring. One of the others, also from Sam’s, is not really thriving. I will probably move that one, and I have bought two new bushes to put in their places.
The lettuce is in three long window box-type planters. I’m finding that I can extend the lettuce season by growing it in planters, so that they can be in the sun in the colder weather and the shade in the hot weather.
Other plants, like beets (golden this year, I think), broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, I will plant in the fall. Hopefully in a new garden bed on the other side of the house.
I still have to make a bed for the plants that will be just for the use of the bugs. I think I’ll put sunflowers, okra, a tomato plant, and maybe a pepper plant. And maybe also some nasturtiums. That’s going to go on the other side of the house also, probably in an area where the workmen are already finished. Or maybe I’ll put it just next to the greenhouse. I think I need to spend some time communicating with nature before I start any work on that.
I added two toad houses that I made from terracotta pots. I don’t know if the toads will use them – there are so many nice, toad-friendly places for them to hang out in the garden, but I felt that it would be appropriate to provide them with little toad houses just in case they need them or want to use them.