While I used to drag my feet when the time came to cut back perennial herbs, I no longer do. Now I’m happy to tidy up the garden and add lots of organic matter to my compost piles. If you’ve ever let a self seeding plant go to seed, you’ll know how important it is to cut things back before they set seed. Cutting back perennial herbs is a lot like decluttering in the house. It cleans things up, keeps them tidy, and makes the garden look larger.
It can be really difficult to cut them back when there are still a few blooms on the plants, but now’s the time to do it. If you wait much longer the plant won’t have enough time to bloom again before the days get short and cold.
There will be an empty space for a week or two, but the plants quickly regrow filling out the space with lush foliage. Many herbs will even bloom again before frost providing much needed food for pollinators. Not all perennials need cutting back, many blooming plants like peonies just need deadheading. Herbs in particular benefit from a hard pruning towards the end of bloom.
Do you cut back your herbs for rebloom?Filed under Around the Garden | Comments (2)
A few years ago, I read in ‘Gardens of Plenty’ about growing curcurbits in the compost pile. “The glory of today’s potager are the compost heaps, built in long lines approximately 3ft wide, stretching from path to path. They grow as the spent vegetables are added, sometimes reaching a height of 5ft. Layer upon layer of leaves create stripes of different colours, making the heaps look like the best quality terrines. Left undisturbed for a year, the piles rot down to waist height, and at this point they become the most luxuriant beds for bright pumpkins, giving vertical height in the best jardin potager tradition. The long lines of giant leaves make solid shapes among the finer lines of other vegetables. After use as a pumpkin bed for a single season, the compost returns to the garden as a nutritious fertiliser.”
I was able to visit the A.I. DuPont garden at The Hagley Museum twice last year, once in June and one in September. The potager is quite lovely, it was wonderful to see in person the garden I had read about. The tour didn’t give a ton of time in the garden, so I only got a few photos. I was able to spot pumpkins growing in compost piles in the garden. You can imagine my delight to see in action something I had read about and seen photos of in a book.
I’m not much of one to maintain the type of compost pile which is turned regularly, so this passage inspired me. Last fall I made a compost pile in the middle of the main edible garden, you can see it in the image below.
Early this summer, I seeded a zucchini in the pile. It quickly germinated and grew nicely ( I thought about growing pumpkins, but the pile was small and I didn’t want pumpkin vines taking over the garlic patch). We’ve had quite a drought here in Maine this summer, but I refrained from watering this plant. I wanted to see if the compost retained more or less water than the surrounding soil areas. Much to my surprise, the plants is doing amazingly well, producing loads of zucchini and has shown no signs of stress from the dryness.
My idea for this process of compost is to reduce the amount of time spent in some areas to give myself time to focus on other things. If I don’t have to turn a compost pile I can use that time to maintain a larger garden space. This compost en situ will also work wonderfully for raising the soil level in the areas of the garden that slope too much. My main vegetable garden is too sloped and thus rain runs off faster than I would like. When considering my options for leveling it out, I decided building up the lower areas of the garden with compost piles like this will be the least expensive and least labor intensive option. It will require time and patience, which I have plenty of.
What type of compost pile do you maintain?Filed under Around the Garden, Compost | Comments (6)
Our hot summer has been difficult for some crops, but the tomatoes and peppers are loving it. It’s that time of the year when the tomatoes are fruiting in full. We can eat sliced tomatoes at every meal, enjoy tomatoes on top of a salad, make eggs in hell for breakfast, or in whatever way we want. Having fresh, vine ripened tomatoes is one of the joys of having an edible garden!
Not only are all the cherry and beefsteak tomatoes coming ripe, the roma types are starting to ripen as well. That means I’ll be making all sort of tomatoey deliciousness for the pantry.
One of the most wonderful things about seasonal eating is enjoying food at the height of its season. There’s really nothing as delicious as ‘Brandywine’ or ‘Gold Medal’ tomato plucked from the vine and eaten within minutes. This time of year we happily feast on fresh tomatoes knowing it’s a short, but delicious window. Probably our most favorite way to enjoy this bounty is sliced with a sprinkle of salt & pepper, simple and delicious!
What’s your favorite way to enjoy a vine ripened tomato?Filed under Around the Garden, Edible, Tomato | Comments (5)
The cutting garden area in the main vegetable garden is a riot of color. Oddly enough, I’m not really one of those gardeners that likes all the colorful flowers spilling out of a border. My tastes tend to be more controlled and very monocromatic. I’m a fan of white, green and purpler in the garden with lots of green and only a few flowers. This area is quite lovely in its own respect, the pollinators are big fans.
I only planted a few packets of seed, which is amazing when you stand back and look at the display. $10 can really get you a lot of color when it comes to a cutting garden!
What’s your favorite cut flower?Filed under Around the Garden | Comments (5)
In previous posts, when I mention that I have a nursery garden, there are always lots of questions about what exactly this is. I figured it deserved a dedicated post, to explain the method to the madness that is my nursery garden. There’s an area in my main vegetable garden that is dedicated to growing out perennials. I have been known to purchase plants without having a place in the borders for them, this is now the spot they get planted as soon as I get home.
Each year, the nursery area grows as I acquire more plants than I have garden space for. Some of these I purchase with a specific spot in mind, but that garden bed isn’t prepared for perennials yet. We have some difficult weeds here that must be completely eradicated before planting new perennials, otherwise the perennials would be choked out in a few years. It’s much easier to deal with invasive weeds when there are no perennials in the garden. My nursery bed is a place where plants can go into the ground while they wait a year or two for their new space to be weed free. They grow out and sometimes reach their mature size. I also like growing out plants in a nursery bed because a new garden area can be filled with mature plants for instant impact.
The nursery bed is also a space where I plant starts I get from other gardens. In this type of garden I can easily see if there are any perennial weed hitchhikers in with the new plants. It’s much easier to deal with them in a nursery bed area than if they are planted directly into a mature garden bed.
Another reason to plant in a nursery bed is to monitor how the plants like your soil and environment. I often purchase one plant and monitor how it grows before deciding to plant in en masse in the garden. This can save you a bundle when decided on a specific cultivar for a hedge. It also gives me an idea of how fast the plant grows and if it has a tendency to become a nuisance as a seeder or spreader. I also like to watch how the plant grows and what shape it takes one, sometimes things grow larger than the tag says they will, sometimes they grow smaller. Growing them out in a nursery bed gives me a better sense of where they need to go in the garden.
Having a dedicated nursery area also allows me to spend less time managing plants. I’m less likely to forget to water cuttings and small plants if they are all located in one area. For me, it makes sense to keep them all in one area and move them as they mature and as I decide where they would perform best in the garden. My nursery bed area is roughly 500 square feet and it seems to get larger each year. I’m in the process of starting boxwood for a hedge, so it will get bigger before it gets smaller.
Do you have a dedicated nursery area?Filed under Around the Garden | Comments (8)