Last winter I read in an article somewhere (and I can’t remember if I read it online or in print, otherwise I would share an excerpt with you!) how the colonists planted their vegetable gardens. Unlike the way I was planting — in the middle of my backyard, where I hardly ever ventured — these practical New Englanders established their vegetable and herb gardens right up against the south-facing wall of their houses. Preferably as close to the door as possible. Just a few steps from the kitchen. Practical. Convenient. As most New England habits are.
It was one of those palm-slap-to-the-forehead moments when I wonder why I do things I do for so long. Why on earth was I planting a vegetable garden in a place that was hard to water, inconvenient to weed; in a location that I could not keep a close eye on my fledgling starter plants early in the season, and a keen eye on my harvest later in the summer and early fall. It was no wonder I had lost interest in the garden by mid-summer; weeds would take over, the harvest would sometimes go by without picking.
Well, with the help of a friend, I spent most of early to mid-spring tearing up an overgrown flower bed (rife with invasive spiraea) on the southwest side of my house next to the driveway. The herb garden, which used to be behind my garage, was relocated to a few feet from the back steps. The vegetable garden followed, which lined the patch of land between my house and the driveway. I planted flowers at the edge of the vegetable garden, near the front of the house, to pretty things up.
We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, kale and eggplant in the vegetable section. The herb garden is filled with basil, dill, garlic (already harvested), leeks, oregano, chives (two varieties), thyme, ringed with lavender. My goal was to make the garden super-accessible, super “top of mind” … and it is. Every time I drive the car into the driveway the garden greets me with new growth, a new vegetable peeking out from behind leaves. The water spigot is conveniently located right next to the garden, and it is never a chore to step out of my car, grab a basket and harvest for the night’s meal.
My kitchen garden plan, however, is more than a way to avoid excess work. I am counting on the south side of my house creating a micro-climate of sorts; yes, it is hotter in the summer with the heat of the sun bouncing off the house onto the plants (requiring more watering), but come fall, I am hoping the effect will be an extended harvest. And as New England gardeners, isn’t that what we all want? And, as for the early settlers to our region — wasn’t this their plan all along? — a longer harvest to fill the pantry for a long, long winter.