I think I’ve found a new happy place…
I’ve always enjoyed my garden, but I’ll be honest, some years have been more stressful than others.
There have been times where I found myself conveniently avoiding the garden area of the yard, as I didn’t want to own the reality of dying vegetables, messy rows, and insane numbers of weeds. People would come for a visit and ask to the see the garden, and I’d gently steer them to the newborn calves or fluffy baby chicks instead. There just wasn’t much to write home about, folks.
My foray into the world of deep mulch helped a lot. It reduced the sheer number of hours I needed to spend weeding and watering, which did reduce the stress I’d feel every time every time I’d think about gardening. But then I poisoned my garden with tainted hay mulch, and that was that.
Not to mention, our plot was just too small, there was a tree growing in it, and the fence (a combo of cattle panels layered with chicken wire) still wasn’t keeping the destructive chickens and rabbits out. The whole space felt messy, out of control, and non-productive. It was time for a change, which prompted our raised bed construction project earlier this spring.
Now that the beds are planted and the new fence has been built, I’ve been able to take a step back and actually enjoy the space. Novel idea, huh?
Practical vs. Pretty…?
I’m an extremely practical person… Almost annoyingly so. If something doesn’t contribute towards the final goal or end result, I generally won’t spend time on it… I can’t help myself, it’s just the way I’m wired. In year’s past, the end goal was (attempting) to grow vegetables, and since adding signs or pretty gateways didn’t really effect that result one way or the other, I always opted to skip out on adding any extra touches.
But I also love beautiful spaces, and for some odd reason, I couldn’t get the idea of this new garden being a place not only to work, but also a place where we could rest, enjoy, and soak up the atmosphere. So this year for the first time ever, I set out on Operation Garden Beautification.
I think homegrown food is beautiful it it’s own right, but I wanted to add some extras this year. (FYI- If I lived in town, I’d totally fill my front yard with gardens and beds instead of a lawn.) I envisioned a seating area, complementary flowers and vines, archways, and random bits of repurposed decor to bring a welcoming, friendly feel to the space.
I’m far from done (aka– don’t judge the incompletion you see in some of these pics), but I wanted to show you what I’ve done so far… Even in the half-finishedness of the project, I’m enjoying my garden more than I ever have in year’s past. I should have stuffed my practical side years ago and done this a lot sooner.
Come Take a Walk with Me
So without further adieu, let’s go for a walk in the garden, shall we?
Before we start, here’s a few things to know:
- We plan to put wood chips on all the paths and walkways. Sooner versus later, I hope…
- I will be adding mulch to some of the beds. It’s on the to-do list that seems to still be escaping completion at the moment.
- The Prairie Husband and I are talking about adding PVC hoops to the beds so we can attach either plastic (to extend the growing season) or hail netting (because the hail here is just dumb). However, true to form, he wants to use something other than PVC, because he has a penchant for overkill in regards to building materials. (Some of you will remember our paletts “discussions”) 😉 We shall see what we end up with….
- Imagine vines and climbing stuff wrapped around the fences and archway… It’s not there yet, but that’s my plan. I’m shooting for the overgrown, “secret garden” feel, if that’s possible in Wyoming.
- So far, all the plants and seeds have been growing splendidly. (I was having secret panic attacks that somehow our DIY soil mix would be horribly wrong and nothing would sprout…) So far, so good. Now if we can just dodge the hail the rest of the summer, we’ll be golden.
- For all your questions about how we built our beds, check out this post with all the gory details.
Prairie Homestead Garden Tour 2017 (Early Summer)
There are two gates, one from the yard side, and one from the barn side. (Zucchinis are in the water tank. Except they haven’t sprouted yet… So maybe my seeds are dead. Ay-yi-yi.)
The gates open into the “sitting area”. I’m picturing a cute little bistro set here and it being filled in with perennial flowers and blooms.
I’m also starting an eclectic pot collection– my new rule is that I can use anything as a pot, except an actual flower pot. I’ve been scouring thrift stores for old cooking pots and pans and am having a blast creating a mix-and-match collection.
