Building a 100th Acre Farm, Part 1 – The Garden

I can remember my first garden. I was around 10 or so and it was in the corner by the kitchen wall. It was a shady spot but it worked. We grew tomatoes and *a* pumpkin. (It wasn’t much of a pumpkin considering how many vines covered the garden.) I remember a mother rabbit had nested in there too.

The minimal success kept my family from trying vegetables again. But we did have success with some strawberry plants. (For some reason in Ohio, strawberries just kind of grow on their on without any help.) But I wanted to try again. And I did.

When I finished college I moved back home. And like many millennials I struggled to find a job. Even when I finally decided to go back to school for my Masters to be a PA I felt a lack of accomplishment. I don’t know what sparked the idea but I decided to try my hand at vegetable gardening again. I figured out how to build the cheapest raised bed possible using fence boards and stakes, filled it with soil and planted some seeds I started indoors. Soon enough I had tomatoes, zucchini, and spinach to show for it.

Flash forward four years later…I no longer am a broke college student living with my parents but a newlywed with a brand new home and 0.39 acres of land to call our own. And since last year between 2 moves a new job and a wedding I wasn’t able to do any gardening. But that also meant time to plan out the garden of my dreams.

Style and Design

If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest then you know that there are literally thousands of ways that you can arrange your garden. My initial garden planning actually started with a book that was given to me by my grandmother: Taunton’s Complete Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs. What I love about this book is that it contains so much architectural information about designing your own garden. For instance, the four corner garden design that came over from Europe has grown in popularity. I liked the aspect of cardinal directions and center boxes and drew up a design from there.

Garden Design

As you can see my garden is plan is 18’ by 20’ with four 4’x4’ boxes in the center and 2’ wide boxes encompassing the space. The entrance has 4’x8’ boxes to allow for some additional plants in the front and to create kind of an entrance.

Because of the clay soil we have from a new construction site, we opted to create raised beds. This allows for soil control and we could layer sand at the bottom to create some drainage and to break down the clay soil that lived beneath. The boxes ended up being about 16″ high, allowing for plenty of good soil. Construction involved digging out a bit of the ground to lay the boards and to institute a bit of leveling. Our backyard has somewhat of a slope and we chose to terrace a bit so that the garden was flat. My poor husband, Ben, ended up digging nearly 12 foot down on the one side to achieve this, did I mention I love him?

Early Construction

Filled Beds

Filling the Beds

Once a design was figured out, and the boxes built, then came the part of filling them with plants. I actually started many of my seeds indoors in a seed farm I set up in my basement. (Post to come later.) This was largely successful, but I attribute much of this to planning ahead. One of the best ways I found to do this was with the Garden Plan Pro app. You can pick and layout your plants in your space and they show how much room they need. My 2016 garden was quite ambitious:

Garden Plan 2016

Yeah… ambitious. I did end up swapping the location of the corn, carrots, and broccoli with the kale and lettuce due to concerns about the corn causing shade. In the end, it didn’t really matter all that much. There was plenty of sun to go around. And the beds literally exploded with growth.

Watering and Irrigation

So now that I had 360 square feet of garden, I had to water it. Yeah, quite a project on its own. Luckily, I know an engineer! I stumbled onto the DripDepot through their starter kit on Home Depot’s website. We got 2. They come with some excellent starter pieces but since out task was a little bigger than most we got additional 45-degree angles, drip tape, and several down sprayers. I think all in all the cost was around $200. We were able to run irrigation piping along the sides, meeting in the back and then running connecting pipes down the sides under the ground and up into the center beds.

The watering system does a great job of providing irrigation where it’s needed, the plants, and not everywhere else. Admittedly the system took some finagling and adjusting as we still ended up with excess water in the pathways. You wouldn’t think that would be that big of a problem….unless you have clay soil which doesn’t drain properly. We ended up a few weeks of pathways with several inches of water. I actually had frogs come take up residence in my pathways (read streams). It also meant for terrible garden keeping. I didn’t get to tend the way I needed to. We finally got gravel down in August, which has pretty much fixed the problem.

But there you have it. Our garden. So how did the first year of harvest do? I’ll go into depths on that soon!

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