The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Planning year two's shade trellis

Skirting the trailer

It's that time of year when homesteaders like me start to dream of new and crazy garden ideas. With the success of last year's shade trellis plantings under my belt, I'm considering two new planting beds encompassing the rest of the south-west side of the trailer and the entirety of the west side (where we have a big bay window at the edge of the kitchen). As usual, there are some restrictions and goals to keep in mind as I assess these areas:

  • I can't put any woody perennials right up against this side of the wood-stove alcove because that's where we set the ladder during Mark's annual chimney cleaning expedition. Perennials that die back to the ground or annuals are fine, though.
  • My main goal is to provide summer shade, which can be supported by an overhead trellis for the south-facing spot, but should be a vertical wall for the west-facing spot since light and heat from the setting sun streams in those windows during the summer.
  • Edibles are always top priority, but a few flowers would be nice.
New plantings

The photo above shows my current thoughts for filling in these two zones. Rather than building an overhead trellis along the south-facing wall (since I think Mark would hit his head on it while climbing the ladder), I'm thinking of a temporary trellis like we use for peas, perhaps populated with the scarlet runner beans that did so well for us this past summer. As an added color boost, maybe I'll scatter in some sunflowers or Jerusalem artichokes?

I'm still indecisive about the west-facing bed. On the one hand, I'd originally thought of putting grapes there like we have growing up to our first shade trellis, but we'd have to trellis these grapes vertically rather than horizontally in order to block the setting summer sun...and that much trellis might also block our winter views. Perhaps some closely-planted pear trees could provide that vertical growth just as quickly...but would the trees be leafy enough to block significant amounts of sun? Maybe bamboo would do better for speed of growth and sun blockage, although the species might keep its leaves during the cold season and reduce winter visibility even more than grapes would. What do you think?

Shade trellisAs for this past summer's experimental area, the bed now has a grape vine at each end, but I'll probably plant scarlet runner beans there for one more year as well while waiting for the grapes to fully colonize their overhead trellis. I'm starting to change this area over to a fully perennial bed, though, with the addition of sage, columbine, foxgloves, and some crocuses that I accidentally dug up while terraforming the forest garden. My goal is to have the bed become a profusion of blooms and fruits in a few years with little or no work on my part --- it's off to a good start!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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