Our Amazing (but Full-of-Weeds) Vegetable Garden

posted by Andrea | 08/23/2016
Print pageEmail page

veggie garden

Way back in the beginning of April, Dave and I excitedly prepared a large chunk of ground for the biggest (and hopefully best) vegetable garden we’ve had since we moved into our farmhouse… almost 6 years ago.

After cutting down almost 40 REALLY HUGE pine trees, putting up hundreds of feet of privacy fence, and relandscaping our entire 1-acre property over the past 3 summers, we were excited to devote the majority of our “outdoor energy” to maintaining our current landscaping, and growing a big, beautiful vegetable garden.

Here’s a picture of our current vegetable garden location from the day we moved into our house (December, 2010)

And here’s a picture from last week (August, 2016).

current vegetable garden

I realize the “after” picture would look nicer if we had more landscaping and decorative plants versus vegetables, but after A LOT of thought and consideration, Dave and I both decided this was the best place for our vegetable garden for the following reasons:

  • It’s out of the way — no one can see it unless you come ALLLLL the way to the back of our driveway and drive behind the garage.
  • It’s very close to the shed (access to yard tools) and to the house (easy to pick and run back into the kitchen)
  • This area has it’s own zone for our underground sprinkling so it’s easy to water
  • This is the only “non-visible” area in our entire yard that gets 100% full sun
  • It’s not by the kid’s toys or by our patio furniture so bees don’t bug us when we’re outside

.

We had 3 goals for our vegetable garden this year: 

  1. Plant things as early as possible for our climate (in the past, we’ve planted things WAY too late)
  2. Try to get the kids involved
  3. Keep it as weed-free as possible

I’m happy to say that we succeeded with 2 out of the 3 goals…

We started out really strong — Nora helped me plant some seeds in egg cartons inside and a bunch of the “cold weather” seeds outside in April!  We were on a roll and SO excited to watch everything grow.

We checked on our vegetables multiple times every day, and the kids excitedly harvested radishes in mid May already!

Dave and I faithfully weeded the vegetable garden all through May and June. We planted Marigolds all around the perimeter to help keep bunnies out, and we put a bunch of straw down to help keep the moisture in (and potentially thwart some weed growth).

The garden looked amazing and we were harvesting lettuce, peas, carrots, rhubarb, radishes, and some herbs almost every day! 

Then came cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, beans, and hundreds of tomatoes!

The kids used their shopping carts to play “grocery store” and shop for produce. They would walk through the garden, help me pick, and put the goodies in their carts to bring to the back door.

They thought it was one of the “funnest things ever”!

Surprisingly enough, I think my favorite part of the whole garden was the flowers. We grew zinnias and 2 different types of sunflowers. They look SO pretty, and we’ve enjoyed many of the blooms inside for the past month already. I think we’ll grow lots more flowers next year!

.

Everything was going so well until early July when it got SO hot and humid that we couldn’t bare to work in the full-sun vegetable garden during the day.

We would go out there every night after the kids went to bed, but we also had SO many veggies to pick that we would pick until it got too dark to see and never had any time left over to pull weeds.

I tried waking up early a couple different mornings to pull weeds before kids got up. I enjoyed working outside in the quiet morning hours, but of course, the kids always seemed to wake up extra early those mornings, so I had to come back inside to help with breakfast before I was finished weeding (check out the massive pile of weeds I pulled in less than an hour!)

After about a month of heat and humidity, Dave and I unanimously agreed that we were giving up and would just let the weeds grow.

It might not have been the best decision for our vegetable garden — but it sure was a nice break for us! Needless to say, the garden stopped looking amazing REALLY quickly!

These pictures honestly make the garden look better than it is… I can’t figure out how to really show the massive amount of weeds that have completely overrun our garden. In fact, there are many weeds that are taller than our corn and you can’t even see our pepper plants right now because the weeds are so thickly covering them.

Even the Marigolds are getting choked out by weeds.

Hey, 2 out of 3 goals isn’t bad… right!

.

I’m certain our garden would produce more veggies if we had kept it weed-free (and I know it would look a whole lot nicer) but it just wasn’t worth it for us to devote THAT much time and energy to weeding the vegetable garden that no one saw except our family… especially since we were getting plenty of veggies!

The picture below is after about 30 minutes of picking on ONE day!

