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Dreaming and Planning

Early Spring Garden

I’d like to share some experience about intensive vegetable gardening in a small New England plot.

New England Vegetable Garden Challenges

Gardening in New England is challenging in many ways. We have very acidic soil and a short growing season here. Our soil varies from rich alluvial deposits left by ancient glaciers to thin coverings over granite ledges. It is this very sense of challenge however, that makes the simple sun-drenched rewards of summer all the sweeter. Gardening in a small space in New England is yet another test of Yankee ingenuity, resolve and willpower. Hopefully, it is one you’ll find worthwhile. In-town garden plot locations are often limited in size and by the shadows of nearby buildings. Trying to find a little space out-of-the-way of traffic patterns and yet close enough to tend conveniently can be challenging. Is it worth it? Of course. Just one taste of a warm ripe tomato easily answers this question.

In the past, I have gardened in many challenging sites, with deer, raccoons, obnoxious neighbors, water shortages, poor sunlight, nasty soil and numerous other variables. I have never given up and I’ve always been glad I’ve persevered. Incorporating home-grown produce into your daily menus in season is richly satisfying.

(Edible Pod) Snow Peas Grown on the Fence Surrounding  the Garden

Finding Space

A garden can be as simple as one or more buckets of rich soil, suitably watered and drained, set on a porch, deck, balcony etc. Herbs, flowers and vegetables can all be grown successfully in containers. One of the beauties of this system, is containers can be moved to follow the sun as well as being self-contained. They allow you to control the quality and drainage of the soil and have many of the advantages of raised gardens. Put several pails of plants in a wheelbarrow or old child’s wagon and move them around during the day, or during the season to where the best sun is. I have even seen potatoes successfully grown in bags of composted manure with holes poked in the bottom and planted in a slit in the top! Stacks of old tires filled with soil serve a similar function as a potato hill. Just remove the tires to get at the potatoes come late summer, no digging is required and definitely recycling! These methods work especially well in areas where you do not wish to put in a permanent garden or the soil is too tough to tackle. Once these mini plots have completed their mission, the bags and tires can be removed and the remaining soil and compost can be raked out to improve the surrounding lawn or soil (or moved to another location).

Early Snow Pea Harvest

Think outside the box. Maybe you don’t have a single 12’ x 8’ plot on your property that could be devoted to gardening, or maybe there is but it’s shady there. Perhaps you have two, 24 or 48 foot X 1 foot strips next to the driveway or front walk. Plant that instead. How about 3 4X8  foot areas? Get creative.

Is there a nearby willing neighbor’s property or piece of public land that could be planted? Perhaps you can work out a deal with an elderly or over-taxed neighbor; you agree to do the bulk of the work if you can plant on their property? Then split the yield with them. You may be very pleasantly surprised.

Summer Squash Ready to Eat

Strategies for Success

*Look for short-season varieties of vegetables.

*Grow vegetables that require little preparation to eat; think salads and stir fry veggies and don’t forget to grow a few flavorful herbs …

*Use methods and varieties that conserve space and resources.

*Grow upward when you can. For instance, some bean varieties come in vine and bush versions. If you are tight on space and have some vertical areas like fences, sides of buildings, room to just put in some upright supports etc;, grow the vertical types, like Kentucky Wonder beans!

*I learned early that organic methods improve soil quickly and add a strong dose of ‘peace of mind’ to my gardening. Use natural pest deterrents, like the metallic owl below to discourage critters.

Keep in MindMid Season Garden with Veggies, Herbs and Flowers

Tomatoes come in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Some tomato plants are compact and do well in containers, like Cherry and Patio varieties. Others, like Big Boys need more room for the extensive plants and roots.

Some short season plants can be sown two or three times in one season, like lettuce or peas if they can be kept cool enough. This may be a matter of planting them in the shade of larger plants so they have filtered light throughout the season. This method of growing more plants in the same space also uses a small space more efficiently.

Think about all the options. You might want to invest some time up front to research varieties and alternative ideas, before you put the time into an actual garden. You don’t have to grow everything in one garden or one season. Choose a few favorites and see how it goes.

I try to fit some flowers like nasturtiums, marigolds and zinnias into empty corners to add some color, cheer and natural protection to my garden.


*Every garden is a learning opportunity.

*Trade produce with another nearby gardener.

*Be Creative! Experiment, and remember to Have Fun!

Definitely Worth It !