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Overly Ambitious

7 April 2012

We’ve had even more rain and the layer of clay beneath the loose soil in the first bed is still wet, so completing the double dig would be difficult today.  I have been doing some pondering and planning instead.  The garden gets direct sunlight all day long and it is near the southern brick wall of the house which retains and radiates heat on sunny days.  This makes it ideal for some plants which love sun and heat, like tomatoes and basil, but herbs that prefer colder weather will not survive a hot summer week in the unshaded garden.

I’ve noticed something unusual today.  Four herbs survived the winter, mountain mint, cilantro, thyme, and chives, all cool weather plants that did poorly last summer.  Not only that, but in this week’s cool spell, they have all flourished vibrantly.  I have been fretting over what will happen to them when the summer heat arrives.  Instead of accepting the inevitability of their early demise this summer, I’ve decided to build a shaded herb bed and transplant them.

It’ll go just behind the pink azalea.

I’ve noticed (and so have the dogs) that this spot of the yard is cooler on hot days due to being nestled between the deck (which I presume, due to its orientation to the northeast, maintains a slightly cooler air mass under it) and two small maple trees.  It would still get direct sun for a few hours around midday.  My hope is that these conditions create a micro-climate different enough from the rest of the yard that these herbs would find more favorable.

There used to be a small decorative cedar here.

It’s not obvious in this picture, but this spot is on a hill and is dominated by maple roots and the cedar stump.  The area above divided off by timbers is actually a pathway leading to an access gate beneath the deck.  My father has suggested we build a small raised bed exactly in the style of the pathway above it.  It will be interesting to see if conditions here are different enough than the main garden, given that it’s a very short walk away.  I’ve heard of some local farmers doing some incredible things with sufficient knowledge of microclimates, even growing bananas.  I might try to plant a few other colder weather herbs, like garlic.

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3 Comments
  1. Caroline permalink

    Another awesome idea, Ryan. You’re giving me more ideas for our gardening, too. The cooler temperatures and soil sound good… what did you find out about how much sunlight the herbs will need to grow sufficiently?

    • That’s my biggest concern, actually. There aren’t a lot of locations on the property that have conditions like this, and they are all heavily shaded. I don’t really know how else to simulate a cooler climate on this land without building an enclosed structure. I’m just going to try it and see. We could cut some branches off the maple to give it more sun, but I’m not sure how much that will help.

    • So, I was discussing this with my neighbor, and her herb garden doesn’t get any more sun than this one would. I feel a bit better about that.

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