Expanding the Garden and Using What You’ve Got

This is one of the many reasons I love my husband: While I was at work the other day, he doubled the garden spot next to our driveway. I’ve been meaning to do this myself, and it magically appeared, covered in newspaper and composted soil from last fall’s leaves, ready to be planted with spring vegetables in a few weeks.

For perspective, here’s how big it was last summer, when I first dug it up and put tomatoes out front rather than in the back where they weren’t getting enough sun. (Look over Sylvia’s head; this is the best picture I have!)

And a few days before the driveway garden expansion, Phil finished the expanding job I started in the front of the house, even adding stepping stones (from a never-used path on the side of the house) so the mailman doesn’t have to change his route after dropping our mail in the box by the front door. I’m planning to replace the little bushes with blueberry bushes, add rhubarb in front of those, and then plant herbs in front of the stepping stones. Sort of hard to envision right now, but in my head, it’s going to be fabulous and lush.

The new space doesn’t just give us more planting room, but it connects the little plot in front of our window with a plot that lines the sidewalk going to the house. Here’s how that spot looked before Phil curved the garden:

Our vegetable garden space has been creeping. The first summer we lived here I had a relatively new baby, and all I could muster was digging a tiny plot in the backyard. I also had a couple EarthBoxes on the deck, but, not having grown up with vegetable gardening, a few tomato plants was all I could handle. And as we got more babies, some summers I didn’t even muster the energy for those tomato plants.

But a couple summers ago I finally read Square Foot Gardening and got inspired to build a couple of very poorly constructed 4 X 8 raised beds using these instructions. Max filled the beds with composted dirt from an out-of-control leaf pile for $1 per wheelbarrow load. He made $15, and I didn’t have to work so hard. That’s what you call a win-win. Last summer I added four more 4 X 4 boxes and, finally realizing our backyard was too shady for tomatoes, I dug a new plot next to the driveway, where the tomatoes grew beautifully. Also last summer I put in strawberries, raspberries, sorrel, and asparagus — perennials that appeal to lazy gardeners who don’t want to replant every plot every year. It was also the first time I planted potatoes, which, if you haven’t done this, is a magical and exciting thing to harvest.

The side garden in back, which was just a dirt pile with a dead bush when we moved in, is cleared and planted full of garlic. Come summer, I’ll probably also mix in some wildflowers. The front side garden and the little plot in front of the house will now hold lots of herbs.

I find it encouraging that we still have plenty of yard for kid play, and I don’t spend every moment tending the garden, but we still have lots to eat come summer. And not having tackled lots of garden space when we first moved in, but letting it naturally expand as we got a little more free time and learned a little more about gardening, has been a nice rhythm for Phil and me, who never jump whole-hog into anything.

Looking at these pictures from last summer make me hungry for a time when everything isn’t gray. C’mon Spring!

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4 thoughts on “Expanding the Garden and Using What You’ve Got

    • I did get seed potatoes, but our neighbor just planted some from her pantry and they did fine. I think the whole thing is the seed potatoes are definitely disease-free. I think I got mine last year from from Johnny’s, but this year I’m doing Seed Savers Exchange. I miight also try some regular supermarket potatoes and see what happens. I’m pretty sure I planted around early April, but I’ll check.

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