Bright-Minded Home September 2016
Q+A with Ted Carter and Bennett Steele on setting up an eco-friendly, organic vegetable and herb garden
At a lakefront home in Wayne, the landscape design by Ted Carter of Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes in Buxton incorporates an organic vegetable and herb garden by Bennett Steele of Falmouth’s Wheelwright Landscapes. Some of the garden’s many benefits include plant diversity to attract bees and butterflies, a minimized lawn, a composting system, and, of course, very local and fresh produce.
Q. How is the garden sited in the landscape?
Carter: The wonderful thing about this property is that you have an elevated and commanding point of view when you first enter the designed landscape. You see the vegetable garden as you begin the descent, but do not fully appreciate its beauty until you meander down a lovely stone path. Our objective was to create a diversity of seasonal colors, textures, and elevations. The stone terraces that create the garden beds echo the native stone used in the landscape, as well as follow existing contours to aid in the catchment and absorption of rain. They also act as a heat mass to extend the growing season in both the spring and fall.
Q. What are its essential earth-conscious elements?
Carter: We very purposely chose to incorporate plants that attract bees, butterflies, birds, and other beneficial pollinators [see sidebar], which are good for the local ecosystem and foster food crops that flower and fruit. As well, the 5,500-square-foot garden replaces an area that would have been lawn, reducing the potentially harmful maintenance that often accompanies this type of monoculture.
Steele: Coconut fiber, or coir, mulch retains water and drains well, reducing the need for watering by as much as 50 percent. Like any good mulch, coir helps control weeds, but it lasts up to three years longer than other varieties due to its high lignin and cellulose content. When it does biodegrade, coir adds organic matter to the soil and improves its water-holding capacity. Coir’s rich color and coarse texture are pleasing to the eye and add to the overall beauty of the garden in the off-seasons.
We enriched the soil with compost, the primary input for an organic garden, and a worm bin was installed for composting kitchen food scraps and garden cuttings/ debris. Vermiculture is the process of using worms to decompose organic food waste, turning it into a nutrient-rich material that helps sustain plant growth. The odorless bin is conveniently located near the utility room door of the house for year-round use with minimal maintenance requirements.
Q. What are some other best practices?
Steele: Plants such as tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, beans, and clematis do better when they have something to climb. I made custom trellises to protect the flowers, fruits, and vegetables during their development and increase the net square footage of the garden while at the same time creating interesting elevations in the design. It’s also a good idea to locate the garden close to high-traffic areas to ensure that weeds and harvest times don’t go unnoticed.