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Dreaming of a vegetable garden

By Patricia Bailey
Posted 1/20/18

My seed catalogs have begun arriving and I can’t get enough of them! I’m already dreaming of this coming season's vegetable garden. I find some of my best ideas arrive over my morning cup …

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Dig In

Dreaming of a vegetable garden


My seed catalogs have begun arriving and I can’t get enough of them! I’m already dreaming of this coming season's vegetable garden. I find some of my best ideas arrive over my morning cup of tea as I look out the window to my snow-covered garden. It’s like a fresh piece of the finest white linen paper.

I begin my design layout with much of the same problem solving I used in printmaking. Finding order, arrangement and placement that include elements of shape, texture, scale, balance, and color, while achieving beauty and function. But more importantly, what is my growing zone and what does my family like to eat.

I like to work in collage format by clipping images from catalogs and magazines. You may prefer sketching or using a computer application like Pinterest to collect ideas. Whatever your idea generator process is — just go for it!

First, I determine if the space my vegetable garden will occupy should remain the same as last year. Do I want to expand or add new spaces? What crops struggled and which were successful? Do I have enough sunny areas? Should I consider crops in pots, raised beds, and edible climbers? I’ll scour countless magazines and websites to find pictures of other gardens that wow me. And I mean wow! I also review the photographs I took from the gardens I have visited which are often a source of inspiration.

Clip and paste those whose aesthetics appeal to you and your garden space. Consider arranging by category: vertical appeal, raised bed gardening, crops in pots, cut & come again lettuces, roots in the ground, pollinator attracters, edible flowers, curiosity crops and food for thought sitting areas.

I also begin to assess the inventory of the many support structures I keep in the basement. You may have more than you realize that can add visual interest and practicality to your garden — things like trellises, orbs, urns, pots, netting, and cages, hoop frames and stakes, to name a few. Perhaps you have a wheelbarrow to use as a container or raised bed or a thread spool organizer for vining edibles like peas, gherkins or pole beans.

I can always find inspiration from two of my “sisters of the soil” who share my love for growing food. "Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate" by Wendy Johnson and "The Complete Kitchen Garden" by Ellen Ecker Ogden hold a special place on my bookshelf and I reach for them often. With these two books and several seed catalogs, you have what you need to dream and grow fresh organic vegetables for your family.

Throw caution to the wind and have fun. Whether you’ve always had a kitchen garden, just a few herb pots, or have never grown anything edible, there is nothing better than growing the food you put on your own table!

Patricia Bailey is the Community Outreach Horticulturist at Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, where she has managed the Vegetable Garden since 2013. Having a deep appreciation for the quality of life a good garden can bring to those in need, she spearheads school programs, mentors young people and provides local charities with fresh organic vegetables. 

Patricia Bailey

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