“there are perfectly good stores where you can buy parsnips you know”…………
…….so commented a dear friend who couldn’t quite wrap her head around why we were spending many months and more than a few dollars to construct the Taj Mahal of vegetable gardens.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may recall my War of the Parsnips in which I vowed to thwart the Duvall vole population from decimating my treasured vegetable – a family favorite for Thanksgiving dinner. I then made the mistake (according to my long suffering husband) of going on a garden tour and seeing the perfect design for a wildlife proof vegetable enclave.
It began with a bobcat – the sort that churns up the grass big time, not the wild animal variety which would have created less of a mess. Trenches were dug to lay drainage pipe (we have ‘water issues’) and hardware cloth – that sturdy, fine metal mesh which keeps out burrowing critters, which was sunk about 3’ deep around the perimeter.
Next was the fence itself – the ‘boing-boing’ fence as it has been nicknamed. You see we’re in deer country and deer easily ‘boing’ over anything less than an 8’ fence to munch on the other side. However the vegetable garden was already almost equal in square footage to our modest home so the last thing we wanted was a really tall enclosure which would dwarf the house in height too. So we have two 5’ fences, 5’ apart, the principle being that deer won’t jump when they’re not sure they have clearance on the other side. In otherwise they can’t ‘boing-boing’ in or over a 5’ span.
As for fencing material we chose hog wire galvanized panels that have smaller holes at the bottom and bigger holes at the top. Rabbits can’t get through the small holes and deer can’t get their muzzles through the bigger ones. A solid 12” base stops moles getting in at ground level. Actually numerous mole hills around the perimeter suggest that several have tried and got a serious headache.
The gates match the fence panels but have a pergola overhead – again keeping deer out but also giving me somewhere to add honeysuckle and of course looking great.
Inside the enclosure the raised beds are 12” high and 18” or 3’ deep depending upon their intended use. Each panel is screwed together so if one board rots it can easily be replaced without taking the whole box apart. Raspberry beds are 3’ wide for example but 18” is plenty for leeks and onions. The main pathways are a comfortable wheelbarrow width of 4’ with 2’ for smaller paths.
The only thing that isn’t working well? The vegetables! I hesitated to post this blog since I can’t show you a flourishing kitchen garden. Rather most beds are empty (we’ve only just finished construction) and the few veggies look pretty pathetic compared to other years thanks in part to our terrible spring. However it does mean you can see the structure which is perhaps more helpful.
One great benefit of the design is that I have plenty of sturdy fencing on which to espalier apples, train sweet peas or grow beans without additional frames.
The only thing left to do is add some gravel around the perimeter to keep the grass back and maintain a tidy edge. A bigger budget might allow for bricks or steel.
So while farmers markets and organic produce sections in the stores might offer parsnips for sale, nicely scrubbed and ready to cook, our parsnips are just minutes from garden to table and you’ll have to believe me when I tell you their flavor is superior to any I’ve bought.
Thanks to the talents of my amazing husband the voles can go hungry this year.
Our vegetable garden has been featured in Groundbreaking Food Gardens by Niki Jabbour as the ‘Critter-proof Garden’ (Storey, 2014) and was a cover story in issue 170 (August 2016) of Fine Gardening magazine.
Andy and I also teach an online course for Craftsy ‘Building a Raised Bed Garden’ that you may be interested in. This link will also give you up to 50% off!