I’ve already canned 3 batches of dill pickles, a bunch of tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, pepper jelly, and candied jalapeños. Plus, I’ve shredded and frozen a boatload of zucchini and given buckets of veggies away to friends, relatives, and neighbors.

Our garden might not be the prettiest garden around, and we might not have followed through with our goal to keep it relatively weed-free, but the kids had so much fun planting seeds, learning a bunch of new things about growing food, and picking the ripe veggies. I think they were truly amazed at how many veggies we got from just a few seeds and tiny plants.

There will be plenty of years for pretty, weed-free vegetable gardens, but I have a feeling our vegetable gardens will have a good amount of weeds these next few years.

It was still our best and most prolific vegetable garden yet… and for that, I say it was an amazingly successful vegetable garden! 

veggie garden

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Filed under: HomeLandscaping

 
 

Leave a comment

41 comments

  1. Barb T.

    09/01/2016

    Hi, Andrea, I’m still catching up on your blog, as you can see. We have found that straw sometimes comes with a big bunch of seeds hidden in it, definitely making the weed problem worse. Now, at the end of the growing season, hubby puts on lots of maple leaves and rototills them in for enrichment and keeping the soil loose. Then he covers the tilled soil with a very thick layer of fallen maple leaves; let’s them settle down all winter; makes rows in the compacted leaves for closer plantings and just clears individual spots for things like zucchini and tomatoes. It makes great mulch, walking surface, and he has hardly any weeds! Which is good, because neither of us like to weed – at all.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good to know Barb 🙂 We’ll have to try this as we have TOOOOOOOOOONS of leaves in the fall!

    [Reply]

    Barb T. Reply:

    Win! Win!

    [Reply]

  2. Avia

    08/24/2016

    Thanks for honest / real life post! It looks like you had a very successful garden to me. We are thinking about planting a veggie garden next year and I can guarantee it won’t be weed free!!

    [Reply]

  3. Robin

    08/23/2016

    Andrea – love your garden! Looks just about like ours! You cannot keep up with weed, picking, and processing – too much going on. Candied jalapenos and pickled jalapenos sound great and we also have an abundance of them. Do you have a link to both or either of those recipes? How do you use the candied jalapenos? Thanks so much and enjoy your fresh produce. It will be gone before we know it!

    [Reply]

  4. Chris

    08/23/2016

    The “grocery store” is so adorable! I used to have a large garden and fought the weeds every summer until I decided to go “no till”. Tilling the soil brings the weed seeds to the surface. A better solution is to add soil and compost to the top every year and plant in the new soil. Eventually the weed seeds are smothered. If the weeds are really bad you could add Preen at the beginning of the growing season. Happy gardening!

    [Reply]

  5. Anne H

    08/23/2016

    Saw your jars of dill pickles looking delicious, but I couldn’t find your recipe. Do you have one posted? I would really appreciate it if you would share it! Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I just use the SUPER SIMPLE recipe on the back of the pickling seasoning I buy 🙂 It’s Mrs. Wages brand (i think) and they are refrigerator dill pickles. The kids love them!

    [Reply]

  6. SandyK

    08/23/2016

    Looks yummy! Love you pictures.

    [Reply]

  7. Chris K in Wisconsin

    08/23/2016

    Great job on the garden. I think all of us tire of it in mid July or so when the temps soar as does the humidity. If you add in some mosquitoes, there are so many reasons that the weeds win!! We have been using landscaping fabric. We bought it from Costco in the spring. One roll has lasted us 2 years so far and it looks like there are several more years on the roll. If you put newspaper down first, and then the landscaping fabric OR the straw, that will help a LOT in keeping weeds somewhat in control. Zinnias are so easy to grow and as you cut them, they grow faster. Cosmos are also lovely to add in the garden. If you plant Nasturtiums, the kids would be excited because the flowers are edible!! Fun in salads or as a garnish. Fun stuff!! Gardening is one thing that helps us get through the long Midwest winters. We know what is ahead when the Spring finally arrives!

    [Reply]

  8. Barb

    08/23/2016

    Andrea, your garden looks great! I love that Nora and Simon put their shopping carts to good use by shopping in your garden! So cute!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks! They love the shopping carts.

