20 SIMPLE GARDENING TIPS FOR CREATING A BEAUTIFUL AND PRODUCTIVE GARDEN.

Vegetable garden design

It’s the reveal of my new vegetable garden PLUS 20 great tips.  After 5 months of digging, levelling, hauling and hammering I finally have something other than resentment growing in my garden.  I think I did it.  I think I created vegetable Narnia.  And here’s how you can too.

 

Vegetable garden design

With each photo I’m going to include a little snippet or tip on why I did any particular thing.  For instance, why did I make a cutout of my logo in my gate?  Because it makes me happy.  Why is the garlic hanging on the fence?  To cure it.

Tip #1 – Garlic needs to be cured for 2 weeks outdoors in the shade so it will store for a long time.  (my garlic is under the shade of a tree and when it rains I cover it with a tarp)

Get the idea?  Here we go.

 

Vegetable garden design

At this very moment there are tomatoes ripening on the vine.  Potatoes are growing under the soil, strawberries are bursting with colour and Honeydew melons are  sweetening by the day.  And this is how it will go until the end of summer unless I have to contend with … the massacre. The massacre being the influx of voles, raccoons, rabbits and cabbage moth.  I’ve done whatever possible to stop all of these pests.  It was a lot of work to do what needed to be done, but it’ll pay off by saving me time and vegetables later.

Let’s start with the design of the garden.  I went with classic rows as opposed to the trendier 4′ x 4′ square foot raised beds because I could fit more in this way and because I actually prefer the look and feeling of long rows in a garden. It feels nostalgic to me.

The garden consists of a central path that runs from the front gate to the back gate (so I can access things I have beyond the garden fence like a compost bin, building materials and my raspberry bushes.)  Off of either side of the path are 16′ rows each planted with a variety of things.  How’s that for specific.  More on what I’m growing as the photos progress.

 

Vegetable garden design

You can see the beds are raised but they aren’t boxed in with wood. The advantage to this is cost and effort.  Boxing in that many huge raised beds would cost hundreds of dollars and they’d all start to rot in a few years.  I’d then have to deconstruct the beds, get rid of the massive pieces of rotting wood, buy more and rebuild the beds.

The disadvantage is the soil can fall a bit around the edges so you can’t plant as close to the edges as you can in a traditional, boxed raised bed.  The REAL disadvantage though is that weeds grow on the sides of the beds so it’s a lot more weeding than you’d have with a boxed raised bed.

I’ll think about gradually turning them into boxed in beds if it all drives me nuts this year, otherwise I’ll stick with the raised, boxless beds.

Tip #2  – No dig gardening.  I’m going 100% no dig gardening from here on in. That means you do NOT till, poke, prod or lift the soil at all.  Ever.  Each year you add a few inches of compost on top of your beds and plant directly into that.  Worms are magical little creatures for aerating beds and so are plant roots.  Do. Not. Dig.  (the only exception are potato beds which don’t do as well with no dig)

 

Vegetable garden design

 

The bean trellis! How do you do it?

Tip #3 – To make a bean trellis that’ll last a year or two buy some 1 x 1’s.  Either hammer them into the soil or dig a 1′ deep hole and place a length of wood into each hole.  Pull the pieces of wood together at the top and attach with twine.  Add another piece of wood lengthwise at the top and attach that.  You can either run string back and forth between the wood to create a trellis or use plastic netting or chicken wire for the beans to grow on.

 

Vegetable garden design

What’s between the beds?  I’ve mulched it.

Tip #4 – To stop weeds in either beds or paths lay down a layer of newspaper then top it with 2-3″ of natural, cedar mulch.  I’ve had a total of 3 weeds poke through in the entire summer. And actually they weren’t “weeds” they were quack grass.   The newspaper eventually decomposes at which point you just need to top up your mulch every year.  

Vegetable garden design

Corn is one of my favourite things in the garden because it’s a hit with me and it’s a hit with kids.  Last year I had my niece, nephew and friends come to the garden to pick their own corn, then we went straight to my house and cooked it.  I make a bet they forget 85% of what they did last summer but they’ll definitely remember the corn.

Tip #5 – Don’t grow corn in a single row.   Each corn stalk pollinates those around it and it does a much better job of that if it’s grown in a clump.  So a square bed of corn will be way more successful than a long row.  Also don’t grow two varieties of corn near each other (especially ornamental and edible) because they’ll cross pollinate and you’ll end up with some weirdass corn.  

 

Vegetable garden design

You can just barely see the plywood on the ground here.  A more religious woman would use it to pray to the Gods for carrot germination.  I use it to guarantee carrot germination.

Tip #6 – To get carrots to germinate, plant the seeds into watered soil and then cover them up for a week. Flat wood is your best option because it presses down and helps the seeds maintain contact with the soil.  The wood also helps keep them dark which they like and most importantly keeps the soil damp.  If the soil dries out, your carrot germination is screwed and since they’re so close to the top of the soil carrot seeds tend to dry out immediately unless you use this little trick.

