So, should you expand out your garden?  At first it seems that the answer is an easy yes.  A bigger garden sounds like it will produce more food.  That leads to more independence from having to go to the grocery store, which is less trips to town and more time you could spend at home.  It all sounds so good when you first look at it.  But take a step back, is it really that simple?  There are a few things to consider.

Should you expand your garden?

GardenThe first thing you need to look at is your experience and how your garden did.  Sure, if you are an experienced gardener but you moved into a home that only had a 2×2 ft garden bed you might want to go a bit larger.  On the other hand if this is your first, or even second to third, year, are you sure you can devote the time required to going up to a huge garden?

Lasts years haul

GardenIf you had a garden last year how did it fair?  If it did so so the answer might not be go bigger, the answer is most likely go better.  There are a number of reasons that a garden didn’t produce a bumper crop.  When you are just starting you need to build up your soil.  The truth is that is going to be a multi-year process.  And for every additional garden bed you add you are going to have the clock start fresh.  Now this isn’t to say you should never add new beds, just understand there is work to be done.  A bigger garden might allow you to rotate crops more and have a few beds that you are using cover crops to build or rebuild your soil health.

Also did you have time to tend and manage the garden last season?  If you were struggling to get a few minutes here and there to get into the garden perhaps it isn’t the time to make the garden bigger.  A smaller well tended garden will produce much more than a large neglected one.

What about water?

GardenIf you go big, how will you water it all?  Did your smaller garden rely on you taking a water can to give your plants a drink every other day?  If so how many trips will you need to add when you bump up the square footage of your garden?  And take a moment to think about water usage.  You might live in an area that isn’t prone to droughts and have no worries about running a sprinkler every day, or you may be in a desert with watering restrictions.  How will that affect what you can grow?  And even if the water itself isn’t a problem, if you swap from your watering can to an irrigation system, how much time will you need to set it up and how much will you spend on it?

Let’s do it!

So you’ve decided to expand out your garden?  You feel that you can maintain the larger size and grow amazing produce?  That’s great.  I made the decision since the garden that was here when we moved in was rather small, had a flimsy fence and no real entrance.  As such I started the expansion in stages.

GardenStage 1 was to fence off my new larger garden area.  As most of the work was done during the summer I didn’t worry about getting new beds or anything in.  It was enough that I now had a good fence, with actual gates around the garden.  Well a better fence at least.  I still need to see about patching up a few holes where rabbits have been able to get in. For me a six foot high fence was the right size.  I put in some landscaping timbers.  Of course then I did some more research and realized that I should have put a pole every 8 feet or so to give enough strength to stay up even if a deer ran into it.  So I augmented the timbers with t posts.  Not the best to look at, but it did the job.   I  also did two gates so it would be accessible from either side, with nice 4 foot wide gates, so I could easily push a wheel barrow through the gate.

Moving Forward

GardenThroughout the fall and early next spring I will be adding in the extra beds and soil into this expanded section.  I have all ready covered the area with cardboard and then pine chip mulch on top of it to keep them down and have a uniform look through the garden.  I have drawn up a plan of what I think I will be planting in the spring, but then again that’s a long way to go.  Things might change between now and then.  Currently though I have quite a bit of garlic in the ground.  But that might have to be a story for another day.