    [Reply]

  9. Brenda

    08/23/2016

    You could try putting down the straw a little thicker to help with the weeds.If your grass is fairly weed free you can dump the grass clippings down throughout the summer too.

    Last year, my son brought home a cabbage plant from school. We planted it and now I have a head of cabbage bigger than his head…I think we are supposed to take a picture of it and submit it on the website to try to win a $1000 scholarship. Fun Times!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Love the cabbage plant — that’s so fun!

    [Reply]

  10. Debbie

    08/23/2016

    Congratulations on getting a great harvest from your garden! I think it’s the perfect spot for your garden too based on your reasons. I’m curious what are cold weather seeds that you planted early outside? I know nothing about gardens and just a little on flower gardens.

    [Reply]

  11. Tracey

    08/23/2016

    Two out of three is great! I swear, weeds are the hardiest, fastest growing things ever (I know from our yard here in NJ) but your flower and veggie production is SO awesome and SO inspiring to this second-year vegetable gardener! The kids with their shopping carts are so totally adorable – what a wonderful thing for them!!

    We’ve been married and in our home 17 years this summer and it took me 16 to finally start growing veggies with my 14 yr old son last year. ( SO wish I’d started sooner…we have lots of very clever and hungry deer here, and also didn’t have enough sun in our yard until we had eleven enormous trees taken down a few years ago, but mostly it was being a busy, part-time-working mom of two that held me back. Wow, all that you do, while working full time with three little ones is absolutely incredible to me! You’re such a great role model!)

    Ours is a 4×8 raised bed “square-foot” type garden. It does get weeds, but luckily not too many because of the close-together plantings. Still, the ones we got grew so quickly and the crazy heat and sun kept me away, too. We got a late start planting this year, and already know we want to start a month sooner next year. This post is definitely reassuring!! Congrats!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Tracey — and I really don’t know if I’d consider myself to be working “full time” anymore. I’ve cut back a lot over the past year and am probably more like part time now 🙂

    Also, I LOVE being outside and growing things — so it doesn’t seem like work to me. It’s like a fun hobby (that is slightly less fun with 3 kiddos trying to ‘help’!) I love getting them involved and watching their excitement, but I will be happy when I can make the time for a really beautiful vegetable garden again some day 🙂

    [Reply]

  12. Karen

    08/23/2016

    I admit I have not tried this on a large scale, as my veg garden is in raised beds, but years ago I read several articles in Organic Gardening magazine about “solarizing” garden beds.

    The idea is to dig the bed over, removing obvious weeds, water it well and then cover it with heavy clear plastic for 6-8 weeks. A shallow trench should be around the perimeter with rocks, lumber, whatever to hold the edges of the plastic down well. Optimally this is done when it is warm and sunny. The plastic holds the moisture and heat in the soil, causing prolific weed seed sprouting. and once sprouted, they “cook” and die under the plastic. It is also said to kill some soil borne plant viruses. It won’t kill weed seeds deep in the soil that can be brought to the surface through cultivation, but it will get rid of the ones in the top few inches. Not pretty in progress though.

    I didn’t know marigolds deterred rabbits, I use them to keep tomato horn worms away.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    THe Marigolds have worked well for us (at least this year!)

    [Reply]

  13. Anne

    08/23/2016

    We have had luck avoiding most weeds by planting much closer together. Any walking space we lay down landscape fabric. More intensive gardening practices like intercropping also help by placing tall vegetables in among short ones. For instance, tomatoes among lettuces will grow up and shade lettuces a bit (bonus!). You can still make room for all the plants you want to grow but less open soil where weeds sneak in!

    Your library might have the book The Urban Farmer which has lots of these tips. I attended a sustainability conference and heard the author speak – fascinating and helpful ideas! (And I think he farms in southern British Columbia which is probably similar to your climate zone in Michigan, I would guess.)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, all good ideas — I’ll have to look for that book. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  14. Chris

    08/23/2016

    Such fun! My mom’s gardens look like a magazine. She mixes the vegetables and flowers. She has it spread all over different areas of their property. It looks so neat.
    I love how your kids went shopping with their grocery carts!
    I also love the zinnias in the window! I might try that idea next year.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, your mom’s garden is ideally what I’d love to have… some day 🙂
    Also the Zinnias are amazing. I will definitely be growing more of them next year!

