It was just last winter when I found this garden. I was out for a run on a nearby trail and there it was — a set of two, fabulous raised beds, neatly surrounded with deer fencing at the base of a hillside meadow. The gate was fastened and weeds were tumbling this way and that, grasses and thistles running rampant within its borders.
After leaving the school garden to begin work on my book, I was left with just my deck garden — which is a more spacious than it sounds. But not nearly the 24 raised beds with perennial borders, fruit trees, berries, greenhouse, and chicken coop. But here I was looking at two veggie beds rooted to the earth and waiting to be planted. What was I left to do other than find the owner and win her over? So I did just that.
A few weeks later I dug out the beds with the help of my amazing husband (he is an all-star) and a couple of friends. We shoveled and carried and piled soil up on a set of tarps before reinforcing the beds with gopher wire. It was gorgeous soil. Someone had obviously taken great care to tend to it, but still we mixed in compost and manure before refilling the beds and planting.
The first summer I grew tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflowers, zucchini, a lone pumpkin, and herbs. Oh, and calendula. (What would a garden be without calendula?) Since then I moved onto fall, winter, and spring crops, and now it’s time for the sugar snap peas to wrap up and the heat loving veggies of summer to go in.
You can see the load of snap and snow peas producing like mad, but in the next day or so they’ll come out to make room for lemon cucumbers, zucchini and, of course, a lone pumpkin.
I alternate and dance back and forth between the deck garden and this spot (nicknamed The Knoll). And most recently I’ve been assigned a plot in the community garden. It’s a bit of a juggling act, but for now it’s perfect.
These alpine strawberries live at home, in the deck garden. They’re perfect for more reason than one, but the primary reasons are they thrive in our climate — a mix of cool, summer fog and mild, coastal weather — and they’re runner-less. As far as I’m concerned, any kind of strawberry is wonderful, but runner-less strawberries make container gardening easy. (How often have you had strawberries run rampant in your garden? Taking over with runners and daughter plants?)
Surprisingly the kale is still thriving. Though I imagine as temperatures warm, more will bolt and aphids will be setting up shop. In the meantime flowers and leaves are finding their way into salads, sandwiches, slaws, and anything else I can muster up.
Thank goodness ladybugs have come to visit. They’ve found aphids on what was left of the fava beans, though those are out now too. (Thank you, ladybugs!)
I took out the tatsoi, mustards, mizuna, and the mache that had gone to seed, making room for tomatoes. These are grape and slicing tomatoes from Sakata that I’m testing — can’t wait to see how they grow. I’ve amended the soil with compost and manure and soon I’ll spread a layer of straw for added protection. Now I’m hoping summer fog doesn’t set in too quickly so they have a chance to mature and fruit before the season comes to a close. (Why is it that winter always creeps into spring and sometimes summer, and summer ends abruptly and almost always in September?)
Nasturtiums are nearly a year round staple in Coastal California. They’re quiet from November to January but by mid-February they take hold again, setting flowers and seed in time for May. The greens and flowers are a fun, spicy addition to salads, the seed pods are delicious pickled, and it’s an all around fabulous companion plant. I’m trying a new variety this spring called ‘Cherry Rose Jewel.’ So more for me this year.
Other articles you may enjoy:
What to Plant Now: How to Grow Chard
How to Grow a Small Space Salad Garden