Friday, March 12, 2010

Ongoing Projects: Part III, the Vegetable Garden

The vegetable garden is next to the parking area. I added a lot of ornamentals around the border of the vegetable garden last year, because a vegetable garden in midsummer in NC is not always a pretty sight.

May '09

The picture below of the garden in April '08 shows that there were ornamentals around the garden, but they weren't tall enough to act as a screen.

Last year we grew tomatoes that are healthy in our climate: Celebrity, Marglobe, Roma, and Sungold cherry tomatoes. Even so, we do not have cages that are sturdy enough to hold up the tomatoes once they get some size. In fact the only cages I've seen that are sturdy enough for the job were ones that were made by Gene's uncle, who could weld. So the the plants fall over, tomatoes are littered onto the ground, etc. I'd rather not view the carnage close up all of the time, but I still want a vegetable patch just out the door.

The tomatoes we grew last year kind of left me indifferent except for the Roma, which were excellent, so this year I'm going to grow Roma VF again and red cherry tomatoes. Tommy Toe is a good cherry tomato which we've grown before. I'm also going to try Eva Purple Ball and Druzba after reading their descriptions in the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog.

Beardtongue, foxglove, daylily, Carolina bush pea and the rose Duchesse de Brabant (amazingly still alive!) in the vegetable garden border, April '08. All of the following pictures were taken in spring of '08.

The two cedar posts strung with wire are for black raspberries. I also put three climbing roses there: Sombrueil, Fields of the Wood (check out this link), and Pink Pillar. Normally red isn't a color I'm overly fond of, but a luscious red rose, just one the bluish side of pure red -- yum. The raspberries are not thornless and like to spread around, so likely some will go at the edge of the little field that's near the old house site as well.

In late winter of '08 we planted broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. The broccoli was by far the best I've ever had. Unfortunately I do not remember the cultivar name, if it came with one. Gene picked up the plants at Lowe's. I always mean to start vegetable plants from seed in the fall and always forget. I have to admit that so far vegetable gardening has not provided enough reward for me to really get invested in it. Perhaps because I don't like to cook. (I watch Food Network a lot but that's strictly for entertainment.) In addition, I have found flower gardening to be much easier than vegetable gardening -- diseases and bugs are more of a problem with produce plants than with most flowers, or at least the flowers that keep on living in my garden. I don't spray anything, ever. So I have to put up with bugs. For a while Gene was picking the hornworms off of the tomatoes, but I told him he might not want to do that because a) they grow into gorgeous Sphinx Moths and b) in the end, they don't really affect the yield all that much, not as much as wilt diseases do. My least favorite bug is the blister beetle. At least they died out in the last drought spell we had. They were eating a lot of the vegetables and the milkweeds.

Still, since one has to eat, and even cook, the ingredients might as well be good. The best produce isn't going to be at Food Lion.

The plan this year is to plant tomatoes, peppers, and perhaps make a teepee for pole beans. We've grown Kentucky Wonder before and they worked out well. Scarlet Runner Beans are a bust in this climate, it's too hot. It's time to plant cool-weather crops like broccoli, cabbage and kale, so I may put those in too.

My very favorite tomatoes are the black Russian tomatoes, but they are not disease resistant. If we have time this year, I might ask Gene to put the plow on the tractor and plow a couple of rows in the small field near the old house site so that I can grow them there, together with some disease resistant ones.

I like spaghetti squash, but I do not want the vines in a small garden space. They end up putting out runners 15' in every direction, and when they die, they don't just quietly wither away, but die spectacularly and very conspicuously. The same with melon vines. These would need to go the same area as the black tomatoes and the extra raspberries. So far we haven't grown any melons worth eating, but Gene's grandfather grew Hale's Best muskmelons in western Wake County (one county over) and they were wonderful.

Since the vegetable garden was too open, on the long driveway side I put in 2 Veilchenblaus I got in a trade, along with a Rosa palustris scandens, Formosa lilies and seashore mallow. On the parking area side I put dahlias, rugosas, and Verbena bonariensis.

On the side closest to the house I put in rugosas at the head of each vegetable row. So there are ornamentals all the way around. The only ornamentals inside the garden is a trellis with perennial sweet pea and the rose Compassion, and a Maiden's Blush rose seedling.

A lot of water runs beside the vegetable garden during a heavy rain, so I have scattered Bidens seeds here too. I would like to add water iris and Carolina bog mint there as well.

May '09

I had lost all of my Carolina bog mint (Macbridea caroliniana) during the last couple of dry summers except for what was down by the hay shelter, but it's worth bringing back after a dry year because it's so lovely and long-blooming when it's happy. It's stoloniferous too, so if you can find a consistently moist spot, it soon spreads into a colony.

Carolina Bog Mint

Some years ago I bought an iris from Niche Gardens that turned out to be I. virginica. At its peak it forms a big bouquet of flowers and I've grown countless offspring from seed, all just like the parent.

