Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Tiny Vegetable Garden

Now sleeping with a thick layer of leaves and grass clippings that should make a nice mulch in the spring, the veggie bed is a good spot for overwintering a few plants that didn't quite make it into the shade garden or front foundation beds this fall. We had walks and the patio replaced this fall, and I lost a small border on one side of the house in the process. Plants grown for Native Seed Gardeners were in that border. They were transplanted for safekeeping into the veggie bed back in September, and will be moved to new homes early next spring.

Also overwintering in the veggie bed are several Baptisia australis plants started from seeds back in July or August. They're so small, I hope a few will make it through the winter. Tall bellflowers from my trip to Mom's back in September were given a temporary home in the veggie bed too. Since so much of the shade garden was chewed to ground (probably by rabbits,) while I was away, I couldn't really tell where it was safe to plant. That's also my excuse reason for once again not planting bulbs this fall.

Our veggie bed is only about 4' x 10,' and gets less than 5 hours a day of direct sun. Still, it produced an amazing abundance of produce all spring, summer, and fall. We grew lots of lettuce and greens, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, peas, garlic, beets, radishes, squash, and several varieties of peppers. The bed was planted intensively using square-foot, interplanting, and succession-planting methods. We enjoyed beautiful, fresh, delicious, healthful organic produce every day, all through the gardening season, and had more peppers, green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes than we could eat.

I shared some veggies with family and friends, and made tomato juice, blanched and froze extra green beans, diced and froze extra peppers, and made pickled jalapenos, pickled green tomatoes, and bread-and-butter cucumber pickles. . . all from our new little raised veggie bed in a part-sun side yard, built late last fall using retaining wall pavers with a thick layer of newspaper at the bottom to kill the grass, and alternating 'lasagna' layers of compost, fallen leaves, and grass clippings. Over the winter the layers aged. By spring we had the most beautiful garden soil, rich, crumbly, and full of earthworms.

Newspaper-lined, lasagna-style, raised, mulched beds have made a believer out of me. I don't think I pulled more than ten weed seedlings from the veggie bed all season. Watering was minimal, limited to about six weeks midsummer when we had no rain. The soil held moisture very well, and the mulch helped prevent evaporation. I've never had such a small vegetable garden before. I'm still amazed how little work, and how productive our little bed was. I can hardly wait for next year!


  1. Good morning, Linda! Our veggie beds look to be almost the exact same size and mine gets maybe 6 hours of sun in July... but I also got a lot of stuff grown there! I've been doing lasagna layering for years--don't even remember where I first heard about it, but I love it. Cheap, easy, effective--it has me written all over it! Happy December, Monica

  2. Forgot to mention, I planted a sum total of 0 bulbs this fall, as well. I got quite a few in last year... I like seeing them bloom in spring, but I've never been big on planting them...

  3. Good morning Monica, isn't it amazing how much produce can be grown in such a small space.

    I'm glad I'm not the only bulb-deficient garden blogger. I actually did plant a few bulbs - 5 or 6 hardy cyclamens and about the same number of alliums. (had to cover them all to keep 'em from being dug up.) I'm not big on planting them either. Maybe next year. . . Happy December!

  4. I'm amazed at how much produce you harvested from this small plot, Linda! This is a good illustration that you don't need a lot of space to grow vegetables. Sounds like we have similar preserves put up for the winter, but I didn't grow cucumbers this year--those bread and butter pickles are making my mouth water:)

    I didn't plant many bulbs this fall either; I hoping all the ones that I planted a year ago come up again this spring. Hope you had a great week with Middle Daughter!

  5. LOL, now that you mention it, i *did* plants some bulbs--five allium and 3 foxtail lilies. Thanks for reminding me!!! :)

  6. I recently built a very similar vegetable bed, 3x9, with the newspaper and lasagna soil method, although I didn't quite fill it up all the way this fall. I am thrilled to hear that your similar effort produced so many vegetables! After only growing veggies in containers I'm really excited to have a true vegetable garden bed!

  7. Anonymous7:45 AM

    Hi Linda, you have really made optimum use out of this tiny space! Well done! The veggie beds are so good at holding plants safely until we figure out where to put them. I have one raised box that was supposed to be for carrots that has ended up being for dahlias instead. That lasagne method is fabulous, I agree. When I think of the time wasted with all the digging out of sod in the beginning here when newspaper and layers would have worked so much better with so much less effort....


