Vegetable Gardening Inspiration. This Year’s Gardening Has Begun.

No matter how finished I think my garden is or how many years I’ve been doing it, I am always looking for inspiration to make it work better or look better.  These are some of the gardens I reference for inspiration all the time.


Dear Diary,

Today is April 23rd and I’m worried I’ve left planning this year’s vegetable garden too late.  At this rate I might never catch up.  What if May 14th rolls around and I’m not ready to plant anything and I have a nervous breakdown and I don’t grow any tomatoes and then I have another nervous breakdown?

Also Jimmy was standing near my locker after school today AND he waved at me in the cafeteria!


This beauty of a photo is of my first full sized plot at my community garden. It measured 20′ x 20′. A couple of years after this photo was taken, I took over the garden plot beside me to create a 40′ x 40′ plot.  

Combining these two plots, levelling them, redoing the fence and raised beds was the equivalent of 1,792 Crossfit workouts smashed into the space of one month.  Only by the end of it I had accomplished something other than barfing on a rubber gym mat while everyone cheered for me.


My original plan for my 40′ x 40′ garden was this:

scale: 1 sq per sq foot.

I really like how it looks but for some reason I didn’t go with this plan. I never implemented it. Probably because even though it looks good, using a more straightforward layout would gain me more planting space.  And more room for doing kartwheels. 

The vegetable garden design I went with was this:

A standard straight row layout bordered by a raised bed that goes around the entire perimeter of the garden.  The front row of plants in that perimeter raised bed is my asparagus, which is a perennial. The asparagus acts as a wind block when it grows and adds a bit of privacy. Not enough privacy that I can do kartwheels undetected, but I can definitely get away with somersaults.

In real life, the garden ended up looking like this:



The beds in the main area of the garden are 16′ long by 4′ wide. But because the frameless raised beds slope at the sides, I have a workable space of 15′ by 3′ in each bed.

However, after working in this garden for a few years I’ve decided that there’s a bit too much wasted space at the back and also it was a pain to wiggle around my workbench at the back. It’s the brown rectangular block at the back left of the garden.

By last summer I had increased the number of compost bins in my plot to 4 separate bins, which wasn’t an efficient way to compost.

So THIS year I’ve changed things again.

You’re always going to change things in the garden. If you aren’t changing things chances are you aren’t learning.

You can now take a gander at the plan for my 2021 garden which I’m working on right now.

The compost bins have been consolidated into one HUGE loose pile and my work bench is opposite it.

To achieve this I had to move my strawberry beds with the mesh triangular covers on them to the back left of my garden.  Which meant I had to redo the raised beds to make them deeper back there. 

This area is where the big compost pile now sits.  

Having the compost bin in one huge pile with space all around it it means my compost will activate more quickly (bigger compost piles work faster than smaller ones) and it’s 174 million times easier to work with. In the garden plan it looks like there’s a wood crib around the compost pile, but I’ve decided not to build it for now. I’ll just keep a loose pile.

I’ve spent the past few weeks looking at vegetable gardening inspiration shots that I’ve saved over the years. Sometimes for beauty inspiration sometimes for functionality.   The French have valued the beauty of a well designed vegetable garden for centuries and their Potager gardens are something to aspire to.  And by aspire I mean they make you think of packing up your belongings and moving to the French countryside. So those are usually my first choices for inspiration.

What’s a French Potager?

A French Potager  is just a vegetable garden that’s aesthetically pleasing, symmetrical and usually has some sort of architectural elements to it as well. 

A French Country vegetable garden on the other hand is looser, less concerned about symmetry and incorporates flowers like an English cottage garden.

Ready to be inspired? And a bit envious? And motivated? And kartwheel? Here we go.

My most recent inspiration came last year when I harvested rye from the Dundurn Castle Historic Kitchen garden.  

This is a small portion of the Dundurn Castle kitchen garden. Granted. I can do NOTHING that you see in this 1.5 acre garden on the land of the castle’s historic site. But it’s the feeeelllllll that I like. It feels magnificent and humble all at the same time.

I’m hoping it will get to open up this year (last year was a bit of a bust) so I can go back and take really good shots of it for you to see.

If I had all the land to work with and all of the resources (cash, cash and more cash), this is the garden I would replicate for myself.

 Now, in no particular order these are all gardens I find myself referring to every year at this time.





Ready to move to France yet?  A lot of these French Potager gardens have wattle fencing which I love, but will never be doing in a million years.  The other thing they have is some type of mulch between the beds whether it’s pea gravel, bark or wood chips.