I would like to add Iris ensata as well. These were grown from seed obtained in a trade, and until they bloomed last spring I thought they hadn't made it.
To be continued..


  1. While I have frequently planted vegetables in with ornamentals, it never occurred to me to add some ornamentals to my little veggie bed until a while ago. Lisa at Millertime was showing some photos of anuals she planted in with her veggies, and I also like your idea! I love Verbena bonariensis, especially, and it wouldn't shade out the little full sun I have!

  2. I think your veggie area looks pretty darn nice Sweet Bay. I like how you've mixed the perennials, etc., in amongst the edibles.
    Have you ever trained tomatoes up two trellis's placed together like a teepee? Seems like that would be sturdy? I just saw it in the new project book I won from Tatyana.
    Have a good weekend!

  3. I can sympathize with your veggie frustrations. I'm trying to go a little more ornamental in my kitchen garden this year, myself.

    Just a thought, since you say you like the black tomatoes, why not give Cherokee Purple a try? It is now my absolutely favorite tasting tomato ever, after trying it last year -- and no disease problems at all, even when others succumbed. Also, Rutgers does well in the Carolina climate. It's an heirloom that was developed for Campbell's Soup Company in the 30s, and is tasty and very productive and disease resistant! :)

    We haven't found an ideal solution to the monster towers of tomatoes, either.

  4. Gorgeous, gorgeous! I love that white iris! Your vegetable garden must be a treasure - and pretty too. :-)

  5. Thank you for a lovely little tour of your past gardens. I can just envision what this years will look like, absolutely wonderful. I am thinking of growing some veggies in our screened room to keep critters from messing with them, we'll see.

    I would love to be able to smell your red rose Fields of the Wood. What a lovely name for a rose.

    Have a wonderful weekend.


  6. Although the trend lately seems to be to plant edibles in the middle of flower gardens, I'm with you, Sweet Bay--I like flowers around the vegetable garden to hide it. You have a beautiful border to cover up any dying vines or foliage in the vegetables.

    It's easy to get carried away with planning the vegetable garden, but I think you're smart to grow what grows best in your area and what you will actually eat. I've thrown away a lot of radishes:) I don't enjoy cooking much anymore either, but there is something satisfying about cooking your own fresh vegetables.

  7. I am loving these posts showing the evolution and the full scope and size of your gardens. You have so much space! There's a wonderful naturalness in your gardens, especially with the ornamentals and veggies growing together. Envy!

  8. I love the tours of your property. It is so pretty. Thanks for sharing what works for you. I am learning a lot. I am excited about trying a vegetable garden this year. I think we are going to buy some broccoli and lettuces this afternoon if the ground is not too wet. I know what you mean about Food Network- I spend much more time watching than cooking!
    Have a great weekend. Carla

  9. Thanks for your comments everyone! Meredith I tried Cherokee Purple one year and it didn't really do anything. I'll have to try it again. I know it has won a lot of taste contests. I will have to try Rutgers too. Kathleen I don't know if trying to make a teepee would actually work... it seems like when I'm trying to train something, it's too short, and then by the time I get back to it, it's out of control... plus tomatoe vines are soungainly, with the heavy tomatoes hanging on them.

  10. Hi Sweet Bay! What an interesting post! I have the same problem with tomato supports. Didn't figure out yet what I'll use this summer. Like the idea of using rebars, but who will do welding? A net attached to several posts? But the posts don't stand well in my light soil. Need to do some futher thinking. ... Broccoli. As you, I had a great harvest the first year I planted them, but the next year was nothing like that. Should we move them to a different spot, I wonder?
    Good luck to you and have a great spring!

  11. I'm loving your photos today. We're in the midst of another pesky snowstorm and I fear warm weather will never truly arrive.

    I'm a big fan of the black Russian tomatoes, too. Black Krim is a goody. :)

  12. Carolina bog Mint looks so pretty. I love the color. Hope you had and have a nice weekend in something that almost looksl ike summer.

  13. What a lovely post! You known I a huge fan of the vegetable garden and love to read about yours. I think I have sown almost 30 different tomatoes this year, I known I'm mad but we love eating tomatoes :-) All colours and sizes.

  14. I've never had much success with the few vegetables I've tried to grow and I have limited space in my small yard. I grow flowers and then visit the farmer's market.

    Your flower pictures are wonderful and a great place for me to stop and call it a night. Maybe I'll have sweet dream after gazing on them.

  15. Sweet Bay, after reading this post and looking at the photos, I'm more convinced than ever that I'm both a lazy blogger and a lazy gardener.

    You impress me more and more with every post you publish. And you make me want to get to NC as fast as I can.

    Everything looks so natural and happy growing on your land.


  16. It's so interesting you find flower gardening easier than vegetable gardening. I'm the opposite. You see the veggies don't need dividing, rarely do they need weeding if you have a good mulch, no deadheading or continue clean up once the season is over, and they don't usually last all year and when they are growing you get some fresh veggies. The flowers are nice too but too much work for me. Your gardens are lovely.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...