I still have to formally write out all of my garden goals for 2019, but I can tell you two things right now: (1) it’s going to be a BIG list, and (2) establishing a new vegetable garden will be at the top of the list.
We’ve been spending more and more time at our cottage during the summer. This is absolutely amazing, but the one big drawback has been that my established vegetable garden is far enough away that I wasn’t able to spend as much time gardening last year as I would have liked. As I prepare for creating a new garden this year, I thought I’d put together a series of posts detailing the different steps to get started.
Deciding How Big to Make My Garden
The first step was trying to figure out how big my new garden should be. My first “real” vegetable garden was just 10 feet by 20 feet, but it’s gotten bigger every year. I currently have two veggie gardens:
- My primary veggie garden is a fenced area that’s 30 feet by 40 feet. That’s 1,200 square feet, but once you take out the asparagus patch (which doesn’t need to be fenced) and all the walkways, the garden is only about 600 square feet of actual vegetable garden beds.
- We added a second veggie garden at the cottage to give me more room and some soil to work in while I’m there. That one is 20 feet by 30 feet with no walkways, so about 600 square feet of gardening area.
So, just with that, I know that my new garden will need at least 1,200 square feet of garden beds just to replace my current two gardens. Add to that:
- Additional garden beds to grow even more of our own food.
- Walkways between rows.
- A path around the edge that can be mowed with the tractor (5 feet wide) to keep weeds down.
- Additional room to grow raspberries and fruits within a fenced area to protect them from murderous woodland goats (i.e., deer)
When I put all of these needs together and sketched them out, I determined that a reasonable garden size would be about 50 feet by 100 feet—that’s an enormous 5,000 square feet for everything!
Select the Garden Location
I knew that my new garden was going to be big, and that it wouldn’t fit in our yard at the cottage. So we took our extra-long tape measure and went out to the meadow to see where it should go. The new garden needs:
- Full sunlight for as much of the day as possible: This is something my current vegetable garden lacks.
- Good soils: All of our soils will need some improvement, but starting with good soil will make my garden a lot more productive.
- Access to water: There are times of the year that I’ll have to water the garden, so I need to have some water source nearby.
- Convenient location: It would be nice to have the garden nearby so it’s easy to get to.
- No flooding! Our property is in the floodplain, so see need it as high up as possible. Even 1-2 feet will make a huge difference.
We selected a location in the meadow because it gets full sun and is one of the areas least prone to flooding. The soils are decent (good compared to much of our region) and I can imagine a straightforward watering set up.
The biggest compromise is on location. The new garden will be located along the driveway into the property, which is handy, but it is about 400 feet away from the cottage and outbuildings. This means that it will be a long, inconvenient, and sometimes frustrating walk back to the house and outbuildings if I need to grab a tool or leave something behind. But it’s workable, and I can eventually decide to store some tools at the garden area if I want to.
Design the Garden
Once we decided on where to locate the garden, I was able to confirm that the space could easily fit a garden that’s about 100 feet wide (east-west) and 50 feet deep (north-south). And, that if I someday decide that I need even more garden, we could just increase the depth to 100 feet (north-south) and double the space.
I use Microsoft excel for pretty much everything, including designing my garden beds. I just make individual cells square and treat each one like a square foot. With that, I was able to lay out my new garden:
There are fifteen vegetable beds (in green) that are 25 feet long and 3 feet wide, the narrow width designed to be easy to work in. These beds run north-south to capture the sunlight, and I plan to make them slightly raised over time. I’ve kept walkways (in yellow) down to 1-foot wide between a lot of the veggie beds, with a few wider rows to accommodate a wheelbarrow. There are also four fruit beds (in blue) that are 25 feet long and 4 feet wide, which will be for raspberries or other perennial shrubs. There will be a 5-foot-wide mowed border (in light gray) around the entire thing, and all of this will be inside an electric fence.
When I plot all this out, it ends up being 99 feet wide and 64 feet long. So we’ll aim for something close to that when we put this in the ground.
Allocate Space to Different Veggies
I’m still working out how much of each vegetable I want to grow, but here’s an initial plan of what to plant in each bed. Each bed is 75 square feet (25 by 3 feet), which is nice because it makes the math easy.
|Vegetable||# Beds||# Sq Ft|
I have 30 beds in my garden design, but only ideas for what to plant in 21 of them so far! I think that’s good for my first year because it will be everything I can do to get this area tilled up and measured out in the spring. I’ll be short on time this spring, and so I expect to have a large amount of the garden that won’t be ready for production in the spring. I can plant these areas to cover crops to build the soil or even plant something fun and easy like pumpkins to occupy the space. If I find after one or two years that the area is too big for veggies, I can plant more perennial fruits on the north edge.
That’s the plan, and hopefully it’s not to ambitious! I’d love your thoughts.