Update: Our Edible Garden A Year Later

Last year was our very first year spent playing farmer. Perhaps I should rephrase that. Last year we enthusiastically planted some herbs, veggies, and fruits in a small backyard garden that we created just for that purpose. Farmer might be a bit of a stretch, but for two not-always-great-with-plants people, it was quite a lofty goal… and it worked! Now that spring is back in full bloom (and the local farmer’s market is finally open again) we were able to replant a ton of new stuff and some old favorites too. You can read about how we originally prepped and planted our edible garden right here (tip: we used some non-edible evergreen shrubs to fill things out and keep it looking good year round). And you can see how that garden did thanks to a little update that we posted a few months later right here. And now for this year’s edible garden status report…

We’re not gonna lie. Things were looking a little bleak when we started. Overgrown seen-better-days daffodil leaves were all floppy on the ends of our planting bed, and don’t ask how many leaves were somehow still living among the evergreen shrubs since last fall.

But it was nothing that a little raking and daffodil-stem-cutting couldn’t solve. And once the garden was a bit less unkempt looking, we were able to start playing around with the placement of the new herbs and veggies that we picked up this year at the farmer’s market (the first day it opened actually, we were seriously missing our free backyard eats).

This time we grabbed some old favorites from last year like three sweet basil plants and two different types of tomato (two Roma tomato plants and two cherry tomato stalks called Riesentraube) along with some new additions (two chive plants, some mint, some rosemary, a bit of cilantro, and a Charleston bell pepper). Oh and we can’t forget that some things shocked us by coming back from the dead, so there was no need to replant them (our oregano and parsley sprung up to surprise us this spring). Plus the raspberry bush that we planted last year is a perennial, so we expected that to come back and are happy to report that it has been thriving since the warmer weather hit a few months back. We should have some fruit on that in a month or so.

As we mentioned we also already had some shrubs in the garden (planted as part of last year’s garden-establishing project) that look great year-round and fill out the area so it looks a bit less like a random hodge-podge of dinky herbs and veggies. Of course the existing peony bush and rose bush (both inherited with the house) on either side of the back row in front of that frosted window help to keep things looking good. And the two Winter Gem Boxwoods and the feathery Cypress King’s Gold bush in the front row also lend structure and form to the garden so our smaller sprouts don’t look too piddly and alone.

That other leafy thing you can barely see between the peony and the rose bush in that back row in front of the frosted window is the aforementioned raspberry bush that we planted last year (we can’t wait for that to sprout up- it actually gets pretty big and anchors the whole back row even more). So with those shrubs already in place, we just spaced out the smaller herbs among the larger established plants for a nice balanced look. We put the smaller low-growing herbs in the front row and the ones that we knew would get bigger (like the tomatoes) towards the back and in spots that had more room for them to fill out. There wasn’t much more of a method to our madness, except that we grouped like herbs (so all three of our basil sprigs were planted together, as were both of our chive plants).

Oh and we also learned a tip about the mint that we added to the mix this year: plant it in a pot and bury that in the ground (see the green pot in the right corner of the shot above?). It’ll look like all of the other herbs since the pot will be completely hidden, but mint is a spreading plant that can threaten to take over your whole garden, so by keeping the roots confined to a pot you’ll save it from monopolizing your garden by the end of the season.

So after we dug that pot in for our mint and planted the rest of our farmer’s market finds (we used some free backyard compost to give them all the nutrients they’ll need) it was time to mulch. And before we knew it we had a nice little edible garden staring back at us. We even used a few popsicle sticks to label things, just to keep them straight. Besides, it looks kind of charming and homegrown, which adds to the sweetness of the little herbs and veggies interspersed between the larger bushes and shrubs that live there year-round.

Here’s the view from above (peering down from the sunroom):

Since these photos were taken we’ve already eaten a good amount of oregano, rosemary, and pretty much all of the basil (thank goodness it grows back quickly). And we already have requests from friends and family members for some tomatoes (they’re so easy to bring when you’re visiting- and of course you feel so fancy when you get to mention that you grew them yourself).

In other news, pretty much right after we mulched everything in our garden, the pretty pink peony started to bloom. Sweet.

Oh and we suppose we should talk about the cost of our little garden habit since we know you love a good budget breakdown. Last year we spent less than $60 prepping the soil and planting all the foundation shrubs along with the first round of herbs, veggies and fruits. And this year we only spent $19 for all of our new herbs and veggies to replenish and substantially add to our original supply (and that cost also includes two bags of mulch to keep things moist). Considering you can easily pay $16 for a store bought container of basil and oregano along with one small basket of raspberries and a small tub of cherry tomatoes- an entire season’s worth of fruits, veggies and herbs for that price is definitely worth about an hour of planting and mulching. We really can’t emphasize enough how black our thumbs were last year when we decided to start an edible garden, but they’re super easy so there’s really no green thumb necessary. Just try to water things if they’re looking super dry, but other than that they’re pretty much an auto-pilot thing. So if you’re wondering if you can do it, trust us… you can.

