Vegetable Gardens, part 1: The Easy Plan; Radish, Fennel and Lettuce Garden Salad

Radish, Fennel and Lettuce SaladRadish_fennel_bowl

 Vegetables gardens.

They are always such a wonderful idea.

They are always so much fun to plan.

Then….

Reality happens….  Along with the weeds, the pests, the watering and the summer holiday when the whole thing turns into an unkempt jungle.

Over the next few Sundays I will share my vast amounts of knowledge about the potager, or vegetable garden…. All from practical experience; none from actual education or training.

My first vegetable garden had to be hacked through with a machete after being neglected for a mere 4 days.

My last vegetable garden was 11 meters (36 feet) by 8 meters (26feet).

Garden2007

It took me a total of 3 hours per week to maintain it in pristine condition: no weeds, well-watered, no pests and an entire freezer full of food at the end of the summer…. plus 32 quarts of dill pickles.

I left it alone for 5 days at the height of summer…. You couldn't tell I'd been gone.

I'll talk about weed control, pest control, watering, general maintenance and preserving the harvest.

To start I'll talk about garden design.

"It's too late!" you say.

It may be too late for the planting, but, reassessing your current garden with these tips in mind, may make next year's garden a lot easier.

My first garden, here in France, was 50% bigger than my last (the above size), but with exactly the same amount of food produced.

I used to look at the directions on seed packets, read that the rows were supposed to be 24 inches apart and make them 18 inches apart.  Less room for weeds, less garden to maintain was my thought.

Now I make them 36 inches apart.

And I plant something else in the middle.

Example #1:  If you have 2 rows of tomatoes, spaced 24 inches apart, you have lots of room when the plants are young, but it gets pretty crowded when they are all producing tomatoes.
Space them 36 inches apart and you have lots of lovely room to pick your wonderful tomatoes…. And for those wonderful tomatoes to get lots of sun.
At the same time as you plant the tomatoes, plant an early crop, spinach, radishes or lettuce, down the middle – 18 inches from either row of tomatoes.  You'll have lots of room in early summer, and, by the time the tomato plants are big, the early crop will be done.

Example #2: Sweet corn should be planted in blocks with each row spaced 3 feet apart and the plants 12 inches apart.  That's a lot of wasted space. 
Plant trailing vines like butternut or acorn squash.  They'll find they're way in and out of the corn stalks, providing shade to keep the weeds down and the ground moist for the corn.
Or plant the corn 4 feet apart and put one or two (that's all you need, anyway) bush-type zucchini or summer squash (courgette) in the middle.

Example #3:  Plant pole beans rather than bush beans.  They're much easier to harvest, you can space the rows 3 feet apart and plant melons or cucumbers in the middle.

Example #4: If you want small gherkins for making pickles, let them climb, too,like the beans, easier to harvest…. And you can plant a row of dill down the middle.  

I should point out that my 'rows' are not the length or width of my garden.  I always have 1 or 2 paths in the garden (I'll explain why later).  I'll have three rows of white sweet corn, each row 5 feet long.  I'll have three 6 foot sections of pole beans; three 12 foot rows of tomatoes (1 slicing, 1 freezing, 1 cherry, heirloom, fun).

Smaller rows/sections give more variety, more fun and seem less overwhelming when working.

A well planned garden should have you eating well year.

Radish, Fennel and Lettuce Garden Salad
 

Garden Salad: Radish, Fennel and Lettuce

2/3 cup (2.5oz, 75gr) julienned carrot,  app. 2 medium
2/3 cup, (2.5oz, 75gr sliced radishes
1 cup fennel, (3oz, 90gr, sliced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cubed (2oz, 60gr)
8oz (2580gr)  ham, cubed
red, green leaf lettuce
Yogurt Dressing

Slice, cut and cube all the ingredients.  Prepare the lettuce. Put the lettuce in a large bowl.  Add 2 tbs of dressing and toss well to coat.  Add the remaining ingredients to the salad, toss lightly and serve, additional dressing on the side.

Yogurt Dressing 
1/2 cup (4.5oz, 130gr) Greek yogurt
2 tbs ketchup
1 tbs white  balsamic
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs fresh, snipped chives

Mix all ingredients well.  Will keep for 4 – 5 days.  Also good as veggie dip.

Next week: Part 2. the Weeds, control with minimum effort and no herbicides.

6 thoughts on “Vegetable Gardens, part 1: The Easy Plan; Radish, Fennel and Lettuce Garden Salad”

  1. Oh Katie, where were you when I had my big garden in New Mexico? I love your plan of putting spinach in between the tomato plants! We always had separate sections. And as far as having to hack through the garden full of weeds, that depends entirely on where you live. In the southwestern part of the U.S., the issue is keeping your plants alive (watered) while you leave, not hacking through an overgrowth.
    And any salad coming fresh from the garden is always the best, best, best!!!

  2. I’ve never had a garden like that, nor can I really dream of one like that as long as we live in the city with a 20 x 20 foot backyard. I did stick in an eggplant this year and it seems to have growth after one bloom – I can’t believe I’ll get it before some critter.
    Best I can do with fresh from my garden is lots of 6 kinds of basil.

  3. Dear Katie… you make that sound like it would be possible to grow something green (and edible) for me too! If there is one thing I don’t understand -besides math- is a garden. I’ll be reading!

  4. Brilliant tips, Katie! I only have room for herbs in my miniscule space that has virtually no sun. But I’m still adamant that almost everything I plant has to be edible.
    I love your method of keeping the weeds down by planting squash (which is virtually a weed, don’t you think?) in the rows.

  5. Toni, any garden design for less work. And the tomatoes shaded the spinach.
    Tanna, our front (and only) patch in Ireland was so small mon mar cut it with blade attached to a gold club – swing practice.
    Baking Soda, sure you can! And you can grow red and yellow and orange, too!
    Elizabeth, I’m surprised at how well my herbs are doing in my cow trough – very little sun.

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