Islander grows vegetables in a seaside garden
Priscilla Baxter has taken raised bed gardening to new heights. She grows fruit and vegetables on her 12-foot high deck at her Galveston home.
Baxter and her husband, Al, live in Pirates Beach in Galveston where she has figured out a way to successfully grow vegetables in her garden. Growing a garden on the beach isn’t an easy task. She built long wooden containers, painted them blue to match the house and extended them the length of the 40-foot-long deck. In these boxes, Baxter planted her vegetable seedlings for a seasonal crop. As the plants grow, she ties them to the deck rail for support.
She grows a variety of tomatoes — Roma, Celebrity, Big Beef, Husky Cherry and Early Girl — as well as some zucchini, oregano, basil and tarragon.
Having the raised garden on her deck and outside her kitchen has several benefits, she said.
There are no bugs, snails, worms or possums ruining her crop, she said.
“I do have to watch for the birds, however,” she said, pointing to the fake snakes and plastic owls attached to the deck railing to deter curious birds. “But the common problems of ground planting I don’t have up here.”
Baxter waters the gardens each morning and feeds or fertilizes when she remembers. Her crop is plentiful and she regularly gives friends and neighbors bags of fresh tomatoes.
The Baxters have added some color to the deck garden with begonias, trailing sweet potato plants, impatiens and mums.
Their quarter-acre yard near the beach also is perfect for planting tropicals and flowers. In the 20 years they have lived in Pirates Beach, they have cultivated several garden beds, each with a different purpose. There is a large wild flower garden, a bougainvillea and Mexican petunia area, a smattering of sunflowers that came from the bird seed provided for migrating birds and an area dedicated to agave and oleanders.
A large bottle brush tree near the deck blossoms into red spiky flowers, which attract bees to help with pollination of the vegetable plants.
“I only do easy plants,” Baxter said. “I don’t want to do anything difficult. And I like plants that come back each year.”
The deck in the front of the house, which gets intense heat all day, is where she grows her sago palms, cacti and succulents, which don’t require as much care as the vegetables, she said.
A sprawling fig tree, which is making a comeback after being dormant since the January 2018 freeze, will finally produce fruit again this year, she said. The colorful birds of paradise and plumeria give the yard color, and mint plants work as ground covers in the smaller flower beds.
Under the house, the Baxters have a rock garden with some simple succulents and a collection of pink flamingo birdhouses hanging nearby. These are just ornamental, but they do have three large purple martin birdhouses, which are filled each year from February to July.
“I’m really not a gardener,” Baxter said. “But I like to garden.”