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Restoring a Vintage Kitchen Garden – Part 1

Farmstead Tomato

We have many projects going on simultaneously at The 1892 Farmstead right now. But one that I didn’t get a chance to tell you about yet is the planting/restoring of the farm kitchen garden.

When my family bought the property, one thing we wanted to do first was restore some of the gardens that had fallen into disarray. This included the heirloom orchard and a kitchen garden next to the farmhouse. This kitchen garden area was obviously once a beloved garden with much use. It once had long rows of vegetables and herbs there. We know this because although it was now covered with years of weeds, we could still see the outlines of some of the beds vs. the pathways.

Oh the farm stories this garden could tell!

Farmstead Garden BEFORE

You can see the patches of perennial plants after we weeded most of the garden.

The first time I strolled through this area, I could see little patches of sage and oregano marking the edges of some of the beds. In other side areas, patches of purple iris and lambs ears that had once probably been little accent marks of color within the garden now stretched out wildly into massive clumps.

These same irises were planted in several important focal points around the house so the previous owner must have loved them. As we initially weeded the area, we carefully dug up and saved the iris to be relocated in other areas around the farm.

Those First Initial Months:

That first growing season (last year), we were too busy clearing out the dilapidated buildings on the property to really garden much. So all we had time to do in this kitchen garden was weed, mulch and throw down some seeds to see what would come up. But we were rewarded with some delicious veggies.


We are lucky that all the decades of organic gardening has left pretty good soil.

Really Digging In:

Building Raised Beds

For our second growing season, we first leveled out the growing area and then began building the raised beds.

This year, we spent a several weekends in late spring completely reworking the area. First, we carefully dug up and moved all the perennial herbs, flowers and strawberries to temporary spots on the property. Then, we leveled the growing area.

Building Raised BedsWe want this area to be the workhorse of the farm (as it must have been in the past) and so we debated long and hard about all the options we could do with the space layout. We decided that raised beds were the best choice because although the soil is good (always been used as an organic farm), it is very clay and needs lots of organic matter added. That is pretty easy to do with raised beds.

So we built and placed in 24 cedar boxes made of 8 x 2 x 10 rough-cut boards. Each bed is 4 feet by 10 feet and has its own water line. We are using drippers or mini sprayers that we change out as we rotate crops. We also patched and expanded the fencing around part of the garden. To keep out the deer.

Building Raised beds

24 Cedar raised beds now fill the area.

The Magical Strawberries:

Within the old garden, there was one area that was not overgrown. It was long 6 X 15 foot strawberry patch that had a makeshift stick structure covering it with netting.

Farmstead Strawberries

Within the patch, were hundreds of little puny strawberry plants that up until recently had obviously been hand weeded. At first we were unsure if they were puny by variety or if their growth was just stunted due to not having been mulched or fed in a long time. Knowing that was the only hand-weeded section on the entire property, I knew these berries must have been important to someone. So now, they were important to me!

Farmstead StrawberriesWe carefully dug up and relocated every single plant to some of the new raised beds filled with fresh organic soil. The strawberries filled 6 of the beds. After receiving regular watering and the compost we mixed into the raised beds…the plants went nuts! They were not puny at all!

The resulting berries were hand picked for many a breakfast this past summer and many quarts are sitting the freezer waiting for me to turn them into jam. I still don’t know what type of strawberry we have here. In fact, they may be something very ordinary.

But we just call them…Delicious!

To read all of the posts on what we are doing, you can go to: The Farmstead Project.

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.