Vegetable Gardens

woman works in garden

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Vegetable gardens are first and foremost functional. If your vegetable garden doesn't produce great food, what's the point? It can be a simple tomato patch or a German four-square, but the result should be the same.

Usually vegetable gardens are laid out to make give each vegetable what it needs to grow, to squeeze in as many plants as you can and to make it easy to work in the garden. But there's no rule that vegetable gardens can't reflect the gardeners personality just as well as a flower garden. If vegetable gardening is your passion, let your imagination flow. Vegetable gardens don't have to be hidden from view anymore.

This is a 20' x 20' plot I put up the first summer I moved into my current house. You can’t see them, but I used the plastic instant raised bed corners and 2" x 8' boards. I originally had no fence and then the rabbits came. In the past, the marigolds had kept them at bay, but I only put in the one row this time. So I put up a quick plastic fencing and the rabbits ate very neat holes through it. That’s why there is 2' wire screening all along the bottom of the fence.

This garden functioned very well for about 10 years, even after I’d expanding into another area of the yard. It had an easy entry gate that was wide enough for my wheel barrow and another gate on the far side, by my compost bin. The beds are laid out in a 4-square with a bean tower in the center. The blue garbage bin is where I grew my potatoes.

Companion Planting

Here’s another of my vegetable gardens. This was my first stab at a random companion planting. I wasn’t strict about planting in rows, I tucked in flowers and plants to attract beneficial insects and I intermingled crops that are supposed to help each other grow. Believe it or not, I spent a great deal more time trying to lay this “random” garden out than when I plant in rows. I did attract a lot of lovely good bugs, but I just couldn’t handle the mess it became by the end of the year. I don’t even tolerate that in my flower gardens. But that’s just me. Other visitors told me they found it very pretty. I’d have to admit, there was a lot of color.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Rustic Precision

This is a beautiful rustic garden. The tomato cages are made from saplings cut on the property. The same twigs were used to create the garden fence. You can see that a cutting garden runs the length of the garden in front of the tomatoes. The saplings give a very structured and orderly garden an informal feel.

Informal, yet Orderly. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

A Rainbow of Lettuce

This is a great example of both wide row planting and just how beautiful simple vegetable gardening can be. This is the vegetable garden at Locust Grove - The Samuel F.B. Morse Estate in Poughkeepsie, NY. It’s an organic, historic, heirloom garden laid out much as it would have been in the past. While they have their share of pests and invaders, they have many more successes with this block planting and intercropping.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Invite Them into Your Garden

This beautiful blue arch leads from the ornamental portion of the garden to the hidden vegetable garden. It may be hidden, but few visitors can resist walking through the arch. This is an excellent example of leading the eye.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Chicks and Ducks

On the other side of the arch is a virtual farm. While the flower gardens were billowing abundance, the vegetable garden is kept tidy with straight lines. The arch here is not the entry way arch. It’s a wire arch for trellising crops, but it echos the entrance and adds a great deal of interest to the vegetable garden area.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Free Form Garden

You could drive by this garden and never know what was behind that arched vine. They just picked a sunny spot in the lawn, put down roots and mowed around it. This is actually a communal garden and some times it’s well tended and sometimes it has to fare for itself. But the sprawling, casual design doesn’t require rigorous attention.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Gardening Outside the Box

Inside the garden is planted in a patch work of blocks and rows. Whatever someone wanted to plant is planted. It’s a very personal garden, despite being a shared garden. There are wonderful features like a whimsical scarecrow, nice rustic staking and trellising, ornamental structures like the bridge in the corner that’s used to protect the compost and some tools. But the main focus of this garden is to produce food without making a vocation out of it.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Tiered Raised Beds

There’s a lot to be said about raised beds. First, you don’t have to till the soil. You have better control over the soil in them. You never step on or compact the soil and it warms up earlier than the ground, as well as draining better. This gardener has gone one step further by stepping the raised beds up 2 levels. She can keep the vegetables separate and happy while squeezing more into the foot print of the space.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Four x Four

Here’s a great example of a modified or extended four square garden. A four-square would have 4 squares and perhaps a center bed. This gardener had a lot of space and didn’t want the squares to be too large to work with. So he made a series of square raised beds with permanent bark mulch paths in between. At first glance, it may seem that a lot of space is wasted with the paths. But the paths make working in the beds easier and since the beds are full of rich soil, he can pack the plants in without having to worry about reaching them to prune or harvest.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Fit for a Feast

A very functional garden can be made decorative by its fencing. This garden fence and trellis has an Asian feel to it, although the garden itself is very Mediterranean. Grape vines are covering the right side of the fence and the cages in the rear are protecting berry bushes. The garden itself is kind of the focal point in the center of a large backyard orchard. With the fruit trees and trellised brambles grown in lines, this vegetable garden is almost an oasis.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Talk About Eating Fresh

Just about every feature you could want in a vegetable garden was incorporated into this one. There are neat raised beds with ledges wide enough to sit on. Wide paths to navigate. A fence that’s tall enough to keep the deer out yet decorative and designed and painted to fit in with the house. And there’s a table and chairs in the middle of it all, so you don’t even have to leave the garden to eat.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti