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.

Comments

  1. candace says

    Ooh, this post has me itching for MN spring to hurry up and stay warm! It’s a little dangerous for us to plant much earlier than Memorial day because of the threat of frost. I live in a townhome so I can’t do a ton of planting but I do enjoy sprucing up my patio with some pretty blooms and herbs. I can’t wait to have a new OLD house where I can plant my little edible garden too! Someday!

  2. Keren says

    YHL,
    You may already know this, but you can split those beautiful irises and plant them throughout your yard. Actually, splitting them encourgages blooms, because after a few years they get really crowded. Enjoy your yummy garden!

  3. Amy says

    The whole garden looks great, but mostly I am jealous of the gorgeous peonies! I love love love them.

  4. Sara says

    Is it just me or does it look like someone painted the daybed from the old guestroom white?

    As I was noticing that though, I did notice how great your garden looks!

  5. Tiffany says

    Have you experienced heirloom tomatoes yet? If not, try to find some. They taste like what summer should be.

  6. jessica says

    I live outside of Philadelphia, and I have a Meyer lemon tree! I just keep it in a big pot, and in the house it goes during the winter. It will never get terribly large, but it does produce lemons, and when it blooms in the spring, it smells amazingly sweet.

  7. says

    The bricks on the outside of your home are so bright and clean looking. Are they the original bricks? How to keep them looking so good?

    • says

      Hey Marcy,

      Yup, they’re original- and we really don’t do a thing to them- just keep ivy off of them and wipe ’em down if the mulch or dirt splashes up onto it when we’re gardening.

      xo,
      s

  8. Christine says

    Your going to want to remember to stake your tomatoes and even your pepper plant as they grow taller. And beware, last year we planted 4 tomato plants and we had so many that some went bad even through we ate them everyday and gave them to neighbors!

  9. says

    You’re garden is looking great! Although I’m sad upon seeing your peony and irises…ours have already bloomed and faded. SIGH. Till next year…

    We have a nice little veggie garden going on this year (last years was a disappointment)and so far it’s thriving! We’re growing tomatoes, bell pepper, cilantro, basil, rosemary, lavender, brussels sprouts, onions (lots and lots of onions. They take up very little space-16 in a square foot-and are great pest deterrents)and potatoes. Parsley, mint and dill spouted up from last year, too which is a nice bonus!

  10. Erin says

    FYI, parsley is a biennial, meaning it’s life cycle is two years. It will probably flower and go to seed fairly soon – so its possible it may seed itself for next year, you may have to plant again.
    Also, to go along with dividing the irises, you can do the same with peonies when they get large. We have some that are seriously over 150 years old. My mother’s ancestors took them with them to Nebraska on a covered wagon and they eventually made their way to our house in NC.

  11. says

    We are also edible gardeners, we have been growing our veggies and composting up here in MN for the past 2 years, and this year, we are going to take on canning and other forms of preservation–so much fun! Similar to mint, Raspberries can spread quickly (but then you just end up with more raspberries.
    We are trying to blog about our attempt at growing all of our own produce this year–you can check it out at http://www.thefullcirclegarden.blogspot.com
    But we are no where near as professional about it as you guys! :)
    -Allison

  12. says

    @ Chrissi My sister got me the Topsy Turvey tomato planter and I ended up taking it back to the store because I thought the big green bag was an eye sore in my backyard. But my sister says the results of it are great. I think this would be something to consider for those that are doing container gardening / don’t have a plot of land devoted to a garden.

  13. Jenny says

    Just planted my first “at my own place, in the ground” garden. I used to grow stuff when I was a kid living with my parents, and I’ve grown things on apartment balconies, but this year is my first real garden. I’m using a sideyard that gets full sun, its about 45 feet long and half of it is 10 feet wide, and the other half is about 5 feet wide. We put a gate up to separate it from the rest of the backyard (otherwise my 2 dogs would love to “play” in there.) So far I’ve planted strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and tomato plants, plus a zucchini and a bell pepper. I’m going to plant different types of peppers (both hot and mild) and I planted beans and peas and radishes, carrots, spinach, herbs, and 3 types of lettuce, and kale and arugula. The crazy thing is, its all sprouting!!! I sort of expected about 2/3 of it to never come up. Really exciting! We’ve already been able to eat 2 little strawberries, and those plants have only been in the ground 2 weeks.