And on a totally random tangent-type note, our backyard irises (planted by the lovely original homeowners nearly 50 years ago- so they’re HUGE!) are back in bloom. But on an edible-garden-related note, they smell good enough to eat.

So that ends the garden update. What are you guys planting these days? Any other edible gardeners out there? Any favorite fruits, veggies or herbs that you plant (or wish you could plant) each year (we’re always so jealous that Meyer lemon trees can’t live outside in our climate)? Any container gardeners (or windowsill gardeners) out there making optimal use of a small space? Tell us all about it.

Psst- Wanna know how we water our garden for free (courtesy of mother nature). Check out this post all about how we built a rain barrel. And learn how we created a super simple backyard composting bin right here.


  1. Miki says


    Be careful with the mint…it can take over SO quickly. We tried and tried to pull it up, but the roots were so scattered, that it kept taking over our whole herb/tomato garden. We ended up having to kill it with a spray ( and move our garden elsewhere for a summer). We have resorted to growing mint for our mojitos in a container!

  2. Sarah B says

    My favorite thing to plant is pumpkins and gourds – you need quite a bit of space since the vines tend to spread out some but it is soo fun going to your own pumpkin patch and you will save a fortune since many of them are sold by the pound or size. And considering they can be used as fall decorations all the way through Thanksgiving – it’s a bargain!

  3. Kristin says

    Nice update!

    As we do not have a balcony or garden in our apartment, we started a small windowsill edible garden with basil, rosemary, thyme, chives and chili – all started from seeds, it is really amazing to watch the seeds germinate and grow.
    The chili plant even looks great.

  4. Rebekah says

    Good call on the mint! I was worried you would have a mint garden for a second. It is a crazy plant.

  5. says

    Oh, I love irises. They’re so pretty. My husband threw an old potato in our back yard a few months ago and while I was weeding the other day I found tiny little red baby potatoes sprouting off of it. They were too cute and tiny to eat so I just replanted them in hopes that they’ll keep growing.

  6. says

    I recently created a vegetable garden too (and happened to have just blogged about it). I had a vegetable garden last year, but the deer got to it. This year I made one in the fenced-in area of my yard so the deer couldn’t get it, but my dogs dug up the vegetables instead. Oh well, I guess I’m just not meant to be a farmer.

  7. Andrea P says

    Do the peonies come back every year on their own?
    Or do you buy them every year?
    I am very interested in planting some because I love them!

  8. says

    I’d still be careful with the mint even though it’s in a pot. It can still jump out of the pot with its “branches/feelers” and spread. I had mint in a pot on my deck and it tried to jump into the pot of parsley next to it.

  9. Rosanne says

    We have a really small garden. But last night I made a salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber and a green pepper we grew ourselves! With a homemade dijon vinaigrette…so fresh and yummy

  10. says

    Oh dear. With a thumb as brown as mine (and a couple of dogs that love to nibble on cilantro), I’m able to take on a simple herb garden but that’s about it for now. Maybe next year I’ll branch out and try a few veggie. This year, plenty of trips to the farmers market will be in store for us!

    Your garden looks great!


  11. Amanda says

    We live in a townhouse with a postage stamp backyard, but last year, we had an adventure in container gardening. Herbs, of course, but also balcony tomatoes, tomatillos, fingerling eggplant, mini bell peppers, and some jalapenos. It was such a success that we actually gave up a little section of the yard to put some things in the ground! More herbs this year, but we’re trying out a couple of new tomato varieties, a different kind of eggplant, tomatillos again, a funky broccoli, and some hot peppers.
    Our one goal is to grow something OTHER than what we can buy at our local farmer’s market. Then we can reap the benefits of supporting local farms AND having some cool veggies of our own! I order the seeds and start them in the house in March.

  12. says

    I just planted our first crop of herbs and veggies at our new house this weekend!

    A warning on the parsley: in the spring of its second year, it will start blooming and go to seed, and the foliage won’t be so tasty anymore. I like to let mine overwinter, as you did, so I can get some nice early spring leaves from it. Now is probably the right time to replace it so you’ll have yummy parsley all summer long.

    Parsley are also subject to getting what my mother and I refer to as “parsley caterpillars”–we think they’ll later become swallowtail butterflies. So we usually plant three to six parsley plants–one-third for us, two-thirds for the caterpillars. It’s okay to let them eat the parsley down to the ground–they’re only around for about two weeks of the year, and the parsley plants will quickly regenerate from their reserves stored in their significant taproots.

  13. Barbara says

    I’m growing sage, lavender and rosmary on my tiny balcony.
    Last saturday I also sowed some catnip: cross your fingers!

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