Backyard Vegetable Gardening And Top 10 Vegetables and Herbs To Plant In Your Garden

by on June 14, 2012


So this past weekend I spent about 3 days setting up my new backyard garden. It was a late start as we just moved into a new place, so I bought a bunch of seedlings from the garden centre. Aren’t they cute?

First I had to weed the garden and remove last years mulch.  It was a total mess! There were a few plants remaining from last year, some purple potatoes, chives, and  some dill so I left them. There are two trees in the garden, but I don’t really know what they are! There’s no blossoms on them, so if they are fruit trees they are not producing this year.

Weeded Backyard Garden

It took me about 8 hours to get all the seedlings broken apart and into place. I am really not a skilled gardener.  All I did was estimate the space they needed and installed them in little hills so they wouldn’t get too wet in the rainy climate we live in. I figure if it’s supposed to grow it will grow. Most things grow like crazy here because of the rain in spite of the lack of constant sun and heat.

Backyard Vegetable Garden Photo

Peas, carrots, beets, turnips, celery, kohlrabi, leeks, nobel giant spinach, arugala, chives, Brussels sprouts

Xander was happy to spend the entire day outside with me. He supervised of course and then became exhausted and took a nap… lol

I installed a ground cover because I was NOT about spend hours every week weeding. (That is the worst part about gardening) and I already have a weak lower back from 2 car accidents, so it’s really not good for it.  It was a pain to insert it around plants and plant through it, but it will also probably deter the cat from thinking the  garden is a giant litter box, so this another benefit! Now he just thinks it’s a runway and traipses through it…

4 varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, English cucumbers, acorn squash, zucchini, 4 varieties of basil (including a beautiful African blue basil), purple potatoes, dill, thyme, rosemary, oregano, onions

So now all my plants are in. I’ve got a little bamboo trellis I attempted to build for the acorn squash and English cucumbers. I don’t know that it’s really worth it to build a lot of garden trellises, it may be cheaper, but it took me hours and hours to figure out how and then to do it and it may or may not work/last. We will see how it goes!

Swiss chard, Rainbow chard, white potatoes, red leaf lettuce, green kale, basil, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, Thai basil, bay laurel shrub, and in the black herb container: cilantro, parsley, purple sage, tarragon, more basil, oregano, thyme

As I didn’t want to crowd the garden I put most of my herbs and lettuces in container pots I had from last year’s patio garden and a few things like cherry tomatoes, white potatoes and a mini bell pepper plant. This also deters the cat from getting on my raw edibles like lettuces and herbs! He seems to have thought the thyme in the garden was offensive enough to sprinkle on a few times… so yeah.

As you can see I still have a little more work to do, tidying up and mowing the lawn, as well as I will plant a few more containers of leaf lettuce soon. I don’t have any romaine or butter lettuce planted yet.

We aren’t getting a CSA box this summer, so I thought I would invest in having some of our own home grown vegetables and greens.  There’s also a bunch of strawberry plants and blueberry and raspberry bushes by the big tree, so hopefully we will have some of those goodies too! I figure since everything was already grown as a seedling it probably means it will grow in this climate and I am so happy our backyard gets much much more sun than our little patio did previously. (I only had a 1 foot wide strip to work with before) Also what I like is not having the fridge crammed full of herbs and greens that go bad. It’s much nicer to keep it out in the garden until it’s ready to use and then you can just pick it!

I think it’s a lot of work to plant everything perfectly and coordinate everything so eat plant has the perfect amount of sun, space and fertilizer, so really I am just winging it and we’ll see what happens.  I’ll add some nutrients if it needs and hopefully things will have enough sun and space. All the sun hungry plants are in the middle where we get the most sun. (Well we don’t get a lot of sun in the Vancouver area, but for some reason it’s usually nicer after 2 pm when the clouds part.)

I hope this inspires you to grow a little something, even if you haven’t done it before.  I have gardened a few times, but really it was just planting seeds, watering and harvesting, nothing else!

If you have a chance to build your own garden, a really neat idea is a “Square Foot Garden” where you plant a certain number of plants in each square foot of space in a 4×4 square foot area. This leaves you enough room to be able to access all side for any weeding or harvesting. If I didn’t already have a garden built in my backyard I’d definitely use this method as it’s much much easier than creating rows or raised beds.

fromt albertahomegardening.com

For large plants like cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts etc you would plant only 1 in the centre of the square. For smaller plants like carrots you would plant up to 16 depending on what it was and how big it grows. You can find out more from http://www.squarefootgardening.org/

So what would I recommend growing in your garden if you can?

Top 10 Vegetables And Herbs To Plant In Your Garden

1. Lettuces and greens like Romaine, butter lettuce,  red or green leaf lettuce, arugala, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens etc. Greens can cost $1.50-$3.50 a bunch depending where you buy them from and if they are organic, plus they take up a lot of room in the fridge. If you go through a lot of greens, it’s a good idea to plant some in the summer to at least supplement your needs and reduce your food budget and prevent spoilage by picking just what you need from the garden.

