Take a walk with me through my humble little garden, amongst all of its lovely imperfections and radiant growth…
Humble because it is a radiant life-giving garden, but vulnerable and little in size. With 4 raised beds I have begun my adventure into the wild world of gardening and this is a beautiful place for me to be. Within these garden beds and its surrounding area is a small patch of earth: my front yard that I behold as my own sacred space. This is where it all began…
I started writing in this blog last fall with an anticipation to garden. I did just that.
During the winter months I began preparing for my garden by “making earth“… literally creating soil with my kitchen waste and yard scraps.
Spring hit and we were on it! My husband built 4 beautiful raised beds for me and I painted them. Both of us filled the beds with manure and purchased compost and mixed in as much homemade compost as I had accumulated. Not nearly enough, but that all takes time as you experienced gardeners already know.
These beds were placed in the most vulnerable of spots: My front yard. I felt bare, with these empty beds filled with soil. I felt scared that I wouldn’t do well and vulnerable because it is all out here right in the open for all of my neighbors and city passerbys to gawk at. I wanted more than anything to have a successful garden.
What is success? Who measures that equation? Surely I am only fooled by my own expectations of success… Looking back I now know that I have found success merely through the act of trying. That is what makes all of the difference!
Without really knowing what I was doing I just began planting. Sowing seeds and adding water. I have stuck my nose into so many books, magazines, blogs and articles about composting, planting, up-keep, tips and tricks and pesky bug advice… however, true to my nature, I learn best by just doing. Trial and error and all… giving it a go, and teaching myself the ways of a gardener by acting like a gardener.
So here it is folks, the unveiling of my very first smack-dab-in-the-front-yard-urban-garden thus far. Jenny’s 1st year humble little garden, in the middle of a regular ole’ neighborhood in the great pacific northwest!
As we meander through my garden around each precious raised bed of love, let me introduce you to my hard-working, strong growing, life-giving edible plants…
Introducing White Eggplant: Casper variety
- I have 1 of these plants in my garden
- It has been working hard growing around 4 or 5 eggplants so far.
- The plant is beautiful and is said to have a mushroom like flavor.
- Very hardy, grows quite well in a cooler spot in the garden. (I only know this by accident, I planted it in a semi-shady location and then later read that this was in fact an ideal spot for it. This is how much of my gardening has been, just doing it and learning later. This eggplant also needs plenty of sun, and this spot has both)
- This plant officially belongs to my 7-year-old son who begged me for white eggplant. I was very happy to comply!
Please meet Green peppers
- I have 3 of these plants in my garden. This is the only one that has started to produce peppers. I set up my plants in such a way that they are all scattered among the raised beds. For example: I did not plant all of the carrots with carrots and all of the peppers with peppers. I put everything here and there. I did this because I read that this method of variation can help to deter pesty bugs because infestations can occur when you have a mono section of one type of plant all next to each other and pests that like that plant will zero in massively in that location… I have to say, I have not had many pests at all.
- I don’t know if this location gets more sun compared to the other spots where I planted peppers, I believe they all get the same amount of sun or maybe it is the soil; I am not sure why the other ones are not doing so well. I figure this particular plant needed this particular spot and it made it… I cannot say, but this is my only successful pepper plant thus far. You win some you lose some with gardening.
- It took all summer and now all of a sudden this plant has grown in height, filled out and started producing.
- PLANTING TIP: If you decide to plant using the method of variation, you also have to study and understand companion planting. Some plants do well next to each other and some should not be planted next to each other. I did not study this enough, I did just a quick overview and began planting. I may have planted some of my plants next to “not so friendly” neighborly plants. I will have to review this and plan out next seasons planting a bit better. I recommend making a planting map. Just as an architect draws out the building plans, a gardener should do the same. Something I have learned by trial and error and something I will definitely hold to for next year!
Become acquainted with Basil
- I have four basil plants in my garden. They are all doing quite well. There is one that is a bit spindly and lacking in oomph but I have been gleaning fresh basil leaves off of all four plants for almost the entire growing season.
- I ABSOLUTELY LOVE fresh herbs, a culinary must!