These next inspiration shots are mainly “real” gardens of real people and they’re all exceptional.

raised bed garden

click to see more of this garden

Click to see more of this garden

These tents are something along the lines of the tents I built over my strawberry beds.

Unable to find original source for image. Claim it if it’s yours!

THIS is the illegal front yard vegetable garden that caused an uproar and  protest in Quebec, Canada in 2012, the same year I built my Front Yard Vegetable Garden.

Guess what.  No source again. (this is the problem with Pinterest … too many photos not enough original sources)  And this one is one of my favourites. It doesn’t even look real, it looks like an artist’s rendering of a zoo display that holds the rare Silverback Vegetable Gardener.


This one HAD a source, but it led to what’s known as a site “scraper” which basically steals content which i refuse to link to.  Claim it if it’s yours.




It’s almost impossible to find photos of regular bed gardens anymore.  Everything is raised beds or square foot gardening.  I honestly love the look and feel of row beds and my own garden is probably most similar to this, only my beds are raised soil (with no wood frames around them.)

Sadly no source for this great fence. Claim it if it’s yours.



The photo below is a perfect example of an English Country garden.  It’s free flowing, not perfectly symmetrical and has bursts of flowers in with the vegetables. It’s kind of my ideal garden.  Structured and tidy but not rigid.  It’s the garden equivalent of a house that isn’t too fussy and looks comfortable and lived in.



Click to see more of this garden

This weekend I’ll be making 2 big changes to my garden which you’ll find out about next week. Neither of the changes will impede any of my kartwheeling.  Or somersaults for that matter.

Have a good weekend!

(yup, this is a repost, but it’s been entirely rewritten in April, 2021 with new photos added in)

Vegetable Gardening Inspiration. This Year\'s Gardening Has Begun.


  1. Carole says:

    Thank you for the garden tour. They are heartbreakingly beautiful and make me miss gardening.

    As a former community gardner, I missgardening… a lot. My current abode is high altitude with an abundance of soft-ball sized hail possible in July. We had snow on September 8th last year. I’ve seen hard freezes in early June. Gardening here, even just flowers, is a gamble for sure. My first summer here, $500 worth of nursery flowers planted in pots were pummled to death by hail 72 hours later. Wahwah.

  2. Katt Philipps says:

    Patiently waiting for your tutorial on how to make the flip up critter keeper-outer… my squirrels are already eyeing stuff and I have 3 weeks until last frost!!

  3. Nanette says:

    Where are all the weeds? Especially in the walkways.
    I’m loving this inspiration and can’t wait to see your upcoming goodies!!!

  4. Isabelle says:

    I almost spit out my water when I got to the Jimmy comment! Thanks for the laugh!!

  5. Vikki says:

    I love the less-structured, informal gardens the best–and especially the wattle sides of the beds. Looking forward to photos of your garden this summer.

  6. ChicagoRandy says:

    The ex enjoyed gardening/farming and still does. I enjoy meat and buying any mandatory veggies at the local supermarket – lol – but you are truly a delight, both to the eyes and to the soul. Keep on keepin’ on young lady.

  7. Melissa says:

    I’m curious why you’ll never do wattle fencing?

    I was thinking of doing some, but you must know something about it that makes you steer clear. Pray tell, what I should know before starting/choosing other options. Thanks in advance :-)

    • Kat - the other 1 says:

      I believe it has to be replaced every year, at least some kinds do.
      Also, there’s all the time it takes to weave it and install.

      But very pretty!

  8. Steve Rahn says:

    :-) Love to look at the pics of your garden, and they should inspire me to Gardening Greatness…but I just have too much other “Stuff” to do. So my version of a garden this year will be three Tomato Plants, two Lettuce plants, two regular Zucchini, two 8-Ball Zucchini, and two Corn plants – all in containers in the gravel bed along the west side of the house, and all taking advantage of the lawn irrigation system I installed last year.
    BTW, RE: the pic with comment “Great Fence”…Fuggedabout the fence! I’m looking wistfully at the manicured lawn and the Roses, around the perimeter and between the beds!
    Your next Post must include pictures and video of you doing Cartwheels among the veggies!

  9. GrowInFlorida says:

    Hello from North Miami! ☀️ Because we’re in Florida and raised bed wood gets eaten by termites and fungus and other creatures within 2 years, we decided to build our new raised bed garden from charred wood. We bought square woods similar to the 2nd from the end photo, a torch and torched it ourselves using propane tank. Charred and oiled wood is supposed to live for 80 years, have to divide by 4 for Florida but even then it’s not so bad in comparison with the 2 years our previous beds lasted 😝 Have you ever tried working with charred wood?

