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Martha's Vegetable Garden

Martha Stewart Living, March 2008

See Martha's entire vegetable garden.

Who doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous flowers all summer long? But a gal's got to eat. So it's not surprising that the first garden Martha set to work on when she bought her Bedford home, Cantitoe Corners, in 2001, was her vegetable garden.

The garden, next to the greenhouse and close enough to the house to make it a quick stroll to pluck a tomato, has come into its glory. Of course, the bounty, which ranges from early peas to fall's brussels sprouts, didn't come without effort. The soil has been amended with compost and minerals, and the garden has been enclosed with a 7-foot-tall fence -- because Martha isn't the only area resident who appreciates a tender lettuce leaf.

Row by Row
Martha's vegetable garden was laid out with rigorous geometry to yield maximum results and easy access. The major cross-axial paths are 10 feet wide and can accommodate a garden cart or a pickup truck. Each row of vegetables is 30 inches wide, and the paths between them are 12 inches wide, which makes it simple to hoe and weed from both sides. To minimize weeds and retain moisture, each row is mulched with salt hay, a grass harvested in marshes along the East Coast that contains no weed seeds.

Rotation of the Earth
Each year, the vegetables are planted in different beds to lessen disease problems and interrupt the life cycle of pests that are attracted to a particular plant. Crop rotation also allows the soil to replenish after hosting heavy feeders, and alternating deep-rooted and fibrous-rooted crops from year to year improves soil structure. Marigolds are interspersed amid the vegetables because they are believed to repel insects, and calendula is planted for its edible petals, which add color to salads.

Tricks of the Trade
1. Martha designed this dibble, inspired by one she saw in her friend David Rockefeller's greenhouse. He uses his to make holes in seed trays. Martha uses hers in the beds to make evenly spaced holes for crops such as lettuce and Asian greens.

2. Mustard greens are interplanted with cole crops, such as kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli, to serve as a trap crop for flea beetles. The beetles are attracted to the mustard first, leaving the cole crops to grow undisturbed -- at least in theory.

3. Collars of heavy paper are pushed into the soil around a 'Romanesco' cauliflower and the other brassicas to keep cutworms at bay. They are removed when the danger from cutworms has passed.

4. Sungold cherry tomatoes are everyone's favorite, best eaten straight from the vine.

5. A tomato-staking method Martha tried last year consisted of white nylon twine supported by bamboo tripods. The vines were attached to the twine with trellis clips. Staking tomatoes allows for a clean, disease- and pest-free crop and even ripening of the fruit, and the clips can be reused each year. The supplies are available from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

6. Heirloom varieties, such as this Rhubarb' Swiss chard, are grown from seeds that have been passed down for generations.

7. Clean straw is slipped below each pumpkin and winter squash to keep them from rotting and to put them out of reach of soil-dwelling insects.

8. Accurate record keeping is crucial. This plan lists what is planted in each bed so that proper crop rotation can be maintained from year to year.

9. Freshly dug garlic is hung in the dry and airy potting shed for a week or two until the skin turns off-white. The loose soil is then rubbed away, and the bulbs are stored in the pantry for use in winter. Onions and potatoes receive similar treatment.

10. Branches of gray birch and other twiggy trees are pushed a foot or more into the soil to support the vines of beans, peas, and cucumbers. Martha learned this method of staking from the gardeners at Skylands, her home in Maine. Strong branches can be used for more than one year and then added to the compost pile after they become brittle.

Spring's First Bounty
1. 'Fordhook Giant' Swiss chard
2. Mache
3. 'Natividad' lettuce
4. 'Kolibri' kohlrabi
5. 'Orion' fennel
6. 'Thumbellina' carrot
7. 'Eder' kohlrabi
8. 'Purple Top' turnip
9. 'Cassius' cauliflower
10. 'Pink Beauty' radish
11. 'Galisse' lettuce
12. 'Oscarde' lettuce
13. 'Alcosa' cabbage
14. 'Sugar Sprint' sugar snap pea
15. 'Lucky' broccoli
16. 'Rhubarb' swiss chard
17. 'Bull's Blood' beet