- BASIL TIP: Basil will begin to flower at the top of the plant. If you notice that it is trying to flower, it is important to nip that off, so that you can continue to glean leaves from the plant and cutting off the flower buds tells the plant that it is not time to bolt yet. It gives you more time with that plant.
- OTHER HERBS! I also have oregano, chives, thyme, and cilantro growing amongst my veggies! As well as Spearmint which grows wildly in the grass around my garden. Known to attract bees, it is a bug deterrent and it is noted that it can help to deter deer. Deer can be very tricky and from what I have read, I have heard that you have to try everything in order to outsmart them. So far I have not had problems with them, even though we do have city deer that live in the nature preservation area nearby and they do frequent our neighborhood.
- HERB TIP: I mixed my herbs in with the vegetable plants in the garden beds, I didn’t want to separate them off into their own herb garden. Why? Because many herbs are known to be bug deterrents and some are also known to steer off deer and rabbits, depending on the herb. So for the “just in cases”, I figured why not mix it all in. I prefer my beds to mimic patterns of a forest, in the way that wild plants are all mixed in together, and many plants have a purpose in helping another plant out and vice versa: companion planting. There is a lot to learn on that, and I am still learning, but heading in that direction. I also want my beds to look as far from a mono crop as possible.
- I have 5 different varieties growing in my garden. I WISH I could tell you their names, but unfortunately as I sowed seeds or planted plants I was in the moment of simply planting and did not save the information on a lot of my plants– lesson learned. I truly recommend creating a gardeners journal and/or a labeled map. A must for my next year of gardening.
- I didn’t think I was going to do tomatoes this year actually, because they take a while from seed, and I have heard that it is best to start them indoors or in a greenhouse. I did not get them going in time. SO I did not bother with them. Then one day a neighbor of mine who is an avid gardener drove by and stopped by my house. He was really excited about my garden and told me he had a few gifts that he would like to give me from his green house. He came back with a few tomato plants that he began from seed. Thus he is the master that cultivated these babies from seed! My cherry tomato plant is also a gift from my father-in-law who got me an organic/GMO free plant, knowing that I would tend to no other, for Mother’s day. He is truly a sweet heart. So tomatoes were literally a gift to me this season, my unexpected plants that I did not intend to mess with made their way over to my heart. I will tell you I cannot ever imagine gardening without tomatoes from this season forward! What is a garden without juicy fresh from the plant tomatoes!?!
- TOMATO TIP: I am new to this, but from chit chatting so much with other gardener folks in my community I have been advised to snip off some of the shoots from the tomato plants, in order for the fruit to ripen and for the plant to focus its nutrient building energy on the fruit itself and not the excessive amount of vines.
- TOMATO TIP: Another tad bit of a tip is that you don’t want your tomato plants leaves to be resting on the soil, the leaves should be held up with some type of fixture to help the plant to avoid getting “sick” which can spread throughout the whole plant if you are not careful. Also snip away any sick leaves to avoid spread.
Familiarize yourself with Asian Eggplant
- I have two of these beauties in my garden and both are producing quite well.
- They are gorgeous and sleek and slender and I am almost ready to harvest a few of them.
- EGGPLANT TIP: If you pluck the first few flowers from the eggplant at the very beginning of the season you can possibly get more yield as the plant matures and is better able to produce.
- This was also gifted to me as a baby start from my neighbors greenhouse. Thank you dear neighbor friend for your cultivation wonders! It takes a community!
Why Hello there Tomatillos
- I have one of these mighty plants in my garden and boy oh boy is it getting big!
- This photo may not portray its volumonocity, but this plant started growing as a very thin scraggly looking creature, which yielded an early solitary tomatillo for me months back, in which I picked it and diced it up with tomatoes for salsa. Then all of a sudden it just went nuts, It grew 4 times it’s size or more and it now has yellow buds all over the plant and many of those buds have already transformed into the green outer tomatillo covering for the vegetable. I am excited and ultra curious to see if I get an incredible yield or just a pretty flowery show. We shall see!
