A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Adventures in Gardening

This blog will serve as a journal of our first efforts at a vegetable garden here in Round Rock, Texas – a northern suburb of Austin.  My fiance Michelle and I have a relatively small backyard, so we are capitalizing on the space by growing our veggies in raised beds.  We took some ideas from square foot gardening and adapted them for our needs.

The herb garden at two weeks.

The herb garden at two weeks.

Background

At the beginning of summer, in mid-May, I decided to build an herb garden for Michelle for Mother’s Day.  Our backyard was so empty – it needed something.  We cook all the time with herbs, so it made sense to plant an herb garden – especially when we discovered a variety of herb plants on sale for $2.50 each at our local nursery.  “We spend more than that for a little package at the store!”  We grabbed up several plants – two thyme, two sage, three chives, two basil, one marjoram, two oregano and two curry plants (ornamental), a peppermint and a spearmint plant and took them home.

I dug up a small area outside our back patio door and used landscaping stones to build up a bed.  I removed about four inches of dirt, making sure to remove all grass sod, and then covered the bottom of the hole with about an inch of mulch.  Before filling the hole with dirt, I watered it really well.   I filled the hole with Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Soil and dropped my transplants in.   I looked up each herb’s growing conditions online and decided to put the chives near the back as they could tolerate the most shade and wettest conditions, followed by basil in front of that, marjoram, oregano and sage in the middle and thyme and curry on the outside.   I re-potted the mints in their own separate pots to keep them from spreading.  I watered them really well for about a week and they seemed to be doing alright.

The following weekend, I was out at Home Depot getting supplies and the skies opened up and dumped on us here in Round Rock.  I thought about my herbs and hoped they were alright.  When I returned home, I found Michelle and Erin completely drenched from head to toe – they had been out in the rain trying to save the freshly planted herbs from a torrential downpour as rain gushed off the eaves of the house and into the herb garden.   Thankfully, their efforts saved the plants, and we got a few funny pics out of it!  The following weekend, I decided to build a PVC frame over the garden, and also purchased some thick plastic sheeting to attach to the PVC frame and act as a canopy for future storms.

Drenched ... but a great save!

Drenched ... but a great save!

We’ve been surprised at how well they herbs have grown – even despite the weather this summer.  I think this is because the garden is on the East side of the house, so it is shielded from the afternoon sun after 2 PM. I’ve gotten four huge harvests off the basil, which has been, by far, the best performer.  I plan on harvesting again this weekend, removing the top third of each plant.  From what I’ve read, the herbs will probably really take off in the fall, so I’m excited to see what additional harvests I can get from the other plants.  I’ve already got a good supply of sage and marjoram.  The fresh marjoram is wonderful, especially on chicken!

I think we caught a little gardening fever as a result of our herb garden.  A few weeks after planting the herb garden  we planted two transplants – one three foot tall tomato plant with over a dozen tomatoes on it, and one green pepper plant about one foot square with nearly thirty peppers.   I knew it was a little late to plant them, but we did anyway.  They produced for a couple of weeks, but with twenty days of 100 degree weather in June and another twenty five in July, I can say that those plants didn’t really ever stand a chance.  I watered them well – and covered the pepper plant about three feet above with a section of burlap.  That did well to maintain the plant and keep it safe from the scorching Texas heat, but the peppers were all very small and thin-fleshed.  Add in an attack by three hornworms and die-off caused by a bad mixture of soap spray to ward off a beetle attack, and that plant is lucky to still be hanging in there.

The bell pepper and tomato transplants...

The bell pepper and tomato transplants...

I hope now that August is behind us, this plant will be rejuvenated and begin producing the crop it was born to.  It’s already grown quite a bit of leaves back and there are at least a dozen pepper nubbins forming.  We’ll come back to that another day.

The tomatoes stopped producing in July – they just don’t set fruit when temperatures are consistently hot.  It was frustrating to see huge patches of flowers wilt and break off without bearing their delicious red tomatoes!  Needless to say, I yanked the plant out of it’s box to make room for fall crops.   It is now becoming happy compost in my backyard box.

September 2, 2009: the herb garden survived the Texas summer

September 2, 2009: the herb garden survived the Texas summer

More on the fall garden coming up…

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