Successful Veg Garden Day 19

I’m getting pretty tired of writing about vegetables–don’t think I’ll even mention the word until this time next year. You must be getting enough of it as well!

Never worry, only three days of Boot Camp left–I guess we know why they used that analogy for these lessons. Today’s topic: Growing Greens.

Now I admit, I don’t love salad greens. I sort of have to force myself to eat them, because my favourite use is in sandwiches, but then I only use a few leaves of greens, and a lot of other, often calorific, sandwich fixings. But I always hope “I’ll do better next time”, so here I am, growing greens again.

Here’s some great things about growing greens:

1. They tolerate lower light levels. You can plant them in an already slightly shady (still getting a few hours of direct sun) areas, or in the shade of plants that will grow tall in mid-summer–like your tomatoes, potatoes, peppers.

2. They’re often quite decorative so they’ll do well in your ornamental garden. As you harvest the outer leaves, (leaving the centre to continue producing), you’ll want to have other plants growing around to hide the bare stem. Annual Alyssum is brilliant for that. Sow the flower seeds at the same time you sow the greens seeds or at the same time you transplant the seedlings. Ditto for candytuft (Iberis umbellata).

Iberis umbellata--annual candytuft.

Iberis umbellata–annual candytuft. And yes, you get multi-colours, and it self seeds like crazy–but in a good way. Like alyssum, very easy to thin.

3. Some greens are hard to keep growing through the hot days of summer, but collard greens and mustard greens will put up with a lot of heat. The other “green” I love to put in my sandwiches, and to a lesser extent in salads, is nasturtium leaves. They’re very like arugula in flavour, but with less bitterness, and thicker–more substantial. And nasturtiums are great additions to the vegetable garden, since not only are their leaves edible, but the flowers are sweet and peppery. Beautiful in a salad. They are said to be a great “companion” plant for the vegetable garden, altho’ I don’t care for one of it’s uses–as an aphid trap: the nasturtium attracts aphids drawing them away from other aphid-susceptible plants. However it’s my understanding that aphids (there are bazillions of species) are specific to the plant they are infesting, so the ones on the nasturtiums are not the ones that will attack cabbages, or roses, or daisies. One thing they definitely do do is attract pollinators, so planting them around plants that need pollination in order to produce fruit–toms, cukes, squash etc.–will be a very good thing.

Image courtesy of deeprootsathome.com

Nasturtiums growing with toms. Image courtesy of deeprootsathome.com

Two days left–herb garden and growing tomatoes. Stay tuned.

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Make YOUR Garden Sustainable

Make YOUR Garden Sustainable

Rudbeckia fulgida

Rudbeckia fulgida, with Hemerocallis fulva (also called “ditch lilies”) in the background.

You’ve heard the buzz words: “Green gardening”, “Sustainable gardening”, “Environmentally sound gardening”. But you don’t know how to transform your water-guzzling, fertilizer-gobbling, time- and energy-intensive outdoor space into something that requires less of all those things.

I’ll be honest here. Much as I’m always encouraging my readers to DIY, and giving (I think) good advice and how-to’s, in this case I’d recommend you hire a professional. If you’re willing to put in hours/days/weeks of labour, and/or amortize the project over a few years, you can definitely do it yourself, and save a lot of money in the process.  You may have read some of my articles and started to implement elements (get ready for an evening of reading!). But if you’ve already unsuccessfully had a go, or achieved a product that doesn’t quite satisfy, or know that you haven’t the time energy or expertise to get what you want, then it’s time to call in the cavalry.

Probably the chief mandate of sustainable gardening is the same as the mandate of the medical profession: “Do no harm.” When we use a lot of inorganic additives most of it is washed either into watersheds or municipal sewage systems, resulting in algae blooms and fish death, and may result in inappropriate vegetative growth on your plants instead of flowering or fruiting growth. When we try to grow plants that need conditions that differ substantially from your own environment, you’ll find you either have to water (with fresh water) through dry months, or lose plants that prefer warm, dry conditions instead of our cold wet Fall/Winter/Springs (which leads to the whole conversation about wastage…).

You’ll think the answer then is easy–native plants. But have you noticed, your property isn’t “native”. It’s been developed and re-developed possibly many times since the days when it was a forest or prairie. Your soil is different, the sun and wind exposure is different, the fauna is very different.

I’m not saying it’s rocket science, it’s not (duh…). Heck, if I can do it, anyone can do it. Except that because garden design/horticulture is a passion of mine, I’ve made it my business not only to understand the theory and process, but to actually LIKE the process. You may be the same. Or you may want the product, but not necessarily want to engage in the process. Or you may be that wonderful ideal client–the person who wants the product (the sustainable garden, in case you’ve forgotten what we’re talking about here) and also wants the hands-on coaching to achieve it. (Not that everyone else isn’t a wonderful ideal client…)

DSCN3342 2

Iberis umbellata, or annual candytuft, with butterfly of unknown origin. Candytuft self-seeds like crazy in my garden (and my neighbours’ gardens!).

So if you’re longing for that beautiful and sustainable outdoor retreat, consider calling in a designer that specializes in this. Check out their credentials and portfolio, call their references–you know all this, you’d do the same for a plumber or roofer. And then enjoy the results, knowing that your days of harming the environment through your gardening practices are at an end.