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You might have noticed that I didn’t write much about the vegetable garden this year. That’s not because I didn’t grow vegetables, but it wasn’t my best year in the vegetable garden.It’s been my pattern to really let a garden slip after I’ve developed a plan in my head for how I’m going to change it. The most recent example of this was the circle garden, which looked like utter garbage for at least two years before I ripped it all out last fall and redesigned it.

As you can see, the vegetable garden is still a mess. That’s the state it’s been in most of the summer. But plans are in the works for this area.

The vegetable garden has been on my mind for a few years now and I’ve been gathering inspiration on every garden tour I’ve been on and all over the Internet. And here’s my conclusion: I want a vegetable garden that is as beautiful as it is practical. Veggie gardens do not have to be particularly pleasing to the eye, and one might argue that the most productive vegetable gardens are anything but. But I crave that perfect balance of producing food in the midst of a gorgeous garden.

I know my dream is perhaps a little unrealistic, especially for a gardener who has never been good about perfect spacing and daily maintenance in a vegetable garden. But if I aim for veggie garden utopia, I imagine I can land somewhere around “really pretty garden.”

I was hoping to share this idea with you when it was either in the works or very close to it. I was also hoping to plant garlic this fall in the first stage of a new vegetable garden. None of that happened because sometimes that’s how life goes.

The primary holdup has been a couple of enormous spruces. These are some more trees on our property that have been scalped on one side by the power company and don’t offer much in the way of screening or aesthetics. They are also blocking a lot of sun to the existing and future site of the vegetable garden. Right now I’m getting away with a part-sun vegetable garden. More sun than shade but by no means full sun. And I do OK in that situation, but we all know that most edibles appreciate a lot of sun and if I’m going to make the investment in an upgraded vegetable garden, I want what I plant there to grow well. In other words: Those trees have to go.

I’ve also come to the realization that I’m sick of being limited to growing only certain plants outside of the raised bed that has a fence incorporated in it. Some years I get away with it, but this year, for instance, the kale never stood a chance thanks to the pair of young deer with indiscriminate tastes. (Kale has never been an issue in the past until last in the season.)

For me, raised beds are the only way to for growing edibles. It’s just that I need a lot more of them. Although I have enough space in my current vegetable garden setup to grow small quantities of several different edibles, I don’t have the space to properly rotate crops like I would like, so I’m constantly fighting disease issues, particularly with tomatoes.

Here’s a cocktail-hour sketch I made this summer of how I envision the new vegetable garden might look. And if you think I can find this piece of paper now, you are obviously a far more organized person than I am.

So here’s what the dream vegetable garden would look like, all encompassed within a fenced area:

  • A series of raised beds, preferably a minimum of 20 inches tall, that would allow for easy crop rotation from year to year.
  • A handful (possibly four) of smaller raised beds for cutting flowers that would add color as well as attract pollinators, not to mention provide fresh cut flowers all season.
  • Skinny fruit gardens on the east and west sides of the garden to plant espalier fruit and smaller berries.
  • Brick pathways.
  • Gravel in between beds and everywhere there isn’t brick, so there is no need to mow grass in this area.
  • A small arbor at the entrance over which to grow climbing roses or another flowering vine.
  • A Belgian fence along the back (south) “wall” of the fence.
  • A back door in the fence that would allow easy access to the compost bin just out the back of the garden.
  • A small seating area, either a bench or a little bistro table with a couple chairs. I know better than to think that I’ll be lounging there much, but it would be a shame not to have a seat to sit back and enjoy it for a little bit.
  • A center focal point. My favorite idea right now is a small, containerized water garden.
Earlier this summer, this WAS the plan. Then I did the math and it didn’t really work out in my favor. So it seems likely that this is a project that is going to have to be developed in stages. Brick paths, gravel and espalier trees can wait, even if it makes me sad. The immediate need is level ground, raised beds filled with soil and a fence.
I was hoping by now that some of that would have been accomplished, but it seems this has fully turned into a spring project at this point. But goals are good, right?


7 Responses

  1. You have so much room, you could have a giant edible garden! I know maintenance would be an issue, but whoa! And deer—ugh. I feel your plight. All edibles are contained in a fence at my house. I can't even utilize the fence to grow vines many times because those rascally deer.

    I do appreciate your candor on letting gardens go. I don't feel like that is shown or touched on enough with gardeners!

  2. I'm doing the same thing. I built the electric fence and planted 8 fruit trees fall/winter of 2015. This past fall/winter I built the first three 4'x20' raised beds using cinder block. They're 16-18" high with flat cap blocks, so I can sit on them while I plant, weed, or enjoy the scenery. I plan on staining them to help the concrete blend in- with carpenter bees and termites, wood just doesn't last here in Georgia. We also ran a water line out to the garden. The spigot and drip tape watering system are life savers!
    This fall I'm halfway through building the next row of three raised beds. I can't decide if I want a third row, or if I want to devote that space to berries. The final phase will be laying some type of gravel throughout, so the only "ground level" weeding will be with the flame weeder.
    So far, I'm loving it. This summer, I had 2 beds for vegetables and 1 for flowers. So nice to have both again, the deer eat everything in my yard that's unprotected, even holly and magnolia grandiflora. It was so much easier than row crops, especially on my back. I'm having to do in phases as time and budget allow, but it's definitely worth it! Good luck with your project, and just keep your eye on the final goal.

  3. Goals are good. As are photos of garden plans you lose! My raised beds are now quite shady, and my only sun option for beds would be a tiny spot in the middle of the back yard. Veg production has diminished sadly. I finally gave up and put tomatoes in pots on the deck this year. The cherries did well, but the Cherokee Purple did not. Sigh.

  4. It is fun to have a goal. You can mull this over all winter. Building boxes etc can actually be done during winter. Gosh this sounds like lots of fun. Of course you have a furry excuse to not be able to do some of this right now. You have to keep a keen eye on your puppy. I know it will be beautiful as well as functional when you are finished with it. I didn't know what a Belgian fence was so I am glad you had a link. You can do it.

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