Rural vegetable garden for beginner

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Easy Livin’ 3000

Minister of Fire
Dec 23, 2015
2,942
SEPA
Nothing great ever happens when people dip their toe in, so going in whole hog is great. If gardening is in your blood, go for it, it'll make you happy. Another benefit will be the effect it'll have on your kids, all sorts of wonderful lessons and values will be imparted. With your time constraints, definitely go for the weather link irrigation system, it'll save you tons of time and effort, then if you want to hand water, it'll be for the cathartic effect it provides, rather than a chore that has to be done. I'd go for a combination of soaker hoses and drip line, which can be reconfigured at will, and you can automate it as much as you like. Just underground plumb a spigot to the end of each bed, and you'll be set.

To save additional time (and improve results), use lots of mulch to minimize the weeding. I collect all the leaves off my lawn with a lawn vac in late fall, and use the chopped leaves as mulch in my beds. Keeps weeds way down, reduces water needs, and greatly improves soil as they break down every season. My lawn vac is my favorite implement.

Check out Mike McGrath's teachings. He has the NPR gardening program on Saturdays, he preaches the benefits of leaf mulch, and he is not mistaken.

I do things the hard way, and love the time outside, but you can definitely do it in way that is far more efficient, time and effort-wise.

When the kids are off to college and you are enjoying an early retirement, you'll have plenty of time to roam your garden leisurely, but by then it'll have produced tons of hyperlocal healthy food, and flowers for the Mrs. Dive in headfirst like you do. You won't regret it. If you have a vision, starting with a plan on paper is optimal, particularly for the irrigation, then you can just execute the layout. I had a small plan I started with year one, it really helped.
 

Cynnergy

Feeling the Heat
Oct 15, 2012
451
Coast, BC
I have a book about deer and one of the tips that I think is best is to get the fence in BEFORE there is something particularly tasty inside. That way, they learn to respect the fence without temptation.

I use simple plastic deer netting with pretty wide post spacing (10' or so). Works fine for me. Our black-tailed deer are pretty small though ymmv.

If birds are a problem, design your garden to cage/net fruit. I am experimenting with fan-trained cherries that are small enough to net - we'll see. They've been in about a year now so no fruit yet. The RHS has a great pruning and training book that you might want to pick up if you decide to go that route.

There are a lot of things you can do to make gardening less time consuming - buying plant starts (seedlings) rather than growing from seed, etc. Ask at local clubs/garden centres what are easy plants for your area and grow those first! I have 7 4x8 beds and an 8x8 greenhouse and I spend about 6 hrs/week in the garden during busy season. Automatic watering is definitely the way to go!




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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,701
Northern NH
The local fish and game officers who have to deal with animal losses recommends "baiting" the electric fence in advance by attaching strips of aluminum foil covered with peanut butter. The idea is for the animal (deer or bear) to find the fence and attempt to lick the peanut butter. They will get "adversely conditioned" and wont go near it. I had issues with bears in a berry patch until I put in an electric fence, it took two seasons and I don't even need to hook up the fencer any more.
 

Chimney Smoke

Minister of Fire
Nov 24, 2013
679
Maine
I bought a new house a few years ago and all of my property was woods. I've steadily been cutting trees and expanding my garden area each year. I started off with four 4X8 raised beds due to the freshly cleared brush and sandy soil. I now have ten 4X8 beds and a 12X12 area for tomatoes. I've found that time spent weeding is very minimal with my set up and I grow everything in the beds except corn. For creepy crawlies like squash and cucumbers, a trellis works great. I also trellis my pole beans. Last year I even did potatoes in one bed and they did OK. I've been lucky so far, the deer don't bother the garden maybe because it's very close to the house but I have had to fence in my orchard area because they kept giving my newly planted apple trees a haircut.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,677
Philadelphia
Any recommendation on square footage for a family that probably barely meets average vegetable intake? Two adults, two very young kids.

I had originally measured out a space of 28' x 52', which could contain twelve 4' x 8' beds with nice 4' wide aisles all around, but now I'm thinking that's going to be far more space than I want to plant or maintain.
 

Chimney Smoke

Minister of Fire
Nov 24, 2013
679
Maine
You can grow a lot of veggies in twelve 4X8 beds. Depending on what you want to grow, it may be way too much or just enough. If you're growing primarily things to pick and eat (greens, cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, etc) less would probably work. If you're growing things that spread out more you will want more space. Squash, pumpkins, melons, etc need lots of leg room. I have ten 4X8 beds and a 12X12 tomato patch and it's just my wife and I. Sometimes I wish I had more growing room, but I also like to can my own veggies so extra is my plan.
 

