When I first started gardening at my current home, I did it as an enthusiastic substitution for painting. I love to paint, but when we bought this home I had a one year old (now fifteen years old) who would not consider giving me enough space to really involve myself in painting. Kids are kids and as a mom, my time was divided. This began a series of expressionistic garden bed designs which were really focused on the conceptual idea of my expressing myself artistically. Little did I know, some fourteen years later, that gardening has become so much more than gardening for my soul. It is food, it is therapy, and it is art. An art form that is alive and changing every day as it grows.
When planting many of my front lawn vegetable garden designs, I focused on a style of organic gardening called “Intensive Planting” which allows you to plant your herbs and vegetables much more closely together. Square Foot Gardening and Bio-Intensive Gardening, for example, are also based on an intensive gardening techniques. Essentially the goal becomes to plant more closely together in a soil that is well amended with natural and organic components. This technique is based on till-free gardening, it minimizes soil compaction, solves drainage issues, increases herb and vegetable production, saves water, and enables you to plant in curious and amazing artistic designs, transforming your ordinary beds into garden as art.
Preparing your soil for a no till garden situation is critical for this technique. Build your soil up with rotted manure, rich compost, and organic mulches — raising the beds up to 12 inches with layers of organic material whenever possible is good. Plan the garden design in advance and lay out your artistic design on the ground with flour first. Plant herbs and vegetables in strips 1 to 3 feet wide, packing the plants closer together. I used organic fertilizer in each planting hole, then did no fertilizing at all after the initial planting. Mulching and thinning the plants as necessary to prevent disease and pests is also critical because tightly planted gardens also have reduced air circulation. Succession planting will help extend your gardening season.
Plants for this garden as art design (from left to right in the design) –
- Purple Basil – Basil Crimson King
- Curly Parsley – Curled Parsley
- Blood Beets – Bull’s Blood Beet
- Dinosaur Kale – Black Magic Lacinato Kale
- Basil – Basil Sweet Aroma 2
- Swiss Chard – Swiss Chard Lucullus
Special thanks to Jung Seed for providing the plants for this test garden as art – all the vegetables and herbs were donated to a local food pantry at the end of the season. We totaled over 500 pounds of donations for the entire garden in the season.