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Shirley Phillips has been gardening in the Oakmont Community Garden for many years. Along the way she has developed a deep understanding and appreciation of what can be raised in a small space. Here, with permission, are some of her notes written in response to a survey taken of our gardeners this fall.

“I always grow a mix of bee & beneficial friendly plants and vegetables. My favorite beneficial plants are agastache, also known as hyssop, that is the blue plant in the middle of my space, others flowers include common yarrow, borage, sweet alyssum, common oregano, and, of course nasturtium. Nasturtium not only has pretty vivid red/orange flowers that hummingbirds like, it is a tasty green, both leaves and flowers that can be added to salads. If you walk by my space anytime you will see it buzzing and flitting with bee and insect activity. In early Spring you will also see rose campion and lambs ear, also bee friendly. I usually would have also grown cosmos, which bees love and later, finches will enjoy the seeds.

Vegetable plants that carried over that I grow almost year round are perennial onions–welsh onion (allium fistulosum). These are more like green scallions and do not form bulbs. If you let a few mature, they will set black seeds which can be planted for more onions, or break off the seed heads and they will produce off-shoot scallions that can be eaten. Such a versatile plant! It can withstand the harshest cold or the hottest temperatures. Truly a winner. Also, I’ve tried Egyptian walking onions–great fun–as they will form little onion bulbs on top of the plant then, getting so heavy, they fall over to the ground and start new plants. One or two plants will indeed “walk” across your garden with new plants as the old stalk falls over!

Russian red kale (Brassica napur) is in the raised bed. It carried over from winter and is the tastiest of kales in my book. I usually let it flower in the spring for the bees, but this year I cut it to the ground in earlier March and it regrew nicely for a summer crop. So tip to gardeners–when your kales get leggy and spent just cut them back to the ground and they will regrow! ”

Photo taken by Julie Kill

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