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Fall Garden Makeover

One of the projects on my wish list this fall was changing up the bed orientation at our home plot. I'm happy to report that we were just able to squeeze it in before our soil froze, so this month I'll take some time to fill you in on the new plans here!

galvanized raised beds in the vegetable garden
These new mini beds will help us teach vegetable production at the scale of a home gardener.

If you've been following us for a while, you'll know that we have been operating a small urban farm since 2015. Over time, we have assembled a collection of backyards and boulevard spaces to use for our farm. The size of each individual plot isn't that significant, but together they total enough land to help one vegetable farmer earn a modest income.

The high visibility of our vegetable plots here in the city means that I seldom work without stopping to chat with passers-by. From these conversations, I quickly learned that people had a lot of questions about growing vegetables in their own backyard, and I was keen to share the methods we had learned to help home growers have similar success in their own backyard. That's why the Vegetable Academy was started in 2017.

While I have enjoyed sharing information about the tools and methods we use to grow food for both our farm and family, there has always been something not quite perfect about our outdoor classroom here at the Vegetable Academy. The scale of our farm plots was just too large to be completely relatable for the home vegetable grower. That needed to change.

original vegetable garden beds
This photo from 2019 shows the original 50 square foot beds all with north/south orientation.

Today, we are in a better position to focus more energy on education, so next season we are going to operate a model vegetable garden at a scale more appropriate for the serious backyard gardener. This shift required a bit of a makeover though. The primary task was to reorganize our beds somehow to include a section of smaller growing spaces. This would help us organize the planting of some crops that should be grown in smaller volumes at the home scale. Salad greens, celery, snap peas, cucumbers, herbs, green onions, and summer squash are a few of the crops that fall into this category. After quite a bit of doodling and figuring, we settled on the layout shown in the drawing below which incorporates some new mini beds into the centre section.

drawing of garden beds
This is the new bed layout at our home garden plot viewed from the south perspective.

When garden beds are small, the borders are more difficult to keep consistent and the smaller patches of vegetables quickly merge together into a hodgepodge of greenery. Since I like to keep things orderly in our garden, I chose to define our new mini beds with galvanized metal containers. These were quick to assemble and should last a lifetime. To cut the costs in half, I purchased four beds that originally had a depth of 22 inches and then cut them in half with a metal blade on my circular saw. That turned our four 22 inch beds into eight 11 inch deep beds. The total cost came out to $110.45 per bed plus a $6 metal blade for my saw.

You may have also noticed some new tunnels on the right. These will be walk-in tunnels covered with netting to protect certain crops from insect and/or bird damage. We used a walk-in tunnel for our broccolini this season and it made every harvest so much more delightful. I can't wait to add these tunnels to our production plan for next season so we can start using them for more crops.

The big high tunnel on the left side of the plot is going to stay right where it is, and we plan to keep packing it full of vegetables! It does wonders for our heat loving crops. That's all I'll say about that here, but if you're curious to learn more about how we built the high tunnel, just search for "high tunnel" in our Classroom and you'll find all the details.

There are a few more details to explain, but I will leave those to the video below, which will give you a look at the makeover process.

I will share more about how we get these beds into action next season. For now, I just wanted to offer you all the latest update and let you know how things will be shaping up here in spring. I am eager to keep sharing the growing techniques we are using here at the Vegetable Academy and now that is going to be even easier with these changes to our growing scale.

Our upcoming Seed to Table course will walk students through the entire process of planning, creating, and using their own vegetable garden, so if you are aiming to grow a heap of great food for your family and you want to accelerate your path to success, head here to learn more about the course.


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