    • Karen says:

      I haven’t done it myself, no. I considered doing it when I built my chicken coop about 8 years ago but thought, no, that’s a LOT of wood charring, lol. But a neighbour up at my community garden plot did a few of his raised beds with wood he charred with a torch last year! It’s only been a year so I can’t report on how well they hold up, but they sure look good! ~ karen

      • GrowInFlorida says:

        I also thought charring is difficult and prepared to spend a long time on this project but saw one video done with a weed killer Torch (with a wide mouth) and it seemed super fast, so i bought one :) we had fun! Finished 2 tall beds in less than 2 hours. Then scrubbing wood is also pretty fast if the brush is good, and raw linseed oil application takes no time at all! My friend did it with a tiny welding torch and it took him two weekends 😹

    • Mary Tognazzini says:


  10. Dr. James McCleary says:

    Thanks a lot for responding

  11. Dr. James McCleary says:

    Really enjoyed this information. I wish there was a way I could print out what you’re saying because I have trouble reading from a computer. But if I try to print out all the advertisement shows up. Is there a way I can do this. Keep up your work because it’s enjoyed.

    • Karen says:

      Hi James! Hmm. I’m not sure about that. Let me look into it if there’s a way to print only the main text. ~ karen!

    • marissa says:

      dr james- if you copy+paste with NO FORMATTING, it should leave the ads and extras out of printing.

      alternatively, you can copy+paste to a google or word doc and then edit/delete what you want!

      hope this helps :-)

    • Kimberly says:

      By any chance does your computer have an “Ease of Access” in the settings? If so, you can change the size of the font,change your setting to a high contrast setting which is supposed to make the text show up more, or even turn on the narrator which will read the article to you(you can usually select between different voices as some are less annoying than others)which is something I frequently do because my work involves long hours typing documents and by the time I get home and want to read fun, informative articles my eyes are too dry and tired to look at the screen anymore. Or maybe I misunderstood the intent of your question. It wouldn’t be the 1st time.

  12. Julie says:

    Have you had good luck using the Mother Earth News Garden Planner? I was thinking about trying the iPad app for it, but the reviews were horrible! I tend to be on the tight fisted side (read: cheap ass) and thought the $7.99 one time app purchase sounded better than the annual $29 fee. That being said, you get what you pay for. Wondering which option you used?


  13. Erin says:

    I’ve moved from 4′ to 30″ bed widths. So much easier for the aging me to work in and harvest from. A number of market gardening supplies are geared towards this size, so it is easy to get standardized tools, fabric and supports now.

    We are trying to make the homestead a little prettier as we are planning to have a day of farm gate sales once a week. Lots of great inspiration in those photos. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Yeah, I’m leaning towards under 4′. And just plain raised beds for most things with the odd raised bed with wood around it when I need support for a hoop house. ~ karen!

  14. Nicole says:

    I think we share the same pinterest boards :) I have made a pinterest account for our community garden and we have been collecting the same pictures it seems. We are expanding the garden as we speak. Our original half has the basic 4’x12′ or 4’x16′ raised beds. The new half will be set up in the Potager style garden with a variety of shaped beds and path ways. We are planing the planting to be a mix of perennial and annual fruits and vegetables, herbs and flowers and shrubs. All the produce we will be growing in the expansion will go to our charities in Hamilton. I will be following you closing this summer for sure!!

  15. Kellie says:

    I like you think a garden should look good. I think my garden board on Pinterest is almost exactly like yours LOL. Although I get the concept of designing it, I end up just free wheeling it so I’m not sure I can offer suggestions because I end up throwing out my plans at the end and just going with my gut. I do have to say that the garden at Dundrun Castle is probably the most efficent and beautiful gardens I’ve seen around our area yet.
    I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with as you are a great thinker.

  16. Kimberly Miner says:

    I’m planning my first ever garden this year. I’m building my own raised beds and trying to figure out the best way to do that too. I am basically a total idiot when it comes to growing things, I usually kill everything. BUT this year I am determined to be very diligent and attempt to grow some stuff that I will actually use and eat. We just bought a house last summer with ample space in the backyard for me to have an actual garden and I’m beyond excited! Wish me luck!

  17. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Will you be able to keep your double allotment space in the future? Or will you need to keep your perennials in the same half?

