Last year was our first summer at this house and one of our goals was to get the gardens in order. The previous owners had put up a terraced garden with retaining wall in the back that was divided by stairs leading up to it. So far, it sounds nice, until you look at what they planted. There were various small trees (sumac, pine, and some unidentifiables), patches of random flowers, and a shed load of weeds. It looked as though someone had started and got distracted for a few years. Our first spring, with the help of my mother-in-law, we weeded everything. As the soil was very poor and full of clay, we brought in a few truck loads of triple mix to spread. The trees were cut down and uprooted (the pine was used as our Christmas tree) and we built raised beds so we could add even more soil. After our first year, we had the gardens under control and had quite a good harvest of various fruit and veg for preserving and eating fresh.
Now in year two, we wanted to really plan everything out to maximize our limited space. We sat down earlier in the week to decide what we were growing and where all of these plants were actually going to grow. The below drawing is the slightly out of proportion plan for this year.
Click for the REALLY big view.
We divided the back terrace into three gardens; the left for fruit and veg, the centre and right for flowers. When you sit on the patio you can see the flower garden in all its glory, while the frames and boxes of the veg are hidden out of sight. The flower gardens are half unplanned and we didn’t bother drawing in what is going where in that area.
If you look at the veg garden, you’ll see the five 4×8′ raised beds. This is where the majority of everything is grown. Outside of the boxes we have our raspberries from last year (already growing very well) and hopefully another rhubarb plant. Our neighbour gave us one last year, but the squirrels didn’t read the gift tag on it and assumed it was for them so the ripped it to bits and ate what was left. Also from last year are the three artichoke plants. They’ve been cut back for the winter and covered with tarp and straw, which has hopefully kept them alive until now.
All the lovely veg!
One of the most useful vegetables we grew last year was hot peppers. They were great fresh, preserved in vinegar, and in hot pepper jelly. In one of our beds we are putting in banana and jalapeño peppers for the aforementioned uses, but we also wanted cayenne peppers for hot sauce, so we needed to find more space. We tried to claim land rights to some of the neighbour’s back garden but after a lengthy court case, we were evicted and stuck with what we started with. Luckily, my mom was at a dollar store where they were selling upside down hanging hot pepper planters. Five of these hanging off the fence should produce enough peppers to make a good batch of hot sauce this year. Burning bums coming soon.
The chickens flanked by peppers and hops.
From the drawing it’s hard to tell, but our garage is two stories. With such height not being used, I ordered in some hops from BC to grow up the side of the building. Hops grow vertical, up to 30′, on lines strung straight up. To maximize how much we can grow, we are planning to do a criss-cross pattern to give us even longer vines, and, in return, more hops for beer making. A few years ago we were in England and my aunt was driving us past the hops farms. She was telling us about the plants and the Polish migrants that pick them. As neither of us had seen hops before, we asked “What do they look like?” to which my aunt replied, “Just like you and me, only Polish.”
All over the garden we have different planters and pots to hold long-term veg and invasive plants. A friend of ours is a furniture designer who creates her pieces with cast concrete. She had a few bad casts of a bedside cabinet that she was throwing out, so I saved them from becoming landfill to become filled with land. Once laid on their backs, the cabinets were perfect planters for mint, which is notorious for taking over gardens. I’d like to see it get out of concrete. Not really, I’d rather it stayed where it was meant to, in the planter, and in my tea. Another waste of space in the garden beds are potatoes. They take ages to grow, aren’t the prettiest, and require mounding soil over them every few weeks. To save using up space, we plant spuds in green tarp bags. The bags are cheap (dollar store), reusable, flexible, and you can simulate mounding by just topping up the bag with more soil. More on the potatoes as they grow.
Another big space taker is beans. We were originally thinking of growing them up the fence, but found an even better spot in the end; the patio. Our patio is covered by a proper roof that makes our outdoor space look a little like a Muskoka tiki bar. There is a mini wall on the one side that was never finished (past owners must have been distracted again) that we are building a bed to sit on top to hold our beans that will climb up cords to the roof. The bean stalks will act as a privacy/sun wall and supply fresh beans for dinner.
Bean wall. Not that we want to block out the neighbours, they're actually really nice.
So that’s the lay of the land, literally. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but when it comes time to eat it all, you remember why you did it. Also, for any hunters reading, you’re more than welcome to come over and kill every bastard little squirrel you see.