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Small Home Vegetable Garden - I'm Doin' It!

Updated on July 6, 2013

Vegetable Gardening For Fun (And Profit?)

...I'm finally putting feet to my intentions.

A small vegetable garden is good for the sole. It's good for the body in terms of exercise and healthy food, too. And I will not let my past (failures) influence my future (success).

In the past, I learned one thing, and I let it taint my gardening experience - growing your own veggies is not the cheapest way to get healthy food. Let me explain..

I started a home vegetable garden in a past life. I lived in South Florida, Ft. Lauderdale to be exact. And I got the urge to grow a small crop of fresh veggies. It cost me about $40 for each green bean! This was after buying a few garden tools, amending the soil so the crop would prosper, and fighting off attacking insects and critters with store-bought preparations.

In the end, I was not able to deal with the leaf blight and rodents. They devastated all my plants, and I was left with a handful of beans and a few tomatoes. No squash made it to the table, and only a couple of peppers.

I checked both thumbs and discovered they were NOT green.

I am older and wiser now (I hope), and I have moved to richer soil.. in Georgia. Last year I planted some tomatoes and they did pretty well until the deer found them. In the process, I figured out how to discourage the cute four-legged critters, and I have begun anew with high expectations for a bumper crop.

This lens will be a chronicle of my vegetable garden journey.

Photo: by the author, two weeks after planting.

Preparing For Veggie Garden Success

This process actually started last summer when I built a compost bin. I threw all my clippings and fallen leaves in there and let nature do its thing.

The first photo shows the yard long before the cold weather had left us. I figured it was a good time to do some of the heavy work while the air was still cool enough so that I did not get overheated. Notice the brown grass (the green stuff is a nice crop of weeds that develops each winter).

The actual first step was to place the landscape timbers. I purchased 8 of them (8' each) at Home Depot for less than $4 each.

I wanted to be able to get to the entire planting area without having to step into the garden, so I made two rectangles 4' by 12', cutting two of the timbers in half for the ends and two others were cut in half to create the longer sides. I used some scrap lumber to join the long sides using my DeWalt drill and some weather resistant screws.

Impact Drill and Driver.. Gardening Tools?? - OH YEAH!

DEWALT DCK211S2 12-Volt Max Drill/Driver / Impact Driver Combo Kit
DEWALT DCK211S2 12-Volt Max Drill/Driver / Impact Driver Combo Kit

This may not look much like gardening tools, but, trust me when I tell you that the drill and impact driver are an indispensable part of my arsenal. I used the drill when putting together the landscape timbers as well as creating the holes where the PVC supports were inserted.

The impact driver makes easy work of inserting lag bolts to hold the timbers together.

 

In this photo, I am using my Ryobi power tool with a tiller attachment. It saved me a lot of time and helped my back as well. It worked really well because we had some spring rain a couple of days before, which softened up the soil.

Before this step, I used my garden fork to turn over the sod. I then added some of my compost and that's when I tilled the whole thing together.

The Beginning Of My Home Garden

Click thumbnail to view full-size
**Make sure you click on each photo to read about the entire process.**I secured the framework in place by driving a wooden stake in the corner and screwing it to the timbers.. I only needed one for each frame.The layout. Two rectangles measuring 4' by 12'. I left enough room between to be able to work from the side without actually stepping into the garden.Here I am adding compost as a soil amendment. I also added some bone meal and sulfur before tilling it all together.After waiting a couple of weeks for the cool weather to get warmer, I put in a few tomato plants and some marigolds (the marigolds discourage destructive bugs from attacking).Speaking of "attacking," This apparatus is meant to keep out bunnies and deer. Cute as they may seem, they are not welcome in my garden.Here is the finished critter control. I will add some Irish Spring soap cubes to discourage the deer even more.I used a spade bit in my DeWalt cordless drill to drill a hole partially through the landscape timber at a slight angle.The pvc tubes are placed into the holes and anchored each with a single screw.This picture shows the top of the frame. There is a 45 degree coupling at the top. Just below is a coupling that holds the horizontal tube which ties it all together. Finally, I added some old speaker wire to keep everything tightly together, since I
**Make sure you click on each photo to read about the entire process.**I secured the framework in place by driving a wooden stake in the corner and screwing it to the timbers.. I only needed one for each frame.
**Make sure you click on each photo to read about the entire process.** I secured the framework in place by driving a wooden stake in the corner and screwing it to the timbers.. I only needed one for each frame.
The layout. Two rectangles measuring 4' by 12'. I left enough room between to be able to work from the side without actually stepping into the garden.
The layout. Two rectangles measuring 4' by 12'. I left enough room between to be able to work from the side without actually stepping into the garden.
Here I am adding compost as a soil amendment. I also added some bone meal and sulfur before tilling it all together.
Here I am adding compost as a soil amendment. I also added some bone meal and sulfur before tilling it all together.
After waiting a couple of weeks for the cool weather to get warmer, I put in a few tomato plants and some marigolds (the marigolds discourage destructive bugs from attacking).
After waiting a couple of weeks for the cool weather to get warmer, I put in a few tomato plants and some marigolds (the marigolds discourage destructive bugs from attacking).
Speaking of "attacking," This apparatus is meant to keep out bunnies and deer. Cute as they may seem, they are not welcome in my garden.
Speaking of "attacking," This apparatus is meant to keep out bunnies and deer. Cute as they may seem, they are not welcome in my garden.
Here is the finished critter control. I will add some Irish Spring soap cubes to discourage the deer even more.
Here is the finished critter control. I will add some Irish Spring soap cubes to discourage the deer even more.
I used a spade bit in my DeWalt cordless drill to drill a hole partially through the landscape timber at a slight angle.
I used a spade bit in my DeWalt cordless drill to drill a hole partially through the landscape timber at a slight angle.
The pvc tubes are placed into the holes and anchored each with a single screw.
The pvc tubes are placed into the holes and anchored each with a single screw.
This picture shows the top of the frame. There is a 45 degree coupling at the top. Just below is a coupling that holds the horizontal tube which ties it all together. Finally, I added some old speaker wire to keep everything tightly together, since I
This picture shows the top of the frame. There is a 45 degree coupling at the top. Just below is a coupling that holds the horizontal tube which ties it all together. Finally, I added some old speaker wire to keep everything tightly together, since I

