Garden Update: Trellises, Flowers and Stacking Functions

backdoor gardening

Busy days here at Faery-Hof! This week focused on various trellising projects and acquiring an “instant” garden through my friend Kimber’s thinnings and castoffs. Yesterday, I got out some zip ties and quickly put together what I want to call a wabi sabi trellis for Malabar spinach, which will hide the apartment complex’s parking lot and afford us some backyard privacy:

trellis

The Malabar spinach supposedly grows fast, but it still has a ways to go before reaching the trellis:

malabar spinach

Also yesterday, Kimber — who is my garden’s favorite person this week — helped me re-trellis a grape vine that had begun to invade my peas:

grapes and peas

You can see the new trellis towards the right of the following photo, and the companion grape vine on the wooden fence. They haven’t produced grapes yet, but they seem happy, so we let them grow.

back gardens

I also needed to trellis one of my asparagus plants, which has grown taller than me! I got to practice a bean teepee style with bamboo poles:

asparagus

Up front, we’ve got repurposed tomato cages holding up newly thinned irises, also from Kimber. She recommended I cut them all back before planting, but I couldn’t resist instant flowers. Our next door neighbor was so funny last night, asking with wide eyes if I had “just planted those or did they grow that fast overnight because of your recent fish treatment?” (Kimber arranged for our yards to have a very special treatment normally reserved for farms, and I had warned our neighbors that it would stink for a day or so. It does! Still. He thought it smelled “like the Lake.”) Anyway, the neighbors keep track of the garden now, and his wide eyed question still makes me giggle. Next year, they won’t have tomato cages, but you plant irises shallowly, and they couldn’t hold their own weight without the cages.

irises

Another cool thing that came out of that conversation is that our neighbors offered to compost their food for use in the garden. He said they know nothing about composting, so they would like a list. Since they don’t eat exclusively organic food, I explained that I would probably build them a separate bin that I can use to compost weeds and to put the compost on flower beds. They’re excited to have some place to put food waste, since it forms the bulk of their trash. This really makes me smile, because a) I never have enough compost and b) it’s so cool that our neighbors are waking up to the world of compost! I gave them a small tomato plant for a porch garden this year, and I saw they had purchased some marigolds, too. The mom next door also, apparently, takes photos of our flowers and brings them in to show people at work.

I love how this garden — for all its insane amounts of work right now — is bringing neighbors together and keeping things out of the landfill. A neighbor up the street now plans to add wood mulch to a bed outside his house, and our wood mulch guy now has nine people on the delivery circuit for the mulch he used to need to pay to dump.

Finishing up the Kimber tribute from my garden, this sedum donation, divided into three, has finally begun to recover from transplant shock. I’ve now got three different types of sedum in the front yard and look forward to their fun forms. One of the sedums, not the one pictured below, will also serve as ground cover in the area killed off by a year of Mount Mulchmore.

sedum

In this front bed photo, you can see some recent perennials (Veronica) and various annuals procured on a Menard’s run with my friend Leah and her handy, dandy truck, which also hauled more compost (see why I am so happy about the neighbors?!), potting soil, and concrete slabs for our rain barrels. If you look closely, you can also see that our tiny lilac actually has a few blooms:

front bed

At the far north end of the front beds, I have been getting the greatest kick out of watching the long row of sunflowers follow the sun each day. This photo only shows about 1/3 of the length of that row:

sunnies

The rose bush I planted in honor of Gramma Irene is blooming like crazy:

rose bush

When I was growing up, we had rhododendrons in our front yard, and they would always bloom on my birthday. Our landlord planted this one right before we moved in, and sure enough, the first buds began to open on the eve of my birthday. Today they look even more lovely:

rhododendron

Despite having all this growing space out front, I’m so glad I got a Garden Tower this year. Wood mulch robs nitrogen the first year, so there’s a noticeable difference in growth rate between greens planted out front and greens in the Garden Tower. As long as I have greens, melons and flowers, I don’t care which arrangement they come from, but I would be freaking out if the slow growth up front was all we had to look forward to this year. Look at how lush the Garden Tower plants already are!

Garden Tower growing well

In the backyard, I’ve really been stacking functions — sunflowers and trellises for food and privacy on both sides of the yard. I also have this 24 foot long trellis set up with mulch, cardboard, concrete block “planters,” and companion plants. (We still need to add the other two 8 foot long trellises.)

long trellis

It’s not the prettiest setup, but it will do several things at once:

1) Trellis tomatoes, watermelons, gourds and pumpkins

2) The red plastic mulch will keep moisture in, prevent weeds growing through the mulch, heat up the layers of leaf and wood mulch, newspaper and coffee underneath, and reflect a more productive spectrum of light back onto the tomatoes and curcubits for higher fruiting rates

3) The cardboard shuts out light to weeds in front of the plastic mulch, giving the plants a better competitive edge, as well as moist soil in front of the mulched beds, in case those get dry. It will eventually form the first layer of a lasagna garden bed I’ll make this fall.

