The new vegetable garden—I’m calling it a parterre although I think that may be stretching the definition just a bit—has existed in my head for a few years and been knocked around on paper for a few months. And soon it will be a reality.
The goal is to expand my growing area so I can grow things like potatoes and garlic, which I’ve not had room for in the past, as well as have more space to rotate crops. (See what happened to the original garden here.) My tomato harvests have decreased for years, and I’m fairly certain that at least a part of the problem is only having two beds to swap between when growing them and a suspect I’m dealing with some soil issues.
But I’d never be happy with one large vegetable plot. I need pretty. I crave the beauty of a tidy (well, tidy-ish) vegetable garden. I also have no desire to grow vegetables in anything but raised beds or containers. To me the advantages of raised beds outweigh any negatives (and other than cost, I can’t think of any).
And because of the local deer population, a fence is a requirement. In fact if I could think of anyway to effectively deer fence our entire property I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m so sick of fighting with them. It can be demoralizing.
Here’s the plan.
Eight large raised beds will be used for vegetables and herbs. These are drawn at 4 feet by 7.5 feet, but now that we gained a little extra space I may be able to widen the entire garden to make them 8 feet. Four 2 feet by 4.5 feet beds in the center will be used to grow cut flowers that will add color and interest and help attract pollinators.
Long, narrow beds along the sides of the garden will be used to grow fruit in the ground. I’m envisioning espalier fruit trees at the center of each of these beds and berries along the rest of the bed. Along the back of the garden I’d like to add a Belgian fence on either side of a simple gate that would have easy access to the compost pile. I’m thinking of these areas as “Phase 2.”
Of course such a formal design is begging for a focal point, and I’d like that to be a small water garden. I’m intrigued by water gardens, but a pond or unprotected feature is not an option with two dogs around. A small water garden, probably no bigger than 40 inches wide, would satisfy that itch and be a lovely addition to the center of the garden.
I’ve gone back and forth on the hardscaping for the garden. I don’t want to have to deal with mowing and trimming around that many raised beds, so that’s not an option. I also don’t love the idea of just mulching the walking areas, although I know this works well for some gardeners. My original plan was to create brick paths on the main intersecting thoroughfares and gravel between the beds, but this was cost prohibitive. I also considered large stone slabs, those wood decking tiles, pavers and more, but the dollars quickly added up for all them. At this point I think I’m just going to use gravel for the entire thing (with metal edging for the side fruit beds).
The main paths—down the center and to the sides where the espalier trees will be—are 3.5 feet wide, the minimum width I’m comfortable with. It’s important to me that a wheelbarrow moves easily but also that there’s a bit of air around the beds. There is 2 feet between beds, which should be enough to work comfortably. There is extra room around the water garden in the center to be able to easily maneuver around it. I’ve toyed with the idea of “paving” this center square to make it more of focal point but at a lower cost than doing full walkways.
All of this will be surrounded by a 6-foot fence, probably made of cattle panels or something similar. Technically 6 feet tall is a bit short for deer protection, but deer do not like to jump into enclosed areas and with all the raised beds, I think they’ll avoid jumping over. I’l have a decorative gate at the entrance (fulfilling another garden dream of mine: the desire for a charming garden gate) and a simple gate at the back.
The area for the garden is quite uneven, so I’m hoping to hire a landscaper to level it and lay the base for the gravel. If I can get them to do the gravel too that would be fine by me as I’ve moved enough of it to know that I’d rather not do it again. I’ll also probably hire out the fence work, just because I don’t feel like I’d enjoy that job. Everything else, including making and filling the beds and installing an irrigation system, will be a DIY operation.
This is one of the most ambitious garden projects I’ve taken on and I’m fairly certain it will cut into my growing time this year, but if it comes together like I hope, it will all be worth it. So, what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts, but be a little gentle. You’re dealing with a gardener’s dream here.
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