Growing Food In The Fairegarden
There has always been a few tomatoes, maybe some peppers grown at every house we have lived in, including my childhood home. Back when I was young, a fresh tomato did not even have any appeal to me, it was the growing that whetted my appetite and my parents enjoyed the fruits of my labors. Rental apartments and houses were the next stage of abodes, with pots and in ground plantings that included herbs and flowers. Then came the purchase of our first house, with my very own dirt to do with as I pleased. I pleased to have a patch of sunny lawn rototilled for a veggie garden, one just like all the neighbors had with neat rows of lovely produce to feed a growing family. It was good. We lived there for eleven years, and had four offspring, including the first born Chickenpoet, seen in the photo wandering into the neighbor’s yard.
Then we moved from Pennsylvania’s pastoral setting to southern California’s sandy warmth. Raised box beds that came with the house we bought were filled once again with tomatoes and herbs. There was an irrigation system in ground. One time we were away for a week, back to visit friends and family in Pennsylvania, and asked the neighbors to turn on the sprinklers in our absence, there was no automatic timing system. They remembered to turn them on, but forgot to turn them off until the next day, it was in the back yard so they couldn’t see the water filling the space to remind them to turn it off. When we arrived home, they ran over to warn us about the watering debacle. We went to check it out, the water had soaked into the sandy soil, but the plants had run rampant with all of that moisture. A little pumpkin plant from youngest offspring Brokenbeat’s kindergarten science lesson had spread to cover the entire space, sort of like an invasion from the Green Planet. There was an abundant harvest of white pumpkins. One pumpkin was given to his teacher, since she had a crop failure and would have no seeds for next year’s class to grow in their milk containers from lunch. We lived there for three years. (No photos exist of the pumpkin vine, so these from a fall display, some from our current garden, will have to do.)
Then we moved to northeast Tennessee, to a woodland community without a square foot of flat land. A formal knot type herb garden was built with landscape timbers to provide a level planting space, with a large raised box at one side for veggies. Bags of compost and topsoil were used to fill the beds, with lots of soil conditioner to help break up the dense clay soil. As with the previous gardens, there were tomatoes, herbs and plenty of flowers. Still good, for nine more years.
Then we moved to Texas. This was our first brand new construction house, with a blank slate for gardens in back. We built another raised bed for veggies and yes, planted tomatoes, among other things. There were lots of roses planted since it was discovered that the Antique Rose Emporium was less than an hour’s drive. The soil was rich and sandy, things grew well with irrigation during the dry summer months. Good, while it lasted, three years. (The 1998 photo shows the veggie bed to the left of my latest furniture building attempt, a bench. I don’t know what is going on with my hair, it must be pulled back or something.)
Then we moved to our present southeast Tennessee location, the current incarnation of Fairegarden, that is a steep sloping property from the peak at the far back line to the street. It was determined that the space between a row of arborvitae along the back property line behind the garage and a row of Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Mop’s was the perfect sunny strip for veggie growing. A stacked concrete block wall was erected along the length, with paths below the wall and behind the growing area for good access. Many crops have been tried in the loamy lusciousness, compared to crumbly chocolate cake in an early post, click here-Food In The Garden to read about it. Digging squirrels and hungry rabbits have required some fencing to be set up around parts of the space to protect the strawberries and lettuce, in particular. At the eastern end are red Caroline and yellow Anne raspberries, doing well being grown on strong wires strung across stout metal fenceposts for ease of harvest and pruning.
A large raised planter box was built a few years ago to use up old lumber and provide a space for leisurely gardening that could be done whilst sitting on a bench if desired. Chopped leaves were used to fill the large area, with well composted manure Black Kow, soil conditioner and homemade compost mixed in until it was full of planting material. More soil conditioner and Black Kow has been added, along with those precious chopped leaves through the years, to keep it topped up. The planting in the box is a mix of herbs, veggies and flowers that need special conditions, Eremurus. Dahlias are also in there. They are shy about returning, but it is not unheard of.
At present in the box is self sown Cilantro, lettuces, beets, Allium schubertii seedlings, Eremurus and Erysimum, a real mix of edibles and ornamentals.
Back to the veggie bed, the raspberries are leafing out nicely. They will be pruned soon, but I don’t really know how to do that and will remove dead canes and anything growing to block the pathways. The next area holds seedling leeks and Japanese plum yew cuttings. Next is garlic, Inchelium Red, planted last September.
Then the rest is fenced, with seed grown wild strawberries, sugar snap peas, radishes, carrots and sweet peas that have not shown themselves yet. Fingers crossed for them. The next fenced section holds all the saffron crocus that were dug and moved from the front raised planted last winter, split and replanted. I don’t know if this will help the flowering, but it is sunnier here and they are food, after all. More strawberries are at the end, moved last fall to prevent harvest the night before the berries are completely perfect for human consumption by rascally rabbits. There is a little space left inside the fence, maybe some nice peppers will go there.
The very end of the veggie bed sees a new fig tree, Chicago Hardy. The little Petite Nigra was just too petite and was moved to an out of the way spot in good soil, I am not even sure it is alive.
The original veggie box behind the shed becomes more shady with each passing year. Tomatoes, peppers and lettuce among others fed us well the first few seasons. Now it is home to three Sunshine Blue blueberry bushes that are still quite small. In the open spaces seeds are started with protection of overturned nursery flats, including several types of foxgloves planted last summer. There was a post about them that can be read by clicking here-Foxgloves-Digitalis. Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’ hangs out on the shed roof to pretty up the space. White Clematis ‘Candida’ twins around the rose for a purple and white show.
A new bed has been prepared for tomatoes this year that previously held large rosemary bushes. Fresh compost from the bin has been spread and the cages are in place as a deterrent to digging critters. The Tomato Tradition continues, or will when the soil has warmed appropriately. May you all be inspired by this little saga to find a spot to plant something you can eat, whether in a pot or in the ground.
Perhaps it could be tomatoes.
Added: My blogging friend Jan of Thanks For 2Day has graciously allowed this post to become part of her Sustainable Living Project. Click here to find out more and join in the fun!