  18. TONI says:


    • Karen says:

      Hi Toni! I was hoping I could ask you to not comment in all caps if at all possible. :) It makes it difficult to read your comments. I plant everything at different times. May 14th is what the frost free date is in my are of Zone 6b. Other things that aren’t frost intolerant like beans, peas, potatoes, can all be planted much earlier. In April. Galvanized tubs are fine for planting but she’ll have to drill drainage holes into the bottom of them. :) ~ karen!

  19. Christine says:

    The unsourced garden, “the rare Silverback Vegetable Gardener”, might be by Deborah Silver, author of blog , “Dirt Simple”.

  20. Karin Sorensen says:

    hpw did you know that a site scraper was used? was it in the source code? or do you have some sort of scanning tool?

    Karin needs to know

  21. Karin Sorensen says:

    wattle fencing! i need it! its stunning!

  22. Kristina says:

    Oh, that a-frame row cover is genius on its simplicity! We put in raised beds very like the second to last photo, and it’s so nice not to have to bend over to weed, plus it doubles as extra seating for parties. I have a larger plot elsewhere on the property for space hogs like pumpkins and melons, though.

  23. J-in-Chatham says:

    ” …they make you think of packing up your belongings and moving to the French countryside.”

    I did just that albeit I was much younger, and much closer to France at the time (Scotland). Spent the best 5 years of my life there: worked as a nanny, learned how to collect hen eggs, taught English, skied in the Pyrenees, picked grapes (sometimes worked in the kitchen) during harvest, had my own radio show ….. I wouldn’t change a thing, and would go back in a flash!

  24. Madeleine says:

    Having read your list of “to do” stuff that I started reading with great enthusiasm, I have to tell you that by the time I finished reading, I decided to have you come and do it all for me instead.

    Instructions will follow!!! :))

  25. Kristen says:

    Compared to these pictures and Pinterest my non-raised bed garden with the rows planted close together so that the only weeds that grow are the pesky creeping jenny & charlie would be put to shame. We do have an anti-bunny fence crafted out of desperation that I swing myself and our now-4-year-old over in order to get inside. I’m getting seeds started this week with hopes to plant after the first of May. With any luck the hail and wind will leave it alone and we’ll have produce.
    Good luck, Karen!

  26. Sharon says:

    I am so jealous to hear you talk about moving dormant plants in March! And building garden stuff in March and April. Because it’s March already, and my garden is covered in snow and will be for a good while yet. Snowed again here last night…

    • Karen says:

      Well actually it’s snowing here too right now, lol. But this has been an unseasonably warm and unusual winter so I can actually dig and move plants in March would wouldn’t normally be the case. :) ~ karen

  27. Linda in Illinois says:

    Congrats Kat !!! you deserve the prize.. God bless
    Now Karen, woman of my dreams. All those gardens are soooo beautiful. I would move to France to have such beauty but since I cannot at this time, I have to do my own. Working on mine to be that nice though much smaller, and I cannot build very well, nor do I have the space, I can still dream and with you for inspiration, it cannot go wrong.

    • Margaret K. says:

      I realize you said you had no space, but in case you have even a small corner:
      You can make raised from stacked concrete blocks and even put cap blocks on top to give yourself a nice flat surface to sit or stand on. It doesn’t look as rustic except where the plants hang down over it, but it is pretty easy compared to making wood beds [which is what I have]. My sister has about 40 of them, 4 ft x 15 ft each that she has built over the years for her annual vegetables, perennial vegetables and fruit and roses. Lowe’s has an Internet article on how to do it and I am sure there are many others.

  28. jaine kunst says:

    I only have enough sunlight to grow lettuce but I sure would like to put a wattle fence around my lettuce plants.

    • Cred says:

      If you can grow lettuce you likely could also grow broccoli, kale, peas, arugula, spinach, parsley, asparagus. My house is engulfed by large mostly deciduous trees so I have very limited sunlight but have managed to grow many veg pretty well. Even peppers and tomatoes have faired well in the spots where I get a little more sun exposure- I recently saw a view of my house on google earth and you wouldn’t think I could grow a thing with so much tree cover.

      • jaine kunst says:

        I’ve tried spinach and tomatoes. Epic failures with only 3 hours a day of sun. Herbs grow pretty well though. I’ve got everything in containers on a rolling bench that I can roll along the deck as the sun moves.

  29. Meredith says:

    All of those photos show gardens in spring/early summer I believe. Everybody’s garden looks nice and neat in spring. Show me those same prissy perfect gardens in mid September when tomatoes have formed a jungle and pumpkin vines have gone up and over the fence and up a tree.

