WISDOM FROM THE WILD CHILD GARDEN: April 2022: GARDEN LIKE A WILD CHILD: ZONE 7 GUIDE: PART I:
Growing the garden of your dreams is possible when you learn a few gardening fundamentals and local growing zone principals.
ZONE 7 HERB PLANTING GUIDE: The U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the U.S. into eleven growing zones. These are determined by weather patterns, and this system helps gardeners identify plants that grow well in their region. Those who are planting a garden in zone 7 are able to choose among a wide variety of herbs, flowers, vegetables, crops, and ornamentals. Zone 7 has a moderately long growing season that lasts about eight months, with an annual low temperature of about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The first frost is around November 15th, and the last frost is around April 15th.
How much time do you have to devote to the garden?
Be realistic about the time you have to devote to gardening tasks!
• 2 Hours Per Week: Small Herb, Container, or Ornamental Garden.
• 2-4 Hours: Small Vegetable, or Medium Ornamental Garden.
• 4-10 Hours: Small or Medium Vegetable & Ornamental Garden.
• 10-20 Hours: Large Vegetable or Large Ornamental Garden.
If you must hand water, the time investment increases significantly!
What Type of Garden Do You Want to Grow?
Do you want to grow edible plants, ornamental plants, or a combination? Vegetable gardens take more time than flower gardens. If you want to start a vegetable garden, plant vegetables that you and your family enjoy.
What plants would you grow in your dream garden?
What plants make you the happiest?
Do you want plants on your porch, deck, or patio? Container Gardening is an easy way to start a garden. Herbs and annuals grow well in containers.
Do Specialty Gardens Appeal to You?
• Cutting Garden for Bouquets: Daffodil, Gladiola, Lily, Rose, & Tulip.
• Drought-Tolerant Garden: Bee Balm, Purple Coneflower, Daylily, & Yarrow.
• Medicinal Herb Garden: Calendula, Comfrey, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, & Thyme.
• Native Plant Garden: Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, & Elderberry.
• Pollinator Garden: Aster, Coreopsis, Jasmine, Passionflower, Phlox, & Violet.
Organic or Conventional Gardening?
ORGANIC PROS: most organic products are safer for people & pets, use what is otherwise waste material such as alfalfa and blood meal, and are slow released by nature.
ORGANIC CONS: organic products are harder to find, more expensive, and must be broken down by soil organisms before they can be available to the plant roots.
CONVENTIONAL PROS: products are easier to find, are less expensive, are easier to apply, and are scientifically tested to produce specific outcomes.
CONVENTIONAL CONS: products are toxic to people, pets, and beneficial insects, and can damage the garden if not used properly.
Understand Your Garden Climate:
Map the garden’s direct sun exposure by taking photos of the area every hour on a sunny day. Full Sun is 6+ hours of direct sun, Part Sun is 4-6 hours, Part Shade is 3-4 hours, Full Shade is less than 3 hours, and Bright Shade is no sun exposure at all.
Growing Season: number of frost-free days in the season. The average growing season for Zone 7 is 8 months.
Use first and last frost dates as guidelines for planting and harvesting crops. The Farmer’s Almanac and local extension office are excellent sources.
Use the local hardiness Zone, 7, when choosing plants that will thrive in the garden.
Design the Garden: Decide how big your garden will be and where it will go, then mark out the garden location. Spend a few days looking at it before you commit to that shape and size.
Measure your existing landscape and draw your yard on graph paper. Start with your property lines, then draw all the buildings, walkways, patios, walls, water sources, and fences.
Create a color palette and plan out the plantings in natural groupings. Place tall plants at the back, then work your way to the front. Group plants by water needs.
Draw all of the plants on your plan, to scale. Use colored pencils so you get a sense of how evenly you are distributing color.
Choose the Right Plants: Know the mature height and width of all the plants on your list. Make sure every plant has enough room to grow to this size. Only choose plants that will thrive in your unique garden climate and microclimate.
Is the soil clay, sand, loam, or a combination? Does the area tend to be dry or wet? Is the area on a slope, or in a low spot? How windy is the site?
Balance the design for a flower garden by planning for a succession of blooms.
When choosing vegetables, focus on how much room you have, how much time you can devote to the garden, and how popular certain vegetables are in your house. Only grow vegetables you and your family love!
Start a Garden Journal:
Consistent and careful observation will reduce insect, disease and weed problems in your garden.
Use a journaling method that works for you.
Draw or sketch pictures and use photos to capture your observations.
Look for and record signs of insects, disease, or other pests, over and under watering, nutrient deficiencies, seasonal changes, and animals that are visiting the garden.
Visit and walk through your garden regularly. Don’t just stroll through it, really look at it. Turn over leaves and look between the foliage of your plants, especially plants prone to disease or insect infestations. Most plant pests like to hide on the undersides of leaves, or inside the canopy of the plant.
Start from Seed or Buy Plants?
Once you can keep the plants alive that the professionals started for you, that’s the time to get into seed starting.
New Gardeners: don’t plan on starting anything from seed except vegetables which do better when sown directly in the garden.
Buy seedlings from a local nursery, especially if you want to plant flowers.
Start plants from seed only after you have a season of gardening under your belt.
What Type of Plant(s) Suit Your Needs?
Annuals: Must be replaced yearly. Annuals that thrive in Zone 7 include Impatiens, Lantana, Marigolds, Nasturtium, Pansies, Sunflowers, and Zinnias.
Biennials: Bloom every other year. Biennials that thrive in Zone 7 include California Poppy, Foxglove, and Hollyhock.
Herbs: Most will bloom year after year once established. Herbs that thrive in Zone 7 include Fennel, Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, and Thyme.
Perennials: bloom year after year once established. Perennials that thrive in Zone 7 include Aster, Bee Balm, Clematis, Daisy, Echinacea, Iris, Peony, and Phlox.
Vegetables: Most need to be replaced yearly. Vegetables that thrive in Zone 7 include Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Okra, Peas, Peppers, and Tomatoes.
ZONE 7 HERBS & FLOWERS: When choosing herbs and flowers for zone 7, if a perennial herb that isn’t suited to zone 7 is desired, grow it in a container and then bring it indoors over the winter. If the difference is minor, between zones a and b, plant the herb in a protected area, in an alcove, or between a solid fence and a building. If this isn’t possible, mulch heavily around the plant in the fall and the plant may make it through the winter.