Vegetable garden design

ALWAYS keep something in your garden for putting vegetables in to take home, whether your home is 20 steps away or a 5 minute drive.  How the hell do you think you’re going to carry it all?  And if you think you’ll  always remember to bring a bag or basket whenever you go into the garden you’re wrong.  We’re not that smart.

I bring this (or any other basket) to and from the garden. For the times I forget it, which is you know … almost always … I also have a tupperware container under my garden table filled with grocery bags.

Tip #7 – Keep bags or baskets for carrying vegetables RIGHT in your garden at all times.  Also, don’t wash your vegetables right away if you want them to store well.  Brush the extra soil off of them and leave it at that.  Wash them just before you’re going to prepare them to eat.  

 

Vegetable garden design

Is there a boy in that plastic bubble?  No. And it’s actually row cover that feels kind of like paper and kind of like cloth.  Row cover is a very lightweight material that rain and sun can get through but bugs cannot.  Not even the tiniest little midges.  It is the ONLY way to grow hole free kale, cabbage, swiss chard.  It’s also the only way to grow broccoli that isn’t filled with cabbage worms.

I got mine from Dubois Agrinovation 3 years ago and I still have a HUGE amount of the roll left.  It’s only $85 Canadian for … wait for it … 330 feet of 11 feet wide row cover.  That’s almost hilariously cheap. You can also get it in 6 feet wide for $58.  Dubois is an agricultural supply company for farms so the prices are really good for everything.  It you’re a backyard gardener or allotment gardener like me it’ll last you a lifetime.  I’ll be installing a drip watering system I got from them in the next week or so.

You can even buy row cover with the hoops already attached.  I’ve never used it myself but it looks pretty genius.

Tip #8 – To keep crops clean use row cover.  You can either just “float” it right over the plants, holding the edges down with rocks or wood or you can make hoops out of flexible plumbing pipes. This is more necessary for tall vegetables like kale.  To make the  hoops, hammer rods or bamboo sticks into the ground on either side of the bed.  The rods/sticks must be smaller than the circumference of the plumbing pipe so the pipe can slip over the rod.  This will hold the hoops in place.  Then just drape the row cover over the hoops and secure with rocks or strips of wood.  Or you can buy hoops for around $2 per hoop. 

 

Vegetable garden design

I think it goes without saying that I have a love of all things potato. Although clearly, I still feel like saying it.  Potato chips, french fries, mashed potatoes, gnocchi, scalloped potatoes, roasted potatoes (recipe coming up Wednesday for the very BEST, crispy roasted potatoes).  I never met a potato I didn’t eat.  So I grow a lot of them.  This year I’m growing Russet baking potatoes, Kennebec potatoes (which are my preferred variety for french fries), Chiefton red (red potatoes make the best potato salad), and an epic variety of purple potatoes called Russian Blue that is dark, dark purple on the inside and out PLUS it retains it’s colour after cooking.  I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with potatoes and making them easier to grow and I’ve come to decide this …

Tip #9 – If you don’t have it in you to hill your potatoes … don’t.  I have never noticed any huge loss of potato production from not hilling.  I have on the other hand experienced HUGE potato loss by using that stupid “grow in straw” method. Was it easy?  Was dropping a potato onto the ground then covering it with many feet of straw easy?  Kind of.  Until I had to clean up all the straw at the end of the season.  Mainly the method was awful and useless and resulted in a harvest of about 3 potatoes.  You may have experienced differently, but this is how it went for me.

Vegetable garden design

 

The other huge hit in the garden with kids are the melons.  You haven’t experienced life if you haven’t sat down in a garden and consumed a just picked Honeydew still warm from the sun

Tip #10 – Don’t water your melons as they’re getting to the point of ripening.  You’ll just dilute them.  Less water when ripening = sweeter melons.   The more melons ripening on the vine the less sweet they’ll be because they all have to share the sugars the vine leaves have produced.  If you have 2 or 3 melons of around the same size growing on the same plant pinch 2 of them off if you want a really sweet melon.

Vegetable garden design

 

Looks good right?  Well yeah, I was taking pictures of it for a blog so of course I cleaned it up a bit.  But this year I actually vowed to keep on top of things no matter how busy I was.  Because once a garden gets out of hand there’s no coming back from it.  You might as well just pack it in, call it a day and accept that you’re a big loser.

Tip #11 – Every time you go out into your garden pull weeds.  Make it a habit.  The more you weed the less weeds you’ll have.  Weeds flower and go to seed fasttttt;  in about the same length of time as a Quentin Tarantino movie runs.  THIS is the crucial point. If you don’t get the weeds before they go to flower and seed you’re starting the cycle all over again and it will never end. If you take the time in the spring and especially for that first year to get rid of all the weeds as they appear and never let them go to seed you’ll make every subsequent year more and more weed free.  We’re talking about actual weeds, not weed-weed.  If you want to grow weed-weed that’s a whole other post entirely and one I wouldn’t legally be allowed to write until next July of 2018 in Canada. 

Vegetable garden design

This little row of squash is the Honeynut squash that Blue Apron recommended we grow.  It’s leaves are way less prolific than the Grey Ghost I have growing on the other side of the garden BUT … these leaves are edible.  All pumpkin leaves are edible but the ones with the white veining are the ones my fellow gardener from Zimbabwe told me they eat.

