My Son's First Garden

Dateline: 29 March 2017

Robert is my middle son. He is 26 years old and works for the town highway department. He lives with his wife, Danielle, in the rural farmhouse where I grew up (from 9th grade on), which is only about 3 miles from where my wife and I now live. That's Robert and me in the picture above.

Robert expressed an interest in having a Minibeds-on-Plastic garden. I like that. He wants to grow cucumbers (lots of cucumbers), onions, summer squash, sweet potatoes. I suggested lettuce? No lettuce.

Robert told me he was willing to spend around $50 for a piece of billboard tarp plastic. So I ordered him a 14' x 40' piece of the material. The price was $45. There is an added cost for shipping, which is kind of a bummer.

I'm going to see if I can find a billboard company not too far from us and ask if they have used billboard plastic for less... or free. For now, we bought the plastic from the internet.

The billboard tarp is not here yet but this afternoon we dug a trench around the perimeter of the garden. You can see the trench in the pictures with this blog post. The trench is 13' x 39'. That will allow 6" of material to be buried around the perimeter. 

The land where the garden is going is behind Robert's house, on the edge of his field. He has big trees around the house so the garden needed to be out where it can get full sun for most of the day. That's pretty much rule #1 when you put in a garden.

The soil will NOT be cultivated. The plastic will go directly over the field grass and weeds that you see in the picture. After the minibed frames are in place, and the plastic is cut out of each one, I'll show Robert how to use a digging fork to "crack" the earth and loosen the soil. Then, the grass and weeds in the beds will be pulled. Any cultivation after that will be shallow. This will be a no-till garden, just like I explain in my Minibeds-on-Plastic Report.

At this point, I think there will be two rows of 10 minibeds on the plastic. 20 minibeds is not too small for a first garden. In fact, I think it is just right. 20 Minibeds can be very productive if properly managed.

For now, the objective is to get the plastic in place while the soil is wet and easy to dig. Then Robert can make the minibed frames. He thinks he can round up some used lumber to make the frames. If not, he can make a few at a time as he gets the money. Or, I see no reason why some flat rocks couldn't be used around the minibed openings. There are plenty of rocks around here.

I hope to chronicle Robert's progress with his garden, along with the progress of my own experimental Minibeds-on-Plastic garden. And if Everett Littlefield on Block Island can get me some pictures of his Minibeds-on-Plastic garden, I'll post them here too. I welcome pictures and comments from anyone else who wants to try this experimental (for now) gardening idea this year.

I should point out that I'm helping my son get his garden infrastructure in place. And I'll help him with the planting. But it will be up to him to take care of his own minibeds. 

I'm confident that he will not be overwhelmed with this gardening project (as often happens with first-time gardeners and a conventional garden). He's a busy guy but the whole minibeds-on-plastic concept is geared for easy manageability.


  1. In all your years of gardening, your son didn't decide to start one until the age of 26? Still years earlier than it took me to develop a desire and appreciation for it :) Good for him. My kids are 9, 7, and 4 and I just built 4' x 8' raised beds framed with 2x8 lumber, one for each of them. I selected a bunch of seeds from my stash that I thought would be good for the kids and let each of them select from them. Each of them got to "plan" their own garden. At their ages, I mostly want them to simply enjoy it so I'll be helping quite a bit.

  2. Yep. First garden at 26. I had him plant and grow a couple of things in our home garden when he was younger, and that was a good experience. The cantaloupes he grew one year were most memorable. All my kids helped with the home garden to some degree when growing up, but they never had their own gardens and were not all THAT interested in gardening. So, this is a good development that makes me happy (as evidenced by the smile in the picture).

    1. Further thought.... I don't know too many kids my son's age who have a garden. In fact, I don't know any. I'm sure they are out there, but not around here that I'm aware of. So maybe he will get the ball rolling among his peers. Stranger things have happened.

    2. You're right...there aren't many, particularly in this country. Even in "conventional" farming circles, I think it's increasingly rare for someone that age or younger to carry that torch. I think it's fantastic and it makes me smile, too. Maybe my kids will grow up reading a blog named "Son of a Deliberate Agrarian".

  3. Great news Herrick. 26 is a good age to start. I believe that gardening is a desire passed on from Fathers to sons. As a child in FL my Dad gardened a 1/4 acre. I never happily helped but never openly resisted. Not only is 1/4 acre a large home garden but in FL my Dad could torture me with garden duties 12 months a year. No off season. I never thought I would willingly plan and plant my own garden. Having served several migratory years in the military I always had an excuse to not garden. Once I finally settled down the itch became insatiable. I had to scratch it. I've been gardening for 25 years now. I often find myself talking to Dad as I garden...the answers usually come from our shared history in his 1/4 acre. Your son will probably be calling your name as he gardens long after you have passed. If he is like me he may sometimes say "well old man, this is a fine mess you got me into this year".

    1. James Clark—
      That's a great story. Thanks for posting it here.