Getting Started on a Kitchen Garden

Hello and happy spring! It’s been a while, but remember I mentioned back in January we were working on our kitchen garden? Well, we’ve been able to make a bit of progress on that. But first, a little background on how this all began…

Sometime last autumn, I was reviewing receipts, frustrated about the cost of food we could grow ourselves. I’m like a cranky old bitty when I’m at the grocery store, complaining about the price of, say, mushrooms or eggs or whatever. It PAINS ME to spend so much money on produce. So, I said to the Mister, I know we have so many other things going on in our life, and dozens of projects to fix up this house, but we are already almost 2 years in and need to prioritize getting started on a kitchen garden. He was already in this mindset so it wasn’t a hard sell.

The thing is, and I’ve talked about this before, but this yard doesn’t exactly lend itself to growing edibles. It’s a forest, for a start, with shade, uneven terrain and lots of tree roots. Over the past two years, we managed to carve out space in the flattest, sunniest section–I guess you could call it a courtyard garden–which we spent most of the winter working on enclosing with fence to contain chickens and bee hives. It was important that we fence in the area for many reasons, namely to protect them from wild animals and neighborhood dogs, but our township also requires it for the chickens.

The picket fence part we completed earlier autumn, but the rest of it was going to be the simple “farm fence” I mentioned back in January. That’s great and all, but first we had to chainsaw our way through brush and suchlike to even make room for the posts.

This much brush. Yikes.

Gates and squaring off and adding hardware cloth to the base of the fence line also needed to be done. I could use a break from visits to Home Depot for a while!

Work in progress. You can just barely see the wire mesh we’re using to fill in between the posts (and laterals that aren’t finished yet.) This was once a wall of green, but don’t worry, the rhodies will grow back and fill that all in again.

Once the outer fence was in place, we installed the coop, hives, several gates and also electric fencing on the interior fence and retaining wall.

The chickens arrived in March, literally the same weekend that winter decided to finally show up in a big way. So, that was interesting, introducing very young pullets when temps dipped into the low teens and snow was piling up. They’re settling in nicely now and we just adore them even though they are the naughtiest as all chickens are. Their names are: Maple, Cocoa and Bonbon. Our township allows up to four hens so there is room for one more, but what I really want is ducks. (Don’t tell Jesse I said that. I’ve been “cut off” from bringing in additional animals.)

A couple of weeks later, the bees arrived. All I have to say is, WOW! Installing them into their new homes was insanely awesome and I am officially hooked. If you’re new to this blog and wondering, “The heck? Did she just go out and buy bees on a whim?” it wasn’t like that. The bees have been a plan of mine for years. I did go to beekeeping school but I also read a ton of books and articles, watch videos, am a member of our local society and continue to self-educate as much as possible. I know a lot can go wrong, especially for a beginner, but I’m going to do everything I can to give them their best shot at doing well here. In case you’re interested, these are Warré hives. Gosh, there is so much to say about my hive choice I think I need a separate post for that. I do plan on getting Langstroth hives as well so I can make comparisons and see which I prefer. I’m looking at beekeeping as a life-long adventure so I’m not rushing too fast into having a large apiary. If anyone has questions about any of this, please do ask away!

When making our plans for a kitchen garden, we talked about how much we could squeeze into this smaller footprint (with poor soil, mind) that would have good cost effectiveness. In other words, I’m not going to give inexpensive cabbage real estate but I am going to put in an asparagus bed. We realize that we will probably never be “off the grid” as far as food production goes, but it would be nice if several years from now we’re not visiting the grocery store as often. Berries and fruit trees were first up on my list of plants to add because they generally take a little longer to mature.

We selected dwarf fruit trees that I could loosely espalier against the picket fence. See how tiny they are? It will be years before we can harvest but someday, I’ll be thanking my past self for planting them! The galvanized tubs in the courtyard garden will contain plants like peppers and bush beans…

…but I also purchased large recycled paper pots to grow other edible annuals in. Here they are getting filled with a compost-based planting mix….