4) The concrete blocks and plant pots hold down the cardboard, while also giving space for companion plantings of marigolds, calendula, borage, mint and bee balm. I lost all my squash to vine borers last year, so this year I am determined to attract the right predators and repel the damaging pests. At season’s end, I will dump the spent soil into the lasagna beds and use the concrete blocks to hold tarps around our cold frame for added protection. Then, next year, I’ll probably cardboard another area of “lawn,” since this area will be ready for more regular gardening.

I’ve also enjoyed stacked functions of perennial edible beauty, in particular, the sea kale:

flowering sea kale

Sea kale is so pretty and so tasty that I bought another two starts for the center front bed. Next year they’ll provide some gorgeous green and white flowers before many other plants get going. It takes awhile for sea kale to adjust to transplant, but imho, it’s well worth the wait! Here it is again next to the pretty fava bean plants and Egyptian walking onions:

Fava's sea kale, onions

I’ve let the Red Russian Kale and spinach go to seed, too, so I can collect seed for next year, plus enjoy their beauty now. This bed will get cleared out very soon, so I can plant lima beans to regenerate the soil before another round of heavy feeding brassica’s in late summer/fall/winter:

kale and spinach to seed

We’ll finish up today with yarrow and clover, over and over. 🙂 Actually, this grouping happened spontaneously, and I’d love to recreate it all over the yard! Our yarrow hasn’t shown color yet, but the blooms are a bright magenta, which goes so well with the red clover blossoms. This combo nourishes the soil, provides a spot of beauty, and attracts all sorts of beneficial bugs. Gotta love it!

yarrow and clover

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nikkoale on May 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Gotta love it! 🙂

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  2. Posted by Ann Kreilkamp on May 31, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    My god, girl! Your surround-the-house garden is looking UTTERLY SPECTACULAR. In fact, I have a feeling that we have now entered a “contest,” and that YOU are “winning!” Especially, of course, love how it’s beginning to bring neighbors together, since, at least for me, that’s the real point of all that we do here on this spectacular planet that even though we have been trying to centuries to kill it off, still keeps on surging with squirming spiraling life. YES.

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  3. Posted by Cheryl on May 31, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Laura Bruno – I love you and your wild garden adventure. I am so delighted with the nursery I found this year that I told you about. I was able to buy all the plants for my garden there – all organic and heirloom – Yay! I didn’t realize so many varieties of tomatoes even existed. Have my first tiny pepper sprouted – they are so darn cute when they start to grow. Tried a new combination of things this year and very excited to see how they turn out. Oh, and happened to be guided to call my brother Steve (whom you met with his son Ben) from the nursery to tell him about it and he was just stepping onto the plant space at Lowes to buy things for his garden. He came and joined me and got all organic too and we saved the bees and butterflies from neonic’s. Gotta love synchronicity! XO Cheryl

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  4. […] Garden Update: Trellises, Flowers, and Stacking Functions […]

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  5. Haha, thanks, Ann! Just trying to overcompensate for the ugliness around me. More neighbors stopped by today, and they are supposedly going to order a Garden Tower right after their bike ride. I heard more nightmare stories about how this property used to be. It is a legend in this neighborhood, and no one can believe how different it looks now.

    The competition is an idea that someone had during one of our Transition Goshen Open Space meetings. He wanted to see city wide and regional competitions for edible landscaping. I will admit that winning “most improved neighborhood yard” this year would be nice, but I’m really just doing it so that instead of cringing at the immediate surroundings, I can smile. I got spoiled living in all the beautiful places. Now I need to make my own beauty … but it IS a need. Factories, neglect and squalor hurt my soul. Flowers and beautiful edible trees and plants make it sing.

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  6. Thanks, Cheryl! Oh, that’s so wonderful! I love when synchronicity happens in that way. All the best to you and your family… and your garden. xo

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  7. 😉 @ Nikkoale

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  8. Your garden is an inspiration. We have flowers and trees and vegetables in our backyard, all organically grown. It is such a joy to pick the kale and lettuce and peppers and tomatoes to make a great juice . How long does it take for asparagus to take hold and produce? I have thought about growing it. I look forward to seeing more posts about your garden.

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  9. Thanks so much! Asparagus can be harvested very lightly the second season after planting it in the ground, but it is best harvested in the third season. One tip: plant a lot of asparagus plants in an out of the way location that won’t shade your other plants. They get very tall! Also, you only get a few spears per plant, so my two are really kind of funny. I should have planted fifteen if we want a real season of asparagus! Many blessings, Laura

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