Come and take our low maintenance raised bed vegetable garden summer tour in its first year. It's more than halfway finished and we're harvesting a good amount - even while fighting off animals that want all that we grow! Find design ideas and inspiration for your own low maintenance garden.
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My main goal with this vegetable garden (in contrast with my previous bigger garden), was to make it even more low maintenance. From my previous gardens I knew that raised beds were the way to go for easy care, but the new garden needed to be even easier with a smaller footprint, less weeding (mainly of paths) and have an automatic watering system.
We started the garden with a couple raised beds the first spring after we bought the property and added more after our first full year. During that time we learned that deer will eat what they're not supposed to, ground squirrels are as rampant as the gophers - and will eat all the tender growth of lettuce and seedlings. Oh, and also not-so-tender curly kale.
But we have been harvesting some things this year after constructing a deer fence in early spring - tomatoes, peppers, green beans, basil, and more, including a few flowers for cutting.
So I thought it was time to show you the state of the garden in the summer of its first full year (I'm counting this as year one since last year we only had 2 beds - and the deer and ground squirrels ate most of what we planted).
We are more than half way through with the garden plan, but I can see it in my mind and am excited for it to be completed!
You can take a video tour or keep scrolling for a photo tour with my comments - or do both! Choices, choices.
Vegetable Garden Summer Tour Photos
The entry part of the garden is the most unfinished part. We were left with a large expanse of weedy gravel after the previous owners removed a medical hardship manufactured home before selling the property. This space probably wasn't the best spot for a vegetable garden on the property, sun-wise, but I had no clue what I'd do with this space otherwise (plus this is the only area not riddled with gophers). So garden it is!
The small bed on the left was finished recently and will eventually hold some deer-resistant plants to pretty up the space. On the left will be two long beds that will hold asparagus and rhubarb - two perennial food plants that the deer aren't supposed to bother.
Right now it's just plastic because the weeds here are out of control. Ugh. See the green weeds in the gravel? Those were covered with plastic for a month or so and sprouted back as soon as we removed it to build the bed on the left.
Anyway - all the gravel is being covered with cardboard and wood chips. The gate will be topped with an arbor to hold table grapes eventually, too.
Garden Patio and Metal Beds
To the right when you walk through the gate you see the three metal beds I bought last year. They hold strawberries and zinnias which I planted while I figure out what I want to grow in those two beds.
The Metal Beds
While I do like the way they look, I'm not happy with the construction. The corners allow soil and water to leak out and they didn't seem super sturdy when I was putting them together, especially for the price.
I really wanted water troughs but they've become so expensive in the last few years after everyone started using them for gardens, so these were cheaper. Like I said, I don't like these as much as the regular troughs - either the look or height or the fact that there's no bottom.
Where can I find these metal beds?
I'm not really recommending them, even though they look nice, but here is were I bought them if you're interested, as they might be an option for you. I got four of the 'Sendro.' They are about half the price of troughs with free shipping.
What's all that I see on the ground?
Some of it is cardboard that I put down to cover weeds while we wait to install the watering system on this side of the garden.
The cement pieces are the beginning of a small patio we're adding using the broken concrete from all the previous walkways we had to remove around the farmhouse for the foundation. I'll share more of it's construction as we work on it.
It will hold just a couple of chairs to enjoy coffee, the garden, and this view:
Garden Corn and Bean Beds
If you turn to the left from the metal beds you'll see two long beds to the left, the rock wall bed in the center, and two more long beds to the right.
The beds on the left hold green beans and corn this year. As you can see above, the corn isn't doing well - it doesn't like growing in raised beds. I kind of knew this (it's shallow rooted, so dries out faster) but wanted to try anyway. I've harvested 4 smaller misshapen ears, so I won't waste the garden space on this again, sadly.
I always had an easy time growing corn in my other garden and had gotten used to having lots of corn fresh and in our freezer every year. I'll have to see how much I miss that - I may have to figure out somewhere else to grow it in the future if I miss it too much!
The bed next to the corn holds a couple of cattle panels that I'm growing Emerite and Fortex green beans up. We simply installed metal fence posts at the ends and one in the middle and then used zip-ties to attach the panels to the posts. So easy!
Tip: zip-ties are one of the new things in my garden bag - I find I use them in so many places.
The beans do grow much taller than the panels, though, but I just let them flop over the top and grow down. They are much easier to pick like that than on a taller structure anyway.
