Under Planting Young Perennials

Blueberry & Beets

Under planting is the magic that makes a young  garden look full and lush.  Established perennials seem to be the key to  a drought tolerant low maintenance, year round attractive, growing space, but I am finding out first hand these dynamic elements take many years to develop. After 3 years the majority of  my perennials edible and ornamental are still just babies, I think my problem is common amongst new gardens. Either you jam everything way to close together and face overcrowding in the years to come, or use proper spacing and end up staring at a disproportionately small plants surrounded by disproportionately a large amount of bare dirt, or more accurately in my garden bare dirt translates to bare weeds. Using annual edibles to fill the gaps left by underdeveloped perennials is  a perfect match for me, annuals are so temporary in the garden scheme of things, and as the perennials fill in you can just plant less and less of the temporary annual crops.   My little dwarf blue berry patch is what first got me thinking about under planting, I started the patch from bare root stock 3 years ago, right now they are little more than 6” in diameter at full size they will be about 3 times that. I  have pretty much left the dwarf blue berries alone since planting  but I couldn’t stand yet another year of looking at these lonely little seedling engulfed by chickweed, so I spent an afternoon cleaning up their bed and tossed in a multitude of mixed red lettuces and bulls blood beets seeds, I did literally toss in the seeds  I was so tired after carefully hand weeding the little blueberry plants! Well it worked like a charm, and most of the “underplantings” turned into  “besideplantings” and “overplantings” as the lettuces and beets are out growing the blueberries! If you are wondering where the dwarf blue berry patch is located it’s under the mass of red leaves at the front left corner of my garden check out my little post picture of the garden from a few weeks ago. Now it’s just coming up to that time when the blue berries will be showing their  fall colour, and I want to  enjoy the splash of oranges and red leaves, in the next few days I will be pulling up all the lettuces and beets, making a huge salad, and re-under planting with an experimentally late sowing of red mustard.  A few things  that may have affected the success of my food under planting. 1)blueberries are a natural here on the west coast they seem to thrive even in poor and acidic soil. 2) before I under planted I gave the whole bed a really good organic fertalize.3)after I under planted I made a  good effort to water everyday throughout the whole summer.  All in all this was a really successful project, the lettuce and beets kept the weeds at bay, I didn’t have to stare at any disappointing bare dirt, and I gained some all be it temporary but much needed extra annual food growing space.  While waiting for the perennial garden of my dreams to fill in I am able to enjoy more annual foods.  What a yummy idea!

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2 Responses to Under Planting Young Perennials

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