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Test Garden – Experimenting with a Variety of Plants and Flowers

I have long dreamed of having a test garden. I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with various types of plants. Some turn out well and others don’t last the season, but I enjoy it all.

Since I write about how to grow plants for my blog posts, I wanted a dedicated place where I can test growing and sunlight conditions for my plants.

I knew that I had the perfect spot in my back yard, since it gets a variety of sunlight throughout the day.

My wishing has finally come true! Welcome to The Gardening Cook’s test garden.

Inspiration for my test garden

The test garden

I’ve loved to garden ever since I was a young girl. 

My first apartment was just full of house plants, and when I moved to Australia with my husband in the 1970s, I had a business devoted to the sale of indoor plants.

Life got in the way for a while when we returned to the USA and I had little time for gardening until a few years ago when my daughter left for college.  But the passion is back with a vengeance.

Last year I hand tilled two large front garden beds.  They are planted with perennials, roses and bulbs now and are just gorgeous. 

I also have a huge vegetable garden in my back yard, but (as any good gardener knows) there is always more lawn to dig up and replace with flower beds! 

My project for this summer is what I am calling my “Test Garden.”  This garden is devoted to perennials, shrubs, bulbs and some shade plants about which I will be writing for this website. 

I chose a particular area of my back yard along the side fence line because it has a combination of full sun areas, partly shaded areas, and mainly shaded areas.

The inspiration for this Test garden came to me in two ways.  One was a wonderful shade garden pictured in Garden Gate Magazine, that I could just SEE in this spot.

The other is my love of this website and desire to share my gardening information with the readers of it.Test Garden

The is the shade Garden photo from the magazine.  We have a shed and a large magnolia tree. My idea is to have the pathway wind around the magnolia and lead to the shed behind it.

The test garden is a work in progress.  I doubt it will be finished this year, because it will soon be too hot for digging outside.  I have a good start on it though. 

Part of it got completed last year (about 6 feet wide and 60 feet long.  Another swath of 10 feet or so got tilled last weekend, and I’m working on getting the sod and weeds out of it. 

I have a LONG way to go to get to this point, and it will not be quite like this, since a lot of my area is sunny.

I’ll be able to plant hostas under the Magnolia tree and some of the other shade plants in the shadiest areas of the finished garden. 

This is what is finished so far:  It is one long expanse with a single bird bath in the middle.

test garden test gardenThis area got machine tilled last weekend and I hand tilled and removed the weeds in the area in the second photo today.

test gardentest gardenAs the progress progresses, I will add more photos in additional pages on the site and link to them from this article.   I hope that it will be enjoyable for you to follow the progress.

May 18, 2013. Finished the hand tilling of the whole area and amended the soil with compost.  Ready to plant.

Tilled and amended soil. Ready to plantMy first plantings for the bed are a baptisia plant and a large clump of irises.  Both of these were planted too close to my knock out roses in my front bed, so I dug them up and moved them to the back.

The irises have flowered already but will be fine next spring. The baptisia does not like moving, so it may suffer this year but it will be find next spring too.

(It has very deep roots and just hates being moved.)

Baptista and iris

Many, many articles will come about plants that I plan to grow in this test garden. It will keep me busy for months and months!

Update:  July 3, 2013.  See more photos of the newest plantings here before my daughter’s graduation party.

Update:  Mid July, 2013:  Photos showing latest growth of plants.

Test garden in 2013

Update: August 1, 2013 – How I hid the chain link fence behind my test garden.

Update: August, 2016 – as is the case with many of my projects, things change along the way.  The garden gets a reasonable amount of shade but not enough to work as a shade garden.  

This is a photo of it in July 2016 with lots of flowering plants.

After this photo was taken, I changed my seating area and pathway, so it looks different again. It is amazing what a few years will do for plant growth!

Test garden 2016

For lots of gardening tips and tricks, be sure to visit my Facebook Gardening Cook page.

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Gail Wittmerr

Friday 10th of May 2013

First of all, I too have experiemetnaled gardened all of my married life some around small children other times with such veracity that the neighbors thought I was creating a jungle. Then it turned into a jungle! So I greatly enjoyed your finished work and those in progress. I have had works in progress for over 20yrs, and those that I am always adding to and re-arranging. It is just a passion that never stops. All of children now are the same way. I applaud your love of live and that of creating beauty from our earth to table. Getting dirty (in real dirt) is very cleansing for the soul!


Saturday 18th of May 2013

Sounds like we think a lot alike, Gail. I just love moving things from one bed to another when the plant doesn't work where I originally put it. Carol

Judy K

Sunday 5th of May 2013

I stumbled across your test garden. Love gardening and am going to be doing some landscaping experimenting of my own...hopefully. lol thanks again Judy


Sunday 5th of May 2013

Best of luck with your project!

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