When I dreamed up a bed behind the house, I had two objectives: (1) place the bench my father built for me years ago in a spot where I could see it from the house and (2) screen the stumps left behind when we cut down a clump of birches.
When I say “we” I mean our friend and woodsman extraordinaire, Bud Hobenshield, who cut down the birches one winter before we moved to the farm. When we came up at spring break, Bud brought his splitter out for the week and he, LW, and the boys split the wood and stacked it in the woodshed.
I decided to plant herbs in the bed, not because it was an ideal site for an herb garden. It was not. For one thing, it didn’t really get enough sun. However, it was close to the kitchen and I happened to have rhubarb and strawberry plants available, so that was my jumping off point.
I scavenged the surrounding bush for materials to make my first twig construction project—a trellis. Hazelnuts are abundant here, so that’s what I used, even though the saplings are a little too brittle to work with easily.
My trellis looked a bit sketchy from the front, but the side view was better.
Next order of business: taking out the old clothesline pole.
Then I started digging.
As you can imagine, the area was full of birch roots, generously complemented by thimbleberry roots and fibrous bracken fern roots.
After a week of hard digging and yanking out roots, I laid some stepping stones and planted the first few plants: rhubarb, strawberries, and sage.
When I hunted the yard for flat stones, I was thrilled to find an old cement block with a bit of moss and lichens growing on it. It made a perfect step into my little herb bed and looked like it had been there forever. The old iron boiler was a treasure that came with the house. I hauled the broken chiminea from Victoria, knowing it would add some character to a flower bed.
By mid-June, the sweet peas were poking up under the trellis and the north slope was a mass of thimbleberries and ferns.
In August, the garden was thriving, but the sweet peas were still not tall enough to be visible on the trellis.
The sweet peas finally hit their stride at the end of October—just before the first hard frost!
Lesson learned: Sow sweet peas early and tie them to the trellis as they grow.