For most weekends this Spring, my husband Dan and I have been working on an exciting project–our new organic garden.
For the last few years, my vegetable gardening experience has mostly been limited to organic container gardening. Yet one of the reasons we bought our house was because of its gardening potential (we’ve got lots of space and tons of sun), so I’ve really been looking forward to building a larger organic vegetable garden.
Because we live in an area with a large deer population, having an un-fenced vegetable garden is completely out of the question (we also have two very large dogs that we did not want trampling, pooping, or peeing on our plants!)
Sinking the fence posts and trying to get the fence level was probably the hardest part about building this garden (because the ground wasn’t really flat). Many thanks go to Dan for being persistent with those tasks! Other than that, this project mostly required patience and LOTS of trips in a borrowed pick up truck to pick up supplies (wood for the fence and to make the raised beds, soil and compost to fill the beds, mulch for the ground, etc.).
Our garden site was VERY muddy for the first few of our work weekends in April, but once we got the fence up and the raised beds in place, we were able to spread mulch around and it’s been wonderfully dry ever since.
We put landscaping cloth under the mulch so the grass won’t grow through.
You could also use newspaper or cardboard to smother grass under your mulch; see this post I wrote for eHow for a full explanation about why this works.
Where we live, the soil is heavy in clay and it’s not great for successfully growing vegetables. We decided that raised bed gardening would be the best way to go, so we built six raised beds (8′x4′ each) and we filled them with a combination of screened topsoil, our finished home compost, composted manure, peat, and other organic materials.
Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! has great advice about why and how to do this.
In addition to the wood enclosed raised beds, I made a few smaller beds surrounded by stones we already had on our property. The first thing I planted and the first thing I’ll be able to harvest is a combination of organic bean and peas that I trained around the bamboo teepee above. These were planted at the beginning of April and they should be ready soon (early June).
I also made this stone spiral that I planted with some seeds and herb starter plants (I’ve got basil, shiso, thyme, oregano, lavender, lemon balm, and parsley so far–I’ll post pictures when it fills in more…)
After allowing the organic layers in my main raised beds to settle for a few weeks, and when the last Spring frost had passed, I put in some seeds as well as some organic heirloom starter plants that I purchased at a wonderful local CSA, Four Winds Farm. I was a little overzealous and probably bought too much, but I just couldn’t help myself.
Here is the list of what I have in my kitchen vegetable garden so far:
- snap peas
- beans- 3 varieties incl. edamame
- tomatoes- 10 types of heirlooms
- cucumbers- 3 varieties
- peppers- 4 varieties
- lettuces- 4 varieties
- summer squashes- 3 varieties
- carrots- 2 varieties
- radishes- 2 varieties
I also have some fruits (melons, strawberries, and raspberries right now, and I’ll be adding blueberries and maybe some dwarf fruit trees someday).
I plan to interplant herbs and flowers with the vegetables because I love the way dense mixed plantings look in organic kitchen gardening. Companion planting also promotes lots of beneficial organisms and biodiversity. I already started doing this by putting in some borage near my cucumbers and marigolds and basil near my tomato and lettuce plants (you can see these above, along with my awesome tomato cages from Gardener’s Supply Company), and I’ll be doing a lot more when I pick up some more herb and flower seeds soon.
Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden is my favorite companion planting resource.
I can’t wait to see how my new organic home garden grows…I’ll post pictures all along the way, I promise!