Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Alice's Flower Garden (page 3 of 4)

by Shepherd Ogden

Manure and Mulch

One of the most remarkable things about this garden, considering its scale and its bounty, is how simply the Higueras do things. They have no greenhouse, only a large cold frame built by Angie's brother.

"We start all our plants in the living room, in 6- by 9-inch plastic boxes on a shelf near the woodstove," notes Angie. "Once they germinate, we set them under fluorescent lights for two or three weeks. Then we transplant them into plug trays, and put them out in our cold frame. We have lights in the cold frame just in case the weather gets too cold."

They grow all their flower and vegetable plants using this system, and judging from the results the method is clearly a success.

They have no other equipment except a tiller, a wheelbarrow, and an enormous number of coated wire linking stakes used as plant supports. (These L-shaped stakes with a loop at one end of the top are sold in a number of tool and supply catalogs.)

"They're expensive, but they work really great," Angie says, "because you can encircle any size plant, and they don't get in the way of cutting."

The garden's only yearly inputs aside from plants and seeds are manure and mulch, both of which Angie scavenges in vast quantities. Mulch is spread in all the paths and around most of the plants, and turned under when any bed is renovated.

How Much Mulch?

"Oh, we probably get about 20 to 30 pickup loads every fall; I help the guys rake up the leaves, and they just bring them here to dump them. Then we let the leaves sit over the winter. I guess I spread something like 500 wheelbarrow loads this past spring."

Manure comes from nearby dairy farms -- seven dump truck-loads each fall -- and is layered with garden waste and fall leaves in long, 3-foot-tall windrows to make compost that is applied to the beds each spring. Hard work from spring to fall, the cold, snowy winters off to dream, then spring again, and a summer full of flowers: For over 20 years Angie and Alice have pursued their green dreams and lived by the work of their own hands.

Alice's Flower Gardens is on East Manchester Road, 1/2 mile east of the intersection of U.S. Highway 7 and Vermont Routes 11-30. If you're in the area April through September, stop by and enjoy a few moments of this dream, then go away with an armful of fresh flowers to remind you that a gardener's dreams can come true all season long.

Shepherd Ogden is a garden writer and founder of Cook's Garden Seeds.

Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association

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