Community Plot Update (May 18, 2008)

This was going to be a much better post wherein I was going to tell you all about the goings-on in my little community garden plot, however I started writing it ten days ago and then…. well… clearly that ball was dropped. But I didn’t want to leave it, stuck forever in the drafts folder with 20 other half-written posts that are so far past their due date that they will never see the light of day. Obviously much has changed in ten days but regardless, here’s what was happening just over a week ago.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Parkdale Community Beer Garden (facing north). My plot is the one to the forward right of the frame. The big leafy thing in front is my ever-expanding patch of white valerian (Valeriana officinalis). This is a gorgeous plant that grows to be taller than me producing massive sprays of fragrant white flowers. Some cats like valerian and go crazy for it like catnip. Mine does not so the only personal use I get from it are the flowers that I snip to put in vases on occasion. But the real reason I keep valerian in the garden is because the plant is known to be an immune system boost to the plants that live around it and it makes a good addition to the compost heap. It also attracts a lot of beneficial insects becoming a little microcosm onto itself by mid-summer.


My plot (facing west). I keep an assortment of perennial herbs in that corner leaning towards a mix of bright green and chartreuse plants. I added some black pansies to the mix this year which made a nice colour combination.


Most of plot (view facing north)


Harvested that day. Lots of herbs, onions, and garlic mustard roots (later made into horseradish).


Plot (Facing north east). There’s that valerian again. The spiky leaves sticking up all over the place are mostly garlic and onions.


The mint corner. They’re coming up strong including last year’s over-priced purchase, Mojito mint. This is one of the mints I intend to propagate this year. They say growing an assortment of mints together is a bad idea as it can dilute the quality of each variety over time. But I’ve only got so much space and there are too many interesting mint varieties to grow so what can one do except break some rules.


Pansies amongst the onions. I’ve got violas and pansies all over the place as spots of colour until the self-seeding calendula, borage and other edible flowers mature.


The sage corner. I’ve got 4 different varieties living here. I think we’re pretty much set for sage into the next millennium. Since I took this picture the plants have EXPLODED with buds forming that will soon bring that corner alive with colour. Thankfully there are lots of interesting things to be done with sage and it dries very well. Here’s a yummy sage and walnut pesto recipe. I’m also growing white sage on the roof.


The onion sets I planted 2 weeks prior are already growing. How’s that for fast service?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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14 thoughts on “Community Plot Update (May 18, 2008)

  1. How beautiful! Thanks for the sage pesto recipe, can’t wait to try it. Love the blog, inspired me to plant my first (container)veggie garden this year.

  2. WOW – thanks for not giving up on that post – it really helped me visualize what I can someday aim for … somewhere down the line. I’ve inherited a lush but very chaotic plotful of perennials (and weeds) that are telling me I need to quit the day job (but I can’t) …

  3. Leave those perennials in bre! You’ll be glad you did later on. Most of what you see in these pictures are early season perennials. I am yet to put any of my tender plants in… tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc, etc…

  4. It is amazing how each picture looks like an entirely different plot. Very beautiful space (yours and the entire garden!!!)

    Gayla – you really defy traditional “spacing” recommendations don’t you? I assume that because it already looks like your plot has a ton in there and you are still going to add tomatoes, peppers, and multiple etcs. Any tips how the rest of us can succeed in that mission?

  5. KJ: It looks fuller from a distance than it actually is. When you get up close you can see spaces. But the other thing is that I try and grow early season crops and then remove them to replace with the later crops. So some of what is in there will be coming out soon with the tomatoes, etc replacing them. I am not doing as many tomatoes this year.

    I also grow in groupings rather than rows. I think the yield is higher… and since I plant companions, they work together. So lots of edible flowers, basil, greens, etc are grown underneath larger, leafy plant like tomatoes… they function as living mulch for the big plants.

    I have also built up my soil. Lots of compost in there this year.

  6. I’m trying living mulch this year for the first time and am excited to see how it goes. The groupings sound like a really good way to go. All the organizing I’m trying to do is really counterintuitive, and I get much more excited about digging in the dirt when it’s more of a natural logic (no pun intended)

  7. Your website inspires me everyday I look at it. I have always struggled to grow things in the desert (Las Vegas), although this is my year. My container garden is coming a long nicely. I have posted some pictures on my blog…I am hoping that things will stay well within my garden, although I know the upcoming heat is going to make things difficult. I am also pretty excited about my compost. We have just moved into our first home and I can finally compost. The heat here is great for compost, but the dry weather can be a challenge. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Thanks Adventures in… I’d imagine gardening in Vegas is like my roof in the middle of summer… I think one of the tricks in your area is to start early. Even plants like tomatoes (and even peppers) that like heat and sun shut down and stop producing when the heat cranks up too high.

    Renee: I try pre-planning but in the end I just enjoy myself more when I can make some spontaneous decisions. This is the most organized the garden has ever been. You can’t see it in the pictures but I actually marked out a pattern (not a grid) last fall with string and sticks. So it has a defined structure this year but the final placement of things is still up in the air.

    I stood staring at my transplants for about 30 minutes yesterday trying to decide what was going in at the plot and what is going on the roof and what is going to be given away.

  9. I love seeing the lilacs in the corners! They don’t grow well here In SF. Valerian is a great root to harvest and tincture to calm down the nervous system, definitely good for insomnia. The roots (and the tincture) smell like feet though, so be warned. Cats usually freak out on the roots more then the leaves or flowers. Have you tried that yet?

  10. question about planting smaller plants under your tomatoes… my tomatoes take up a whole bed because of all the spacing… and i was wondering what i could plant around them… any herbs like basil and rosemary?… do you have any suggestions of what grows best?…


  11. how beautiful! especially the Valerian. i grow Comfrey for my compost pile, also hummingbirds love the flowers. now i want some Valerian for me and my cats! keep up the good work –great blog

  12. Hi, I am the coordinator of the Perth Dupont Community Garden. I am also a member of the Toronto Community Garden Network. I love finding out about other community gardens. It is great to see how green and productive your garden is. Thank you for taking to the time to write….I know how hard it is to find time and brain power to write, when you are longing to be out in the good earth! Let me know if you want to join the TCGN, a volunteer organization devoted to helping C.G. across the City of Toronto. Their website is –Good Gardening! Susan

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