Garden Update ~ Garden Tower 2 Setup and Spring Planting

I haven’t posted a Garden Update in a long time, so I decided to document the assembly of our upgraded Garden Tower 2. I had this in Goshen as part of a demo garden showcasing different ways of growing crops — permaculture, raised beds, Garden Towers 1 and 2, Square Foot Gardening, tiered/circular raised beds, Big Bag Beds, Smart Pots, wood mulch gardening, food forest, etc. I had not set up the Garden Tower 2 in Kalamazoo, though, because doing so required me figuring out where to put it, building a patio, and also fencing it in from critters.

I’ve detailed three years of groundhog adventureshere — from Kalamazoo Kal to all his very hungry relations. Last year, I switched the front yard beds primarily to rabbit/deer/groundhog resistant herbs and perennials and had all but given up on annual vegetable gardening. It’s just too frustrating to fight all the critters. Our fenced backyard is even worse than the open front yard, as the groundhogs have generations of tunnels and ancestral habits.

A dream on April 4, 2020 told me that my future self would really appreciate if I assembled the Garden Tower 2 that lay unassembled in our shed. I followed the advice, ordered seeds, got everything needed for assembly, only to learn that that weekend was the last time I could have done so prior to Michigan’s Governor declaring gardening “non-essential” and making it illegal to buy what I’d need. Score one, Dream Guys! A “mix-up” led to me ordering some extra parts for the GT2, and we ended up with an extra tier. For me, this changes the entire aesthetic of the GT2, and I love it so much more now. I don’t know why that one extra layer makes its form so much more appealing, but it does.

In any case, David and I spent a long Memorial Day weekend celebrating my birthday, going on wooded walks and drives, building a patio, and setting up and planting the Garden Tower 2. For anyone interested in the process, we documented some of the highlights.

The “Before” space, slightly in process, since I forgot to take a Before photo! This required moving three Smart Pots to the other side of this existing raised bed. Moving those turned out way easier than anticipated. In the photo below, you can see the patio blocks before digging out and leveling the ground. We’ve got the base of the GT2 there for reference, to see where we wanted this rotating tower:


Below shows David working hard to dig, then level the ground, add sand and get the patio just right. The cardboard went under the patio for extra grass and weed suppression, and the cage would eventually form the support of a mesh barrier:


Me, filling and watering in the soil, one third at a time:



The full setup with extra fencing “open” for entrance:


Critter fencing closed and locked:


Freshly planted on Memorial Day: a “bush” tomato good for containers, both green and purple basil, lots of lettuce varieties, purple/red/lacinato kale, spinach, rainbow chard, zinnias (!), and possibly some bok choy and collards. (I mixed up my seedlings so I’m not sure which is which at this point.)


In larger context:


I’ve got composting worms on order. They should be here sometime this week, but I used organic, amended soil, so the plants should have plenty of nutrients in the interim.

This larger garden shift also put the Big Bag Bed behind our shed back into use for yellow squash. This area doesn’t get tons of sun, but a slightly less productive summer squash can be an advantage. Usually we get way too much! You can see it here, in the center, below the trellis, with Egyptian walking onions (perennial) around the edges, and an echinacea in front. I don’t know if the critters will get this or not, but it felt like a worthwhile experiment. The tan pot behind hold stinging nettles I’ve had for many years:


Up front, I ended up planting some annual veggies and flowers among the perennials. Since I have so many protected plants in the Garden Tower, I don’t care if animals munch on some of the front yard veggies. If it becomes ugly and problematic, I’ll just switch it back to all herbs and perennials:


The dead weeping birch remains a focal point of the yard. Last week, a woman had her graduation photos taken in front of the birch and our weeping cherry trees. That felt like a sweet compliment! This tree looks more dramatic and draws more birds without leaves than it ever did with leaves. At some point, it will come down. Many of the branches have already fallen off, but for now, the twisting white adds some faery magic to the front yard beds:


Chives are just starting to bloom, with irises and dianthus not far behind. Soon this view will include hummingbird mint, lemonbalm, magenta yarrow, purple salvia and red bee balm (monarda).


Columbine got to bloom this year! Last year, something munched most of them to the ground:


Sprinkled around the yards — both back and front — is this creeping thyme with such delicate pink flowers. This one’s supposedly inedible, but it makes a nice living mulch in Smart Pots that hold fruiting bushes like blueberries and elderberries:


That’s all for today’s update. I hope you enjoyed the mini tour!

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Eliza Ayres on May 28, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    Great garden projects, Laura!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. looking pretty!! all of you hehe!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Laura.. Just a beautiful post.. Loved that you got what you needed just in time… And David has made a great job of making it ground hog proof.. 🙂 Your garden is looking great.. And a belated Happy Birthday to you also Laura, .. 😀
    Where would we be without our gardens and woods!..
    just loved reading, and you are setting all the things I love… 🙂

    Sending Much love your way Laura… ❤ 🙏

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Posted by Nikkoale on May 29, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Magical, Laura! Love your Garden. (As I am typing this a brown thrasher has landed on the railing of the deck. It is the first I have seen this year. ❤ 🙂 ) My favorite part of your garden is the dead birch. I found the same with mine. I am the only person I know, other than you, who likes dead trees in the yard. I found the same with my birches — that the birds loved the bare branches. I had so much more diversity in the yard while the birches remained standing. I let them come apart as they wanted to through the years. There is indeed an artistry and magic to them, though. I feel that their life essence remains with the trees, but it has just shifted to a higher plane of existence. Blessings, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person


    • Thanks, Nikkoale! Yes, I feel the birch is a very obvious portal to Faerie. Sometimes it’s very difficult to take a photo of, so I’m glad the woman who got photos in our yard also took some in front of the weeping cherry blossoms. I’ve had numerous photos look fine on my phone and absolutely refuse to load onto the computer. I love your bird encounters! Blessings to you and your land, as well. ❤



      • Posted by Nikkoale on May 29, 2020 at 9:25 am

        I rely purely on autofocus for my camera walkabouts here, and I have found the same thing. If something does not want to appear on camera, the focus simply will not work. On the other hand, I am often delightfully surprised with what does show up on camera. The Fae are quite creative and expressive. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person


  5. Posted by manyhahama1955 on June 4, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    What a beautiful garden, Laura! You sure do have alot of hungry critters. I love the tower in the enclosed cage…that’ll show’em. Have you thought about making some raised beds and fencing them in so you can have a larger veggie garden? Well, happy gardening and thanks for sharing the journey. it’s good to see you! : ) hugs, Sophia

    Liked by 1 person


    • Thank you, Sophia! I actually have a lot of raised beds already, but I don’t want to fence them in. Most are in the front yard, and that’s just not an aesthetic I want up front. Also, we have deer up front, so it would need to be a very high fence. I use various scents to repel, and I have a lot of non-delicious or totally inedible perennials, as well as fragrant herbs that most animals don’t like.

      It’s mainly the groundhogs at issue. I saw the first one in our yard the other day. It had already tried to dig into our shed, which we are in process of more thoroughly groundhog proofing — if there is such a thing! Something ate my nettles yesterday. I have never had anything eat nettles besides me, but they had the telltale stems stripped bare, which is usually groundhog’s calling card. So far so good on other crops out back. We shall see. If something really wanted to get into the cage, it probably could, but hopefully it’s enough to deter them. My neighbors are bored and on the hunt to trap and relocate groundhogs, so hopefully, they’ll get an all expense paid one way ticket elsewhere. 🙂

      Hugs and happy gardening!


      Liked by 1 person


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