ALSO, the Honeynut squash is the only squash in my garden this year not to be attacked by the Squash Vine Borer.  I’m not sure why but thanks for the recommendation Blue Apron.

Honeynut squash

Tip #12 – Zimbabwe pumpkin leaf recipe!  Food is food and North Americans sometimes forget that.  Pumpkin leaves are one of the many edible leaves we tend to just ignore.  Just pick the smaller, more tender pumpkin leaves, boil them in water with some baking soda (to help soften them) for a couple of minutes, then sauté them with tomatoes and onions.  The boiling also helps get rid of the prickles on the squash leaves and stem.

 

Vegetable garden design

I think we need to take a break here so I can let you know I realize this is probably the least hysterical post I’ve ever written.  But there’s a lot of information to get through and my brain is focused on teaching.  If I can muster up the energy I’ll throw in a knock knock joke later on.

O.K. let’s talk about that cute little hoop house.  It goes with the Lee Valley self-watering raised bed I have at home.  I don’t need the hoop house on it right now so I brought it up to the garden to protect my cabbage and it’s GREAT.  I love this thing.  My cabbage had been decimated by asshead cabbage worms so I pulled all the mangled leaves off, washed off the caterpillar poop and covered them with this little hoop house.  It’s been magical ever since.

Tip #13 – Cabbage will grow 2 or 3 more small heads after you harvest the initial large head.  Just cut the cabbage off instead of pulling up the whole plant and leave it.  Within a couple of weeks it’ll start growing a couple of new heads off of the same stalk which are a FAR more reasonable size for eating.  They’re perfect for roasting as a side dish.

 

Potager garden

When I was first working on redoing this garden in the spring I had to set a timer on my phone to remind me to sit down and drink water every hour or so.  I had a hard plastic chair and only one of them so when anyone came up to the garden only one of us could sit.  It kind of worked out actually because that meant I could force my 83 year old mother Betty into pulling the plough while I lounged and played on my iPhone.

Since them I’ve seen the error of my ways.  You need at least one, maybe even two relatively comfortable places to sit down if you hard core garden.

Tip #13 – Make things convenient.  Keep a chair in the garden so you can sit on something civilized as opposed to the dirt.  Or a snake.  ALSO I keep an overturned bucket in every corner of my garden so when I’m weeding I’m never far from a bucket to throw the weeds into.

 

 

deer fencing

Since you’re really old and stuff, I imagine you already know that nothing makes a better jail cell than loosely woven dental floss.  Why actual penitentiaries haven’t figured this out is a mystery to me.  This black netting, technically called deer netting, has so far provided the best protection against raccoons getting into my garden than anything else I’ve tried.  If it keeps them out I expect it would also keep inmates in.  This makes perfect sense since raccoons, in my experience, are generally more clever than 95% of the population in prisons.  Or the world’s population in general.

Tip #14 – The best way to keep rabbits out of a garden is to dig heavy metal fencing 6″ or so into the ground around your garden.  Rabbits will dig but generally not that deep.  They’ll chew but generally not through heavy metal.  The best way to keep raccoons out is with flimsy fencing.  Building a sturdy tall fence will do nothing other than give the raccoons something to thank you for.  Sturdy and tall is easily climbable.  Flimsy and lightweight isn’t.  So the perfect fence is one that has a couple of feet of chicken wire or hardware cloth dug into the soil around the bottom, with 6′ high loosely hung deer netting behind it.

 

brown snake

I spend a lot of time talking to my friend Brown Snake.  He’s pretty chill although a bit of a gossip. This is one of four boxed in raised beds in my garden.  I made these ones boxed in because I was making mesh and wood “tents” to go over them to protect against voles and birds.

Tip #15 – To attract snakes to your garden leave piles of wood around.  You can see this one coming out from underneath the raised bed.  They love to hide in the cracks of stacked wood and sun themselves on top.  Snakes will scare mice, voles and other rodents plus they eat bugs.  Also if there’s anyone you don’t want visiting you in your garden, having a plot full of snakes is the most indiscrete and polite way of making sure they never show up.

 

garden table

You need somewhere to put stuff.  Gardening requires stuff and if your garden isn’t steps away from your shed then you realllyyyy need somewhere to put stuff. I made this garden table out of scraps of wood and donated lumber.  One one side it has a hook for hanging my jacket or purse. The shelf on the bottom keeps my supplies relatively dry (the wood crates hold tupperware boxes with tools, extra gloves, bags, screws etc.), and on the top I can dump down anything I’m carrying.

Tip #16 – Make or buy a table to keep in the garden for working on.

 

garden work table

In case I become apoplectic at the garden I have a nice jar with twine in it to remind me of what the hell I’m doing there.  I’m Gardening.  I also use my table for starting new seeds.  I just plant them in cells and once they get going a bit I transplant them into an empty space in a plot.

Tip #17 – Keep the plantings coming.  You can keep planting a lot of seeds throughout the season to make sure you have a continues crop.  Carrots, lettuce, onions, spinach, radishes, zucchini, cucumbers are all things I’m reseeding and growing for succession planting.

