Photography by Leah Kuhne Credits: Photography by Leah Kuhne
When my wife and I moved into our first house, I couldn't wait to start gardening, and Susan, an avid cook and home economist in The Canadian Living Test Kitchen, was just was eager for fresh, homegrown produce. Together we came up with the perfect plan: a garden to grow all the veggies for our favourite food -- pizza!
Just for fun we used pathways to divide our round garden into three "slices" and curve around a central circle designed for a tomato teepee. Our small parterre has paved borders and gravel paths to keep the beds tidy and accessible; the large boulders are perfect for perching on while weeding.
Preparing the bed
A small parterre could be successfully tackled by most gardeners on their own, but DeBoer Landscaping of Concord, Ont., laid out the borders and pathways for our bed. Here are their expert tips.
• Locate the bed in a spot that gets at least six hours of sun daily.
• Use string and stakes to mark the outline of the bed (and later, the paths). Using a sharp spade, slice through the sod, then lift it out. Using a fork and shovel, dig out the topsoil to a depth of 30 cm (11 7/8 in) and set aside in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp.
• Lay a 20.5 cm (8-in) deep foundation of limestone scree (or granular A) along planned paths or borders; tamp down using a heavy, handheld plate vibrator.
• Working from the outer edge to the centre, place borders (we used tumbled concrete pavers), setting pavers tightly together, about 6 mm (1/4 in) above surrounding ground level; tamp down. Inside pathway borders, fill with a 5 cm (2-in) depth of pea gravel, keeping gravel slightly below top edge of pavers. Sweep jointing sand into cracks between pavers.
• Replace soil, generously amending with triple mix, composted manure (both available at nurseries) or compost. Position boulders, if desired, in bed. Scree, stone, pavers and sand are available at stone yards, quarries and some garden and building supply centres.
Planting the bed
Once the danger of frost is past (the end of May in our southern Ontario garden), begin the growing season. To get your produce to the table quickly, purchase nursery plants rather than starting from seed (this way you should be harvesting herbs after about three weeks, tomatoes and peppers after 12). Plant, following directions on tags, then water deeply. If desired, mulch around plants to keep moisture in and weeds out.
Caring for it
Check the soil daily; if it's dry, water. Fertilize every two weeks with a diluted solution of 20-20-20, and clip basil and oregano to keep them bushy. Train tomato and zucchini vines up a teepee, lattice or stakes, pinching off the weakest shoots. Weed regularly. In the fall, pull up the annuals and dig in the mulch.
These choices should keep your pizzas covered.
• Six to 12 basil plants (several varieties)
• Two to three eggplants
• 20 to 30 red and white onions (bagged bulbs are labelled Dutch sets)
• Twelve tomato plants (choose plum tomatoes such as Roma and early- and late-bearing varieties)
• two or three oregano plants
• Several sweet pepper and one or two hot pepper plants
• One or two zucchini plants.
Include both yellow and red tomatoes and purple basil -- and border plants such as alyssum, chives or pansies, if desired -- to add colour to your garden.