Friday, July 29, 2011

Heading into August

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.


  1. Welcome back, Jennifer! Your new header is beautiful and I loved this latest up date on what's been happening in your garden during your absence. It's astounding how much growth has occurred in your veggie garden in just over the month since you planted everything are your plants on steroids or something? ;) Your flowers are bountiful and beautiful, too. A joy to behold!

  2. Your garden is amazingly full of color! I think doing raised beds for the veggie garden is a great idea.

  3. Your vegetable garden is so beautiful like the rest part of your garden. Everything look so green and healthy (not all some beautiful colours as well!):).

  4. How wonderful to find your veg garden photos as I troll through the last of the postings before leaving on my holiday. You have done a superb job of laying out, and yes..the tomatoes do grow far larger than one expects...!! Big smile. I loved your honesty and your enthusiasm... You must be so pleased...a great job and so well done. lovely

    About the cedar planks..I believe they will last for years and years...and they really cut down on insects that want to eat your were very wise to use cedar in my view.

    Have also been taking daylily photos..they are really shining now heh! Same with the composites.

  5. Jennifer, your garden looks wonderful. You have so much space for your veggie garden. I do miss that, mine is so small now I really have to be careful what I grow.

    The daylilies are beautiful and I must look for a couple of ruffled ones.


  6. Your garden is gorgeous. I love the abandon of color in all your beds. Your do have a nice big space for the veggies too. Lots of lilies make the garden happy.You were only about 20 or so miles from me here in the Falls. Niagara on the Lake is a nice trip that I take on occasion.

  7. Hubby often starts a vegie garden but he gives up and does not attend to it often enough the man has no follow through and I have black thumbs and to be honest I have no desire to I really admire those who do have beautiful gardens.

  8. I love the design of your garden Jennifer! It's very inspiring...I hope someday to have no grass and raised beds in a similar fashion...someday! Congratulations on the success of the veggies too.

  9. I like the way you garden! Even your vegetable garden is designed to be esthetically pleasing, as well as functional. The picket fence with all the cottage flowers is joyfully exuberant. All the flowers look so healthy. Beautiful!

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  11. For a veggie garden just started this year it is amazing, such a lot of work but love your layout with the raised beds and center piece. I too find tomatoes quickly outgrow the metal rings. Bunnies always seem to appear when none seen before..and dine on the best bits. The flowers are all looking so healthy and happy. The photo with the riot of colour and white picket fence .my fav . Gorgeous all.

  12. Wow Jennifer! You might have the most charming garden around. I LOVE the layout of your kitchen garden, so beautiful. And your blooms look fabulous too. I know what you mean about best laid plans, I have tried various things to keep kids, dogs and rodents out of different areas, with varied levels of success.

  13. LOL I know what you mean about monster vegetable gardens that aren't always very productive. All too well! Your garden looks gorgeous. I am dazzled by all of the beautiful flowers next to the white picket fence and your daylily pictures are amazing.

  14. Your vegetable bed design is beautiful. Love that you put the urn in the middle. Beautiful! The rest of your garden is so colorful and cheerful! My tomato plants are getting huge, too. It really is amazing how big they can get!

  15. Your garden looks very cool and well watered! It must not be 100 F there! Your veggie garden is really beautiful. It's more artistic than farm-like. Gorgeous, as usual!!

  16. Jennifer, your vegetable garden is quite beautiful and it looks to me like you're well on your way to loads of veggies. I find the metal hoops are good for determinate tomatoes but if you are growing indeterminate (vining) varieties they aren't tall enough. We're experimenting with homemade trellis this year for the vining tomatoes and at almost 6 feet tall I can see they still may not be tall enough.

  17. One more thing - your plants look happy and content. LOVE the daylillies!!

  18. Wow, what a garden !!! You are a great gardener, Jennifer !!!

  19. What an AMAZING array of color! It all flows so nicely together and I am very envious of all your blooms that you have right now! I hope you are out there everyday enjoying the fruits of your labor!

  20. Oh my much color !!!
    Loving the the blue against the white fence post and all the lilies.
    Your raised beds are so tidy.
    We have many raised beds also for my husbands veggies, mostly tomatoes.
    Also started using weedcloth last year and it works great.

  21. Your veggie garden is so neatly laid out and don't worry I've had the same experience with my tomatoes flopping all over the place. The flower garden is overflowing with blooms! I can't believe how lush & pretty it looks in July. My garden has been trying to survive scorching temperatures so blooms are not a plenty. :(

  22. Jennifer your veggie garden looks like a work of art, and to think tomatoes even consider growing outdoors is remarkable to an Aberdonian.Isnt it strange how your Winters are so much colder than ours, yet the Summer days are not warm enough to ripen tomatoes over here. Pictures of your garden flowers are just stunning.

  23. Hi Jennifer - If my first tomato plants had looked anything as lush and green as yours I would have been doing endless blog posts about what a great "tomato gardener" I was! They look superb! Actually, all your photos are gorgeous! Your garden, just stunning.

  24. oh wow!!! absolutely stunning!!! thanks for sharing this with us!

  25. I don't know what your vegetables will taste like, but your flowers are certainly very beautiful, and so are your photos!

  26. omg Jennifer ~ your veggie garden design is incredible. I love the closer shot with the arbor too. You can see the repetition of urns and it's looks fantastic. I would love to wander around your garden in person. I think I'd absolutely be in love. I've decided I'm hopeless when it comes to vegetable gardening. I only have one raised bed but so far, I've harvested nothing. The squash are blooming their heads off but I guess nothing is pollinating them because no veggies are developing?? My tomato has three small fruit on it. ugh. I will absolutely spend more on the plants and water to keep them alive then I will ever harvest! Next year I may convert it to herbs? We'll see.
    Anyway, your garden is going into August looking great.

  27. I love it! What a beautiful vegetable garden. You have wonderful beds of blooms, too. I really enjoyed this tour.


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