Post No. 1: A Brief History of My Garden

Aug 29, 2017

[ezcol_1half]Hi, my name is Travis Cox. I am a 16 year old highschooler and an avid plant enthusiast. I live in Northern Louisiana, which is subject to incredibly hot (sometimes unbearable) summer heat and mild winters. I’ve come to find out over the years that most people, including myself for a while, stereotype the south as being a place where plants are hard to grow and incidentally, that’s why there are so few garden bloggers in my part of the country.ย [/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]But as I’ve found out, I live in one of the most diverse and productive areas of the United States. Not only is the weather mild enough for me to grow plants at all times of the year (tropical flowers/vegetables do need a winter mulch), but the winters are just cold enough to trick plants such as Peonies into blooming well, given that they are shaded from the afternoon sun.[/ezcol_1half_end]


[ezcol_1half]For as long as I can remember I was fascinated by plants, from the large range of “weeds” (remember, a weed is simply a plant out of place!), to the most sought-after collectors plant. For years when I was younger, I would stake out small square beds in my family’s yard, and, not knowing proper bed preparation, would simply turn over the grass with a shovel and plant into the poor sandy soil that was underneath. Looking back on those moments when I was out there tending my little garden, only to have it fail when the summer heat came due to lack of water set me to thinking about how I could actually have a successful garden. [/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]In the fall of 2014, I started what would become my permanent garden. The area I started out with was covered in bermudagrass (a terrible weed in my area), and bordered on the north side by a group of huge trees, meaning that the already sandy soil was incredibly dry. When I dug my first bed, I amended it with cow manure and planted a mixture of shade-loving plants that I bought from a cheap nursery which to my delight, thrived. Here is a pic of my original planting below:

The first part of my then-new Cottage Garden a couple months after planting.

[ezcol_1half]As you can see, it was a good start, but I wanted my garden to eventually cover an area of 35 by 45 feet.ย The south side of the garden would eventually meet the north side of my then-new vegetable garden that I was creating at the same time. When I was deciding what kind of garden I wanted mine to be, I immediately thought of those loose, informal cottage gardens you see in British gardening books and knew right off that’s what I eventually wanted to achieve.[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]Of course, the majority of plants in pictures like that (Delphinium, Lady’s Mantle, Astrantia, etc.) were said not to grow in my area but, being adventurous by nature I thought to myself, “what’s the fun of gardening if you can’t experiment a little?” ๐Ÿ™‚ Soon after the first triangular bed was complete, I (with help from my family) built a fence to enclose the whole area of my garden-to-be, partially because hedges were out of my reach financially but mainly to keep the chickens out of my garden.[/ezcol_1half_end]



My first bed in early winter.


The new border on the south side of my Cottage Garden in early spring


[ezcol_1half] By the spring of 2015, I had planted up a border that spanned the south side of the “garden room.” Looking back on my decision to create a border on the opposite corner from the original triangular bed might not have been the brightest design idea I’ve had, but it worked out in the end.ย [/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]What do I mean by that? Well, as the border grew longer and broader, it eventually came to meet the shady corner and everything fell into place beautifully. My original plan was to have a small square lawn in the center of the garden, but when invasive Bermuda and Bahia grass swamped my struggling centipede lawn (see picture below), I trashed the design.[/ezcol_1half_end]

The invasive Bermuda and Bahia grass made an unsightly mess. This is one design idea I’ve never regretted changing.

[ezcol_1half]As I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on plants, so I initially planted my garden with self-sowing annuals, but as I acquired the money (or swapped plants/seed with friends) I gradually replaced the annuals with perennials. actually, I’m still filling out my beds to this day (the last part of my garden was dug a week ago) and have yet to plant the whole thing.[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]That brings us up to the present day, where I have a thriving vegetable garden (despite the many bermudagrass invasions), and a very young cottage garden.I also planted 300 blueberry plants to border the south side of the property, began a young orchard, planted up some Muscadine trellises, a few rows of blackberries, and a bed for tropical/exotic plants (all of the previously listed are outside my garden fence), but my main focus right now is my cottage garden.ย [/ezcol_1half_end]

The blueberry bushes bordering my family’s property.