    In your allotment, how do you have those lovely dirt paths with no weeds? I don’t see any kind of mulch or anything. If I weeded every single day, I couldn’t keep mine that clean looking. How are you doing it?

  30. Alena says:

    It actually sounds like a piece of cake; that is, for someone of your caliber. In fact, I think that you should build on the side those arches (shown in the 3rd pic under your plot plan) with why I call “Mexican clay tiles” (I gather in this case the tiles appear to be in France but I will still refer to them as Mexican).
    You should do it in your spare time just show to the losers around you who is the master gardener. (not to mention us losers who read your blog and drool over the pictures).

  31. Maryanne says:

    Inspirational post! Thank you :)

    P.S. I know you love blogging, but you deserve a show! Think a combination of Pioneer Woman and this Old House. Happy transplanting :)

    • cbblue says:

      I agree Maryanne, but Karen’s occasional potty mouth would make it interesting. All in all she is the doer of all things and wonderful.

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Yeah, I actually got OUT of television so I could blog. I appreciate your support and enthusiasm but I’m gonna stick with blogging! :) ~ karen

  32. Mary W says:

    I thought I was so smart – a farmer I knew had a barn full of moldy hay (rainy fall) and he said I could have all the square bailed hay I wanted. I got several pickups full and stored them far away from my animals. Then early in February (Florida) I picked handfuls (we call them flakes) of hay to lay down my garden paths. Each handful broke off a full square from the bail/bale and I laid them like tiles down our long garden rows. I never watered or weeded again and they were all tilled under in July. (We were done picking by mid June with some pumpkins and okra left until July.) Worked like a charm BUT you had to be careful of snakes since this proved to be the ideal place for them to live waiting for their dinner to come to them – the mice. This wonderful/ideal mulch/watering system/walkway was done only once. Replaced by newspaper layers the next year which provided the same results. After, I just weeded and watered like everyone else. I do like snakes but not the poison ones. Sorry coral snakes, you are beautiful but deadly. My horses bent the fencing over trying to get to the veggies, the racoon ignored the fence and still ate the corn (exactly on the day I was going to pick) EVERY year. They are the best predictors of ripeness. The only thing that didn’t get in were the dogs that loved to dig and roll in the moist dirt. The pigs were turned into the garden afterward and they loved to rut it all up and added some fertilizer as a thank you. I love your blog. You bring back such happy days with no sore back!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! I was at the garden a few days ago and I was moving mounds of straw from the year before and as I did it, I was standing on the edges of two raised beds because I didn’t know WHAT was going to run out from the straw but I definitely knew something was. Ended up being voles. I’d have preferred to know it was full of snakes. Way more useful. :) ~ karen!

  33. E Wilcox says:

    Well, I was slightly intimidated before, now…. Yikes! My raised beds never looked this good! Have been angling to get a raised bed much closer to house this year. Neighbors cut down a wonderful, healthy, tree-idiots. But now our yard is flooded with a lot more sunlight, so….

    Thanks for the photos, Karen they are beautiful!

  34. danni says:

    My god I’m scared now! I’ve been sitting in front of the fireplace every night after work looking at the same Pins! Same problem of rebuilding the entire garden. BUT I hope to cover all the things I didn’t have when cobbling together the original garden over the years.
    One thing I do know, it will be fully enclosed, and the entrance will be trellised, and I believe luffa will get that pride of place! (Got the seeds!!! Many thanks!!!)

  35. Heather says:

    I’m tired just reading this. I like the bed idea….I could lie on it and watch you work?

    “Retiring” to the cottage this year but not until late June. This winter Hydro One cut down a huge pine tree on our lot, and all my privacy willows so I need to redesign the whole yard. I want to put a (small) vegetable garden in but think I will need to wait until I am up there full time to properly plan it. I think I have pinned almost all the pictures you found.

    • Nicole says:

      Every time I think “oh, I should give gardening another try, I’m sure it’s not that crazy” I read a post like this and realize just how much work it is.

      …Maybe another year?

  36. Maggie Van Sickle says:

    You are one ambitious woman. Whatever design you come up with will look good and time will tell if it works for u. If it doesn’t then make a change next year. In the meantime happy gardening.

  37. Susan D'Achille says:

    Karen, just think of how much more garden real estate you will gain if you just remove all your raised beds and plant directly into the soil. Alot less work for you to build all the new ones and you will have enough soil from your old raided beds to make beautiful straight rows you can easily wheelbarrow down. You can still put up your covers for the moths etc. using small hoops and cloth. Maybe the voles will be confused too!

