raised beds

Catherine Davis

Home Farming Challenge | Cool Weather Vegetable Planting

Having spent the majority of my life living in Illinois, I know how unpredictable spring weather can be. As eager as I was to begin planting all of my vegetables after constructing our raised bed farm, I quickly learned that our drastic weather changes in the past few weeks were not going to cooperate with my tomato planting plans. Instead, I used the Home Farming Vegetable & Herb Guide to learn about which vegetables would grow best during these cooler weeks.

There are three vegetables I discovered that thrive in this cooler weather and they just happen to be three of my absolute favorite vegetables to cook – broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Looking at the HomeFarming.com Planting Guide I discovered that these vegetables will do well in our cool Spring months and likely won’t be ready to harvest until late summer, at which time I’ll be making good use of the cabbage for my mother’s stuffed cabbage rolls recipe.

Having divided our raised bed farm into 3 sections, I used one of the legs of our L-shaped farm bed for planting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and two rows of red and yellow onions.

One the opposite end of my raised bed farm, I created an area just for fresh herbs to use throughout the summer to add fresh flavors into our family meals. In fact, I started using the rosemary last week when I sprinkled some of the fresh leaves on top of our broccoli cheddar chicken crescent braid.

You may have noticed that our herbs have grown far beyond what would have been expected from the seeds I started weeks ago. Well, living the life of “3 Kids and Us”, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of our toddlers got into the seeds and pulled all of the new sprouts. Knowing it would be nearly impossible to keep the delicate seedlings away from our curious toddlers, I decided to purchase more mature herbs that were ready for planting.

Unfortunately, our seedlings weren’t the only casualty in the past weeks. Due to heavy rains and winds, my sweet basil plant died as well. Thankfully, my wonderful mother brought over some of her mint to transplant into my farm.

In the coming weeks I’ll start working on filling the rest of our farm space which will include bell peppers and my personal favorite, tomatoes! Until then, I hope you’ll take a moment to join the Triscuit Home Farming Community where you can track your farming progress, ask farming questions and use the plethora of farming resources at your fingertips.

Also, if you’ve started a home farm whether it is in containers, a ground plot or a raised bed like mine, I’d love to hear about the progress you’re making!

Home Farming Blogger Challenge Journeys

Catherine Davis

#HomeFarmingDay Challenge – Building a Raised Farm Bed

Now that we are well into April, I’m really excited to share with you my home farming updates, which include the construction of our raised bed farm and seed planting. Before diving right into the construction process, I think it’s important you know that as a family, we are novices in the world of home farming. My one previous attempt at a vegetable farm was a sad, very sad attempt that resulted in very few crops to harvest and an abundance of pests. My hope is that if you are a first time home farmer, you’ll be able to learn from my experiences as I dive into this project with no more knowledge or experience than what HomeFarming.com has provided me with.

With my “big brown thumb” disclaimer out of the way, I want to share our raised bed farm. Building this with the help of my father was an amazing experience that left me feeling like I can do anything.

The tools and materials we used to build our raised bed frame to create approximately 80 cubic feet of farming space, included:

  • (3) – 2 x 12 x 8 untreated pine boards
  • (2) – 2 x 12 x 12 untreated pine boards
  • 1 box of 3 inch outdoor wood screws, 18 screws used
  • (6) corner wood braces
  • 1 box of 1-1/2 inch outdoor wood screws, 18 screws used
  • power drill with drill bit


Being the adventurous, overachieving kind of person that I am, I chose to go outside the box so to speak and create an L-shaped raised bed farm to fit in the corner of our property. Not only does it conserve space usage but it becomes an appealing part of our landscaping.

Together, we simply pre-drilled 3 holes at the corners of each piece of lumber and used 3 screws (per corner) to join the frame, with the help of my daughters passing out screws of course.


During the construction process we questioned the ability of the frame to withstand the pressure the soil would place on it so we added braces to each corner to help provide support. It’s an inexpensive addition to the raised bed frame that just may save you a disaster later on!


One thing we quickly learned through this process is that building a raised bed farm is without a doubt, a two person job! While shopping for our lumber we noticed that it is rare to find a board that is perfectly straight. While we were finishing the last few corners, it was necessary to have one person bend and hold a board in place while the other person drilled and placed the screws. It was a relatively easy process that I think any person capable of lifting heavy boards could do!


For our family, one of the best things about creating a home farm, aside from the vegetables, is the fact that it’s an educational family activity. Throughout the process my 9 year old son has learned basic tool skills, a few math and geometry lessons while building the frame and the concept of manual labor. As a parent, I understand the importance of education and more so, the importance of hands on learning, outside of the classroom.


The biggest tip I can share as part of this initial process is to search your local paper for supplies! A raised bed farm doesn’t have to be expensive; in fact, we’re completing this project under $300. Our biggest money saving purchase, especially with a raised bed farm of this size, is to skip buying the bagged soil. Many contractors and farmers have premium garden soil for sale that can be purchased by the truckload at a much more reasonable price.

We reached out to D & L Contractors in the Springfield, IL area who provided us with 80 cubic feet of soil, which they delivered, for only $125. Compared to buying bagged soil, we saved over $300 and filled our raised bed with premium, black top soil. Also, with the advice from Home Farming expert, Paul James, we are adding organic matter to prepare our raised bed soil properly.


We also tested our soil to determine the PH and nutrient levels, which revealed that the Nitrogen is Medium, the Potash is Low, the PH level is Neutral and the Phosphorus is Very Low. To provide lots of nutrients for the vegetable plants, we’ll be incorporating mushroom compost. Plus we’ll add peat moss into the soil, which helps loosen up the soil.


I have to say, the best part of this experience for me so far has been planting the seeds. I may have gone a little overboard with my selections but I really wanted a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables available to me throughout the summer. About half of our home farm was started by seeds in Peat Soil Pellets and the rest will be planted as small plants in the coming weeks.

The variety of vegetables and herbs we are growing includes:

  • Herbs – Mint, Rosemary, Sweet Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Chives, Oregano, Lavender, Spearmint
  • Seed Veggies – Chili Peppers, a variety of Carrots, Romaine Lettuce
  • Plant Veggies – a variety of Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Garlic, Onions
  • Pic8_seeds-labeled-in-jiffy-pellets

In addition to the construction of our raised bed farm and seed planting, we also got a bit crafty with the addition of vegetable markers to not only help identify the vegetables and herbs we’re growing but to create a more visually appealing farm space.


Now that all of the construction is behind us, I’m more excited than ever to see how our farm will grow in the coming weeks. If you’d like to follow my journey and frequent updates, be sure to follow @3kidsandus and the #HomeFarmingDay hashtag on Twitter.

Home Farming Blogger Challenge Journeys


DisclosureThis is a compensated, sponsored post for Triscuit. All ideas, thoughts, experiences are my own. Be sure to check out my posts as well as the other bloggers participating in this challenge on Better Homes and Garden’s Home Farming Challenge page.