by Brad Nelson 5/5/15
My Garden Is My Sanctuary
by Marie Church
As I look out to my garden
I feel a sense of pride
It really is a lovely room
Except it is outside.
A garden is indeed a room outside, especially when it’s sunny. And late winter and early spring have been fairly sunny on the Left Coast.
In this series of photos, you’ll see what I call, as a collection, my Castaway Garden. This is so because in the above photo of the Shade Garden you’ll see (second from the left) a cheap metal shelf that someone (presumably an unneighborly neighbor) deposited near our trash can by the curbside. This was around February of last year.
At first I was a bit teed off. Own a piece of property anywhere these days (perhaps any days) and you’ll see that it attracts socialists and other ne’er-do-wells like cow patties attract flies. Once the idea of personal responsibility is shelved (pun intended), your property becomes a mere plaything for others. I’m constantly picking up trash deposited by yutes (there’s a nearby vocational training center) — yutes who, you would think, are all environmental planet-huggers.
But the truth is something else. If you don’t own a piece of property, it’s much harder to have respect for that of others. And this shows itself in a thousand ways.
But as it turns out, that castaway metal shelf seeded my current garden. I found that the shelf was in reasonably good shape so instead of breaking it down to throw away, I patched it up a little and put it to use. As you see from the photos, since inheriting that initial castaway green shelf, I’ve added some others of a similar type. The whole effect is a bit too metallic and shelvey right now, but as the plants grow up and fill in, this garden should come into its own.
This and the Container Garden (which gets full sun…when there is sun), pictured above, kind of developed together, one giving over to the other. Some plants I found needed more light and some less, therefore many started in one place and got switched to the other. And of all the plants in the container garden, that small bowl of strawberries (top left) is growing best. Like tomatoes, the more sun the better for them.
There are also four types of ornamental grasses in the container garden…a type which I’ve become quite fond of, and these should fill out a little bit over the years. I’m not really sure how gargantuan any of these plants will get, but I think not very.
The two big green blobs are your standard heather. As that link says, they are “drought tolerant, low maintenance, and resistant to pests and disease.” In other words, along with cockroaches, these things will survive a nuclear war. But they are beautiful in their own way and the flowers do hang around for a long time. The honey bees love them.
The Main Garden has expanded five times. It started with about two-thirds of the portion inside the rock border. This then was expanded a bit and more rocks added. Later I added the “wings,” one at a time using brick that a neighbor had no use for and was glad to get rid of.
The soil in and around this garden is very rocky. And Northwest glacial hardpan (one step down from actual concrete) is just a couple inches under the surface, so it became much easier (to put it mildly) to build up with raised beds (raised about 5″) rather than to drill down (as with that original patch inside the cheesy white fencing…and I have some bent tools to show the futility of the hard pan).
The veggies you see growing in that center patch were purchased as small plants…just to get a head start on things. The rest (including the two small square satellite beds in the background) are all growing from seed. And the entire vegetable garden contains a fairly standard assortment of veggies (many no doubt high in vitamin K): spinach, romaine lettuce (green and red), Swiss chard, Georgia collards, leaf lettuce (of some variety), two varieties of kale, broccoli, red cabbage (just one plant as a test), sugar peas (which, with some hope, will grow along the white fencing), parsley, sage, black sage, a few bell peppers, cucumbers, and (as another experiment) a couple of cantaloupes. I think it may take an especially good summer to get much from the cantaloupes, but we’ll see. Half the fun is just experimenting.
To top it off, the very back row of the left wing is planted with flowers. All work and no floral display would make a dull garden indeed.
And if that weren’t enough (and it surely was, but what the hell), the latest addition is the Crop Circle Garden. I added that this past weekend. My idea was to do a circle of about 5-1/2 feet in diameter. It turned out to be 80″ plus. But that fitted the space better. It looks like little more than a crop circle for now, but it will hopefully fill in given a few week’s time.
The center portion is planted with a mixture of wildflower seeds. Ringed around this in three somewhat concentric rings (I wasn’t as geometrically careful as I could have been) are, from the inside out, carrots (a special variety that can grow in relatively shallow soil), Walla Walla onions, and, of course, more spinach. My greatest hope may be for the carrots, for you can’t buy a good carrot locally. I believe the variety you find in the stores is a hybrid of true carrot mixed with cardboard or balsa wood.
This whole assemblage will keep my salad bowl filled, along with the eleven tomato plants that I have growing in containers (which you can spot in the background of the Main Garden). It’s hard to buy a good supermarket tomato as well, so hopefully these will produce a few real ones.
And there should be plenty of leftovers for friends, although I think if I was growing Big Macs and french fries, there would be more eager takers. As it is, I’m not sure you can give away healthy food these days. Well…more for me, I guess.
And this has been a learner process. The design (such as it is) has evolved higgledy piggledy. More planning would have saved some toil, but it was a reminder once again how dad-blamed important culture is. Imagine having to make a living (or just surviving) by the crops you grow. There’s little forgiveness in trying to re-invent the wheel as I often did.
I did get some good tips from my older brother who, at one time, was growing 1000 pound pumpkins. In doing this garden I was very aware of just how much information is needed to do it well. You might find such information in a book, and there are indeed some good books out there. But nothing beets the wisdom of the sages, if you will, in passing along knowledge. Surely next year’s garden, if there is one, will benefit from all the mistakes I’ve made in this one.
I’m testing a gallery plugin. Let me know what you think.
Brad’s Flower Pictures
Around the Garden 2016
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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