Our garden is better than ever this summer! Check out our summer garden tour to see what we’ve done to make gardening easier and more efficient this year.
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Where are we?
Let me first start off by telling you all that we live in New England, and are in USDA hardiness zone 6b. We are lucky enough to experience all four seasons each year, but without a cold frame or greenhouse we do have a shorter growing season.
2020 Summer Garden Setup
2020 marks the third summer we have lived in our farmhouse, and we’ll just say it’s taken some time to figure out how to efficiently plant with a large garden. Our previous home had a very small garden, with beautiful raised beds and was small enough to weed and manage daily. Now, our garden is 40×60, and we certainly don’t always have time each day to tend to it’s needs. We’ve had a few trial and error growing seasons so far, and I am excited to share our successes with you all!
One of the most effective weed-prevention techniques we have discovered so far was building raised beds. After the beds were built, we stapled landscape fabric over the top to prevent weeds from growing. Immediately before planting, cut holes in the landscape fabric to allow the plants to grow.
In addition to weed control, raised beds have been a great way for us to organize our crops. For example, we have one designated bed for salad crops.
Landscape fabric also keeps most of the dirt from getting onto the leaves or damaging the plants. This makes food prep a breeze! As I’m writing this, I’m having flashbacks to that time we grew curly kale without landscape fabric and I think I washed those leaves for days and still had dirt!
One of the most important lessons that we’ve learned in the garden, is that whatever worked to keep critters out of your garden last year will not work the same way the following year.
Our garden is fenced in with chain link fencing. Above the chain link fence, we have strung twine at various heights so that deer can’t jump over the chain link fence into the garden.
Last year, we hung CDs around our garden fence one year, and the reflection and movement was enough to keep deer away. This worked so well for deer, but the family of groundhogs did not care a bit about the CDs! Last summer, baby groundhogs were small enough to walk through the chain link garden fence and ate a great deal of our veggies.
Early this spring, my husband and I were eating dinner and looking out the window at our property. We saw a beautiful deer, but then thought it looked like it was quite close … then we realized the deer was actually standing in the middle of our garden! The CDs were no longer a threat, so the deer jumped the fence and ate some grass. This is when we realized how important it is to update pest control each year!
The previous homeowner used solar-powered electric fence to keep pests out of the garden. This is a great idea, however with two toddlers we did not feel comfortable installing electric fence at this season of life. Instead, we installed chain link fencing all around the garden, then hung bright yellow string across the fence posts, making a high barrier to prevent deer from jumping in. We installed a second row of string after we spotted the doe in our garden, and have not had any deer issues all season long.
We believe in chemical-free gardening, so to combat any bugs in our garden we generally remove the insects by hand and spray our plants with a mixture of mint castile soap and water. For more all-natural cleaning ideas, grab a copy of my free ebook “Cleaning Naturally” here.
Summer Garden Tour
Here is a list of what we planted in our 2020 summer garden! Not included in this list are Brussels sprouts, which baby rabbits absolutely adore. And, just in case you were wondering, baby rabbits can fit inside chain link fence – but boy are they adorable!
- Green beans – We like to roast our green beans with olive oil, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Alternatively, cut the ends off of the beans and throw them in the freezer!
- Beets – Our whole family loves beet salad!
- Ground cherries – These are small tomatoes that taste very sweet (pictured below). If you are interested in encouraging kids to garden and eat healthy, these are a must have. Ground cherries (also known as husk cherries) are small, like a grape, and very sweet!
- Cutting celery – this is an herb type celery that I discuss more about in my Simple Red Potato Salad recipe post. We have had luck transplanting this into our cold frames and extending it’s growing season.
- Romaine – makes for a great early spring or late fall crop as it does not like heat.
- Assorted Lettuce – also a good early/late crop. I use our lettuce in my Plant-Based Pasta Salad recipe.
- Zucchini – Lately we have been making a ton of Zucchini bread. Check the recipe out here.
- Peppers – We love to freeze peppers! Simply cut them into strips and throw them into a freezer bag.
- Summer Squash
- Yellow crookneck squash – We typically grill our squashes.
How to grow vegetables
In our opinion, growing vegetables is pretty easy as long as you follow a few simple rules. Unlike indoor gardening, there isn’t too much of a concern for specific lighting or watering requirements. The biggest challenges with vegetable gardening are weeds taking over, forgetting to water, or having something eat your crops
- Keep weeds and dirt away from your plants. When it rains or when you water your plants, sometimes water splashes dirt onto the leaves of your plants. This can actually damage some of the leaves! Weeds tend to suffocate plants, so to combat both dirt and weeds use landscape fabric or spread grass clippings from your yard around plants. This also helps to retain moisture after watering! Be sure to leave space around the base of the plant so that it can grow without touching the clippings or landscape fabric.
- Use good soil. In our previous home, our soil was quite sandy. This was great for drainage, however did not hold any nutrients. In the time we lived there, we were not in a position to compost. This is going to sound crazy, but in our old home we actually purchased local compost one year from a local farm so that we would have good soil!
- Water appropriately. I know this is easier said than done, and also depends on your demographic, soil and weather. My biggest tip is to watch your plants. Do they look droopy? Are the ends of the leaves turning brown? You may need to water more often.
- Lots of sun! Most (if not all) garden vegetables need full sun, or as close to full sun as possible.
Freezing Garden Veggies
I would love to get into canning and food preservation, but I haven’t just yet! In the meantime, any vegetables we cannot consume in time we share with family and friends or freeze for later.
We purchased a refurbished FoodSaver vacuum sealing machine, which has proven to be quite helpful for maintaining freshness without freezer burn!
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What are some of your favorite or best growing veggies in your garden? Leave us a comment below, we would love to hear from you!
Thanks for visiting.
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If you’re interested in indoor gardening, check out Houseplant Care: A Beginner’s Guide!