Tower Hill’s Vegetable Garden is one of the most popular spots on our property to visit during the summer. Every year, our horticulture team decides on a new theme, but regular visitors know the one constant will be edibles looking beautiful. Here are five things to know about this year’s effort.

  1. This year’s theme is the Art of Growing Up, which horticulturist Dawn Davies was inspired to create in response to visitors from previous years being intrigued by Tower Hill’s vertical gardening techniques. Vertical gardening works well in tight spaces. But can also be used successfully in traditional gardens, allowing gardeners to grow more and to give plants the space they need to thrive. Plants that are raised off the ground can be less susceptible to some critters (hard to reach) and diseases (more air flow). Plus, vertical elements add another dimension to your garden and can look great.

  2. How is the Vegetable Garden faring amid the Massachusetts summer drought? Well, actually. Less rain often means fewer pests and diseases. Our gardeners make sure to water in the morning to avoid diseases that take hold overnight, and deeply, so that the plants receive at least one inch of water per week. Their roots are encouraged to gain a healthy hold as deep in the soil as they like, making them less susceptible to dry spells.

  3. Where do we get the attractive elements featured in the garden? Most of it is re-purposed. Davies calls them garden props, which include a window frame from her house, chimney flues as deep containers for exceptionally long root veggies like Daikon radish, and rebar as tomato stakes. Choosing a color palette that goes with the plants and complements the adjacent Cottage Garden is key, too. Davies uses a primer and then an outdoor latex paint that helps each feature feel part of the common theme.

  4. What’s the secret to the Vegetable Garden’s annual success? Davies says it’s the soil. Preparing the soil each spring and fall by adding organic material creates the ideal environment for plant roots to expand, nutrients to be available, and water for retention. She has been working in the Vegetable Garden for 17 years, but gives credit to her predecessors for setting up the perfect layout and establishing healthy soil to keep plants happy for years to come.

  5. Frequent visitors might notice plant varieties we’ve used in the past, like Holy Basil and Rainbow Chard, but also a few new additions, like the Black Beauty tomato from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Davies says that’s the key to happy gardening: going with what you know, and then expanding your boundaries just a little for the fun of new discovery.