I have no idea if English Ivy will grow on the Wyoming prairie, but I found it at the local garden store and by golly, I’m going to give it a try. Because viney, overgrown fences are my favorite.
This is my in-ground section of the garden. Picture it being filled with luscious Winter Luxury heirloom pie pumpkins, which are just barely starting to sprout in the mounds. We were pumpkin-less last year, which was borderline tragic.
Now onto the beds…
There are 20 beds total, and they are planted with several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, poblano peppers, multiple varieties of leaf lettuce, spinach, rainbow chard, kale, mustard greens, arugula, marigolds, two ground huckleberry plants, albino beets, two varieties of cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, three kinds of potatoes, red & yellow onions, leeks, snap peas, bush & climbing beans, cucumbers, and carrots. Whew. I think that’s it.
I’m not sure if my purposed fork-and-canning-lid garden markers are super creative or just super redneck. Either way, I’m going with it.
Note to self: mulch the stinkin’ potatoes!
This is my favorite bed right now because it’s all pretty and organized-looking. Shhhh… don’t tell the others.
I planted rows of Scarlet Runner beans along the edges of several beds, with the idea they will theoretically climb up the fence. It sounded good on paper, we’ll see if it actually happens.
It always annoys me when I have to drive all over town to hunt down pickling cucumbers. Fingers crossed I won’t have to do that this year to make my favorite brined pickles.
Poblanos are my favorite pepper, and oddly enough, they’re tough to find in our area. I have some rockin’ recipes that call for poblanos, so harvest time will be delicious.
The Prairie Husband put in a timed watering system with 3 different automatic zones. (What? You’re not surprised are you?) Each bed has 4 mini-sprinklers– beyond that, I have no idea how it works. Sorry. 😉
I adore cabbage– not only because it makes knock-your-socks-off sauerkraut, but also because it loves growing in Wyoming, which can’t be said about everything else I attempt to grow.
The tomatoes looked a little puny for a while, but seem to be growing happily now. They definitely appreciated the stakes, as the wind was whipping them around a bit too much.
And this is the unstaged, unposed, real-life version of the garden, which also happens to be my favorite version.
Prairie Baby also loves to help in the garden. And by help I mean yanking out pepper plants by their roots and digging up sprouting seeds and trying to eat them.
So there you have it folks. We’re off to a strong start, and I’m hoping it stays that way. Here’s to a fruitful season for all of us, and may you and your garden dodge hail storms, insect plagues, and early frosts. 🙂
Sheree Jameson says
I love what you have created. It is so inspiring! I have being eyeing a spot on our property that I wanted to place our garden but I also wanted to place a picnic table or bench there because it is on a hilltop and has views of Pikes Peak. Why not both! It would be a lovely combination but I also have the high wind/hail frustrations to work out.
Oh Dear. Your comment evoked a big nostalgic sigh. I love Pikes Peak. What a majestic view you must have!
I never knew how beautiful LETTUCE could be until we started growing it in the garden. It’s my favorite bed, too! Lovely, lovely garden you have there…
Jill, I absolutely LOVE what you have done! I now have some ideas brewing for my own garden oasis! Thanks for the tour!
My cucumber story – 2 summers ago the cucumbers were pitiful. I ended up buying pickling cucumbers which was nice in the sense that I could get enough that were the same size that I could make all the pickles at the same time. Last year my husband decided that he was going to make sure we had enough cucumbers. He planted 2 WHOLE PACKAGES of seeds. Of course, they all came up! I canned 150 jars of pickles and probably gave away that many. Everybody got pickles for Christmas and I’m not going to make pickles this summer. This summer the garden is fallow and the chickens are running in it.
Have you talked about your soul mix in another post?