…and we made room for them in the upper garden. This area seen above is next on our list of garden to tackle! Remember what it used to look like? Horrors! The plan is to put the asparagus bed up here, put in a path that leads through to the other side of the garden, install a privacy fence surround, build steps through the rockery, put in a rain barrel, build another storage area next to the shed and then mulch everything out. You know, not much. 😉

I also want to put in a dedicated raspberry bed but in the meantime, they’re going into pots. They’re still so small, anyways! Are you curious what we have so far? I made a list of what we’ve currently installed (or have seeds/reservations for) and the pink font indicates what we still need. Here it is:

OUR KITCHEN GARDEN (AS OF MARCH 2017) & A WISHLIST

FRUITS

(1) CHERRY DWARF, 2015, STELLA
(1) FIG, 2013, VIOLETTE DE BORDEAUX
(1) MEYER LEMON, 2016
(1) KEY LIME, 2016
(1) PEACH DWARF, 2017, ELBERTA
(1) PLUM DWARF, 2017, SANTA ROSA
(1) PLUM DWARF, 2017, DAMSON
(6) MARA DE BOIS STRAWBERRIES, 2016
(2) RANDOM RASPBERRIES, 2016, NO IDEA THE VARIETY
(1) RASPBERRY, 2017, CAROLINE
(1) RASPBERRY, 2017, DORMAN RED
(1) RASPBERRY, 2017, DOUBLE GOLD
(1) RASPBERRY, 2017, CRIMSON NIGHT
(1) RASPBERRY, 2017, HERITAGE
(1) BLACKBERRY, 2017, PRIME ARK TRAVELER
(1) BLACKBERRY, 2017, OSAGE
(1) RANDOM BLUEBERRY, 2016, NO IDEA THE VARIETY
(1) DWARF BLUEBERRY, 2016,
(1) BLUEBERRY, RABBITEYE, 2017, TIFFBLUE
(1) BLUEBERRY, RABBITEYE, 2017, PREMIERE
(1) BLUEBERRY, RABBITEYE, 2017, BRIGHTWELL
(1) BLUEBERRY, RABBITEYE, 2017, POWDERBLUE
(1) BLUEBERRY, RABBITEYE, 2017, VERNON
(1) MORE CHERRY TREE
(1) MORE PEACH TREE
GRAPES
CANTALOUPE

VEGETABLES

(20) ASPARAGUS, 2017, JERSEY
(1) LETTUCE BOX
GREEN BEANS
CUCUMBERS
CARROTS
TOMATOES
PEPPERS
ARTICHOKES
SQUASH

MUSHROOMS: 

SHITAKE, WINECAP, PORTABELLO

HERBS

ROSEMARY
OREGANO
CHIVES
MINT
CALENDULA
LAVENDER
ROSEHIPS AND ROSE PETALS
SCENTED PELARGONIUM
COMFREY
BORAGE
DILL
BASIL
SAGE
CHAMOMILE
CALENDULA
PARSLEY

HONEY & WAX

BEES MARCH 2017, 2 WARRÉ HIVES  /  (2) LANGSTROTH HIVES … ?
(5) BAYBERRY SHRUBS PLANTED 2016

EGGS

(3) HENS MARCH 2017
(2) DUCKS

With all this going on, my focus was less on planning new roses than it normally would be during winter. I did manage to add a few new ones like ‘Ferdinand Pichard’ seen above and I imagine once the kitchen garden planning is complete I’ll get back into it. I was scrolling through my photos of the garden from last summer and practically foaming at the mouth looking at pictures of the roses in bloom! I’ve been topdressing them with compost this week and I hope they do well for us this spring.

The garden feels so fresh and full of promise this time of year. Above are some other snaps from the garden as spring unfolds. Until next time!

