Behind the Private Gates, Gardening How-Tos, In the Garden

The Making of a Mini Vegetable Garden

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What are two young darlings to do when dwelling in the eighth oldest home in Newport and desperate for a garden of their own? I am delighted to share with you the musings of my friends Caitlin and Wade, who have managed to navigate the challenge of finding their green thumbs whilst re-imagining a small space outside their Colonial home. With August at our doorstep and vegetable gardens beginning to bear their bounty, what better time than now for a little inspiration for next season?

Caitlin and Wade’s home, built in 1700, known as the historic Buffum-Redwood as it was once inhabited by Abraham Redwood, (founder of the Redwood Library in Newport).

“I would incessantly thumb through the newly published “Out East: Houses and Gardens of the Hamptons”, and think about the joy these spaces undeniably bring.” Caitlin confessed. “I loved the untamed-whimsy matched with the sheer practicality of foraging from ones garden. Together, Wade and I were determined to find our own version of this joy and aesthetic. It’s proven to be such an intoxicating endeavor.”

Below, Caitlin and Wade share a few of their learnings from their pocket garden endeavor…


As a first timer, the central goal is to keep the garden as manageable and mindful as possible. After-all, this is supposed to be a fun enterprise!

Schematics: We started with three very simple boxes constructed of pressure-treated 2’x12′ wood.  Despite dreaming big, I knew that with my eye I could always iterate on the space down the road with additional garden trimmings and accouterments. We then filled the walkway with crushed blue stone.

Simple schematics: the beginnings of the pocket garden.

Plantings: We stuck to your basic veggies (spinach, tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuce) and easy flowers that offered a bit of drama and whimsy (primrose, dahlia and foxglove).  Be mindful about how much room each planting needs and only plant what you realistically think you’ll consume; we found that we were a tad overzealous when it came to the quantity of our vegetable plantings.

Proper Placement: Study up on your plants’ needs as far as sunlight (and water!) and place those that might need more sun closer to it versus those that might not necessarily need as much sunlight.


Wade masterfully built a potting table out of cedar wood which serves as a central station for puttering with my pots and storing my growing collection of garden tools.

Create a central hub: Find your own version of a functional potting table – from a makeshift DIY to a fun antique find around town.


We were lucky that our garden took so well to our petite landscape, but with most things in life, it takes a lot of hard work for it to reach its potential. Some of my favorite moments are in the early mornings, watering my plants and savoring my coffee.

Hydration: Be prepared to water daily. Make sure you’re properly equipped with a hose and/or watering can.

Management: Be sure to have stakes and twine ready to adjust your plantings as needed. The soil we used was slightly on the acidic side of pH levels, which I’ve come to learn is best for most vegetables, so you’ll want a keen sense of what type of soil will complement your respective plantings.

Plan Ahead: Like any new investment, you’ll want to manage your risk. If you’re planting berries or other alluring plantings an eager animal might find, be prepared to net your berries to ensure you’re the one enjoying them and not your nocturnal neighbors…

Squash blossoms are waiting to be stuffed and fried.


Gardening is a hobby for a reason – and it must be celebrated, first by you! Start in the morning with a breakfast ensemble.

Plan a fun fête: Let your garden inspire you to plan a garden-inspired menu or cocktail gathering to show off the fruits of your labor! I’ve since hosted a dinner party where I used the potting table as a champagne bar and illuminated the pathways in the garden with candlelight.

With the garden in full swing, Caitlin and Wade will have a great bounty to enjoy into the Fall. Their tomatoes are ready for picking and they’ve seen the first blooms in their cutting garden.

Thank you, Caitlin and Wade for sharing your petite oasis!

A beautiful reward: the first dahlia to bloom in the cutting garden.
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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

One thought on “The Making of a Mini Vegetable Garden

  1. Quite an achievement in a small space! I would caution anyone making a raised bed not to use pressure treated wood because of the potential of toxins used to treat wood seeping into soil and tainting efforts at healthy growing practices. Better to use the red cedar or natural wood like the wonderful potting bench! So glad to see that old house in such capable loving hands!

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