Cantitoe Corners: Martha's Vegetable Garden
From early spring to fall's first frost, Martha's vegetable garden yields not only delicious crops but also clever and innovative techniques. Take a peek at Martha's garden in all its glory.
Here, Martha shows off her summer bounty in her vegetable garden at Cantitoe Corners.
Martha's vegetable garden measures 90 by 150 feet, and its rows are oriented from north to south to take full advantage of the sun. A 7-foot-tall metal fence keeps creatures both large and small away from the tempting produce growing within.
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.
A Dibble Designed by Martha
This dibble, inspired by the one Martha saw in her friend David Rockefeller's greenhouse, is used in the garden beds to make evenly spaced holes for crops such as lettuce and Asian greens.
Jodi Capobianco, Martha's gardener, stands proudly in front of the crops she tended this season. 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.
Interplanted with cole crops such as kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli, mustard greens 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.
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.
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Everyone's favorite, these tomatoes are best eaten straight from the vine.
This tomato-staking method consists of white nylon twine supported by bamboo tripods. The vines are 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.
A Great Pumpkin
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.
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.
Rhubarb Swiss Chard
Heirloom varieties, such as this 'Rhubarb' Swiss chard, are grown from seeds that have been passed down for generations.
Freshly Dug Garlic
Hung in the dry and airy potting shed for a week or two until its skin turns off-white, these garlic bulbs are then stored in the pantry for use in winter. Onions and potatoes receive similar treatment.
Gray Birch Branches
These branches 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 her gardeners at Skylands, her home in Maine.
Tilsam Green Beans
Martha found this long, thin French variety on her travels. Because beans come and go quickly, these are sown every three to four weeks.
This Japanese pepper is hotter than a bell pepper, but less fiery than a chili pepper, making it perfect for tempura and stir-fries. Like all of the peppers in Martha's garden, it's grown in the greenhouse, and set out only after danger of frost has passed.
Cajun Delight Okra
These flowers are as beautiful as the pods are tasty. Sowing the seed directly in the garden once the soil was warm encourages strong plants that set more fruits and don't topple.
This purple-skinned, white-fleshed variety is great eaten raw, and works well in the late-season garden.
Martha loves edamame steamed and eaten from the pod. For a continuous harvest, new rows are sown every three to four weeks. If you can walk comfortably in a garden barefoot, it's a sure sign that the soil is warm enough for summer crops like beans.