Updated: Jun 13
Spring Has Sprung: Vegetable Gardening 101
by Brandee Gillham
The Cowboy’s Wife
2023 marks the seventeenth year I will plant a garden, which certainly does not qualify me as an expert, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve I thought I could share with you.
My gardening adventures began when my cowboy and I were living in northern Wyoming. The first year I began gardening I spent hours and hours researching and studying before I ever moved a bit of dirt.
The first step in any garden is finding the right spot and determining the layout that works best for you. Full sunshine is the best, but in these blustery parts of the country some wind breaks would be helpful too.
I am a proponent of wide, deep, raised beds. My beds are made out of used railroad ties for a couple of reasons. #1 – they were free, and free is hard to beat. #2 - I like having a wide base to kneel on when I am working in my beds. These ties are so old that there is no creosote that can be found in them. I am sure that could be a concern for some, but so far, me nor my cowpokes have started growing a third arm.
I have two large beds on the south end of my garden. They measure 6’ x 16’ each. These are beds that I use to plant my zucchini, pumpkins, potatoes, cantaloupe, cucumbers or any of those garden-over-taking plants. You know, the ones that end up needing 4’x10’ of space…
I then have two medium beds (on each side, so a total of 4 of these beds) that are 3’x16’, then the layout staggers outward with one bed that measures 3’x12’ and the final beds on the north end of the garden are about 5’x6’.
The six middle beds (2 – 16’ and 1-12’ on each side) is where I plant my green beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, onions, broccoli, and whatever else strikes my fancy that year.
The front two beds (5’x6’) are permanently reserved for strawberries and asparagus. These come back every year and as a result they are some of my favorite plants.
The ultimate questions are what do you want to grow and how much space do you need to do so?
Here you can get a glimpse of about half the layout of my garden. This layout is repeated on the west side. I wanted an opening near the center entrance of my garden so I could potentially set-up a bistro table or the like to just enjoy my little haven.
One of the other things that was important to me in laying out my garden is I wanted my garden cart to fit between the rows. Ask yourself, how am I going to haul produce out and soil amendments in?
I also like things to look nice, so my poor cowboy has shoveled a LOT of pea gravel in between my raised beds to serve as my walk ways. When my cowpokes were little (and let’s be honest, still to this day) they enjoyed digging in the gravel while I was working in the garden. That is a win-win for me!
Check out Vegetable Gardening 102 where I discuss soil preparation, planting and the significance of crop rotation.