Real Gardens

And You Can Eat Out Of It

Alberta_spruce

Some of the fun in the garden is about scale–an oxymoronic giant dwarf Alberta spruce anchors one end, and the biggest pot of rosemary you’ve ever seen in your life lines a path. Gerald grows many things in pots, finding that basil, for example, does better in the heat of a pot than in the ground.

Rugosas

The garden is casually edged by ornamentals such as oriental poppies and tulips and many dozen rugosa roses, some of which you can see in the photo above, that add some color to the crucifers. Gerald uses raised beds, which allow the soil to warm up more quickly in spring. But he does not use those detestable, butt-ugly, nailed-together lumber raised beds.  He simply manages his soil with a kind of precision that I can’t duplicate, stringing lines and then digging soil out of the path and piling it into neat long bars.

The very best thing about the garden is its spirit of experimentation.  It’s easy to get into a kind of rut in a vegetable garden. You do the same thing with the same spinach every April.  But Gerald, though he’s been gardening on the same spot for upwards of three decades, is always trying something new.  There’s always some new plant or new structure or new way of managing a vegetable to admire.  Why not grow pole beans up the side of a barn to the roof? Why not put boxwoods in pots, when they look nifty that way?  Why not plant currants everywhere?

And of course, after the garden has thrown off its produce, there is always the quality of Bob and Gerald’s cooking and the warmth of their hospitality–but that’s a subject for another kind of blog.

Posted by on May 30, 2008 at 5:10 am, in the category Real Gardens.
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25 Responses to “And You Can Eat Out Of It”

  1. Well, obviously I have some work to do to get my roadside vegetable garden up to snuff.

  2. LISA - ST. MARYS, ON says:

    Wow….well, wow! That is what we can all aspire to. A truly beautiful vegetable garden. It’s brilliant. Someday I may achieve a smidgen of that beauty in my own.

  3. Daphne Gould says:

    I love the look of a vegetable garden. However I don’t hate the wooden sided ones. I like their geometric shapes – kind of like a box hedge.

  4. lucia says:

    I beg to disagree — wood edging is NOT butt-ugly! I use weathered planks — and the totally organic, unprocessed fallen branches and logs.

  5. Michele Owens says:

    Well, okay, I can explain my prejudice against raised beds. The people I know who’ve used them fit into the broad category of gardeners too lazy to dig. They want a low-maintenance vegetable garden–and then never bother to weed the boxes or the paths. Ugly.

    I’m sure if I saw a neat garden of raised beds, I’d admire it. But I never have.

  6. susan harris says:

    Michele, when you write about Bob and Gerald’s cooking and hospitality on that other blog, let us know because it’ll be great reading.

  7. Michele Owens says:

    Well, I’ll say this much, Susan. They taught me everything I know about what it means to be a civilized person.

  8. commonweeder says:

    This is a beautiful garden – and it does give me something to aspire too. My garden seems to be different every year too, but that’s because we don’t seem capable, much less building for more than a season or three. The results, fortunately, enable us to provide some pretty good eating and hospitality.

  9. Charlotte says:

    Hey wait a minute! Who knew that my carefully designed raised beds are “butt ugly” because I used lumber to build them? Nice way to slam a whole segment of the gardening community. Oh, and apparently by building them I’m also lazy … thanks

  10. Wow, lovely gardens. That is certainly the largest rosemary I’ve ever seen. No way he puts that inside over the winter, but I thought it didn’t over-winter. Hmm.

    Next time you’re crossing the US, take route 90, get off in Bozeman, and I’ll introduce you to my well-weeded raised beds. As long as you promise not to look at the unweeded lawn!

    I think I’ll try the basil trick. I usually plant it on the outside of the raised bed, where it gets plenty of sun and warm soil, so actually I’m not sure a pot would make much difference. Right now, I’m just waiting for the things to sprout!

    But I could definitely work on the landscaping end of things. Thanks for the post–
    –kate

  11. Michele Owens says:

    Seriously, Charlotte, I’m not slamming anybody. I’m expressing an aesthetic opinion. I’m even willing to admit that I could be proven wrong.

    But I do hate raised beds. Sue me.

  12. Charlotte says:

    Fine, hate raised beds if you want, just don’t call me lazy for having gone to the trouble of building them and feeding myself and my neighbors out of them all summer. I’d personally love to have the space to do the kind of rows like these guys have — but I don’t have the space, and Montana’s so cold that raised beds mean that in a normal year you get a couple of weeks on either end of the season. Plus, when you only get 13 inches of rain a year, the beds help. I don’t quite understand the phenomenon you describe of lazy people with weedy raised beds, since the only folks I know have gone to the trouble of building them are pretty dedicated gardeners. Maybe its’ some East Coast thing? where people have had beds put in and then don’t maintain them?

