Back in 2016 my sister Stephanie shared her experiences as a new gardener. Now, seven years later, she’s an excellent gardener has has had lots of success. Over the last couple of years, she and her husband Justin have greatly expanded their growing space and built some Grocery Row Gardens in their backyard. Today, I have the honor of sharing a post by Justin on their current Grocery Row Gardening plot in their suburban Delaware backyard. -DG
Grocery Row Gardening, Delaware Style
by Justin Brock
Let me start by saying that we (especially me) are relatively new to gardening. We live in a small town and have a quarter of an acre property, half of which makes up the back yard where we garden. We planted a few fruit trees in 2018. In 2020 we planted blackberries, strawberries, and added a small vegetable garden.
This year (2023) has brought on the addition of more plants than I can name, but thankfully my wife knows what we have so I can learn as we go.
Not only have we increased the number and varieties of plants, but we have tried a few different methods of gardening. The method that has proven to work the best and easiest is the Grocery Row. It not only has yielded the most but is the easiest to maintain and change as we see fit.
After reading Grocery Row Gardening, by David The Good, we went to work preparing the area we were going to use. We broad forked and tilled the area and then marked out our rows.
After creating the rows and paths, we planted the fruit trees we wanted to incorporate in the grocery rows. We already have a peach tree on the other side of the back yard and decided to plant another here. Then we planted two pear trees and a fig tree. We made sure to offset them from each other and only plant one tree in a row so that they don’t create too much shade in one area in the future.
Once the trees were planted, we moved on to planting perennials. We planted asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, and currant bushes.
Then came the time to plant annuals.
Some of the plants were seedlings and some we purchased from a local nursery. We planted lettuce, broccoli, peppers, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, onions, summer squash, z*cchini, tomatoes, collard greens, mustard greens, and a various assortment of herbs and flowers throughout.
As we planted things, we would add mulch or straw to cover the ground around the plants. It is not uniform in its presentation, but it works. We tend to buy discounted mulch bags from Lowes when they have been ripped.
We left the paths bare and use our little tiller to keep the weeds in check. We may eventually mulch them too.
In May we decided to add two cattle panel arches over the pathways. We planted sugar baby watermelons, cantaloupe, pole lima beans, pole green beans, and cucamelons.
There are two benefits to this. First, it looks cool. Second, you can maximize a small space by growing vertically.
As we harvested our cabbage and other cole crops, we replaced them with corn and green beans. We try to involve the children so that they can see the hard work and time it takes before it shows up on their plate. They enjoy harvesting more than pulling weeds!
Our favorite aspect of the grocery row garden is that we can tailor it to our preferences. There are guidelines to help you get started, but you are free to plant whatever and wherever you want.
This makes it less stressful and more enjoyable for us.
Have a pack of seeds? Plant it!
On a final note, we started gardening for several reasons, but one of those reasons was to have a supply of healthy food on hand. Whether we eat it right away or store it for later, we always have some fresh food available. I am currently on short-term disability from my work due to an injury. This means I will only receive a percentage of my normal pay until I can return to work in a few weeks.
Although we had to make an initial investment to get our gardens set up, it is paying off now. We are eating healthier and our grocery bill has been greatly reduced.
Now that we know how efficient and easy it is to garden with this method, we plan to expand the Grocery Row Garden next year! We could not have foreseen this circumstance, but we are glad we were prepared.