We have had a raised bed vegetable garden for quite a while now.

This is what I know – they are a lot of work and there is one constant battle after another: drought, rain onslaught, bugs, rabbits, deer, groundhogs.

But every year, we keep doing it.

There is something special about growing your own food – knowing exactly where it came from.

Iphone Late May 086

For years we have gathered our kitchen compost and yard compost and put them in a big pile at the back of our property.

We don’t do anything much, except turning it from time to time so it hasn’t become usable very quickly.

It made us so happy this year to put usable nutrient rich compost in our beds.

Isn’t it pretty?

Iphone Late May 096

We have made a lot of changes to the garden over the years, adding more beds each year. We currently have 8.

I am not sure why, but my girls are doing the Macarena in this picture.

Iphone Late May 107

I wish I could show you glorious pictures of beautiful beds surrounded by lovely pea gravel.

That was the plan, we had the ground cover in between the beds for sometime waiting for stone.

But, the reality is – we made the garden way too big to be able to afford to bring it that much stone. Fighting the grass and weeds growing between the beds was a constant battle that became very discouraging.

Last year, we cried uncle!

We pulled up all the ground cover and put down grass seed.

Things are pretty scraggily right now, we are just getting started to get it cleaned up.

But all of the beds have weed block and either plants that we started in the house or seeds are in.

Iphone Late May 119

We have a push mower – the totally human energy kind – to use to keep things trimmed up. We are hoping after this season the grass will fill in a bit better.

If we get tired of mowing, maybe we can just bring over our new neighbor for a bit.

Although I do not believe Duchess has the ability to distinguish between unwanted and wanted greenery.

Iphone Late May 033

Another change we made last year was to turn a section over to a cutting garden – something I have wanted for a long time.

Iphone Late May 091

There will hopefully be lavender, peonies, hydrangeas, daisies and lilacs.

I had to pull two plants that didn’t make it.

Any suggestions for replacements?

Iphone Late May 092

We also found four small snakes as we pulled back the weed cover.

I am not a fan.

Iphone Late May 093

But our overgrown rosebushes are blooming and that makes me happy.

Iphone Late May 127

And there is signs of life with the strawberries.

Iphone Late May 130

If all goes to plan – which it never does, we will have string beans, peas, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, oregano, sunflowers, several types of peppers, pumpkins and gourds, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, three types of roses, and the above mentioned flowers.

That is of course, if our fortress holds up.

Our fencing system goes one foot into the ground to keep out the groundhogs and prevent the rabbits from going under. It is also 7 ft high to keep the deer from jumping over. There are two extra layers of mesh around the base to keep the rabbits from eating through the fence and there is an assortment of layers at the gate to keep all the riff raff out.

Iphone Late May 132

Gardening is not for people who give up easily.

Our garden will never be featured in a magazine – it is about function, not really about pretty. But it works for us.

And, when we are all out there as a family working hard, or when we all sit around the table and shuck peas for freezing, I know we are doing right by our girls.

We are teaching them the traditions of my husband’s childhood and we are creating new traditions of our own.

We are teaching them about working hard and sticking to it.

And nothing beats their faces when they are eating fresh raspberries!

How about you, do you have a vegetable garden?

May 21, 2012 — Laura Putnam