Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Spring Vegetable Garden

The last month has been a mad rush of gardening.  Trying to complete so many tasks in a short period of time.  Why the hurry?  If you plant a vegetable garden you will know that most vegetables are annual plants.  That means their entire life span is lived out from spring to fall.  In order for these plants to have the time to grow from seeds and develop into mature plants they must have as much time in the ground as possible.  So I rush through spring, turning over beds and planting the seeds of lettuce and carrots and various annual flowers so that they may have enough time to sprout and grow and then flower and fruit.  The benefit of an annual garden is that you are able, each year, to start fresh with a clean slate.

Last year my vegetable garden was brand new.  The area consisted of lawn at the start of April but over the lawn we built 5 raised beds and created one in-ground bed.  The garden thrived but it was a small space so this year I was set on expansion.  In addition to the existing raised beds several new boxes were added including a 4 x 8 bed which was built specifically for my new strawberry plants.

Strawberry plants happily at home in the straw!

I liked the idea of putting strawberries in a raised bed because, as a ground cover, these plants would have been constantly trying to escape into the lawn if they were planted in-ground.

I also find the raised beds to be really good for root vegetables.  The soil I mix is quite light and I have never had an easier time pulling carrots so this year I added one entire 4 x 4 raised box just for carrots.

The other benefit of a raised bed is that the ground in them warms up faster than the earth below them.  Tomatoes like to be warm so all the tomatoes were placed in raised beds.  We are growing indeterminate tomatoes this year which require some form of trellising so the added benefit is that trellising was easily attached to the boxes.   Lady luck was with us this spring as we found enough wood in the garage, left by the previous owner, to build all of the trellising for free.

Not all the beds added were raised boxes.  A sod cutter was rented and many in-ground beds were added this year.  Perennial vegetables such as rhubarb and asparagus were put in these beds as well as plants that don't root deeply such as spinach and lettuce. 

Lettuce planted in-ground.   Surface roots mean I
didn't have to dig the beds as deeply.
 Like my raised beds I kept the in-ground beds approximately 4 feet across so I can reach in from either side without having to walk all over them.  They will require a lot of mulching and edging to keep the grass from invading.  Perhaps in the future we will remove the grass and put bark mulch or gravel around the beds but it is one step at a time for now.

And since I can't have just vegetables in my vegetable garden flowers like nasturium, borage, and lilies were added for colour.

These annual cosmos were started indoors for early blooms
The final piece of the puzzle is this very large, square, in-ground bed.

This was hubby's idea.  I wasn't sure what I would do with this at first and considered planting in rows like a traditional garden.  But then I thought it would be easier to break it into squares and paths were added.

It has become, inadvertantly, a herb garden.  Chives that were getting overrun by weeds in other parts of the garden were brought here.  Lemon balm and oregano from the plant sale moved in.  Basil seedlings needed a place to live.  Dill, and cilantro seeds were planted.  It has also become slightly overrun with flowers.  Chamomile, zinnias, bachelor's buttons, dahlia tubers, feverfew, marigolds and cosmos seedlings have all moved in.  Last but not least, a cherry tomato and pepper plant that followed me home from the nursery also are living in this spot.

All these beds and would you believe one bed created with the sod cutter was left untouched!  I ran out of energy and it has been covered with a mixture of newsprint, cardboard, boxboard, straw and compost.  It will sit until next spring when I can dig it over and expand the vegetable garden some more.


  1. Your garden is so new. Those names will grow out of your history, your story. The square with four paths is a Paradise and Herbs Garden for instance ;~) Just needs a little box hedge ...

  2. Hi Marguerite, For some reason all but one of the pictures were missing from your post. Hopefully it is a temporary glitch. I decided to go with raised beds for my veggie garden as well. My reasoning was not as carefully considered as yours (For instance, I had no idea the soil might be warmer in a raised bed). My main reason for raised beds was that I thought the dogs might be less inclined to run through them. Wrong! Just the other day, I look out to see Rusty standing right in the middle of one of the beds.
    I too am engaged in a mad dash to get everything in. The tomatoes are taking off, but the peppers look pathetic!

  3. Your garden pics worked for me, and your veggie beds are beautiful. I love how you divided the last bed into four, divided by paths. It will be gorgeous in herbs.

  4. Wow you have a lot of gardens :) Looks lovely.

  5. You have some major projects going on there! The hardest part is getting new gardens started, and you have quite a few. You are so lucky to have all that space and open land to work with!

  6. Hi Marguerite,
    Just looking at your soil reminds me of visiting PEI. That amazing red color. Is yours really sandy or do you have some clay or loam?

  7. Diana - See how easily you were able to come up with that name?! That's what I mean, they don't just appear for me and I end up with front garden, back garden....

    Jennifer - not sure about the photo mystery. I've tried a couple computers and the photos are loading..? I wish my pets would stay out of the garden but the cats actually prefer the soft soil in the raised beds. That's why there are sticks in so many of the pictures.

    Holley - funny how it worked out like that. Not sure if it will stay herbs from year to year but I like the idea for now.

    Johanna - and growing every day! My ideas for expansion know no bounds.