    • Karen says:

      Actually raised beds are way less work. :) The initial work is a pain but once they’re built they make gardening life infinitely easier. :) Less weeds, better drainage, easy to amend only the soil you’re using, soil never gets compacted. They’re your basic gardening dream, lol. Other than the intial work of course, which is more of a nightmare. ~ karen!

  38. Carrie says:

    Gardening! My favorite thing EVER! I am known for it and my pickles and dilly beans and have been told I have a farm, not a garden and should park a veggie wagon at the bottom of my driveway😁However, last July I broke both bones in half in my leg and two months ago my knee on the same leg. (Crazy at 46)
    Still trying to recover and pray I can get out there this spring! So much to do! What with starting my seeds and getting them in the greenhouse for starters.
    If you have any heavenly pull Karen, (along with your many other skills) use your powers to whip me into shape!
    I’ve had a garden ever since we built our home 8 years ago and it will kill me if I can’t this year,but will give the soil a much needed rest………..what do they say about bright sides????

  39. Louise says:

    Yup, the English Country garden is my favorite too. Makes me think of Peter Rabbit and his friends!

  40. Lindy says:

    Yay French potager porn before breakfast. My kind of post! And yes, I am having breakfast, and I do have a potager and I’m in France so I guess that makes me qualify. But the pinterest ones are much much neater. there are no weeds and everything is so perfect you just know these are not real life. Unless you have staff. We do not have ‘staff’.

    I love the look of those tents to put over the beds where you are going to plant brassicas. And snow proof by the look of them. Putting the structures away over winter in an area that gets snow is a challenge. Those poncy fruit cages with flat tops would be a disaster for you as they would collapse under the weight of the wimpiest snow fall. Mine did when I did hoop structures.

    Paths. You are right about the width. the biggest regret I have with my potager is that the paths are too narrow. You get so many shin injuries when you bark your leg on the wheelbarrow as it doesn’t make the corners.

    If you do no dig (as I do) then the problem I have is that the sides of my raised beds are not high enough. And after a few years the beds get quite high with compost and spill onto the paths. Chunky wood looks brilliant as you can actually sit on it to weed, and keeps things in. But my, in winter it does look like a coffin builder’s workshop. but if the potager is not right next to the house, then I would go for it.

    That’s the thing about potagers in france. Ours are placed very close to our houses. In England the vegetable garden was always placed a long way from the house as it was considered unsightly. So we try and add the most interest in terms of flowers (brings in the pollinators) and fruit trees. There is also the peasant logic of water. You will have a water source in your vegetable garden but probably no where else, so of course you will have your flowers mixed in.

    Ooh, that reminds me. If you have a drip system with your beds, then you might want to bury the hoses under the paths (if they are mulched). And of course your pretty design on paper is going to be hell with your watering system!

    If I had the right area I would definitely put brick paths down the central path – but my potager slopes. good for drainage but it’s too late now. And I am in a region where we only use granite, so brick would look odd. You wont’ have that problem at an allotment. Any mulch you put down will travel. bits in the treads of your trainers etc. And of course bark mulch is the perfect germination medium for your self seeding plants.

    But if you want a less regimented look – then do as I do. Bark mulch with random soil that falls onto the paths. Germination success – rocket, nasturtiums, tomatoes, and yet more rocket. You move what you don’t want and don’t fuss about the rest. Softens the lines nicely.

    Four feet wide beds is far smarter than three. All that work you are planning just for a three foot wide bed. Mad woman! Joy Larkcom’s memoir Just Vegetating is your go to book on this. Essays from her years in the business. It was my favourite book. She also does the Creative Vegetable Gardening book which is better than internet porn as you can take the book to bed with you and not suffer insomnia from blue screen addiction.

    Joy spent twenty years travelling around Europe and Asia seeing how other people grew veg. And she worked in industry – the serious sharp end of the seed development. For her it was the one metre wide bed (so around 3.5 to 4 feet) placed north to south that was best. That way the whole bed would get the maximum light as the sun travelled over the plot. Her writing was so gentle and inspirational that I woke up one morning and re- oriented all seventeen of my vegetable beds to face that way. Absolutely no regrets. Apart from the aching back!

    You are moving your asparagus bed? Egads. What are you doing reading this? Get out there and do it now. I wouldn’t dare do it myself – just imagine how long and twisted those fabulous roots are going to be. You would be better off using a mini digger rather than a fork to avoid breaking off the roots. Haha good luck with that.