Fall's Ultimate Harvest
1. 'German Butterball' potato
2. Curly parsley
3. 'White Cherry' tomato
4. 'Tigerella' tomato
5. 'Big Beef' tomato
6. 'Green Zebra' tomato
7. 'San Marzano' tomato
8. 'Reduna Ibrido' tomato
9. 'Japanese' garlic
10. 'Sungold' tomato
11. 'Jerry's German Giant' tomato
12. 'Asian Long' cucumber
13. 'Zenovese' zucchini
14. 'Dusky' eggplant
15. 'Rosa Bianca' eggplant
16. 'Imperial Star' artichoke
17. 'Purple Pole' bean
18. 'White Tango' eggplant
19. 'Shishito' pepper
20. 'Czechoslovakian Black' pepper
21. 'Tilsam' bean
22. 'Antoli Romanian' pepper
23. 'Spicy Globe' basil
24. 'La Ratte' potato
25. 'Red Knight' pepper
26. 'Cajun Delight' okra
27. 'Burgundy' okra
28. Soybean

Resources
Seeds, from Johnny's Selected Seeds, 877-564-6697; Seeds of Change, 888-762-7333; and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, 860-567-6086. Hair by Jason Decaprio, Noelle Spa for Beauty and Wellness, 203-322-3445. Makeup by Vinnetta Scrivo, vscrivo@yahoo.com. Tomato twine (No. 9834), and tomato trellis clips (No. 9624), from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Comments (30)

  • prod_test10 9 Oct, 2008

    this is a beautiful garden.

  • prod_test10 9 Oct, 2008

    this is a beautiful garden.

  • prod_test10 9 Oct, 2008

    this is a beautiful garden.

  • prod_test10 9 Oct, 2008

    this is a beautiful garden.

  • prod_test10 9 Oct, 2008

    this is a beautiful garden.

  • mczerwinski 28 Aug, 2008

    I would also love to see tips and tricks for people who live in apartments and don't have gardens. It's tricky to grow successful fruit/vegetables/herbs on a balcony and tough to know when to bring them in or how to store them over the winter or when they're dormant.

  • mamaof5kidlets 17 May, 2008

    It would be nice to see some stuff on gardening in places with a different climet. I live in the desert southwest and I have to start planting in Feb to get stuff growing before it is too hot. Plus we have a great fall/winter growing season.

  • GardengirlCT 12 May, 2008

    I would like to know how this deer fence was built, type of materials, cost, etc. Anyone have any ideas? Martha, are you out there reading this? Also looking to make mine as "eco-friendly" as possible and tie in with my natural cedar shake shingled house.

  • taybot 10 Apr, 2008

    This probably won't help much, but last spring (or the spring before?) Martha did a show on putting up a deer fence around her garden.

  • wannabemarketgardener 9 Apr, 2008

    is there a way to view your reply to the comments?I would also like the deer fence info. Also, I tried to view the pictures of Marthas garden and they don't pop up when you click on the "See Martha's entire vegetable garden" I also wondered if it was possible to get the layout.

  • coopdog 28 Mar, 2008

    I am surprised to find how many others inquired about the deer fence and the dibble, Martha, please help your readers. You have the most lovely garden, but even more so it is bountiful by the plenty! Thanks for sharing photos and ideas with us, so we can add a little bit in our own backyards.

  • altajones 28 Mar, 2008

    Martha, I have large country property and want to fence it to deter the deer. What was the wire mesh used on your garden fence. I have 30 deer that live right at my door step and I believe they are all pregnant!. Please Help!!

  • cid4houses 18 Mar, 2008

    Here in California, I had a client who purchased a country property. She fenced the entire acreage with Deer Fencing....a very tall fence which they could not jump. Since it was wire, it could not be seen as a wooden fence would have and saving the landscaping she'd spent big money on more than justified the expense of the deer fence....and a few years later, the home sold for quite a bit more.

  • cid4houses 18 Mar, 2008

    Here in California, I had a client who purchased a country property. She fenced the entire acreage with Deer Fencing....a very tall fence which they could not jump. Since it was wire, it could not be seen as a wooden fence would have and saving the landscaping she'd spent big money on more than justified the expense of the deer fence....and a few years later, the home sold for quite a bit more.

  • cid4houses 18 Mar, 2008

    Here in California, I had a client who purchased a country property. She fenced the entire acreage with Deer Fencing....a very tall fence which they could not jump. Since it was wire, it could not be seen as a wooden fence would have and saving the landscaping she'd spent big money on more than justified the expense of the deer fence....and a few years later, the home sold for quite a bit more.