2. Thyme and Basil. Often these herbs cost $2.99 at the store (for organic) and can go to waste in the fridge as you only use a little bit for a recipe here and there.  I much prefer having fresh herbs over dried ones as the flavour is much better in homemade things like soups and sauces. I plant a LOT of thyme and basil because these are my two most used herbs. Another favourite is dill (which is great in raw blended salads, salad dressings, or potato salad). These herbs can planted be in container or separate herb gardens.

3. Cilantro (Coriander) and Parsley. These herbs might or might not be cheap at your local grocery store, but I find that they don’t last very long in the fridge and tends to get slimy and are a pain to clean as there’s always some old and bad leaves in there. It’s nice to have a steady supply of cilantro and parsley which I love to use as garnishes (they make food photos even prettier) and on top of soups, salsas and ethnic cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese and Indian food.

4. Tomatoes. Tomatoes are not something I enjoy eating raw on their own, but they are invaluable to raw and vegan cuisine. They are essential for delicious marinara sauces, stews, blended raw salads, raw salad dressings, salad toppings and sandwiches. Home grown tomatoes are much tastier, sweeter and fresher than store bought. Especially if you let them ripen on the vine.

5. Peas or Green Beans. Peas and beans are great to grow as often the store bought ones are not very fresh and can be a little bit bitter or too hard.  Fresh garden peas and beans are hard to match. They’re even delicious eating raw straight from the garden. I don’t usually cook mine as I eat through them quite quickly as healthy snacks and salad toppings but they’re something the whole family can enjoy! Kids especially love to munch on fresh picked garden goodies and it develops a good sense of healthy eating for them.

6. Beets and Turnips. Beets and turnips are great to grow in your garden because both the roots and the leaves are edible! Most people don’t eat the tops, but more and more veggie lovers are realizing the nutritional value of eating beet and turnip greens. There’s even more nutrition in them than the root, so don’t throw them away! They’re best eaten lightly steamed or sautéed as they can be a little strong tasting and tough to eat. The thick stems taste much better when lightly cooked as well. I love beets and turnips as they are both a starch and a green and make good use of garden space!

7. Onions, Green Onions and Leeks. Onions are something I go through like crazy, they are a staple to any homemade dish really whether it is raw or cooked as it adds a delicious flavour and aroma to the dish. If you plant onions and pick them early they will be green onions (also called scallions or spring onions) and these are great to use in raw salads, raw dressings, raw blended salads, salsas and garnishes. If you let them go to seed they will grow again next year so you’ll always have a steady supply of onions.

8. Cucumbers. Cucumbers are often fairly expensive at the store and a highly used item in raw and vegan salads, sandwiches and you can grow many varieties to be eaten fresh or to make pickles with. I even like to slice them on a mandolin and make little cucumber roll ups/sushi rolls with them. They are so beautiful and appealing as appetizers this way. Cucumbers grow on a vine and need a trellis or something to climb up onto so their fruits will not be laying on the grown and exposed to ground insects.

9. Zucchini. Zucchini is very easy to grow, provided you give it enough space. It’s a long and sprawling plant and one or two plants is all you need to get a ton of zucchini. Start picking them when they reach about a foot in size, and don’t let them grow too long or they become hard and woody inside. Young zucchinis are easy to use in salads, stir fries, Ratatouille and even make raw vegan spaghetti or fettuccine strands with.

10. Red potatoes or “new potatoes”. If you’re getting a late start you can always get potato seedlings at your garden centre, or plant some “seed” potatoes in early February or March for a spring harvest. These types of potatoes are called new potatoes because they are picked and sold immediately in the spring. They have paper thin skins and are best in salads or lightly steamed with seasonings. Fall potatoes have been grown longer and “cured” so their skins toughen up and they are able to be stored in a cool dark place through the winter. Potatoes can be grown fairly easily if you have a sunny place. They best way to grow is actually in a potato bag, as you will get many more potatoes as they can grow down as you roll up the bag and keep filling it with dirt and cover some of the leaves as they grow up. It gets a much higher yield this way than just planting in the garden. Check out potato bags here.

Other vegetables I’m growing this year are acorn squash, celery, kohlrabi, red bell pepper, eggplant, Brussels sprouts and carrots along with many other herbs like oregano, sage, tarragon, rosemary, sweet leaf and Thai basil.

What do you grow in your garden? What’s your favourite home grown vegetable?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robby January 18, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Just thought I would through in here that the tree looks like a Red Bud. I am anxious to get my garden started. But first we must plant the orchard. We just bought a new house and 3 acres and we plan to have lots of fresh food. Of course, one step at a time.

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2 Garett January 13, 2013 at 8:53 AM

Hey Vero, Im going to start my first vegetable garden this coming spring. So far the things I came up with as the vegetables I enjoy are red potatoes, unions, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes and cabbage. Now the herbs Im not too familiar with that would compliment these veggies either as in a soup or mixed together or maybe sprinkled over salmon or chicken would be what? I think I can do 4 herbs so if u have a recommendation so as to compliment my veggies I would really enjoy the feedback! Cheers!

