The time to peruse seed catalogues and plan wondrous garden layouts is here. The reality of maintaining what we already have won’t settle in for another month or two!
Garden planning can be methodical if you are already experienced with what could have been done better in your existing yard — better deer fencing, better wind blocks, and especially, more sunlight for those sun-seeking vegetables. Placement is crucial. Do try to rotate your veggies, so the soil rests from the more demanding plants, like brassicas. Legumes are nitrogen-building, and they are good to alternate each year with leafy greens.
I have been scheming up an annuals-only herb bed in a cold frame that is near the kitchen for quick access when a snip of parsley or chives is needed. My ideal spot is facing south, and it is available now that the construction of our garage is mostly done. An old screen door will make a good opening top frame, with some sturdy and replaceable plastic in the gaps.
The problem of ‘leggy’ (tall and reaching) plants is caused by lack of light. So if the front (south) panel is transparent, the light will get in better… that’s my theory. Cold frames generally have a sloping door to let more light in and allow for taller herbs on one side. This also keeps the bed small, which is good for retaining warmth.
Sow bugs are such a nuisance to seedlings — they devour them. If a piece of screen went down under the base and soil it just might deter them some. These creatures hibernate deep in the soil during winter, wake up hungry, and attack seeds just as they sprout. From the sow bugs’ point of view this is a most excellent strategy for success. Spraying with Safers Soap may help preserve the little plants if you can just get there in time! Bugs work at night too, so that’s not playing fair by any rules.
The reason for using a screen door is to be able to prop it open on warm days and allow the herbs to naturalize to the climate. A cold frame will extend your growing season, both in spring and fall, by at least a month. In the summer, being able to remove the door or tie it open would be optimal, as long as the wind doesn’t come along.
My thoughts for making an annual herbs-only spot is that the perennial herbs like rosemary and thyme prevent me from cleaning the bed out in winter and having the soil ready for planting very early in April. Many herbs self-seed, such as chervil and parsley. Those will take care of themselves year after year, until you want to change what you grow. Some perennial herbs like lavender blend nicely into a flower bed, with spring bulbs growing among them. They do need some serious pruning back every year to control a scraggly appearance, but don’t we all.
I see a new dill plant offered this year from West Coast Seeds that is a dwarf variety. A compact dill plant strikes me as a wonderful idea! It has “short leaf inter-nodes to help the plant stay compact and bushy.”
Dill is an umbelliferon, which means its flowers grow in the shape of an umbel (like carrots and parsley). These plants are major attractors of beneficial predatory insects, such as lady bugs. Beneficial insects prey on pest species like aphids and the larva of the cabbage moth. It is a good thing to have plants that attract beneficial insects!
Happy dreams and schemes… all good ones.