The raised bed vegetable gardening project

Week 2 of my interim vacation and I have spent little time in my own garden. I've got to get on the ball with Master Gardeners visiting next week and I may possibly advertise another open garden date for next weekend. The hydrangeas are really beautiful this year. Anyway, I digress.

I told you earlier that I spent some time cleaning up the landscaping around Michael's salon. I've also been engrossed in another project at my mother's house in Franklin County - a raised bed vegetable garden. In our garden, we have one tiny spot for vegetables (tomatoes and peppers) and good grief, that is under a dogwood tree. However, the few peppers and tomatoes do well there. My mother has tons of sun and plenty of room. She also has horrible clay soil and after it rains, it sounds like you are walking across a water mattress. Planting vegetables in the ground would be suicide so I knew that raised beds would be the only way to go.

I've been putting off this project for years because I'm usually way too busy in our garden and I'm only down there once or twice a week (she is a 25 minute drive from Florence). My interest kept percolating though and I started doing some research about growing vegetables. I didn't get the garden started last year so I was bound and determined to do it this year.

So here I go with this project and I'm sure it will probably be hit and miss but I look at it as a learning experience. My sister, who lives next door to my mother, has promised to keep the plants watered. I was there today (still working on more raised beds) and glanced up to see a raccoon in broad daylight. I'm guessing critters will be another problem!

I have broad plans for this little garden. I plan to enclose it with a fence and get rid of the grass and replace it with gravel. If and when Michael and I build a house our there, it will be back in those woods that you see in the distance. I envision a pathway leading up to the vegetable garden where I can tend to it daily and supply the neighborhood with fresh vegetables. I also start thinking about things like raising chickens and this is when Michael starts giving me dirty looks.

Some herbs and onions-

A few months ago, someone on a blog directed me a blog called Our Engineered Garden. I couldn't believe it when I read that the blog belonged to a guy named Jeff and he lived in Russellville, Alabama. This is my hometown! I grew up outside of Russellville, out in the country, but our mailing address is still Russellville. The wonders of the Internet! What did we do before it came along?

Jeff is a goldmine for information on gardening in raised beds, restricted beds, gardening on trellises, self-watering containers, you name it. I attended a program that he did tonight for the Extension Agency and learned more things, like the flimsy trellis I built for the cucumbers will have to go! It is all quite intimidating and I wonder what I'm getting myself into?

A sign of success already - tomatoes!

Along with the tomatoes, peppers and herbs, I've also planted squash, canteloupe and watermelon. I plan to stop there for the time being although my sister told me today that she would love some zucchini so I will add a bed for that but I think that is enough for a beginner!

Somewhere up there my father is bewildered and asking - where was my enthusiasm for working in the vegetable garden when I was a kid? How I hated it then! Having to leave the TV and my Abba records to work in the garden was the pits and cause for major pouting. How life changes!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Is that Sevin dust on the tomatoes?

  2. Your mother's place looks beautiful. I too find vegetable gardening intimidating and find that overall vegetables have a harder time with pests than flowers. But usually there's enough for all.

  3. Hopefully you're getting yourself into a lot of fun! Raised beds are definitely a good way to go especially when the land is filled with clay like TN and AL.

  4. LOL, Phillip, your childhood gardening stories sound exactly like mine. Dad expected us all to weed and mow. Nothing could have been more boring.

    Raised gardens are great but they're gonna take a lot of water midsummer. That is the reason I avoid them.

  5. Oh Phillip, with your gardening sense you will end up with the vegetable garden that everyone envies. I get those "looks" when I talk of chickens too. If we were to move to the country, well, I would just have to live with those looks. Just think of the fun of building a really cool looking hen house. All of those fresh eggs. And they eat a lot of those worms and bugs you don't want eating your veggie plants. What fun to look forward to.

  6. How life changes indeed. Good luck with your veggies. Are your beds high enough to thwart the rabbits? I've found that raccoons aren't too bad except when I plant corn, and this year, I planted . . . you guessed it, corn. I'm in for trouble.~~Dee

  7. Quite a project and what a great layout and location with an eye on the future.

  8. Your Mother will be the envy of all her friends. If I lived in the country, I would want the chickens people refer to as Easter Chickens. They lay the blue, green and brown eggs. Martha Stewart has them. I, too, am sure you would come up with the most unique design for the coop. Surely Michael would grow to love them. (If you put them far enough away from the house.) I do know raccoons love grapes, my niece cannot keep them out of hers.

    Pat Moore
    Muscle Shoals, Alabama

  9. As another gardener who lives with another cosmetologist, good luck with the chickens......

  10. It's funny you mention chickens. My father in law (also my neighbor) has 8 or so. He's been turning them out and they've found my compost pile! You wouldn't believe how well they aerate it! I think they are pretty strutting around and they haven't been a pest. Oh and the endless supply of fresh eggs are great...I haven't bought eggs for a year now! I am trying one tomato plant and 4 hills of sugar baby watermelons this year. I have to start slow so I don't overwhelm myself. It's my first year to start with anything besides flowers too!

  11. Oh you are a gonna for sure. Enjoy this new adventure. Loving every blog post.

  12. If the tomatoes are anything to judge by the raised beds will be a success. I am also curious about the dust on them though.

  13. That is sevin dust.

    I have heard about the problem with raised beds drying out fast. I've been told to make them deeper and that will help. I hope it won't be too much of a hassle.

  14. I love your enthusiasm Phillip (and can relate to the pouting about helping in the garden!). The beds look great and I'm sure this is just the first of many variations of your veg garden. Good luck with it all!

  15. I was exactly the same - I had to earn my pocket money in the garden! After 5 minutes I'd ask my dad if hewasnted a cup of tea. He inevitably always did! I would disappear into the house only never to return!

    Of course, when I got a telling off laer I could always use the trump card "Well I had to practice the piano!" As a pianist and musician now that I'm older - it obviosuly paid off! Teehe - however, I too have now discovered the green fingers - and now help allt he time at home. I may be 30 years older - but it's never too late to learn.

  16. Years ago on a spring visit to Indiana we built my mom a single raised bed. Was big enough for a few tomatoes and herbs ... and small enough for her to manage in our absence.

    Sevin for stink bugs? I can't bring myself to use it. I hunt and squish.

  17. They look great! All of my veggie gardening is done in raised beds. Because I used half native clay and half "good dirt," they still retain a fair amount of water and don't get too dry in the summer.

  18. We had 3 zuchini plants last year and had MORE THAN WE COULD USE! I'd plant one, and since they're bush you need about 3 foot square...
    chickens=manure=compost=awesome fertilizer.....
    and eggs!
    Look forward to reading more about your adventures in gardening....
    PS I pulled up all my mum's radishes and never had to weed again ;)


Post a Comment