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The new vegetable garden plan


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. 

I was inspired by the beautiful vegetable garden at Brook and Steve Gianetti’s Patina Farm. Patina Farm photo

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.

parterre design

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. 

raised bed vegetable garden
The vegetable garden at Christopher Farms, which I toured last summer, cemented the concept I had in my head. I think our raised beds will be constructed in a manner very similar to these.

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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27 Responses

  1. Your design looks great! I’d love to have raised garden beds but my husband insists on planting a LOT of sweet corn. Maybe some day we can incorporate raised beds into our garden plans. I had a water garden for a few years. It was fun to work with but took some maintenance and planning to avoid an over growth of algae. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  2. Ah, yes. The slow process of informing the other person about what’s coming next and his role! Looks gorgeous and well-thought out. You have enough experience at this point to avoid the pitfalls. I gave all the parts of my garden names like the Brits do, so you can say parterre garden. Will the water in the center be a fountain or a beautiful pot filled with water?

    1. I have to look into the water garden thing a bit more. I am woefully uninformed on them, but at this point I’m thinking just a large pot with water and a few water plants, mostly because I’d rather avoid the hassle and expense of having to run electricity over there. But then again I saw some examples of beautiful water containers that were lit at night and the effect was stunning.

  3. Superb! I am so excited for you. It will be beautiful and productive. And, I so hear you with the deer battle. Having a high fence will be a game changer. You might need a glass of wine to celebrate that one.

  4. Your plan is gorgeous, and now I want to turn the entire center of the backyard into a veg garden. The center is the only part that gets full sun these days, and I thought it couldn’t be done, because it would look bizarre having raised beds in the center of the yard, BUT…with a beautiful design…it could work! Now, how do I convince my husband. And when do I do it? I already planted peas and radishes in the old raised beds yesterday…

    1. Kristin, you’ve just covered the two biggest hurdles I faced: telling Mr. Much More Patient and figuring out the timeline. The first was a gradual process with casual mentions over the last few years. At some point he succumbs to the pressure and just realizes it’s happening whether he likes it or not. 🙂 As for the timing, mine would have been far better had I started this process in fall, but I was still working on Step 1 at that point!

  5. What an exciting plan- I can’t wait to see the progress and the final product! It will be well worth the effort and cost, I have a similarly designed veg. garden and I’m thrilled with its function and form.

  6. I am so jealous of your garden plans. After 5 years in zone 4 Montana, I am moving back to North Carolina and can’t wait. We will be renting a house for a year until we buy a house. THEN I can finally put in a garden area. I want a mini-version of what you are planning. But for now I will be happy to be back in the land where there is a year-round farmer’s market with REAL veggies and fruit and not imported.

  7. It appears to me that you have thought out your plot very good. The more you can hire out the faster you will be planting. I say go for it. Have them be working on the leveling now while you can’t do much else. This is exciting.

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