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"When we moved in, the yard was just a big, green bowling alley: bare except for grass all the way from the house to the rear fence," recalls Marcia. She located the vegetable garden at the back of the lot because it is the only spot that receives the minimum 6 hours of direct sunlight a day most vegetables need.
"Gardening starts with the soil," says Marcia. She is fortunate to garden with one of the most productive soil types in New York: the fertile, well-drained Honeoye loam. She carefully prepared the soil before planting and continues to make every effort to keep it healthy and productive. Soil-improving practices are even more important if you are starting with poor soil.
The herb and flower bed in the center of the garden provides a visual focus. It features a towering Nicotiana sylvestris (candlestick flowering tobacco), birdbath and chair.
Flowers and food crops mingle in Marcia’s beds, like these marigolds and broccoli plants. "Mixing them is as much for aesthetics as anything else," she says. In some combinations, the hodge-podge of sights and scents may confuse and deter insect pests looking for food crops.
Marcia designed the garden with wide planting beds separated by permanent mulched paths. This keeps foot traffic from compacting the soil where the plants grow. "We never walk on our beds," she says.
The paths provide plenty of room to maneuver a wheel barrow around the garden. "Some of the best advice I've ever gotten about garden design was to be sure you give yourself enough elbow room," suggests Marcia.
To make the most of space in the planting beds, Marcia often plants "relay crops." For example, scallion seedlings are up and growing and will take over space left when Marcia harvests the nearby carrots.
Similarly, Marcia will harvest these leeks before they face serious competition from the nearby peppers.
Here, lettuce benefits from a little shade from tomatoes as hot weather approaches. By the time tomatoes really take off, Marcia will have harvested the lettuce.
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