Garden Assessment: Season I

While the inaugural growing season at the TJ Demo Garden has officially come to a close, we are not lacking in wonderful memories from such a fruitful year!  Looking back, we learned some interesting facts about cotton, experimented with plant-based dyes, and  constructed a hops trellis, just to name a few highlights!

While reflecting on the past year, we have been noting our strengths as well as discussing how to improve the garden in the future.  At the end of last summer, Erica and I put together a garden assessment that included our ideas regarding spatial successes as well as recommendations for garden enhancements.  We then got together with the whole TJDG team for a garden walk-through to share our ideas.

Since then we have had a number of discussions going back and forth between the pros and cons of reconfiguring certain beds and switching around different plants to enhance the experience of the garden space.  Although there aren’t any drastic changes, we do have a few tweaks with the bed layout and planting plan that we think will add to everyone’s enjoyment of the garden in the coming season.


  • Some notable spatial successes include the cotton and sumac edges.  These plants have been integral in defining the garden and creating a comforting feeling of enclosure while inside the space. This border also seems to prompt interest in passersby as to what is inside these vegetative screens.
  • Much thought was put into the adjacencies of plants in terms of their relative heights. This worked out especially well in the cover crops area, where the plants gradually increase in height as you move from the center of the garden to the edge, allowing for an appreciation of the different plant forms and spatial qualities in one glance.
  • The passionflower trellis, which lines the entrance-way is seen as an important vertical element, additionally adding a sense of craftsmanship to the space; it both defines and guides visitors through the central path and delineates the two sides of the garden.


  • With the addition of our new hops bed, we have reconfigured the field crops area to include one bed of each plant (corn, indigo, flax, buckwheat, and hops), while also adding a new plant to the mix: wheat.
  • The flax, a very beautiful, fine-textured, low-growing plant with small purple flowers will replace the former bed of sesame.  We found the sesame to grow taller than anticipated, creating a visual barrier within the garden.
  • Following our success with having taller plants located around the edges of the garden, the Jerusalem artichokes will be joining the sunflowers to create an edge along the “peanut gallery.”  Not to mention, sunflower and Jerusalem artichokes are in the same plant family, Asteraceae, which makes them interesting to have side by side.
  • We have decided to say goodbye to our only amaranth, Joseph’s coat, for now, as we had some trouble with pests, making the plant more of an eyesore than a beauty.
  • Although we enjoyed the delicate white flowers and soft leaves of the ‘marshmallow room,’ we faced problems with rust, so we will be replacing the beds of that room with tansy.  The tansy’s yellow flowers and delicate, fine textured leaves should make for a vibrant new room in the garden.
  • Finally, the areas we have grappled with the most are the Garden Herbs & Flower and Wild Herbs sections of the garden.  We were finding it difficult to water and weed some of the beds, so we narrowed and reduced their number, allowing more space for gathering next to the greenhouse.
  • We also found that some plants were struggling to live up to their full potential in the shadiest part of the garden, notably the milkweed and tansy.   We have identified two plants, black cohash and indian physic, more shade-tolerant plants, currently located in the arboretum behind the garden, to take their place.

Now that we have made our refinements to the design and layout of the space, we have begun ordering our seeds and will even be starting some seeds in the next week or so!

We also had our first intern meeting of the semester last week and are happy to announce that we have 3 new faces joining the crew, who I’m sure you will be hearing from soon.

Until next time,


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