Recently, I was going through photographs from the past few years and came upon pictures of the garden from the very, very beginning! I thought it might be a good idea to share because while I have lots of beautiful photographs of the garden, it decidedly did not start out that way and sometimes we need a reminder to just start. Very few things are aesthetically pleasing from the get go, instead it often takes a lot of work to get there! Unfortunately, social media (looking at you Instagram) can often make it seems like everyone has it together all the time and from the very beginning!
When we first bought the farm, I assumed we would put the garden between the house and the barn on what is all lawn. However, while speaking to a landscaper he suggested that we put it off to the side, in an area that was all invasives and scrubs- I had barely even paid attention to it it was so overgrown! It was however, a relatively flat spot, with full sun most of the day and it was a close walk from the kitchen. So we made a knee jerk decision to place it there and now, of course, I can’t imagine the garden anywhere else!
We moved into the house in the fall and started working on the garden right away since I wanted to get peonies in the ground! I already had a layout that I wanted for the garden and worked on getting that nailed down while Bryce started clearing the vines and invasives in the area with the tractor. No one was safe from working, Harris had to help dig peony holes!
On the property, tucked away in the woods, there was a derelict, falling apart chicken coop that looked like it should perhaps be burned to the ground. Instead, I begged and pleaded to save it and let it be my garden shed. We did indeed save it (more on that here) and it was such a good decision as it’s the background for the whole garden!
Once we had the shed in place, we started laying out the square beds. I should note that I have been told that having square beds is a waste of garden space and while I totally understand that rows make a lot more sense, I wanted square, compact beds, and I don’t regret that decision at all!
We went to a local horse farm and bagged up loads of horse manure to spread on top of each bed. We chose to prep each bed that fall by following the lasagne method of gardening. We had tons of cardboard from moving and it put them to good use. Pro tip- take the tape off of each box! Every once in a while I still pull tape out of our beds! Also, if I had to do it over again, I would bring in better quality soil for each bed. I still curse how many rocks we have in the bed and spent a lot of time this fall using a sieve to try to cut down on the rocks!
I also had the idea to edge each bed in stone from our property. This meant hunting them down in the creek and hauling them back to the garden. It meant Bryce digging them all in and it means that every winter we have issue with stones cracking and frost heave. While I love the look of them, they are not practical and have been a real pain to deal with!
Looking at these pictures, I realize that I just started planting things before all the beds were even ready! It’s actually so unlike me but I must have really wanted vegetables and flowers! I’m so glad that I did!
After we got the beds set, we realized that we had a grass problem, in that we mostly had weeds and dirt! We put gravel between the beds and splurged on sod for the rest of the garden. The sod was delivered on the hottest day of the year and we put every family member to work laying it down. Also, look how tiny the fruit trees were!!
We then focused on finishing up the shed renovation and building the chicken coop.
That’s the process of how the garden got started! Of course, it’s still not done and probably never will be! We have to change and adjust as needed. For example, I love the woven wattle that you see in the above picture around the peonies. It was so charming but also so quick to rot in our clay soil! It was simply too expensive to replace every year! (I’m still keeping my eye out for something similar but with metal spikes for feet.) Also, the fruit trees have gotten enormous! Even though they are all dwarf stock, they have far exceeded my expectations and I’ve planted replacements in the orchard (directly behind the garden) in case we have to take them down. Feel free to reach out with any questions!
It’s easy to see a beautiful garden like yours and think it was perfection from the very beginning – it is so helpful to read about what did work but also what you might do differently. Thank you for sharing!