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.
A few others have mentioned braiding their daffodils – my mom (who has an extremely green thumb!) always taught me to bend the bundle of leaves in half and wrap one long strand around the whole bunch – again, to provide nutrients rather than cutting everything back. Once they’re neatly contained, they actually end up looking pretty nice!
Of course, your garden looks super the way it is :)
I’m doing the Square Foot Gardening thing in my postage-stamp front yard. I’m trellising melons and zucchini and pumpkins up the wire fence and having a hey-day getting as much food in my little space as I can!! I’ve got spinach, lettuce, beets, tomatoes, onions, beans, cukes, and more planted. I’m out there every morning with my face 2 inches from the dirt trying to spot sprouts:). My big experiment is trying to grow luffas–yes, the bath sponges. I planted blueberries this year with the goal of having an edible hedge in the future (well, edible fruit from the hedge, that is!).
Wahoo. We’re loving all the garden chatter this morning. Thanks for all the tips and the general garden info. We’ll definitely keep you posted as our lil’ green edibles fill in.
Just wanted to let you know that the chives are a perennial, so you’ll now get to enjoy those every year! The mom I nanny for just gave me some from her yard and I love the purple flowers on top. We are still working on landscaping our yard, so we will just do herbs this year and a tomato plant, but my parents have a HUGE garden that my brother-in-law started up again last year and again this year and we have all reaped the rewards of that. The sweetest, juiciest corn eaten right off the stalk, different types of lettuce and spinach, butternut squash, radishes, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, the list goes on…such a treat to have access to! Oh and asparagus come up every year, so you may want to consider that someday! Your garden looks so lovely!
I live in Delaware and I have a container garden on our deck. This year I’m growing 3 types of peppers (jalapeno, poblano, and red bell), lots of herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, chives, and sage), and two types of tomatoes (cherry and roma). I’m also trying green beans this year. I was surprised to learn that sage and chives are perennials.
I love my vegetable garden and it’s easy to get carried away, even with containers. My husband says he doesn’t eat peppers, but I love them and end up with waaayyy too many. Still, it’s cheaper than a trip to the grocery store!
I recommend planting a blueberry bush or two. They’re pretty, their leaves turn a pretty red in the fall, and you end up with blueberries (though not many at first)!
My friend has what is basically a rosemary bush in a cool climate, so don’t be surprised if it gets big and keeps coming back! I planted lettuce this year, which I found out you can basically do as soon as the ground thaws. Who knew?
Amy in Lake Tahoe says
We planted an organic garden this weekend! We first had to remove most of the dirt from the planter, because in the high-desert of Northern Nevada (by looking at the landscape you wouldn’t know Lake Tahoe was 15 minutes away!)our soil is mostly clay. So we removed the clay, put in weed guard, and then re-filled the plater with organic garden soil. We planted a variety of lettuce plants, corn mache, onions, strawberries, sugar peas, green beans, etc.
My husband also built a wooden planter that we are going to fill with larger plants. I am so looking foward to eating what we grow!
Hooray for gardening! First house for us and *first* garden was planted a few weeks back with our very own compost (made courtesy of YHL’s tutorial – whoo to the square root of hoo!). Check it out:
I’m soooo excited for the tomatoes to fill in! But keeping the dog away from the garden….le sigh. It’s a work in progress :-(
Lisa in Seattle says
Oh peeps, I think about gardening all the time but am too afraid to actually do anything about it (except for weeding – I could quit my job and weed during every daylight hour and still never stay on top of it). Just yesterday I decided I wanted to plant lavender in our front bed but then learned that we just can’t put it in that shady, acidic, poorly drained, bark-mulched soil (under the rhodies). Maybe you could plant some lavender in a sunny, alkaline, dry, gravelly spot for me.
We’re just getting started on the edible gardening thing as well. We moved into a home that has a fig tree over 100 years old and still produces 2 crops a year along with a giant rosemary bush planted by the previous owner. I planted a thornless blackberry bush last summer along with some mint (also in a container so it doesn’t go crazy) and now have added organic heirloom tomato plants to my list. I get so giddy when I check on my little plants and see that things are actually growing! Can’t wait to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Happy eating!
Your garden looks great, this is only my second year gardening I loved the fresh zukes and basil we enjoyed last year. More so then your garden though I really enjoyed seeing your rain barrel and composting posts! You know I looked into composting at the beginning of the year and everything I saw looked too hard and time consuming. But the method you guys are using looks so easy! Thank you so much!
Speaking of chatter…have you guys ever considered adding a forums area to your site?
