The Veggie Patch

The Things That Grow In Shady Places: Creating a Shaded Bed on the North Side of the House

 Dear Henry,

The first gardening bed that we created in the new garden was in the narrow space between the north side of the house and the fence. There were a couple of reasons that we decided to build this bed first but the primary reason was that there was quite a bit of water was pooling on this side of the house and so we had to make installing a French drain our first project.

Right away we ran into a bit of a snag with the drain installation. This side of the house contains all of our utility connections and after getting the utility lines were all marked, we realized that we would be unable to use any kind power driver equipment and we (Fish) would be digging the entire trench (about 40 feet) for the drain by hand. 

The hand-digging turned into quite a job too. The soil in Oklahoma is very heavy and mostly clay. Because we were doing this during the early Spring, we (Fish) were digging in the rain, and it was a heavy, muddy mess. 

Fortunately, all the work, worked.  The drain made an immediate and notable difference, water stopped pooling and the area was no longer swampy, muddy, mess. We choose to use rock, rather than turf, to cover the area, given the heavy clay like soil and the natural slope of the lot.

However, the rock left a pretty pronounced "dead" space in the garden.  Although the gate to the front yard, the HVAC and utility connections,  and the cats' "catio",  filled much of the area, the look was unappealing, very urban, and needed something green. 

This area gets morning sun only, although during the summer months, morning sun has turned into a lot more hours of sun than I realized. I built the bed using grey retaining wall stones and it is about 13' X 2 ' , with a depth of about a foot. Initially, I had planted just the Fuschia, two of the Hostas. and the two Hellebores, but the space looked empty (the bleeding-heart starts that I planted never emerged). I tried to give everything time to fill in but I am much too impatient and so I added the Heucheras and another couple of Hostas.  I may, when things really get growing, need to move some of the plants, but right now everything seems to be getting along well.

The bed was planted to be relatively low-maintenance once everything gets established, and all of the plants are expected to return next year. Even the Fuschia.  I spoke to a few U.K. gardeners about growing the plant outside its "zone" and they have assured me that the plant will only go dormant, and will remerge the following Spring.

Of course, all of these expectations of growth rest upon the assumption that Oklahoma will not have the same brutally cold winter it had this year. 

While there is quite a bit of growth that needs to happen to fill the space in, I'm really happy with how it came together. and it was very nice to get the hardest project (the drain) out of the way first thing and have the area looking "neat" as we continued the yard transformation.

xoxo a.d. elliott