Amanda Longpre' says
Jill, how big is your garden area? I live in a city lot that’s 1/4 acre, and have a 560 square foot garden area that I built out of concrete blocks and pavers in between the paths, but I am wishing I could expand it (or even redo it with beds similar to yours). 20 beds are quite a lot, but as I love to produce as much of our fruits and veggies as I can, given the space constraint, I would be happy to make room for them if possible. And how far apart are they?
Also, what things do you/can you use for veggie garden mulch? I am not 100% confident I can find unsprayed hay around here (and since I’m limited in space and can’t just up and move my garden if it gets accidentally poisoned, I think I’d rather not risk it), so I’m wondering what viable alternatives there might be to hay to use as mulch that won’t hurt the garden and will do a good job (and not plant grass or weeds in the garden).
Grass from loan mowing must be dried (turned into the brown component, not green), and then applied on top between the plants.
Any dry leaves from a neighboring forest/park, mulched.
If you use wood chips, never mix them into the soil, but use them as a mulch on top, and not touching the plants, just around them.
Local restaurants have tons of green “waste” that can be composted into a nice fertilizer.
Two feet between beds is plenty.
If you can raise rabbits, they will produce an incredible, mild and nutrient-loaded fertilizer for you plants. You can sprinkle the rabbit manure in-between the plants or compost it by mixing it with dry leaves or dry grass cuttings. Wait a couple of weeks, then turn it. Do it twice or so and then use as a garden mulch.
I meant lawn not loan :).
And if you use wood chips, never use cedar. It’ll kill everything and will make your soil too acidic.
Also, a lot depends on your climate.
But no, grass clippings do not need to be dried at all. Here the practice is to use them fresh and it works just fine! If you dry it quite a lot of the nitrogen content is lost.
Beautiful beautiful garden! Love your vision for this space! Enjoy it! You have given me more ideas for my space!
Looks fantastic! You never know what will work unless you try!!! My husband grew up in WY/MT so he can “appreciate” your hail storms. I trapped him here in Oregon ?
I started using the roofing metal panels for my raised beds this year. What a coincidence. You have a beautiful garden and good eating ahead. Thank you for sharing your story.
Tammy Paulson says
Your garden looks lovely. Love the bed of beautiful lettuce as well. A note on the English Ivy….it will overtake the entire garden once it takes hold and it’s hard to kill. We planted a small plant several years ago in our front flower bed around a tree. It crowded out the entire flower bed and before we knew it was out of control. It seemed the more I clipped it back the faster it grew. Will jasmine grow in your area? It’s not as invasive as the ivy and smells devine with beautiful flowers.
Peacock Orchard says
Only inside. I have a massive inside jasmine plant but it is far too cold here for it to grow out doors.
Peacock Orchard says
My 6 year old came in and told me he helped me get rid of those nasty heart shaped weeds (bindweed). I blinked and said, “You pulled out the radishes didn’t you.” Yup, he did.
Prairie Wife says
Looks great. Our Garden is NOT doing so hot this year…I think we will see what does and doesn’t grow this year and take a look at the last three years together and make some changes. Can’t wait to see how yours grows!
Carie Dirks says
Hi, your garden looks great. I live in the panhandle of Nebraska and also experience the winds and hail that you talk about. For our raised beds my husband built me some beautiful PVC arches for the same purpose you talk about, but we quickly found out that with the winds we have here and our many playful barn cats (they liked to jump all over the plastic covering in the early spring) that the PVC just wasn’t strong enough. However, my dear smart and always thinking husband made me some new arches made out of electrical conduit. I believe they are 1/2 inch. Then we use some rebar cut into 12 inch lengths, stick them in the ground and put the conduit over the rebar to hold the conduit up and it can withstand wind and playful barn cats jumping on top of the plastic. So, after the long story, I wouldn’t waist your time with PVC and just go straight to conduit or something sturdy like it. Happy gardening and may the LORD JESUS CHRIST give you a productive and happy garden this year. 🙂
Carie Dirks says
I forgot to add that with the conduit he shaped them more into a square arch instead of a round arch, if that makes sense. For our beds the squared off shape was more sturdy than the round arch.