We’ve definitely considered it! Especially since so many of our readers like to share advice and tips in the comment section of nearly every post. It’ll definitesly call for a huge amount of coding and space on our server, but here’s hoping we can add them someday…
Rd Shugart says
When we still have too many tomatoes after eating tons and giving some away, simply slice them half and place them cut side up in whatever size dish you need. Drizzle olive oil over the top and slowly roast them in the oven on 200 for about 3 – 4 hours. They are absolutely delicious when eaten warm like this, but you can freeze them and use them in sauces and soups over the winter for a bit of garden freshness. It’s worked like a charm for us!
Last year I planted a ton of perennials, including some high petal count peonies that are blooming right this moment. I also have columbines, geraniums, a clematis, rose bushes, a rhododendrun, hostas, and some annuals in there. Our veggie garden sadly doesn’t have any started-from-scratch plants. We went with all peppers and tomatoes- habanero, jalapeno, bell, banana, and cayenne peppers. My husband loves hot food and the peppers we planted last year were so bountiful we decided to go for another round.
Sadly, we are selling our home so who knows what our garden will be like next year! I know I’ll at least do some potted herbs and cherry tomatoes.
Katelyn Likes This says
Mmm, I love edible gardens. I did some apartment potting this weekend. Just old pots that I’ve had for a while, nothing special!
Rachel P. says
You are absolutely right in saying the start up costs of a vegetable garden pays for itself when you compare it to the cost of groceries. I live in an apartment and my patio doesn’t get enough sunlight to grow anything, but I share the responsibility (along with my two sons who love grubbing in the dirt) of tending my mother’s vegetable garden. We visit once a week and have a grand time prepping the soil, planting, weeding, watering and eating! There really is nothing like going to her home and knowing the lettuce greens and tomato on our burger is straight from the garden patch we took care of and are saving our pennies with a little sweat equity.
Kristi W. @ Life at the Chateau Whitman says
Oooh you can save even more money by planting seeds inside earlier in the year and then transplanting them to your outdoor garden. Seeds are super cheap. Plus you can get a $10 plant light at Walmart to help them along the way. The nice part about this is that you end up with more plants than you probably need, so you can give them to family members or friends for their own garden.
Amanda Melander says
Love this! Everything looks so fresh and green!
Finally planted my first edible garden this year. I did lose my peas to cutworms, but other than that I am loving it! Still waiting for my crops to come in, but have cukes, cherry and reg tomatoes, basil, parsley and rosemary…can’t wait for the harvest!
Very timely post, since my brother and I just planted our garden yesterday! We went a bit crazy this year – planted tomatoes (12 plants), cucumber, zucchini, beets, swiss chard, carrots, beans and peas PLUS an herb garden in another area of the yard. Definitely looking forward to eating our home-grown vegs later in the summer!
I agree with the suggestion of a Forums spot on YHL… I love getting all this information from other YHL readers as well as you two! (especially with gardening, since I’m pretty new at it.)
I’ve got four tomatoes growing, and I already see little green cherries on the Cherry Tomato plant after four weeks! Can’t wait to pop one off the vine and into my mouth. :)
I think a better question is what am I NOT growing, because I am getting out of control:
In 3 raised beds: lettuce, radish, carrot, cauliflower, arugula, tatsoi, kale, fave bean, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, tomato, basil.
My permanent herb garden contains thyme, rosemary, chives, oregano, sorrel, leeks, and fennel.
Various berries: blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry.
More perennials: rhubarb and asparagus.
Those are all of the edibles, and I’ll spare you the ornamental list!
I advise new gardeners to start with greens, as they are so easy–just skip the hottest part of summer. Radishes are also really easy. Spend the majority of time preparing the soil.
We actually are trying an edible garden for the first time this year! This past weekend we got a few tomato plants, pepper plants and lettuce! We are going the container route though. We don’t have a perfect spot for a garden, so this way, we can move the containers around so they get enough sun. We will see how it turns out I guess! :)
Two years ago, I planted mint in a pot and buried it, just as you guys did… but it creeped out and around and took over. I dug it all up, gave tons to my friends to replant, and saved a little to put in one of those large galvanized tin wash buckets. It looks great and is now contained!
Best of luck with your garden!
I am on my second year of gardening and we have a ton of stuff. Next year I plan on starting from seed as I just got a potting bench for free. It’s all on my blog :D We have tons of tomatoes of course, just ate some sweet strawberries, tons of green onions, bok choy, swiss chard, yellow onions, celery, pumpkin, zucchini, yellow squash, blueberries, and grapes, not to mention our pear, plum and avocado trees that keep us in fruit even though we do nothing for them. I love it!
