Friday, September 01, 2006

Garage Bed Potager

I dubbed the strip of dirt between the sidewalk and the garage my “garage bed.” The garden plan for this area has gone through numerous revisions. I’m still not happy with it.

Currently, the bed holds a hodgepodge of plants: Carolina jasmine, Silk Road orienpet lilies, Lysimachia ‘Alexander,’ Lysimachia ‘Firecracker,’ lavender, tulips, coreopsis (2 kinds), hollyhocks, creeping jenny, gladiolas, yarrow, and echinacea. It looks terrible.


The wall faces SW and the soil is good, but dry. The only plant that really seems to thrive here is the lavender. Given the conditions, an herb garden seems appropriate, but I don’t think it would give me the height I want. I’m considering adding veggies for height and annual flowers for color to create a potager next year. My plan:

  • Leave the lavender beneath the window
  • Plant cherry tomato plants on either side of the lavender
  • Plant sunflowers (the regular kind) on the outside of the tomatoes
  • Construct bamboo teepees at either end of the garage for climbing peas or beans
  • Plant low growing crops, herbs, and annuals in the remaining space

I’ll confess that I have not grown vegetables before. This was my first year with herbs and some of them look truly terrible. Many of you fellow garden bloggers grow veggies, so I’d love to hear your advice. Some questions I have are:

  • What kind of legumes can I grow on the teepee? Are they cool-weather crops? Should I plan for two or three crops on the teepees over the season?
  • Instead of teepees, what about arches extending over the sidewalk, with one on either end of the garage? Oooh, then I could grow birdhouse gourds…
  • Will cherry tomatoes become so bushy that they’ll block the path? (I haven’t measured it, but I think the bed is 2.5 or 3 feet deep.)
  • Any suggestions on low-growing crops? Should I plan, again, on different veggies for different times of the year?
  • What about perennial vegetables, like rhubarb and asparagus?
  • Finally, do you recommend any good books on potager gardens?

The world of veggies is completely bewildering to me. I feel like I’m learning to garden all over again. I appreciate your help!

5 Comments:

Blogger Maggie said...

I think you'd have enough room. looks like oyu have at least two feet, right? my tomatoes are bushy (i have them placed in those metal ring contraptions) i planted sunflowers behind my tomatoes and when they got super tall they fell over on the tomato plants - and i even used stakes to tie them back so they wouldn't fall.
happy friday!

6:18 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

Do you know if your garage has ever been treated for termites? The old pesticides were very toxic and lasted forever, so it's not a good idea to plant edibles right up against a structure that's been treated.

If that's not an issue, sage and tarragon would like the conditions that lavender does. Or you could try Lavender 'Grosso', which is close to 3ft tall.

A few years back, I started growing my tomatoes on teepees of 4 stakes. If you pinch out the suckers once a week, it's not difficult to tie the tomatoes up the poles -- that way they grow up, not out. I posted a photo of how Sweet 100 looks in a container http://reneebeaulieu.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_reneebeaulieu_archive.html

You could put in several teepees -- that would give you the taller plants you want, without the width that lots of them need. But sunflowers also sound like a good idea. Maybe with some morning glories to bloom when the sunflowers are done?

Peas have to go in early, and mature by June -- and they won't climb more than maybe 4 ft. They don't twine the way pole beans do, so they're better on some kind of mesh than on a pole. Beans, on the other hand, go in on the late side, after the soil is warm.

Scarlet runner beans aren't very tasty, but have gorgeous red flowers -- edible, and hummingbirds love them. Lablab beans have beautiful dark purple flowers and shiny purple pods that are also ornamental, not edible. ... so many plants, so little time...

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Tracy said...

Kasmira:

If you can grow annuals, you can grow vegetables! Your site looks like the perfect one - warm and sunny.

Legumes on tepee: If these are your first vegetables, I would go with pole beans. Snap peas are the only peas with any height, and they'll be done by mid to late June. Pole beans will grow all summer. They are tender and like warm soil, so don't plant the seeds until about the same time you would plant tender annuals. Make your tepee or trellis at least 5 feet tall. If you have rabbits, protect the bottom or the vines with about 1-2 feet of chicken wire - otherwise the little critters will snip off the tops of all the vines (this is exceedingly frustrating, believe me). Once the vines are 2-3 feet tall you can remove the protection.

Arches over the sidewalk: I had those at a previous house. They work great for pole beans. If you do birdhouse gourds, make sure it's a sturdy structure.

Cherry tomatoes: If you pinch out the suckers and train them up a pole, they shouldn't get in the way of the path. And besides, you'll be standing there popping them in your mouth! Cherry tomatoes can get tall, so use three 6" bamboo stakes, stick them behind and next to the plant (you don't really need one in front), then as the plant grows tie it up to the stakes. Don't even bother with tomato cages - they're too short and too spindly. Plant the tomatoes at the same time as the beans.

Low growing crops: If you don't plan on perennials, put in lettuce and other greens as soon as the ground can be worked. You can also do radishes. This will keep you in salads until the beans and tomatoes start. If you like summer squash, zucchini usually doesn't get too out of control (the plant, not the number of squash!).

Perennial vegetables: Rhubarb would go well in that spot. After the first year it should take care of itself. Asparagus - you need a really long row to get enough to make a meal, so I wouldn't recommend it. You could also do strawberries or some smaller blueberry bushes.

Good books: I keep hearing about The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. It's covers all types of gardening, but other bloggers confess to taking it out to the vegetable garden with them. I really like The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith. Very clearly laid out with good information about each vegetable. Another good one is Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham, about companion planting and bringing beneficial insects to the garden.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

# What kind of legumes can I grow on the teepee? Are they cool-weather crops? Should I plan for two or three crops on the teepees over the season?

Peas, as others have mentioned, won't last all summer. Pole beans would be cool, but you *could* grow cucumbers or gourds (like a small fancy mix) up the teepee. My cucumbers grew up the teepee I made really well this year.


# Instead of teepees, what about arches extending over the sidewalk, with one on either end of the garage? Oooh, then I could grow birdhouse gourds…

My birdhouse gourds are growing up my front porch. It's working so far. So there's an idea, too... if you had a trellis along the back, the gourd vines could grow there.

# Will cherry tomatoes become so bushy that they’ll block the path? (I haven’t measured it, but I think the bed is 2.5 or 3 feet deep.)

They have mini cherries, like patio cherries just like regular patio tomatoes that don't get as big. They even have micro cherries now!


# Any suggestions on low-growing crops? Should I plan, again, on different veggies for different times of the year?

What about sweet potatoes? They don't vine, but the vines are a good ground cover. And they look nice.


# What about perennial vegetables, like rhubarb and asparagus?

Asparagus would work well there, I think. Rhubarb would too. Chives might as well, if you want to lean towards herbs. And sage. Or you could just plant mint and then you'd be done. :)

What about garlic? I'm planting garlic this year for the first time. It ships in the fall, so you'd have to order it soon.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Watch with the gourds~ some grew last year (volunteers) that were very harsh, covered with a thorny hide.
Parsley can be compact and decorative, low-growing.

7:47 AM  

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