Ah, your new garden is beautiful already! Especially with your little helpers. (My cats like to help by fertilizing freshly planted/sprouted beds. Yay! Thanks kitties.) The pretty things can also be practical – flowers attract pollinators and beneficial insects, and any vines you have growing up your fence will create a windbreak to protect plants inside the fence.
Re: the discussion about mulch, out of ingenuity (or necessity, cough), our most used mulch this year is weeds. We pull them out, shake the dirt off, and throw em down around the plants we want to keep.
Laura Hozak says
Please, please, please, do yourself a favor and rip that English ivy out of the ground and kill it. Kill it with fire. It’s horribly invasive and destructive. I think it speads through osmosis, or just by looking at it. It will be the bain of your existence ’til the day you die. Seriously. Prairie Husband will be dreaming of ways to use it in your demise well before your silver anniversary, it’s that bad.
Hyacinth Bean is a fun, quick annual vine. Save a a few pods at the end of each season and you’re set to regrow the next spring. Sweet pea is an old fashioned favorite annual, too. Clematis comes in all kinds of colors and is pretty easy once established. Autumn clematis is almost evergreen, blooms small white flowers late summer and smells heavenly.
Please do youself a favor and forget you ever heard of English ivy. Honeysuckle, garlic mustard, and morning glory would almost be more desirable.
I totally agree with the NO on the English Ivy. I spent five years trying to get rid of it at my old house! It is horrible! If you really must, put it planters and don’t let it touch the ground.
Sandra Gray says
So true. I had that same idea 5 years ago. Mistake. One sprig of ivy will cover your whole garden area in less than 5 years and become an aggressive
invasive species that is almost impossible to control. Sg
I know this is off topic, but I’m starting to think about canning season. I went to buy some new lids and couldn’t believe how they’ve gone up in price. Any chance you’ll be doing a post about reusable lids? I searched your blog for info on them, found one contest, but can’t see anything else about them in your other canning posts. The reviews I’ve read have been mixed. Any advice?
Jill Winger says
You know, I just never got into using them much. I was turned off by the mixed reviews, so have just used regular lids. Maybe I should explore it again. 🙂
Tiarra L Nelson says
A lot of the mixed reviews are because they had two models. The newer ones have fixed a lot of the issues people had previously. I will be buying all reusable as canning lids can get expensive.I grow because I am poor LOL. I can’t afford to buy hundreds of lids yearly.
Sharon McClellan says
Jill, I absolutely love your amazing garden & your hubby’s very imaginative construction ideas! The garden markers are so darn cute. I’m so excited for the progress that’s going on with all of the growth of the beautiful produce..OMGoodness, the lettuce makes a gorgeous picture; especially after experiencing with you, the devastation that came with the tainted mulch in your other garden!
I do have to share with you..We have drips in our desert yard in Calif., and used 1/4′ lines like yours. We also have “critters”, ground squirrels & rabbits, who are extremely thirsty. One day I looked out the window, and saw a huge spray instead of drips. When I went outside to check all the other lines, almost every single line had holes chewed in them, and water was spraying everywhere! My hardworking hubby had to replace every line, and devised a way to prevent it from ever happening again..I hope. Anyway, just a hint to share..keep your eyes out for “teeth holes” in your lines. I notice you do have some wire fencing around the garden, but looks like some critters could still get in. AMAZING GARDEN YOU TWO HAVE CREATED THERE, and the Lord indeed blesses me with all that you all share with us..love seeing the kids “living it all”!
Jill Winger says
Thanks for your kind words, Sharon! Thanks for the tip re: the chewing critters. YIKES! Generally we don’t have a lot of problems with animals like that, but there’s a first time for everything. I’ll keep my eyes peeled. Thanks for being a reader!
What happened to deep mulch? Did you change your mind? I am just considering starting deep mulch gardening, so I’m curious if you’ve had a change of heart and why.
