Friday, May 20, 2011

Planting the Vegetable Garden

Last year was the first year that I planted a vegetable garden with the girls. For the prior few years, I did not do much gardening.  This year, with the price of food rising so much, the girls and I expanded the garden; and did some much-needed maintenance on areas around and in the garden.


Since I do not use any chemicals in the garden, lawn, or pastures, one of the perennial challenges is weeds.  There are four raised beds that were built back in the late 1990s when I offered a farm and art camp for children.  The wood was untreated (so no chemicals would contaminate the food), and has (unfortunately) reached the end of its life on several of the beds. 

As we weeded, we removed wood planks and pieces that no longer served a function.

Sophia and Olivia weeding one raised bed
in the vegetable garden.

There were two areas that we planted last year that needed the weeds pulled from this year.  The other two raised beds and cold frame were overgrown with wild black raspberries and needed to be cut back first before weeding could be done.

Raspberries trimmed back.

To better contain the raspberries and keep them upright, we're going to put 4-6 stakes around the perimeter of the raspberry garden and tie twine around the stakes.  The area on all sides of the raspberry garden has a base of newspaper or cardboard and is topped with grass and straw. 


A book that I checked out from the library showed a way to create new garden space that would minimize (if not eliminate) weeding in the first - and hopefully subsequent - years.  During the first year, you put cardboard and/or newspapers down where you want your new garden.

Cardboard placed where we want new garden areas.
Rocks are holding the cardboard down.

Then, place bags of garden soil on top of the cardboard.  These will what the plants grow in during the first year.  Keep in mind that the bags are rather shallow, so root vegetables (e.g., beets, carrots, leeks) are not suitable for this type of gardening.  Instead, plant vegetables (such as beans) or herbs in them.

Bags of soil on top of cardboard. 
Newspapers topped with grass clippings for pathways.

After the first year of planting and harvesting, any remaining cardboard, newspaper, and the bags are discarded.  The soil that was in the bag is tilled into the ground which will be free from all grass and weeds since no light or water reached it during the first growing season.

Sophia hauling Olivia and grass clippings
to the garden for pathways. 
Montague is going along for the walk.

Since moving here in 1995, the trees have grown quite a bit.  The area next to the driveway (where the garden is located) use to be very sunny for the majority of the day.  Now, parts are shady so the girls and I shifted the garden a bit to the south.  The shadier area will be covered with straw and we will bring chairs out to enjoy the garden and/or perhaps read a book under the trees.

Olivia pruning a tree by the strawberries.

Also, we cut back some of the lower branches on the trees for ease of access to the garden as well as to reduce the amount of shade in the garden.


For the new areas in the garden, the next step was to cut open the tops of the bags.  It's important to leave the sides on the bags so that the dirt doesn't wash away (kind of like a miniature raised bed). 

Bags of soil cut open and ready for planting.
These were placed directly on the ground
versus placing them on cardboard. 
We will see if there's a difference between
the gardens with and without cardboard as a base.


Depending on the item that is being grown, we planted vegetables and fruits from transplants or seeds.  Some of the transplants were purchased (e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) while others were simply dug up and relocated to other parts of the garden (e.g., catnip, strawberries).

Olivia planting beans. 
She already completed 2 1/2 rows of onions.

This year, the herbs are in three locations.  The catnip came up again in a shady area in the garden and is thriving.  There was some stray catnip that was hiding under the rhubarb leaves and also faring well, so I transplanted that to be near the other catnip.

The second section of herbs is this one:

Herb garden.

The above garden has sage, lavender, majoram, thyme, parsley, chives, cilantro, and dill.  The third spot where herbs are planted is in the "pizza garden."  These herbs are ones we use to make pizza: basil, rosemary, and oregano.

Many years ago, a friend taught me how to build a cold frame.  At the time, I had a window that was attached to the box that could be lifted and propped up in warmer weather, and kept down in colder weather.  It was a great way to start plants. 

There is now a gap in one corner of the cold frame.  However, I still wanted to use the space since the base is a mix of soil and compost that has aged for many years.  The cold frame is in a shadier area, so I thought lettuce would be good to grow here.

Weeded cold frame planted with lettuce seeds.

We like green and yellow (wax) beans, so we used all five bags for beans.  In addition, a couple rows of beans are planted near the onions in the new raised bed receiving the most sun as well as two rows in a shadier area. 

Because I homeschool the girls, I want them to see how well different vegetables grow in different parts of the garden (e.g., do beans need full sunlight all day, is partial sunlight okay, do the beans grow better in the bags of soil or directly in the ground).

Sophia planting several types of green and yellow (wax) beans
in the bags of soil.

We've been planting a "pizza garden" for a few years now.  It's nice to be able to go to the garden and pick fresh vegetables and herbs and make pizza for dinner.  In the fall, I roast the tomatoes and then make a pizza sauce filled with other vegetables and herbs.  It's a flavorful sauce that tastes great in the middle of winter.

It's a bit difficult to see, but there are several types of tomatoes planted (yellow and red; full size, roma, and cherry), sweet peppers (green, yellow, red, and orange), leeks, and herbs.  Since this raised bed receives many hours of sunlight per day, we expanded the size of this bed on both ends. 

The "pizza garden" is planted with a variety
of vegetables and herbs.

The rhubarb and strawberry garden was overtaken by raspberries (red and wild black) as well as weeds.  After cutting back the raspberries, I weeded the garden and found that there were quite a few strawberries despite the "intruders." 

In addition, the strawberries had sent out runners and new plants were growing around the raised bed.  So, once this area was weeded, I dug up all the plants that weren't in the garden and transplanted them there.

I would like to have another rhubarb plant since rhubarb is so expensive in the store...especially when it's not in season.

Rhubarb and strawberry plants.

Sophia wanted to grow peas this year since she's never done that before.  We went to the farmer's market earlier this week, and one of the farmers was selling peas to transplant. 

Sophia planting snow and shell peas.

Other vegetables that we planted but aren't pictured or mentioned:  asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, onions (red and yellow bulb as well as green onions), and zucchini.

Next project:  the flower gardens - including edible flowers for salads. The girls are ready to plant some new flowers this year from bulbs as well as transplants. 

The girls were having fun while hauling grass clippings
to the gardens to make pathways.


cajunlicious said...

Hi! Following you from the Friday blog hop! Hope you visit
My Cajun blog and return the follow!
- Jessica @

Laurie said...

You homeschool, too! It's great to see the kids out in the garden. I've got two boys, and they grumble a bit, but they enjoy the fruits of their labor. i hope you have a great gardening season.

shelby said...

I love seeing your children out working on the garden. You are teaching them such great things!! I hope that we one day have some land and that I too can snap pics of my little ones working our garden. Keep it up!

Dollwood Farms said...

I do the bag gardens too. So far they have done well. :)

Erin said...

What a neat idea, using bags of dirt! And I love the idea of a "pizza garden." :)

Michelle said...

I love the idea of using bags of dirt as beds! Can't wait to see how they turn out!!

Michelle said...

Oops, forgot to mention I am following you now from the GARDEN hop!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed to read the articles
with the photoes which helped to
understand the gardening well. Thanks!