John and I love food. A lot. In fact we both took a “how-compatible-are-you” test back when we started dating and we both listed eating as one of our favorite hobbies. So it’s no surprise that we finally got around to converting a formerly bushy bed in our backyard into an herb, vegetable & fruit garden for chowing down on fresh and organic produce all summer and into fall.
We cleared the bushes out (although we kept a little rose bush in the corner) and planted some organic lettuce seeds (along with a $9 raspberry bush from Lowe’s) back in March. And then a little peony plant surprised us by popping up in the back of the garden out of nowhere. Bonus! The next step was hitting up our local farmer’s market (South Of The James Farmer’s Market here in Richmond) for some delicious veggies and herbs. The vendors are always amazing, as are their wares. Check out these cheerful buckets of blooms…
… and these gorgeous radishes all purple and plentiful…
In fact the fruit and veggies were so enticing that we couldn’t return home without snagging a big box of fresh strawberries and a bag of arugula. But we also came home with eight new plants for our garden. For just $10 (!!!) we grabbed: one cherry tomato plant, one golden tomato plant, two basil plants, one zinnia, one parsley plant, one swiss chard and one oregano plant. Along with our existing rose bush, our new raspberry bush, our surprise peony and our newly sprouting lettuce, we knew those eight additions would be a great start to growing our own fresh eats out back.
But we also knew that we needed to add some lush and lovely evergreens to keep the space from looking sad and bare in the winter months once the herbs and veggies disappear. We swung through Lowe’s and picked up two Winter Gem Boxwoods (for $14.98 each) and one Cypress King’s Gold (for $14.98) to add color, structure and year-round interest. Then we returned home and laid everything out to come up with a loose idea of our layout.
With a rough idea of the plant placement under our belts, it was time for some quick soil amending. Although you can do this extremely thoroughly with a rototiller (they can be rented from Lowe’s and Home Depot), since it was such a small area we decided to rough up the soil with a shovel. Yeah it took a bit of elbow grease but we were able to dig about 8″ into the soil and get it ready for some pretty delicious organic nutrients (free courtesy of our backyard compost bin).
Not only did we add a good amount of compost to our roughed up dirt, we also threw down some nutrient rich topsoil just to be sure that our little sprouts would continue to, well, sprout. Then we raked everything together and turned the soil for a while until it looked blended and ready for planting.
There are many different formulas when it comes to amending soil (depending on whether you have sandy or clay conditions to start with, etc), but we have found that compost is really the magic touch to any garden- you just can’t go wrong adding some organic, nutrient-rich compost.
Then it was time to plant everything (we tossed a bit more compost into each hole), and afterwords we mulched the whole garden to keep weeds at bay and help everything stay moist. Here’s Burger stealing our new garden’s thunder. He’s such a camera hog. As you can see, the three evergreens provide structure and fullness that will last throughout the year while our rose bush (back left), raspberry bush (back middle) and peony (back right) will add eye candy and mouth candy too.
We also have a cherry tomato plant (in front of the rose bush), some swiss chard (in front of our boxwood) a zinnia (between the boxwood and the cypress), two basil plants (on either side of the cypress), and some parsley (to the right of the cypress). And of course there’s another tomato plant, some lettuce that we planted in March sprouting up and some oregano on the other side of the boxwood on the right (not pictured).
Here’s a close-up of the gorgeously colorful swiss chard and our surprise peony that’s ready to pop.
We love our little garden and we already have big plans to spruce things up even more (adding some pretty trellises for our raspberry and tomatoes to climb, power washing the brick, bringing in more herbs and veggies if we’re successful with our first attempts, etc).
But for now we’re taking pleasure in the simple things. Fresh basil…
… pretty red blooms…
… and raspberries that should be appearing soon.
We also love that we can actually see the garden from our sunroom. Now there’s no excuse not to eat our yeilds! Here’s a shot from above (I was standing on the daybed) just for one more vantage point.