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3 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica January 13, 2013 at 9:47 AM

My suggestions would be Thyme (can be used in vegetable broth, soups, and go with Chicken. Next I would choose basil as it can go lovely in salads or in your own tomato sauces, using fresh or canned tomatoes. Rosemary is also a good choice it goes well with vegetables or chicken. For the last one you can decide what you might use most, I like oregano (for Mediterranean), Thai Basil (for stir fries) cilantro (for fresh salsa and Mexican or Indian dishes) or parsley (for soups and garnish). Pick what you like, the key is to try to use it regularly and stop them from shooting up in the sun and flowering too soon. So don’t put them in full sun except for basil.

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4 VeganAud June 24, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Did you really write chicken!

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5 Margaret June 16, 2012 at 1:15 AM

Hi Veronica
You have been very busy and your naughty
Cat just lounges around and then will test
your good work by walking over it.
I am sure everything will bloom.
When I moved into my apartment, I ‘took’
over a small strip of unused ground and I planted
beet root, arugular, lettuces, kale, parsley,
celery and silver beet and I had grown a
Guava and Loquat trees and they now give
fruit. I have to remember to feed the plants every
month. I find I can pick the small green shoots
to make enough for 3 days worth of green smoothies
and I am happy with having to buy good
quaility fresh greens the rest of the week.
I think Auckland NZ weather is similar except
we do not have snow in Auckland!
Thank you for you pix of your garden. I am
encouraged to make my little garden flourish
this winter.
Warmest wishes,
Margaret NZ

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6 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica June 16, 2012 at 11:43 AM

We visited Auckland for a few days in February 2011. New Zealand is one of my favourite places, but I still can’t decide between the North Island and South Island. Where I live is a lot more similar to Queenstown and milder weather. Northern New Zealand is still sub tropical and we can’t grow a lot of the things you guys can there.

The cat is very naughty, he’s being spoiled by thinking the backyard is for him now and thinks it’s my job to let him in and out at all hours of the day and night!

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7 Terry June 15, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Growing your own veggies is the best thing anyone can do. You can go totally organic too. Like I told Melissa, I use earthboxes and I love them!

Good looking garden, Veronica!

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8 Lorraine June 15, 2012 at 9:44 AM

I enjoy and learn something from everything you write. I am so happy to have found your website and look forward to your emails. My husband is the Gardner and found the potato bag idea very helpful. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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9 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica June 15, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Oh you’re welcome! I try to share what I learn because I’m sure it’s useful to someone. I couldn’t find potato bags at the independent garden centres, they hadn’t heard of them, but maybe the chain stores would have them, also Amazon has everything, so I ordered one from there. I think it’s such a neat idea so you can get a lot of potatoes out of a small space!

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10 Melissa June 15, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Great work, V!! very good inspiration & ideas!! i actually get a little too much sun to keep things hydrated enough off of south facing toronto apt. balcony!! after years of living in flats, (though i once lived in a place where my landlady had some herbs growing – mostly overgrown by wild chives); i figured out that i could make my own frozen herb cubes from bought herbs: in abundance here in many farmers and downtown small fruit/veggie markets. they will stay fresh with a bit of oil and salt with filtered water – blend in blender; use an ice cube tray to freeze then remove cubes into zip lock bags. label the plastic bags: what it is and what date you ‘harvested it’. A hint for people who can only drool at your lovely garden space!!

cheers,
M.

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11 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica June 15, 2012 at 9:49 AM

Even with moisture retaining potting soil? I wished I had a south facing balcony last year, north facing was cold and shady and not very good. That sounds like a neat idea with the cubes. I don’t use oil though but blending them up and freezing them is a good way to preserve them!>

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12 Terry June 15, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Melissa, have you ever heard of earthboxes? They are great for patios and balconies. You can’t under or overwater them either. You can grow so much more veggies in a small space. The yields are out of this world. I have 12 earthboxes going right now. I’ve been using them for over eight years. They never wear out! Check it out http://www.earthbox.com

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13 agui June 15, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Oh Wow, I think I’m definitly to lazy to do all the interesting things you do but I admire you very much.
Bravo!!!!
Looking forward to see all that good food grow!

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14 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica June 15, 2012 at 9:50 AM

I think it’s worth a little work because the food tastes SO much better than the grocery store, and with everyone wanting local organic food it can be cheaper too. It’s pretty expensive in BC here.

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15 Gayle P June 15, 2012 at 2:10 AM

This year we have several varieties of tomatoes and peppers. We also have peas, beans, corn, rhubarb, zucchini, summer squash, pumpkins and amaranth.

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16 Plant Stands June 14, 2012 at 6:29 PM

I like the square-foot-gardening idea…neat.

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