Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The great vegetable garden experiment of o' eleven

For several years now I've wanted a vegetable garden. When I lived in Philly my next door neighbor set up an awesome veggie garden in the front yard and I used to stare at her veggies with envy every time I left my house. For the last several summer's I've fulfilled my veggie gardening needs with a potted herb garden- I grew basil, parsley, sage and rosemary (no thyme). It is awesome to cook with fresh herbs you grew yourself and just picked out of the ground. Once I had a potted kumquat tree, but I killed that.

But while I was renting/a student it seemed stupid to go to the effort of setting up a raised bed garden, cause that seemed like a lot of effort (it's really not) and I was going to move in a few years anyways.

But now I'm a house owner! A few months ago a giant branch fell off our giant sycamore tree in the backyard when it snowed (one of our the two snows we got this winter, fingers crossed), and this past weekend we finally finished sawing up the branch so we could throw it out. But there were several really nice really thick branches from the base of the branch that seemed a waste just to throw out. So I figured that I could make my new raised bed garden using the branches from the tree as a border. The house actually came with a raised bed garden in the backyard, but the dogs live out there, and I don't want dog-pee flavored vegetables. Plus they would probably eat the veggies that grew above ground.

There's this spot on the side of my house that's probably not a great spot to plant veggies, since it's on the north side of the house (and therefore gets the least sun). But there's room there, and a trellis already built and planting stuff on the north side might actually be good in the south, since it can get so hot it might scorch the veggies, and it'll be a bit cooler on that side. It's an experiment. If my veggies turn our horrible I might go to the effort of getting rid of some bushes on the north side of the house for a proper veggie garden next year, and maybe grow some roses on the trellis where the veggie garden is.

So yesterday I dug up the ugly sharp and prickly small bush that was where my veggie garden is now (good riddance to that stupid bush, it's cut me several times and deserved to die!), put my sycamore branches together in a square, dug up the top layer of soil and then added a bunch more top soil + mushroom compost.

Also yesterday I went and bought a bunch of seeds, includes sugar snap peas, red onions, bell peppers (5 colors- red, orange, yellow, purple and white), zucchini, cilantro (woo! can't grow this in containers cause it just won't work, so glad to finally have some cilantro plants), dill, italian basil, and 3 kinds of sunflowers. Also a rosemary plant which will live inside for the new few weeks. I started the peas, peppers and basil seeds inside- the peppers and basil will grow inside for about 6-8 more weeks, and then some will go in the ground and some will go in pots that will live on the deck (On the north side of the house) and the peas will go in the ground in the raised bed garden as soon as they start sprouting. About half the onions are already planted (you can see them in the picture around the edges). According to the internet research I've done, onions and peas go in the ground about 6 weeks before the last frost, and the average last day of frost in my area is in early april.

I also got SO many onions (the seeds weren't actually seeds- they were transfers, and sold in groups of 50), that I've decided to start an onion experiment. One group of onions went into the new raised bed garden. One group went into the old raised bed garden (Hopefully the dogs will not dig those up, but as I said, it's an experiment). One group went into the ground randomly on the north side of the house, without much tilling- just dug a hole and threw some potting soil in there with the onion plants. I still have like 20 onion seeds left, so I planted those in some planter containers in the house, and those won't go out for another few weeks- possibly in the back garden if the dogs don't dig the other ones out, cause I'm not sure where else to plant them (can you plant onions in a container?). This experiment is also trying to determine when the best time to plant onions is, and I'm keeping careful records of when everything gets planted

My plan for my new raised bed garden is:
(started near the house)
Row of Peas
Row of 3 bell peppers
Row of 2 zucchini mounds, with basil, cilantro and dill in between
Row of 3 bell peppers
Row of onions (also rows of onions up the two sides)

Container garden on deck: Basil, Rosemary, Pepper plants, maybe some onions if those can live in containers?

Backyard old raised garden: Onions, and later in the summer sunflowers. Also also sunflowers in random spots around the house and the backyard, I love sunflowers! :)

Bonus picture: Max, the Winter Jasmine planted in the sinkhole, and the creek behind it (this was right after there was a huge storm so the creek was almost an actual creek instead of just a trickle of water!)


  1. After gozillion years of gardening here is what I know:
    1. The more sun the better.
    2. Every year is an experiment.
    3. I will never, ever feel as if I actually know what I'm doing.

    Have fun!

  2. yeah all these veggie places have such specific instructions with like fertilizer and stuff, do you bother with all that? Or is that for people who want to win prizes for having the best peppers or something?

  3. Last year was my first at growing veg, and now I'm addicted so I read your post with great interest :-D

    Also, I do think you really need to feed the plants. It makes the difference between having a great crop and a merely okay yield.

    I did a LOT of research on the net about looking after all my plants and I think it pretty much paid off. However, the bit I probably paid least attention to was feeding them, so I'm going to sort that out this year.

    I do think that if one is going to put effort into growing stuff to eat, it's best to put in that wee bit extra just to make your harvest as great as it can be!

    By the way, I'm intrigued to see you can't grow coriander (that's what we call it in the UK - you call it cilantro) in pots. It never occurred to me to put it in the ground because I don't have an awful lot of spare soil, but mine grew quite happily last summer in a pot on our decking ...

    Hope to see some photos when things start really growing in your garden - good luck! :-D


Anonymous comments are enabled for now