By Eva Rose Montane
It’s finally time to dig into your garden again. If you are debating about creating additional space for more garden goodies, here are some advantages to trading in lawn or bare earth for garden beds that could convince you to expand:
• Most grass lawns are monocultures, meaning only one species of plant is grown. Introducing more diversity is beneficial to wildlife, including pollinating insects that are crucial to life as we know it.
• Most garden plants flower, fruit or offer fall color and textures. • Your new garden bed can be planted as a lush, floriferous Xeriscape with mulch that will result in much less water use and more durability through the season.
• Your new space could be a vegetable bed used to feed your family and keep the grocery and farmers market bills down.
Location, location, location
Think about exposure. Most vegetables want full sun, but spinach, lettuce and other salad greens do best in the cooler spring and fall seasons or with some shade. Tomatoes and their relatives, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatillo, along with cucurbits including summer and winter squash, cucumbers and melons, have a difficult time growing in our climate, especially in the higher elevations. If you are determined to try them, make sure their bed is on a sheltered south-facing exposure, perhaps near a sidewalk or wall that absorbs a lot of heat during the day then releases it at night, keeping your veggies warm. If you choose ornamentals, your options are greater since there are perennials that grow happily in the shade, even dry shade, as well as in the sun and somewhere in between.
If you live in an area with deer, think about how you’re going to keep them from eating your delicious new plants. Try using a fence as a barrier or plant your garden bed in an area your pet patrols.
Avoid planting your new garden in areas that are difficult to get water to or in a location that is too far away for anyone to appreciate the bounty of your efforts. Additionally, planting your garden up against your house is not recommended; our characteristic clay soils expand and shrink, which means continuous watering of the garden could eventually devastate your house’s foundation.
Use your garden bed and its eventual plantings to screen unsightly views, such as a shed, or frame it with lower plantings if you have nothing to hide. A rise in your bed could help plants. Simply bring in extra soil to create a mound or berm on which you can plant plants. They will appreciate the extra drainage.
Get planting now while you’re inspired and before summer’s heat starts, and focus on your garden with fresh eyes.