New Amazon

Espoma BM4 4-1/2-Pound Bone Meal 4-12-0
Espoma BM4 4-1/2-Pound Bone Meal 4-12-0

I needed two bags of bone meal... one for each rectangle.

 
tomatoes in my veggie garden
tomatoes in my veggie garden

Easy Vegetables

Since I am somewhat of a beginner to home vegetable gardening, I am only growing veggies that are easy to grow. Of course, they must also be pleasing to my personal palette. (No jalapeno peppers, please!)

I have grown tomatoes before, so that is my main crop. I know I need to keep them protected from deer due to last year's fiasco. I have also planted radishes to get a quick return. Anyone can grow radishes and have them in a salad within a month.

Also in my beds, I have:

  • carrots
  • bell peppers
  • cucumbers
  • onions
  • string beans
  • lots of leaf lettuce

Last year, my major success was sweet potatoes, so they are going into this year's veggie garden, too. I bought a single sweet potato at the grocery store, and I will allow it to start putting out roots. Then I will cut it into sections and put it in the ground. But I will not use my prepared space for this, because sweet potatoes take up a lot of ground space. Instead, I will plant these in a remote area of my yard and let them roam.

Gardening Gloves Are Essential

Bionic Men's Elite Gardening Gloves, Silver, XX-Large
Bionic Men's Elite Gardening Gloves, Silver, XX-Large

There are lots of different kinds of gardening gloves on the market. It is well worth the cost to get some good ones. They will make the work of gardening so much more enjoyable.

 
Bionic Women's Classic Gardening Gloves, Tan, Large
Bionic Women's Classic Gardening Gloves, Tan, Large

They are available in both Men's and Women's sizes.

 


It's important to test the soil for PH.

Bob and Cheri Hooper have just celebrated 40 years in business at Hooper's Garden Center in Kalispel, MT. They visited us in Georgia in the Fall, and I got so much information from both of them about how to grow a home vegetable garden.

That is when I decided this would be the year to jump back into veggie gardening.

In all the knowledge he shared, Bob assured me that the main thing that will guarantee success is water. But not just watering on a consistent basis. The PH of the soil is paramount to garden success. Too acid or too alkaline and your plants will not produce. And this is true of flowers as well. In fact, since they left, my flowers have been flourishing! Now it's time for the vegetables.

The way to make sure your soil is the correct PH is to test the soil and test the water. You can take your soil and water to a local agricultural extension, or you can do what I did.. let Bob test it and recommend the right fertilizer.

Bob did exactly that. He left Atlanta on a plane with a bottle of my city water and a container of my dirt. A few weeks later, my bag of fertilizer arrived in the mail.


I need this watering can to fertilize my little garden. It's the perfect size! All the reviews are excellent.

The fertilizer is 17-5-17, which is good for my soil-water combination. It may be good for yours too. I could not find it online, but Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food is about the same configuration. The fertilizer is water soluble, and I have been using what Bob and Cheri sent me by mixing it in a watering can and applying every 2 weeks.

Critter Control

I lost almost everything last year to the deer. I did not know what was doing the damage until the damage was done. I had no idea deer would eat tomatoes and the leaves. This year, I am prepared.. let the battle begin!

