Magazine article Sunset

Quick-Start Gardens

Magazine article Sunset

Quick-Start Gardens

Article excerpt

6 great gardens you can plant in a weekend, a day, or even an hour

The spring-planting clock is ticking, and your time is tight. Can you still enjoy a summer full of beautiful flowers, delicious vegetables, and savory herbs? Absolutely! On these pages, we present Sunset-tested plans to get your garden off to a fast start, easily. Just give yourself a day or weekend for planting (plus a few hours for planning), then let nature's spring growth surge fill in the garden in the days to come. Turn your work in spring--the season of possibilities--into your most fulfilling summer garden.

A garden in a day

SIZE: 12 by 18 feet

TIME: 1 week to plan, 1 day to install

COST: $750 (see cost breakdown, page 140)

Like a canvas awaiting a painter's brush, Linda and Rich Peters's barren courtyard fronting their home in San Mateo, California, cried out for color and life. Knowing that weeds would pop up if they didn't plant quickly, the Peterses were thrilled when friends from Sunset's garden staff offered to help design and plant a low-maintenance garden with flowers and a small lawn.

Sunset's test garden coordinator Bud Stuckey took measurements and designed the garden; then he calculated the number of plants and amount of turf grass sod it would require. The whole garden--lawn and all--was installed by two people in a single day.

Jim McCausland

2 Perennials in a weekend

SIZE: 10 by 15 feet

TIME: 1 day for shopping and soil prep, 1 day to plant

COST: About $500 (chair and table not included)

This little garden, designed by Judy Wigand of Judy's Perennials in San Marcos, California, makes use of pillowy perennials that will produce a colorful show this season.

Wigand designed the garden around a willow chair and table, but a bench or a simple water feature, with a stone path leading to it, would also work.

In our plan, perennials with flowers in fiery oranges, reds, and yellows are outlined with cool whites and grays; the plants are mostly long-bloomers that provide all-season color. Those with shorter flowering cycles (santolina, for instance) were also selected for their attractive foliage color when not in bloom.

Lauren Bonar Swezey

French-intensive garden

SIZE: 4 by 12 feet

TIME: 2 days to plant, plus prep

COST: $175

Shoulder-to-shoulder planting in double-dug soil delivers more food per square foot than any system we've ever used. Roots grow down instead of out, so you can space plants closer together and still get high production. In turn the close spacing shades out weeds, so they don't become major problems as they do in a more open garden.

The system demands extra-deep soil preparation, done by double-digging with a garden spade (with a squared-off blade). Dig out the top 10 to 11 inches of soil and pile it by the side of the bed. Then loosen the soil in the bottom of the bed another spade-length deep; simply dig and turn that bottom layer of soil in place with the spade, or (in traditional English garden fashion) loosen it with a spading fork.

When you're done, put the top layer of soil back into the garden bed, mixing 1/3 to 1/2 yard of compost into the whole bed. This process is very hard work but extremely rewarding.

Keyhole vegetable garden

SIZE: 11 by 12 feet

TIME: 2 days to plant, plus prep (see page 145)

COST: About $350

Veggies wrap around a central pathway in this garden, which makes working the beds a snap. Orient it so that the keyhole faces south; the larger plants (beans, tomatoes, and sunflowers) will be on the north side, where they won't shade smaller plants.

To prepare the soil, till it 8 to 12 inches deep, picking Out roots and rocks as you go. Don't till the 3-by 7-foot center-access path (the keyhole); as long as the ground there is packed, weeds will have a hard time sprouting. …

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