And now for the budget breakdown. Eight herbs/veggies ($10) + three evergreens ($44.94) + mulch/top soil ($5) = $59.94. Not too shabby, right?
So what about you guys? Do you grow anything edible? Any plans for a container garden or even some windowsill herbs in your future? Tell us all about your planting to-do list.
Hi there, just to let you know that most of the veggies and herbs that you purchased are extraordinarily easy to grow from seed. Tomato, basil, swiss chard, parsley, squash, peppers are but a few that I grow every year. All you need is some soil in little pots or a seed tray, you sprinkle the seeds and lightly cover with soil, then water and voila! after a few days they start sprouting.
Right now I have over sixty tomato seedlings but that’s because my Italian husband’s family will be visiting this summer, plus I bottle my own tomatoes for a supply to last till the following year. The point is, they all came from seed packages that cost $1.50 per pack. You only need as many packs as varieties that you want, the remaining seeds can be used the following year.
The sign on the wonderful vegetable stands reminded me of a great garden book “From the Group Up:The Story of a First Garden” by Amy Stewart. Congrats on your new plants — you’ll be glad you got all this started when you pick up first veggies!
Jan at Rosemary Cottage (whose herb garden is very overgrown!)
This summer I am planting my first real garden…well in containers. I got a bunch of plants for mother’s day, planted them, and then went out of town. I sure hope my husband remembers to water them while I’m gone!
My boyfriend and I also recently purchased some herbs that we are hoping to keep alive through the summer! I don’t have a good history with plants, but my boyfriend has embraced them whole-heartedly! I can’t wait for the first cherry tomato to pop out and we have already enjoyed some delicious (and free!) basil. Yum-O! I also have a question about the mysterious door in the picture…I’ve wondered before if you have a basement where you secretly stash and store everything :) I wasn’t sure if basements were big in VA or not…I’m from MI and just about everyone has basements. Just curious…not trying to stalk you like celery! Although I am a daily reader…I love all your ideas and your quirkiness! Thanks!
Yup that’s a secret separate entry basement that’s pretty much empty for now (but in dire need of a makeover). We’re actually planning to share photos any day now so stay tuned…
My husband and I also tried the mini-green house tray you had. Needless to say we had the same results; fast growers, but once transplanted we had a lot of dead little sprouts on our hands. We’re going to stick with the fancy potted ones (buy one get one free this last Earth day at Home Depot). So far so good, we can’t wait for some fresh tomatoes!
Caitlyn (& Tom)
I love the way you did this. It looks like a normal garden bed, but packs a punch. I love incorporating herbs in with my flower bed and the swiss chard is AHmazing. How pretty!
Hi Sherry & John,
Your new edible garden looks divine! You two are so wonderful – I truly love your blog. You make a difference in my life! :)
I’m excited to share with you an edible indoor herb garden I whipped up for my mom for Mother’s day! In fact, I’m getting ready to make one for myself! See it here: http://quitesimplyjen.blogspot.com/2009/05/happy-herbal-mothers-day.html
Keep up the amazing work!
PS – Soooo curious about that super mysterious basement of yours. Care to share what’s going on down there? ;) Please tell me it’s stashed full of junk and that you’re really not as perfectly organized as you appear!! (LOL)
Thanks for the sweet note! We love the edible indoor herb garden that you whipped up for mom’s day and as for the basement, we promise to share some pics very very soon. It’s not really messy and full of junk, just creepy and full of bugs! But hopefully not for long…
We have a garden behind our garage. It was one of the things I fell in love with when we first bought our house. We are still working on tilling and adding manure/compost, but I hope to plant some veggies this weekend.
I live in Richmond also and love our local markets! Only wish they were open daily like bigger cities. I live near the 17th St. market and love getting farmers’ insights on what to grow where. Also got to meet the owners of Victory Farms and tour the farm- so beautiful!
You two are lucky to have a sunny place for planting- my yard is too shady for things like berries. I think you should add more flowering vegetables to get more out of the space! Snap peas and squash have really pretty blooms… Just an idea.