 

Vegetable garden design

You’ve probably noticed these triangular tents in some of the previous photos.  This is my biggest pest protection project to date.  Well these and the slingshot.  I got the brackets to make these row covers from Lee Valley a few years ago on clearance and they haven’t carried them since.  In an upcoming post I’m going to show you how to make a similar cover for your garden beds without using them.

I have my tents made with fine hardware cloth to keep out voles and birds, but you could also make them with row cover to keep out cabbage moth and other insects.

charlotte strawberry

This is the second flush of my Day Neutral Strawberries, Charlotte.  The variety was developed in France.  It’s smaller than a regular strawberry and sweeter too.  Plus because it’s “day neutral” it’ll keep growing all summer long and into the fall. As long as the temperature is about freezing it’ll grow.  It doesn’t rely on the length of day.  Hence the term “day neutral”.

 

Tip #18 – Keep ’em clean.  There’s a reason they’re called “straw” berries.  Put a layer of straw underneath your strawberry plants to help keep dirt dwelling insects and moisture off of the berries.  Your berries will rot less quickly and never have any dirt or guck on them. You’ll be able to pick them clean off of the plant and pop them right in your mouth.

Vegetable garden design

No tip here.  Just a pretty picture to entice you into growing your own vegetables if you don’t already.  Green and purple kohlrabi, fresh pulled garlic and the ubiquitous zucchini.

mini hoop house

Nothing is perfect for everyone. I know for a fact there are even people out there who don’t like potatoes.  I know that’s frightening but that’s just the way it is.  So if you find the standard 4′ wide beds too wide to reach across comfortably just don’t make your beds that wide.  I found 4′ to be hard to work in the centre of so I changed my beds to 3.5″ wide.  If you’re a ginormously tall person go wider.  Also pay attention to how wide your paths are.  Their size also depends on your size.

Tip #19 – Garden beds are typically 4′ wide but if that’s too wide for you and your short little freak show arms, then do them 3’6″.  When designing your garden make sure you have at least one path that’s wide enough for a wheelbarrow if you plan to use one and make sure paths between the beds are big enough to walk and kneel in.  You don’t need much more than that but you do need room to walk, turn around and work.  I keep paths at the width of my rake, 18″.

 

Vegetable garden design

If you really love gardening then take the time to make your garden nice and grow what you like.  Or what your friends and family like.  Make it a place that’s fun to be as opposed to a place you resent being it. It may take a few months of gardeners rage and resentment before you get to the “fun” place but as long as you eventually get there you’ll be able to work through the rage.

Tip #20 – Don’t forget the pretty.  Europeans have been understood the potential beauty of vegetable gardens for centuries.  Potager type gardens evolve outside the kitchen doors of homes in England, France and Italy.   There’s a beauty in growing your own food and your garden can reflect that.  Keep it simple, keep it structured and keep it cared for.  Also … keep the back of it full of flowers.  In a couple of weeks the entire back of my garden will be filled with lime green zinnias, red tails Amaranth and about 9 varieties of dahlias.  All ready and willing to be cut and brought home.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Just some old ho.

Perfect.  I have a bed right here for you.

86 Comments

  1. Melissa in NC says:

    Wow, that is one big ass garden. Besides Betty, Pink tool belt and, fish pedicure who else are you feeding? Your garden is beautiful and a vivid reminder of how much work a garden is but, oh so rewarding.

    • Karen says:

      I give a lot of food away to … well almost everyone from food banks to friends. 🙂 Plus the majority of what I grow is stuff for me to store and use all winter like squash, potatoes, beets and carrots. ~ karen!

  2. Tina says:

    I lost my mother last April (a year ago) at 94 years old. She gardened hard until she was 89 and got a little tipsy. She always loved gardening and would have been so interested in your blogs. She would have devoured this blog while salivating. She would have had the entire family out, helping her to put new standards into her gardening…all because Karen said so!

    • Karen says:

      Aw. Thanks Tina. I’m so sorry about your mother. I’m happy to hear she was gardening until almost 90. 🙂 ~ karen!

  3. Brenda says:

    I am so glad you wrote down all these tips because next year I am going to use them – my kale is full of holes so I especially love the tip about the long row covers – the insects and wild animals are going to hate me.

    What a lot of work – you are so lucky Betty does it all for you while you sit on those nice chairs and think of funny things to say. Let her know she’s done a really gorgeous job!

  4. TucsonPatty says:

    Such a beautiful space, and I envy the great food you will be harvesting. Such a huge commitment of time and energy. (I think I might be getting old.) It sounds as though you have it all under control at last!

  5. Kathleen Aberley says:

    That looks absolutely gorgeous. I could spend an hour or two sitting on the chair watching you work! 🙂
    I am having to fend off birds at the moment… all wanting to eat my seedlings. But I would rather have birds and store bought veggies than no birds!

  6. Monica says:

    Brava!
    *stands and applauds*

  7. Hazel says:

    Looks amazing.
    My vegetable garden is also no dig- I’ve been working my way through Charles Dowding videos on You Tube.

