06 September 2011

Vegetable Gardens, Real and Imagined

While we were in Boulder last month, we paid particular attention to my aunt Patti and uncle Robin's vegetable garden (our own vegetable garden plans have changed about a dozen times since we made our landscape plan, so we're always on the lookout for inspiration).



For some color, they added flowers (marigolds?) to one of the beds. They thought they would stay low, but the particular variety grew a lot taller than expected. Regardless, I love the idea of mixing flowers in with the vegetable garden -- especially because the guest room looks out on that area.

Their garden consists of about 14 4'x4' beds made of 2"x8" lumber and laid out in rows along one side of their house.



Although they didn't use all of the beds this summer, they have definitely made the most of what they planted, growing tons of food for themselves and to give away.

There were green peppers...



...tomatoes...



...more tomatoes (lots of varieties)...



...eggplant...



...some kind of summer squash...



...as well as spaghetti squash...



...and more basil (not to mention taller basil) than I've ever seen.



(The sandwich I made for our hike to Arapahoe Pass included green pepper, cucumber, and basil from their garden. And it was fantastic.)

With our own (future) vegetable garden in mind, it was great to see a thriving garden (although they do have a secret weapon, which I'll share later in the week). We've given a lot of thought to the design of our beds and, after considering a ton of options, have decided to make them out of the same stone that was used on the house (Lueders limestone). This house in a neighborhood not too far from us has beds similar to what we're going for:





We're planning to get the stone from the same place where we got the stone for the house. One decision down. But putting in a 1,500-2,500-gallon rainwater collection system (not in the landscape plan) requires us to make room for a 6-7'x6-7' cistern in the vegetable garden area, and since doing it properly means keeping it five feet in from our side property line, we have had to reduce the length of one of the beds. Since the original plans only included the equivalent of about five 4'x4' beds (remember that Patti and Robin have about 14), we want to make up that space elsewhere in that area of the garden, so we've been playing with different layouts.

Here's what the area will look like with the addition of a roughly 7' cistern (the expertly photoshopped circle above/behind the two round-ish objects, which are pomegranate bushes):



The two dots toward the right are the placement of the irrigation lines (from which the drip lines will serve each bed). Here are some of the layouts we've considered:



This first possibility works out to the equivalent of five to six of Patti and Robin's beds. These other two would be about seven (I already have plans to cut the pomegranates back in hopes of getting them to fruit next year, so they won't be as close to the beds as they appear here).





With paper and scissors the possibilities are pretty much endless, so I'll continue to work on different options. The rainwater cistern has to come first, though, since we will need to run pipes under the vegetable garden bed area. And we have to wait until it's consistently below 90 before we get started on that. (Yesterday was the first day under 100 in a really, really long time -- although the winds that brought in the cooler weather also stirred up several devastating wildfires -- so hopefully we're on our way to more pleasant times on both fronts.)

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