BirdBlock Bird Netting Reusable Mesh Netting Bird Protection, 14 feet x 45 feet
BirdBlock Bird Netting Reusable Mesh Netting Bird Protection, 14 feet x 45 feet

This option will give you more flexibility as far as length, but since I knew the exact size, the square 14 x 14 worked for me.

 
4' X 50' Dry Top Green Fence
4' X 50' Dry Top Green Fence

I have this on each end, but you could also use this heavier plastic fence around the whole garden.

 
first veggies!
first veggies!

Early Harvest

May 7 - I pick my first veggies!

I planted radishes just to have some early success, and it paid off.

This afternoon, I plucked these 5 beauties from the garden. Ain't they purdy?

I certainly think they are. I am really excited about these radishes. My sweet wife had one in her salad and proclaimed its goodness.

I'm a happy home gardener!

And the photo below is my first tomato. Granted, it has a ways to go (it's less than 1/4 inch across), but it's a start. Yahoo!!! We're off!

Leaf lettuce from my home garden
Leaf lettuce from my home garden

Late May Harvest

As of the end of May, leaf lettuce, carrots, and radishes have been plucked and eaten.. lots of lettuce.

Lettuce==>

And there are tomatoes-a-plenty growing in the garden and on the deck in containers. I may have to discover the art of canning. A good problem, right?


The main body of the carrots is only about 3 inches.. suspiciously the same as the height of a peat pot. This is one of the more interesting carrots I harvested.

Also growing quite well are string beans, zucchini squash, and cucumbers. If the zucchini matches the size of the blooms and leaves of the plants, it will be something I can take to a 4-H gathering and enter to win a prize for largest squash plant. No kidding, the blooms are about 10" across.

There are some deformities in the carrots, though. I think I can explain. The seed package says to sow the carrot seeds directly into the soil. I sowed them into peat pots and put them into a cold frame in order to get a head start. When I transferred the peat pots to the garden, I did not remove the sides or bottom, and it stunted the growth of the carrots.

The carrots are delicious in spite of the funny shapes. And after transplanting the peat pots, I sowed more carrot seeds into the garden as directed on the package. So, in a couple of weeks, we should have some "regular" looking carrots.

Did I mention that I have given away some lettuce and radishes already? And I am hoping that trend continues. It is nice to be able to share fresh veggies with friends and neighbors.

Another Harvest from my Backyard Garden

Vegetable Garden Harvest - June 16
Vegetable Garden Harvest - June 16

This is from June 16. I could not believe the size of the Zucchini. It's longer than my forearm.

We had one even larger. These monster zucchini are good for more than 3 meals each.

You can also see some leaf lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. There are so many tomatoes getting ready to ripen, I am going to have to learn how to can or make spaghetti sauce. This is a good problem.

July 6 Vegetable Garden Harvest

July 6 Vegetable Garden Harvest
July 6 Vegetable Garden Harvest

Here is the basket of veggies I plucked from my backyard garden while dodging the rain that has plagued the Southeast during the past week.

The zucchini are gi-normous!

The cucumbers are pretty hefty as well.

But the tomatoes.. they actually taste like tomatoes, and I love tomatoes.

I would love to hear your comments :-)

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    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 2 years ago

      Hi Kate,

      I am so glad I don't have issues with raccoons! They are very clever little critters (bandits). If I come across anything, I will surly let you know.

      Good luck...

    • profile image

      Kate 2 years ago

      Lovely garden. I live in the midlde of deer country but still havenever had problem with the deer. What I have problems with is´╗┐ raccoons. Any hints you have at keeping the masked bandits out of the garden would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much. You make wonderfully informative videos.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      @JoanieMRuppel54: I now know what you mean, jsr54. I also have many tomatoes sitting on the counter and lots more are getting to the picking stage. My zucchini are of epic proportions. Lots of fun and good eats!

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 4 years ago from Keller, Texas

      Congrats on your will and work to have a small garden! We have had a garden for over 30 years and I simply cannot imagine not eating fresh, organic veggies each spring and summer. We have oodles of tomatoes right now along with bell peppers, potatoes and squash.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      @Margaret Schindel: Thank you for your kind words, MSchindel. Don't be discouraged. If I can do it, anyone can.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Your wonderful article is giving me hope that I might be able to grow some of my own vegetables! Congratulations on your well deserved purple star.

    • profile image

      angelatvs 4 years ago

      For sure I have a brown thumb if you are saying that "anyone" can grow radishes - tried that last year and failed, but I always get great tomatoes, so must be doing something right! Enjoy the radishes!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Good luck on your garden this year. I hope you have a bumper crop.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      Spring is full of promises and your new garden looks very promising, indeed!