    My carrot germination rate this year was rubbish, so thanks for the tip about the plywood. I’ll definitely be trying that.

    • Danielle says:

      Yours, too?!? Grrrr, mine are pathetic! I planted TWICE and only 10 stupid carrots have sprouted. Jerks. (Note to self: get plywood STAT)

  8. Michelle says:

    Am trying to lift my jaw from the floor! I’m in awe of your brilliant garden. How do you find the time to do it AND post so regularly and have a life? How did you acquire your expertise? I want to be like you when I grow up. You are my hero. Congratulations & thanks for the amazing info & FAB blog! Love It ❤️

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Michelle. 🙂 Years of gardening is where the expertise comes from, plus gardening in a community of other gardeners helps immensely. I get so much done by only showering and eating once a month. ~ karen!

  9. Paula says:

    Omg, we are gardening twins! I wonder if we watch the same youtube videos. Btw, I did no dig potatoes this year and they are great. Trimmed the weeds right down, cardboard, 2 inches of mushroom compost, potatoes, more mushroom compost, and my homemade compost. Potatoes come up and then top with straw (Ruth Stout).

  10. Deborah Burns says:

    What a beautiful garden! All your hardwork and time this Spring have paid off!

    I enjoyed how your tips were sprinkled amongst the photos.

  11. Jani Wolfe says:

    Wow! You are so talented. Where did you plant the asparagus??

    • Karen says:

      I didn’t even get to talking about the asparagus! The asparagus is around the border bed, across the front and a bit down the sides. ~ karen!

  12. Grammy says:

    Beautiful! That’s the garden I always think I’m going to have, and then I don’t. If Betty would come and do the plowing for me, I could probably manage it.

    Thanks for the potato in straw debunking! I thought I was just some special kind of failure at it, but if it didn’t work for you, I’m okay with saying it’s bogus and just moving on.

    Pumpkin leaves sautéed with tomatoes and onions? I never would have thought of using them like that, but this week I’ll be giving it a try. People who have figured out how to use more parts of their plants than I have always have my admiration and gratitude for thinking up wonderful things. I’ll have a little toast to the people of Zimbabwe (and you) when I serve this dish.

  13. Debbie D says:

    Wow! Fabulous garden! Do you have a basement to store veggies for the winter? I can see storing the garlic, squash, etc., but are you able somehow to store the greens or do you blanch and freeze? Can we get another post on how you prep the garden for the winter so the following year is even better?

    Our citrus farmers here use those row covers to cover their citrus trees in the spring. That is how you get those tangerines or “cuties” as they are called. No bees to pollinate the flowers so therefore no seeds. Wonder if the same could be done for corn so there would not be any cross pollination…..hmmmm, might have to try something like that, if I had the space.

    Again, congrats on your beautiful garden. I thought at first in one of those pictures, the garden next to yours had a bar-b-q in it for instant roasting and eating. I think it is a tall compost bin but the idea is intriguing! Instant veggie pizza or instant roasted corn!

    • Karen says:

      I’ve been petitioning for a BBQ up at the garden. 😉 I store the food in many ways, mostly in my mudroom which is the ideal temperature. I also can and freeze a lot of stuff. I freeze a few of the greens but not too many. ~ karen!

  14. Danielle White says:

    Karen! I know what you need for your gloves and small tool storage! A mailbox on a post in the middle of the garden! I read it in a little booklet I bought online (The Planet Whizbang website – Google will help). It’s so great – waterproof, tall so you can access it no matter what’s growing around it, cute… I love it.

  15. Nancy Stone says:

    You gave your friends so much to remind and inspire us to keep gardening smart. It is so nice to see in detail how you created an orderly and productive garden. I’m going to print this out so I can remember all this great guidelines.

  16. Jenny W says:

    Beautiful tour! Thank you 🙂

  17. Alice Woody says:

    More than photos of exotic travel, photos of lush, productive, well-tended gardens make my heart yearn. I admire your work and love of gardening and thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

  18. Ev Wilcox says:

    Your garden is an inspiration! Thanks so much for the photos, and the tips. I will be saving this post to peruse again and again. Just yesterday I was at a family gathering and some were commenting on the difficulties of getting carrots to grow, even with adding sand to the soil. I will pass on the wooden covers tip! Beautiful garden!

  19. lisa says:

    AH-MAZING. I’m in awe. This is my first year with a garden (a tiny 4’x8′ raised bed) and I can’t even imagine how you keep up with your massive plot. Although, the covers would save me a lot of the time I spend flicking Japanese beetles off of everything. They are *rampant* in my area. Or maybe just in my garden….

  20. Leisa says:

    Thanks for the tour! Can’t believe that you managed to redesign your entire garden, move your plants, start seeds, re-fence/string/trellis AND make it look beautiful! So inspiring!

    • Karen says:

      Well I only finished a week or so ago so don’t be too impressed, lol. I honestly didn’t think it was ever going to get done. ~ karen!

