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.
We have an acre (some of which is rusty red clay) and a deck … in flower boxes on the deck we’ve had mesclun, arugula, microgreens, pak choi (baby bok choi), radishes, other lettuces. Gosh, in March and April we’ve had a huge salad every night from our “deck greens”. In our raised beds are snow peas, brussel sprouts, more lettuces, chives, rosemary, oregano, basils, thyme, sage for the taking. Just noticed the tomaters look very happy, and also have some yellow crook neck squash and cukes going. My husband has blackberry and raspberry bushes, peach trees, and a fig tree. Bless his heart, he returned from Lowes the other day with a passel of blueberry bush plants, more blackberry bushes, horseradih, etc. They were on sale! Now, I am in school and work full time from home, and have tried to be moderate this year in terms of gardening (I also have perennial beds which include lots of herbs that I raise for the bees and butterflies). So dear husband is going to do a lot of planting between now and the weekend. Keep gardening, kids, you can do it ’til you’re 100, your children will love it, and it is where I get my best ideas.
Thanks for the mint tip! That’s a great idea! We planted mint last year, and it has spread like crazy. We may have to invite our entire neighborhood over for mojitos to get it under control! :)
Beautiful garden! Our peonies haven’t started blooming yet. We’ve recently planted our vegetable garden as well. Our parsley is amazingly growing back from last year too! We planted some broccoli and onions (the kind that is prefect for home frying your own onion rings) in our indoor atrium. The broccoli is not doing well. We think it’s not getting enough sun light. So we planted some outside along with catnip (which also didn’t so well inside), carrots, more onions, and a strawberry plant. We added to our inside garden by planting some jabaneros in containers. Here’s crossing our green thumbs.
I am really trying to make my own edible garden now that I’ve bought my own home. I had some herbs and tomatoes in containers, but I really want them in the ground. I like the way you guys have placed your herbs around other plants instead of just having a set garden area. I want to do the same. I’m just waiting for it to stop raining so I can actually plant the cilantro, mint, rosemary, oregano, etc… that I bought!
Oh, and thanks for the tip about mint. I was just planning on putting mine in containers, because I’ve seen firsthand how it can spread. But I might try to just plant them in the container and then it won’t spread too much!
Heather's Garden says
Parsley and oregano are both perennial herbs so they should come back for you each year. Well, actually parsley is a biennial (meaning it will live 2 years), but if you let it flower and go to seed, it will self-sow in the same spot for you. I grow quite a few herbs and vegetables in my garden, much of it in containers and I blog about it at http://www.heathersgarden.typepad.com. I love to do it on the cheap too!
I’ve been planting an edible garden for some years now, and this year I’ve tried a few new things. I have lots of herbs around the garden, but I planted a strawberry pot with 7 different kinds of basil since I LOVE basil. It’s a single-herb mini herb garden! You can see it on my blog.
Good luck with the veggies! I planted a raspberry bush this year that isn’t looking so good… I hope it hangs in there.
We have a decent sized garden that I haven’t planted yet this year. I might do it this weekend, otherwise it will have to wait until the following weekend. It has been a bit cold yet here (WI), but I think we might be in the clear now. New this year, I am going to try strawberries, and I can’t wait.
I love the pale pink peonies… I have some of the same color that I hope to divide this year! So far I’ve planted peas, radishes, basil, tomatoes, peppers, arugula, eggplant and a ton of flowers. I garden in three raised beds that I built last summer. (I felt like a farmer and a contractor!) I made a couple of “how to” posts for the raised beds and my IKEAhacked tomato cage trellises.
It’s probably been said somewhere in this post, but in case not, in our area your chives, oregano, rosemary and mint are perennials. The parsley will come back for 2-3 years and then go to seed. I have 2 chive plants that my mom gave me when I first started gardening at my house over 10 years ago! They come back really pretty w/their lavender flowers every spring. Some people are lucky enough to have their cilantro come back, that didn’t happen for me this year, I think our winter was colder than it could take.
I’m interesting in starting my own compost bin and i’m wondering if you have had any problems with it attracting a bunch of bugs to your yard?? Thanks!
Nope, other than the worms that are supposed to be in the bin, we haven’t had a bug problem at all. As long as you don’t make it too moist you should be all good. Hope it helps!
This is my first attempt at gardening and I am so proud of myself. I am using the Square Foot Gardening method and I am really enjoying myself. I must admit not everything has made it, but it has been fun experimenting with different types of plants. So far my favorite part has been eating my own blueberries.
Haben, in AL
Just curious how the garden did for you this summer?
It was great! Our cilantro and basil were a wee bit burned by the heat and we had fewer tomatoes and raspberries for some reason (probably also due to the heat and the sparse rain) but it was great for the most part (and we invested in a soaker hose that we hooked up to our rain barrel to keep things moist and happy from here on out). Hope it helps!
Thanks for the quick response! :) We planted several tomato plants this year (including a yellow pear b/c I thought your’s last year was so cute) and two of the plants have taken over the garden. We’ve probably eaten over 100 yellow pear tomatos so far and there are another 100 green ones still on the vine. My husband isn’t so keen on the rain barrel idea but I might make headway if I mention the soaker hose idea.
Wow- it sounds like yours is doing awesome!