Here's a quick look at my vegetable garden right now. Last year, we started (late) with just one tall raised bed. Earlier this year, we built another, and today we're just about finished building a third. As of now, we're planning to build a fourth, and final, bed. We've been in our house just over a year, so there's plenty of work to be done on the rest of the landscaping, but the veggie garden came first.

I'm using some of the ideas from All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. It's an intensive-style gardening that allows for greater yields in less space. That's why there are strings marking off each square foot of my bed. It really helps with planning - deciding what to fill each square with - and keeps things neat and structured (or as much as a garden will allow, anyway). I'm not using the soil mix advised by the book (Mel's Mix), but my soil mix isn't very different. I'm using approximately one-third each of peat moss, bagged topsoil, and compost. It worked pretty well for last year's garden, so that's the mix I'm going to stick with for my beds. I will be amending the soil with compost, of course, to help keep the soil healthy and full of nutrients. My beds are 4'x8' and just under 2 feet tall. It's not cheap to fill beds of that size, but my plants have a good depth for their roots, and it is so easy to maintain. Before filling with soil, we layered the bottom of the beds with cardboard, paper, grass clippings and leaves. That filled up several inches, so we didn't need quite as much soil. In addition, it helps with drainage, keeps weeds from growing up through the beds, and it will eventually decompose. I should also mention that the bottom of each bed also has chicken wire attached, to keep out any burrowing creatures that may want to nibble on our plants.

garden bed

The PVC poles are there so that I can attach plastic or row covers. Of course, it's been such a mild winter, that they wouldn't have gotten much use even if I started the garden as early as I had planned. Still, our last frost date in this area is mid-April, so I may still need them for frost protection. I'm going to be putting cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower in that bed, so I'll used them to hold row covers too. Row covers will let in water and light, but it will protect the plants from cabbage butterflies. A few days ago, I planted Tall Telephone Peas in the squares that are outside the hoops, along the length of the bed. The hanging CDs are an attempt to keep birds away, so they don't come and nip my peas when they start sprouting. The idea is that the movement and light reflecting from the CDs will scare them. It seems to work better for some than for others. Doesn't hurt to try.

I had three things left in my garden bed from last year - thyme, parsley, and some spindly little chives that I pulled out when I planted the peas. I'm really surprised by the parsley, because it was devoured by caterpillars last autumn. It had nothing left but stems. Then, all of a sudden, it started putting out leaves and is growing quite well. I'm planning to keep the thyme and parsley, but I'm moving them to new spots. The thyme is supposed to help deter cabbage butterfly, so I'm just moving it to a new spot in the same bed. The parsley is going in a different bed.

parsley and thyme

The thyme looks a little shabby, because it had spread pretty well over the last few months, and I trimmed it back quite a bit. I'm sure it will bounce right back.

We just need to attach the chicken wire to the third bed, then it will be ready to fill. It will be in approximately the spot that it's sitting in the picture. The black pod in the background is our compost tumbler. It's mostly lawn debris, with some kitchen scraps mixed in. It's mostly cooking right now, we're not adding much to it. We're thinking of getting it a sibling, and I will also be starting a worm composting bin soon.

garden beds and composter