    [Reply]

    Brenda Reply:

    Zinnia’s are awesome! there are so many different heights, colors, and types. And they are pretty easy to grow, too. My kids always loved them.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    we love the Zinnias! We are planning to grow more next year!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    This year, our 10×10 “vegetable” garden became an 8×10 zinnia and weed garden! Absolutely beautiful if looked at from a distance, but obviously our veggie output was pretty poor. Besides weeds, pests and bugs are our big problem – if the plants don’t mysteriously wither and die at the root, the veggies end up being “eaten” before they are even ripe. Quite frustrating – so the zinnias are sort of our saving grace. I loved looking at your successful veggies, though! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yeah, we might be right there with you next year. We definitely want to do more Zinnias and less veggies 🙂

    [Reply]

  15. Derondah

    08/23/2016

    I think your garden looks fantastic and it is awesome that the kids were involved. I have so many good memories of working in the garden with my parents and grandmother when I was little. I have just now been able to have a small flower bed garden the last couple of years and I love it–I think I too check for growth everyday when it is first planted. Your kids will have great memories and hopefully have caught the “garden bug” to continue when they have homes of their own one day. Plus, no matter the weeds, the garden veggies taste so much better than what you can buy in stores!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Derondah — and yes, garden veggies are SO much better than the store bought ones. Our bean plants were getting eaten, so I had to buy beans from the store last week — I couldn’t believe how much less flavor they had!

    [Reply]

  16. Rachel

    08/23/2016

    Have you ever shared your process for canning tomatoes? Our garden has given us mass amounts of tomatoes and I’d like to can them but have never done it before. I know I can look online for a “how to” but I always like to hear from someone who has experience (and three little kids like I do!).
    Also great idea on the shopping carts!! That will be perfect for my girls as they help us pick it everyday and the buckets get to heavy for them to carry.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yup! here you go –> http://andreadekker.com/canned-tomatoes/

    Good luck!

    [Reply]

  17. Ann

    08/23/2016

    Bountiful garden! Do you use Preen? It’s WONDERFUL! After the plants are growing good, you weed it & get it looking great, then sprinkle Preen around all the plants. It PREVENTS weeds from germinating for 90 days! Then you can re-apply the Preen! I happily recommend it! It saves SO MUCH weeding time!

    [Reply]

    Stephanie Reply:

    She uses normal preen on her flower gardens. Preen makes an organic version for vegetable gardens. It’s actually made out of corn meal. It’s not as strong and only lasts for around 30 days, but helps. We used the Organic before we left for vacation.

    We too let the weeds overtake our garden due to the extreme humidity but are still getting plenty from it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, exactly! we’ll look for the Organic stuff next year and maybe separate out our from-seed veggies so we can sprinkle Preen earlier in the year. Preen works SO well on my planting beds!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I use Preen on my flowers and planting beds, but not in the garden because it prevents plant seeds from germinating too 🙂

    I try to plant many of my seeds in “shifts” so they dont’ all get ripe at the same time — this means that I could still have seeds growing in late June. By the time they are large enough to be able to sprinkle the Preen, the weeds are already totally out of control.

    We’ve thought about keeping our from-seed plants in a separate location so we can use Preen on the rest of the garden — we might try that next year!

    [Reply]

  18. Organize 365

    08/23/2016

    Andrea-

    Those grocery carts are SO adorable! I would have never thought of that. How fun!!

    🙂
    Lisa

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, the grocery carts are a big hit! We got them at a thrift store a couple summers ago for $1 each and they have been well loved ever since!

    [Reply]

  19. Amber Woods

    08/23/2016

    Andrea,
    This post made my husband and I feel so much better about our current garden situation. We let the weeds take over in hot July as well for many of the same reasons you sited. We have a 2 and 4 year old who thought the veggies were awesome and they loved to dig in the dirt, but weren’t really ready to help much.
    Thanks again for keeping it real!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well good — glad to make you feel better about your garden too!
    Nora and Simon really aren’t old enough to be “helpful” but they do love playing the in the garden. So, since it’s not a very nice or pretty garden, I don’t care if they step on tomatoes or pull unripe foods off the plants — I just pretty much stopped caring about the garden in July — and it think it’s more fun that way!

    [Reply]

  20. Evie

    08/23/2016

    I love it, weeds and all!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks Evie!

    [Reply]