How do you do Nasturtium
- Nasturtium is an edible flower. I am really interested in implementing variety within the garden and the exploration of different edible plants that are not common garden plants, so I wanted to try out something other than just veggies & herbs in the beds.
- I just started these from seed about 3 weeks ago, I transplanted them recently.
- I have some in this planter in the image above and quite a few amongst the veggies in the large garden beds.
- The really cool thing about these flowers is that with certain vegetables it pairs up well with and is a bug fighter! Such as cabbage being planted near nasturtium is a good match for team effort to fight caterpillars! The caterpillars are more likely to desire the Nasturtium, it has a stronger appeal to them. Regardless, it is ideal to attract good bugs into the garden that can eat the pests. Or birds like to nibble at the caterpillars and I have read to let your chickens roam the garden too. My only question is, “Don’t chickens eat just about everything…what stops them from eating your garden plants?” If someone wants to answer that for me, please do! ♥
- I am intrigued by the study of companion planting and how different plants can work together.
- They will look amazing in a salad, bright, colorful edibility!!
- They also attract good bugs like bumble bees! I love mixing in flowers for that reason alone. I believe that gardening goes hand in hand with not only vegetable gardening but plant culture in general: creating a good variety of shrubs, trees, bushes and flowers that can create little habitats or “happy spots” for the good bugs.
- Renee’s Garden talks about Nasturtium and she has a lovely photo depicting what they look like. You can also order a plethora of different types of nasturtium from her. Very good prices. I am excited to fill my garden with accents of color from flowers that you can actually eat!!
Propose a toast to Potatoes: Yukon Gold Variety
- You’ve heard all about my “FAITH POTATOES” right? If not check out the story I did on those babies! My article gives you the scoop on how cool these taters really are!
- I sowed them myself from sprouted potatoes that were left too long in the pantry closet.
- I have already harvested over a dozen potatoes.
- I am saving the rest in the ground to get growing just a bit bigger.
- I believe that I harvested the others a little early, regardless they were amazing and tasty and fresh and they made my day so that is all that matters. I did read after the fact though, that one can recognize when it is time to harvest potatoes by when the plant begins to look as though it is wilting.
- TIP: Potatoes do well in soil that does not have a high content of manure. They need a ph of 6.0 or below. Planting them in soil containing manure can cause rough patches on the skin of the potatoes.
- Enjoy my article “Potatoes Taught Me Faith”
Draw near to Kale
- I have two different varieties: Italian kale and dinosaur kale.
- I planted the dinosaur kale in the spring, which I do not have a picture up but once the plant matured I have been snipping away at the kale leaves for months and am still going at it. The plant likes it when you snip away leaves it simply starts to grow more leaves. Kale can continue until the first frost if you let it. My dinosaur kale plant has been well-loved and is very tall now with a thick core that has been snipped away at and as it gets taller and the top part continues to grow leaves.
- The little italian kale that you see in this photo, I sowed into the ground in the spring also. The crazy thing is that I had terrible luck with many of my seeds this last spring. I was so disappointed and thought that I must have put problematic soil or something into my beds… then all of a sudden… (I feel like I see things “all of a sudden” so often with gardening) I see tiny kale leaves breaking out from the soil just a few weeks ago.
- This baby kale plant in the image above didn’t look like it was going to make it, but it has now doubled in size. You can see a few bug spots where some little pests have been nibbling. But I believe at this point it will continue to grow and I will have some tasty fall kale on my hands.
- Kale is a very hardy plant and it loves the cooler weather months. I have another gardening neighbor across the street from me and told me that she continues to eat kale from her garden up until November sometimes.
- See my article on Kale!
Shake hands with Swiss Chard: Rainbow variety
- I have about 8 rainbow chard plants in my garden. These are of the rainbow chard variety.
- I have actually never eaten chard in my diet prior to growing it. I am sure I had baby chard in salad variety packages at the store, but I never paid much attention to it otherwise.
