Above you see the complete McGee veggie garden (click to enlarge and see the letters), as viewed from my upstairs bathroom window, which is now stuck in the open position and I really need to get around to calling Andersen Windows because that's just irritating. Anyway, from left to right, front to back, a lettered tour of the garden:
Behind the row of boxwoods, which will grow in over time to provide a living hedge separating the more formal patio area from the veggie garden, starting on the left at A, you see our corn. Really tall. Has ears! I love it! I went out on Saturday and the corn just had silk. On Sunday it had SIX INCH EARS! Perhaps the most amazing thing about the corn is how quickly things happen when they do happen. In the next bed, B are bush beans (purple, white, and yellow ones) that are just now bearing. C is a crookneck squash plant. Between B and C are garlic chives, but they've been shadowed out a bit by the squash. At D are four different types of peppers, from sweet to super-hot. No bell peppers this year - I accidentally killed them all with clumsiness. On either end of the BCD bed are onions grown from sets.
Bed E is home to turnip greens and endives, that are both past their prime and too bitter, but they provide nice greenery and will make a good "green manure" for the bed when we turn it over. Between them are kohlrabi (kohlrabis?), the alien veggie, which are coming along nicely. (The kohlrabi is actually the lighter blue-green foilage the "E" is on top of.)
Back on the left, F are these freakishly huge tomato plants I didn't know were going to grow so big (Black from Tula, Early Pink Girl, and ... Early Boy? Or something?). In about a week we are going to have more tomatoes than we can possibly eat coming ripe all at once.
H are eggplants - I'm not sure if they'll have time to set fruit and ripen in this climate since I started them from seed - and G are melons which I only started a few weeks ago and are already spreading impressively. Bed I features more squash (trombocino and crookneck) and J is arugula and mustard greens, both bolted to seed, but pretty with their white and yellow flowers. More green manure.
K has nothing in it, being almost totally in the shade of L, my lilac bush, but when this brutal heat breaks I'm going to try a planting of summer lettuce and see if it's cool enough under there to grow true sativa in the summer. If not, I'll probably just plant some pretty annuals there in the future. (You can also see my black rolling composter back behind the lilac bush there.) M are two more tomato plants (grape tomato and Yellow something) and a chocolate pepper plant. N are sunflowers! Planted just a few weeks ago and very huge very fast. Behind them are really neat squiggly climbing posts for sugar snap peas and other climbers. We haven't had too much luck with them this year, but I'm looking forward to starting them earlier next year.
O is our lettuce bed with four kinds of lettuce, which are slowly bolting to seed and turning bitter in this heat. We've had a fairly steady supply of fresh, DELICIOUS lettuce. We'll probably turn this under in a couple weeks and then plant a crop of fall lettuce once the weather cools a bit.
P is the pretty fence my husband but in for me, from sectional pieces at Menard's - it was very inexpensive and I like it a lot. Q is a gate we got from A Rustic Garden in Mount Sterling, which my husband spray-painted black and cleverly mounted to the existing fence with U-bolts from the hardware store. I was impressed.
And R(&R) is where we rest in the shade of the neighbor's tree, in our hammock-for-two, with a pillow, after we've worn ourselves out!
Here you can see these cherry/grape tomatoes that bizarrely grew in a little grid of 16, each line of the grid a little riper than the one below. I wished I could flip it over and get a better picture, but I could neither turn it over nor get me and the camera under it without totally destroying the plant.
Finally, take a look at my clover and grass. We haven't watered either at all this summer. (We also haven't mowed in about four weeks now - you may be able to see a few weeds there happy about the lack of mowing, primarily morning glory and Queen Anne's Lace.) I initially planted the clover, you may recall, for several reasons: First, clovers are a nitrogen fixer, which enriches the soil. Second, nature loathes a monoculture (like grass), and grass isn't great for the midwestern environment anyway. Third, White Dutch Clover (aka New Zealand Short Clover, aka the common backyard clover) doesn't grow much taller than 4 inches, so you don't really have to mow it. Fourth, bees like clover, which is good for the other garden plants. If you're afraid of bees, or anyone in your house is allergic to bee stings, you can simply mow the clover with your mower on the highest setting every couple of weeks to prevent the flowers from opening. We have a good friend who goes into anaphylatic shock from bee stings, so we keep a close eye on how MANY bees are busy in our yard so we know not to let her come over when they're out in large numbers, and we really haven't had a problem - just one or two at a time, bumbling through. (The little cage on the clover is for the cats to sit out back - although not in this heat! - and Grey Cat likes to munch on the clover. It's a puppy crate from Farm & Fleet and is maybe the best $30 I have ever spent. Happiest. Cats. Ever.)
But here's the totally unexpected bonus: My clover is the greenest "grass" on the block, watered or unwatered, fertilized or unfertilized. You can see that our unwatered grass has basically turned to straw (it pokes and scratches if you walk barefoot on it!). Our unwatered, unfertilized, unmowed clover is BRIGHT GREEN with no care whatsoever. We have neighbors who are diligent about lawn-watering, and our clover is greener than their lawns. We're SO delighted with the absolute and total lack of care the clover has required AND how green it is even in this horrible heat and lack-of-rain that I'm seriously going to kill more spots of lawn on purpose to overseed them with clover!
The clover is also my favorite spot for resting in the "grass," and it's been remarkably resilient to any blankets, butts, books, and munching cats we put on it.
So yeah - plant clover and end lawn care as you know it!