  • cid4houses 18 Mar, 2008

    Here in California, I had a client who purchased a country property. She fenced the entire acreage with Deer Fencing....a very tall fence which they could not jump. Since it was wire, it could not be seen as a wooden fence would have and saving the landscaping she'd spent big money on more than justified the expense of the deer fence....and a few years later, the home sold for quite a bit more.

  • cid4houses 18 Mar, 2008

    Here in California, I had a client who purchased a country property. She fenced the entire acreage with Deer Fencing....a very tall fence which they could not jump. Since it was wire, it could not be seen as a wooden fence would have and saving the landscaping she'd spent big money on more than justified the expense of the deer fence....and a few years later, the home sold for quite a bit more.

  • biotech 8 Mar, 2008

    I'll second the above request for the type of fence in the article. The deer pressure around here is enormous. I've tried the plastic mesh fence but eventually the deer learned they could charge right through it and little birds kept getting stuck in it. If anyone knows what type of fence that is please let us know!!!!

  • ylekiot 24 Feb, 2008

    OH! One more, nearly fail-safe option is to get some "lucky bamboo". It
    s widely available now and can add a splash of green to any or all rooms. No effort required other than a good rinsing and fresh water a couple of times a week. AND the container/display options are only as limited as your imagination.

  • ylekiot 23 Feb, 2008

    A good spider plant --AKA airplane plant-- is great for indoors. Hang them in any or all rooms that get light and they will clean that condo air to boot! It's a good idea to rotate plants if there are few areas with abundant light. Take the plants into the shower for a nice cleansing watering once in a while. Investigate humidity-loving plants and keep some of those in the bathroom, if, of course, there is a window in the bathroom. Over-the-sink shelves work great, in a kitchen window

  • tudorfarmgirl 21 Feb, 2008

    That is really great that you want to start a container garden. I have grown herbs for many years. The main thing you have to be dilligent about is enough water, especially if your sun is primarily from the south you might have to set up some shade for your plants. You have to take into consideration how much root space the plant needs as well as remembering to fertilize because that little bit of soil will be working hard to feed your plant. There are special patio and balcony tomatoes.

  • anit 21 Feb, 2008

    Hi Martha,
    It is exciting to have spring on the way and inspiring to see your garden and ideas. That 'Dibble Board" looks like a good idea.
    For Valentines Day my husband, Rick, finished preparing the area we will have for our Kitchen Garden. For now we have most of it covered with a groundcover cloth to keep weeds and neighbor cats out of the lovely dirt. We planted a four-way espalier Asian Pear tree at the end of the garden.

  • wanna25 20 Feb, 2008

    Hi all,
    I need some help and advice. I really would like to start a container garden, but I think I have a black thumb:) Does anyone have any suggestions of good things to start off with. I live in South New Jersey - right near AC. I just started Culinary school and would like to start a garden, even if it's only in containers - I live in a condo.

    Thanks

  • rusticpumpkin 18 Feb, 2008

    This year, I am trying a 'no dig' method. I spread the contents of my compost bins across the veg plot and covered it with porus membrane which means the worms will do the work for me over the cold winter months, taking compost down, and the membrane will stop weeds growing! In May, when I plant out, I will have compost enriched soil with no weeds, then I just turn back the membrane a little at a time to expose the soil, dig my trench or [filtered word] and plant my crop and save my back!

  • animalloverjan 18 Feb, 2008

    Oh, how I wish it was spring right now! This fantastic article about your vegetable garden really makes me ache for starting my container garden and making my greenhouse and cold frames,etc. The temperature was above 50 degrees today and should be near 60 tomorrow.

  • palewis722 17 Feb, 2008

    Is the dibble available? If not, what are the dimensions? Would like to purchase one, or have my husband make one for me. Pat

  • gumamela 16 Feb, 2008

    Martha, your garden is just gorgeous! i hope i will be able to duplicate it in my garden here in the Philippines

  • neemster 16 Feb, 2008

    Love the garden layout. I know it's designed for optimum sunlight. Is north to the left of the diagram?

  • scionxa78 16 Feb, 2008

    Where do you get a dibble?
    I want one!

  • Nachokitty 16 Feb, 2008

    I'd love to know what kind of fencing Martha has around her garden and where to find it. I have only found ugly deer fencing and I like her metal fencing. Thanks! Heidi