Every year, around mid-winter, I get the itch to plan a new garden.
Catalogues start arriving in the mail from Gurney’s, Burpee, and several others that I cannot recall. I pour through the pages, flagging flowers I’d like to add to my garden, or shrubs I think would look lovely in my yard. I dream of having a small fruit orchard, and wonder how much room it would take to grow enough plants to dye yarn in a rainbow of colors.
Then I gaze out my windows and reality strikes. As I mentioned in my last post, my yard is surrounded on most sides by large maple trees. This has allowed me to hang bird feeders, a tree swing, and a hammock, all of which increase the enjoyment of my yard. It has also proven to be a challenge when it comes to gardening.
The first year we lived here, I spent my first winter planning a garden in the front of our house. We moved here from the city and I watched the spot I thought would make a good garden carefully. It faced the south, and all winter it got an incredible amount of sun. In the early spring, I took some bricks and roughed out the outline of where I wanted the garden to be and watched it some more. Six hours of sun is a good rule of thumb for a vegetable garden, and this spot was perfect. Or, so I thought. What I failed to consider, with my lack of experience, was that the trees had not put out their leaves yet.
My husband and I put some railroad ties down, dug out the top layer of grass, and filled that garden in with topsoil. I planted all sorts of vegetables in there, and waited. The garden grew fairly. It did not receive enough sun to thrive, and after four years I put a bird bath in the middle and planted flowers around it. It’s now a thriving flower garden and the butterflies love it.
I tried again in the back yard, in a spot far away from the trees, next to my fence. This spot gets more than four hours of a sun a day, but the Town Hall shadows it in the afternoon, and again, my vegetables didn’t thrive there. It is now an herb garden, and the herbs do better than any other place I’ve tried them in my yard. The most ideal place in my yard for a vegetable garden is smack in the middle of the back yard, which would be fine, if we didn’t have a dog who liked to run laps, and a fire pit back there. So, I’ve given up on growing vegetables and have settled for flowers and herbs.
When planning for a new garden it’s important to consider the factors that the plants you want to grow need: sunlight, space, and water. Some plants like well drained soil, some plants like wetter soil, some plants like sandy soil. Just because you have space for a raised bed garden, does not mean that you can fill it with rows of vegetable plants. You can, however practice square foot gardening (which I did for years, and loved), and make good use of the space you have.
Eventually, I want to plant a dye garden along my back fence. That requires time I do not have right now, and so it’s in a holding pattern. This year I bought some annuals at the nursery and tucked them in around the granite slabs and my old bench. I also put some potted plants on top of the bench for visual interest. If all you have room for is potted plants, that is okay too. Use the space you have and make it work for you.
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