July- 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.


As I had hoped, the month of May was one of enjoyment rather than work. With nearly of my garden beds dug, cultivated and planted, all I’ve had to do was keep everything watered and weeded while it got established. However, as the month has also been very dry, I have had to water new plantings almost daily – at least in the weeks after they’ve been planted.

(vegetables and herb garden)
Surprisingly enough, the vegetable garden has needed less water than many of my ornamentals, natives included. Maybe I owe their success to the amount of time I spent preparing the soil. For about a year, I smothered the firmly established weeds with cardboard, tilled, and smothered again, repeating every few months. Then I painstakingly removed all remaining weeds and amended the soil with composted manure. The veggies and herbs themselves were a combination of transplants from around the garden, seedlings that I started in peat pots and seeds directly sown into the soil. I even transplanted small kale plants from the front yard! I also planted everything closely together in layers so that short and spreading plants could grow beneath the taller, upright growing ones, effectively shading the soil and preventing weeds from sprouting. Now that they’re all growing in well-prepared soil, I haven’t had to water nearly as much as I have in other areas of the garden – even though the beds are well-mulched!

(front yard garden)
Though my front yard plantings for the year were quick to establish, I’m still regularly pulling up chamberbitter and crabgrass weeds. Though I have planted an assortment of annuals and perennials between my foundation of purple ‘Little John’ azaleas and dyckias, I hope to eventually replace them with something dense, evergreen and low-maintenance. For the time being, that bed is becoming blanketed with a flurry of flowers; from the golden blooms of coreopsis and ‘Silky Gold’ milkweed to the lavender Verbena bonariensis and Lantana montevidensis. An assortment of daylilies has been blooming sporadically throughout the month and the 5-foot tall flowering spike of my Dyckia ‘Cherry Coke’ is just now finishing up, and still attracting hummingbirds and bees.

(backyard garden)
In the back yard, things are finally coming together. I bought a couple of coral-colored chairs to accompany my little aquamarine side table, and then planted some flowers with coral blooms to accompany them. Begonias, Portulaca and even a rose bush bring a nice color echo to my little vignette. The rain garden is filling in during our dry season, which means that when a downpour finally does come down, the soil will be held in place by roots. I also added refined the path through the back of the garden by adding a layer of fine pine bark mulch. This creates a soft feeling underfoot and will help prevent my toddler from tripping and hurting himself.

(tropical backyard)
While this month will be one of relaxation for me, I’ll still be adding new vegetables to the side yard garden, watering and staying on top of weeds. The difference is that while pulling weeds was a monumental task just months ago, now it’s something that I can casually do while harvesting herbs and cutting flowers for arrangements.









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