Round Rock Wall Raised Bed
I'm pretty happy with the way the rock wall raised bed has turned out in its first year. My plan was always to make this a focal point with flowers, fruit, and a few overflow vegetables. This year it contains:
- sweet peas climbing up the strings
- one tomatillo
I need to research some good climbing vine to actually grow all the way up and around the center structure but other than that each year this will probably look different.
Why did you build a rock raised bed?
Well our property is loaded with rocks - and boulders. Like to the extreme. So I have a lot to use that are free for the taking. You will see the rocks used in other places on the property, too, like the new bed next to the entry above. You could say it's a 'signature look!'
Garden Tomato Beds
The other two long beds hold tomatoes. I specifically changed the design of these four beds after visiting my master gardener aunt's garden. She was growing her tomatoes in long beds and the support system was cattle panels and...bungee cords! She said it was so easy.
You know she had me at easy.
So far I'm loving it. I start the plants with small bungee cords and then add longer ones as needed. If there is a stem that starts to fall, I unhook the bungee, stick the stem in it and rehook it to the panel. There seems to be plenty of air circulation to fight blight, and I still try to prune off the lower leaves to discourage the growth of the fungus.
These beds will rotate with the other two long beds every other year to combat disease. So next year the tomatoes will grow in the bean and corn beds and beans and something else will grow here.
The green tomatoes are taking longer to ripen here than in my other garden - it's the one vegetable that I'm really feeling the impact of 2-3 hours less sun.
But we have been eating tomatoes since the first of August and the plants are loaded with green ones, so no real complaints. As long as I can make chutney, salsa, and some marinara and pizza sauce I'm good. Oh, and dried tomatoes, and a couple of jars of rotel.
Shoot. I hope we get enough, ha!
Long Garden "Urbanite" Bed
I've built a long bed on the side of the garden that gets the least amount of sun out of another thing we have a lot of: broken concrete. This is also called Urbanite when it's reused in ways like this for the landscape. I had used it in our cottage for garden edging and paths, but this is the first time I built a layered bed with it.
As you can see it's half finished and not really planted. I stuck seeds to Jarrahdale pumpkin on one end and an indoor hydrangea Brian bought me that I'm trying to get established outside on the other.
This bed will eventually hold more hydrangeas (the only way I can grow them with the deer is behind a fence) and probably black currants and blueberries, though they may need more sun, so that's up in the air.
Pepper and Berry Beds
Walking down the side urbanite bed you come to the finished part of the garden - six raised beds that line the fence. These beds were all planted this year and have mulched paths and the watering system (yay- no weeds!).
There are two 8'x3' beds on the right which hold permanent plantings of raspberries and Triple Crown Thornless blackberries. This year I also am growing Baby Boo pumpkins over the edges to have enough to decorate with this fall.
The other four beds are 8'x4' and the one you see above is full of productive peppers. The plants are ALL loaded with fruit and we've been harvesting jalapeños (I've been fermenting and canning pickles with them) and anaheims.
And if you watch the video, you'll see that one of the sweet peppers has actually ripened to red, even without the pepper house this year!
Raised Vegetable Beds
The beds above have held the vegetables we lost the most of to the ground squirrels. We harvested a few weeks of lovely kale and broccoli before they found it and cleaned off every last leaf (I show the kale "skeleton" in the video...).
They scratch so much that seeds couldn't get established - so no beets and about 6 carrots made it through to grow tall - and then the varmints cleaned off every last leaf on the carrot tops! All the lettuce was eaten as soon as it was planted or sprouted.
We're harvesting onions, zucchini, and the cucumbers (only half a row that was able to seed) and beans on the trellis, though.
Hey, at least it's something, right?
This is where we're going to have to get creative with building covers for the beds that will actually keep them out. The chicken wire you see surrounding the beds above did not work, obviously.
At the last minute I found some old sunflower seeds and stuck them in around the garden and I'm so glad I did! They have been one of my favorite things this year - both to see in the garden and cut and bring inside. It won't be a last thought next year, that's for sure.
I so hope you've enjoyed this vegetable garden summer tour in its first year and have found some ideas and inspiration for your own garden spaces.
I will definitely keep writing about how this works out - how low maintenance it really is and what's working and what's not, so definitely stay tuned! Keep up with me by signing up for updates (and to gain access to a library of useful freebies, including a gardening notebook for your own plans!), and by following me on Instagram or Facebook.
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Make This Year's Garden A Success!