    I wanted to post a picture of my potager beds, but your website blocked me (manners!). but you can see them on the website

    • Charlene says:

      Lindy, Thanks for adding the link to your website. It is very interesting seeing how you’ve restored the gardens on a 1600’s farm. Beautiful setting and lots of hard work I see. My husband and I made our first raised bed 37 years ago using the French Intensive Biodynamic Method which was being promoted by Mother Earth News at the time. Beds are double dug so they are two feet deep or more once compost is added. The garden has grown tremendously over the years. It is our backyard so we have close access and great view from the deck. Also, thanks for sharing Joy Larkham. I looked her up and will be purchasing some of her books. I’ll also be visiting your website again. Love the lavender! More herbs is my goal this year mainly driven by chickens – ha! Happy Gardening.

      • Lindy says:

        I feel like I am hijacking Karen’s great post. All that work she did drooling over pictures for us. I forgot to mention that those willow hurdle hedging are hopeless in real life! Soil falls straight out of them. I love the idea of yours – two feet deep. Heaven.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Lindy! I am going to install a drip irrigation system (hopefully this year) but it’s going to be a lot of work to combine and level the two gardens. (they’re sloped so levelling is going to be a huge job. I’ll be using newspaper and straw as path mulch. My beds are 4′ now and I find them a tiny bit hard to deal with because of the width. That’s why I’m considering going 3′. I haven’t decided yet and the garden plan has already undergone about 5 other incarnations since writing this post, lol. I moved one full bed of asparagus last night after work. One more bed to go. They’re just going into a holding bed and will have to be moved yet again to their permanent place once my garden is built. (so they probably won’t go into their permanent place until fall) The asparagus beds are only a year old so they weren’t too bad to deal with. :) I don’t know why you couldn’t post a picture! Weird. I’ll look into that. ~ karen!

      • Lindy says:

        I love your pluck. Luckily your asparagus are young – you are right; they won’t be too hard to move. Even twice!

        I’ll have a rummage for my post about my drip watering system. It could work for you. Levelling the slope is goiing to be soil destroying. And soul destroying.

        I did it on a grid and have the main hose at the top of the slope and then run connectors (with hoses with small holes along the length of the garden and have stoppers at the end. But it really only works if your beds are in a line.

        I can see why three feet would be better than four. I just practised here on my sofa leaning over a coffee table that is wider than three feet. and prompty fell over. And yes, I’ve had a beer!

      • Charlene says:

        We also use drip irrigation under landscape fabric to keep moisture in and weeds out. No frames around our beds and some had to be made smaller in width over time. They would look great early season but when full it was hard to reach across and the plants spill over into paths which then become nonexistent. Asparagus beds are a must! Last year my husband built a metal frame about 3 feet high and attached cattle panels to the top so when we quit cutting the asparagus it would grow through and be held up by the fence. Now it doesn’t fall over into the path and looks nicer through the summer. BTW Karen is one of my chicken inspirations. I found her blog just about the time we started talking chickens. Oddly, I found it when Googling “How to darn socks.” Love to knit. Hate to mend. Karen, can I send you a few socks with holes? LOL.

  41. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Looks to me like you better get some help. All that moving and digging and building sounds like a summers’ worth of work. Maybe longer.
    For inspiration, I again submit to you: Bealtaine Cottage
    A one woman permaculture paradise.
    Now get out there and dig!
    The snow hasn’t even begun to melt here. Up to my butt if I venture into it.

    • Kim from Milwaukee says:

      Sherry, thank you for sharing that blog….I love what she’s doing!! Talk about inspiration!

      • Sherry in Alaska says:

        You are so welcome! Thanks for letting me know. Keep hooked up with Bealtaine Cottage as well as with Karen and you can’t go wrong!

  42. Kennedy says:

    How’s this for lack of planning …

    Last spring we moved into our new house. New to us – the house is 100 years old. We had lots of renovations planned for that first summer and although I desperately wanted a garden to be part of those plans we really didn’t have the time. I took the project off the list and frowned around the house for a few weeks.

    On May 7th my husband surprised me for my birthday with 3000 reclaimed bricks and a promise to get the garden in before the May long weekend. I went absolutely mental. (He’s a keeper).

    We pulled sod for days, laid bricks for days, built beds, trellises, moved soil, moved compost, ranted and raved and almost divorced. When we finished we had a perfectly beautiful garden laid out ready to go. Only we didn’t have a single seed or plant- or any sort of plan for that matter. I know…right? Talk about lack of planning.

    In the end it all pulled together. Although I didn’t get to plant what I wanted last year it still turned out better than I had hoped and I enjoyed that space more than any other. Gardening got it’s hooks into me and now I am just obsessed.