16 thoughts on “Getting Started on a Kitchen Garden

  1. If you’re looking for fast-growing and delicious zucchini, I can’t recommend the “Costata Romanesco” variety enough. 100% germination, grows like Godzilla and makes delicious, nutty squashes. Also have to put my oar in for Cherokee Purple, the tastiest tomato ever. We grow Moorpark apricots and Montmorency sour cherries up here, and are putting in an Opal plum, but like you, we have a few years until we see any fruit. 🙂 Good luck with the garden plans, it’s going to be amazing some day!

    1. Oooh thanks for the zucchini tip! I may have to try those…sounds wonderful. And Moorpark apricots sound fun, too! Ahhh so many plants on my wanty list. Isn’t it frustrating knowing it’s going to be years before harvest? It will be worth the wait, though! 🙂

  2. Holy Guacamole !! You all are amazing – everything is looking beautiful! Hats off to you for embarking on the bee keeping and chickens as well. Your property is totally transformed, I’m really impressed with what you’ve done in such a short time. Can’t wait to see your roses this year – those white obelisks really look great in the landscape!

    1. Gosh, thanks Cole! That is so encouraging. Most days this place feels like a hydra with projects upon projects…but we’re getting there. 😉 I can’t wait for the roses, too. Hope it’s finally starting to warm up for you where you live!

  3. You don’t go about things in a small way! With all those logs and slash, you have the perfect start to a hugelkulture garden. I am planning to try it this year in an area difficult to water. It’s an ancient German method that requires little to no water or added nutrients. I’m anxious to see how you grow your raspberries. I want to take down the fence that support mine for aesthetic reasons. Your chickies look happy to be running about. Can’t wait to see more.

    1. Thank you Andrea! I did think about doing a Hugelkultur type garden, but that would be another project. 😉 It’s ok, though, because all that brush comes back to us the following year when the township redistributes it to residents as mulch. Kind of a nice deal, really! And yes, the chickens are happy having the run of the place but they’re being a bit nuts, too, and we’re having to find ways to keep them out of the parts we don’t want them to go in. All that wonderful leaf litter and they have no interest, but by golly they want to hang out in the raised beds!

  4. Laurie, I am not Cassie. Somehow, Cassie’s name and email are entered in the name and email boxes in the comment section for your blog on my computer. When I deleted them and added my name and email address, the comment didn’t ‘send’. I don’t know how to fix it from my end, and I don’t think there’s anything you can do from your end. Just letting you know, and my apologies to Cassie. I have no idea why her name is on this page on my computer…… I’m not techy enough to figure it out.

    Anyway, Laurie, I’d like to know what kind of batteries you run on, and do you ever sleep? I am drooling over – you’ll never guess what – that big pile of branches and twigs – the perfect start to a Hugelkulture, an old German method of gardening that will furnish nutrients to plants for years and requires little to no water. I am planning to try it this year. I’m happy you got your chickies and bees, now fingers crossed for the ducks. ~Andrea

    1. Andrea, was that your earlier comment I replied to or was that someone else? Heavens, I am having such technical difficulties right now with this site! I apologize for the confusion and mishaps!!
      PS: Crossing fingers for the ducks, too 😉

      1. Aaakkk! Sorry for posting twice. I didn’t think either of them actually ‘sent’. I guess it wasn’t just my computer. You are too busy to mess with technical problems.

        1. I feel terrible this happened, tho! I’m having so many technical problems with the comments and posts and have literally been on the phone with my web host for hours with no results. I’m so sorry you got caught in this mess…I hope to have it fixed soon! 🙂

  5. I’m so excited about the new additions! Such darling little chickens and love the bees. I can’t wait to see all the progress this year. Each year is even more and more amazing!

    Also I found a Mirandy Rose at my local store this spring! We have talked about that one before and I’m excited to see if it turns out to be the rose we discussed! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one digging in the dirt already! I couldn’t wait for winter to be over.

    All your gorgeous pictures are inspiring me even more.

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