In Our Garden, What Can Go Up Must Go Up
by Jane Berger
July 2020 Kabocha and Pole Beans
As spent vining plants sighed back on the soil in Mid-October and I began to take down drying Kabocha vines, I remember thinking about the opportunities we took to maximize our growing areas on a small property. We have a further disadvantage with redwood trees in front and back. This translates into: what can go up, must go up, to make use of every area of soil that receives sunlight in a particular season. As I mulched where the Kabocha had been, an area that receives very little sunlight in the winter, I thought about what could grow up that trellis in the warmer weather when there is more light.
Now, in mid-January, I am paying attention to the areas of our yard that are incrementally receiving more sunlight and I'm planning my first plantings of the year, before the fig and plum trees leaf out and I readjust once again to the placement of subsequent plantings in the raised bed behind them.
I'll direct-seed some radishes this weekend and hope that Persephone1 will be a bit forgiving this close to the end of her annual reign. I'm starting some Rainbow chard, and Italian escarole in cell trays in Dr. Booth, the hot box my husband made from a retired rolling bread-delivery cart. Then I will open my seed tin and gather seeds for plants that will climb upward for warmer weather crops. We're having trouble eating the winter squash fast enough; I'll definitely plant fewer this year, but I'm already envisioning what will go up where – vining sweet peas and cucumbers, pole beans, kabocha and butternut squash, clematis and roses.
Cucumbers climbing inside the raised bed
The other major consideration in our garden is my ability (or lack thereof) to judge essential timing necessary to grow one area to fruition in time to get the next plantings in. So the radishes, chard and escarole will be interplanted by broccoli, red cabbage, parsley, lettuces, chicories, kales and celery. Or, depending on how successful my timing is, maybe one or two varietals will get their own row.
Winter Squash growing behind Zucchini and Zinnias
Looking for tall spaces and planting varieties to grow upward in them is a way to keep a diversity of flowers and produce in our small yard and supply fodder for satisfied pollinators and beneficial insects. These ideas fill my head during the day, both keeping me busy and relaxing me in equal measure, as my family and I try to balance living and staying healthy during the Pandemic. But, pandemic or not, in gardening I find an inner reflection and outer relaxation that bring me joy.
1The time of year when daylight falls below 10 hours per day is known as the “Persephone Period” referencing the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest in Greek mythology.
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Photo credits: Jane Berger