  13. Nancy says:

    Wow-I must really be lazy. My raspberries are in a square of railroad ties, my basil is in an old plastic wading pool, and the cukes are in tractor tires. No room for long rows and it’s cold up here in Minnesota………the system works though.

  14. Michele Owens says:

    Nancy, I should try tires. My curcubits were all cut down by a frost this week. Standard operating procedure for this time of year–I keep sticking seedling in the ground until they finally take hold.

  15. Nancy says:

    Michele, we had two nights of freeze warnings this week (some places in the mid-20s). I slid through with two 34.5 nights. lost one cuke under a bath towel (can’t move the tires easily) and one pepper (potted) got singed next to the house. yes, I just keep replacing them until they hold as well, though no messing with the basil early–it waits inside for awhile longer. resist the temptation to whitewash your tires as they absorb more heat (and dispense it all night) if they remain black.

  16. Charlotte says:

    I’ve still got everything tender in the cold frame — and then it looks like this year I’m going to have to use the Wall o’Water’s (now those *are* ugly, but they work). I think I can get them in this weekend — it’s been an endlessly cold and horrible spring this year in the northern tier — even my spinach and arugula haven’t really come in yet. And it’s nearly June! The nice thing about the Wall o’Waters is that you can pull them off once it does finally get warm, and put them away so you don’t have to look at them.

  17. Ann says:

    Thanks so much for the garden inspiration! I spend too much time trying to hide the veggie garden when I should be beautifying it!

  18. Eric says:

    Raised beds are beautiful. And no, you don’t do raised beds just to avoid digging. When I put mine in, I double dug the soil before filling the bed. I figure that gives me 18-24 inches of fabulously loamy veggie growing goodness. My carrots couldn’t be happier that I did this.

    Additionally, here in central Texas our two choices for a marketable lawn (I am keeping my lawn to make it easier to sell my house in a year) are bermuda and St. Augustine, both of which will very assuredly fill in any garden patch that is at ground level. If I wanted to spend all my time pulling grass, I would have gardened on the ground. Raised beds work and work well.

  19. That is a lovely garden scene.
    The green architectural stature is what makes this garden work whether the vegetable garden is left fallow or is in full fruiting mode.
    It just goes to show you that good bones make for a visually pleasing garden all year round.

    Raised wooden containers beds can also be quite beautiful if attention to design is provided.
    They can also be a blessing for gardeners with movement disabilities.

    We’ve designed and built many raised beds using a variety of materials including redwood boxes.
    A majority of these raised vegetable gardens were built for those with back problems, arthritis and wheelchair bound.
    Some were designed to simply make it more comfortable to traverse a steep site or aid in poor drainage.
    One of our raised box gardens was designed to make gardening more easily functional for a blind gardener.

    Good design and construction can do just about any building material justice.

  20. That is a lovely garden scene.
    The green architectural stature is what makes this garden work whether the vegetable garden is left fallow or is in full fruiting mode.
    It just goes to show you that good bones make for a visually pleasing garden all year round.

    Raised wooden containers beds can also be quite beautiful if attention to design is provided.
    They can also be a blessing for gardeners with movement disabilities.

    We’ve designed and built many raised beds using a variety of materials including redwood boxes.
    A majority of these raised vegetable gardens were built for those with back problems, arthritis and wheelchair bound.
    Some were designed to simply make it more comfortable to traverse a steep site or aid in poor drainage.
    One of our raised box gardens was designed to make gardening more easily functional for a blind gardener.

    Good design and construction can do just about any building material justice.

  21. I think Carol’s raised veggie beds at May Dreams Garden are absolutely beautiful. But I see your point about poorly tended ones being not so nice. Any poorly tended garden is sad looking.

  22. Barbara says:

    HOW TO DISGUISE A VEGETABLE GARDEN

    Say, where are the vegetables?
    Looks very staged-set to me!
    AND
    SAY W-H-A-T ????

    “detestable, butt-ugly, nailed-together lumber raised beds”

    I have the most incredible beautiful, loaded with 3′ high snow peas, garlic now 2′ high, tomatoes, peppers – I could go on! – - Oh, poo! I’d would be proud to have pictures taken this May 31st for any garden magazine cover!

    Also insulted since my clients love their butt-beautiful! gardens – http://www.teichgardensystems.com – Butt ugly? No way!

  23. Now I can never grow vegetables because it will never look like *that*. Leave it to, uh, “my people” to make everyone else feel inadequate.

  24. tamba says:

    i like this stuff so much so can l get some

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