The long herb bed 2004

There was already a large area that had once been used for vegetables, which you can see in the "Across the back yard" picture on the opening page. I decided to keep that area for herbs and veggies, though it was overgrown with weeds. I'll describe elsewhere the terrible errors I made trying to rehabilitate that space, bringing myself much more work than I expected. But on this page, I want to show you one portion of that area, a bed for herbs and perennial flowers that runs lengthwise along the western edge.

The entire veggie area is 45 feet long by 15 feet wide. This is my original schematic for the area. I planned for a series of small beds along each side, which I could plant "square-foot" style. Each square is 4 ft by 6 ft, with two foot paths between each, and a three foot path down the middle (wide enough for my garden cart). At the eastern end, which is shaded a bit from the neighbors Russian Olive tree and the back of the shed, I planned an area for composting.

I needed a place for some plants that came with me when I moved in, so I decided on a long bed for herbs and perennial flowers along the eastern edge. That bed is 15 feet long by three feet wide. I put a cast stone flat in the middle so I would have a safe place to step over. The backyard faces due south and has all the sun and wind of the Colorado high prairie, so plants that live here have to be tough. The soil is slightly alkaline and somewhat poor in nitrogen. It's not the hard clays you often see around Denver, but has a silt-to-light clay texture, which is mineral-rich with no organic matter to speak of.

I planted my oregano at the northeast corner, with a candytuft beside it. Both have thrived; in fact, the oregano has jumped the path and theatens to engulf the garden. At the edge of the nearest "square foot" bed I planted three ornamental fescues that also came down from the foothills with me. They've been happy and have also spread along that edge. My plan was to paint the beds in shades of purple and white, with some bright rose pink for an accent.

This is in May of 2004. I've added a few plants every year, filling in the bed, slowly planting south. The candytuft is always the first thing to bloom, and the oregano behind it is coming up strong as usual. Most of the other plants are up and green, but not blooming yet. The southern part of the bed is still all weeds, and you can see they invade the path as well, in spite of cardboard layers under the mulch. Black weed cloth has not helped much in holding down the thistle and bindweed that cover this area, either.

By June the middle of the bed is blooming up a storm. In this picture, from left to right, back to front, we see Dianthus "First Love", a creeping thyme just beginning to bloom in front and back of the stepping stone, with tri-color Sage just behind it, Echinacea "White Swan" is not yet blooming, Penstemon "Prairie Night" in full bloom, garlic chives not yet blooming, Russian sage in the far back corner not yet blooming, and candytuft waiting to have the spent flowers trimmed.

A close-up from the other side shows more Russian sage behind the Dianthus. There are some "Hidcote" lavenders in there too, but they are newly planted in 2004 and don't show much yet. A sharp eye will notice another shade of blue by the sage. That is a stray plant of Salvia "May Night" that needs to be moved.

In July the Dianthus and Penstemon are done blooming and the spent flowers have been trimmed. Echinacea and Russian sage are coming into their own now. Look close and you can see a sprig of lavender on the left, and some of that pushy oregano on the right.

These plants are all fairly new still. I began the planting here in the summer of 2000, adding only two or three types of plants each year. So moving from the candytuft south, you have older to younger plants. If you had more money and better knees than mine, you could easily do all this in one year (assuming the weeds and fencing had already been taken care of). But my pocketbook and the need to keep my joints from aching make it more practical for me to move slowly on my plans.

Penstemon "Prairie Dusk"

Echinacea "White Swan".