February - What's in Steve's Garden?


In My Garden (Zone 9-10)

Steve Asbell
Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

This last month has been an eventful one in the garden thanks to some glorious winter weather, fresh veggies and the completion of two very big projects; a new fence and a new stone walkway. It’s a whole new back yard out there!

Since we moved in, one side of our backyard has been little more than an eroded slope of overgrown weeds and exposed tree roots. I had planted a garden in the back of the yard, but each little trip across the lawn left my shoes covered in weed seeds and mud. The area was too shady and uneven for a lawn or vegetable garden, but I’ve had a completely different vision for this eroded patch of potential since we first considered buying the place. In my imagination the washed out ditch became a tropical gully of ferns and gingers, like a lush sunken garden tucked away in this bland suburb. The right plants would complete the illusion, but with the slippery slope of mud and tree roots and a rotting fence leaning away from the garden, who else would enjoy it but me? Turning this liability into the kind of asset that my wife and visitors could enjoy would require more than just plants.

Replacing the decrepit fence was the top priority. Luckily my father-in-law knew a thing or two about installing them and was happy to spend a weekend putting a new one up. The bad news was that upon reviewing our house’s survey, it turned out that the existing fence was actually built in the drainage easement a couple of feet outside our property lines, and the new one would have to be built closer to the house. This meant that I would lose valuable gardening space, which was discouraging to say the least. The bright side of this troubling news was that by bringing the fence closer to the house, it would rest higher on the slope and give us more privacy. The original fence sat so low on the slope that it really felt as if the garden was sinking into oblivion, but the new fence was built at more-or-less the same level as the rest of the garden.

While I helped put up the fence, I was hard at work on another project that promised to add a lot of value to the garden; a stone walkway, complete with steps and a small patio. This would provide a safe, clean passage for my wife, child and visitors to take through the garden so that they could actually enjoy it along with me. What more could a gardener ask for than to have his garden used and treasured by friends and family?

I had originally planned on using affordable concrete pavers, but managed to find such a great deal on slate pavers that they ended up being cheaper than the concrete – not to mention a lot nicer looking. I even got a great deal on a cart of broken pieces that I was able to incorporate into the path for a more natural look. For the time being all I needed to do was forge a path from the patio to the back of the garden and its plantings of ferns and bromeliads, but I plan on eventually extending the path to continue around the garden in a loop. Since it comes to a dead end for now, I’ve widened the path at the end so that it’s large enough to accommodate a couple of chairs and a small table. I have also given the path two steps around a curve to tame that little slope.

I haven’t done much planting in the front yard vegetable garden since I still have to clear new beds, but I have been enjoying the beauty it brings to my front yard, along with the occasional harvest of salad greens, radishes and radicchio. I wasn’t the biggest fan of radicchio or radishes to begin with, but they somehow seem a lot tastier now that they’ve been plucked from my very own garden! My cool-season veggies won’t last forever, so I plan on replacing them with a Thai cuisine garden; a combination of Thai basil, Thai peppers, ginger, galangal, arrowroot and turmeric. Each of these vegetables and herbs is well suited to a warm or hot growing season, as well as the lemongrass I have planted in the back yard! When we’re done painting the house I can begin planting sweet potatoes, tomatoes, okra and herbs in the side yard. I can’t wait!




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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • While old man winter is still hanging on and it will be some time before many of us see the first blooms from those seedlings on our windowsills, now is the time to plan your garden if you love dried flowers. Here is a list of annuals and perennials perfect for creating bouquets of everlasting blooms.

    Artemesia, gloriosa daisy, dahlias, hellebores, hollyhock, marigolds, shasta daisy, snapdragons sunflowers, and zinnias to name just a few of the many spectacular plants that are excellent for drying. Plan now, order your seeds nnow to enjoy sensational blooms that will last all year long!