Updated: Jul 7
If you, like me, are struggling with the newly released New Hampshire climate report and the Supreme Court's retrograde decision on environmental regulations, you, like me, may also need to escape into the garden this week. Bringing home fresh bouquets, salad, and peas gives me something beautiful and healthy to bring joy when we most need it. Instead of ruminating on the negative, I am going to give you a little tour of my gardens and some new, sustainable techniques I am trying this year.
In the Veggie/Cut Flower Garden
I do all my vegetable gardening at a community garden near my house, which gives me the space I need to grow a lot of food, but, more importantly, a chance to study and learn from other gardeners. I love walking around everyone's plots and seeing who is growing what and how their techniques differ from mine.
My tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and eggplant are all enjoying a new kind of mulch this year - sheep's wool. I learned about this technique from a permaculture farmer in Canterbury and so far I love it. The garlic, which I mulched in the fall with wool, looks better than any past year. Mulching your vegetables and other plants helps to regulate the soil temperature and hold onto water more effectively. I'm still mulching and hilling the potatoes with wood chips, which I'm not thrilled with. Potatoes are my next crop to study.
I got a late start on my zucchinis, squash, and cucumber this year on purpose to try to confuse and outsmart the pests that feed on them. I read all about it over the winter and was really excited to try it, but I realized too late that this strategy won't work in a community garden because other gardeners' plants will feed them until mine arrive. Oops. I guess I'll have to handpick all the bugs again this year. Oh well. I did plant a lot of onions, garlic, and chives in and around my vegetables again this year, so I'm hoping that will help too.
The biggest change for me this year in the vegetable garden is the addition of cut flowers. I've always included beneficial flowers in the garden as companion plants to the vegetables, including nasturtium, sunflowers, marigolds, borage, and calendula, but this year the kids and I planted several kinds of cut flowers in their garden plots. The new flowers have brought even more bees, butterflies, and birds into the garden, but they have also been a source of daily joy for me. I love cutting a daily bouquet to bring home (cutting flowers daily actually encourages them to produce more blooms).
In the Pollinator Garden
I have been working on my pollinator garden since last spring. It's been a slow process because I don't have a lot of money for plants, but I have slowly collected them from other gardeners (mostly my mom!) and grown some from seed. It's really starting to come together now and I love watching all the birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees swarming the plants all day long. Along with my clover lawn and my other gardens, I am very proud of the number of pollinators visiting us each day. I started the process of applying for pollinator garden certification and realized I still need a couple of native pollinator plants that bloom in the fall before I can become official. No complaints here about going to the garden store. :)
In the Herb Garden
My herb garden is the least developed of my gardens and probably where I'll put my focus next year. I used to have many smaller herb plants that I bough yearly from the garden store for the kids to sample and for me to use in cooking, but I opted for larger perennial herbs when we moved to this new house because they were a better use of money. While I do love my giant lovage, giant hyssop, and giant chives, I've missed the smaller, annual herbs. I did start cilantro, basil, and parsley from seed this year, but I will start more herbs from seed next year to get the same annual experience I used to get for less money.
I always let my herb plants go to seed because pollinators love them and because they look so pretty (you can also eat a lot of the seeds). I like to collect and plant the seeds and I like using the herb flowers in my bouquets.
If my yard and garden look they are blending together, that is on purpose. I love that clover attracts bees, needs less water, and has beautiful flowers. In the vegetable garden, I do try to keep a layer of wood chips in between the rows, but several paths have grown a layer of strawberries and clover, which works even better, so I am hoping to grow more low plants between the rows. I like to leave plants where they grow for the most part and have many sunflowers, calendula, morning glory, and foreget-me-not all over the vegetable garden that come up year after year where the birds seed them. This gives me garden the look of a somewhat cultivated jungle, which makes me - and the local wildlife - very happy.
Thanks for escaping to the garden with me this week.