Vegetable gardening! I receive THE MOST questions about our garden this time of year, and since our gardening story is unique, and my approach to gardening is super chill, and I figured I’d go ahead and write an updated post on the topic. You can see my past garden posts here (my last update was from June 2017, so I have lots to share). Get a cuppa your favorite beverage, and prepare to read a short book!
Now that we’ve covered some of the why, let’s talk about our vegetable garden! We moved into our home in the fall of 2013. Over the first four summers, we slowly expanded our vegetable garden. Currently, we have three 20′ x 8′ raised beds, which are situated end-to-end. They’re along the back border of our yard, which we love because we always chat with our neighbors when we’re in the garden. We started out with one 8′ x 20′ raised bed in 2015, then in 2016 we increased it to two, then in 2017, we increased it to 3. Somewhere along the way, we built a compost bin (I’ll talk more about that in another post), and planted 5 fruit trees. Only 3 of our fruit trees remain (1 peach and 2 cherries; our other peach and apple tree were destroyed by disease and Japanese beetles), but we’re hopeful for these 3!
To make the raised beds, we simply turned over all the grass in the area where we wanted the raised bed to live and then we let it sit for a few days. After that, we tilled it (yes, we are aware of the no-till method, but haven’t used it yet in our gardens), and added compost. We are considering switching to the no-till method, but haven’t yet, primarily because we didn’t have enough organic material to cover our gardens sufficiently. Then Joe build the wooden sides for the raised beds, and we added loooots of compost.
Well, it just seemed right for us at the time when we were just starting out, and it’s continued to work! There’s a lot less weeding and maintenance; it’s already contained. But there are other methods that work for other people. We have plenty of neighbors who plant directly into the ground, with no containment or borders.
Almost everything in our garden is planted in rows, spaced about 10″ – 12” apart. To weed, I take the flat hoe and gently scratch at the dirt in between the rows. The plants usually drown out the weeds in the actual rows. If I see large weeds I usually pull them out. If I see anything obnoxious while out harvesting, I’ll pull it out, but I typically only weed about once per week.
We haven’t had a TON of pest problems. One year, our squash crop was destroyed by squash bugs (but they came in on the plants we bought at the nursery, and we’ve just avoided squash since then. One year, all our sweet peas were eaten (maybe by bunnies); I’m going to attempt growing them on a trellis this year. Joe planted mint in the small area between each 20′ raised bed to help keep pests away. And that’s it! Some plants will go to the pests, and that’s just something to accept in pesticide-free gardening.
Ha, I don’t have one!! Seriously though, I thought I would be a meticulous garden planner, that I’d draw diagrams of the garden and figure everything out perfectly. But when it came down to it, that’s not my personality. I don’t even draw, so why did I think I’d draw pictures of my garden? I buy seeds of things I’d like to grow, and then in the early spring, I head back to my garden, sit in the grass, and figure out what needs to be planted when. This will be our first year where I plant more than once! I typically just plant in spring, and we harvest everything until it stops. This year I am planning on planting multiple times. So far, I’ve had several planting sessions, and hope to continue throughout the summer, late summer, and maybe even again in the early fall.
I should really do a separate blog post on this, but typically here’s what we grow: rapini, radishes, LOTS OF GREENS (arugula, kale, chard, collards, romaine, spinach, etc), herbs (basil, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender, chamomile, etc.), scallions, chives, leeks, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, and some others I’m probably forgetting about!
We aren’t obsessive about rotating, but generally, you don’t want to plant the same crops in the same zone repeatedly because crop-specific diseases and pests can build up and poison the plants. We’re roughly on a three year rotation (since we have three 20′ sections of garden). One thing I’m working on is separating all my leafy greens to keep the bugs from moving from one to another; we had annoying kale bugs last year that went from the kale and then on to other greens. If you have a raised bed, it’s not as crucial to rotate because you’re – hopefully – adding in new organic material to raise the soil level every spring.
NO! It’s never too late to start with something! If it’s winter, grow something on your countertop! Springtime is for planting lettuces, radishes, greens, etc. In the summer, grow vegetables that need solidly warm weather (like sweet potatoes, sweet peas, beans, okra, squash, eggplant, melon, etc.). Lots of greens, radishes and turnips, and rutabaga will do great with a second planting in the late summer (about 90 days before first frost). I’ll be planting garlic for the first time this fall, for harvesting next summer! If you do a little research, you can come up the perfect – simple – plan for starting growing something RIGHT NOW!
This is a question I’m asked about quite frequently! I think having the right supplies is crucial; it makes the job easier and more enjoyable. Our most-used tools were collected over the years from auctions, but I’ll link to some comparable ones online! Here are a few of mine and Joe’s favorite tools and supplies to use in our vegetable garden:
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What a joy to see your garden. We’ve just started our first garden this year, and I can 100% relate on being so overwhelmed with over planning. I finally closed all the books and decided I’d just read the backs of the seed packs and try my best. When I run into a problem, I’ll seek answers, but all the advise and must do’s were so stifling I thought there’s simply no way I can ever measure up.
Ps. I’m very happy to report we are experiencing more success (so far) than I ever dreamed we would see.