Yeah for gardens! We are in the midst of helping my MIL plant some new flowers, and a couple of herbs/vegetables for her garden. My two boys love to get in the dirt and help out grandma. We just attended an urban chicken coop tour this weekend, and there were so many beautiful gardens (we’ve already got the chickens at my MILs!). I can’t wait until we have a garden of our very own!
Amanda - Small Home Big Start says
You’re garden is looking great! I’m hoping to get mine up and going soon, but it is a rule of thumb up here in Ontario to not plant to much before the May 24th long weekend. We actually had snow flurries 2 weekends ago and frost a couple of mornings (right after a 25C+ heat wave), so it can be quite unpredictable up here. The thought of fresh herbs is very enticing though!
My hubby and I have often dreamed about a veggie garden, but I am nervous about all the animals in our neighborhood. We live in an older neighborhood with lots of mature trees and along with that comes squirrels, birds, possums and other things that I probably haven’t had the opportunity to lay eyes on yet.
How do we keep a veggie garden without it turning into a critter buffet?
We actually haven’t had much trouble with critters, so don’t have good advice to offer in that department. Hopefully others might chime in with some tips. Thanks in advance, everyone!
We are renting a house which has been so nice. We have ripped things out, cut things down and planted my very first vegetable garden. Right now I have a ton of tomatoes growing and I can’t wait to pick them, I have yellow squash that are growing bigger and bigger, I have zucchini sprouting and a yellow pepper plant and blue berries. I also have some herbs in pots on the patio which where doing well but I think my kids over watered them and they are looking a little yellow. I planted flowers in the front yard and this week my Hydrangeas started to bloom. Its so exciting!!!
My mom helped me plant my very first vegetable garden just yesterday! A couple months ago my dad built me a raised bed in anticipation of me growing vegetables this year. We planted cucumbers, two types of string beans, yellow zucchini, yellow peppers, a few different tomato plants and some spicy chili peppers. I’m hoping I can make a few survive and get some yummy free food out of my garden this year!
Starbucks will give you their used coffee grounds for composting. They package them up tightly for you to take home and all you have to do is dump them in your compost bin. Your plants will thank you later;-)
Carol N. says
I’ve had an herb garden for several years now and love it! Fresh basil, rosemary, parsley, among others. I have a couple of tomato plants this year but need to put the cages over them so I can tie them up when they grow tall (I hope talking positively about them helps). There is just something satisfying about cooking with and eating something you grew yourself! And in the future, you can teach beanette all about the joy of gardening too! My parents didn’t garden but my in-laws do all the time so I’ve enjoyed learning from them over the years.
Carol H. says
Chives, Oregano and Thyme will be back every year.
You’ve already heard about the Parsley. Get yourself another plant to use for eats and leave the other one for the caterpillars.
Don’t grow blueberries without first having a soil test. They need acidic soil.
I grow lettuce from May until hard frost by covering it with shade cloth in the heat of summer.
How about a Blogfrog message board?
Teresa, don’t let animals stop you. I live in a simliar neighborhood. We have tons of birds, and while they might uproot some seedlings while digging up worms from time to time, I think they do their part by eating pests. I am employing bird netting to keep them off my berries, so we’ll see how that goes. The squirrels got a couple of tomatoes last year, but that was it–they just do that when they are thirsty. We even had to pelt a raccoon with apples once, but luckily they are now gone. Even the rabbits do little damage–just nibbling a bit now and then.
If you really have a problem, there are plenty of devices out there to keep animals at bay.
Laura J says
Just wondering if you all use anything for the lawn as far as fertilizer? If so, what do you use? My hubby and I are looking to do something more organic to help our lawn be more green and to actually be GREEN instead of a brownish color. Thanks!
We actually don’t use any fertilizers or pesticides at all on our yard, but we do overseed the lawn from time to time (once in the fall or spring usually). This keeps the grass lush and green without any chemicals. Oh and sometimes we sprinkle nutrient rich backyard compost from our bin over thin spots of grass. It’s kind of like all natural fertilizer!
Maggie Rose (Magchunk) says
We are in our first year at our house and put in a garden. I’ve been blogging the process – need to take new pictures this week because things have EXPLODED! It’s awesome! We’re doing several kinds of lettuce, nasturtiums, lavender, potatoes, carrots, onions and scallions, and climbing peas. We keep our herbs seperate in containers.
My garden posts are here: http://www.maggieroseonline.com/category/garden/
Besides seeing our parents grow flowers and some veggies, we were total novices too! We’re keeping it pretty simple.
It’s been so fun to go out and weed and dig around.
