Ah the garden, how I have missed you fresh salads!
Last year was our third summer in our first home and finally the right time for us to start a vegetable garden. We moved at the end of May so the first year was out only because I thought it was too late and we had so many other renovations to do, year two was out because I was VERY pregnant with twins (due in September) and so year three was our time! I won’t go into the details of last years gardening attempts but we ended up half tilling by hand then completely tilling by rototiller a 22 x 28 area for the garden. I utilized about 1/3 of that last year and had very good success in spite of the multitude of rocks (pebbles through softball sized!). I’d learned a couple things growing up with a mom-gardener but I learned a TON from a book called The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (love that guy and love the book) but I really learned the most from actually DOING it… which led me to the new ideas for a new year.
Looking back the garden was a real mess for most of the growing season last year. I learned A LOT about gardening. I tried to incorporate my new knowledge into how I planned for the next year. I cut down on the seeds I purchased (I spent $50 in seeds last year, over half of which never got planted!!!) and made sure I planned out WHERE everything would go (at least vaguely, I changed my mind a lot) so I didn’t waste seeds again. I also didn’t buy anything that needed to be started indoors because, having twin toddlers and being halfway through my third pregnancy in January I wasn’t confident I’d have the time/energy (I didn’t).
So, 2012 rolled around and I began to plan. Being in my second trimester I couldn’t do as much of the garden renovations as I wanted so I had to wait for a “free” weekend before we tilled (aka my husband tilled). Next was building the raised beds! I’d found a great plan for cheap raised beds because cost is always an issue for us. I went (with all three kids in tow) to find the supplies I’d need for the project. Turns out Home Depot doesn’t carry loose fence pickets so I went to Lowes where they only had pine instead of the cedar (which acts as a pest repellent), oh well! I also didn’t have the same kind of saw she had so I had to find another wood to use for my corners. I chose a cheap railing wood, turns out it was VERY soft and cracked often when we screwed them on… well, it was soft and we were using screws that were way too thick (I’ve learned so much this year!).
It took many many weekends to get everything organized and finished. I was now in my third trimester and needed my husband to do the sit-on-the-floor-and-screw-things-together work because I just couldn’t manage it. But finally–FINALLY–they were done! We made four 3×6 foot beds. I’d planned on either building more if these turned out to be easily assembled (not so easy with my pregnancy as a hinderance) or just building up our “regular” beds with extra dirt for the season. My father in law had other ideas. He bought us two (very expensive) cedar raised beds with two 4x4ft sections each! He also bought and delivered top soil for all the beds! Yes, I know how incredibly lucky I am, don’t worry, he backed over one of our raised beds causing it to fall almost completly apart. It’s still waiting for repair (it’s the first week in June already!) which is the only reason my entire garden isn’t finished yet!
The corner joints of our raised beds, pretty simple.
So, in addition to raised beds I also wanted to make sure my trellises and supports were functional and nice to look at. I think I’ve had some pretty good success so far though I have my doubts about how at least one of them will actually function through the season.
Okay, here are the pictures of my 2011 garden and this years beautiful beginnings! (click on the first picture to see it larger and be able to read my long captions more easily!)
2011 The wildlife preserve that was our garden. Hand tilling is exhausting and time consuming so we didn’t get very far.
2011 the trellis in the background did not hold up like I’d planned… nor did it work as well. This was before I realized that you could just BUY trellis netting!
The squash plants that grew four times this size by August!
2011 Peas and cucumbers… and grass.
2011 the tomatoes. They look like they’re producing really well but I didn’t keep them under control and they didn’t produce many red tomatoes.
After the tiller.
2011 Everything looks so much nicer! In the back you can see my first tee-pee trellis (in an attempt to get a late harvest of peas that mostly failed).
2011 My tomatoes were completely out of control by this point and needed to be corralled with garden fencing. The cherry tomatoes produced like crazy but they ended up splitting before I could pick them and they all got fruit flies. Ew.
The plastic mulch made it MUCH easier to get around!
Ah, garden bounty! We got a basket like this every couple days in August. So even though it was way overgrown it worked!
March 2012 the garden is ready to be retilled and transformed!
The 2012 season has arrived!!! My ingenius repurposing of old PVC piping. I did have to buy new joints but they cost only a bit over a dollar each!
We “planted” the pipes about 6 inches into our horribly rocky soil… I would have probably gone deeper but the rocks were really an annoying hinderance.
I went looking for a 3 way joint for each corner and found this instead. It works just as well!
After attaching my trellis nettings to the pipes and each other (fyi trellis netting is super annoying, it gets caught on everything! mental note, put up trellis BEFORE planting next year!) I pegged it down in a few places with the garden pegs I’d used last fall for the mulch sheeting, just to keep the netting tight.
The peas are trying to attach to each other instead of the netting. When each plant gets tall enough I un-attach them from one another and redirect them to the net.
Strawberries! I still need some straw to mulch them (apparently strawberries like their roots to be cool PLUS it’ll keep the strawberries themselves off the hot dirt). I wasn’t planning on strawberries, which come back year after year, but my Father-in-law struck again and bought us 10 plants! How can you say no to that?
I was given 20 tomato plants (only 5 of which I managed to give away) so in three of my four home-made raised beds I have marigolds (to help with pest control), tomato plants in cages and surrounded by carrots. They look good but we’ll see how well I can keep them under control this year 😉
I’m out in the garden every day and almost every single time I have to trim one of these “buds” from the crooks of my tomato plants. If I don’t they’ll grow into non-fruit-producing which is exactly what happened to me last year!
The baby carrots (I think!) around the base of my tomatoes. I planted a crazy variety of carrots this year-purple, red, rainbow and the traditional orange.
more marigolds for the final bed (and last 5, rather sad looking at this point, tomato plants)
CORN! I’ve never grown corn before but I’m very excited at the possibility of fresh corn in August. My biggest concern is big pests (like crows and raccoons) but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
Further along the corn bed are some Vermont Cranberry Beans (to be dried and stored) on a trellis net hung between two posts. Again, I REALLY should have gotten the net up before the beans sprouted, I spent more time untangling the netting than hanging it!
A full view of the trellis. I norder to make it tight across I had to wrap it around the first pole many times (which is how the netting kept getting caught on the plants).
Cucumbers and bush beans! I made the chickenwire trellis for the cucumbers but I’m very skeptical about it’s usefullness when the plants are at their fullest. It is good to support cucumbers (they seem to love it) and last year they were all wrapped up in my tomato cages and outside garden fence. I am attemptign to control things a little more this year but, again, I have serious doubts.
cucumbers are under the cicken wire, bush beans are in front. I have plans to do another planting of bush beans in a week or two to have an extended harvest.
Next to the cucumber trellis is another bean trellis. This is a tee-pee trellis made with six plastic covered metal stakes (reuseable and neat!) as well as bamboo stakes and twine.
I have big plans to freeze some of our beans and peas to have our bounty last into the fall and winter.
I may have to add another layer of twine lower to help the beans attach to the trellis when they’re still small. I’m waiting to see how they grow.
The corner joints of our raised beds.
As you can see I’m really trying to keep things organized. Last year things were way out of control and not very beautiful. This year I’m working on containment and making all my support systems nice to look at. Punkin has already commented how “good” our garden looks. Kinda fancy and professional (especially when compared with last year!) and hopefully it will produce even more this year because of the better care and attention I’ll be able to give it!