Here at Half-Acre Eden* we continue to blossom, growing a combination of food and beauty. There have been many changes this year. The compost pile just inside the garden gate is gone and we are developing the soil with our own compost, made primarily from garden and household waste, and with mulches.
We used up the bought compost by enlarging the bed in the centre of the yard to take advantage of the full sun. This bed is home to many tomatoes. Margaret decided to try every variety of tomato in our decades-old seed collection. She is taking notes. Next year, she claims, we will grow only those we liked. Please, remind us in February!
We took a risk and added black current bushes. Ribes (currents & gooseberries) family carry White Pine Rust so I had reservations about them as we live with a White Pine in the yard. Perhaps the newer varieties might not be carriers, but the black currents are delicious.
This bed is ringed with parsley, onions and carrots to keep the rabbits at bay. It works. However, the newly started parts of this bed are cardboard-and-compost, like all our gardens here so of course the root crops won’t mature through the cardboard. This year we have will eat many green onions and baby carrots!
We hooked up our rain barrels to soaker hoses throughout the gardens. What a steep learning curve: how high and where to place the barrels; how to arrange the hoses; and on and on. We think the current system works. The rain and time will teach us.
We continue to develop the area behind the *Little House*. Margaret especially claims this space and has created a beautiful and productive fruit-vegetable-flower area. Larkspur, snapdragons and roses grow cheek-and-jowl with peas, beans, and brassicae. We laughed at the volunteer potatoes which appeared in unexpected abundance.
The back fence-line is now home to the gorgeous fall-blooming white clematis along with shade loving perennials and shrubs. Soon the Clethra (summer sweet) will bloom along with Yellow Bells. Margaret cleared out the entrance to our venerable Yew and planted perennial ground covers (wild ginger, tiarella and lamium) as well as annual begonias.
We have a lot to learn about tree fruits. The peach behind the Little House survived once we understood how to irrigate it properly. We will begin the espalier process soon. Our other fruit trees bloomed beautifully but mostly haven’t held their fruits. Margaret says that they are settling in and will bear in due course.
With the compost pile gone, we began to look at the fence-line that runs from the East corner towards the South. We added strawberries in front of the raspberries and extended that bed. Acknowledging the limits of our gardening energy, we planted that area with understory trees and shrubs and low-maintenance perennials. Spring’s show of viburnum, tamarisk, red-purple dwarf lilac (Pocahontas) and finally, a pale pink flowering dwarf spirea was truly amazing. Next year the Black Lace Elderberry will catch up with the rest.
The front of that bed holds pieces of my hybrid day lily collection, a few phlox and irises. This year I have begun to divide the daylilies and they will be available for purchase on a rotating basis. A spectacular red cabbage is a focal point and the ubiquitous kale found a spot as well. Roses and a small Japanese Maple connects that side with the berries. The wild lupine seeds I scattered last fall are germinating. I can hardly wait until they bloom.
The remainder of the East fence will wait. We expect to plant small trees and shrubs to keep maintenance at a minimum. It will also house part of our hosta collection. If you have known me for some time you will laugh. I once scorned hostas. But their diversity has grown on me and chance has brought some beauties my way.
This year marks hydrangea success: my beloved oak-leaf hydrangea is blooming. Check it out in the corner just under the White pine. Margaret’s Lace-Cap Hydrangea is also finally blooming. Lace-caps are especially interesting because their small fertile flowers are surrounded by showy sterile flowers. All the better to attract insect pollinators.
Our biggest challenge remains the front. After several attempts with “native” ground covers, I added deeply rooted perennials and scattered columbine seed. They appeared to *take* amidst the tree roots, but the irises didn’t bloom and the Echinacea is a pale cousin to those in the back. The Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is doing just fine, thank you! We added a beautiful Pagoda Dogwood. But it struggled so we moved it to the back where it is thriving. One lone red bud which came as a mere shoot is soldiering along.
* We call our place *Half Acre Eden* in tribute to Organic Gardening writer Gene Lodgson who, in 1971 pioneered the food sustainability movement with his book, Two Acre Eden. We give his memory our sincerest gratitude.