Getting my mess of a community garden ready to roll.



I’m spending this week getting my 20′ x 40′ garden plot ready.  20 feet x 40 feet doesn’t sound very big until you have to dig every inch of it up.  Then it’s big.  It’s very big.  Clown shoes big.

I just realized I didn’t tell you what I was getting it ready for.  Space ship landings mainly.  The occasional Bea Arthur festival.

And vegetables.  As a single woman who only eats one big meal a day, I have absolutely no business growing 800 square feet of vegetables.  Which is why I’m devoting 32 square feet of it to flowers.   That brings my vegetable growing footage down to a reasonable 768 square feet.  But before I can do any of that I have to shovel this thing into shape.

And for me to be able to do that I have to take a week off.  My plan is to turn the soil, which you can see me attempting to do in the above photo, taken by fellow gardener Leo Muzzin.  That’s a U Bar from Lee Valley which is completely and utterly useless to me because I don’t weigh enough.  I literally have to jump up and down on it like a cartoon kangaroo for it to move an inch into the soil.  Big man? No problem. This thing is great for them. They love it.  But if you’re under 200 pounds it isn’t the best choice for you.

I wasn’t sure if it was just me and my weight so I asked Ron if he could test the U Bar out for me.  Just do a row to see if it works for you. Yup.  Look at that.  Works just fine for Ron.  I should probably have Greg test it too.  Just to make sure.  Well look at that, Greg did around 5 rows and it worked for him no problem.  And that is how I proceeded to trick all the men in my community garden to help me dig up my plot.

So once I get the whole thing dug up, I have to break up all the clods of earth, and then rake them out.  Then I’ll grade the whole thing so it’s nice and flat.  This year I’ll be trying out square foot gardening so that means I have to make a bunch of raised beds.  Not raised really so much as just marked off with 2x4s.  My hope is that it makes weeding and gardening easier in general. If not, it doesn’t really matter because there’s Ron and Greg.  And Thomas!  Almost forgot about Thomas.  And Leo and Adam and Joseph.  And the other men at the community garden who I don’t know by name, but rather by their clothing or characteristics.  Like garlic man.  Or T-Bar giver.  And of course everyone’s favourite, Shorts too Short.  Just kidding.  Everyone’s shorts at the garden are of regulation length.

This is how my plan looks for my 800 square feet for the time being.  I always leave a few empty spots for mystery/experimental/spur of the moment/surprise plants.



By the end of this week everything should be planted and ready.  What I’m here to tell you today is the posts this week will not be posts at all, but just photos of what I’m doing.  There may or may not be a sentence with those photos.  You know.  So you don’t miss me.

Or wonder who ran away from home this time.

Everything’s fine, everything’s good, there’s nothing for you to worry about.

I’m just getting everything ready for the space ship landing.


  1. Meghan says:

    Love square foot gardening! Before we packed up, sold our house, and moved to Germany, my husband and I used the square foot method for our own garden. The trick to making it easy to weed and low maintenance though is really in the soil: equal parts vermiculite, compost and peat moss. Now, for a garden your size, that would be a lot of dirt mixing, heck for our 4, 16 sq. ft. bed it was a lot of dirt, but it’s totally worth it. And if you need to, just add a little bit of compost back in every couple years to refresh the nutrients.

    Good luck! Looking forward to seeing what you grow. It makes me miss having a garden. And grass. And a backyard.

  2. Laura Bee says:

    I swear I thought the pink circles had pelicans sitting on them.

  3. Melissa says:

    So good to know about the broadfork! I totally thought it would be a great idea, but at 110 lbs, probably not.

  4. Darla says:

    I think it’s great that you are doing the “no plow” garden. It is much better for the soil than a roto-tiller. We used one of those big diggers (but from another company) a few years ago on a 20 X 20 spot, but you really can’t do more than a couple rows a day with it. We had 11 foot tall tomato plants that year. We have since moved and I am doing a small straw bale garden which has been fun. Tomatoes are already growing to lemon size with very little work. I think a few more manly neighbors would be a great help to you!

    • Chrissy says:

      I almost considered a tiller this year for the first time… what about it is bad for the soil?

      • Karen says:

        Hi Chrissy. Rototilling your soil is bad for a lot of reasons. Basically it fools you into thinking you have nice friable soil but really it’s an illusion. It mashes up everything in its path including minerals, microorganisms, fungi and bugs. It’s way too disturbing to soil. Soil is a complex system of air, water, minerals and organics. The rototiller literally rips it all apart. It also cuts too deep into the soil messing with the layers of goodness. Your soil will be smooth and light for a little while then it quickly becomes compact and icky. The more you rototill the more you have to rototill and the worse your soil gets. The best thing to do for soil is to simply fork over the first few inches or lightly loosen and then rake it. So what I’ve done with my community garden is lift and loosen the soil with the U Bar and then rake over it lightly to level out and smooth the surface for seeds. Hope that helps a bit. ~ karen!