I so enjoy the down to earth reality of your blog. I also really like the materials and practicality of your raised beds…they will last for years. Practicality often over rides my decision in my garden as well and there is always a fruit tree or two that needs harvesting. Growing a real garden for feeding your family often leaves little time for the cutesy stuff. The best thing I ever did in the walk paths between my raised garden beds was to put down heavy duty weed cloth and 3 to 4 inches of small grade gravel. Not much likes to live in gravel….I get my aggravation of having to deal with Tomato worms out of my system by throwing the creepy things down onto the gravel where the birds can have a treat! The no fuss gravel keeps my garden looking clean and there’s never a muddy mess. Its been there 9 years so far through heavy rain…storms and high winds and would certainly be there after the snow melts….without one bit of degradation! Wood chips break down so fast…blow away and have to be spread every other year or three. Yet the wood chips don’t break down fast enough in my compost pile…I prefer leaf mold if you have disiduous trees around. Wood chips also make a nice environment for certain unwanted bugs…snakes… etc.
Jill we are garden soul sisters… I have all the best intentions and just stink at gardening the weeds get me. I wanted to build raised beds hubbs isn’t on board… I’ve followed you for several years. I wanted to try deep mulch too. Just yesterday I was imagining the amazing raised bed garden I could build that would hugely help weed control! This is lovely! Well done!
Sarah @ gardenfullofdreams says
I like your fork/ lid garden markers…less redneck than the way I do it (I use a plasic knife and a black sharpie…lol) What a neat space you have!
I would love to learn more about mulching in the vegetable garden. We just raise tomatoes, peppers, okra, onions and eggplant, and I spend a crazy amount of time weeding.
Janet Bezovie says
One question about the tin you use, isn’t it sharp on the edges? How do you fix that problem?
Mery Lovely says
I loved your ideas of vegetables Jill, here in my region people survive only from vegetable gardens and plants for decorations, because organic vegetables are much sought after here …. Success !!!
Kevin Aylesworth says
That looks like thorndale ivy not traditional English ivy. If that is the case it should be fine. As it establishes itself you can train it to go wherever you want it to. It will send out runners on top of the ground which are easily taken care of. I usually manage them with the lawnmower lol. You will have to trim out dead Vines every so often and don’t let it get on an actual building. It will end up inside of it sooner or later
Emily Ludwig says
What did you end up doing to cover your beds for winter? I’m thinking retractable pvc hoops with plastic. Did you guys “over build” or no? ? btw: I’m about a year behind you in everything so your blog is SUPER helpful. Get a cow in the spring. Did raised beds last summer for the first time and what an awesome, huge difference. Also, what I thought was jalapeños is poblanos and I have zero recipes for them. Any suggestions?
Want to make a comment on using wood chips for your garden. I have some friends that live in the South and wanted to use wood chips and they spread a lot down in their big garden, thinking it would take care of the weeds. Well, they had termites that were so thankful to them for bringing in all those WOOD chips and also in the South using wooden stakes for your tomatoes is another no no. Think ahead people.
Kent S. says
why do you need the raised beds–is your soil no good– it’s a lot of work getting dirt and I had probablems drying out –do you irrigate?
Leah Savage says
Half runner green beans or butter beans or lima beans would look really pretty growing on your fence. We do not have raised beds but do grow our beans on cattle panels supported with metal post. Tomatoes too. Don’t forget to practice crop rotation with your beds. My husband and I fuss about this every year. I don’t want to move the garden from its present location and he is used to moving it around every 4 or 5 years to a new location on the farm.
Judi Castille says
Just found your site. Absolute joy! I am starting a homestead in France. Not large but hoping to get some extra land later. We collected chickens today after three hard days building the pen and coop. It’s wonderful to have them here. We are renovating an old cow barn, so no time to get bored. Love your metal edged beds. Our raised beds caused quite a stir in France as they don’t seem to use these yet. I am a convert.
I really like the idea of raised bed gardens, more so because I’m older. I like your setup. I just might give it a try this year
Where did you buy your ground huckleberry plants?