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Monday, June 14, 2021

My Version of an English Walled Garden on a Suburban Lot

The Garden 2021

The Garden 2013

When my daughters were girls we read Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Little Princess together. I was intrigued by the idea of a Victorian English walled garden, with its brick pathways and formal bed design. We never built the "wall" part of the walled garden but we laid the beds out in a formal design and paved the walkways with brickwork between the beds.

Having the vegetable garden a thing of beauty in itself was important for my gardening motivation. There are days when I really don't feel like weeding the beds or checking for slugs. But having something attractive to look at while I'm in the garden keeps me coming back outside, even in the rainy and dreary days of spring.

All of the coverings and contrived fences this year are less than attractive. Hopefully, the plants will grow quickly as the weather warms and won't need to be so heavily protected for all of summer.

I included a photo from this year as well a one from 8 years ago. In this time, we've replaced the gravel side walkways with brick and added a couple of flanking beds in the far section of the garden. We also added a bird bath at an intersection.

Every year, I get so excited over the prospect of harvesting a variety of vegetables. And every year there are disappointments. Here's what I've planted:

  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • kale
  • radishes
  • Swiss chard
  • Brussel sprouts
  • corn
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • summer squash and zucchini
  • acorn squash
  • pumpkin 
  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • bell peppers
  • green beans
  • turnips
  • beets
In the disappointment category, so far:

  • cool and wet weather pretty much killed off my basil seedlings. I've reseeded in two pots indoors and am hoping for something or anything. When the weather warms for the summer, I'll move the pots outside.
  • rabbits ate part of my kale seedlings right down to the stems. I've covered the bare plants with translucent coverings made from milk jugs and am hoping to save some of them.
  • the cold and wet weather may or may not do the corn in. I don't know if it will survive.
  • slugs have eaten several tiny pumpkin seedlings. The cold weather is keeping the plants from growing.
The good, so far:
  • planting salad greens in baskets and pots was a good move. Not a single rabbit or slug can reach them.
  • the turnips are recovering from the bunny buffet, since covering the plants with bird netting.
  • the green beans are under insect row covering and a plastic tunnel which is helping to keep them warmer and safe from rabbits. Last year we didn't get a single green bean. I'm hopeful we'll get some this year.
  • Rabbits got to half of the carrots. With the other half, I transplanted some of the thinnings into the soil where the rabbits had their snack. The rain actually helped the thinnings survive transplanting. And the rabbits seem to have lost interest in the carrot seedlings now.
  • all of the protection that we've now put around and over the vegetable garden beds seems to be working as a deterrent for the rabbits. The cute bunnies are staying cute on the lawn these days and leaving the garden alone. 
  • the weather is forecasted to improve tremendously this next week. This may be just what my garden needs to turn around and start flourishing.


  1. Very pretty! I like your brick pathways. Mine is less formal, with mulch-covered paths, but also in raised beds with herbs and flowers interspersed with the veggies and fruit trees. But, as you said, having it pretty helps me enjoy my time out there.

    1. Hi Cat,
      that sounds nice to have herbs and flowers in with the veggies and fruit trees. It sounds like a nice visual enticement for working out in the garden.

  2. I love the "Secret Gard4en" and have read it many times. I really like your English garden. A couple of questions. How big is your lot and is it mostly flat?

    The weather is doing okay for our vegetables except that it got hot early this year, so the broccoli is suffering. I didn't cover the broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or brussel sprouts so they are now full of worms, but while annoying can be handled. We have a fence around two of our beds that have deterred the bunnies, but they have been enjoying themselves in an unfenced third one.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Our lot is about 3/4 acre and it was not flat when we moved in. We terraced parts of the backyard so that we could have walkable garden areas with steps in between levels. The back quarter to a third of our lot is native woods and a large pond -- wetlands.

      Ugh, cabbage worms. I'm worried about that with the Brussel sprouts. I can wipe them off of kale. I don't grow broccoli because of worms and don't grow cabbage because of slugs. How will you handle the worms in your cole crops?

    2. You can pick the worms off, but generally I soak everything in salt water. That will kill the worms and they will float to the top of the water. Luckily, we had one large head of broccoli before the worms set in and heat came.

      We have a sloping backyard. While it's not steep, we have talked about terracing it. We actually leveled off a spot near the house, so we'd have a level space to set up tables and chairs when we have a cookout with out propping the legs. However, we haven't gotten to use it in that way yet. We had it done a year ago in the middle of the lockdown.

    3. Hi Live and Learn,
      Thanks for the tip on soaking in salt water. I'll try that if we have a problem with our Brussel sprouts.

      I'm sure you'll enjoy having the level space for outdoor dining. I got a chuckle out of propping the legs of a table or chair. Could be interesting.

  3. That is a huge garden area! That would be so much fun to plant and harvest from. I harvested an abundant amount of basil and cilantro from the vertical planter and all the plants are bursting with growth!

    1. Hi Alice,
      the garden area goes almost to the property line on one side of the yard. I think it looks bigger in the photo than it feels when I'm out there, though.

      I'm so envious of your basil and cilantro. You know, my cilantro hasn't even sprouted yet and I planted the seeds a couple of weeks ago. I may have to begin again with the cilantro and dill as well as the basil. I hope you've been enjoying your fresh herbs!

  4. I just re-read The Secret Garden. It does capture your imagination, doesn't it? You have created a beautiful AND functional space. I always think that is the best of both worlds.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I loved The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. You've now put me in mind to reread those.
      Thank you. I agree, beauty with function is so nice.

  5. Your yard is so lovely! I love to be around spaces that are practical and beautiful, and yours certainly is.

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      Thank you. That's so nice of you to say.
      I hope your week is off to a great start!


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