  5. Su says:

    That tillng thing is impressive. I have hand dug my garden many times with a plain old pitch fork…figured the work out if it didn’t kill me would buld muscles and character…. nowadays this patch of dirt is my cutting flower bed as it doesn’t recieve enough sun for good veggie production. In a previous life I did square foot gardening…. and it did make weeding easier, not sure I got more produce but it looked good I must say….

  6. Blair Glenn says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article. Hope to see follow up photos. I have a YouTube channel called “The Vegetable Gardener” if you are looking for ideas or inspiration

  7. Gary G from Holland, Michigan says:

    Like you, I want to grow my own food, but I can’t find any bacon seeds. By chance, can you, or any of your followers, help me out with that?

    • Karen says:

      I haven’t been able to find any lately Gary but I might be able to get you some hot dog seeds. ~ karen!

  8. Cathy says:

    Holy smokes! Are you guys ever going to get leaves on the trees up there?

  9. Barbie says:

    You go girl! Take all the time you need! We have a 3000 sq. foot garden that is being planted slowly by my 91 yr old uncle, who lives with us! If not for him it just would not get done this year! I told him I wanted to save a big plot for flowers like you are doing (brilliant idea BTW) as “I am” sort of in the “flower” biz after all. However I do love to clip and arrange for inside my house too! We have a wedding for my oldest son in July and we are balls to the wall trying to get our 3.5 acres ready (we have neglected it a lot in the last couple of years due to traveling all summer each year) now we are paying the price! All flower beds are in process of being redone and sprinkler system is getting redone and porches refinished and all rockers and porch swings repainted and tables etc etc. I have the back porch completed and half the back flower beds….redoing my lavender as I go (we lost most of it this winter) ….so am propagating about 75 plants at the moment. All while we are in the midst of making new cabinets for my design room in the warehouse! Somehow I got that started w/out thinking of all the other crap we have to do! Our friend owns a cabinet shop and is allowing us to borrow it to make them but…….LOTS to do! So my respect for you is immense! Don’t know how you get it all done.

  10. Barb says:

    When I was a kid, we lived next to a bald-headed farmer. In the summer, he always wore a hat for sun protection. We never saw him without his hat, until one cold winter day. The part of his head that had been tanned by the sun had turned purple in the cold. The top of his head remained a sickly white color. Forever afterwards, we referred to him as “Turniphead”! That was over 60 years ago, and I cannot recall his real name.

  11. Maria says:

    If you wear a pair of daisy dukes, they will plant weed and harvest for you. Their WIVES, on the other hand may not be so appreciative

  12. Nancee says:

    Your garden plan looks great! But before you plant any of those veggies and flowering/nectar plants, please make sure they are not treated with any Neonicotinoid chemicals. Home Depot and Lowes are being gracious enough to tag the plants that are treated with neonics…they even make glowing (ok, not glowing) claims that this neonic poisoned plant will not be bothered by aphids, white flies, beetles, or mealy bugs. It’s all on a very pretty little tag tucked way back inside the foliage of the plant.
    What they don’t say is neonics kill beees and caterpillars. And altho some caterpillars are a nuisance, some are the larvae of gorgeous butterflies. So you are killing bees, which pollinate most of our food, and killing the larvae of, let’s say Monarch butterflies.
    So please, read the labels and ask very pointed questions to make sure you are getting a “clean” plant.
    Happy planting! And enjoy watching those bees and butterflies visiting your flowers.

  13. Tigermom says:

    Impressive. All of it. From the plan to knowing that some of us would worry. Thanks and I wish you wonderful weather in which to get your garden prepped.

    We’re drowning down here in Texas and are looking at more rain and severe weather today. I love rain, but this is just getting dangerous. Plus, the ground is so saturated and muddy we’re getting cabin fever in the spring. : /

  14. Mary from Barrie says:

    Brilliant way to get your plot prepped! I wish I had 20×40 feet. And a supply of gullible men. My “double” plot at our community garden is a vast 12ftx15ft. I made 3 rows of boxes with 18″ cedar mulch paths between the rows (3 boxes in each row – each box is 4ft x 4 ft) . The initial work to get everything framed was a pain because I wanted it all level and square, but now each box is easy to maintain. I rotate crops from box to box each year and just have to top up with compost. This year’s prep is done and now I’m ready for planting – no more frost allowed! Do you have a water source at your plot? The worst part of ours is hauling water in if there’s not enough rain.

  15. Jen says:

    I think you will really like the square foot gardening. If you leave it marked off for next year, no one should walk on it, and it will be much easier to break the ground next year. We just used the swirl-thing on a stick to get it ready after the first year. Adding compost and calcium kept us going great each year. I think people who have had problems with soil nutrients using this method probably had the traditional confined beds. I think it is easier if it isn’t completely confined. Good luck!

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