Looks can be deceiving, especially from the air. We fenced off as large an area as we possibly could when we planned this garden. We were limited by a driveway to our east and north, the barn and mature trees to our south, and our septic system to our west. We abutted our fence as close as possible to each of these constraints.
Our fenced in area is approximately 1/8 acre in size, or about 5,500 square feet. Additionally, we have added flower and vegetable beds outside this deer fence, added as exploratory concepts to test deer resistance. They include a wide array of flowers, elderberry, onions, summer squash, rhubarb, and chives.
We installed an 8’ high fixed knot deer fence before we broke any ground inside the fence. The fence was the first thing we designed and installed. Well, when I say we installed it, I managed the landscapers who installed it, as this was the first deer fence they ever installed, so we learned together on the fly. While they were installing the fixed knot fence, I had them add 3’ high chicken wire, some of which I flared out and secured down all along the edge of the fence. I then covered it with landscape fabric and a generous several inches of wood chips. We have never had a deer nor a rabbit in our gardens.
Hands down the most-asked and answered question from around the world.
Our paths are the remnants of our lawn. We built our garden within the lawn: the fence, then the beds, simply carving out (sod cutting) where the beds and fence would go. What remained was the old lawn that we had seeded over with Dutch white clover. It also has many invasives like quack grass and creeping charlie, but the clover definitely pops, adding color and nectar, enticing the pollinators to come and stay awhile. It’s a win-win all around, and I highly recommend living paths in your garden.
A great question, indeed. The simplest answer is thoughtful preparation each spring and constant tending to the garden. Our garden isn’t a place we simply visit just to harvest. We spend several hours a day in the garden, tending to plants, sowing seeds, weeding, edging, hunting for pesky insects, and harvesting.
In order to maintain our in-ground raised beds, there is some key maintenance we do each spring. We spend a few hours on each bed, edging and weeding them with a manual edger. We take the soil from that edge we create and mound it on the top of the bed and then finally we top the freshly edged bed with a good 2” of compost.
As I write this FAQ we are still in the throes of strawberry season, and our strawberry garden is a homestead dream come true. We have harvested over 75 pounds of strawberries in a little over two weeks - and the harvest will continue for another solid week, almost a month of daily strawberries.
We grow Honeoye and another mystery variety whom I believe is Jewel. We planted 25 bare roots of each June bearing variety in Spring 2017 when we planted all our perennial fruit. One is midseason and the other matures at late midseason so, essentially, it’s a succession of strawberries for the better part of a month. We have approximately 500 square feet of strawberry beds, though the majority of the strawberries are being harvested from the initial 200 square foot area.
Additionally, we have 16 fruit trees, 11 blueberries, 40 asparagus plants, half a dozen elderberry shrubs, and 50 row feet of raspberries. The fruit trees are not yet producing, but the asparagus and raspberries mature faster and are both producing well. Blueberries should be in full production in the next year or two. Here is our fruit variety lineup:
Apples: Crimson Crisp, Haralson, Honeycrisp, Mountain Rose, Roxbury Russet, Snowsweet, William’s Pride
Blueberries: Duke, Chandler, Superior, Blue Jay (2), Blue Ray, Patriot, Jersey (2), and two mystery plants we’ve moved from house to house
Elderberry: Common Elderberry
Nectacot: Honey Pearls
Pears: Luscious, Moonglow, and Rescue
Plums: Black Ice and Toka
Raspberries: Anne, Double Gold, Encore, Himbo Top
Strawberries: Honeoye and Jewel
Asparagus: Jersey Knight