Remember when I talked about our efforts to expand our garden this year? Well, we’re finally at a point where it’s pretty much considered done. Yes, somehow, there are still a boatload of seeds that could be planted (which you will think is absolutely crazy if you keep reading). Those include second crops and us just plain running out of space for the time being. So, what all did we do?
This is our primary living/garden space. Just a couple of months ago it was mostly lawn with slightly overrun flower beds and a pear tree stump in the middle. There was a section of gravel with our patio table that was riddled with weeds. After a lot of digging, rototilling and physical labor this is what we we have. From here it, hopefully, looks like a regular landscaped outdoor living space. In reality, it is almost completely edible.
On this side, and slightly behind the shot, the big feature is the hops wall. Altogether there are six hops plants, each with 3 runners leading from the ground to the roof of the house. By the end of the season not only should we have hops (although it won’t be ready to harvest until next year) we’ll have shade along the back of the house where the heat of the afternoon sun hits the worst. Along with the hops are vegetables, flowers, herbs and lettuce. The intent was really to isolate, here in the courtyard, the plants that a lot of the animals may feast on. We have a deer problem (and a neighbor who insists on maintaining a feeding station for them). We also noticed, last year, that wild rabbits were back around once we planted more lettuce, etc. We’ve designed most of our beds with three primary principles in mind: make it all as edible as possible, design to naturally keep the pests out and make it as aesthetically pleasing as “normal” landscaping would be.
We used our lettuce and herbs just like any other border or filler plants. All our lettuce and a good portion of the herbs came back from our garden last year. What was once 6 little lettuce plants, and a single oregano and thyme plant, have turned into 60 lettuce plants and 4 large herb patches. The entire gravel sitting and eating space is bordered by lettuce.
Not only were we designing to keep pests out, we’ve also built in pieces that will hopefully keep the right animals in. So far this year, the courtyard has been home to a family of mourning doves, and various woodpeckers, finches and robins. While we were working there was a mother and baby robin who would visit regularly to pick up all the worms we were turning over. There’s a chipmunk we see every morning and a toad who we find venturing across the driveway at night.
If we consider the courtyard the garden, the rest of the “garden” has graduated into the farm. Two raised beds and more dirt beds laid the groundwork for a corn field, a pumpkin/squash/watermelon patch, and the rest of our vegetable planting.
We are trying everything we can to avoid having to fence our planting spaces. We don’t like it aesthetically. Here’s what we’ve employed to try to help instead:
– We’re following the native american “three sisters” principle in the corn field. Here we’ve planted corn, beans and gourds in combination. The beans will use the corn for support. At the same time they’ll provide extra nitrogen that the corn needs. The gourds will fill in the spaces along the ground. Any of the tender plants should be protected from the deer because we don’t believe they will want anything to do with walking through a corn field filled with scratchy, vines.
– In the back we surrounded our more delectable veggie plants with, first, beds of kale, marigold and onion. The deer and rabbits shouldn’t like any of those to munch on. Since half of the plants people say deer won’t eat seem to be an urban legend, though (they eat the hell out of my lilacs) we boosted the protection by planting all the vines around the raised beds (and by spreading coyote urine granules across the tree line and near bushes that they seem to really enjoy) .
We didn’t even stop there! The front flower beds have become the sunflower farm…at least 4-5 different kinds including 12 foot tall mammoths. I love sunflowers and can’t wait to see how they fill in the vertical space. Bryan will tolerate them because they’re usable and he likes to watch things grow. I can’t even imagine how many seeds will come from one of the mammoths. In addition, we planted 5-7 foot varieties in front of our two street facing windows for privacy.
At the end of the day, here’s the complete list of what we have – variety and estimated quantity where possible:
- Hops – 6 plants, 5 different varieties
- Irish Moss
- Bells of Ireland
- Thyme – 2 large patches
- Golden Lemon Thyme – 2
- Oregano – 2 large patches
- Lavender – 2
- Lettuce – approx 60 plants
- Jalapeno peppers – 3, turns out the other 3 were some sort of wax pepper
- Blueberries – 2
- Sweet woodruff – 3
- Black hollyhox
- Rainbow Swiss Chard
- Pineapple Sage – 2
- Lemon Verbena – 3
- Basil – 2 each opal, thai, lime and pesto
- Flowering Kale – 6
- Rose bush
- Clematis – 2
- Hardy Mums (survivors from our wedding last year)
- Daisy patch (where we think the toad lives)
- Salvia variety
- Blanket flower
- A beautiful bush we don’t know the name of (green variegated leaves with light peach new growth)
- UPDATE: I knew I’d forget because they’re not in place yet! We’ve also got:
- Sugar Snap Peas – at least 20
- Cucumbers – way too many
- Artichokes – 6-8 (not nearly enough)
- Bell Peppers – 18 in a variety of colors
- 4 different types of corn, approx 300 plants right now (yeah, we know about thinning and will be practicing that this weekend) including sweet red, sweet white and yellow, decorative and an early grower
- 2 different types of beans, approx 100 plants. Dragon’s Tongue and Traditional Green Beans
- 4 different types of gourds, approx 25 plants – mini-pumpkins, birdhouse gourds, decorative and loofah
- Pumpkin patch with 3 varieties, 60 plants – big max, white and traditional
- Watermelon – orange tendersweet, 8 plants to date
- Watermelon – moon and stars, about 8 plants
- Watermelon – sugar babies, about 12 plants
- Acorn squash – 25 plants
- Butternut squash – 25 plants
- Four patches of kale (can’t count the plants)
- Broccoli – looks to be about 130 right now! oops
- 4 varieties of carrots including purple, goliath, a white one and regular
- 17 tomato plants including a black cherry tomato, hillbilly heirloom, roma, golden boys and others
- An 8×6 strawberry patch
- Potential for an additional two pepper varieties and Calliope eggplants
- Sweet onions
- Green Onions
- Marigolds – with the potential for giant 5″ blooms
- Mammoth sunflowers – 12
- Various 5-7 foot sunflowers (best of show) – 20-40 (still waiting on some)
- Mexican sunflowers – 25-35
- Nasturtium – 10-15
- Roses – 4 around the whole house
I think that’s everything although I’m sure I’ve probably missed something. Commence with comments about how crazy we are. Aside from watching all of this grow, and running home everyday to see what progress has been made, we get to actually live in it. It’s awesome! Come harvest time, watch for us on the side of the street with our little stand. Well, if you start doing calculations – it may not be that little in the end. For example, with 60 pumpkin plants each one has the potential to produce between 3 and 10 pumpkins. That’s means we may wind up with 200-400 pumpkins! And, just one of each kind of pumpkin would provide us with enough seed to have just as many or more the next year. Now, I don’t expect we’ll have the time to be going to farmers’ markets (although it would be a great way to spend our time) so I don’t know how much we’ll grow production. Then again, I never expected, when we were making these plans this year, that our current scale would be what it actually has become. Here’s hoping everything does well from here out!