Skip to content

a this-doesn’t-go-anywhere-else garden space

I have so little room left for a vegetable garden at the moment but, after tearing up what was my herb bed, I’ve decided to use it as the “experiment bed”, to try various lettuces and herbs from seed. Things have grown decently in this little bed, one of the few in my garden that receives sun all day, but it has also drowned lavender plants and even purple coneflowers. The one plant doing well was an enormous oregano which had grown in two years from a 4-inch pot two years ago into a two foot wide by 2 foot high shrub.

I’ve learned since originally making this bed, that properly planting in my soil–which is black gumbo clay–hard as a rock when dry, sticky dense when wet–doesn’t just mean dumping 4 inches of good dirt on top of it. It means tilling or digging in compost and other drainage material, then adding the good stuff. Many of my best planting areas are raised about a foot–some more than that.

A month ago I began to tear it up, throwing out most of the plants, then tilling in some compost and raising the bed up a bit more. Although in the past few months I have drawn up a larger design for my garden and landscaping goals, I still haven’t figured how how to resolve this area. It hasn’t quite told me what it wants to be.

Since I also love to sow seeds and am running out of room to do so indoors and in established areas, I started thinking this summer about having a space that was like a seed-bed, something which greenhouse gardeners have. Rather than having to keep moist several areas at once, wouldn’t it be nice to just have a small bed where I could raise little seedlings and then move them around the garden?

Whether or not this bed becomes that, we’ll see. Having an experiment bed gives me freedom to mess things up and move them around. It can also be home to a few things that just don’t have anywhere else to go–like the 10 or so irises for which I just can’t find a place to plant. We’ll see how this idea goes. It’s a risk aesthetically, since it is in a prominent area of my garden near the entrance.

The main seeds I started this week in this bed are arugula, a mesclun lettuce mix, and some breadseed poppies. I tried lettuce last year, making the mistake of sowing head type lettuce, which takes forever to develop. (I’ve noticed from the nurseries around here that loose-leaf lettuce is far more popular.) The lettuce also languished in the winter shade in my former vegetable bed, which has sun all summer but shade all winter from a apartment building.

I also sowed cilantro, which I had great success with last year. This seed germinates quickly and I had started harvesting it by winter. Each seedling grows quite large by April and will go to seed by May, but I left a few straggler plants in and was still getting cilantro leaves in late June.

I sowed a few extra seeds into little clay pots so I could identify which seeds come up. (I had to include in the picture my cool little porcelain watering can, which a friend got for me at the dollar store.)

In the meantime, my enormous oregano will have to go back into the experiment bed. Like the irises, it just doesn’t have anywhere else to be.