The Muscadine trellises

[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]

My first Exotic Garden bed!



[ezcol_1half]I’m also a very keen organic gardener, and have various types of edible gardening in the works (hugelkultur, permaculture, and a few others). As you can tell, I’m a highly driven person who loves to experiment with plants, keeping what works and changing what doesn’t.[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]Of course, by now you’re probably picturing this incredible yard filled with lush green growth, plenty of flowers, fruit, you name it, but I’m here to tell you that my garden is no magazine garden. It has plenty of flaws and unsightly areas where nothing seems to grow, but quite truthfully, if my garden were perfect in every single way, what would there be to work on?[/ezcol_1half_end]


P.S. Don’t forget to read the “Meet Travis” page to learn more about who I am!

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  1. Kim says:

    Just discovered you via Margaret Roach’s email this morning. So happy to meet you, Travis! My husband and I garden in a suburb of Dallas. I am sooooooooooo jealous of your 300 blueberry bushes. Those do not seem to work here. Delighted to be readying your blog now. If you are ever in the Dallas area………….please stop by!


    • Travis says:

      Nice to meet you, Kim!
      Blueberry bushed are extremely temperamental plants. I planted them two different places in the garden, and in one place they flourished, but the others died.
      I would encourage you to try again in a different area and see if they perform better. Just keep in mind they don’t like acidic soil, so growing them beside anything concrete (which leaches lime into the soil) is not the optimal spot.
      Happy Gardening! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Lillian Osborne says:

        Hi Travis,

        A bit of misinformation popped up tn your reply to Kim regarding Blueberry
        culture. Blueberries do not like alkaline soil, it is acidic conditions that suit them.

        I do like the advice to try a different area for her plants. I am going to follow it and
        move our plant to a sunnier spot wirh well amended soil.

        • Travis says:

          Thank you for catching that! I meant alkaline (as you can tell by the mention of lime), but for some reason I wrote down the opposite. Silly me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Travis says:

        Sorry, I meant they don’t like alkaline soil, not acidic.. it was a mistype! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Faye says:

    Hi from Boise, Idaho. I am enjoying your website after following the link on Margaret Roach’s site. I agree with your advice to Kim about trying to grow the blueberries in a different location. My blueberry bushes weren’t producing and were really going downhill, so I moved them to another location in the yard and now they are thriving.

  3. Francine says:

    I found you on Margaret Roach’s email as well. I read a number of your posts and look forward to more. I recently moved from Houston to N Louisiana and I’m learning to garden here with the differences in climate & soil. Your experiments & learning process are much like mine. I was lucky to network with a lot of gardeners that practice permaculture and organic gardening in south Texas, so it’s awesome to find your blog and follow your journey. Thanks Travis!
    – Franc

    • Travis says:

      That’s awesome, Francine!
      I wish there was a larger community of organic gardeners in our area, but I’m starting to see more emerge as time passes. Hopefully one day we will have a strong community to share our experiences with!

  4. Susan Stout says:

    Seems like Margaret is sending lots of new gardeners your way.
    If you want diverse garden friends Iโ€™m it!
    In my 70s, garden in Zone 4b, in an original short grass prairie area of the Rockies in Montana, surrounded by mountains. My land was abused for years by poor agricultural practices.
    Not growing for food, at least not for me, but setting up an organic pollinator garden, using mainly natives.
    My soul is alkaline and rocky to extremes and my nemesis weeds are cheat grass, quack grass and the very invasive spurge.
    My nemesis animals include grasshoppers and pronghorn antelope!
    Looking forward to learning your gardening triumphs and trials.

  5. LaLennoxa says:

    Congratulations on your garden Travis! Like others here, I first heard of you via Margaret Roach. Whom I’ve also only recently discovered. My obsession (among many things) are plants in the Aroid family; are you growing any elephant ears?


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