Often times when some people hear the word “garden” a picture of acres and acres of plants growing in neat rows, pops into their minds. This image can turn a person’s desire to grow their own food from a fun, peaceful idea to an anxiety-evoking one. The truth is, most of us homesteaders do not have acres and acres of garden space. Not if we’re using it to provide for our own families. The majority of small homesteaders, or even backyard gardeners who do not consider themselves a homesteader, have garden spaces that are big enough to grow what we need to sustain us until the next growing season.
There is a style of garden for every space out there; in-ground, raised beds, container gardens are the most common.
Choosing what garden system will work for you and your family is your first step. Are you looking to provide food for preservation? Or simply to have some fresh veggies to supplement your meals? Or both?
For our gardens, we use them for both. My main goal is to produce as much as I can for our family for many reasons. The primary one is so that we know how our foods are grown. I do not use chemicals in my garden. This means that there are years that I may not get any squash (darn YOU squash bugs!) But, I may get an overabundance of green beans (YES, please!).
Remember, you do not have to start off huge. If you’re new to gardening, I recommend you take it a step at a time. Start small to see if gardening is even something that you really LIKE. Build a small garden, 2-3-4″x8″ beds will give you a lot of space. Plus, it’s not as overwhelming to set up 3 beds, as it can be to plan 20 beds (plus filling them and planting them out). Use your new space as a means to learn. There are always lessons you can learn in any size space. I don’t think there’s a year that’s gone by that my garden spaces haven’t taught me something.
Below you will see the progression that we made in our garden spaces.
Here is a picture of what our first garden looked like on our original homestead in 2019:
This is the outside of the space. Back when we started this garden, I wasn’t vlogging so I do not have very good pictures of it. It was approximately 12 feet wide by 18 feet long.
Here is the best picture I can find of what the beds looked like on the inside of it:
What this picture doesn’t show is that there were three beds along the back fence, and 2 across the short fence end as well as what you see here. So a total of 8- 3’x8′ beds, plus 4- 2’x4′ watering troughs turned into raised planters. That garden supplied us with green beans to can, tomatoes to can, greens to dehydrate, a crop of potatoes that kept us from having to visit the store for several months, numerous zucchini and yellow squash, and several other delicious veggies. Was it enough to sustain our family for a year? No, but it was big enough to teach me the differences between growing here in Maryland, and growing in Michigan (which is where I’m originally from and have most of my gardening experience.) My migration to Maryland is a story for another time.
The next year, 2020, the world got a little crazier as we’re all aware, and with that, our garden grew even bigger. I honestly don’t know if I can blame the enlargement on the pandemic entirely. After the garden success of 2019 and the feeling of pride it gave me to provide healthy foods for my family, the desire was there to do even more. And so, we set out to make that possible.
We went from our smallish, 8 bed, 4 container garden, to a whopping 4 rows consisting of 3’x48′ beds plus the 4 tanks. Our entire garden space was now 25’x64′. You can imagine all of the things we could grow in this space! And grow we did. But, I’m here to tell you that all of this space didn’t come with the same amount of work and time that the first garden had required. Much like the size of the garden, the work multiplied 4 fold. But it was worth it to me because it offered me the ability to do even more towards providing our produce needs. I had enough tomatoes to make all the sauces, salsas, canned tomatoes, and pizza sauce we would need for the upcoming year. Not to mention the green beans! We had corn, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, squashes, peppers (both sweet and hot), cherry tomatoes, peas, rutabaga, radishes, herbs, winter squash, and much more.
2021 saw us adding an additional 7 large beds and an expanse of several smaller beds, for a total of 35 growing beds of various sizes.
It would have been a BANNER year no doubt, but we ended up finding and purchasing our new homestead before the garden could grace us with all of its splendor. I did manage to harvest from the garden, freezing many tomatoes for later use, and fresh eating other veggies, during our month-long whirlwind of packing and moving. And we were lucky enough to have ownership of that homestead until the beginning of November. So some trips were made back to “shop” the garden one last time before we had to remove it. That was heartbreaking for us. We had put so much time and love into building that garden space, had so many awesome family memories there, and the new owners didn’t want ANY of it. So, we removed EVERYthing, including berry patches, garden beds, fencing, trellises, and grapes! And it all came with us! When we handed the keys over to the new owners, they were ecstatic about the way the backyard looked. A blank slate of mud. Albeit, healthy, organic mud. But mud all the same. Just waiting for the grass seed we had planted at their request, to grow.
And just like that, we’re starting our garden journey all over again!
Below is the beginning of the 2022 Potager garden that we are currently building at the new homestead. We are making progress
We will be putting in a larger “production” garden further back on the property. There we will plant the bigger crops of tomatoes, corn, squashes, potatoes, peas, etc.
Our property had 3 fruit trees (1 pear, 1 apple, and 1 what I assume is/was a peach) on it when we bought it. This was one of the exciting things for me. We will be adding to the orchard, as well as reestablishing berry patches and grapes.
We have MANY plans ahead for the new Covers Corner! We hope you will join us on the journey!
Stephanie and Brett