  21. Chris White says:

    Enjoyed this so much! Thrilled to learn of your potato obsession. In NS, my granddad always planted huge gardens to share with the families of his seven children. One ‘patch’ included varieties of red, white and blue potatoes. The red potatoes were only ever served with white meat, white potatoes were served with red meats, and blue were the special reserve to be used with fish dishes. Every time I sauntered the field from our house to theirs to grab potatoes from the cellar, I had to announce what kind of meat my mother was cooking for supper before I could get my bag!

  22. Wow, what a pretty garden! You are an inspiration to me. Thank you for all tips. I definitely need to cover my kale and Brussels sprouts. It may be too late now but I think I will try the floating row cover method anyway. Also thank you for the suggestions on the Honeynut squash. I have been growing butternut for years and something new would be fun. Do you have any mushrooms? I started a shiitake log last year and am getting a few ‘shrooms this years. They are delicious in eggs.

    • Karen says:

      I’m not a huge mushroom eater Pamela, but I’ve always wanted to try growing mushrooms. I haven’t as of yet done it. 🙂 ~ karen!

  23. Monique says:

    BRAVO!
    I hope that says it all:)
    I have no expletives left 🙂

  24. Lynn says:

    So much helpful info–such pretty pictures!! We are going to plow up the front yard & plant another garden there next spring but will be working on it throughout the winter–weather permitting! We want it to be pretty as well as productive–thanks for all the great tips!!

  25. Judith says:

    Yo, major garden envy over here. My garden is actually similar to yours in layout but about half the size. And in the same vein, my melon plants are similar to yours but about 1/1,000,000,000 of the size. I’m starting to suspect the mid-Sweden climate might not be the best for hot-weather plants.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Judith. You can also get row cover that has insulating properties and so it will increase the temperature beneath it. Also if you lay down black, thermal plastic on the soil a couple of weeks before you plant the melons it’ll warm up the soil by 10-15 degrees. Do those two things together and you might be able to create a microclimate perfect for melons. ~ karen!

      • Judith says:

        Whoa – didn’t realize thermal plastic would warm the soil that much. I think it’s too late to get a harvest this year but I’ll definitely try these things next year! Many thanks <3

  26. A guy says:

    I am more of a landscaper than a gardener, but I think this may be your best post ever. Comma usage needs some work, but overall nicely done.

  27. Allison Gorham says:

    you rock, Karen….thank you for your wonderful insight and inspiration…your posts make my days better. Keep up the good work!!!

  28. Meredith says:

    How much time do you spend weeding per week? Weeds are my constant battle. I work full time and if I have one weekend that is entirely rainy or scorchingly hot and don’t get out to the garden to weed, its out of control then, and I can’t get it back. This year I”m putting landscape fabric down on the paths, so at least they will be weed free. Newspaper and chicken house wood chips/grass cuttings just don’t last long enough.

    Also, does anyone ever steal from your garden? All that garlic hanging over the fence would be tempting to a lot of people.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Meredith. No problems with stealing at the garden. It’s a community and we all know each other and as far as I know no one goes around stealing food from one another. As far as weeding goes, I couldn’t put a time on it. I just weed every time I go to the garden even if it’s only for 10 minutes. They’re already getting less and less. By next year it’ll be even LESS. 🙂 ~ karen!

  29. Katie C. says:

    Karen,

    I have to thank you. It was your blog that finally convinced me that I could and should plant a vegetable garden. I’m on my second year with my four 4’x6′ raised beds and I absolutely love them. Like love, love them. They are seriously my favorite place to be and I can’t get enough of telling people I know that I grew the food they’re eating! (Like the cucumber salad I made with the 18″ cucumber in the picture and some cosmic purple carrots I grew!)

    • Karen says:

      Nice! I couldn’t even get my English cucumbers to grow this year. 🙁 They got wilt. I’m very, very happy to have inspired you to start a vegetable garden. 🙂 ~ karen!

  30. Laura says:

    So dreamy! This post is so informative and smart… I wanna visit one day!

  31. kennedy says:

    I have no words except lovely. That’s my kind of garden. Gardening is serious business.

  32. Heather says:

    How do I upload a photo? I was thinking of showing you my crazy, weedy garden to make you feel even better about your movie-star good looks plot. Amazing! It’s amazing! You’re amazing! You inspired me to plant the garden – and I’m getting a surprising amount of food out of the mess I’ve made along the side of my house – and now you’ve inspired me to weed. Next year! Thanks, Karen. : )

  33. Eileen says:

    Oh…WOW! I am so impressed…and exhausted just looking at all that work….
    I’ve been nylon-stocking covering and hot peppering my tomato plants to try and keep some for myself (the squirrels chew on them, this year for the first time right through the nylons!) and making strings of cds to hang in the fig tree in the hope of getting some of those as well. The gooseberry bush kept the catbirds well fed earlier this summer, after they and the mockingbirds finished off the black raspberries. The yellow finches love nibbling on the Thai basil, but they aren’t greedy. I took a peach tree out again after the raccoons managed to get into or through every type of barrier I put up.

  34. Alena says:

    It looks fabulous and it makes me feel like I am the world’s biggest sucker.

