I have been planting like mad! Almost every bed has been planted with so many goodies, including tons of tomatoes, cucumbers on a trellis, and vertical icebox watermelons. Next project: I’m off to solve some privacy screening issues. I’d like to grow a vegetative screen that blocks our view of the parking area across the street.
Plants are great problem-solvers. I have planned gardens to distract birds from my most prized crops, to cloak smells coming from my chicken coop, and to create shady spots for my dog’s long naps. Each year I try to notice and address little issues that get me ever closer to my own vision of paradise.
Run through the list of challenges in your own yard and consider some potential plant solutions. This year, choose some annuals as a vegetative cure for your backyard blues. Does the garbage truck park beside your yard every Tuesday during lunch? Try planting a fragrant annual while you research the perfect, sweet-smelling perennial or shrub to plant next year as a more permanent defense.
Even if you have no pressing issue that makes you grumble when you step outside, you can still “plant for privacy” just for fun. Imagine how nice it would be to grow yourself a cozy spot for an outdoor dining area or to snack on peas climbing a colorful trellis only an arm’s length away from your favorite reading spot. One summer, we became the unlikely and temporary owners of a trampoline. After digging a deep pit so that the bouncy cover was level to the ground, we grew a wall of beans all the way around just so that we could try to jump above them.
Here’s my short list of fast-growing plants that can quickly convert your yard into a private paradise:
Scarlet Runner Bean: Any runner bean will do, but these do have beautiful red flowers that attract hummingbirds. This is a really easy plant to grow, just give them plenty of room to grow upwards. You will definitely need a vertical trellis or Bean Tower for these.
Sunflowers: I love the way these can pop over a slightly too-short fence and fill in the height to block a view. With so many varieties to choose from, there’s one that will grow to just the height you’re looking for. Note: The flower heads will always face the direction of their first glimpse of morning sun (usually east.) That’s the hard and fast rule, no matter what you had in mind.
Birdhouse Gourds and Luffa Sponges: These vigorous vines are fun to grow. Not only will they reward you with their oddball produce (huge bottle-shaped gourds or oversized cucumbers that contain a natural sponge), they will provide dense cover if you are prepared for them. This means that you must have a trellis or arbor system in place, especially one that will confidently support a heavier plant.
Burgundy Amaranth: Like a sunflower, this plant is easy to grow and it sizes up between 6′ and 8′ tall. Unlike sunflowers, however, amaranth can create a denser wall of sturdy vegetation. I grew amaranth last year for the tasty grain that you harvest from the seed head, but I have to say, I was really won over by how beautiful the plants looked in the garden. The deep burgundy color can make any area seem larger when sited along an outer edge.
It’s definitely not too late to plant any of these fast-growing solutions. Do you have a spot that needs some attention?
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By Pamela Crawford, author, Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs
Photographs by Pamela Crawford
Pamela has written a great article about mixing herbs in containers. Herbs are natural companions with different textures for interest. The herb mix of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme offers lots of flavor from a small combination loaded with textural interest.
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