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Issue No 106
Spring 2006
page 53

Accessible Herb Gardening

Know whence you came. If you know whence you ame, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.
—James Baldwin

Deerly departed: If you find the deer have been nibbling on your herbs, try growing less appetizing plants next to those they find appealing. Bill Varney of Fredericksburg Herb Farm finds that deer don't bother his thyme, oregano or sage, and usually leave garlic and chives alone. According to the folks at High Country Gardens in Santa Fe, New Mexico, deer tend to avoid lavender, too.
—William Shakespeare

Working in the garden...gives me a profound feeling of inner peace.
—Ruth Stout

 
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inville, Washington. “The main western culinary herbs—thyme, rosemary, oreganos, sages—lend themselves to pot culture nicely.” Root running herbs, such as mints and monardas, however, “won’t like containment for long, and need to be divided when they fill the container.”

Container gardening also allows you to bring plants indoors, extending your herbs’ growing season (by outwitting Jack Frost). “Even tender perennials can overwinter here [in the Pacific Northwest] if they’re brought inside a cool greenhouse,” notes EagleSong, who finds this technique works for scented geraniums, lemon verbena, and pineapple sage, which wouldn’t return in spring if left outside. This holds true in Santa Fe, too, where “culinary rosemary is likely to be subject to cold kill,” according to Gage. She recommends bringing rosemary and culinary bay indoors before the onset of frost, unless you choose to treat these plants as annuals.

Larson notes the use of the scented geranium in South Africa, where the herbs are traditionally planted along walkways leading to the gardener’s front door, their heady fragrance releasing as passersby brush against the leaves. Since varieties of this species emit a powerful fragrance (even without being handled), tending them provides aromatherapeutic benefits for any gardener, especially those with disabilities. Lacy Gage of Santa Fe Greenhouses in Santa Fe, New Mexico, points out, “Since [herbs] are, generally speaking, quite fragrant, that offers a dimension for those with limited vision.”

Once you’ve chosen your plants, consider several container options: Attach a window box to a deck rail, or place a few pots on a patio table—anywhere you can easily reach your flowers. Or plant seeds in a sack filled with soil and tie it to your mailbox or stairway railing. (Poke drainage holes in the bag’s bottom.) However you choose to grow your plants, remember that containers can be heavy once full, so place them in their intended location before filling them with soil. Flowerpot holders on wheels are commercially available, and a child’s wagon works well for moving pots, too.

Raise Your Standards
Containers can also be placed within tabletop planters. The planter at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, for instance, stands 31ž2 feet off the ground, so that it can be accessed by wheelchair. Keep your garden bed less than 4 feet wide. This width allows an average-sized adult to access the middle of the bed—a 2-foot reach on either side— without excess leaning or stretching. If this width still proves difficult, don’t fret. Just determine how far you can comfortably reach, and make the bed’s width twice the length of your reach.

Growing herbs in a raised bed, where the top of the soil is elevated above the rest of the ground, provides another option for easy gardening. These beds help the gardener by reducing the need to bend over, and enhance soil drainage. Raised beds also warm up faster in the spring than ground soil does, allowing for early spring planting and a longer growing season.

Kits for building raised beds are available, but you can easily make one yourself (or have a family member help you) by creating an enclosure of concrete blocks— which doubles as a seating ledge— and filling the resulting pen with soil. A child’s wading pool is easier still, though it lacks seating. Just remove its base, place on a spot of ground free of weeds and grass, and fill with soil. What type of soil to add? EagleSong uses “lots of compost, lime to bring the pH to 6.5, and gravel or pumice to ensure good drainage for Mediterranean herbs.” Note that if you build the

 
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