When we moved to French Pemberley in 2010, our one acre lot was mostly barren with no landscaping as the previous owners used almost the entire property in back for horses. Having grown up in the heart of Midwestern farm land and then years later moving here after living in California several years (where it is easy to grow anything), gardening here was a big learning curve. It took a few years to truly understand what could and could not flourish in a low or subtropical desert in Zones 9-10.
Now we have container gardens, two backyard gardens, a new raised herb bed (soon to be planted), a new fruit orchard, and I am finally starting to find a balance between heat tolerant/environmental friendly landscaping, what appeals to my level of gardening skills, and what can provide us with fruits and vegetables for our table in our growing zone.
After a couple of years spent just working the soil to get it into shape and then a couple more several years of trying without too much success, I realized the best success would come from spring and fall gardens, leaving the summer heat to its own fruition. (Honestly, I should have known that right away but I suppose I thought I could will those plants to live.) Spring vegetable gardens allow us to take advantage of temperate winters and plant when there is no longer a chance of frost (we do occasionally get frost here), and allows us to enjoy a nice harvest in spring through very early summer before temperatures soar. Fall gardens get planted towards the very end of summer, with one exception, our pumpkin patch gets planted the beginning of July in order to have pumpkins for October and November. The grapes I planted in 2012 continue to do well, though not yet mature. Lettuce tends to be a year round crop here. We plant it in raised beds in areas where they protected from sun. I found lettuce, peppers, and herbs to be a huge confidence builder. In the beginning, when I was trying to find my green thumb, even I couldn’t kill those three garden dwellers.
I am excited more than anything about the orchard we just planted and though it will take 3-4 years to mature, the trees are doing wonderfully and some already have small fruit. I’m so looking forward to the day when I can pick my own fruit for canning and preserving projects and enjoy a meal at a picnic table under their shade. A few years ago, we took our children on a day trip to an apple orchard south of our house. We spent the day picking apples and pears stopping only to picnic for lunch at tables they had placed under the trees. I’m not sure who had more fun, the kids or me. I’m looking forward to recreating some of that right here on our own grounds.
Me picking apples…The strategically placed branch hides how pregnant I was when this was taken.
Here’s a little tour of the sights and signs of summer around French Pemberley this week…
Hope this finds your garden growing like crazy, whether it is a large family project or just some basil on the kitchen counter. It is the joy in these simple things that connect us to the earth and in the process, to each other.