Living green involves moving toward sustainable food consumption. While we labor to grow nutritious veggies and fruits, there is no rule against having a beautiful garden. Adding beauty to the rows of veggies relaxes the mind and eases the mundane tasks such as weeding. Some beauty tricks also increase plant growth space and help up production, too. After all, most of us are backyard gardeners of some type, not large scale production farmers.
Try these ideas next spring to change up the garden to a more beautiful environment.
Structures add dimension and give height loving plants more production space. Pole beans are a good example. They climb, like the famous Jack found out when he visited the giant in the clouds. You may not end up with a golden egg laying goose but plant vines curling upward around a rectangular or pyramidal shaped tower provide shade for some low plants or potted herbs underneath. They make harvesting quick with little bending.
Structures don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Yard sales are great places to find discards that can be repurposed, such as 3-4 hockey sticks or oars lashed at the top to guide plants upward. Old birdhouse poles and stands, pallets cut and refigured to fit any space, leftover lumber, and even broken chairs can make climbing structures and supports that bring the eye upward and out. Slip a shade friendly herb, impatiens in a pot or colorful, leafy coleus underneath for some variety in texture and hue.
Plan structure placement for appropriate sun time as plants get bigger. Check surrounding trees for shade patterns as the day progresses. Moving a structure only a couple feet can drastically alter sun exposure, so make sure plants growing on structures fit the sun time they will receive.
Commercial or homemade arbors provide great growing space for climbers, too. They can provide an unusual covered entrance to a yard or garden plot, and picking veggies off will be easy and quick.
Pathways provide a variety of helps in the garden. They allow easy access to beds and veggie groups. They can be designed to link any array of planting areas. They make a stroll fun. If you are a geometric gardener, straight pathways make harvesting even easier. To create a defined and designated pathway, determine what width you will need. Two feet is a good start, depending on how far adjacent plants will spread their canopy and how many people will be working together in a space. Width can be adjusted between beds as needed.
If you have a large garden space, make sure you plan several paths so you can access all plants from at least one side. If you garden in raised beds, make sure you widen paths a bit for extra foot traffic space.
Prepare the pathways by removing grass, large stones, and any detritus. Level or evenly slope undulation using base or play sand, ½” to 1” deep. Lay weed cloth over the sand, then cover with pea gravel, small stones, or cedar mulch again about an inch thick for stones and 2” for mulch. Base preparation is essential for permanence and weed control. There will be enough bed weeding and care during growing time that you don’t want to be weeding paths. Hose down initially to help level everything and contain dust. Don’t worry if pathways are a bit uneven at first. Over time, walking will level out bumps. Initial pathway cost may be pricey but will repay itself quickly with the benefits, including less weeding, improved drainage, easy bed access, and beauty. Annual maintenance will vary; mulch is less permanent than stones and will need regular replacement.
Adding stepping stones to pathways can help beautify selected areas. Commercial flat rocks can be purchased in a variety of materials and added as desired. Color and texture variations are pretty and fun.
Get the kids involved making stepping stones so they own a part of the garden. Commercial kits are available at craft stores. You can create your own designs with glass rocks, tiles, beads, bling, and baubles from the dollar store (or yard sales) and patterns from “How to” websites and Pinterest. Use a child’s hand or footprint, name or free hand idea. Add new stones yearly for a life and garden “grow chart” as little hands and feet get bigger. Even if you keep pathways grassy, stepping stones make a great place to rest a harvest basket, keep feet dry in dew laden grass, or break up a visually straight line.
Over the winter, take some time to design the pathways and structure ideas that fit your space. Online garden planners can help. Try one or two ideas at first and add more as you go. Beauty is in th eye of the gardener so create what makes you happy.