Monday, July 4, 2016

Early summer on the Pharm

Two years ago, I ripped up some of the grass in my front yard to create a front yard vegetable garden (aka, "The Pharm"). I had some good successes with the plants (see this post) but couldn't really conceptualize a design.

The garden in early spring 2014

This winter, after my dead tree and very-much-alive forsythia were chopped down, I had a blank slate. After years of debating, thinking, and not making a decision, I just drew a line in the dirt with a stick and voila! I had my layout.

The garden in early summer 2015

(For reference: The sidewalk and street are at the top of the photo above. Dr. Neighbor's driveway is to the right.)

When I was starting my seeds in early spring, I had visions of abundance. I'd donate to the local food pantry! I'd eat super local! I'd have fresh tomatoes all day, every day! My tomato seedlings were SO big (the cherry tomatoes in particular) that I planted them outside the last week of April. My grow lights simply couldn't accommodate them any more. While I was at it, I also planted my zucchini and butternut squash seedlings outside.

Tomato seedlings

And then it rained for a week and a half. My cherry tomatoes survived but everything else disintegrated. I planted an emergency second set of tomatoes (Amish Paste and Bonnie Best) indoors.

I'd also direct sowed Swiss chard, spinach, kale, lettuce, and sugar snap peas according to the seed package timetable. The Swiss chard below is the only plant to emerge after three separate seed sowings.

I had a fairly decent showing of sugar snap peas. The spinach bolted too quickly. The arugula always does really well. The kale did not grow at all, though I found two random tiny plants this week that must have formed when some seeds flew out of my hand.

(L-R) Arugula, zucchini, and eggplant

One zucchini plant survived the deluge of rain and cold temperatures. I direct sowed some more and the first round produced nothing. The second round produced a number of plants so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Itty bitty zucchni

The butternut squash seemed stunted for two months, but they just flowered and the vines are starting to grow.

Butternut squash hiding behind asters and coreopsis.

The bush beans I direct sowed are doing fantastically. I just harvested about a pound of beans and more are growing.
Beans on the left of the path; basil and tomatoes straight ahead

And the emergency planting of tomatoes? Everything is growing and growing well. Some are just starting to flower, so I'm hopeful that I'll have the fresh tomatoes I dream about all winter.

Cherry tomatoes. 

Next year, I'll start my seedlings inside a few weeks later than usual so that I can plant them outside around May 15 when I'm supposed to. I'm still not sure why my direct-sowed greens didn't grow. Is it my (clay) soil? Did I plant them at the wrong depth? Did I skimp on the water? I'll try again in the fall and see if I have any better results.

While I don't have quite the abundance I was hoping for, it's a good start with the new layout. I really enjoy my daily walking tour through the Pharm, especially when it means I get to pluck and eat a fresh bean or leaf of arugula!


  1. In a garden there are PLANS, and there is WEATHER. The two are totally opposed. Congrats on getting some good harvests where you have -- and you'll learn what works for sowing dates and seed starting. How did our ancestors feed themselves over the centuries? --- it seems so hard to get anything to produce as planned!

    1. Very true! Gardening is an exercise in patience and tenacity, that's for sure.

  2. I don't grow vegetables except for sweet potatoes so I have no advice to offer. Maybe critters ate some of the seed. I once scattered lettuce seeds in the early spring that came up quite easily. Maybe your seeds were too deep. You can always try again next year. :)

    1. The lettuce is popping up okay in another area, so it might be the soil. I'll keep trying. Enjoy those potatoes!

  3. Sorry to hear that all the rain earlier in the year also brought your garden down. I had a bunch of stuff melt away as well.
    It looks great now though! I've been trying to work out a few path designs and I think I'll just have to bit the bullet as well. Its always so easy to overthink things.
    I gave up on direct sowing stuff. Most gets either presprouted between paper towels or prestarted in old six packs since seeds and seedling just disappear otherwise. Regardless, rabbits still ate all the greens and the beans are a lost cause!

    1. Thank you! We seem to suffer from paralysis by analysis. Just go for it. You can always change it later.