    Laurrie - I am very fortunate. Having dealt with slopes and shade prior to this the open sunny property we have now is a dream.

    Heather - you would think on an island that is essentially a sand bar our soil would be very sandy but it's more clay than anything. Another reason I like the raised beds as the ground needs lots of work.

  8. Hello Marguerite: You seem like a super-woman to me, full-time job I presume and all that gardening on the, I'm really sister-n-law in P.E.I. also has raised beds and that's the way I plan to go sorry it's been such a cool, wet spring out there, here in On., it's much hotter..that sod cutter idea really interests me, once I get moved to the island permanently..I plan on a medicine wheel herb garden and inside hubby's barn was a whole pile of white painted rocks, all ready for me..that too is on your gardening stories..inspires me..regards Lannie

  9. Sounds like a wonderful new beginning to a cherished garden.

    I can't wait to see it grow.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  10. Your garden looks great. I know how annoying it is to have grass creeping into raised beds. I managed to kill mine off temporarily with a tiny bit of roundup, now I use a weed whacker to cut it low to the ground, close to the raised beds, so that it dies in the hot sun and never makes it into my garden bed. But, this aggressive treatment does not work to keep out Equisetum, horsetail.

  11. Marguerite my goodness you have been busy girl ! I love raised beds because I think they are much easier to control .. easier on humans and plants, haha .. and much neater too!
    I think you are going to have some wonderful strawberries : )
    My Sumac was always an experiment to make it look like a palm tree .. the first time I saw a palm tree in person was when we were in Spain and I had it in the back of my head that if I "pollard" a sumac, the foliage will come very close to looking like that! plus in the Autumn it looks amazing : )
    So you picked up the right image totally girl ! thanks!
    Joy : )

  12. Marguerite, the idea of chives being overrun by other plants boggles my mind. A friend gave me a small clump of chives many years ago, and now I have chives everywhere. (It would probably help if I made more of an effort to deadhead them!) The only plant I have that can out-compete the chives is oregano. I really like your herb bed with the four quadrants and the paths. -Jean

  13. You have been busy, yes you'r right it is a busy time, as it is so short lived. Sometimes I wish for more hours in the day. It didn't help that we had so much rain either.

    I'm about raised beds also, love them and I also love the idea you are making for your herb bed. Tomatoes are going in here by the weekend. I have never seen plants take over chives, mine are taking over everything, want some?

  14. Oh, I love that you were able to find enough wood to reuse for your trellises. Our salvaged wood here was only sized appropriately enough for owl boxes ;) We've found our tomatoes and peppers both really seem to appreciate raised bed soil, both the warmth, and the fact we've been able to improve it so it's so much better than our native soil here. Now if summer would just get on with ripening them!

  15. it so nice to see it all coming along Marguerite, isn't it wonderful to find useful things previous owners leave :o) I was thinking your new 4 patch bed looks like a traditional herb garden, with all the snow I don't know if same applies but over here they say to dig a new bed in the autumn and let the winter weather break the soil down for you I have found this works, Frances

  16. Lannie - thanks for the compliments! I do work full time but I find the garden is a great way to provide stress relief so I never mind coming home and working in my yard. I also took a few days off work this spring to get the extra work done. Thrilled to hear you found those rocks in the barn. Finding something like that is a great way to spark some ideas.

    Jen - Already I can see how this space is evolving and it's so wonderful. Nice thing about veggies, they provide almost instant results. Where there were a couple boxes last year, this year it actually looks like a garden.

    Melanie - when I lived in BC horsetail was everywhere! haven't seen it yet here thank goodness but I've got bindweed instead which wants to get into everything. I've been trying to pull soil away from the edge of the bed and create a ridge in an effort to stop weeds and grass from invading. We'll see if that works or not.

    Joy - that's great to hear I was seeing what you saw! I thought maybe it was just a crazy image that I was weirdly associating with your tree. I agree, raised beds make things look a little tidier and, I'm finding, much easier to care for.

  17. Jean and Cindy - the story behind the chives is I received approximately 6 plants from my neighbour last spring and I had no beds to put them in. So they got crowded in with sedum and bleedings hearts among other things. Because the other plants, and weeds, were more established they quickly grew up around the chives and engulfed them. I had thought the chives were lost until I found a few this spring trying to get a head start on the other plants. So before they hidden again by the other plants I dug them out and moved them. The plants were small and spindly but have survived which is testament to how tenacious they must be.

    Clare - all the boards were hidden in the rafters which, when we first moved here, we hardly noticed. So glad I took a second look and realized there were perfectly sized boards up there. Hopefully the trellis we've concocted will hold up the plants, if they ever start growing! (they really don't like this wet weather)

    Frances - It does look like the traditional herb garden doesn't it? after all my talk of making the other bed into a herb garden I found it funny that I essentially created one here. We'll see how it evolves from year to year and if it stays this way. I've heard that about winter working on the soil too. Being new to this climate I'm not sure how that works but we'll see how the unused beds fare next spring.

  18. I love the sound of your herbs-with-flowers bed. You've got some great growing space there now, so exciting. I hope your edibles flourish, but am glad you add flowers too. Those tomatoes should certainly be happy!