Keith’s Vegetable Garden – FineGardening

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We’re visiting with Keith Irvine today, who gardens in chilly Zone 3 in Oxdrift, Ontario. We visited Keith’s garden before (Keith’s Zone 3 Garden).

I would have to say that the successes I am most proud of are the pond, the Japanese Garden, and our latest creation—a completely made-over vegetable garden. It is 32 feet by 40 feet and fully fenced for deer proofing. I strongly resisted fencing for many years simply because most fences I’ve seen are so unsightly! But the deer became such a problem that it was either scrap the vegetable garden or put up a fence. I am a staunch supporter of Bobbex for keeping deer out of the flower beds, but you can’t use that on your food crops. So in the winter of 2019-2020 I spent hundreds of hours on Pinterest gathering ideas for deer fences and waist-high raised beds that aesthetically I could put beside my house.

So today Keith is taking us on an in-depth tour of that vegetable garden.

raised beds in old vegetable gardenTaken May 6, 2020, this photo shows the old vegetable garden that we replaced. The original raised beds were just two 2x6s high and were in dire need of replacing. The soil in them had been compost enriched for years, so we removed it by hand and stockpiled it on tarps during the construction phase. On the back far left, note the black horse water trough in which we grow sweet potatoes. Next to that across the back was a sparse row of raspberry canes that the deer browsed on all winter, and a low bed going perpendicular to the other raised beds that contained our asparagus.

new raised garden beds filled with decaying wood materialThe raised beds were filled using Hugelkultur principles. The bottom 2 feet were filled with very rotten logs collected from our property. Many ATV trailer loads were hauled, and my devoted wife got in there and compacted them. Since the overall footprint was identical to the original raised beds, the reserved soil filled the top 1 foot. Of course, there has been a lot of settling and topping up with things like composted sheep manure, peat moss, and emptied flower pots from the massive number of containers that we grow annually. The rotten logs in the bottom greatly reduce water consumption. I read an article that said you could garden in a desert using Hugelkultur without having to water. That is a bit of an exaggeration; however, it is amazing how little watering we have to do.

Each fall once the vegetables are removed, we dig holes to bury all of our compostables until freeze up. By planting time the next spring everything is broken down.

overhead view of finished vegetable gardenThis is an overall view of the garden taken from the roof of the house on July 30 this year. A bit of a guided tour starting from the far right: The 6-inch-high by 4-foot-wide bed contains raspberries at the back, then asparagus in the middle section, and a clump of rhubarb at the front. Then there are the five 3-foot-high by 3-foot-wide raised beds. In the space just inside the gate is the sweet potato bin, a tiny row of green beans, two zucchini, and self-seeding dill. Next are four rows of corn and then a double row of staked peas on the end.

seeding square and the results in the gardenWe use a seeding square to get immaculate spacing with very little thinning. Most vegetables we grow are at the “red circle” spacing, which is 16 plants per square foot. The fresh, perfectly spaced new seedlings in the bottom right are lettuce. The more advanced seedlings on the left are this year’s lettuce, kale, and chard.

close up of raised bed filled with mature greensFrom June 23 this year: Here’s a more expansive view of the lettuce, kale, and chard.

gardener holding two canteloupes in his gardenYours truly with a pair of canteloupe in August 2021

close up of watermelons growingWatermelons from August 28, 2021. The largest of these weighed in at 18.6 pounds. The drawback of the raised beds is the need to support the melons with either a sling or a log.

sweet potato plant and crops harvested from plantThe sweet potato bin and subsequent harvest in September 2021

raspberry plant and buckets of berries harvestedOur raspberries are producing phenomenally. If you look close in the left photo you can see the fencing material. We used hogwire panels ordered from a local farm-supply business. They come in 4-foot by 8-foot sheets. The mesh is 6 inches by 6 inches. No saggy fence here!

close up of many crops in the vegetable gardenFrom July 31 of this year: Here’s a closer glimpse of the sweet potato bin, zucchini, dill, and corn. Peas are behind the corn against the fence.

 

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