Thanks for all the great decor and DIY ideas, I’m redecorating a new apartment and it helps keep me focused on how great the place can look. Maybe I’ll send over some before and after shots!
We’re closing on a house in just a few weeks, and it has such lovely areas for gardening. We can’t wait to try our hand at it! On a whim, my husband bought seeds for watermelon, broccoli, and oregano at a festival last weekend, so we’ll see what we can do with those, but we have a lot of learning to do. Love your site! -Lynn (PS: My one, probably completely silly, worry about eating home grown veggies is about possible lead content in the soil because we’re in an area with a lot of older homes. I might have it tested just for peace of mind.)
Love how you’ve made a garden in that area – and I think it looks so much nicer than the boxwoods that were there! One thing to think about, since I know you guys pretty much eat organically, is the mulch. We planted three large, raised garden beds this year (we ordered “super soil” from a local nursery that delivers – it’s half soil, and half compost – just to get us started). We wanted to mulch, but wanted to make sure to keep it organic too. I was concerned about the dyes used in mulch, so we went with straw. It’s certainly not as pretty as your dark mulch, though. Any idea if there are chemicals in the mulch? I didn’t know whether there were or not, which is why we went with straw instead.
I too am looking forward to your big “basement reveal.” Even if it’s empty, it’ll be fun to see this last, secret place in your home! ;-)
That is a great point! I guess the best thing to do would be to create natural mulch using a wood chipper and some of the fallen trees in our back woods so that we can be sure there are no dyes or chemicals! Is that something you guys could do as well? Perhaps there’s also a demand for organic or 100% pure mulch without any additives to make it dark (we would definitely sacrifice the deep color for additive free mulch!). Maybe there’s even a local tree removal service who wouldn’t mind offering up a bag of chipped wood. Now you have us thinking…
Thanks so much for raising an excellent point!
Incorporating edibles into the landscape is a great idea. I mostly do that with herbs and keep the vegetables in their own enclosure. (They can get pretty feisty sometimes!) There are a lot of vegetables and herbs that are fun to look at like chard. One thing you may want to consider is the no till method. Basic it involves doing what you did, add compost. Each year add another layer and the soil underneath will gradually break down into a nice loam. Tilling the soil can disturb the microbes and earthworms that are hard at work. Still sometimes tilling is necessary! Good luck with your vegetables, and your porch looks really nice too!
i love being able to eat food i grew, and know where it came from. sadly i do not have much space. here is a link to what i have done with the narrow bit of dirt i have. enjoy. http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynpoo/3547019182/
Yes, I have quite the garden going on over here. :D From herbs, to veggies, to flowers to trees. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out this year, just learn from them and improve it next year. It’s really enjoyable! You might want to keep an eye on that raspberry bush. If they like where they are, they will grow big and fast which might run into your Peony’s roots someday (which will cause it not to bloom). Also, trees/shrubs take in a lot of water so in the dry times of the summer, your other plants might not get adequate water because the trees are hoggin’ it up :) so water well and evenly. Happy planting!
Just FYI…St. Stephen’s in Richmond just started a Farmer’s Market too(as in this Saturday will be week 4)! It’s pretty fab, so check it out!
I’m also envious of your gardening skills because to be honest, my hub and I have negative gardening skills…I keep blaming it on the fact that we’re currently renting, but we’ll see:0)
We started our backyard food garden when we moved into our house two years ago. I’ve always gardened, but my hubs, not so much. Now he’s addicted, and perhaps a tad obsessed!
One thing we are really pleased about is the blueberry bushes we planted. Minimal maintenance and lovely blue treats. First year we had two, 2nd year we added two more, this year FOUR more. I think we’ll have enough for a whole blueberry crisp this year. :)
Mmm. Blueberries sound awesome! We’ll definitely have to find a spot for a few of those asap.