    Needless to say the planning for this year’s garden started last September.

  43. Whatisname says:

    For gits and shiggles, make sure you get a Coyote plant from Linda. Tiny yellow skittle of a tomato. They never make it out of the garden. Perfect for nibbling as you watch the cabbage worms destroy all your cruciferous whydidIplantthemagains.
    Baked a few sweet potato fries your way. Perfect as expected, because Karen would never steer us wrong. I used to plant my sweets by working the ground and randomly throwing them over my shoulder, then stepping on them as I planted the other stuff they had to grow around. Worked well enough that slips never entered my vocabulary. A bit of plastic heated the ground first.

  44. nancy says:

    1st* I’m nostalgic because I read about the chicken salad and my dear departed grandmother always put apple and raisins in her chicken salad. Plopped with an ice cream scoop onto a canned pear half which sat on a lettuce leaf.
    2nd* I’m sad because my Dad died with dementia and I feel sad for Kat. I’m glad she won this prize. Doing this for her Mom will be so therapeutic for her.
    3rd* I’m amazed at the unbelievably beautiful gardens! I’m going to retire immediately and have a garden! Wattle fencing is a must.
    4th* Our ancestors raised chickens and cows and etc and enjoyed living with them and eating them without so much preciousness going on in our heads. What happened to back to nature?

  45. Jane S says:

    Those gardens are far too perfect to be real. Are you sure they weren’t “staged” just for the photo shoot.

  46. Tina Jeffrey says:

    Hi! I don’t have a suggestion, more like I need suggestions! I moved from Oregon to Massachusetts last fall. I brought along a rhizome from my mother’s plant that has been growing “hugely” for decades. By the time I found it, the ground here was frozen so it’s still sitting in a bag, in my closet.

    My builder is going to be building me some raised beds and the first thing to be planted will be my rhubarb. Will it still grow this year? In a raised bed, will I have to insulate around the bed over next winter? Can it be uncovered over the winter or should I rig up some sort of dome?

    I’ve never lived anywhere it’s been as cold as here in the winter. I figure you’re in a cold area, do you have suggestions for me? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tina! I’m not sure how well your rhubarb will be doing stuck in a bag I’m afraid. If it lives through that, it’ll live through anything you have to throw at it. Rhubarb does just fine in very, very cold weather. It loves it in fact. It’ll be the first thing to sprout in the spring and the last thing to die in the fall. I’ve never found the need to cover my rhubarb for any reason in the fall. Having said that, this year was more like fall for the entire winter. And so was last winter now that I think about it. But don’t worry. Climate change isn’t a real thing, ;) Good luck with your mom’s rhubarb! ~ karen

      • Tina Jeffrey says:

        Thanks, Karen! Pieces of the root have followed me all around the US and Europe for the last 40+ years, often under less auspicious circumstances! I hope it’ll pull through. I lost my mother last April, I’d hate to lose my rhubarb too!

    • Jo says:

      I live in Southwestern Ontario. We do get cold and snow. Not sure if it is.the same as yours tho. I just tosses my rhubarb in my raised bed with nothing special done. It flurishes. Hope this helps you.

      • ronda says:

        My sister lives a bit north of Owen Sound, with the winter winds coming down from Georgian Bay. Her rhubarb grows like cuh-razy! Its sheltered from the north-west winds by a “barn”, and the bed they’re in faces south-east. She’s always complaining that she has to thin them out. No mulch, just rocks on top of the bed, and the stuff grows like weeds.

    • Alena says:

      What Karen said. I live about an hour away from Karen (if I step on it) and I can confirm that my rhubarb never had an issue with the cold winters (and there was one year when we had, even though only briefly, – 41 C (which I believe happens one of those odd anomalies where the Celsius and Fahrenheit are more or less in sync and it is also -41 F).
      I inherited my rhubarb with the house, it’s planted somewhere near the corner of my lot, not even in a garden bed. I saw it trying to sprout two weeks ago when we had a really mild weather. This year’s winter was unusually generous to us southern Ontarians so I am not surprised to see the rhubarb trying show life even before my very hardy magnolia shrub starts showing buds.
      Don’t worry, it will grow! Mine thrives on total, and I mean TOTAL, neglect.

      • Tina Jeffrey says:

        Thanks for all the replies! You’re right, the years I ignored it, it came up but gangbusters, the years I divided it, mulched it and babied it, it came up but nothing great. I guess I’ll just put it in and hope that next year it goes crazy!

  47. Katie says:

    Kat sounds like a very, very worthy recipient of the Legacybox.

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