There’s just something about mapping out a garden that builds up anticipation for spring and kicks summer off on the right foot. We’ve had a backyard garden for about 10 years now, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Want to see this year’s backyard garden and all the changes we’ve made to get us where we are?
Ghosts of Backyard Gardens Past
With backyard gardens, we’ve tried them all… container gardens, raised garden beds, in ground gardens, you name it — I even have a binder tracking our progress. We’ve liked some garden designs more than others, every few years we decide to rip everything out and try something new. Here’s how our garden has evolved over the years.
**Before taking the tour of all my old gardens, please know that I took these (unprofessional) pictures casually for personal use. I never expected to use them for anything, so please excuse the quality and lack of detail!**
2015’s Backyard Garden
We moved into our home in May 2015 (with a newborn), hastily tore up the grass, and added a small, in-ground garden in our backyard next to the garage. We bought the plants because there was no time to grow seeds, and the garden wasn’t half bad.
The garden was about 15 feet long and 5 feet wide. We grew zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and sunflowers.
2016’s Backyard Garden
In 2016 we tripled the size of our in-ground garden. We tilled up the grass and added mulch and a fence. We placed our supports and planted our vegetables. The cucumbers did a great job of hiding our septic tank lids. The fence did an okay job at deterring the bunnies, although they found the doorway and helped themselves to dinner every evening.
We planted vegetables within the garden fence, potato vines ran along the fence, and herbs and flowers around the outside. Mice enjoyed the potatoes we planted before we could.
While our vegetables were happy here, so were the weeds. It was almost impossible to control them without chemicals, and I refused to use Round-Up. I tried this DIY “Green” Weed Killer, but the weeds were still too pervasive.
2017’s Accidental Garden
In 2017, mice got into our compost bin and planted us a surprise pumpkin patch, which was a fun surprise. We never replicated it because it took up too much space.
In the summer of 2018 we gave up on our garden halfway through the summer because it was just too much — we couldn’t defeat the weeds.
2019’s Backyard Garden
In 2019 we purchased some cedar and went to work building two raised garden beds.
We kept the size of the garden the same, but we added raised beds. The garden beds were 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, and about 2 feet apart. We purchased some compost soil from a local mulch/dirt business and our vegetables loved it.
We grew peppers, green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get trellises installed in time to support the cucumbers, so they roamed free. As you can see, it thrilled our kids to hang out in the raised beds.
2021’s Backyard Garden
This year, we’re having some work done on our patio and our current garden is going to be affected, so we had to dismantle the raised beds we built in 2019 and move them — which was quite an ordeal.
We still have the same two raised 4’x8′ garden beds, but they’re now behind the garage instead of on the side. Getting the beds leveled and the dirt moved was a lot of work, but now that they’re in place, I’m loving how tucked away they are — the garden gets unruly by mid-summer.
This year I’m also aiming for a more minimalist garden, as you’ll see below. We’re always growing more than we can keep up with and eat, especially mid-summer. There are only so many tomatoes I can eat by myself.
What we’re Growing in our Backyard Garden
Vegetables we’re growing…
- spinach (8 plants)
- beets (12)
- onions (8)
- tomatoes (2 plants)
- cucumbers (2 plants)
- bell peppers (3 plants)
- jalapeno peppers (1 plant)
Fruit we’re growing…
- blueberries (4 bushes)
- kiwi (1 tree we aren’t expecting to live)
Herbs we’re growing…
- rosemary (1 bush)
- mint (1 bush)
- stevia (2 bushes)
- lemongrass (4-6 plants)
- basil (1 bush)
Flowers we’re growing (with the vegetables)…
I don’t have very high expectations for the tiny blueberry bushes and kiwi… tree?… we grabbed impulsively at Lowes, but they were inexpensive and if we’re successful they’ll be fun to have!
This Year’s Backyard Garden Plan
After deciding what we’re planting, it’s time to map it out. All the plants start super tiny, it’s hard to imagine how much room they’ll take up once they’re full grown, so I always like to measure my space, check growth guidelines for plants, and then draw out a plan.
I also keep companion planting in the back of my head. Certain plants also grow better or worse, depending on where you place them, so I do the best I can to keep friendly plants together.
As you can see in the plan, I’ve marked each spot with letters/colors that correspond with the items I’ll be planting. Smaller plants such as spinach and green beans are closer together, plants that take up a lot of room are given room to spread.
While this may seem obvious from the plan, when you’ve got a 2″ tall cucumber seedling, it’s hard to imagine the vines getting to be 20 feet long.
Blueberry bushes and the kiwi tree have been planted along the outside of the garden beds.
As for the flowers mentioned above, the sunflowers will be planted above the top bed and the marigolds and nasturtiums will be scattered in the beds and planted in the corners.
If you’re considering planting a garden, I’d encourage you to take the leap. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to watch something the size of a grain of sand grow and produce food that will nourish your family. It’s a great science lesson and you may even find some surprises as you go, like random pumpkins or this monarch butterfly chrysalis we found a few years ago!
Backyard gardens can be a lot of work, but they’re also a lot of fun. Start small and get your kids involved in what you’d like to grow and take it from there!
Whether you’ve been gardening for years or I’ve inspired you to give it a try, I’d love to hear about your experience! Drop a comment below!