Help me fill these front door plant beds

Dave S., Zone 5B, 1300 ft, 11" rain
edited October 2020 in Garden Design

What useful, edible plants should I put here by my front door?

Our new house (pardon the mess of unpacking) had a bunch of weeds and ornamental flowers in these two beds. The soil, like the rest of the front lawn, looks to be very poor-- highly compacted, lots of gravel.

I tore out the ornamentals and weeds, but didn't have the will to remove the rocks. I may leave them there as a mulch. The two beds on either side of the front door are 4 1/2 x 14 feet long. They face north, but get a surprisingly large amount of sun during the day.

USDA zone 5B, 1300 feet elevation. Approximately 47°N 120.5°W. Average annual rainfall 9-11 inches. Constant medium high west wind, although the beds are somewhat sheltered by trees and other houses.

So far the only things I have put in are three small spicy oregano plants. That was a mistake, as I was talking to the nursery owner and accidentally picked them up instead of the mint that was right next to them. Ah well, I guess I'll live with it.

My preference is for perennial, edible or medicinal, don't require a huge amount of care. Comes back on its own after winter. I realize I can't have all of those. I've been adding compost top dressing to the oregano, and will continue to mulch. I suppose I could take the rocks out, but prefer to plant among them.

I am pretty sure I'm going to put mint in there, since it fits most of my requirements, and I can use the beds as an internment site, because mint spreads pretty invasively if you don't pen it in.

I do realize I am going to have to put supplemental water on whatever goes in here-- with just nine inches of rain last year that is true of everything here.

What else would you recommend to go in here? It's right outside the front door, so easy access. I want lots of herbs and edible goodies here, but sure could use some advice from all the smart gardeners on this forum.

Thank you for any advice you can give!


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,632 admin

    @seasparrow32 What direction does the garden face? Just from the look of your new garden and as you have easy access for harvesting for dinner, I would try some of the Mediterranean type herbs. Oregano, marjoram, rosemary, savory, thyme, tarragon, basil, lavender, fennel. So many choices. Way more that what I have listed. I have grown the spicy oregano before and really like it but it doesn't seem to be quite as hardy as regular or Greek oregano. How about some vines for up the support posts?

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 951 ✭✭✭✭

    Grapevines love that type of soil; hard and rocky (appears to drain well). Also, since they’re right next to the patio doors, an herb garden so you can open your door and snip what you need so not to have to walk far. Use your have herbs. Spicy jalapeño or peppers like rocky soils. Perennial herbs like chives and oregano and rosemary would be perfect.

  • tomandcara
    tomandcara Posts: 712 ✭✭✭✭

    @seasparrow32 If you want shade consider grapes, peas, beans, even indeterminate tomatoes on the edge of the garden close to the house. I like @teachercaryn's suggestions. What ever you do, congratulations on your new home and garden.

  • It faces north, but gets a lot of sun. Other microclimate data including elevation and rainfall in the original post. Thank you for your suggestion!

  • dmthennessy
    dmthennessy Posts: 29 ✭✭✭

    I’d be concerned about eating from a garden where there's pressure treated wood, which is made with chemical treatment. The old method used arsenic. Please test the soil for toxins before you plan to eat the plants growing in that soil.

    After testing, plant those items that you like to eat. If there is plenty of sun, and the soil fertility is improved, you have as many choices as you have likes. There are many beautiful veggie plants that would look great in your bed, like Rainbow Chard, and Bull's Blood beets. Lettuce varieties are lovely too. A mesclun mix would add a variety of color, though I tend to like a swath of one color next to another. Herbs are easy to grow, but be careful what you let seed. One year I spent hours upon hours digging out self-seeded chives.

    Play around with a variety of plants. You can always change it next year. Just remember that mint, and similarly spreading plants take over, limiting your playing field without hard digging work.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,483 admin

    @Dave S., Zone 5B, 1300 ft, 11" rain Lavender and Rosemary are great in situations like that. North facing, little water requirements when established. Would handle the rocks as mulch and then you could whacķ some mint in as a ground cover.

This Week's Leaders