Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vegetable Garden Then and Now

Back in spring 2010 we had an empty palette to start our vegetable garden with.  A flat expanse of lawn provided endless possibilities.


By June 2010 we had added five raised beds.


The garden looks so empty in that photo.  Today it looks like this.


I think we've quadrupled the amount of space since those first beds.  Several more raised beds were added for strawberries and to provide a base for trellising.  As well a number of beds were dug in the ground.

That first year I tried to cram carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, beets, radishes, and spinach all into those boxes.  It was a tight fit.

Today the list of vegetables is much longer and I'm no longer trying to force vegetables into tiny squares of earth.  Breathing space has been acquired.  This year's planting list included 8 varieties of tomatoes, beans, lettuce, zucchini, turnip, beets, carrots, radish, cucumber, spinach, onions, garlic, cilantro, oregano, chives, parsley, dill and peas.

Tomatoes got an extra large bed this year
with plenty of space to spread out.
Despite the expansion I'm still considering the possibility that we may require more room.  I would love to have a few blueberry bushes and grow my own potatoes in addition to the vegetables we already have.  I also wonder if there shouldn't be a second strawberry bed.  While we have a good variety of vegetables I'm not sure if there's enough of what we like.  Perhaps I overplanted tomatoes but could we use more carrots?

This raised bed is packed full of strawberries but will it be enough?
While assessing the garden this year I've also been keeping in mind some bits of information I learned this past February while visiting in Halifax.  I was lucky to be in the city when Niki Jabbour was presenting her new book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener.  Nicky lives a relatively short distance from me (as the crow flies) in Nova Scotia and her ideas on stretching the vegetable gardening season in our cold climate really hit home.  Having more kinds of vegetables in my garden is important but having them over a longer period of time would also be really beneficial.

One idea I used right away was to start planting cool season vegetables like lettuce and peas in April this year.  Normally I wouldn't try putting these in until mid-May but using Niki's advice I planted early and threw a tarp over the beds on freezing nights.  The result is that we were able to eat our first salad at the beginning of June.  The last two seasons we have waited until July to enjoy any greens.

Salad greens and peas were planted in early April
Looking at the vegetable garden now I'm really satisfied with all we've accomplished.  The basics are all there and with a little fine tuning over the coming years we should be able to produce more than enough food for us to live off for the better part of the year.

Both in their third season the rhubarb and asparagus are ready for picking



21 comments:

  1. Your vegetable garden looks fantastic. Can we ever have enough space? Ha! As we have added more beds to the kitchen garden I am finding that I need even more space. Funny how that happens. It looks like you have space to expand too. I have 10 blueberry bushes and definitely recommend them. They are very easy to grow. I like your tomato supports. They look like works of art.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karin, we're very lucky as we still have a ton of space we could potentially turn into garden. My only concern is that it becomes too big for me to manage but there's always just one more thing we'd like to add isn't there?

      Delete
  2. This is why it is fun to see before and later photos that span several years. Your gardens have come along so nicely in terms of food production, and especially in terms of how they look all laid out in the big open space by the garage. It's a great little farm, with a lot going on and growing. Add a row of blueberries and you won't regret it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laurrie, one of the things I love about your blog is that you've been so good about taking lots of photos as your gardens have grown. It really gave me hope that my garden would begin to take shape quicker than I thought. Now looking at my own photos I can really see the difference.

      Delete
  3. Your vegetable beds looks beautiful! And I love that you have found how to extend your vegetable growing season! Here, I have found that I can grow something almost all year round - but that's to be expected in a warm place such as this. To be able to do that in a cold climate is admirable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Holley. I have a long way to go in extending our season but I can see some great possibilities ahead. Of course, that will mean more projects in the garden!

      Delete
  4. You inspire me, and I am hoping that our backyard will look as full as yours one day. We don't have as much full sun as you do by any means...but a gardener can dream.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jen, I'm very impressed with all that you've done to your new house already. We've been here over two years and there's a list as long as my arm of unfinished renovations and chores. I admit I'm loving having a garden with so much sun since our last garden was entirely shady but I do miss having patches of shade as there's so many plants that do well there. We always want what we haven't got you know?

      Delete
  5. My dream garden. How did you know I wanted such a garden :)
    I love your garden. Mine is so small I have 3 tomato plants, 3 pepper plants, 6 lettuce, 1 rhubarb and a small raspberry patch. That's it, that's all. Some day though some day... In the meantime I really enjoy living my gardening dream vicariously through reading about yours :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aww thanks Johanna. funny but it looks a little messy to me. I aspire to those perfectly edged and maintained gardens overflowing with perfectly lined up rows of veggies. But I know I could never be quite so tidy. I'm hoping one day you get your PEI dream garden by the sea.

      Delete
  6. I liked see how your garden 'grew' over time. The way you have it laid out is really nice too. Starting in April is great. I started in March one year and this year probably could have done the same the way out winter went.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Donna. You would have laughed at my lay out plans. They consisted mostly of making drawings and then doing the complete opposite. I will never be the architect you are.

      Delete
  7. Oh I'm impressed. We have 2 and half tomato plants, and some herbs, a handful of fruit trees - and a FAR kinder climate than yours, except in our summer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Diana, honestly my preference is for flowers, I spend far more time in the flower beds than in the veggie garden but hubby doesn't understand growing things you can't eat so we have the veggie garden. Were it not for his persistence I'm sure it would be a much smaller venture.

      Delete
  8. Hi: Just love those curvy metal tomato supports, need to find me some of those..I planted peas before I left & they are flowering. Didn't plant lettuce early like I usually do as I saw a gardener speak at Canada Blooms and he plants lettuce in plastic or metal bowls, windows boxes etc. which he keeps near his back door, they only need such shallow containers..hubby planted about a hundred onions before he left to join me on island, so better get eating them..I over planted too, 14 pepper plants and all kinds of tomatoes! Wouldn't you know the three raised beds I ordered while there, came in yesterday..now have to wait til next yr. to see them..If I know you , you'll be either digging up more beds or adding more raised beds..Happy gardening Lannie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lannie, those supports are wonderful. I had them when I was in BC but had to sell them at a garage sale as we didn't have room to take everything I wanted. I missed them so much I bought them again at Lee Valley. You have to buy them in store as they're pretty huge but they're incredibly sturdy and well worth it. I have considered putting some lettuce and other things in containers on our deck. Lettuce can be awfully pretty and the one downside of this garden is it's quite a distance from the kitchen. Too bad you missed your raised beds but you'll have an instant project when you come back next year.

      Delete
  9. So wonderful to see the transformation from the first photo to the last..just wonderful. You've done a great job!

    Niki's book is a treasure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Brenda. It's not nearly as neat and pretty as yours but it's getting better. Niki really does have some great ideas, my next step will be prepping the beds in fall instead of spring. As soon as she said that I thought, why haven't I been doing that before!

      Delete
  10. Your garden looks great. I love seeing the before pics. Like you I want to be able to produce enough food to feed my family for most of the year.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love the raised beds. Like the ability to expand too. Having two seasons of veggies is just super!! The first time I heard of two season plantings we lived in Texas... would probably do three season plantings there now. Think you have had great success.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Seeing the year-by-year pictures here really makes it clear how much you've accomplished in a short time. I hope it makes you feel proud! Do you know Eliot Coleman's book, The Four-Season Harvest? Coleman and his wife, garden writer Barbara Damrosch, operate a market farm on the Downeast coast of Maine, in conditions that have some similarity to yours. I think you might find his ideas and experiences both inspiring and practical. -Jean

    ReplyDelete