My Small Vegetable Garden
How Did My First Raised Bed Garden Grow?
My small garden has proven to be a real learning experience! Yes, a raised bed garden makes growing vegetables and plants easier, but nothing ever really goes as planned. This page is a chronicle of the first summer season in my small, raised bed vegetable garden. I have included photo galleries further down this page that cover the months from April until September. You will see my successes and my failures.
The image above is of my raised bed garden. The photo was taken in early May (garden was planted in the month of April in the southeastern USA).
Sunlight is the most important ingredient to the success of a vegetable garden. At least six hours exposure is important for success!
Another very important ingredient to gardening success is a good fertilizer! Choose organic or other kinds, but you must feed your garden! My personal recommendations for fertilizers can be found by clicking here (opens a new page).
In my previous experimental garden, I used containers of various sizes and materials so I could move the location if needed.
I discovered that vegetables grown in pots are subject to blossom end rot. (The cure for blossom end rot: Add calcium or use a spray--this is the one I use: Fungicide Tomato Yield Booster-- opens a new page.) I also discovered that the dirt in the pots dries out quickly and that can hurt production on the plants and make them more susceptible to disease.
You can read about my adventure in growing tomatoes in pots here: A "Secret" Potting Mix Formula for Tomatoes (link opens a new tab)!
After all that experimentation with containers, I now have a location for my garden and have made a permanent raised bed garden. My husband built it in a day. Keep scrolling down to see how he accomplished that gardening task.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos are mine.
Based on a work at A Small Vegetable Garden.
(this article was written in 2009 and is updated about one time a year; it DOES contain timeless information and you are welcome to continue reading on)
NOTE: This page was edited in April of 2017. I try to update it about once a year. The information is classic and I invite you to read all about my experiences with a raised bed garden.
5 Tips for your 1st Garden:
1. Do not crowd your plants. Follow directions for spacing!
2. Buy the best wood you can for your planter or it will rot.
3. Do Your Research!
4. Use fertilizer.
5. Water every day in the morning.
Constructing A Raised Bed Garden
You must have a Plan!
We purchased these supplies for the raised bed:
14 landscape timbers (Note: buy the best you can! Mine developed termites because they were not treated. Read Raised Garden FAQ for advice for purchasing wood. Remember that treated lumber might contaminate your vegetables with unwanted chemicals.)
a box of 6" timber nails ($47)
the soil (3 bags 1CF top soil- $2.34, 1 bag 2CF Miracle-Gro Garden Soil-$5.36, two 50lb bags Black Cow Manure-$8.) SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT MORE!
Ten vegetable/herb plants totaled $31.00. (Too many! My garden was too crowded and became prone to disease.)
I bought a flat of bedding plants (flowers) for $14.95--I know, too much, but I had a variety of plants in one flat. I did not use all the flowers in the vegetable bed. The flowers that I did put in the raised bed eventually died because I over-planted.
My husband built the box in one afternoon. He bought 14 timbers and had 2 left over. Approximate finished size: 70" x48" x10"
Before we put in the soil, I placed an old bed sheet on the bottom. I thought I would see if it would keep the weeds and grass from invading my raised bed from beneath! Originally, I was going to use newspapers, but decided to try the sheet instead. I tacked the sheet up the sides of the box as well so the dirt might stay put in the box. (I am holding up the edge of the sheet in the picture above right.) NOTE: the sheet worked for the first year. It eventually rotted, but it did no harm and did kill the grass under the raised bed.
For the square pots:
I purchased the soil and tomato growing mixture for the 2 large pots from a friend for about $45. He got the supplies at Classic Garden and Landscape in Center Point, AL. This garden shop has a "secret formula" for growing tomatoes. He and I wanted to try the method so we shared the cost.
So, I need to get approximately $138.00 worth of vegetables out of this garden to break even! (I am numerically challenged so if my totals are off, forgive me.)
2 Garden Fertilizers I Highly Recommend
Charlie Thigpen (used to work for Southern Living magazine) personally recommended the Dynamite fertilizer to me. It is organic and will not burn your plants. It needs only to be applied once a growing season--but feel free to add it if plant leaves start to turn yellow.
To see Charlie's website click Charlie Thigpens Garden Gallery.
1. Mr. Stripey Heirloom Tomato
Did not get many tomatoes at all--will not plant it again.
2. Talladega Tomato
Not many fruits from this plant either--it could have been too crowded.
(the was the best producing tomato plant)
4. Anaheim Pepper
A fun pepper to grow, had decent results.
Great herb plant! Learn to make pesto by visiting my Dixie Pesto Recipe.
6. Brandywine Heirloom Tomato (Produced lots of fruit and got top heavy--should have kept it trimmed back. This should have been the only tomato plant in the garden. See what I did with the green tomatoes from this plant.)
