Keep in mind that I purposefully did not photo the ugliest of the ugly vegetable garden in my back yard for fear of being judged by ‘real potager’ gardeners who have the means and time to design and maintain better gardens than mine. And judging by the recent rant from another garden blogger, that fear was not unfounded.

Well, this year, I am choosing to stand on the side of ugly vegetable gardens everywhere. These are the gardens that make do with the resources available to provide their families with food and enjoyment. This was the original purpose of my own garden. Growing up on a farm, I longed for the resources to can my own 72 quarts of tomatoes, dry my own 4 bushels of apples and put up enough to get by until next harvest. THAT was my only goal.

And while our neighbors were initially shocked at my husband plowing up almost half of our back yard—in a rectangle—they later envied our ability to grab a salad from the yard and pluck herbs as needed. (Check out the original post about the tilling of the yard and the Troy-Bilt tiller we borrowed.)

He’s doing this with cracked heels mind you, what a guy, eh?

Below are the worst of the worst. These are the shots that I forgot about and yes, I plan to take more this year. Snobby gardeners are officially on notice. I plan to embarrass the hell out of you!

Squash trellis made from weed trees cut from around the yard. Tied together with red and white twine via the dollar store. No, I did NOT clip the twine neatly because I wanted to be able to tighten it later as the branches dried and shrunk. And that mulch? Yeah, it’s dried twigs and peanut shells left over from feeding squirrels. And there’s newspaper underneath, showing at the edges.
Cluster of mismatched pots and a whiskey barrel we salvaged from someone’s trash. You can see my recycled pickle buckets that are now earth buckets through the chain-link fence. Yeah, I couldn’t afford the fancy manufactured earth boxes at $40 each.
Here you can see the chicken wire I used to keep squirrels from digging in my pots. It works! And it’s ugly but nothing else works as well. Also notice the cheap tomato cages from Wal-mart (or wherever) that are inverted on the two squash bush pots. Clipped off the tines that go in the ground, inverted and wedged into place on the pots to keep the bush squashes upright.
Another pleasant view of recycled pickle buckets making homes for 4 tomato plants near the electric meter.
Also tried weed tree trellises in the side yard but the sun never rose over the neighbor’s house, even in July.
We couldn’t afford a proper mulch for the back yard so we made due with straw on top of recycled newspapers. Worked great even though neighbors asked if that fenced-in area was a chicken run.
My rows are neatly measured and marked!
Sorry snobby gardeners, last year was a recession for some of us and we couldn’t afford the wood and extra soil for raised beds. We resorted to mounded rows, like my grand parents did on the farm in southern Indiana and Kentucky. It worked just fine.
Another recycled find: old wine crates from liquor stores! While it may not be up to standard for fancy gardens in upscale neighborhoods, I love my herby wine crate and plan to use several more this year!
Perhaps the ugliest and MOST effective tomato trellis is the Florida Weave. All you need are 7- or 8-foot metal T-posts and twine. Space the posts so there are two plants between each pair of posts and weave your twine back and forth, TIGHTLY. The weave and the tension keep your indeterminate tomato plants upright without a lot of fuss. Ugly? Sure. But it works better than fancy bamboo and is a hell of a lot cheaper than Texas cages. However, it does require the tomatoes be planted in rows which evidently causes some snobby gardeners heart palpitations. Bonus in this photo is the close up of our ugly anti-rabbit fence made of chicken wire, 2-foot t-posts and zip ties, which I didn’t bother to clip flush.
Hey look ma! Still no mulch in the aisles! Just a hoe lightly raked across the surface weekly kept things under some measure of control. Ya kno, grandma never used mulch on the family farm!
Yep, things are packed pretty tight. And I did push in some nasturtiums here and there to keep bugs at bay.
The herby wine crate is filled out and looking messy which is fine with me.
A better close up of the recycled pickle buckets. Interestingly, tomato plants in the buckets were the ONLY ones that did not show signs of blight. Ugly but highly functional. (don’t forget the drain hole, I’ve circled it in red above)
Here’s the interior of the bucket contraption before filled with soiless potting mix and fertilizer.

So, ugly? Sure. Lazy? No, not hardly. A lot of work went into this garden and we encountered obstacles almost every day. And if it weren’t for blight, or maybe if I’d planted ALL my tomatoes in ugly buckets, we would have had a larger yield.

So there you have it, and this year it’s only gonna get worse. Be forewarned!