- Rainbow chard is not only bright and beautiful it is also incredibly tasty! I steam mine and then mix it up with olive oil or coconut oil and a dash of sea salt and pepper. MMMMMMmmmmmm Yum! Another variation is to add cream cheese ( I buy Nancy’s Organic cultured cream cheese) Then add a little olive oil, salt n’ peppah… then stir it up in a bowl or very slowly on low heat in a cast iron pan I stir it together so that the low heat will melt the cream cheese. A neighbor walking her dog spied my chard and told me about the cream cheese recipe and I just love it!
- Check out my article on Chard!
A pleasure to meet you Marigolds
- I have about 6 or 7 marigold plants scattered throughout my garden beds.
- Mother Earth News advises in their companion planting guide that Marigolds are beneficial to all of the plants in the garden. It says that the flower “stimulates vegetable growth and deters bean beetles, aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, nematodes, and maggots.”
- Toadstool Aquaponics goes into depth about natural bug deterrents including Marigolds saying:
“Annual Marigolds can be used anywhere to deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries. The root of the Marigold produces a chemical that kills nematodes as they enter the soil. If a whole area is infested, at the end of the season, turn the Marigolds under so the roots will decay in the soil. You can safely plant there again the following spring.” – Read More Here
- Thus I have fallen in love with the magic of marigolds in my garden, and again I have not had a ton of pest problems this first year. Thankfully! I have had some aphids on my kale and I have had to pick green caterpillars off of most of my leafy greens, but I was still able to harvest plenty of everything that has been ready so far.
- PLANTING TIP: I have discovered that I should have/could have planted more than I did. It is surprising how much you can fit into raised beds and I had space to spare. I am realizing that some seeds just don’t make it, so plant a little extra. As they say, “plant some for the bugs, some for the critters, and some for the harvest…” You never know what might happen so it doesn’t hurt to have a little too much.
Salutations to the Grapes
- I inherited these grapes, so to speak. It was part of the property when we bought our crazy 1960’s fixer upper in the winter of 2013. We have had two seasons of grapes now.
- They are juicy, sweet and tart and remind me of my childhood.
- It is a blessing to me to enjoy an aged fruit vine that is already established, healthy and yields an abundant amount of goodness. This just adds that perfect touch to my garden.
- I plan to make fresh juice out of them and/or possibly try for making wine. We shall see!!
At long last the Plum Tree
- We have one lovely plum tree in our yard.
- This tree did so well this year! Last year it gave us only a little bit of plums and we picked every one that we could. This year we have so many! I want to try and take advantage of the plums and not waste them. I have been researching plum preserves and figuring out how I want to go about it. Do you have any ideas for me? ♥
- Nothing tastes like a Pacific Northwest Neighborhood as much as a plum from your backyard. I grew up with these plum trees all throughout childhood and this fruit also brings back a sense of child-like nostalgia to me.
The Garden Cemetery…
And then there were those that did not fair well in my humble little garden and they now lay to rest within the depths of the soil; contributing to the nutrient value. Partaking in the beautiful process of composting; becoming part of the soil–the life-giving base.
I planted so many carrot, arugula, radish, spinach and beet seeds. Some of them broke through the soil and peaked their little heads up at the sky but soon after they died. I watered them, I planted them at the appropriate depths. I am not sure where I went wrong, but I give myself plenty of grace because for a first year garden I am fully satisfied and thankful at what has been happening around here and I am learning that some years you will have luck with some plants and then the next year it might be altogether different. All I know is that if you plant it they will grow (the ones that make it anyways) … All we can do is try!
♥ Thank you for taking this walk with me through my humble little garden. You don’t have to walk far to see it all, but I always have plenty to say about my precious plants and new-found love for gardening!
What about you?? I wanna hear from you. What did you plant this year? OR what do you plan to plant if you do not yet have a garden? What tips and tricks did you discover?
As we walked through my humble little garden I realized that it’s lovely imperfections and its radiant growth is a mirrored reflection of myself… I am the garden. We are the garden… all of us. The imperfect and at the same time lovely because of our imperfections not in spite of them. We are the radiant life vein of the garden. We are chosen. We are beloved.
Happy Gardening to you all… You revolutionary cultivators!
– Jenny Rose