Moving in to our new house at the end of April with limited time and resources prevented me from being able to have a vegetable garden this year. Or at least, one on the scale that I want to have. For next year, I want a couple of raised beds in the sunniest part of the backyard so I can plant plenty of produce. This year, I settled for some spinach, romaine, broccoli, and dill in an already existing planter box that wraps around the front porch. My vegetables are having to share their space with some perennials that were already in one section of it.
What I did have, though, was the time and resources to plant a perennial garden out front.
See, I have this little island between the driveway and the front walkway.
It wasn’t in the best shape, and things needed to change. We didn’t like the evergreen shrubs bordering the walkway. They’re ubiquitous in the Pacific northwest, but they get taller than a person and, particularly when they’re not meticulously and constantly tended, they tend to become spider traps that scream “don’t use this path!” when they line walkways. We also already have a fairly shady yard, and the front is one of the most constantly sunny places we have, so we didn’t really want to have something that would shade it. Out those went. There was also some rotting wood barriers (the past owners were terrible at regularly sealing or otherwise caring for wood outside; thank goodness our porches are roofed), and a stump. The wood came out, but the stump stayed because it’s small enough that I figured I’d just plant around it and let time take care of it.
Then we tilled and removed all of the grass and weeds in the island. Even though I wanted grass in part of it, there were so many weeds and the dirt was so dry and unhealthy, I wanted to give it a fresh start with fertilizer and new grass. I raked in some fish meal fertilizer and put grass seed in along the driveway and curb edges because I don’t want my plants to be trampled by anyone who parks close to the edge.
From there, my mom and I went to a local organic nursery and went shopping. I had a number of goals for this little garden. I wanted it to be perennial, because I don’t want to spend a small fortune replanting it every year. Planting veggies from seed every year is one thing. You get tons of seeds in a packet that costs no more than a couple of bucks and will usually last at least a couple of years, and you get food out of it. But planting annual starts can get costly, plus it means places that are either bare or have dying plants once the growing seasons is over. No thanks. I also wanted the perennials to include edibles and to attract pollinators and pretties: bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Along with getting plants, my parents have a neighborhood barn that has compost piles. There are three bunkers that the neighborhood rotates through. The horse owners bring the wood chips and dung they shovel out, and people bring things like grass clippings and dead weeds. When a bunker is full, its closed off and allowed to sit for awhile to become compost, and then people can use the compost. I shoveled a bunch of this compost into the back of my dad’s truck (on the warmest day we’ve had this year, no less), and we brought it back to my house where I shoveled it all right back out into the island.
While my little one took his nap, I turned the compost into the dirt. Hopefully between that and the fish meal fertilizer, the dirt will be healthier and life-giving.
Now it was time for the plants. I had gotten a number of plants to fit my goals. There are three blueberry bushes, which produce berries at different times of the growing season so that we don’t have too many at once. For the one spot that gets shade for at least half of the day I got a couple of bleeding hearts, and in the rest I got plants like bee balm, echinacea, aster, and lavender. Some are edible as herbs and in teas, and others are simply to attract my pollinators and pretties.
I really can’t wait to see what this looks like when everything has had time to get established and grow.
Next year, when I have a real vegetable garden and I’m not using the front porch planter, I plan on putting some more shade-friendly perennials in there. I already have a hummingbird feeder up, and yesterday I found fuchsia starts at Haggen so I made two hanging fuchsia baskets for the price of one established basket. That was an exciting find. I’ve already been paid off for my efforts to attract certain wildlife; I saw a hummingbird pay a visit to my feeder yesterday afternoon.