2014 Fenceline Garden Plan1
Earlier this month I shared my Main Garden Plan for 2014. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m growing in our 1,152 square feet of raised beds, click here. In that post I mentioned that I had not yet created a plan for the Fenceline Garden, a 100-foot x 2.5-foot raised bed along the perimeter of our fenced backyard. For the last two years I used this space to grow vegetables for our CSA. This garden is divided visually by the ten 10’ sections of fence behind it. I typically treat each 10’ section as its own bed. Since we are no longer operating a CSA this space can be re-imagined. In fact, as soon as we determined that a CSA wasn’t in the cards for 2014, I started thinking about transforming the Fenceline into an herb, cut-flower and kitchen garden. Herbs because I would love to produce all of my own (and I use a lot of herbs in my cooking); cut-flowers because I love flowers indoors and the beauty they bring to the yard; and a kitchen garden because I’d rather walk 20-some feet to pick lettuce for a sandwich than 200+ feet to the Main Garden.
Despite the fact that I’ve been pondering this for nearly six months, I could never quite seem to land on a design that seemed ‘right’ and sustainable. I won’t bore you with all of the failed approaches I took – but I will bore you do want to tell you about the design I finally felt was just right!
(Psst! If you’re more of a visual person and you just want to see the plans, click here. If you want the details, read on.)
What I’m Growing
It took me a while, but I finally made a conclusive list of what I want to grow in this space. I started by identifying the kitchen garden items that we eat most and/or would eat more readily if they could be harvested conveniently. I selected:
- Lettuce (just a small amount)
- Tomatoes (Cherry)
Most of these plants play well together but some of them are not friendly. For example, scallions (onions) will inhibit the growth of beans. Also cucumbers and tomatoes are not on speaking terms. I knew I wanted to have two sections for annual veggies so that I could still maximize crop rotation. Since there are six veggies on my list, I divided them up into two groups that grow well together: The Cucumber Group (cucumbers, beans and lettuce) and the Tomato Group (tomatoes, scallions and spinach). These two sections will rotate annually.
For the herb garden I began by surveying my kitchen cupboards. I created a list of herbs and spices that I use frequently (both for cooking and for herbal tea) and that I’m not planning to grow elsewhere on our property (including roses for hips, hyssop, lavender, chamomile, spearmint and cat nip). I knew this would be the case, but it turns out that some of the items on my list just won’t grow in our climate – at least not without some really inventive techniques. After weeding those out I ended up with this list:
- Mustard (for the seeds, but I’ll eat the leaves too!)
For the cutting garden I knew for sure one star had to play a prominent role: Zinnias. I just love them! They grow so well (usually about 4+ feet at our house), are easy to start from seed, keep going and going and going, tolerate crappy growing conditions, and they look as amazing in the yard as they do in a vase. I really enjoyed Nasturtiums last year. Their warm-colored orange and yellow flowers are so pretty and also edible with a peppery taste. I really like the leaves on sandwiches and the seed pods are useful for de-worming chickens. Their small-ish stems probably mean they won’t be a stand-alone cut flower, but I think they would be pretty in a small vase or tucked in with sturdier flowers.
In addition to these two familiar flowers, I settled on a couple of other plants I’ve never grown before:
- Columbine Flower
I designed the plan so that the annual flowers could be rotated just like the veggies. Crop rotation helps to reduce the incidence of disease that can more readily occur when plants are continually sown in the same place. My original plan was to rotate the zinnias with the asters until I discovered that they are in the same plant family (along with marigolds). After a whole lot of digging, I settled on the following list of potential flowers to rotate with the zinnias:
- Globe Amaranth
- Poppies (especially ‘Peony Flower’)
These will all grow tall enough for the back-of-the-bed space the zinnias currently fill and will also make good (or at least decent) cut flowers. In the years that zinnias aren’t the star of the show, they will still play a supporting role elsewhere in the garden.
Dwarf Tree or Shrub
I’m planning to grow an ornamental shrub or dwarf fruit tree. I’m considering a dwarf cherry tree because its location will be in close proximity to the sour cherry tree I planted this past fall. Though our current tree is self-fertile, it’s production will increase if it has a pollinator. My concern with the dwarf cherry tree is that it might create too much shade as that particular part of the garden is already shaded part of the day. So… don’t hold me to this one. It may end up being something totally different by the time spring arrives! Whatever I choose, it will serve both form and function.
Form & Function
As if all of the reasoning I shared above wasn’t enough to digest, I wanted you to know that there is even more practicality to why I chose both the specific crops and the locations of each plant. For example, the veggie sections are far enough apart that the cucumbers and tomatoes won’t get into a skirmish. Sage is kept far away from both veggie sections because cucumbers also have a long-standing feud with this herb. Chives are said to be good companion plants for preventing diseases in some fruit trees. A large section of peonies should create enough space between the chives (onion family) and the beans to avoid any hindrances there. Asters, marigolds, peonies, and zinnias are all edible. (Marigolds also make a great source of natural food dye.) Feverfew is both a beautiful cut flower and an herb with medicinal qualities. Rosemary and sage are grown together because they are mutually beneficial. Peppermint should help to determine some pests that would otherwise feast on the mustard plants. Those same mustard plants will provide some height and color (red) to an otherwise exclusively green and short section of the garden, as well as offering tasty greens and seeds I can use for creating a condiment. Rhubarb grows decently in shade and is aided by the beautiful perennial Columbine flower, which also grows in shade. I’m hoping the garden will be as beautiful as it is hard-working!
I still need to pick many of the specific plant varieties, however, the general plan is complete. I’m so excited to finally know what I’m going to be doing in this space (and hoping it will be eye-pleasing as I envision)! You can see a visual representation of how the Fenceline Garden will be planted by clicking here or on the image below. You’ll need to zoom in significantly (200% to read the details). The actual plantings will be less boxy and confined than they appear in Excel.
I can’t wait! Are you growing a kitchen garden, herb garden or cut-flower garden this year? I’d love to hear about what you’ll be growing!