  35. Barbara says:

    All great advice for the gardener, whethter a large or small plot. At present I have two gardens, one my row garden, has your type raised soil, frameless beds and the other one, consists of wood framed raised beds 16 inches tall, 4 feet wide and 20 feet long. The top of these wooden walled raised beds are covered with a 2 x 6 that sits flat and I can sit on while weeding ,seeding or harvesting. Glad you can encourage snakes in your area of the world however down in my area, Eastern Tennessee, copperhead venomous snakes love stacked wood, planks or brush so that’s a no no for us. I love all your covers and tents, they really look great and do a fabulous job too. Really love the variety of veggies you are planting too. I found that when I raised corn in my raised beds garden that a strong wind from a thunderstorm could knock the stalks flat so I tied a section of hog or cattle panel,(ridged heavy guage wire welded in a 6 inch x 6 inch layout) that is available in several heights by 16 feet long, to six tee posts and it came in handy to help hold up my corn. I started out using the panel laying flat on the soil, planted the corn so it would grow up through the 6 x 6 sections and then as the corn grew I slowly raised the wire panel to help support the stalks. It’s worked great! Hope it helps out some other folks with my issue.

    • Karen says:

      That’s genius Barbara! I want hog fencing for a BUNCH of different stuff but I don’t have a truck so I can’t transport it from the store to my garden. 🙁 It for real is one of most frustrating things ever. ~ karen!

      • Suzanne LH says:

        Would it be worth renting one from Home Depot once a year, maybe with a friend?

      • Barbara says:

        I ended up taking some heavy duty bolt cutters with me to the farm store when I bought the hog paneling and cut the panels in half so mine ended up 8 feet long by 42 inches tall. I’ve used them as a fencing around my row garden, my covered chicken run and to trellis my pole beans and to support many other veggies, from cucmbers to melons. Another trick , if you have a store similar to Lowes or Home Depot or even a concrete supply company , is to buy the welded wire rewire that goes between concrete block courses and use to make hoop supports for mesh woven fabric or chicken wire. They are much less expensive than the ones found on gardening product sites. Hope this is helpful to others too.

    • Susan says:

      I put up u-channel fence posts on the corners of my plot of corn, then stretch nylon trellis across it, horizontal to the ground, at two heights. The trellis has 7″ “holes,” so the corn happily grows up through it without me doing anything more. Then I just have to beat the animals to it when it’s ripe (-:

  36. Mary W says:

    Loved seeing the pictures and reading your post today – brings back wonderful memories of good tasting vegetables and great work outs. I sure felt better when outside gardening. I’m so glad you decided to be a blogger!

  37. Dianna says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous garden. Well done, Karen.

    You have motivated me to go out and help hubby weed more. And I’ll lay some newspapers & mulch to make it easier to come.

    Thank you SO much for sharing your tips!!

  38. kathy says:

    I am done in by all the work you did. It is so pretty, healthy, and awesome productive. I thought rabbits hopped up to eat in the garden and didn’t know they would dig. I get the 6 inches into the ground to make them give up but the flimsy for raccoons I’m lost. Last year 2 long pots of kale, so full of holes I don’t know how someone can grow enough for a store. I went through picture by picture like you’d taken me to the sistine chapel. Thanks

  39. Renee Ryz says:

    Garden doing wonderfully. I did not get a chance to use the tomato growing method you wrote about, trying that next year. I had a yellow pear tomato loaded with lovely little beauties. Only to have it succumb to some sort of wilt, and I pulled it out to save the rest. Never had it before, and I am panicked as to what I should do. I cannot really rotate crops too much, as I have a small garden. 2 small plots of 8 x 3.5. Any ideas? I must have tomatoes, especially the SunGold!!!

  40. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I have always thought that fresh fruit and veggies are so beautiful…I’m also proud of the fact that you grow enough to donate to others! Good work my friend…your family and your country should be proud of you!

  41. Elen G says:

    Everything looks great, Karen, especially the…. snake! 🙂

  42. Linda from Illinois says:

    Karen, I just have to say you are the best! I love your garden, I love your ideas, you inspire me, and make everything beautiful.

  43. Leslie says:

    Karen, your garden is incredible. Thanks for the beautiful photos and tips!
    Question – what is your current watering system like? I have a 20×30 fenced in area with about 15 raised beds that I water manually. I have been considering installing a system but in a way prefer to water each bed myself in the early morning instead. I don’t know if installing some kind of system would limit my ability to move things around in the garden in the future. Thoughts?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Leslie. I’m actually just installing my drip system this week. I don’t think it would limit moving things in the future, because you can also move the drip system, but yes, you basically build it into your garden to fit your beds. 2-3 tubes per bed running the length of them. I can’t wait to install it because it takes too much time to hand water and if I water with a sprinkler then I can’t work in the garden while I’m watering. It occurred to me with a drip system I’ll be able to work right in the garden *while* I’m watering it because it’s just seeping into the ground as opposed to spraying all over, so I’ll save a ton of time. 🙂 There are one or two parts you have to disassemble in the fall and you flush the lines and then that’s it I think. I’m doing to do a whole post on how to install it in a couple of weeks. ~ karen!

