Garden Through the Years

Sometimes it’s good to look back and see where you’ve been. It helps me be grateful for how far I’ve come, and gives me clarity about where it is I want to be going. With that in mind, I’m starting this new weekly series, Throw Back Thursday, to highlight past posts and reflect on what it means for my present and future.

This week, I’m taking a look back at my garden. In August of 2011 I was able to start my first in-ground garden at our new home and it really took off. The tomato plants got so huge they crowded out everything else. Eventually I had to crawl into the belly of the beast and prune like my life depended on it.

Veg Garden 2011 August
Veg Garden 2011 August

The garden then was built as simply and cheaply as I could make it, using large rocks we found around the property as the bed walls, to keep the soil in and the rabbits out, and some cheap fencing from Home Depot. It was small; I think about 5′ x 10′ (that seems big on paper – or screen, rather – but when you’re crawling over and reaching under and through and all around to try to get at your harvest, it’s really cramped), but I packed a lot of veggies in there. Tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, lettuce, carrots, beans and peas.

It was a great little garden, but alas, it was not meant to be forever. We expanded our deck after a couple years, and one of the posts landed smack in the middle of the garden. So for that summer I had a container garden set up in a different part of the yard. I figured I’d be able to move the containers around if the light in one area wasn’t sufficient, and once I figured out where the best place for the garden was, I’d dig in the following year.

That’s this year and wouldn’t you know it, the neighbor cut down a couple big trees in his yard, exposing almost my entire yard to full sun. There isn’t a bad spot anywhere any more. This garden I wanted to be nicer, and more permanent. The rocks around the perimeter were kind of cute, but they made mowing the yard a hassle, and kept getting dislodged, rolling down the hill. Not super useful. So husband helped me build a tiered bed, one that would follow the contour of the hill.

The back yard is a hill, so to prevent erosion we built tiered beds
The back yard is a hill, so to prevent erosion we built tiered beds

Each bed is 4′ x 4′ and the walls are untreated cedar. If you look closely you can see that Husband built one 4′ x 4′ frame and three 4′ x 8′ frames. We then stacked them offset from one another by 4′ so that it would be easier to lock them together. Each side of each bed has two pieces of rebar going through each frame and into the ground. This garden ain’t going’ nowhere.

I then used the fencing that I had built for last year’s container garden to go around this one. The fence is made of twenty 2′ x 4′ panels of 2″ x 2″ lumber and chicken wire. The idea was to contour the hill with the fence panels so that no matter where a deer stood, it would have to try to reach over a 4′ tall fence panel. Last year I held it all together with zip ties and put hinges and a hook & eye closure on a couple of them so I could get in. This year two panels are screwed together side-by-side and attached to green metal fence posts spaced 4 feet apart around the garden.

In the first bed I have two tomato plants, although only one of them is really thriving. One is supposed to be a cherry tomato plant and the other roma, but I’m pretty sure the “cherry” plant was mislabeled. So far it hasn’t grown more than 2 feet tall while the roma plant is nearly 5 feet tall. In the second bed I have four zucchini plants that, despite powdery mildew, are enormous. The third bed has sugar snap peas, and the fourth has sweet corn. I decided to make the fourth bed an experimental space where I could try out things that are likely to fail, but would be awesome if they didn’t. The corn is doing well, but I didn’t get it planted early enough and it’s likely to frost before they produce any corn.

The zucchini are taking main stage, but the corn, peas and tomatoes are all happy to be growing.
The zucchini are taking main stage, but the corn, peas and tomatoes are all happy to be growing.

The fencing isn’t the prettiest, or most permanent solution possible but after spending about $300 on the bed, we just didn’t have enough to do a “proper” fence. Next year we will find a better looking, more permanent solution, though I hope we can keep the panels that I built; I’m really proud of them.

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