Easy Livin’ 3000

Minister of Fire
Dec 23, 2015
2,942
SEPA
Any recommendation on square footage for a family that probably barely meets average vegetable intake? Two adults, two very young kids.

I had originally measured out a space of 28' x 52', which could contain twelve 4' x 8' beds with nice 4' wide aisles all around, but now I'm thinking that's going to be far more space than I want to plant or maintain.

Some notable experts recommend starting off small and manageable to avoid burnout. I don't think you'll have this problem based on the nature of your content here over the years. I'd say, make it larger than you think you'll need, you can always plant flowers or cover crops that require little to no attention in the beds that aren't for food production. Helps with fertility, tilth and also to do crop rotation, as you want to avoid planting the same crop in the same place over and over.

Also, it's way less work in the long run if you are planning irrigation and fencing, to make it as large as you want in the beginning. I'm on at least my fourth expansion in five years, and it would have been much less work to fence it once and not have to do it over. I'm still holding off on my final irrigation plumbing plans until I feel confident that the expansions are complete, maybe a few more years... .

Oh, and leave enough space inside your fence for the plot that you will use for corn and squash after you decide for yourself (and you will!) that those 4x8 beds are totally ill suited for those crops.
 

Dobish

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2015
2,038
Golden CO
we have 4 raised beds.... 2 @ 6'x2' and 2 @ 6' x 3'. We are a family of 4 that eat a ton of vegetables, and there were plenty of times when we were giving away squashes, lettuces, etc. I plan on doing another 2 beds this year, and moving some of the lettuces and herbs to smaller containers....
 

Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
494
Helena MT
Another thing you can do with your sprawling vine crops in raised beds is to plant them on the corners and train/pull them to sprawl off the beds and onto the paths.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,677
Philadelphia
Hmm... sounds like (as usual), I may have over-shot a bit. However, my son is interested in doing corn, pumpkins, watermellon, and some things that may need space. I do not eat squash (but my wife does), so I wasn't planning on a ton of that. I was figuring the following list:

corn
tomatoes
potatoes (thanks Quayle)
lettuce & cabbage
green beans
strawberries
broccoli
carrots
corn
cucumber
onions
peas
bell peppers
pumpkin
watermellon

I could also fill bed space with things I'm growing out in the yard, which is currently being harvested more by deer and birds than me:

blueberry
raspberry
blackberry

I haven't yet taken the time to compare the harvest periods of each of these veggies, to our actual weekly usage, to make some determination of how many of each to plant. I know most just go on experience, here, but I have none.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,218
SW Virginia
The traditional rules of row/plant spacing don't necessarily apply to raised rectangular beds. I highly recommend you look into Square Foot gardening. The system was created by an engineer (which I figure you'll appreciate). http://www.squarefootgardening.com/
 
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Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
494
Helena MT
Your raspberries (and I think blackberries) will sucker and spread underground badly underneath the raised beds. I would put that bed out to the edge, with room to mow the spreading shoots all around outside the raised bed.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,677
Philadelphia
I like the idea, semipro. That site looks like it's geared toward selling the maximum number of products to folks with very small gardens, but the ideas may carry over. He wants $20 for the 101-course, where he explains what SFG is, and then another $20 for the 201-course, where he describes more of the concepts. I might get by fine just watching Youtube videos on raised bed gardening.

Are cover crops (eg. rye grass) generally used in raised bed gardens? At the beginning of the thread, a few people mentioned "no till" methods, but I haven't spent enough time digging into that.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,701
Northern NH
One thing I plan to do with the new garden is put in a lot of flowering plants for pollinators. I set up the garden this past summer but left it fallow, it seeded naturally and it was usually buzzing with bees for much of the fall. I picked up a pollinator assortment of seeds and they are going in around the garden. My mom used to always keep some sort of flowering plant going during the growing season around her garden and pollination definitely wasn't an issue. I am not up for a bee hive yet, but if I can encourage the local wild bees to do their thing I should be covered. I may even make up some bee boards for overwintering the bees.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,677
Philadelphia
I have enough flowers and flowering shrubs on this property to host flower shows, although this garden will be a few hundred feet from the closest flower beds, which are all in the front yard or close to the house.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,218
SW Virginia
I like the idea, semipro. That site looks like it's geared toward selling the maximum number of products to folks with very small gardens, but the ideas may carry over. He wants $20 for the 101-course, where he explains what SFG is, and then another $20 for the 201-course, where he describes more of the concepts. I might get by fine just watching Youtube videos on raised bed gardening.

Are cover crops (eg. rye grass) generally used in raised bed gardens? At the beginning of the thread, a few people mentioned "no till" methods, but I haven't spent enough time digging into that.
Yeah I don't know what he's selling but I've had his book for about 20 years and its been a great reference. The concept is what sold me not the merchandise.