Taking a small break from the absolute dumpster fire that is America’s national politics (I feel so very fortunate to live in this city and state), I spent some time last week putting together a garden plan for 2017.
Planning a garden right now feels different than it ever has, I suppose because I feel different than I ever have. Of course, I’ve felt sad and anxious about American politics many times during my adult life, but (foolishly, perhaps?) I never felt raw fear. I realize this places me firmly in a position of privilege.
But at the end of the day, a garden is a garden, and even though I am changed, my garden is very similar to what I’ve grown in the past. Comfort in the familiar, perhaps? Without further ado:
Left to right, also west to east, in the main garden we’ve got:
Bed #1: collard greens, parsnips, and onions, with snap peas and cucumbers climbing up the trellis at the back. A single row of garlic is already in the ground on the right edge.
Bed #2: garlic, beets, and bush beans. Bed #2 is my widest garden bed; as usual I’m pushing it to the limit.
Bed #3: tomatoes. I’m giving up on interplanting tomatoes with anything this year. They just get so huge. Additionally, I may create a new squirrel-proof enclosure to grow them in, which will surely take up the whole area with no room for anything else.
Bed #4: something new! I’m going to try okra this year. I love eating okra, and it would be nice to be able to teach my Sabathani students how to grow it in our climate. Okra is a wonderful plant for mixing in your sunny flower beds—the flowers are large and tropical, similar to hibiscus in appearance. I’ll also put eggplant, runner beans, and shallots in bed #4.
At my Sabathani community garden plot, I’m going to be slightly more ambitious than in previous years. I want to grow quite a bit of lavender, so I’m planting a “hedge” of it all the way around the edge. I also hope this will help establish a neat border for my garden, resulting in fewer people walking through it.
I’ll still plant potatoes and squash there, but fewer, two hills each of summer squash—Pattison Panache, and winter squash—Turk’s Turban.
What’s new for 2017? I’m giving up on radishes after so many disappointing harvests. I’m also going to try carrots in a pot this year, having had less than stellar luck in the carrot division as well.
I’ve got several expanded flower beds at home to fill up with new plants this spring. I am going to try blueberries again, but this time in a half-barrel with acidified soil. I’ll also plant ground cherries. The rest of the open areas will be filled in with flowers, including these:
Blanket Flower — these are petite, make a great flower bed edge plant, and last year they bloomed from Late June-November. Seriously, November. I saw bees on them all the time, too.
Goldenrod — so important for late-season pollinators, gorgeous winter interest, and there are cultivars in various shapes and sizes.
Prairie Smoke — a tiny plant to put right along a path in a sunny spot. Beautiful, very early flowers followed by cool, smoky seedheads.
Little Bluestem — I first fell in love with Little Bluestem as a landscape plant for a very practical reason: it’s easy to identify because it looks so different from the various grassy weeds that plague my garden beds. But it’s also gorgeous in the winter, and provides food for skippers and birds. Here’s a great overview.
Solomon’s Seal — my favorite native shade plant. It’s gorgeous. It’s well-behaved. It’s easy to identify. It tolerates the dry shade under a very large maple tree. I’ve never tried making medicines with it, but the medicinal uses sound fascinating.
Why do I love these plants? They’re all natives, they all support pollinators, and they’re all gorgeous in the landscape, as well as relatively well-behaved. I’ve heard goldenrod can get weedy but I’ve not experienced that first-hand, perhaps because I have it planted in part-shade.
In making this list, I’ve just realized something. I was going to add Purple Pasque Flower to the list; I planted it in 2015 and its bloom in ’16 was gorgeous. I could have sworn I had found it in the native plants section, but I’ve just realized it is NOT native. There is a native purple pasque flower and a non-native purple pasque flower. You see, even master gardeners make mistakes all the time.
So, if I add more pasque flowers I’ll know which ones are correct, next time.
I also have BIG plans at Sabathani Community Garden this year—and I hope they translate into increased access to healthy, fresh food for the people who garden there. I will write a separate post about this after presenting the plan next week and hopefully getting the green light from garden leaders.
It’s time to translate my anxiety into action. Gardening is where I shine, so that’s where I need to put my energy.
Another upcoming post: I took a seed starting class recently where I learned some new things, enough that I’m going to give it a try again this year. In the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my new strategies as well as a schedule for getting everything in. Spring is truly right around the corner.
February 6, 2017 at 2:45 am
Long time reader, first time commenter;) I also purchased pasque flower from the natives section of the FSPS, and have been exhaustively searching (for years!) to find out if the native could possibly be THAT purple…so far I haven’t found a definitive answer (which is frustrating – I’m very type-a and only use natives). I did find this: http://www.friendsofeloisebutler.org/pages/plants/pasqueflower.html
And it put me at ease a bit. If you find out any more definitive info about the Friends school source, please do update us! Anyway, great job on the blog, and don’t fret too much about 2017, we’re all in this together and we’ll get through it.
February 6, 2017 at 10:55 am
Thanks Andy! I intend to take a very close look at my pasque flower this spring to try and determine whether it’s the European one or the American one. Maybe it wasn’t a mistake on my part; maybe it was a Friends School mistake (or their supplier). I try to be very vigilant about this, too!
I debate about whether to just remove the non-natives from my yard altogether, but… for now I’m choosing the path of replacing them with natives when they die.
Exception: I’m keeping my magnolia. I love that thing. 🙂
February 14, 2017 at 10:24 pm
Beautiful work with the garden plan! I really hope it all works out well for you.
As I’ve said before, I think, reading your posts is like feeding my soul. Someday I’m going to do more of what you’re doing – once I get out of the rat race of my job and a few other obligations and obsessions.
On the positive side: I planted some peas and Swiss Chard this past Saturday – when it was 86 F, though 59 the next day, and today it has been raining; just what we need!
Keep up the wonderful work.
February 16, 2017 at 12:58 pm
Thanks, John! Psst you’re my favorite uncle. 🙂
February 16, 2017 at 2:27 pm
And your my favorite niece! – and I’m not saying that just because… 🙂