Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Children's Garden

Site of Future Children's Garden

I estimate that by eliminating the need to mow around trees in my yard, I can cut my mowing time in half. By itself, that’s enough incentive to make this particular spot into a kids’ garden. It’s an easy area to watch from the kitchen, and cool because of the trees and lilac bushes. There’s space for a sandbox, a wading pool, and a bench, and lots of potential pathways for chasing games. There's even a tire swing hidden behind the tree on the right.
The photo shows an area of dead grass measuring about 36 feet deep and 30 feet wide. Since I took the picture, I’ve widened the project by another nine feet to the trees’ drip line on the left, so we’re talking 36x39 feet. This does not include the background lilac bushes.
After deciding to do this project, my first task was to inventory plants I have available to use. Naturally, during my research, I discovered many I don’t have but would like.

Some Plants To Consider For Children’s Garden

Plant name                Type*     Light**   Spacing       Height         Comment

Asparagus                    P         FS              8"            2-4ft            attractive ferns, crowding like this will not produce good table crop
Basil                            A         S, NS         8"            18"              culinary & medicinal uses (C&M)
Bergamot                     P         PS to S      18"           2-3 ft           attracts bees, mulch, divide every
    (Bee balm)                                                                                3 years
Calendula                     A         S              12-18"      12-20"         deadhead, decorative, eidible flowers, C&M
Catnip                          P       FS to LS     12"           18"-3ft         attracts bees (and cats), medicinal uses
Chamomile    can be A or P   FS              varies        8"-2 ft          activate compost decomp., revives
                                                                                                    nearby plants, medicinal uses
Chives                         P        S, PS          9"             8"-3ft           repels rabbits, C&M
Columbine                   P        PS              12"           2-3 ft           cut stems after flowering
Comfrey                      P        FS              2 ft           3-4 ft           difficult to get rid of, C&M
Cowslips                     P        LS- S          6"            5-9"             C&M
Creeping thyme    Evergreen  FS-varies     varies      less than 12" ground cover, takes some foot traffic, the variety I have does well in shade
Dill                              A       FS               9-12"       2-5 ft            Do not grow near fennel, C&M
Fennel                         A       FS               20"          7 ft                ok in shade but seeds won’t ripen, C&M
Forget-me-nots           P        S-LS           6"            12"                good with spring bulbs
Hens and Chicks         P        S                 9"            2-3"              some sources identify this as Houseleek which has medicinal uses
Hosta                          P       Shade          12"          varies            almost carefree, but deer like it, divide every four years or so
Lavender                    P        FS             18"-2 ft     18"-3ft           for hedges, 12 inches, C&M
Lawn daisy                 P        PS-S           ?              3-6"              Bellis perennis, attracts bees and butterflies, C&M
Lemon balm               P        S-NS         2 ft            3 ft                C&M
Mullein                  Biennial   S                2 ft            7 ft                decorative, attracts bees; flowers, leaves and stems all have uses
Nasturtium                 A       FS-PS        8"              varies            Prefers poor soil; leaves, flowers, and seeds are edible, attracts beneficial insects; capers from buds and seed
Parsley                 Biennial   S-LS           9"             15"                C&M
Primrose                    P       S-LS           6"             3-6"               edible flower, medicinal uses
Pussy toes                 P        Shade         6"             1-2"                native plant, fun name, ground cover
Sweet cicely              P        LS             2ft             3ft                   fernlike, C&M, buy plants, not seeds
Sweet woodruff         P        S               6-9"          12"                  ground cover, C&M
Sunflower                  A       FS             12-18"       3-10ft             plant in rectangle to create enclosed play area, C&M
Violet                        P        LS, NS      4-5"          4-6"                can be invasive, edible flower, C&M Wild strawberry        P       S or Shade  12"            10"                  good ground cover, C&M
Yarrow                     P       LS - S         12"           1 - 3ft              invasive, C&M, speeds composting, "helps" nearby plants

Whew. Sure hope this copies to the blog without messing up the columns!
My source for a lot of this information is The Complete Book of Herbs, A Practical Guild to Growing & Using Herbs, by Lesley Bremness. I love this book.
You may have noticed that many of these plants are herbs.  I like the idea of a garden where the kids can discover edible treasures.
Because so much of this Children’s Garden site is shaded, I’m a bit limited on what I can actually use. I’ll try catnip, chives, comfrey, creeping thyme, fennel, hens and chicks, hosta, lavender, lawn daisies, lemon balm, mullein, nasturtiums, parsley, pussy toes, primrose, sweet woodruff, sunflowers, and violets. Edging the garden with spring bulbs and comfrey is supposed to create a barrier to grass. I have LOTS of daffodil bulbs so I’ll try this here as well as in the apple guild. I’m saving my limited supply of forget-me-nots for the moon garden and the wild strawberries for the evergreen garden. I’ll probably put yarrow in the apple guild even thought it is invasive. I want sweet cicely, but no one at the garden stores I’ve checked has heard of it. I’m also seriously considering three Red Lake Currant bushes for the Children’s Garden, but I can’t get those until spring. Meanwhile, I should be preparing the soil to receive them.
I might have a problem with the currants. And other plants too, for that matter. Several years ago, I planted hosta around these black locust trees. Hosta are supposed to be nearly indestructible, but most of them died. The ones remaining are stunted. I’m afraid the locusts might be producing some sort of inhibitor, like black walnut trees do. I’ll be experimenting with other plants to see what will survive. I’m counting on the creeping thyme to fill in around the bench and sandbox.
Sure wish I could twitch my nose and make this happen. I’m so eager to see how it all turns out! I’ll simply have to be patient–and work on multiple projects to keep from stressing about any one. I promise to take pictures. Truthfully, I couldn’t wait to start planting. The tree on the right is surrounded by lemon balm, chives, parsley, catnip, violets, and creeping thyme. I’ve put in some more hosta to see how they fare. Nasturtiums are, hopefully, quietly germinating around the tree on the right. There’s nothing photo-worthy yet.
I’m torn between working on the moon garden and the apple guild next. But my grandson wants to help build a concrete dragon in the moon garden and he’ll be around only until mid-August. Build the dragon; plant the guild? That might work. This summer is too short!

*Annual, Perennial, Biennial
**S-sun, NS-noon shade, LS-light shade, PS-part shade, FS-full sun

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