I thought I'd post a tour of my garden as it currently stands at the end of winter, to act as the "before" pic in relation to the spring planting we're planning. Like all "before" photos, there's likely to be a fair bit of "ugh"... I'm definitely aware of how much work I want to do here!
Let's start in the backyard. Our house is an early 20th century bungalow that was originally on a 1/4 acre block, but it was recently (past couple of decades) split in half an we now have neighbours in what used to be the large backyard. So instead of a large backyard we have this:
I'm standing under the clothesline to take that pic. You can see the back door (leading into the kitchen area) and our little BBQ and the chair I sit in on summer mornings. Close at hand are a few pots of herbs in the one patch that gets sun through the winter. In the summer, this whole area gets sun, but right now the fence and the house between them shade most of the narrow area. Growing in containers in the foreground are parsley, a couple of kinds of mint, and sorrel. Some of the containers are just self-sown parsley which I'll probably pull out and use for something else soon, but figured I may as well leave over the winter. Behind the containers, at about the level of the back door, there are self-sown nasturtiums starting to spread widely across that patch of ground. They reach from the fence to the paving already, and are at least as wide as that too. In the very foreground, right under my feet -- so you can't see it -- is a small comfrey plant that I planted directly in the ground and am hoping will take off.
You can see a picnic table further away. In the summer, we had that in the space where the containers of herbs now are, where the earth is kind of bare. I moved it in the autumn, when we stopped eating outside, so that I could use that space for plants that needed the sun instead. I'm not sure where it'll go this summer. I did just buy a new(-to-me) striped umbrella for it though!
Now the same area looking the other way:
I'm standing outside the back door to take this photo. You can see our clothes line, compost bins (Clarissa and Jennifer), and the corner of the shed. This area is dry and parched in summer -- or at least it was last summer and the one before. The grass tends to die off. Around the corner to the left, near the shed, the path turns down the side of the house and leads through a gate to the front yard. That area is partially shaded in summer, fully shaded in winter.
Next to the shed there's a small garden bed where I put a geranium we inherited from the previous tenants (I didn't care whether it lived or died, but it appears to be thriving) and I'm growing some warrigal greens aka NZ spinach, an Australian native plant that can be used like spinach.
You can also see some parsley there, but it's not really thriving. In summer we had a few different herbs there and they did okay, but the shadier winter hasn't been kind to them.
Heading through the gate you find yourself in the carport area, and there's another garden bed on the other side of it.
It's quite shady and the only thing that's doing well here right now is parsley. I planted a lot of mint-type herbs, but I think the overhanging tree is sucking up all their moisture and they never really did very well here. There's also chard and sorrel here but again, while I don't think they mind the shade too much, the tree overhead isn't doing them any favours. The taller plant is a loquat tree that an ex housemate planted. I'm not sure what she was thinking; it's way too close to the other tree -- right under the edge its canopy. I really should cut it down/pull it out. I don't have anything against loquats but this isn't the place for them. Oh, and there's also some random aloe vera near the fence on the right. It's doing okay.
Here's where it gets to the good stuff, at least as far as the current state of things is concerned. The front porch:
This seat is where I sit to drink a cup of tea in the sun in the morning. From here I can also see most of the containers where I'm growing things over the winter. See, the backyard is mostly shaded in winter, but the front gets plenty of sun. To the left you can see lavender peeping around the corner, some tubs with nasturtiums, lettuce, and other greens, along with two over-wintered chillis (one Thai chilli, one jalapeño) that seem to be doing quite well and perking up with the approaching spring. To the right are a couple of little tubs of "winter mix microgreens" from Diggers (mustard, kale, beets, etc) and a strawberry plant I got as a freebie. I really ought to figure out whether strawberries need any particular care other than soil and water and the odd bit of feeding. The front porch is also where I do a lot of my potting at present, just because it's handy to where I put most of the things I'm potting. You can't see it, but there's a bag of potting mix and another bag of small pots against the wall near the chair.
