The entire area wrapping from the front door on the west side of the house around to the north side of the back of our house felt strange and barren to me. It sloped down from the front step/front door so it created a rather awkward drop off. It seemed a perfect opportunity to build something to fill the void. My first thought was a kitchen garden and my second thought was railroad ties. Upon further research though I didn’t want to use something that is as toxic as railroad ties close to something we would be growing to eat!
So, we put in a call for 6x6s from a local saw mill, they are not green treated and yes, eventually, over many many years, they will slowly decay but I also did not want treated lumber near something we would be growing to eat either. After laying out how we wanted the 6x6s to be (Joe using a chain saw to cut them) we pounded in four foot sections of rebar to keep them in place (first drilling out the 6x6s to accommodate them) I apologize for not having any during pictures of this process! It was pretty simple though and we expected to see a certain amount of adjustments from the wood over time. From there we filled the garden almost entirely full of sand and then topped it off with a foot of good black dirt and manure this spring.
And then I got to the part of planning our garden. We have several things going against us when it comes to this location and #1 is: lack of sun. You would expect the north end of the garden to get little to no sun but the west side doesn’t get much either. We have so many trees here (not complaining) that I knew we would be pretty limited when it came to what would even grow here.
I started out this spring with the plan that this year we would let this be kind of a crap shoot and just see how it goes. We will be putting in a large garden in a sunny place in our yard eventually but this was our opportunity to learn some things and get our hands dirty! Not to mention – just how good we would be at keeping the weeding up!
The first thing I knew I wanted was herbs so I bought a sage, a parsley, a thyme, a chive plant and a basil plant and I’m happy to report they did pretty well this year and I loved having them right there by the front door! From there I purchased several bell pepper plants mostly out of lack of other options – how did they do? Not great (as I expected) we still got a decent amount of peppers but, really, they just couldn’t get enough sun here! From there I planted a “bed” of lettuce that took off like crazy, loved this spot and we are so sick of lettuce I don’t even want to talk about it.
On the north side of the garden I knew I was incredibly restricted when it came to edible plants so I skipped that idea entirely and, instead, did something I’ve been wanting to do since we moved in. I went on a hunt in our yard for all of my grandma’s perennial flowers that were still coming up! I grabbed a pile of lilies of the valley, iris (that bloomed not a month after I moved them in glorious dark purple glory!), day lilies (lovely orange and yellows), one sad little fern that I’m very glad survived the move and five tiger lilies that probably would have been gone by next year (beat out by more prolific flowers). I had not expected any of it to bloom this year but most of it did! I expect the north side of the garden to fill up completely over the next couple of years with all of these perennials!
Over this whole summer, when I spotted a flower of grandma’s coming up that I hadn’t yet moved to the garden I marked it with a ribbon so I can save as many different species from Grandma as I possibly can. This fall I will be transplanting all of those. Up here in north country there is this really common vine that is an absolute beast that takes over wherever it goes. It does better growing up here then any other plant I know about, seriously, its amazing. On top of that it goes bright neon red in the fall time and is absolutely stunning. (After tons of searches I found out that its called a Boston Ivy) So, when I moved my grandma’s old trellises to the north side of the house, into the garden, I knew exactly what I wanted there. I headed out to the woods and went hunting. Honestly, what I returned with looked like a bunch of long dead sticks, I never did find what I thought was an “end” or a “beginning” they just go on and on and on. I held out little hope of my sticks surviving or growing anything. How wrong I was.
I plan on using fishing line attached to the top of each spindle and run directly up to the eve of the house, it will help hold the trellises in place and give the vines the opportunity to go all the way up and cover this whole wall. I’m pretty darned excited about that. We also need to cover that ugly tyvek paper with flashing so its not such an eyesore. So, what did I learn and what do I plan to do next year?
- We don’t like lettuce as much as I thought we did and we may never plant lettuce again lol
- Buying the plants is so expensive if I’m going to be serious about this I MUST start my own seedlings in the spring.
- I can’t let myself start planting things we don’t normally buy just for the fun of it – I need to first replace what we’re buying and then maybe we can plant some things that we just want.
- I love fresh herbs but, in all honestly, I don’t think its cheaper to grow them especially if I buy the plants every year – in fact I probably wasted money on herbs.
Getting real here – this is what we usually buy in the store: Tomatoes (or canned or frozen for sauces etc.), onions, potatoes (the random squash and sometimes sweet potatoes), green beans and asparagus. If I really want a garden that works for us I need to first plant and eliminate our buying those things before I should allow myself to do ANYTHING else and the majority of those things need a much sunnier location then my little kitchen garden here. (and not to mention a lot more ROOM) So, what am I going to do with this lovely little garden of ours?
I’m thinking eventually it will be almost entirely full of my grandma’s perennial flowers and maybe some additives of my own. I remember when I was a girl my Grandma had the most GLORIOUS poppies and corn flowers that I’m sad to say I have not seen anything of over the past few years. I’m going to dig up my herb plants and bring them in the house and try to keep them alive for next year and then they will come right back here. But, otherwise, I’m happy we planted what we did here for this year, we learned some things about us and how a garden can work for us especially on the amount of lettuce we’re capable of consuming! Mostly, this little garden got me excited to do something more serious and much bigger next year!