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My Veggie Garden Evolution

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about how I think it’s mean/discouraging when someone criticizes someone else’s garden or garden style. It happens. I’m one of the folks that thinks that anyone can and should garden (see my quote in the side bar). Really. Just do what you can.

To give a little encouragement to those just starting a veggie garden, I’m going to post pictures showing how my garden has evolved over the years. I’ve been growing veggies since 2002 – so almost nine years.

You’ll notice that my first veggie garden was pretty ugly, weedy and wimpy!  I mulched the pathway but not the weedy beds and those trellises wouldn’t hold anything up.  I remember how proud I was of this garden – and still am.

2002 Veggie Garden Beaux Arts Cottage

I doubled the veggie garden the second year. I also added tomatoes and dahlias! Oh, and the neighbors started remodeling their house — now that’s UGLY! The crazy mess in the middle is my herb garden.

2003 Veggie Garden Beaux Arts Cottage

I couldn’t find a picture of the 2004 Veggie garden but remember it was crazy with two large rows of green beans.

I had a wimpy garden in 2005 with mostly squash since I just bought a house and creating the perennial gardens took up all my time.

In 2006 I cleaned up a sunny spot on the North side of my lot and made brand new trellises for my green beans. This was back when I used red plastic mulch under my tomatoes. Now I cut up black garbage bags.

2006 Veggie Garden Monroe House Spring

In the winter of 2007 we added raised beds – I love them. We still have them today. Look how nice the beds look in early summer.

2009 Veggie Garden Monroe House

This is what the garden looks like in late September. Yikes. I have plastic over the tomatoes to keep the rain off.

2009 Veggie Garden Monroe House Late Summer/Fall

Here’s what the garden looks like today. We are in the process of remodeling the backyard and adding a stone patio — but it sure looks ugly right now. I’m not worried. I know it’s going to look great!

2010 Veggie Garden & Backyard Remodel MESS

See. It takes awhile to get your garden started. When you do get it started it may look good on some days and look like a bomb went off on other days. At least I have a fence to hide behind.

Updated 3/23:

What I’ve learned

  1. Raised beds are better for weed control and don’t need to be fancy. The community garden in my neighborhood uses *free* pallets and cuts into sections for raised beds.
  2. Drip irrigation works great for watering. I got a timer for $30 at Costco and I have all my drip hoses hooked up for early morning watering (in summer). My garden waters itself. Plus a lot of plants don’t like to be watered from above.
  3. To remove grass I now put down newspaper/cardboard and cover with mulch (we use leaves in the fall).  This kills the grass and adds nutrients back to the soil.  This works WAY better than laying down a tarp.
  4. If not using raised beds, try using mulch like straw, bark and shavings to keep weeds away. I cut up black plastic garbage bags for tomatoes & peppers and place over the drip irrigation (even in the raised beds – it adds heat). I hear you can call your local arborist and they’ll sometimes give wood chips for free (they dump it anyway)!
  5. Add compost. Before I made my own, I purchased bags of cow manuer from our local hardware store. Some of you may even have a neighbor with some to spare.  I mix it with the soil to add nutrients & feed the plants.  Make sure you have more soil than manauer when mixing – adding too much can burn the roots.
  6. Grow only what you eat. I grew stuff I thought was cool but never ate. This takes up room you could be using to grow something you would eat.
  7. Plant your veggie garden in a FULL SUN spot. Part of my first garden was in shade. I had a hard time getting anything to grow in the shady spot – even lettuce.
  8. If you want to save money, buy seeds. Easy seeds to start outside are lettuce, beans, peas, carrots, radishes, cucumber, sunflowers  and squash. These are also fun to grow when getting started. 
  9. Have fun, experiment and don’t give up. Start small and expand until you get overwhelmed. I learned by reading books and experimenting.
  10. Have the right support for your veggies. You can create trellises out of scraps of wood, fencing, bed frames or you can build your own.  I created my two trellises (in 2006) out of 2×2’s and nylon twine. I cut the 2×2 with a saw and wrapped/criss-crossed the twine to connect the wood together.
11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great post and very encouraging!!


    March 22, 2010
    • I get frustrated when people discourage others from starting gardens. I was going for encouraging! ;) Thanks.


      March 24, 2010
  2. Very nice! A lot of things to see and learn. Your raised beds are great! Such a good idea to take pictures of the same spot every year and see the progress. Happy spring to you!


    March 22, 2010
  3. I loved to see your different gardens. There is something so satisfying about creating one’s own space. I am enjoying seeing gardens that aren’t picture perfect ~ where there is work-in-progress happening. To me, these gardens show much vibrancy. I applaud anyone who takes the time to nurture plants, even if it’s just one.


    March 22, 2010
  4. Great tips.

    My favorite pics are the first and the one with the tomatoes covered in plastic. Everything looks so healthy and huge!


    March 23, 2010
    • The one covered in plastic makes me laugh. I covered the tomatoes to keep them dry from rain but it didn’t rain. Instead, when the frost came the parts of the plant touching the plastic turned black and the rest of the plant looked great. It’s ugly but appears to serve two purposes!


      March 24, 2010
  5. I really enjoyed this post and going through your photos. It’s amazing how you learn and change over time. I agree about drip irrigation, it’s easily the best thing I’ve done for my garden yet.


    March 24, 2010
    • Thanks Karyl. I hope I never stop learning. Drip irrigation is my favorite garden tool (and mulch). It’s amazing how much happier my garden is now that I have it EVERYWHERE. I’m even adding a timer to the front perennial garden this year!


      March 24, 2010
  6. What a great post. You can certainly learn alot from veggie gardening. I totally agree with “grow only what you eat” – as I’ve grown so much cool stuff that just took up time and space. Also learning how to save my own seeds is a great $$ saver!


    March 24, 2010

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