It’s about time for me to give you a tour of my own home garden! I’ve been writing mainly how-to’s lately, which I love to write, but it’s important to put it all into the context of my own ongoing garden work and learning here at home.
I love my garden…It’s totally my happy place. I doubt my home garden will ever be finished. I think I’ll always be planning, reorganizing, planting, and transplanting. This post has been on my mind for a while, but I kept delaying to get the perfect photos.
Now that it’s August, and the gardens are overgrown but happy, I’ve realized that there is never is a picture-perfect time in the garden. I’ve tried to find it, but there is always dead grass or messes in the background. There are always weeds to pull, flowers that haven’t bloomed yet, and future projects to finish…and I’m finally ok with all of that! So here it is, in it’s current real state as of August 2016.
One Year of Home Ownership
My husband Kyle and I live in a small town in British Columbia, Canada, about a 5 minute walk from the grocery store, coffee shop, and our favourite restaurant. For the gardeners out there, we’re in Zone 5, in an area with relatively hot & dry summers. Our property consists of two city lots. The house and garage are on the north lot, while the deck and yard are on the south lot. We don’t currently have any plans to subdivide, as I’m enjoying having the room to plant whatever I like!
We’ve now lived in the house together for a full year, so things are starting to feel a bit more our own. I’ve drawn up dozens of garden plans, and gone through many different dream layouts for the yard. We’ve made some changes already here and there and installed lots of little trees. Several old dying shrubs have been retired, and new baby shrubs are happily getting established. Luckily there are lots of gorgeous, mature trees around to give them a break from the hot Okanagan sun.
Our New Old House
The house we bought is actually the house I grew up in. My parents planted almost all of the trees here and built most of the existing gardens from scratch. They installed the white picket fence and built a treehouse for my brother and me.
It was an amazing house to grow up in, with a yard that seemed huge when we were kids (It honestly feels even bigger now that I have to water it myself!). Since buying the house, my husband and I have been focused on re-painting some of the areas that needed it (interior, front fence) and removing any of the plants that were no longer thriving. We also wanted to get some more trees in quick so they’d have many years to grow!
A Tour: My Home Garden in August 2016
I generally think of each little area of our yard as a different “garden”. We have a vegetable garden, which I call my “kitchen garden”. We also have some formal landscaped areas, some wilder areas, and some in-between areas. Since buying the property, I’ve drawn up many layouts. The layout above shows the current configuration of our property in plan view. I’ll go through each area below, starting with our vegetable garden = my kitchen garden.
Home Garden: Kitchen Garden
The kitchen garden is totally stealing the show in August. Taking care of the kitchen garden has been so much easier this year with my new DIY drip irrigation. It’s mainly the tomatoes that give the kitchen garden it’s current star power.
Homegrown tomatoes are incredible. The smell is amazing, the taste is amazing…they’re just the best. I grew my own tomato starts indoors from seed this year for the first time. Here they are below, right after my brother and I planted them outside. They’re so cute and tiny!
This year’s crop is ready for harvest now as of mid-August. Once the red colour starts to appear on a tomato, I bring it inside to ripen on the counter. I’ve learned that the sun here is so hot here right now that it burns off some of the delicious tomato-ey scent when they are ripe on the vine, so I’m letting them ripen inside where the flavour can fully develop.
I also read this year that putting tomatoes in the fridge can make them “meal-y”! …definitely never putting tomatoes in the fridge ever again! I need to find some stylish way of storing all of my veggies that can’t go in the fridge. For now I’m just keeping them on the counter in my Lee Valley Gardener’s Basket.
This year I grew mainly Bonny Best tomatoes along with a few San Marzano, some heirloom cherry tomatoes, and some volunteer Romas of unknown provenance. The Bonny Best plants fared the best, by far. They looked happy and healthy all year. I also grew tomatillos for the first time! I’ll definitely be growing them again, as they were easy to take care of and produced well.
I spent a great deal less time watering the kitchen garden this year than last year due to the amazing drip irrigation we installed in the spring. We used to stress so much about whether it was “our day” for the sprinkler…running out to the tap at 7:01 to start watering. Now it magically just happens, on schedule, on our prescribed watering day. And the leaves don’t get wet and gross. It’s just the best.
This last photo of our home garden was taken after we were away for 3 weeks straight. It’s completely overgrown with weeds, but despite crazy hot temperatures, everything survived due to the drip irrigation. It took a few hours to weed the garden after this, but I was thrilled to know that I’m not stuck at home during the key gardening months.
The Forest Garden
The forest garden is the “wildest” area of our yard, lining the south and east fence lines with evergreens. There are some nice big mature evergreens and a mulch of pine straw and pine cones. This year’s big installs in the forest garden were 6 blueberry bushes, 3 rhododendrons, and 3 hazelnuts. The rhododendrons and blueberries were birthday gifts, so I take extra good care of them!
The blueberries are doing very well. They are in the pink pots in the photo below (taken while I was testing planting locations in May). I sited them in a line along the transition between the pine mulch and the mossy lawn. The rhododendrons were a bit more needy. They’re back in with the trees and did require quite a bit of water this year. I’m hoping they sink their roots down deep this fall and become a bit more established.
The forest garden still has tons of weeds in it, but I’m letting them live (as I know I can’t tame them!). I’m choosing the approach suggested by Toby Hemenway in his wonderful book Gaia’s Garden…which is basically that the weeds are doing a job holding the place of a future plant. They are adding organic matter, breaking up compact soil, and providing habitat. As they’re not bad weeds at all, I’m leaving them in place until I have a plan and a plant to replace them with.
