It is that time of year again, time for a tour through my gardens! 2022 was one of the most difficult years for me at our house. Besides gardening through a drought and hot summer, my mower never did work right, the front yard is still torn up, and I only got 2 raised beds built for the potager. But, despite that, many areas of the garden improved and did very well. The meadow garden really came into shape, I was able to plan and add vegetable garden beds this summer, and our fruit trees did very well. Plus, I fenced an additional acre of pasture for our goats.
As for flowers, many of the long lived perennials such as baptisia, rudbeckia, iris, and daylily did awesome. Some of the new additions suffered in the drought, but others thrived in it. I added beds of zinnias, annual rudbeckia, and started planning for a medicinal garden. My wife and I are determined to be as independent as possible from the government, healthcare industry, and grocery store. So next spring I will be turning over my wife’s garden and some of the front yard into a specifically planned medicinal garden.
Entry Garden Tour
We really started producing on the farm products this year, more so than in 2021. My wife continues to make goat’s milk lotion and soap. But she also makes glyphosate-free gluten bread (much gluten intolerance is actually glyphosate intolerance), jelly, sugar scrub, and we sell eggs and flower arrangements. At the front of our drive, where it forks between our drive and the neighbor’s, is our sign post. On it is the Monarch Waystation sign, Windmill Woods Farm sign, and welcome sign. At the base of the sign post is one of many antique garden carts, planted to flowers. My daughter planted one with annuals which lasted all summer.
Past the sign post is the Monarch Waystation, part of which will become a medicinal garden plot in 2023. The natives in this garden do so well every year. In it are several cultivars of switchgrass, as well as big bluestem, rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’, purple milkweed, and many other native prairie type plants from the eastern Kansas tallgrass prairies.
At the top of the drive, near the house, the shade garden and entry walk have become a bit weedy and overgrown. Many of my best shade plants are not making it from the consecutive dry falls, and the dry summer of 2022. But changes will be coming next season. I plan to continue to switch from non-native shade plants to native ephemerals and sedges. Although, I will leave in the trees (Japanese and paperbark maples).
By the walkway, my wife wanted an arbor and a climbing rose, so I built one. The climbing rose was her Mother’s Day gift and already the arbor makes a statement in the landscape.
Meadow Garden Tour
Like I said above, the meadow garden really took off this year. Despite looking a bit sparse in late summer (I need to add some more grasses), it really looked great for most of the season. Some of the plants which take longer to bloom because they have to set their root systems, bloomed very well (Rudbeckia maxima and Silphium terabinthinaceum).
I was very surprised to see the annual Leavenworth Eryngo reseeding itself into the meadow garden from the plants I added last year. Them, along with Mexican hat (Ratibida) and Coreopsis palmata, were the stars of the show. I also removed the black oak which had been growing along the west edge of the meadow, and replaced it with 3 bent over hog panels, which became a tunnel for planting, leading up to the vegetable garden.
On the hog panels, I planted grape vines, luffa gourds, and Chinese red noodle beans (a type of long bean similar in flavor to a cowpea). My son surprised me by loving the taste of the long beans, and he ate every one of them. As for the luffas, this was my second year of it, and they did better than 2021. We ended up with 9 fruits on it, but 3 of them froze in out early freeze in October.
Sunny Cottage Garden Tour
Each year, as the season progresses, I think “There’s no way I can add more to that space”. But I do. Each season, I add about a dozen new plants to a 600 square foot bed. That is the sunny cottage garden. There are actually 2 beds in this garden, with the daylily bed to the north of the main bed. The daylily bed is completely surrounded by a border of more than 100 ‘Milennium’ ornamental onions, and contains apple trees, daylilies (of course), iris, salvia, catmint, hibiscus, ninebarks, hydrangea, and rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’.
To the west of the main bed, we added a peafowl run, to accommodate the peacocks and peahens that we got from my wife’s grandparents. In that main bed this season, I added a variegated little bluestem, pink flowering catmint, purple and white salvia, rose verbena, a chartreuse leaved agastache, and several annual rudbeckias. I was most impressed with the salvia, a variety called Azure Snow, which I thought died, but came back and bloomed in the heat and drought of August. Impressive! And for a K-State graduate, this is the best salvia.
Despite not looking very good yet, a garden tour through the potager or kitchen garden will reveal that big changes are definitely in the works. In the fall of 2021, I built 2 garden beds using cedar logs cut from our pasture, and this summer I added 3 more. I will continue to build these beds over the winter of 2022-23 until I have at least 10. Combined with in ground beds for potatoes and corn, we should have quite the garden space next year.
I also added 5 grape vines, more blackberries, raspberries, two cherry trees, and two apple trees to the garden. As we clear the pasture northward, I will add space to the vegetable garden for more fruit trees and blackberry bushes. I intend to plant at least 20 apples, 10 pie cherries, 10 plums, and a few dozen blackberries.
Because we do not have a good water source for the garden yet, 2022 was not a good year produce wise. Garlic was the best producer we had, and I planted 2 beds of it for next year. We did get a few cantaloupes, some peas and beans, and some spinach, but the tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, and squash were all failures.
One other thing we plan to add this winter is a small greenhouse. I saved some plastic for it and will build it on the hill above the daylily bed. It is we will grow our starts for the garden, and try to overwinter fig trees in pots.
A garden tour should start first with your own garden, and your own ideas, and then lead you to look for new ideas in new places. I like to go to arboretums, botanical gardens, and friend’s gardens to gain new ideas, as well as take a garden tour through the world of magazines. I hope you enjoyed gardening this year, despite the drought and heat. Merry Christmas!