  44. Barb says:

    There is nothing more to say about your green thumb that hasn’t already been said!
    You have one lovely garden!
    Karen I’m living in PEI & would love to get some milkweed seeds…I don’t even know if they would grow here but id like to try as I’m really interested in the podsthey produce
    Can you help me out?
    Barb

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb! I just did a quick Google search and apparently Swamp Milkweed as opposed to common milkweed is what’s native to P.E.I. so you should try to source some of those seeds out locally if you can. The same search showed that PEI was asking residents to plant milkweed to help bring the Monarchs back to PEI and so many people helped and participated that a more recent article (this year or last) said it had been successful. 🙂 So get looking for swamp milkweed! ~ karen

  45. Danielle says:

    Amazing!

    Do you leave your row covers on for the whole season or just when the plants are young?

  46. Carol says:

    Wow! Great garden, Karen. So neat and tidy and productive, and large! Good job of turning those two plots into MegaGarden.

  47. JulieD says:

    Beautiful garden, Karen, so well done!! A vegetable garden is one of the most beautiful things in the world, in my opinion. Great post, and tips! I’ll be using the carrot sprouting one for sure, and soon. Thanks!

  48. Your community garden posts always leave me speechless simply because of the SIZE! Here in California, a large plot is a 10×10 section (and usually a 5 year waiting list).

    Really looking forward to the triangle tent tutorial! I used electrical conduit curved with a pipe bender then just shoved in the ground, but yours look much nicer!

    • Karen says:

      The size of these plots (I own 2 plots) isn’t normal around here either Melissa. Most community gardens have something more similar to what you’re describing. This particular community garden has been an active, organic, community garden for over 30 years so we benefit from that. Gardeners have a limit on how many plots they can rent (2 being the limit) so no one ends up just renting the entire 50 or so plots, lol. ~ karen!

  49. MartiJ says:

    Great list! Really, really great list! Thanks for all the encouragement. My tomato plants are outside right now, eating voraciously and I swear one of those beefsteak tomatoes doubled in size daily, this past week. It was a ton of fun to watch.

    I am still hoping you will come up with advice on fennel. I have no idea when to pick, but… I guess I will learn. And if all else fails, I can sit between Theodora the Avocado Tree and Archie, the Barbecue Rosemary and be quiet happy.

  50. MartiJ says:

    Why can’t I find that reply to my comment that I wanted to reply to? Very odd. Did you hide it?

    I turned off the alarms, turned on the lights and went out digging around to find the fennel’s tags. The tag says Foeniculum vulgare, which is the herb, but there is no way that fennel is 3-5 ft tall. And the photo on the tag clearly shows the fennel-vegetable with the big, tasty bulb that I long for… although somewhat different leaves.

    So I’m confused. It’s my first year. I bet next year, I buy a lovely packet of seeds and grow a whole raft of fennel in that silly window box that someone gave me when they moved away.
    Come on, Karen… you want to grow some, too. The bulb is amazing in salads. And it’s ever so much more fun when I follow your lead on my garden.

    • Karen says:

      🙂 I’ve grown both fennels. The bulb and the other (just fronds really). The bulb fennel is always called “Florence Fennel”. I’m not sure that it goes by any other name or variety. Maybe just buy fennel this year. 😉 ~ karen!

      • MartiJ says:

        I’m going to have to buy. Because as is, I’m going to be totally bummed. I will pull it up and see what is down there. I haven’t seen any sign of seeds or anything yet. It got in late (bought it as it was about to be tossed from a nursery in June) so it was just an odd bit.
        But as is, I really only know how to eat the bulb.

        It’s ok… that trained tomato plant will be the gift that keeps on giving through October…

  51. Benjamin says:

    OMG, Gurl. Don’t you ever work? You always galavanting around in flip-flops and booty shorts. Folded paper hat on your head sitting out front of the dollar store and rummaging around in the dirt…. hot mess !!

  52. celeste says:

    This garden is truly a work of art. I wish my farmer father was still alive because he would have nodded in approval and said, “That is how a garden should look” and you wouldn’t know that that was the highest praise he could ever give. It truly looks like a European garden because it is so tidy and organized and has chairs and everything else that might be needed.

    I’m hanging around in case you take up landscaping because I’m going to take notes. We had to give up on vegetables and fruits because we have DEER, dozens and dozens of deer that can easily jump anything less than a 10 foot fence.

    Thank you again for inspiration and beauty profound!

  53. Chrissy D says:

    My garden is hideous! We moved in last July and the previous owners did nothing to it – it was FULL of 5′ weeds. Thistles of every variety, pig weed and whatever weeds grow here in Mn.
    How do I get it to a point that I can do the no dig, no till method?
    Hubby’s idea was to plant rows wide enough to get the tiller down – which is great, but weeds obviously just pop up IN the rows.
    I have been telling him NEXT year we need to get this under control – we haven’t enjoyed much of anything out of our garden this year because it’s overgrown. The tomato plants are like shrubs, the cucumbers and squash and pumpkins have gone crazy … OH MY! 🙂 (I won’t even mention what the weeds are like)

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