The veggie garden area at my old house in Calgary was called ‘England’, so this one in my new-to-me Edmonton backyard is, of course, ‘New England’!!
Last year I planned out the raised bed size,
and then in the winter I decided on a round lawn in front of it, with a little sitting area where the evening sun lasts longest:
I’m very happy with it! Raised beds make a veggie garden much easier to maintain, and less grass also makes me happy. The dark mulch also helps the shape of the lawn stand out better. Here’s one more photo a little closer in:
I didn’t have a veggie garden last year because we moved in late 2016. So in fall 2017 we built a raised bed and now I’ve filled it and I’m ready to go. I didn’t get an early start this year so I direct-seeded all the veggies yesterday (everything except the beans, which need warmer soil) according to Square Foot Gardening guidelines.
Here’s what I planted (and this is what my map looked like when I was done):
- It’s now the end of June and I just pulled out all the extra spinach that has bolted in a heat wave over the last week. 2 squares is probably enough to plant in spring. I’ll start another crop in late summer.
Copied from a post on my old blog, Calgary Garden Coach:
I recently re-read Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. I recommend it to any vegetable gardener, by the way, even if you don’t plan to grow things in squares, because it has tonnes of useful information. The technique, invented and made famous by Mel, was developed to maximize garden production as well as minimize work. Vegetable gardens aren’t low maintenance by any means, but using these methods can certainly minimize your work with maximum success. Here are some of my notes:
Why have a vegetable garden?
- once you have tried homegrown flavour, you can’t go back!
- you get great satisfaction from growing your own
- you can save money
- it is a very pleasurable hobby
- you have control over what you eat
- you can’t get any more local than your own yard or community garden!
Benefits of the “square” design
- divide your garden into square sections – Mel uses 4ft x 4ft squares with paths in between but my raised beds are 4ft x 8ft
- mark and plant each 1ft x 1ft square with different plants
- this places limits on how much you grow so you’re not overwhelmed at harvest time
- a well-designated spot for veggies prevents you from walking on the soil
- planting density is easy to calculate (see below)
- each square can have a different vegetable, flower or herb
- it is easier to maintain
- it looks well organized and attractive
Planting and maintenance techniques
- rather than overseeding and then having to thin later in the season, only plant exactly as many seeds as the number of plants you intend to grow (or if you’re worried about germination rates, perhaps plant 2 seeds per hole and then you only have to thin a few plants at most)
- for each seed, poke a hole with your finger, half fill the hole with vermiculite, place one seed (or two, as above) and cover with vermiculite
- how many seeds to plant in a one-foot-square depends on the full-grown size of the plant (see below)
- interplant fast growing crops such as radishes, scallions and leaf lettuce between regularly-spaced slow-growing plants and harvest the former before the latter get big
- make a depression around each planting hole to direct water to the roots of the plants
- after harvesting a square, add a trowel of compost to rejuvenate the soil, then plant with something different – this takes care of crop rotation and interplanting (two techniques for pest & disease prevention) automatically!
- once a week, take note of what will be ready for final harvest in a few weeks, and start seeds for a new crop (of a different vegetable) at that time, so they’ll be ready to transplant when the other crop is finished (tomatoes, chard, parsley, chives and flowers need only one planting in spring and will grow all summer)
- once the garden is prepared, all you need is a trowel, spade, bucket and watering can!
Plant density and placement
- to fill up one 1-ft square, plant 4 plants that get about 6″ wide, 9 plants that get about 4″ wide, or 16 plants that get about 3″ wide
- this typically means per 1-ft square:
- 16 beets, onions, radishes, or carrots
- 9 bush beans, spinach, garlic, chives
- 8 peas, pole beans
- 4 swiss chard, lettuce, parsley, annual flowers
- 2 cucumber
- 1 cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, pepper, eggplant, potato, tomato
- a typical zucchini plant will take up a 3ft x 3ft square
- plant taller plants on the north side of the garden
- plant tomato, cucumber and squash on trellises to maximize space
- pole beans can be planted in a double row, 3 in. apart in each square
- typically, smaller growing varieties of vegetables will give you a bigger yield per sq. ft. of gardening space
- in general, cool weather veggies are fast growing and can be planted both spring and fall (eg. lettuce and greens, root vegetables, cabbage family)
- in general, hot weather veggies are slow growers and get planted in late spring (eg. bush beans, zucchini)
- beans can be planted one new square every month over the summer
If you’re really energetic and serious about organic gardening and extending the season, there are also lots of tips in the book about building cages, covers and cold frames, as well as building your own vertical supports out of 1/2 in. pipe, etc. If you’re preparing a new garden bed, you’ll also find the information on soil preparation and amendments very useful. I could go on, but why don’t you just get the book?
Just last week-end I posted photos of my cherry trees which had finally started to turn yellow. Well that didn’t last long!
At least there is more to look at now in this garden area, even in winter. I see these two trees and their surrounding underplantings from the kitchen window. I *must* have good garden views from the house to get me through winter! So, one week down…
I don’t tend to plant many annuals but the occasional spot in a shady and/or hard-to-grow area is the perfect place for a showy display of annuals in a pot. The fuchsias and begonias seemed happy in the shady spots in the side garden and by the back door and are still looking good at the end of September. I would definitely plant them again.
This garden has been totally recreated since we moved in last September. You can’t tell from the top picture but those are four old gnarly old lilacs, which had been pruned on one side because they were too close to the garage so they were lopsided and seemed to be dangerously leaning over the lawn. This spring the lilac roots got dug out and I planted two little Evans Cherry trees instead – they are planted at an appropriate distance so you will always be able to walk on the sidewalk without hitting your head. Having always lived in older houses, this is one of my pet peeves: trees and shrubs planted without accounting for their mature size!!! What a waste.
Here’s the back half of the garden a little closer up:
I especially wanted a garden in this area because it’s what I look at from the kitchen window. Here’s the kitchen view:
Ahhhhhh. Much better.
I can tell I’ve burned myself out on garden work this year because the back garden is quite weedy at the moment and usually, even if I don’t have much time or energy, I can find the time to at least pull the tops off the weeds so they don’t go to seed. But today I just stared at them through the window. Fortunately, garden progress is still happening because my handy husband is building us a raised bed!
The back of the yard here is prime veggie garden territory thanks to all the sun it gets. I’d like to get the box finished and filled up before fall so it’s ready to plant first thing in spring. Once it gets staked down, I’ll put cardboard in the bottom to smother the grass, then fill it up with some homemade compost mixed with some purchased potting soil and vermiculite to keep things light.
Thinking of doing the same? Here is some info about raised bed veggie gardening from my old Calgary Garden Coach blog: