The veggie garden: Year One

Posted on Dec 20, 2014 | 11 comments

Take “before” pictures! This is the advice I give to anyone buying a house or starting a garden or homeplace. When you are working on it day by day, it’s very easy to forget how far you’ve come. There is a deep satisfaction in looking at the spot that inspired the garden (or plantings or pond), then seeing the realized vision (or a step toward it) in a photo. It’s as if your handiwork stepped right out of your imagination and into the world! We all know that’s not how it happened. Still, before and after images celebrate your creative work.

We arrived at the land we named Five Apple Farm in late autumn of 2013.  I initially planned to garden in the field just below the house. It was level with nice soil. The little shed created a nice windbreak to the north and a good place for garden tools.


After taking some time to study the light though, I realized that between the tall trees on the wooded hill to the east of it and the big maples that shade our front porch to the west of it,  full sun was limited to about five or six hours. That’s enough sun for many herbs and greens and I may put some plantings in this spot eventually. However for summer veggies like tomatoes and peppers — which I’m already having to push to ripen in the short mountain season and cool temps –it could be a recipe for disappointment.

Sun, the more the better, is the non-negotiable for classic summer veggies. Believe me, full sun on level ground is a rare treasure here in the mountains! I had a nice flat spot in good sun right out front of the house on the south side. Ahhh a sheltered microclimate protected from the north winds by the house! But the soil was thin, compacted and thick with the roots of the two big maples too. And it was small….and larrapin gardens tend to grow, after all.

The search took me into the backyard. The upsides: long days of full sun on a gentle slope tilted south with soil better than the front though not as good as the low field. The downside: it is on the windiest side of the land, which meant windbreaks would need to be part of the plan. Another challenge was being on the north side of the house.  I had to back up the slope about twenty more feet to clear the shade of the house taking over the beds when the sun is at it’s lower angles. The pic below was taken late afternoon and sun is still mostly on the future garden spot. Dig here!


The north side of a house is not usually the best spot for a garden, but in this case, it seemed my best shot. And hey, if you have a great clothesline in your future garden spot, your first design element is already in place!  🙂 You can see how the garden developed in the pic below.


So we grew the veggie patch and ate quite well from it given it was the first year and that I was focused on bees over this first summer. That would not have been possible without my sweetheart co-farmer of course.

There were some unforeseen challenges. We realized the lack of a true back door in our house was just not going to work —  even if the door and a little deck were NOT in the renovation budget and had to be eeeked out of other categories. Nevermind it’s the world’s tiniest deck in the summer and the windiest in the winter.  Now that it’s done, we love having a perch to look out over the garden in the warm seasons. (Still to do: windbreak plantings!)

I’m looking back on the before and after pics to remind me how far we’ve come this first year and to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s a good feeling.  Please leave a comment below and tell me what you feel pleased to have accomplished this past year!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Let the twinkling lights remind you that in the darkest week of the year, the light also begins to return.

Love, Leigh

(Please click to leave a comment below!  Bloggers *luv* comments ya know.  Plus, we gotta get you in the habit of commenting as that’s how I’m going to give away a garden book EVERY month in 2015.)










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  1. Just found your blog, love your beautiful location in the mountains! Keep up the good work! Your garden is great!

  2. Wow! What a difference a year makes! The before and after pix are great. I hope you are really proud of what you have created at 5 Apple Farm. It’s a work of love….and a lot of back.

    • That you Marianne. You know this baby got back. Love ya!

  3. The small porch and door with the garden below really pulls together the house in a wonderful way…gives it a presence that it was lacking…great job for your first garden. I know it will just get better every year. My gardens in year 5 are finally producing well, and my shovel hits loam instead of pure clay now…such a struggle!

    • Oh the feeling of good soil you made yourself. Nothing like it. Wish you would post some garden pics on fb. 🙂

  4. Fantastic! I love seeing the success of hard work.

    • Thanks for the kinds words and the visit Michelle.

  5. Just finished a dreary winter day salivating over pics of our summer front yard garden. Made us remember why we took all those shots.

    • Wish you you post those before/after pics on fb!

  6. Lovely

    • Thank you Sue.