Re: critters – we had to plant our strawberries up high on planters nailed to the fence because they were snail favorites! the local roaming cats were feasting on the bok choy (who knew?) so we put chicken wire around it. and when I say “we” I mean my husband :D
Our garden has grown from rosemary and a tomato plant to several tomato plants, peppers, blackberries, cantelope, lettuce, spinach, basil (thai and sweet), sage, mint, lavendar, strawberries, dill and thyme. Almost everything is in pots-except for the tomatoes and peppers. This isn’t including the pots full of herbs in the window. I think we may have gone a bit overboard with the garden this year-especially considering that we’re lucky if things actually survive living at our house-but the good news is that only strongest plants survive here!
I love that you guys have your own little garden. Outdoor space is on the list of must-haves for my next place. My grandmother grows tomatoes and mint and other herbs. There’s nothing like food picked fresh from the garden. :)
Maybe I’ll stick a window box outside and hope my condo association doesn’t notice lol
Hi – I was hoping to get some advice about keeping bugs away from basil. Not sure if anyone has touched on this yet. I’ve heard spraying with garlic or chili pepper soaked in water works – also marigolds. I’d love to hear what has worked for any of you. Thanks!
Jenny @ DIY Newlyweds says
This is my first year growing a garden in my house so I’ve been a gardening like a fool over the past couple months!
I planted lots of flowers from seeds (that are slowly growing) and my edible garden includes strawberries, green beans, red bell pepper, orange bell pepper, basil, and mint. I hope to add some more herbs soon though!
Meyer lemon tree alert from a fellow Richmonder! They can’t live outside in our climate year-round… You have to bring them in in winter. We have one that we got through Gurney’s (online nursery). When it was shipped – no lie – it was basically a green stick with just a couple leaves. We’ve had it two years now, and we are just really careful about outdoor temperatures. It’s grown a lot! It is in a pot, so if it’s cold – it comes inside. If it’s warm – it hangs out on the front porch for optimal sun. Read up on it… it can be done! (FYI: you don’t get fruit out of it for a couple years, but it’ll be so worth it eventually. And the leaves smell pretty good, too!)
lovely garden! I’m sure it tastes as good as it looks too. Would you ever consider putting some recipes up on your site using the produce you’ve grown in the garden?
Also, do you have any ideas for gardening in containers? I want to add some life to our bare patio but not sure what style and colour containers would look nice. I like terracotta, but we don’t want pots that are too heavy to move around if we have to. I’m thinking of planting some citrus trees as a boarder along the patio area.
Re: anti critter sprays (for those who are wondering) I read that spraying a solution of minced garlic, chilli flakes or quassia chips – all boiled and made in to a liquid spray will deter these furry creatures. Otherwise I guess netting would be another option to having edibles destroyed by possums, squirrels etc.
We like to keep things design-related over here and since neither of us are close to chef status, we probably won’t cross over into recipes anytime soon (it’s just not what we do best). But when it comes to container gardening, http://www.bhg.com actually has some great articles and free designs to get inspiration from. We’ve also seen some great container options (even colorful or plastic ones) at spots like Home Depot, Target, Ikea and HomeGoods. Have fun (and thanks for the critter tips!)
[email protected] says
I love gardening season! I just finished planting our raised beds with all sorts of goodies. We also have already enjoyed some herbs already (along with some green onion and strawberries). Your space (and the gorgeous flowers) look great!
Awwww! I’ll totally trade you three of my California meyer lemon trees for your peonies!!! I guess the grass is always greener…
[email protected] Beck'sChicLife says
We have done a ton of container gardening this year. We only have a deck as our outdoor space so we did lots of herbs, small peper plants and even strawberries. I start most of my plants form seed which brings a little spring to our home even when it is still cold and snowy here in Boston.
On another note, I LOVE your peonies!
Dana @ House*Tweaking says
This is not at all related to your garden – mostly because I can kill a plant just by looking at it. But is that a second *painted* white daybed I spy in your sunroom? Can’t wait to hear all about it.
K (Barking Baby Mama) says
We are first-time gardeners this spring! We built a garden in our backyard in Tucson (here in Arizona, you need to build your garden up due to some very hard clay just under the soil) and planted basil, bell peppers, tomatoes, mint, parsley, strawberries, cucumbers, carrots, and zucchini. We can’t wait to enjoy the fruits of our labor!
Brittany R says
We bought 5 citrus trees from Home Depot (also our second home) this weekend on special order. A Meyers lemon, Oroblanco white grapefruit, 2 orange – a valencia and mandarin, and a bears lime. I’m a little nervous about growing them since I have a black thumb but I think they’ll grow well in the California soil. If I could send you some, I would! I’m going to do a big garden next so thanks for the good tips.
We planted so many amazing things this year. It is so much fun to wat what you grow. Come check it out if interested!