7. Pattypan (early white bush scallop) Squash
Grew very well--too well in fact; should have given it more room or trimmed it back.
8. Orange Bell Pepper
Did not get as many peppers as I had hoped for--it is more cost efficient to buy my bell peppers from Costco.
9. Red Bell Pepper -- see the above Orange Bell Pepper comment.
10. Lettuce Blend
I kept my lettuce growing all year long by reseeding. Grew right thru the winter. You must plant lettuce!
I planted extra lettuce seed along the outer edges.
I later added flowers for beauty and pest control (marigolds). (The garden was over-planted so my flowers eventually died.)
Raised Bed Garden Kits for sale: - Find a deal on a raised bed on eBay.
If you do not have a husband or a handy-person to do your building, you can buy a kit on eBay for your raised bed garden!
I would advise you to find a more permanent wood product than the garden timbers that I used.
Want to build your own and not buy a kit? Here is a very good article from Sunset magazine that has instructions for building a raised bed garden: The Perfect Raised Bed.
Tomatoes planted in 2 containers:
Will I get enough from these pots to justify the expense?
On April 17th I had tiny tomatoes. They are on the plant in the tan colored pot. It is a "Patio Cherry Tomato" variety specifically for pots.
In one of the square big pots, I planted one of each: Big Boy Tomato Plant; Bush Goliath Tomato Plant
In the second square big pot I planted one of each:
Bonnie Original Tomato
Patio Tomato (a branch that was broken off the other patio tomato--I hope it roots!)
Informative book about "gardening by the square foot" ~
Click the following to go to the Original Square Foot Garden website:
I have wanted one of these square foot gardens for a very long time. This is the book that will teach me the basics of Square Foot Gardening!
Growing vegetables in a small space! - A recommened book for every gardener.
Read this gardening book and it gave me lots of ideas and encouragement!
Beware. This is a dangerous book. Once you have read it, you will not be able to say: "I don't have enough space (or light, or the right climate, or soil) to grow any food." You'll have to find some other excuse.
From a review by Susan Wittig Albert
A Month By Month Gallery:
See how this raised bed did during its first summer.
April 14-16th in my garden: - Click on each picture to get a description of my gardening efforts:Click thumbnail to view full-size
My Garden on April 22nd - See how my plants are growing--click on pictures to read comments or get a larger size.Click thumbnail to view full-size
My Garden on April 30 - Click on a picture to see it up close.Click thumbnail to view full-size
My Garden on May 7th - I had to add supports for the tomatoes and peppers this week! You can click on a picture to enlarge it or read comments.Click thumbnail to view full-size
May 14th--Still Growing! - You know the drill - click on a picture to enlarge it.Click thumbnail to view full-size
May 21st ~ A Problem Arose for my garden! - The Roofers Came and wreaked havoc on my veggie garden and pots! Click on each picture to enlarge it or read commentClick thumbnail to view full-size
May 28th in the garden - Click on each picture of my garden to enlarge it and read any comments.Click thumbnail to view full-size
June 4th In My Garden - Click on each picture to read any comments I have made:Click thumbnail to view full-size
June 12th in the garden! - Click on each picture to read comments I made about the vegetables:Click thumbnail to view full-size
July 3rd in the garden - Gardens do not fare too well when you are on vacation!Click thumbnail to view full-size
July 31st--High Summer in the Garden - My garden has over-grown its spaces!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Gallery of The End: September 22, 2009 - Click on individual garden images to read my comments and make them larger:Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cherry Patio Tomato Plant - watch how it grows! - Ate the first ripened cherry tomato on Friday, May 22nd. Oh so good!!!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tomatoes In Containers: A Gallery
Cherry (or Patio) Tomato Plant in September
Tomato Yield Booster - Mickie_G uses this garden product!
Recommended product to help control blossom end rot. A must have product if you grow vegetables in containers.
More Excellent Squidoo Pages to help you grow a Square Foot Garden
Year after year I find the most wonderfully informative pages about gardening on Squidoo. I truly believe that the best and the brightest write here.
- A Square Foot Gardening Adventure:
Just because you build it, you might not plant it the same year! Read about the journey one mom made to growing vegetables with her children.
- Square Foot Garden:
Excellent page about using the Square Foot Gardening method. Personal experiences are the best ones to learn from.
- Waist High Raised Bed Gardening:
How to garden when you cannot bend down.
What I have learned about vegetable gardening:
1. Water every day in the morning when there is no rain.
2. Do not plant tomatoes close together.
3. DO assume that all the plants will grow so allow for lots of room.
4. Do NOT assume that a "bush-type" squash will be a bush and not a vine.
5. Do not be afraid to try growing something new.
Please let me know what you think of my garden. I also welcome useful tips.