Your garden looks great and I love that you supported your local, organic farmers when possible. We just bought our first home and spent last weekend making 3 raised beds out of some cedar from Home Depot. we are getting some soil delivered this weekend and then will add some organic compost to the mix – we are going to have quite a nice veggie and herb garden! I have already bought some plants for a local organic community farm for it but need more plants! I also picked a raspberry bush. The rest of our yard – both in front and in back, needs some TLC. We plan on planting native plants and at this point I am not sure where it is on our to -do list.
There is nothing better than being able to harvest your meals from your backyard.
Looks like a great start! We’re also trying our hand at a vegetable garden. We’re tried several different variations over the past 2 years and I think we may have finally found success; it takes practice!
Good luck with your garden, looking forward to seeing the changes and progress!
i love this! i followed your blog for step-by-step guidance while putting in our own garden of deliciousness over the weekend! i’m a bit worried though now about all the various diseases i’ve been hearing about that may threaten our harvest – particularly the tomato blight? do you two, or any of your readers, have any advice to give on how to keep these things at bay as naturally as possible?
So far we’ve just been keeping an eye out for anything that might threaten to harm our harvest (bugs, disease, etc) and we figure we’ll google/ask our local nursery expert if we see anything out of the ordinary. So far so good! We’d love to hear from other readers if they have any advice on the subject! Chime in people, chime in.
Hi, I just wanted to let you know that the link to the backyard compost bin post seems to have been broken during the site move. It no longer works from the how-to page, either. I loved that tutorial so I hope you can fix it!
Thanks for the tip BD! We’ll get that fixed asap.
Love it! Just closed on our first home too and can’t wait to “play in the dirt” as my mom-in-law puts it=) We have a great garden spot already created in the backyard-a square bed marked off with railroad ties. Looking forward to having fresh veggies and herbs since my husband and I grew up with this. Growing up, we always had a VERY large veggie garden (rows and rows of green beans, spinach, corn, tomatoes, squash, peppers, onions, potatoes, carrots, etc.) and my husband’s parents have all the berries…so we are spoiled and can’t wait to have one of our own!
Shaidah Maposa says
I just love the gardening tips.I just bought a piece of land to build my house and the architect has been amused by my mood boards which include the garden plans.This website is so inspiring.By the way i am emailing all the way from the capital city,Gaborone,of Botswana in SOuthern Africa.
Wow! So glad you found our site!
stuart goldhawk says
Does anyone know the secrets of growing Basil, or have any tips? I live in the Uk so i,m in a fairly low temperature.
We just pop it in the ground and water it every once in a while. Oh and putting it in a sunny (not shady) spot seems to help. Maybe if it’s too cold you can grow it in a pot inside on a wunny windowsill? Good luck!
I promise I looked through several outdoor posts and your products that you love list before asking this…not to say that I’m not being lazy though. Just wondering what you do for bug control in your garden? I lost a whole cucumber plant, but I’m hesitant to use any spray chemicals and thought you might have some advice or some tried and true tips. Thanks!
We’ve been lucky enough not to have any bug issues, but I’ve heard spraying things down with a solution of water and organic plant based soap (like Dr. Bronners) can get the bugs gone without sacrificing edibility (of course rinse stuff down before eating it, but you should be good to go). Maybe try googling around to see what other “natural bug control” methods are online? Good luck!
Thanks! Just in case you want to share it, I think this video is awesome! http://youtu.be/Tk8eP9–O0Y
Love it! Thanks.
By seeing this post I wonder what happened to the previous mini garden you purchase a few months before this…I remember it was very little reusable and had also tomatos, basil and among other…did that one survived?
Maybe my question is weird…I just had to ask haha
Oh yes, it survived for the season! Delicious!
Allison (from Pine Needle Paths) says
I’m all for growing your own food! We live in an apartment with little balcony room, but we do have our own Mr. Basil :)
There was also a Mr. Tomato experiment, but it involved my mom having to lug him around the apartment to catch the sun, so that was never attempted again.