Saturday, June 8, 2013

Vegetable Garden: Warm Season

I wasn't able to grow fruits and vegetables at our former house.  I made periodic stabs at it with a few herbs and some strawberries but my postage stamp-sized garden didn't get enough sun to grow these successfully.  One year I put a tomato plant in a tub on a platform with wheels I could move around our driveway following the available sun and, while I did manage to produce some edible tomatoes, it wasn't a practical growing strategy.

When we toured our current house prior to purchase, I was delighted to find not only sunny areas suitable for growing fruits and vegetables but also an area with 3 raised beds constructed just for that purpose.  The first planting I did was in this area.  Although it was January and late for cool season planting, I put in broccoli, carrots, lettuce and some herbs.  All except the carrots did fairly well, even though I didn't do as much soil preparation as I should have.  I discovered that the beds were filled with the same rocky soil as the rest of the garden so I've invested a lot of effort since in improving it.

I'm still learning what vegetables do well here, when to plant them, and how to ensure they get the support they need through the growing season.  I recently pulled the last of my cool season crops, replacing these with plants suitable to the warm season.

The first raised bed, which gets the least sun, is planted entirely with herbs.

Bed #1, planted with a mix of herbs

The last owner planted it with mint - lots of mint - because, as he told me, "it did so well."  I spent a good part of a week trying to dig this spearmint out of the bed after we moved in but I suspect that the only way to eliminate it would be to remove the raised planter and bulldoze out a couple of feet of soil below where the planter now stands.  I do my best to keep it at under control but, as shown below, it even grows through the wood sides of the planter.

Mint growing through the wood side of the raised planter

A Westringia is planted in the center of the bed, which also contains parsley, sage, lemon thyme, lime thyme, Stevia, salvia, chives, oregano and a sunflower.  The sunflower, planted about 4 weeks ago, bloomed today.

Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor'

Oregano ('Hot & spicy' I think)

Vigorous lime thyme with newly planted 'African Blue' basil

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen'

The second bed contains a mix - herbs, vegetables, and a new raspberry bush.

Bed #2 with a mix of herbs, vegetables and fruit

The bed is currently dominated by 2 prostrate rosemary plants (shown on either side of the fairy in the photo above).  I underestimated the mature size of these when I planted them and may have to remove at least one to have adequate room for vegetables in the future.  There are also a couple of basils, an ornamental oregano, a lemon verbena, an agastache, and coriander, spouted from seed sown a couple of months ago.

Origanum rotundifolium 'Kent Beauty', slow to establish but worth the effort

Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora), also slow to establish

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), grown from seed

In the vegetable category, this year I'm growing a squash (just one as they all appear to over-produce) and a new tomato.

'Sunny Delight' squash, a small-sized variety

Tomato 'Believe It or Not', a new variety for me

My prize addition to this bed is one of the new dwarf thornless raspberry plants.  It's supposed to get only 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide.  In the ground for about 6 weeks now, it has produced a few berries but, according to grower Monrovia, it will be a few years before much can be expected (assuming it survives our hot summers in this location).

'Raspberry Shortcake'

The third bed, which gets the most sun, is full of different varieties of vegetables.

Bed #3 contains mostly vegetables

This bed has another tomato, onions (my last cool season leftovers), a lemon cucumber, 3 varieties of pepper, pole beans, planted from seed, and corn, which I've never tried to grow before.  The lemon cucumber is doing better than it did last year but I also planted it earlier in the season this year.  The peppers, like last year, are off to a very slow start - I'm trying not to be impatient.  The beans, as usual are off to a quick start.  I didn't think I had room for more than one or 2 corn stalks but the nursery I bought the 6-pack from showed them planted fairly close together so I put in all 6 plants - I'll thin some out if they struggle.

"Red Pear' tomato

Leftover onions

Lemon cucumber

Yellow bell pepper, still green and under-sized

'Blue Lake' pole beans

Corn! (a bi-color super sweet variety)

Elsewhere in the vegetable garden, I've got some barrel pots with strawberries.

Wine barrel with strawberries, a leftover lettuce, and an artichoke I couldn't find another place for

The vegetable garden is also home to 3 citrus trees, positioned along the back fence bordering a neighbor's yard, and a persimmon tree and a plum tree, planted by the prior owner in a narrow bed along the side fence separating the vegetable garden from the dry garden.  The plum tree suckers continuously - is there a remedy for that other than regularly cutting the suckers back?

On the left is a mandarin orange tree; a naval orange is in the middle; and a lime tree sits on the far right

The 'Fuyu' persimmon on the left and the 'Santa Rosa' plum on the right are underplanted with ivy geraniums

If you exit the gate from the vegetable garden, there are more fruit trees, a grape vine, and blueberries scattered elsewhere.

Garden gate separating the vegetable garden from the dry garden covered by an arbor built by a prior owner

Most of the trees aren't bearing fruit yet.  However, my blueberries are going full-throttle and the grape is also beginning to fruit.

Blueberry pots on the back patio ('Bountiful Blue' and 'Sunshine Blue' varieties)

'Red Flame' seedless grape

Maybe this year I'll get some grapes before the birds take all of them.


  1. We have some of the same herbs. :o) I'm also growing peppers and tomatoes, although my peppers haven't liked our weird spring - hot one day/cold the next. The mint in the herb garden must smell wonderful when you step on it. That might help keep it under control.

    Clematis in your climate will need rich, cool, moist soil and afternoon shade. 'Sweet Autumn' should be a vigorous grower for you.

    1. Sigh. I'm not sure there's anything that will control mint - if stomping on it would work, I'd be out there daily stomping away...

      'Sweet Autumn' Clematis did well for me at my last house and I'm hopeful it will handle the 10 degree higher temps here.

  2. I love your raised beds, the timber is a lovely weathered colour and the beds themselves must be easy to look after.

    1. The raised beds are wonderful (except for the blasted mint that is). Thanks for visiting, Jane!

  3. Those beds are beautiful! How big do artichokes get in your area? Out here they get to be eight feet across--they are monsters! I'm so envious of your persimmon tree--so delicious!

    1. The artichokes in my dry garden didn't get monster size and the one in the barrel should stay smaller. I'm still afraid it may crowd out the strawberries, though, so I may need to find it another spot.

      I inherited 2 persimmon trees with the garden. I love the look of the tree and the fruit. I'm afraid I don't have an appetite for the fruit myself but I'm sure I'll find takers (if I can keep it from the raccoons and squirrels).

  4. You are so blessed to live where so many delightful plants can grow. Many years ago, I planted a lemon tree in a pot near a huge window thinking it would grow and produce lemons. I should mention the pot was inside my home. Didn't do so well. Our zone 5 gardens are so hot in the summer and so cold in the winter, keeping the gardens happy is a challenge. As for the mint... so sorry. Delicious aroma but spreads like crazy.

    1. But, Carolyn, you can grow herbaceous peonies! Each zone offers its own benefits and liabilities I guess. Thanks for visiting!