  8. Hi Linda,
    What a lot of good "stuff" to eat this winter...and all because of your little veggie garden. I had a small garden in my previous house and neighbors just couldn't believe how much I got out of it. I usually plant bulbs, but not this year...because of surgery. I'll be anxious to see what comes up from last year.
    Have a great day,

  9. Hi Rose, I'm pretty amazed too! I've done a lot of freezing of garden surplus in the past, and even made jams and fruit butters too. This was the first time making pickles, but it won't be the last! Those bread and butter pickles. . . yum - so good.

    We do have some daffodils and scilla in the garden here - scilla's happy, daffodils, not so much - they could use more sun.

    We had a wonderful time with the Middle One - can't wait to see her again at Christmas. Hope you had a great time with your Older Daughter too!

    My pleasure Monica!

    Rose, I understand your excitement! I waited five years for a veggie garden here. Even though it's small, and not full sun, I'm thrilled to have it. I think you'll have lots of fun with your new veggie bed, and will be amazed with how much you can grow in a small space.

    Hi Frances, I definitely maximized the space! In past gardens I had wide rows with lots of space to walk between them - in this bed every space was filled to maximum capacity (good thing I have long arms!)

    Last winter the new veggie bed was christened with its first plantings being perennials that didn't make it into their intended spots in time - it's a perfect temporary home for them.

    It's been more years than I can remember since I dug sod for a new bed - newspaper's my favorite way to kill grass! I usually just hold the newspaper down with a thin layer of compost and mulch - this is the first time I've built a raised bed. Lasagna layering is definitely the way to go. I'm so impressed with how beautiful the soil is.

    Hi Balisha, it's truly amazing how much produce a small bed can yield!

    I can sure understand how you didn't get to do any bulb planting this year. I'm glad you're being careful, trying not to overdo, and taking care of yourself. I hope you'll have lots of repeat performances next spring from your bulb-planting efforts last year. :)

  10. Hi Linda! Nice pantry stock you got there! I've never produced enough crops to be able to can (except zuchs). And from that little space~I'm truly impressed ;)

    My veg beds are full of daylily divisions now..which all have to be moved next spring..extra work but I don't mind.

    Have a great day, Linda! We're supposed to hit 64 degrees today...excited!

  11. Hi Lynn! I'm pretty impressed too - never imagined I'd have more veggies than we could eat fresh from this little space. Great minds think alike - the veggie bed is such a good spot for overwintering plants that don't make it into the ornamental gardens late in the season. Hope you enjoyed the beautiful weather. We had some very nice weather too the last couple of weeks, but it definitely feels like winter now - even had a few snow flurries yesterday.

  12. I made my first lasagna bed a few years ago and became a 'beliver';) So easy, no tilling no double digging, no weeds and no watering. Haven't tried the square foot method yet but should. Need to get organized and set it up.

  13. That is very impressive! I sent your post to several friends! I hope to convert them to the layering method!
    Hoping you and yours are doing splendidly!


  14. Hi Marnie, definitely easy! I like everything about this method. I've done no-till gardening for years, just killing the grass with a layer of newspaper and either some compost or mulch to hold it down. This is the first time I've done a raised lasagna bed, and am sold! I'd read this type of garden is virtually weed free, and that's been my experience too. In a summer with normal rainfall, no watering would have been needed. I did have to water during our six rain-free summer weeks, but it definitely held moisture better than any other garden I've had. All that beautiful compost holds moisture like a sponge.

    I have my own loose interpretation of square-foot gardening, since I'm not keen on following alot of rules. I'm not using a grid, for one thing.

    Close planting in this type of bed works very well. It's definitely not necessary to space most vegetables as far apart as seed packets recommend, or to have wide spaces between rows.

    Thank you Gail! I hope they convert too. This is such an easy way to maximize space and minimize labor.

    Thanks for the good wishes - we're all great, including the Little Guy and our future granddaughter! :) Hope you and yours are doing splendidly too, and hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

  15. I'm going to have to try the lasagna method now that I see how little weed pulling you had to do.

    btw, I saw a job posting recently about an urban farm manager position for a nonprofit in Chicago. Now that I see how much you managed to get out of that little plot, I realize I should've forwarded the Email to you!

    I'm sad to say I didn't plant much in the bulb department because we started sprucing up the house in late fall and didn't have time to go bargain hunting.

    Next year.

  16. MBT, I was skeptical when I read about how little weeding would be necessary, but so far I've found it to be true. Of course the mulching also helps a lot.

    Urban farming would be right up my alley, but unfortunately in our climate it would be seasonal and I need year-round work.

    Very cool that you're doing some remodeling! Hope it's going well. Being in a job search now is definitely reducing my free time, and I can empathize with being busier than usual!

  17. Just shows you what you can accomplish with a smallish veggie bed.
    Lovely post

    Aanee xxx
    Flowers Dublin


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