I seriously had no idea tomato plants could reach such epic proportions!
When it comes to flowers, I am a fairly confident gardener. I grew up in my mother's flower garden after all. She had a vegetable garden too, but my memories of our family vegetable patch has more to do with raiding it for an after school snack, than any working knowledge of growing vegetables. As a child, I loved picking green beans off the vine and eating them raw, warmed only by the afternoon sun. Raspberries were a favourite too. I liked them best slightly under ripe, when the berries were tart and a bit sour.
Although I can clearly remember helping my mother plant beans, peas and carrots each spring, I took no interest in growing vegetables, preferring to help with the flowers garden instead. So when I decided to create a vegetable garden this spring, I did not feel entirely like a I was standing on a solid footing of practical experience.
The design of the vegetable garden was the easy part. I had been carrying around a basic layout in my head for a number of years (filed in my brain under the general heading of creative ideas, right next to the series of large abstract paintings I hope to someday paint).
I knew I wanted a formal arrangement with four raised beds centred around some sort of decorative feature like a fountain or urn. (In the end, I went with an urn that I already had on hand.)
The thinking behind the raised beds was practical, as well as aesthetic. I figured the dogs were less likely to tear through raised beds. (As it turned out this reasoning wasn't particularly sound. We had no sooner filled the boxes with triple mix, when I discovered Rusty standing proudly atop one of the new beds, throughly enjoying this new, elevated vantage point on the world.)
I don't want to bore you with too many of the construction details. Briefly, we marked off the beds with string held in position with 6" metal spikes. To create each bed, we dug down about 12 inches, removing the grass and the less than ideal soil.
Then, to make the pathways, we laid down heavy duty weed barrier and covered it with natural cedar mulch. (Eventually, we plan to replace the mulch in the centre section with flagstone and create more of a courtyard, with a French styled allée on either side.)
Each of the four planting boxes with made with 2 x 8 cedar planks. I opted not to finish them in any way. I know this means the boards will likely rot and will probably need to be replaced sooner than later. That is a risk I that I am willing to take in order to have a chemical free environment for our vegetables.
Once the boxes were constructed, we lifted them into position and backfilled them with triple mix.
This sounds rather straight forward, but the whole project took many weekends to accomplish. Planting was therefore delayed until we were well into the growing season. (If I was going to tackle a similar project again, I think I would do the construction in the fall, so everything is properly in place for the start of the planting season.)
In mid-June, I bought fennel, celery root, pepper, tomato and zucchini seedlings and way too many seeds for the relatively small space available. I started frantically planting everything, hoping to have some kind of harvest before the fall frost arrived.
On the edges of the boxes, I planted herbs and marigolds.
I was encouraged when green shoots sprung up through the soil. These are baby carrots.
The tomatoes quickly doubled in size and I ran out to the Canadian Tire store to buy hooped metal supports.
Then all hell seemed to break loose! As you know, a family of bunnies moved in and started eating every succulent shoot in sight. The tomatoes kept right on growing until they out-weighed the fine, hooped rings. Without proper support the heavy branches sagged and then, answering the call of gravity, they headed straight down to the ground.
A little too late, I remembered Deborah (Green Theatre) writing about the "towers" she and her husband had constructed to support the tomato plants in her kitchen garden. Oh, if only I had recalled that blog post sooner, I might have fashioned better supports for my own plants!
Anyway, enough complaining! Hopefully, I can still salvage some of the plants. At least the herbs and onions are at least doing well. And I managed to cordon off my sweet peas with some temporary fencing, so the bunnies wouldn't make a meal of them too.
Before I sign off, I want to quickly show you what else has been happening in the rest of the garden.
Daises shaped flowers are everywhere. There are yellow ones...
and pink ones...
and ones with black centres.
There is certainly no lack of color!
The ditch dayliles have passed the show over to their hybrid cousins. In the front yard, there is a mix of pink and orange flowers. These ones in front of the picket fence are cantaloupe colored (Evening Gown).
Just inside the fence, there are smaller pink ones.
If we now head into the back garden, the hosta are just about finished.
In this part of the garden, the pink and burgundy lily color scheme slowly gives way to yellow.
There is a pretty blue-purple geranium in flower. (Geranium vivace 'Rozeanne'). The plant flops a bit, but it blooms later than the most other geraniums I have in the garden.
The pink lilies are just about done.
In the circle garden, the daylily color scheme changes once again to shades of red and orange. Now, if only my tomatoes had fruit this red and delicious! Oh well, there is always next year.
Last week, we spent a few relaxing days in picturesque Niagra-on-the-Lake. We even managed to get into Toronto to see the big Abstract Expressionist show at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Slowly, we are slipping back into our normal routine. I look forward to catching up with you and hearing what has been happening in your garden.