Home Garden: Lane Privacy Bed
Our lane garden is a privacy garden that shields the back of the house from the lane. The lane behind our house leads to one of the busier streets in town, and gets more traffic than I’d like. My dad built this raised garden several feet up above the lawn to give the plants a head start on growing tall for privacy. More than 20 years later, the garden is still nicely raised and is now full of mature lilacs and a hawthorn tree. It also is currently hiding our topsoil stockpile (multiple functions…)!
Earlier this year, my husband took out a mostly-dead flowering almond and replaced it with a new hibiscus shrub. We also laid landscaping fabric to discourage the out-of-control lilac suckering that was going on.
Sometimes I think about planting some columnar cedars behind the lilacs/hawthorn so that when the lilacs age out, we have a year-round privacy screen. We didn’t get to it this year, but it’s still on the maybe list.
Otherwise, it’s quite a lovely little garden with it’s hawthorn canopy, perennial sweet peas, and concrete birdbath. I think it will change quite a bit in the next few years, but I still love it.
Home Garden: Deck Area
The deck portion of our home garden is probably the most-visited area. One day I want to have all my vegetables growing near the deck so I can collect them in my slippers. We already have our herbs on and around the deck, and I envision some raised beds for veggies just off the deck in the future.
I’m hoping to overwinter some of the more tender herbs inside, so I’ve been keeping them in containers this year. Containers are great for keeping them, well, contained. I swear my mojito mint is on a mission to break free from it’s crockery and take over the world. It will have to fight the oregano first though!
In addition to the container herbs, the perimeter of the deck is lined with cutting flowers. I love going out to the deck and gathering up some blooms for inside our house. This year I planted two herbaceous dinner-plate hibiscus in the garden around the deck. The flowers are huge!
I also have several types of lily, including daylilies. There are also orange perennial sunflowers which grow like crazy. My mom got them at a garage sale, and I have no idea of the cultivar, but they sure are dependable. Tons of flowers come up every year with no care, and then last throughout the whole summer. That’s hard to beat.
This year I also tried my first dahlias. They are definitely more labour-intensive than the perennial sunflowers, but are TOTALLY worth it. I received two Cafe au Lait dahlias from Hartwood North Farm last year after our wedding. We had dahlias decorating the tables, and I loved them so much that they gave me a few plants!
The deck area is also home to our two giant grapevines. My parents planted these when we were little and they are still producing wonderfully. This year was a bit tough for them with all the dampness and lack of heat at the beginning of the summer. They seem to be doing ok now that we’ve thinned out the leaves/fruit and are getting some hot weather.
Fruit & Flower Walk
Right off our deck is a lovely flagstone pathway that my dad built when I was a kid. I have dreams of grouting the rocks so that I can go outside in the morning in my tip-toes and collect fresh strawberries. Easy access to fresh food and flowers is definitely a theme in my garden planning….and for the flagstone area, I am imagining a “fruit and flower walk”. I’ll be able collect berries for breakfast and fresh flowers for around the house whenever I like. We did a lot of work on this garden both this year and last year. Some dead shrubs came out and some new plants went in. My mother-in-law gave me a peach tree for my birthday, which went straight into the corner of the garden. I envision peaches hanging over the walkway one day.
We also planted some peonies from my parents new house, as well as a hydrangea and two hibiscus shrubs. My parents also got me a fig tree for my birthday, shown above in the pink pot. This fig is hardy to Zone 5, and is already producing! There is also a crazy unknown squash in the pic above which came in with the compost. We’ll see this fall what kind it is…
My husband built our wonderful hugelkultur bed this spring, with dead birch he foraged from a local forest. Building a hugelkultur bed could be considered a rite of passage for a serious organic/permaculture gardener. I wanted one SO badly, as would anyone doing their Permaculture Design Certificate. As soon as you hear about them, you want one. There’s nothing like a hipster gardening technique to really indulge your gardening habit.
This is the hugelbed’s “settling” summer, so I haven’t planted anything perennial in the bed yet. The hugelbed is still sinking into it’s shape. I can see it caving in here and there as it shifts and settles, and will patch it up in the fall. Until then, it’s cover cropped with greens, and topped with sunflowers and tomatoes.
Out shade garden extends from the north perimeter of the house, up the side of the north fence, and just around the corner to the oak tree in our front yard. The north side of the house is mainly a hosta bed, although the star of the show is a huge climbing euonymus. There’s also a climbing hydrangea on the same trellis, but the euonymus has totally taken over!
New this year in the shade garden are two hydrangea shrubs. They look darling against the white fence. We had them as potted plants during our wedding last summer. They’re a nice little reminder of our wedding as we pull into the driveway.
Kyle and I also extended this bed beyond it’s previous extents this summer. It did not used to extend into the front yard, as it does now. Kyle moved 10 yard of topsoil by hand! We sheet mulched the area (put newspaper/fabric down) and placed the topsoil around the fence line. There’s now a lot more room for me to fill with plants! I sense a fall project coming on…
My Home Garden = My Happy Place
I can’t say enough about how happy I am to finally have space to garden. All the work…hard jobs, living in small apartments, saving for the house…was totally worth it. Although many areas of our yard are in transition phases, and many of the plants are still tiny, I can see it all coming together. Thank you for coming along on the tour of my home garden!I’m keep posting updates on Instagram as I try out new plants and different layouts.
What is your favourite garden area? Is there a peaceful place you love, or a design element that you’ve noticed and liked? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it!
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