Planning my Vegetable Garden for Another Year of Experimentation

This year, my family got a community garden plot. We grew mostly vegetables, and some flowers. Next year I’ll do it differently, because a family can only eat so many giant, swollen cucumbers.

I am a professional gardener and trained horticulturist. But when it comes to vegetable gardening, I am something of a novice. I know lots about plants, soil, insects and gardening, and I am going to continue to apply my knowledge to growing vegetables. I am now the proud steward of a 5’ by 8’ raised garden bed in my local community garden.

What I grew in Year One of my Community Garden Plot:

  • Corn
  • Beets
  • Sweet Onions
  • Leeks
  • Cucumber
  • Beefsteak Tomato
  • Strawberries
  • Calendula
  • Cosmos
  • Yukon Gold Potato
community raised bed vegetable garden

Aphids on the corn

Problems I encountered in my vegetable garden:

  • Aphids on the corn
  • Powdery mildew on the cucumber leaves
  • Bottom rot on the tomatoes (well, one tomato, to be precise)
  • Ants biting me as I dug out the potatoes
  • Only one of my sweet onions took root to produce a beautiful orb
  • Way too many leeks
  • The cucumber plant grew huge and sprawled over everything, dashing my hopes of planting anything else in the surrounding areas
  • The tomato plant was so vigorous and heavy that it collapsed on itself in several places, making a mockery of my small tomato cage
  • The B.C. strawberries I got from the local farmer were completely shaded out by both the tomato plant and the cucumber plant


What I did right in the vegetable garden:

I added a cubic yard of garden blend soil (75% compost + 25% sand) to the existing soil in the raised garden bed. This dark, beautiful soil added much needed nutrients to the existing soil.

The whole family got to business in the spring and dug out every single last weed. This was a remarkably fun thing to do together and provided our child a chance to get to know good and bad insects in the garden (especially to learn that they’re not all bad, or fear-inducing, or worthy of a crushing blow).

grow beets from seed vegetable garden

Beets grown from seed

We successfully grew corn and beets from seeds that were directly sown in the soil. What a miracle to watch! My brain is still amazed by the genetic process of life.

The leeks and onions that took did very well. They had no problems with insects and survived my watering techniques.

The cucumber produced many tasty, water-filled vegetables and I was really pleased to not have to buy any all summer long. The cucumbers were also tough enough to resist slugs. I found a few on the bottoms of the cucumbers and simply picked them off and banished them to the curbside.

The tomato plant, though folded over at times, has produced many fruit. I am waiting for most of them to ripen still, but that’s part of the joy. I love delayed gratification in my garden.

I used Fruit and Vegetable fertilizer (10-15-19) as recommended by the very knowledgable Brian Minter, and the cucumber and tomato plants responded with vigour.

vegetable garden grow potatoes

Potatoes from the curb-side patch

My husband created a potato patch between the raised bed and the street curb. This was a terrific use of space.

What I will do differently in the upcoming year:

IF I plant a cucumber (my child’s favourite vegetable!), I will grow it on a fence-like structure to avoid the massive sprawl throughout the entire garden bed. As well, I will look for a seedless variety, which is apparently a feature that the child loves (as in, she announced recently that she doesn’t like the seeds).

I may plant a zucchini instead of a cucumber. Though I expect the child will mount a sizeable protest against this endeavour.

Transplant the strawberries to the eastern border of the raised bed, in the sunny spot away from big plants.

To avoid powdery mildew, I will be way more diligent about how I water the garden. I will spray water only to the root areas, and NEVER spraying the leaves with water.

Plant snap peas: these are a hot commodity in our house. I keep buying snap peas in plastic bags grown in California at the cost of $5 per bag. Let’s see what I can do with a bag of seeds instead!

I will plant fewer leeks. Unless the neighbours really like leeks and I can make friends by sharing them.

PLEASE SHARE and keep following me on my vegetable gardening adventure. If you have any tips, questions, or advice leave a comment below. I love the learning opportunities that come from sharing our collective vegetable gardening knowledge.