Coming around the corner, you can see more of my winter containers and my seedling trays:
Most of these were in the backyard in the summer, but I brought them out front as the weather cooled down and the backyard got shady. I've got chard, kale, lettuce, beets, and some snowpeas coming along (though see below for my previous snowpea disaster). The smallish pot with a plastic bag over it is some rhubarb that was just roots (no green) and which I thought would be helped by a bit of a greenhouse environment, which turned out to be absolutely right -- some leaves shot straight up! I'll take the bag off in a couple of weeks when it's better established.
As you can see, I've also got several trays of seedlings of various kinds: more kale, chard, mustard, Asian greens, tomatoes, peppers, coriander, and I forget what else. Basically I'm trying to get a head start on spring. I have two of those little white greenhouses from Ikea (the other one is indoors). I start things from seed in the indoor one, then when there are shoots I move them either into the outdoor Ikea greenhouse or my bedroom windowsill, which also gets lots of sun:
So basically the seed progression is:
- Plant seeds in seedling trays in Ikea greenhouse in the kitchen area (though it's by a window it doesn't get much sun at this time of year)
- When they sprout, move them to the bedroom windowsill or outdoor Ikea greenhouse (brought indoors overnight) -- full sun
- When they get their second set of leaves, pot them up into small pots (though sometimes they just pause at this stage and I do it anyway, which seems to hurry them along)
- When appropriate (depending on what they are), start leaving them out overnight. We're not getting frost any more, though it's still a little chilly. Brassicas don't mind, but I wouldn't do this for eg. tomatoes yet.
- When well established as seedlings, plant out into bigger containers.
This all takes quite a bit of puttering around moving things from one place to another. I think next winter I'd like to acquire/make a small greenhouse or cold-frame of some kind, with enough space in it to leave all the seedlings out full-time.
Anyway, moving right along. Under my bedroom window you can see the Great Snowpea Disaster of 2013:
Those three tubs each had a bamboo tripod, and snowpeas growing up them very well. Then the weather got windy. I tried a bunch of different things to try and keep them stable, but in the end I had to give up. You can see the pulled-down tripods piled in the gap in the lavender under my window. I need to pull all the peas off the bamboo stakes and put the stakes aside for another use. I'll probably just dump the dead peas where they are: that gap in the lavender will be used for planting something (probably zucchini) in due course, but the soil could use whatever mulch/organic matter it can get. So I have another set of snowpeas sprouting and I'm planning to move them out back and grow them up the fence, instead. Should be more stable.
And then there's the front garden bed:
This used to have a couple of ugly shrubs in it, but they died last summer and the owners sent round a handyman to pull them out. The bed's empty now, and I'm thinking what we can use it for. It is shaded in winter, but gets sun in summer. I'm watching the sun crawling across the garden wondering how late in the season it'll be before it's actually giving decent light to that garden bed and I can plant things in it. I'd rather like to plant some squash there, and let them sprawl all over that otherwise useless bit of lawn. The bed needs mulch/compost/organic matter/general love. I piled a buttload of autumn leaves on it a few months back, but it'll need more if we're to do anything with it. I was thinking a good deep layer of lucerne all over the bed and then bucketloads of compost where we want to plant the squash themselves, with the seeds put straight into the compost. What do you think?
Finally, on the other side of the driveway we have this mulberry tree (on the left):
And some herbs growing along the narrow bit of earth to the right:
The parsley's got a bit out of hand (I just threw a random handful of seeds in the general area, I swear!) and there's some grass coming in there. I don't want to have to commit to weeding it all the time. I'm thinking about what other things I can plant there that won't need much attention and will stop the grass from taking hold. I might put some borage in near the rosemary. More kinds of thyme and oregano? You can't really see, but there's some oregano buried under the parsley. Of the two kinds of thyme, the one that's thriving -- lemon thyme -- is the one we use less often. Sigh. More thyme, yeah, that's a plan.
So that's the tour of the garden as it currently stands. I'll post more about the plans for spring as they unfold -- hopefully with some "after" pics!